Image from imdb.com
My husband and I watched “Away We Go” last night. It’s a movie about a pregnant couple’s quest to find the place where they want to give birth and raise their baby. Along the way, they meet up with a lot of old connections to try and get a feel for where they belong. During the obligatory “hippie-tandem-nursing-birkenstock-wearing-freaks” scene, one line really stood out to me, and bothered me.
As filled as the scene was with exaggerated stereotypes, it wasn’t those that bothered me, because all of the families in the movie were portrayed in a way that was a bit over the top. (Except the infertile couple – THAT was one of the best movie scenes I have ever witnessed. Ever.)
John Krasinki’s character explains why he and his girlfriend don’t need a doula. He says something along the lines of “Doulas are for women who are clueless, or have a partner who doesn’t want to be involved, and since I am involved and educated, we don’t need one.”
While he is right in the fact that a doula can be a great asset to a couple who are “clueless,” the quote illustrates the common misconception that doulas replace fathers in the birth room. That if the father is involved and supportive, a doula is just an extra. It’s simply not so.
For one thing, “clueless” clients have more potential to drive a doula crazy! We try to teach our clients to take responsibility for their own births, and encourage them to educate themselves as much as possible about everything relevant to their situation. Some do, and some don’t. The hardest births to be on as a doula are ones in which a mother has not educated herself much at all, and has unrealistic expectations of both birth and her doula. That is a problem that is usually easily remedied. However, not really the point of this post.
Moving on. Sorry to slow you down.
The truth is that men in the labor room is a recent phenomenon. For eons, it’s been women’s work. Birth is what women do. And we do it well. We did not “need” our men in the birthing room – we could handle it pretty well, thankyouverymuch.
However, we began to want our men in the birth room, and welcomed them. Super-cool! We felt it only made sense for the one who helped create this child, be there to help bring him into the world. And we were right. Men should have the chance to see the women in their lives be so strong.
We then threw the baby out with the bathwater, and banished everyone else in favor of the men in our lives.
No one – and I mean no one – can replace the father, husband, lover in the labor room. However, neither can the father bring the shared connection all women have. They can’t bring the “girl power” women thrive on when they are laboring.
Birthing women need both.
For example, I had both my husband and my mother at all of my births (this was before I’d ever heard the word “doula” – my mom essentially filled that role). I could not have done what I did with either of them missing. It is hard to explain tangibly the reasons that this is so.
When I tried to explain it to my husband, I told him that when Mom said I could do it, she was the one I believed.
It’s not that I didn’t believe anyone else, it’s just that it was her energy, faith, and connection to me that helped me put feet to my own belief in my ability to birth. I believed my husband when he said he believed in me, and I appreciated his confidence, but when my mom looked me in the eye and said “You can do this,” something inside me responded, and I could not doubt that she was right.
That is why even the most educated, proactive, emotionally-healthy, bonded couple can benefit from having a doula – and I would even venture to say, needs a doula.
I hear it all the time from my clients: that they just believe me when I tell them they can carry on. They tell me that they love and appreciate the safety and security of their partner’s presence; the love that radiates from his eyes when he holds her hand or brings her water gives her a comfort that cannot be matched. She blossoms under such romance (which is exactly what it is).
But when the doula speaks, moms listen, and their faith in their own ability to birth is given wings.
The truth is this: She cannot do as well as she wants to do without either.
Nearly every client tells me, “I couldn’t have done it without you!” then immediately turns to her partner, “But I couldn’t have done it without you either!” Both statements are as true as true can be. I feel the same way about my mom and my husband.
Of course, there will be exceptions to this, and only you can decide if you are one of them. There are also many situations in which a mother doesn’t have a partner at all, or her situation varies from the norm in some other way. Her need for a doula who will walk alongside her, hold her hand, and support her unconditionally is even greater! I have supported several such women, and stepping into what is essentially a dual role is tough. I could never do that for all births!
My point is that just because factors, A, B, and C all line up for you does not mean that you don’t “need” a doula. Sometimes, it’s the most educated clients that need me the most when push comes to shove. (No pun intended.)
Never say never. Talk to doulas in your area, gauge your needs well, and make the right decision for you and your family. Don’t let anyone – especially a care provider or Hollywood – tell you that you don’t “need” anything when it comes to your birth. Only you can decide that. And take what the media says with an extra-large grain of salt.
Grace & Peace,