A Doula's Guide for Dads
HAPPY FATHER'S DAY!
Being a Dad is no mean feat, and the first hurdle is birth. It's a big deal, and there's not a lot of honest information available to help partners prepare.
Birth matters, because it marks both parents. It's a gift to remember the birth of your baby with love, awe and pride (and too many parents feel traumatised by birth).
So my Father's Day gift to you is my Top 5 Tips. The only things you need when you're supporting your birthing partner;
1) KEEP COOL
Pack 4 flannels in your birth bag. Women get HOT in labour, so 2 flannels cooling in a sink of cold water, while you apply 2 more to her neck & forehead means you'll always be able to help her stay cool
2) SHARE THE DECISIONS
Birth can be unpredictable, and couples worry about how to make the 'Right' decision. If you've done any hypnobirthing you'll know about BRAINS - a process that helps you make calm & rational decisions. There's more to it than that, though. We're quite used to seeing representations of birthing women being told what to do, so it can be hard to expect anything different. What you're looking for, though, (and what you have a right to expect) is to make SHARED decisions with your support team. That means you can take on board the knowledge & experience of medics, team that with your own instincts & values (& BRAINS) and make the Right decision for you on the day. It's NOT fair or reasonable for either of you to feeling pressured or coerced.
3) DOING NOTHING IS OK
I'm going to make a huge old sweeping generalisation and say that in intense situations, men often instinctively want to take Action of some kind. You don't need to though. What birthing women need is calm reassurance and support. A hand on the shoulder to ground her, and remind her you're there. Pressure on her back, to ease the tension in her spine and pelvis. A cool flannel on her forehead. Whispered love, confidence & security. So it's ok to just take a breath and be present. Nothing more than that.
4) MAKE YOUR MIDWIFE PART OF YOUR TEAM
Midwifery is hard. It would be hard enough, fielding intensity and strong emotions, but these days midwives are under-paid, over-worked, under-valued and frustrated. Help them to help you, by making them welcome in your birth room. I find a communal box of biscuits, bowl of fruit or bag of sweets goes a long way.
5) TRUST HER INSTINCTS
It's not a crisis until it's a crisis. From the outside birth can look like a problem. It's physical. It's intense. It can take a while. But tune into your partner and you might be surprised to find that despite this, she can cope. Women are stronger than even they give themselves credit for. So unless there's a medical problem have faith in her and her body. And be in awe of her.
Finally, here's one from my husband. When I told I was writing this for Father's Day, he wanted to add TALK TO EVERYONE AND BE OPEN MINDED. He says that there's a lot to learn about birth, and that some of it confounds your expectations. Birth has become something outside our 'normal' experience, so suspend your 'normal' expectations. Listen to what women have to say, and be prepared to adapt.
Charlotte Edun is a doula & hypnobirthing practitioner in Sevenoaks, Kent.