Doulas aren’t just for the birthing person. We support partners as well!
I met a birth professional a few months ago who surprised me with her misunderstanding of the doula role. She harbored the same misconception that many people hold; a birthing person with a supportive partner doesn’t need a doula. ("What?!" I thought to myself. Everyone can benefit from having a doula!) This view is founded on the false belief that doulas replace the partner in their supportive role. Our job isn’t to replace the birth partner; our job is to enhance their role and support them through this wonderful adventure of birth.
Since this professional is unfortunately not alone in this belief, I thought I’d share a few examples of how doulas support partners.
1. Partners may feel unable to meet all the needs of the birthing person. Many partners are relieved to share coaching duties. Some labours require continuous physical support, so having someone with whom to share the physical work can help keep everyone’s energy up. Labour can also be quite an emotional journey. The doula offers a calm and reassuring presence for everyone.
2. The doula acts as a role model, showing the partner specific ways to help the labouring person. You’ve read the books. You’ve taken the classes. You’ve practiced the breathing techniques and positions at home. Contractions start…now what? You can prepare all you want, but in the moment, it’s helpful to have an actual human being guiding you through the process, reassuring you that this is normal and suggesting what you can do to help the birthing person. Doulas enhance the role of the partner!
3. The doula offers guidance, emotional support, and break to get coffee, a snack, or even a bit of lunch. Sometimes partners get caught up in attending to the needs of the birthing person, making sure they stay hydrated between each contraction and that they eat something when they can. Partners often forget to take care of themselves as well. As the doula, I make sure that both the birthing person AND their partner stay hydrated and fed. Partners feel more comfortable leaving the room when they know that the doula will stay by the birthing person’s side while they take a break.
At my postpartum meetings, partners often thank me for the guidance I provided them as they supported their loved one through labour. Many say that they wouldn’t have known what to do for various situations, but that with my suggestions, they were thankful they were able to support their loved one through it. My clients who have given birth will often say that they are so impressed with how calm and supportive their partners were. This is what counts. The birthing person may not remember every detail of everything that happened during their labour, but they will remember that their partner was by their side and the support they provided. The doula enhances the partner’s ability to support the birthing person and helps them both to have a joyful and empowering birth experience.