Archive for September, 2011

Dads and Doulas – Birth Companions or Competition?

Dads and Doulas - DadSkills Online Childbirth Classes for Fathers-to-be

First of all, let’s answer the question “What is a doula?”

A birth doula is someone who is specially trained to emotionally, physically and practically support a woman and her partner through pregnancy, childbirth and the early postnatal period.

A postnatal (or postpartum) doula is someone who is employed by the woman and her partner to support them at home in the days and weeks following the birth.  A postnatal doula can help with emotional support as well as practical support in the form of light cleaning, cooking a meal, looking after the baby or another child while the woman gets some rest.

Often dads to be express some concern when their partner suggests having a doula present at the birth.  Questions naturally arise such as “Aren’t I enough?”, “Why would you want someone else there, I imagined it as just the two of us and the midwife/obstetrician?” and maybe, “Is a doula going to take over the birth and get in between us?”

These are all good questions and points that should be discussed.  Let’s help answer those questions in a general way (you can talk with your partner more specifically.)

“Aren’t I enough?”

You are definitely your partner’s rock, no-one knows her like you do and no-one makes her feel like you do.  However, especially the first time around, this is all new territory and taking someone into the birth with you who knows you both allows you to relax and allows you to be fully present.  You don’t have to worry about whether you should or shouldn’t be doing something and whether you are doing things “right” or not.  Having a doula present means that you can support your partner however you need to, your doula can give you some tips when you need them and your doula can support you.

As a doula who has supported births where there was no father present, I can tell you that it’s hard work being the sole support person with no-one to relieve you or fetch things for you.

“Why would you want someone else there?”

Couples are often surprised when birth day comes and they find that they are left alone a lot of the time.  Their assumption was that a midwife or nurse would be with them the whole time and the reality is that hospital midwives and nurses are very busy, they have policies and procedures to follow (and paperwork to complete) and are often looking after other women at the same time.  A doula is there completely for you, she has no loyalties other than to you and she will not disappear because her ‘shift’ is over and leave you to form a relationship with someone new in the middle of labour.

“Is a doula going to take over the birth and get in between us?”

A doula should not have her own agenda – your agenda is her agenda.  A doula is there to talk things over with, to help with suggestions, but a doula will always respect and support you in your decisions.  A doula is there to support the two of you as a couple, she is there to enhance your experience at the birth so that you can be more involved as a father – she does not get in the way of the two of you and she does not take over.  I often talk about being a doula as being part of a dance – the doula is always aware of the dynamics of the room, she looks for how she can support the two of you, she steps in as needed and back when she’s not.

Some other great reasons for having a doula:

  • You have someone who knows you, someone you don’t have to explain things to
  • You have someone on the same team as you, so if you are ever feeling alone in your decisions you know your doula will always support you
  • You have someone to reassure you when things seem a little out of control or unusual (you may see a reaction in your partner that you have never seen before, just look at your doula, she will let you know if this is normal for birth, it often is!)
  • Childbirth classes are commonly all about what is best for the hospital, your doula can help you work out what is best for you
  • A doula is most often someone who is not emotionally involved – sometimes couples choose family members to support them and this can occasionally work well, however, having a doula who is not emotionally involved means that she can be objective about what is going on and provide unbiased information
  • You have someone to take those special photos – when your bub is born, it is so much better if you can be present in the moment – if there is someone else to take photos, you don’t have to think about it and you can actually be in the photos!
  • You have someone to tag with – you just never know how long a birth is going to take.  Your partner will have her hormones to keep her going, what is going to help keep you going?  Having a doula means that you can go off for a nap and your partner will still be supported (you may need to repay the favour while your doula naps too).

So if your partner is talking about the possibility of having a doula present at the birth, sit down with her and have a chat about it.  Decide what qualities you would both like in a doula.  Look for your doula together – many doulas have their profiles on websites so you can get a feel for them before you call them.  If you have found a few that you would like to talk to, invite them around for a coffee (separately of course) and talk with them about their training, their experience, their philosophies and the things that are important to you.  Any supportive doula will understand the need for you both to search for the right doula for you.


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The Power of Positive Birth Stories


Men at birth

You might have noticed since your partner has become pregnant that everyone has an opinion.  From what the sex of the baby is by the way she is carrying, to what pram you should buy, what prenatal classes you should attend and where you should birth.

Even more than this you may have noticed that everyone wants to tell their birth story.  Your partner may come home distressed from someone having offloaded their traumatic birth story onto her.  Or even groups of women doing this, making each experience worse than the last.  Almost to one better the last story.  You may be shaking your head right now with disbelief but it can and does happen.

Great birth stories have the power to make a huge difference to both of you.  For your partner it may be in the way she sees herself and the way she will birth.  For you it is the knowledge that birth is normal, that you can be part of it and it’s not something that needs to be feared.

Words are really important and can have powerful impact.  The more positive birth stories you and your partner hear, the more likely you are to feel empowered and positive about your upcoming birth.

So how can you, as the dad to be, help turn the negative into the positive?  There are some great things you can do:

  • Start by listening to your partner’s fears and concerns when she hears these stories.
  • Talk to friends or family members that have had wonderful experiences.  You can ask what helped them, who was there, and what did they do to prepare for the birth.  This is something great to do as a couple.
  • There are some good books available that talk about great births and failing that there are some good websites dedicated to positive birthing stories.  There are positive childbirth dvds available either for purchase or if you are lucky to have a local birth resource centre nearby you are sure to find some there.
  • If you are with your partner and the birth stories start, get adept at excusing yourself from the group.  For women, the need to go to the toilet when pregnant is the best “escape” excuse ever!  For men, still a great excuse!

So get proactive, search out those good birth stories, they are well worth hearing.


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Father’s Day and Family Rituals

Father’s Day is such an important day.  A day where we take a breath in life and remember the man  who loves us and raised us.  For most of us, it’s the man who is biologically a part of us – for others it’s a step dad or an adoptive father, the man we call “dad”.

How do you celebrate such a day?

We are children and we are parents – and so Father’s Day can be a mix – a day of celebrating with our children and a day of paying tribute to our own dad.

If your baby has not been born yet, is it appropriate to celebrate Father’s Day?  We think the answer is an overwhelming ‘yes’ – you are a parent to your baby already.  You helped create your baby, your baby is alive inside your partner and you are making decisions during pregnancy and on the way to birth that will impact your baby – you are indeed already parenting, you are already a father.

If this is your first Father’s Day, how will you celebrate it?

Rituals are an important part of family life.  All families have their own rituals and these are things that your children will remember even when they are grown.  What will be your Father’s Day ritual from now on?  After all, in the beginning it will be you or your partner who creates the ritual as your children are too young to do so – and by creating a particular ritual, you are teaching your children important values.

In our house, created gifts only are the go (with the exception of chocolate!).  My husband and I don’t believe in the commercial hype surrounding Father’s Day, we believe in children creating special gifts for their dads (in our opinion, the most special gifts of all).  When my children were really little, I would help them create something for their dad.  Then they would do a painting on paper that I could use to wrap the gift.  Now they make their Father’s Day gifts at school.

Father’s Day always starts with breakfast in bed at our house (first I had to make it, now my kids are old enough to do it together).  We always spend the morning just the four of us, before we move on and visit our own fathers later in the day.

Other ritual celebrations that friends have kindly shared with me include:

  • Kids have breakfast with dad, then it’s off for a long walk and soup and bread for lunch.
  • Breakfast with the grandparents and then the afternoon spent with partner and the kids, having fun and relaxing.
  • Off to the zoo for the day with or without grandparents.
  • Dad gets given the same card every year – and new kids get their names added to the card!

As parents ourselves, we gain a new perspective of what it means to be a father.  As a son, how will you celebrate your own father this year?

As a father, what will your family Father’s Day ritual be?


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