Guest blog post by Doula Naomi Mitchell.
When I started my doula work, I often found that the mothers really wanted a doula, but the father was hesitant; he worried about whether I would take his place and he wouldn’t be able to help. Nothing is further from the truth, so I wrote this little piece to explain just how the doula works with a couple. I have attended many more births since I wrote this, but this information remains the same.
Doctors assist at births every single day. For them, the individual memories eventually fade, but not for the couple. The mother will remember her birthing experience for the rest of her life. She will remember how others treated and respected her; she will remember the support she received from those closest to her.
I am a birth doula.
With almost every new client interview, the father will at some stage ask what his role will be during labour and birth if I, as a doula, am there – surely he will feel left out or have nothing to do? This is not the case. The doula knows that the father is the most important person to the mother; she knows that the support the father gives is worth everything to a labouring mother’s emotional state, so she knows that to make the mother have a good birthing experience, she needs to make sure that the father is confident and relaxed in his role.
During a typical labour, the father may experience a lot of anxiety. His wife is in pain and he feels unsure and doesn’t really know what to do, he wants to ease her pain, and he also wants to know that what she is going through is normal.
He really wants to help, but has no idea what will help. He wants to be confident and feel like he is in charge, but the strange environment and medical terminology is making him feel insecure, and he may start to lose trust in his ability to help his wife. This may make him withdraw to the side as he is afraid of hurting her, when she really needs his help.
A nurse may mention something he is unaware of or doesn’t understand, and it confuses him or makes him more nervous. He and his wife are left alone for long periods between checks, and this makes him feel vulnerable and scared. If his wife has a new symptom (like vomiting) he will suddenly start to stress that something is wrong, and this is very scary when he is alone.
The father also often gets very tired, hungry, or thirsty, or needs a loo break, but his wife doesn’t want to be alone for even one minute.
His wife may have mentioned to him that she does not want certain procedures (episiotomy, artificial breaking of water, etc.) but in the confusion he forgets to remind the nurse or doctor.
So how does the doula help?
Fear increases tension, which increases pain.
A good birth experience does so much to help the mother and father become confident parents.
Naomi Mitchell is a WOMBS birth doula and LLL Leader based in Port Elizabeth. She is a mother to seven children aged between two and seventeen, and she has a passion for homebirth.