Being a doula in the era of the internet, there is a sea of articles written about birth, and you begin notice some trends. One trend I've seen recently is the emphasis on partner support, and more specifically, physical closeness and intimacy between couples in labor. Experts on birth suggest that kissing, cuddling - all the romantic displays of affection you and your partner may enjoy with one another, can help move the labor process along. This lovey-dovey squishiness brings on the love hormone, oxytocin, which happens to be the same hormone that drives the contractions that bring your baby closer to the world. How wonderful, right? Perhaps, or maybe not so much.
You see, and don’t get me wrong - I am all for the squishy, gooey displays of affection, but this isn't every couples flavour. I have overheard women talk about how disappointed they are that there partner isn't on board with this idea, and how reading about these births leaves them feeling defeated.
When I reflect back to the births that I have been at, the role each partner has played in participating in the birth of their child has been unique, and I realize how much they have all taught me about relationships.
There's the dad that spends most of the time checking his phone, and then there's the one who cracks jokes and makes it his mission to keep the labor room light. There's the dad that is tense and always looking to me for reassurance, and the ones who are old pros, lovingly doting on their wife without worry or hesitation.
Do I look back and see that one was better than the other? Absolutely not! I actually look back and realize that love can be shown in so many different ways, and every couples dynamic is different. Even the dad who seemingly appears to be ignoring his partner during labor can very much be expressing his love for her, and I cannot judge the relationship that exists between partners who are entering into parenthood, together.
As you prepare for your birth, open up the lines of communication, and talk about each of your ideals and expectations.
Women: allow your partner the space and time to tell you how they think it might be for them. Listen to them without judgment and hear what they have to say about how they feel they fit into all of this. You might have to let go of the idea that your partner will everything you hoped he'd be, and that's okay.
Partners: take the time to think about how you express love and respect for one another. What are the subtle ways you show you care? What do you need to feel like you can be true to yourself, but still meet her needs? We all express love in different ways, so if we want to get that oxytocin flowing, lets do it, whether it means being the quiet observer, or tender and intimate.
So how can a doula help in all of the above scenarios? A doula gets to know each of you through prenatal appointments and contact throughout pregnancy. She helps you discover what each of your expectations are, what your roles may be, and how she can support you both. A doula doesn't have a single defined role: she is fluid and adapts to the dynamic of each individual couple. Many partners aren't even sure what there role will look like until labor begins; that's okay. Your doula attunes to you from first meeting until your baby is born; she's on this journey with you. I have heard from some spouses after a birth that they had been reluctant to hire a doula, because they didn’t wish to feel like they were being placed under a microscope; they did not want to be judged for how well they supported their partner.
This perspective tends to change once they experience how we actually helped them to feel free to be what they needed to be in the moment, and ultimately took the pressure off of them.
Having a child is big, and watching the woman you love in the painful throws of labor is not easy. The intensity that a partner may feel for an impending birth is very different than that of the birthing woman. Something we pride ourselves in at In Bloom, is the ability to provide support for any couple and any birth, partner's included.
There's no judgement, and no one is under a microscope. There's no right way or wrong way, there's only you and your experience that is unique to you.
Having these conversations toward the end of pregnancy can actually bring you closer and help you tap into each of your expectations, concerns, and the realities of how things may unfold. Decide what kind of support you need outside of yourselves to make the birth ideal for both of you. A childbirth education class is a great complimentary resource as you each prepare for your birth. Our labor doulas can help you both discover your needs, desires, and roles in labor, and help you create a plan to feel supported and confident.