People often ask me... why do I need a doula if my partner will be at the birth? Or... My partner wants to be the primary support person, won’t hiring a doula be redundant? Sometimes partners will ask... If we hire you, will you take my place as primary support person? Birthing people will ask... As a doula, how will you support my partner?
All of these questions, and the emotions and thoughts behind them, hold so much validity and importance in building a relationship with a doula. I’m here to say that as a doula, I aim to provide physical support, emotional support, information support, and advocacy to both the birthing person AND their partner. Below are 5 ways I support a partner at a birth.
1- I teach. Before birth, usually during a prenatal meeting, I teach positions to practice during pregnancy that aid in the pregnant person’s comfort, the baby’s position, and communication between the couple. I encourage lots of back and forth between the couple because practicing communication before birth aids in better communication during birth and postpartum. I might say, “Pregnant person, how does that hand feel on your hip? Tell your partner if you need more or less pressure.” By teaching you, I offer tools for you all to use to help yourselves in pregnancy, labor, and birth.
2- I create space for partners to retain strength and protect their bodies during labor. Not surprisingly, partner’s ask me to rub their bums much less often than laboring people. Haha! That said, I do support partners physically during pregnancy or at birth. Imagine- the birthing person labors in the tub and the partner kneels next to the tub to whisper sweet, supportive words. Kneeling on the bathroom floor works for about 10 seconds before joints begin screaming in protest. In this instance, I might offer the partner a stool to sit on or a pillow for their knees. The cooing of sweet, supportive words never ceases, and the birthing person probably doesn’t even notice this transaction. The partner is cared for as they care for the birthing person.
3- I encourage partners to refuel and recharge as needed. I remind partners to eat, drink, and go to the bathroom. In long labors, I can even offer time for partners to take a nap. Having a doula means the birthing person has continuous support while the partner rests or takes care of business.
4- I reassure. Most of us have little to no familiarity with birth before we give birth or watch our beloved birth. Normal parts of birth can seem a bit scary when you haven’t experienced them before. For example, sometimes a birthing person feels shaky well into labor. I can remind both partners that shakiness can happen in labor. Hormones are surging, and it’s okay. I may urge them to continue in their labor rhythm and relax. In these instances, the partner can show vulnerability and feel supported.
5- I advocate. In prenatal meetings, I talk with clients about birth preferences. We talk about ways to bring up preferences during birth, and often this becomes one of the partner’s responsibilities. For example, upon settling in at the hospital the partner might say, “You talked a lot about wanting to move around during labor. Let’s try laboring in the shower.” I might say, “That’s a great idea! I’ll start the water and dim the bathroom lights.” I echo the partner, supporting and reinforcing their words.
This list could go on and on, but I'll stop here for now.
While a partner does not push a baby out of their body, the partner goes through their own birth process. They witness the person they love most in the world move through the very primal act of birth. They watch their baby be born. Through birth, the partner is born into a new identity themselves, a parent. No, a doula does not take the place of a partner. Rather, a doula allows the partner space to unravel in their own momentous journey of being born into parenthood.