I'm often asked how doulas work with partners. They worry about being replaced or that a doula isn't needed because they will be there. I would never want to replace your partner. After all, no one knows you like they do.
I love this perspective shared with me by one of the best partners I've had a chance to work with.
"By the time we found out we were pregnant, my wife and I had already planned out what we thought were the most important details of having a baby: leave from work, child care, finances, etc... It didn't dawn on us until after our first ultrasound that we hadn't yet tackled one of the most challenging parts of having a child. Labor. We chose our first medical provider on the basis of proximity- he was an MD who was at the closest facility with a labor and delivery room. It seemed the obvious choice. However, during our first appointment, he wasn't even present and we met with his nurse practitioner instead. I work in medicine. Now this may surprise some, but even as doctors, we work in sales. Our reimbursement is contingent on services provided, and it often makes fiscal sense to our employers to provide the most services available rather than the least services that are required. Knowing this principle, I conducted some independent research and found that Cesarean rates for patients under the care of a physician are astronomically higher than those with midwives as their providers. My wife and I discussed what we wanted from our experience with labor/delivery and we decided we wanted as little medical intervention as possible. Further investigation revealed that Cesarean rates for patients with doulas were significantly lower than those without. We decided to meet with a doula to discuss how she might function as part of our "birth team.” My wife bonded with our doula, Cristina, immediately and we decided we would appreciate having an advocate in the form of a doula. At that time, I had no idea how integral a part she would play in our labor.
50/50. That's what the physician who assisted the midwives at our practice estimated our chances were of successfully delivering vaginally. My wife had a "low-lying" placenta, which isn't as serious as a condition known as "placenta previa;” but it placed us in a category of increased risk of adverse outcomes with our planned delivery. Our doula. Cristina, was aware of this condition, and she encouraged us to focus on our "birth wishes" rather than things that sound scary and are out of our control.
Finally, it was a Saturday, and I was up all night brewing (and drinking) beer. After I finished early Sunday morning, my wife told me she thought she was having contractions. Our plan was to labor at home (where we were most comfortable) for as long as we could before heading to the hospital. After we were admitted to the hospital, the midwife on call asked our group, "How are you feeling?" I reflexively answered, "Exhausted!" In retrospect, I don't think she wasn't asking me. It's difficult to describe the experience of labor. It's a strange, beautiful experience laced with hormones that forever bond you to your partner and child. Anyway, I tried my best to be a supportive spouse and help her through the difficult moments; and trust me, there are plenty of those with a natural birth. Sometime after 6 hours of intense contractions, I had gone completely brain-dead and began communicating in grunts and clichès in an effort to help my wife through moments when she would say aloud, "I can't do this." It was in those moments that our doula shined. She effectively kept the carrot on the proverbial stick and redirected our negative thoughts into a positive outcome. She essentially carried us through the last hours of exhausting labor. We could not have achieved our birth wishes without her assistance.
I learned from my first mistake and refrained from partying all night as the due date for our second daughter approached. Consequently, I was much better equipped to participate in my second labor experience. We, of course, had the same doula; but during that event she had a much more passive role. Nonetheless, she was an incredible help. She was an extra set of hands, a source of insight and strength...and she took some incredible pictures that we will cherish forever.
My advice is this: speak to your spouse and discuss what is important to you for your labor experience. Regardless as to what you plan or how it unfolds, it will be trying. However, I believe that in life things for which you work hardest have the most value. Labor will be one of the toughest things you and your partner will ever experience...and no memory will have more value. A doula is an incredible tool to help you navigate the trying path that lies ahead."
Thank you for sharing this and the beautiful moments you both allowed me to be a part of!
Cristina Evans is a Mother of 3, Wife, & Birth Doula