Labor was here. I was in denial, but the contractions were not. Gabe was being an incredible “Birth Coach” despite the quick progression he had not been expecting. When we called Brittany the first time we had no idea we would soon be picking her up on the way to deliver our child. We just wanted to get through that minute, that second. It was, especially for my sweet husband, chaotic.
Not for Brittany. Over the phone she was calm and pleasant. She brought a sense of peace to our home through the little speaker. She advised us confidently while maintaining her cheer. When we realized that we needed to go to the Birthing Center and that our planned doula would not be there, Brittany jumped into our birth team with enthusiasm and skill. We picked her up on the way and without any formalities she was massaging my back, calming my fears and reminding us that this was an exciting, happy event.
She even knew what to do in case I started pushing in the car. I didn’t, but she was prepared.
That is why I recommend a doula.
A doula is someone who uplifts a woman in labor with emotional support, practical help and advocacy. Usually a woman (this is after all a woman’s work), she may silently sit in the corner the entire time or she may hold Mom for hours on end while coaching on how to relax, when to push, etc. She is present to help in any way she’s needed. In a hospital, she is often the one who will make sure that Mom’s wishes are honored and will stand in the gap between the parents and the hospital staff so that the new family can focus on their work in labor.
One of the classes we attended before labor was a Breastfeeding class led by a local Lactation Consultant. She pointed out that men are not really meant to be “coaches” for their laboring wives. She said, “I’d like to apologize to you, men, for having to fill this role. It should really be done by a woman, but that’s not how our culture works.” I was almost offended by this. I loved how involved Gabe was! On the other side of labor, however, I have to agree.
In other cultures and throughout history women giving birth are surrounded by other women who have given birth. When she gets scared a mother-to-be can look to someone around her to tell her that everything is alright. A man cannot know what it is like to have a baby. He can never conclusively say that the pain is normal, the emotions are normal, the exhaustion is normal. He can never relate to her the way another Mother can. I love that Gabe was (and is) so involved and I don’t think we will change that with the next ones, but we realize now that his role is specific and special in it’s own right. And that it’s good to let another woman take a more prominent supporting role during labor.
Brittany was my angel. I don’t even want to imagine what it would have been like without her. I think that hiring a Doula is one of the most important things that a couple can do to prepare for their child’s birth. Doulas also take care of the family in the days and weeks after Baby’s arrival to make sure that everyone is adjusting well. She is that Sister, Aunt, Mother that would be around if our culture was a little more community-minded. She will gush over your bundle of joy and hug you tight while you cry. She will give you helpful tips on how to care for this new creature and check in on you to make sure everything is going well. During such a crazy, often overwhelming time, it’s important to have an anchor. Your Doula will be that anchor and probably a lifelong friend.