On Having A Doula


A post from Matt on having a doula:

Here’s one of the other benefits to being on the other side of pregnancy: we finally have something to talk about! No longer do I get asked “Are you excited” as a means of starting a conversation – there’s the entire exciting birth to share with others. So far the most common question I get is “What was it like to see Kath go through that?”

It was rough. In my previous post I described my inability to even comprehend the pain of labor. But I’d like to give huge credit to our doula Jen. I know that Kath was super appreciative of her support and probably for very different reasons than I. While I’m sure that all of the movements and positions that Jen put Kath in were helpful to properly situate the baby, I think that her greatest benefit was that she gave us something to do.

If it had just been the two of us I’m sure we would have tried some of the labor positions that we saw in the birthing books or our childbirth class, but it would have been lackluster. I can imagine it now: we would have clumsily attempted to use the ball, or play with the bed’s settings, or attempted to relax in the jacuzzi, but it all would have been done with so much uncertainty (and Kath says fear on her part). At the peak of pain (really a multiple hours-long plateau), we would have treated her like any sick patient and just laid in bed.

Jen had authority. She had knowledge and experience. And she had so much enthusiasm and confidence that we were prepared to do anything she said. I think there was only one or two times when Kath said that she wouldn’t do something Jen asked of her and that was because she was in so much pain she couldn’t! I felt very secure that Jen was continually driving us to the end of labor rather than playing a waiting game.

Jen was so in charge that a few hours in I began to wonder, “Am I doing anything here?” Sure I had been offering encouraging words, doing some massaging, and providing counter-pressure, but I felt like I was not Kath’s main supporter. This might bother some husbands and birth partners, but I was totally fine with it and actually a little relieved because it took away some of the worry of the unknown. I felt then and maintain now that what I provided in emotional support would not have been enough by itself to overcome the physical support that Jen directed to get us through.

So I will highly recommend a doula to everyone out there. It is so valuable to have someone devoted to birth and your well-being but still objective enough to make tough decisions in the face of stress. Especially if they’re as caring as Jen!

24 thoughts on “On Having A Doula”

  1. I love your posts. With my first, my doula went out of town and couldn’t make it back, so my husband and I were on our own. It was tough. I know he found it very stressful and while I clearly had the harder time, it was hard on him in a different way. With my second, we had a fantastic doula and honestly, my husband loved it. She knew what she was doing, she could help me, she knew what was going on. He jokes all the time about how hard the first labor was on him and the second birth was so much easier FOR HIM. But it is nice to have someone around who knows what they are doing. It made me more relaxed at the beginning (well, that is relative), which made a huge difference.

  2. Great to hear birth stories from Matt’s perspective too!
    I think a lot of men feel pressure to be the physical and emotional support person, yet it makes sense to me that most (unless they are physicians, midwives or other birth professionals) probably don’t know how to help. There is lots of evidence to show that having good labour support increases the chance of a drug free delivery. Doulas are great! I don’t think Matt is giving himself enough credit- he was wanted and useful and just being there, trying to help you was his job!

  3. Doulas are worth their weight in gold, I think. I didn’t have one for my birth 7 weeks ago, but I was fortunate to be attended to by two midwives – one was all business and handled the medical aspects of the birth, and the other functioned as a doula. She helped me into positions, encouraged me, supported my husband, and was generally a wonderful and soothing presence. It’s kind of an accident that she was there, but I’m so glad she was! Next time I will definitely seek out a doula beforehand.

  4. I couldn’t agree more about having a doula (for both partners). My husband also thought it was a huge relief having her there, because he did feel very helpless at times and just needed her to suggest offering me a sip of water, or helping me into a different position, etc. She also had to remind him to eat and drink to keep his energy up. I can’t imagine going through labor without one!

  5. Hey Kath
    I’m a Labour & Delivery RN in Canada and I’m not sure if it’s different in the US but your doula did EXACTLY what the L&D nurses do in my hospital. It is 1:1 care and we DO NOT leave the room when we have someone without an epidural in active labour. We utilize all of the techniques, positions, etc that you did with your doula and act as an advocate for the couple with the physician(s) on-call.
    Maybe it’s different in the US but it sure saves the parents quite a bit of money!

    1. I gave birth in the U.S. and my nurses were with me almost the entire time and helped me with different positions, too. I’m sure it varies by hospital. I’m also sure that if you have a doula (in the U.S.) the nurses step back a bit with their instructions.

      1. Yes, I think our nurse would have been more involved if Jen hadn’t been there. But I also think being coached by someone I had spent 9 months getting to know was great – what if you got a nurse that you just didn’t mesh with? Most are great, but you never know.

  6. I’m glad that your doula was so helpful! It is so cool also to hear from the husband’s perspective. 🙂

    But I wanted to just throw my 2 cents in, in case any readers out there can’t afford doula (they can be PRICEY! Hundreds of dollars out of pocket).

    I had an intense (almost 60 hour) labor that I handled completely naturally with just the support of my husband (and the awesome nurse at the hospital for the last 7 hours of the labor, but she only helped with pushing at the end, and was completely hands-off the rest of the time). I did take prenatal yoga, and my husband and I took a birthing workshop while I was pregnant, and we both read the Birth Partner, and those things were all the prep we needed. I never felt like my birth or my husband’s support was lackluster or fear-based or clumsy at all. I easily found laboring positions that worked for me, and I certainly wasn’t treated like a “like any sick patient and just laid in bed” even through transition and pushing. And the experience that just my husband and I shared, the two of us, was unspeakably deep, life-changing and hard to put into words. It completely deepen our love for each other, enriched our marriage and our new family of three in ways I can’t really explain! Personally, I felt like a doula would have been an invasion into our privacy (of course, others may feel differently!). I just wanted to give a counter-example that you certainly can have a magical, positive natural childbirth with only your partner’s support – my husband was astounding through my labor, and it was a perfect start to his journey to becoming an awesome, loving and supportive father!

    1. I agree! I have had 3 babies and was very “centred” during labour each time. My nurses were brilliant, and knew when to hang around and offer encouragement/assistance, and when to give us space. I didn’t want a doula or anyone else in the room. I felt that my body knew what to do for the most part, but was open to listening to advice given by the “provided” medical professionals at my hospital. Wonderful experiences, all of them!

  7. My husband says we are never having another baby without our wonderful doula! She was my rock both during L&D, but especially afterwards (had to get stitched up while hubby held baby). She was a huge part of my natural birth experience and I would recommend having a doula to every pregnant family!

  8. I have thought about having a doula for my next baby, but my husband is a physician (not ob/gyn, but has delivered some babies in training), and he really likes the idea of husband-coached childbirth and being my main person. I actually really like that idea too, but maybe I could find someone really knowledgeable and comforting it would be good to have a second person? I feel I would worry about the doula annoying me or something while I was in pain and being too polite to say anything (last time I was all please and thank yous, although I didn’t have an epidural).

    1. I teach The Bradley Method (aka “husband coached childbirth”) but I still almost always recommend a doula–especially if it’s a hospital birth! While there are plenty of great nurses out there, there are also very unsupportive ones and if you luck out and get one of those for your birth, it can totally alter your birth outcome in a very negative way (I have seen this happen many times with my clients and also experienced it myself with my first birth).

      Whether or not you need a doula also depends on the type of birth you’re having–something that you can’t know until you’re in it. With my first, my husband was VERY educated (we took two different childbirth classes) but afterwards he said he could have never done it without our doula and ended up paying her $200 EXTRA because her role was so crucial to my having a natural birth. I had 12 hours of intense back labor and the pain was worse in between contractions than it was during so I got NO breaks—which means he got NO breaks. I required constant strong counter-pressure the entire time and there is no way he could have done it by himself (and we also had my mom there helping also). They would switch off every half hour or so to give themselves a break. My nurse did none of this–mostly because she had 3 other moms she was also caring for in labor so she couldn’t have physically been in the room for the amount of time I would have needed her. When she was in the room, she was on the computer inputting info about me, my labor and how the baby was doing.

      My thought is that you can’t have too many helpful hands during a labor! I’m not talking about gawkers who just sit there and watch you but rather people with specific jobs. Sometimes as a doula I end up taking care of the dad just as much as the mom. Getting him drinks or food so he doesn’t have to leave the mom, giving him a back rub while he’s rubbing the mom etc…

      Just my two cents on doulas 😉

  9. I’m glad your doula was such a help! I like to suffer in silence and didn’t want anyone touching me and talking to me unless absolutely neccessary so I said no to that option with each of my three births. To each their own 🙂

  10. Thank you for this! I am following Hypnobabies and hired a doula — which totaled to $$$$. My very supportive but budget-conscious husband wondered if it was all necessary until he heard me explain why it’s so important to surround myself with resources on labor day. I may or may not get my drug-free birth but at least I know I did everything to prepare myself! Now that we have worked with our doula, my husband is the biggest fan and tells everyone how much he appreciates her help 🙂

  11. Ideally I’d like to hire a doula – more for my husband’s sake than my own! I think she would help him feel more confident in his support role. However I think you had an exceptionally positive experience because Jen was also your yoga teacher so you had a more personal relationship with her. We are new to our city so for me hiring a doula would be picking a random name off the internet! Luckily my one new friend in town has a newborn and is a L&D nurse so I’m counting on her to put a star on my chart so I get a great nurse! (And my MIL is a L&D nurse so I know there are some really awesome ones out there, I won’t be afraid to ask for a different nurse if we’re not jiving.)

    Regardless, the important thing is you and Matt had a great experience. Glad for you!

  12. We had a doula when I was attempting a vbac. She was an invaluable support. Even though I ended up with a c-section, she made those hours of laboring beforehand easier. My husband is very thankful that we had her there to be his supporter as well. She will be our doula again this time around even though I’m just having a c-section … she will be there before to massage and calm and after to help with recovery while Nate stays with the baby.
    Side note: Many doulas will offer a discounted rate if there are financial struggles. Ours did the first time because Nate was in grad school and we were poor.
    Love Matt’s writing … thanks for sharing.

  13. This is a great post – Matt – thank you for writing this…. I’m training to become a doula and I am going to share this with a LOT of people 🙂

    Thanks, and Congats 🙂

  14. My husband also felt like he was the third wheel but he was okay with it. He was amazing and I couldn’t have done it without him…and my doula. He stood back and did what he was “told” to do when he was told to do it..too bad that doesn’t happen every day!! Lol! I think it takes a humble, confident, and supportive man to accept that “lack of responsibility” (let’s call it) and still be comfortable with it!

  15. As a doula, it’s always nice to hear dad’s perspective on having a doula. Thanks for writing this, Matt! And for anyone who thinks doulas are too expensive, you can almost always find a doula in your area that is new or working toward certification. Often their fee is a fraction of the certified doulas, usually just enough to cover their travel expenses. And if you are experiencing hardship, many doulas will also work on a sliding scale and/or set up a payment plan to make their fee more affordable.

  16. Our take on having a Doula. Yes, do get one, worth EVERY penny. Our first birth, we had a doula, it was great to have her to give advice to my husband, and to have suggestions for both of us. When we ran into minor problems, it was nice to also have a trained person who was there to also help us make decisions that weren’t emergency decisions (clearly that would have been left in the hands of the trained medical staff) but to help us know on the little ones, whether or not unexpected choices were staying with our plan or deviating from them in ways that mattered.

    Something I haven’t seen mentioned here (though I may have missed it) is the person who knows both of you and exactly what your plans are for your birth, and how you hope it will go, has no vested interest in the bottom line of the event (she gets paid the same regardless) and is NOT someone who is emotionally invested in the outcome (husband, mother, other family) and can help you make decisions when it comes. We would have loved to have one with the birth of our second one, but his birth at 25 weeks was totally off the charts unexpected (and I truly believe that if we’d had a doula with us at the hospital we were transferred to, it wouldn’t have been the horrific experience it was)

  17. Doula’s concept is new but catching up fast in India too!. I liked one but she was unavailable as her kids papers were approaching…:-)) but I totally understand a good doula is a blessing1

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