Why Doulas don’t replace Dads – and why we don’t want to

A mother bounces gently on a birth ball, taking deep breaths….in through her nose, out through her mouth. As the intensity builds, she begins to furrow her brow as the tension in her body increases. (“Relax your forehead,” whispers her doula as she gives counterpressure on her lower back, trying not to disturb her with words in the middle of a contraction yet knowing that’s key to getting through the rest of this one.)

dad and mom touching foreheads during labor

She’s trying to stay in the safety-peace-relaxation cycle they talked about in their prenatal meeting with their doula, but she’s finding it increasingly difficult with each contraction. She has been up all night and is thinking about trying an epidural, hoping she’ll be one of the 85% or so that it works for. She doesn’t know how she’s going to get through the rest of labor if it’s like this. At her last cervical check 30 minutes ago, she was 4 cm, only half a centimeter more than when she checked into the hospital. She doesn’t know if she can do this for many more hours….

dad stroking mom's hair during labor

She opens her eyes at the end of the contraction and looks at her husband in front of her. He is on his knees, holding her close…bouncing with her to her rhythm on the birth ball. With weary eyes, she just looks at him, her shoulders sagging in defeat. A sob starts to lift in her chest when their eyes meet. “I can’t do this,” she utters tearfully.

dad holding mom's hand as she gets epidural

He pulls her close, letting her sob into his strong chest. He strokes her hair lovingly, his stubbly face pressed close to her soft hair. “You’re doing amazing. Really, you are. You are so strong.”
And that right there….

dad comforting mom during labor

The familiar touch of his hand…

The scent of his shaving cream that didn’t wear off even through all the hours of labor ….

The scent of him….

The feel of his strength next to hers…when she isn’t sure she is as strong as she hoped…

That is why Doulas don’t replace dads during births.

And we don’t want to because ALL of what he’s doing promotes more oxytocin production in the mother’s brain. That oxytocin is what helps cause contractions. And contractions are what pulls the muscle fibers of the cervix open. When the cervix opens all the way…it is time to bring forth that baby!

Sure, we still help with oxytocin production. Even when Doulas are the ones holding her during a contraction, massaging her shoulders, or simply holding her hand, there is still an increase in oxytocin. It’s basic human physiology.

dad kissing mom's arm during labor

But HE is the one who brings the comfort of familiarity. His words are somehow more believable than anyone else in the birth room because he knows her better than anyone in the world. His arms around her frame makes her sink into him, relaxing better through the contraction. His smell reminds her of snuggling on the couch together or kissing hello after a long day’s work. His hands know her body better than anyone. (That’s how we all ended up in this birth room helping them!);-)

dad massaging mom's shoulders during labor

So what’s the point of a doula being there, you ask?

I’m there for the dads who aren’t sure what to do next to help her relax. I’m there to assure them that certain things are normal during labor & birth. I’m there to think of questions they can ask their care providers, which they might not think of otherwise, so they can get as much information as possible on their options before making a decision on an intervention. I’m there because I’ve been to dozens of births and it’s comforting to have someone with experience who stays with you the whole time.

dad holding newborn baby after birth

And I’m there to document through treasured photographs the loving touches, the sweet loving whispers, his gaze into her eyes that says, “YOU CAN DO THIS!!!” without a single word, and the joyous tears you’ve never seen him shed when he meets his baby for the first time.

dad wiping tears while holding baby

I can’t replace him. Families who hire me know this. They also know I won’t in any way try to replace him, because I don’t have the pride that thinks I can.

emotional mom and dad after baby's birth

But I can be a catalyst for strengthening your family bonds and the memories of love during one of the most important times in your lives. When the stressful realities of childrearing come in the years ahead, they will be memories you can look back on as a family and remember why you made this child.

(For a full explanation of specific things a doula does, read this blog post.)

Charlene May - January 13, 2017 - 1:38 pm

I am so proud of you and the important job you do and provide for your clients. Your pictures and your words are amazing and touch me every time I open up your site.


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