Welcome to the first ever doula's for-Dads-only information page! Look around, get comfy. If you have any questions at all, if you think I should add any resources, please feel free to contact me. I love hearing from dads-to-be!
Congratulations on your baby! I know you must be feeling many things and I would not presume to know or understand them all. I am not a dad, I am a mother, so our perspectives are markedly different. I have learned a thing or two in my work with pregnant and laboring couples. It is my hope that my observations will be of help to you as you begin this journey toward parenthood or parenthood-again.
(1) You are three months less pregnant than your baby's mother. This is normal.
She is five months and you are only eight weeks, thinking something like "Wow, we're going to have a baby." She's nine months, in panic mode, and you are only six months, thinking "Since we're going to have a baby, we should probably begin making some plans." This pregnancy is happening to her, not to you, and there may be times when you go off to work, go about your day and forget a baby is coming. She, on the other hand, never forgets. There is a baby bouncing on her bladder and poking her ribs and making her nauseous and she. never. forgets. I have had a couple of clients observe that this "less pregnant than" phenomenon lasts throughout the initial newborn period. A good class equips you to "catch up" to the pregnancy. Which leads me to my next thought...
(2) Men don't know much about labor. This is normal.
My husband tells me that men don't talk about labor. John Eldridge, author of Wild at Heart and Captivating , says that men talk about concrete. By the time a woman makes a baby, she has more than likely attended a baby shower or had a pregnant friend, cousin, sister, colleague. Women do talk about labor and birth and babies. Women are, therefore, much more prepared when their own baby time comes. This pregnancy could be your very first foray into the world of babies and labor and birth goo. Welcome! There is much to learn. You might consider reading, even just the parts of the books and articles that Mom offers you. Talk to a man you trust who has had the kind of birth you are planning. Come to BIRTH Fair (first weekend of every October, see houbirth.org for more information) and listen to the dads on the men's panel talk about their births. Watch the movies with her. Go to classes with her. It might just be a little less painful than you anticipate. And when baby day comes, you'll be very glad that you prepared ahead of time for what to do and what not to do.
(3) Women are often much more emotional during their pregnancies. This is normal.
Kodak commercials make her cry. McDonald's commercials, the ones about little girls and their mommies dressed up as princesses, make her cry, too. We often write this phenomenon off to the fact that a massive hormone cocktail is coursing through our veins. While this is indeed true, consider also the fact that she is growing a human being. She's not sleeping well, she's worried about the baby, she's worried about how she'll manage motherhood, how the baby will affect her life and your life and your marriage. She is opening, her life and her belly are expanding and she is opening physically and psychologically and emotionally. Remember that when we speak to her, it is almost like we have a mainline to her psyche. Because she trusts you, because you are so very important to her, whatever you say to her, however seemingly innocent, is magnified and goes straight to her brain and heart. Try to make space for her to talk. Just listen, unless she specifically asks for your help. Your affection and your presence are very important to her. Please be generous with them.
What can you do about these things?
1. Get informed.
Take a childbirth class, an independent one taught outside of a hospital. You need to know what labor will look like and sound like and smell like. You should be prepared for the coping techniques your wife is planning to use during labor. You need to be familiar with your wife's plans, possible scenarios that might arise and what options will be available to you. When a woman is in labor, she will need help with decision making. It is a good idea to be able to boil down situations and present her with a very brief version of what is happening. A good class will teach you all of these things.
2. Get connected.
Ask around or talk to your caregiver or one of your wife's friends' husbands. Find another man who has had the kind of birth you are planning and take him out for coffee (or the male beverage of your choice). Ask him about labor. Ask him about his fears, about what he did that worked and what he did that did not work. Ask about life with a new baby. Ask about how the journey to parenthood has affected his work and how it has affected him as a man. Ask him how the new baby has affected his relationships and marriage. Stay in touch with him. Ask him if he can be available if you have questions or just need someone to talk to during labor. Patrick Houser, author of Fathers-to-be Handbook, emphasizes the importance of having a male friend available to support you during labor.
3. Get a doula.
My client, Mark, wrote this on the subject:
"My comments for Dads:
1. You are not as prepared as you think you are. A doula is.
2. Things will almost certainly not go the way you expect them to and you probably won’t know what to do. A doula will.
3. Unless you’re a doctor you will be presented with lots of medical lingo that has to be translated to English before you can understand what is going on. A doula will translate and will speak to you like a person, not a patient.
4. Things can happen very quickly without you knowing or understanding why. A doula will slow things down, give you the chance to understand, and give you the opportunity to be involved in the decision. Many things happen so subtly that you don’t even know there is a decision to be made. A doula will allow you to be part of that decision.
5. If you aren’t a doctor you probably trust doctors and nurses too much. A doula will provide the opportunity for you to ensure that care is administered the way you want.
6. Above all, a doula will allow you to focus on your wife while knowing that she is getting the best care possible and that she is getting a chance to have the birth experience she wants."
I would close with a gentle reminder that though you are not gestating or birthing or lactating, you are having a baby, too. And you cannot care for this woman you love, nor for the baby you will love, if you have not taken care of yourself. Eat well. Rest. Get support when you need it, especially during labor, but also before, as necessary.
Congratulations, Dad! Have a GREAT Birthing Day! Blessings to you and yours, Debbie the Doula
Copyright 2013 and after. Debbie Hull. All rights reserved.