Does a doula replace dad in the delivery room?
Many expectant parents are rightly concerned that a doula might take dad's place at the birth of their baby. After all, this is a special day for dad as much as it is for mom, for although mom will be the one pushing the baby into the world, dad is welcoming his child as well. Parents worry that a doula will swoop in, taking over all the comfort measures, and slowly but surely elbowing dad aside. In reality, the presence of a doula almost always enhances dad's role at the birth. She gives dad gentle instructions when he isn't sure what to try. She offers him information when the burden of decision making falls on him. She makes it possible for dad to take a guilt-free bathroom or snack break, knowing he is not leaving mom to labor alone. And yes, when labor gets dicey and dad find himself overwhelmed by the intensity of the moment, the doula is there to step in and help them both get through the moment. The way my trainer described it is that a doula fills in the gaps. We never interrupt what dad and mom are doing as long as it is working. We carefully observe the dynamics of the relationship and then fill in the gaps as needed.
What a doula does at a birth is also greatly impacted by dad's birth personality. Some dads really want to be involved in the process. They want to be the one wiping mom's forehead with a cool washcloth, applying counterpressure, and giving foot massages. Doulas are there to hand these dads the washcloths or lotion, or spell them when their arms are about to give out. Other dads just want to be there. What these dads really want is the freedom to be present for the birth of their baby without the pressure of being mom's sole support. For these dads, a doula can remove a lot of stress, allowing them to actively participate as much, or as little, as they feel comfortable doing.
I think the emotions dads experience at birth are an often neglected aspect of the process. Somehow everyone gets so focused on mom (as I told my husband while pregnant with Daniel, "I'm the one having the baby here!") that it's easy to forget that a father is born every time a child comes into this world. As a doula, I want to make sure my moms and dads can look back on their babies' birth with joy.
Doulas are pro-dad, just as we are pro-mom and pro-baby!