I have to admit that the first time that I heard about a doula, I said, “We don’t need that, I’ve got everything covered.” I figured that I’m a great husband who makes good decisions under pressure, so what help can one be? The experience of my son being born and some extremely difficult times taught me the true value of a doula.
For those who are unfamiliar, here is the definition of what a doula is from dona.org:
The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.
A few common reasons I’ve heard cited for NOT needed a doula and some reasons you might still want to consider hiring one:
I’m a smart guy and can help make all the decisions for whatever arises during labor and delivery.
I was extremely prepared for the delivery. I even reviewed much of Williams Obstetrics, one of the textbooks used in medical school for obstetrics. We were lucky and my wife had a smooth, 100% natural birth. But, the adrenaline is pumping so hard that having another person by your side is really helpful to make sure you’re thinking clearly. Additionally, that person is paid to help execute your vision and desires for the arrival of your child. They will help us dads to take the load off of our feet for a few minutes here and there so that we can make better decisions and better support mom and baby. You can’t help anyone if you’re exhausted yourself. And remember, things can go differently than you imagined. I was able to hang in there through my wife’s 10+ hours of labor, but had it gone any longer, the nurses might have been picking me up off of the floor.
A doula is just going to get in the way.
Again, a good doula is going to help you orchestrate your vision for the arrival of your son or daughter. They will allow dad a bit of rest here and there so he can be clear-headed and helpful. They also have had experience with many issues that you might not be prepared for.
I have family and friends to help.
Family and friends are great, but they often have strong beliefs and preferences. I can’t tell you how many times family members have extolled the virtues of formula and wondered why we weren’t using it, despite the fact that our preference was to raise our baby exclusively on breast milk. I’ve also been criticized by family on my burping methods for my son, despite the method I was using being recommended by doctors, nurses, and leading books as the best at preventing acid reflux. Doulas will help you do things the way you want and they will also give you educated recommendations and teachings based on current evidence based research. Simply put, they will give you nonjudgmental help.
I work well without much sleep. Heck, I’ve worked on a ton of Silicon Valley startups and was highly productive with little rest.
You can’t possibly be prepared for everything. We certainly were not when my wife’s appendix exploded when she was four weeks postpartum. We didn’t have a postpartum doula lined up at the time and with little support, it was the hardest time of my entire life. We luckily found a fantastic postpartum doula once I got my wife home from the hospital. Without her, I don’t know if I would have made it through. Even if things don’t get as difficult as having mom hospitalized, as was my experience, dads are going to be making late night runs for diapers, medicine, and a host of other things. An exhausted parent driving is a recipe for disaster – you need the help.
Based on my experience, I’m a strong advocate for hiring a doula. To find a local doula, ask friends that have had babies recently for recommendations, or check out dona.org. Here is a picture of our amazing postpartum doula, Wendy Redding, caring for my son while my wife was recovering from surgery.