The theme of the evening was birth stories. There we all sat, women of all ages, races, first timers, some having their fifth and sixth child, grandmothers (to-be), and a variety of childbirth experts. Their stories reiterated that there is no ideal birth scenario and much like weddings "the best laid plans..." and so the phrase goes.
I am reminded that a successful outcome is in the eye of the mother; whether she felt like she had control of her birth experience, whether she felt supported, if the birth was faster or longer than she expected and so on.
I also was proud to learn that every woman there had a doula for support (one lady had two). The common thread with doulas were that they were invaluable to their birth experience and that their husbands/partners could see the benefit even if at first they were skeptical. A common misconception is that the father to be is fully capable of supporting a woman throughout her entire labor and delivery experience. I believe this is an unfair burden to put on anyone, especially men who may be squeamish over bodily fluids, or surprised by unexpected sounds to seeing the one they love be in "pain" and not being able to take it away.
This reminds me of a couple I was with a few weeks ago. They were a team. It was obvious they practiced their breathing, comfort techniques, words, and he encouraged her like I had never seen done before. It was beautiful and I feel blessed to have witnessed a couple so in sync bringing their child into the world. They were home for most of her labor and when they arrived at the hospital it took a little over an hour for her to deliver. I told mom, "that's very smart that you did most of your laboring at home." The father to be said, "I wasn't that much help, I slept most of the time". This surprised me because he appeared so confident (and I am sure he was) in his ability to help his wife, but in reality, when I came on the scene he felt like the weight of the world was off of his shoulders (his words). He was exhausted and at a loss for ways to comfort her especially during the transition period.
I only regret that they didn't call sooner, as most of the women and their husbands at this meeting collectively experienced and expressed. Hearing that it was common to wait until they couldn't handle the labor alone saddened me because an experienced doula is trained to not only encourage and support mom, but dad as well. This also taught me to make during my prenatal visits to encourage my clients to call me as soon as they think they are in real labor, that it's not a bother but what they hired me to do.
A doulas job is not to replace the father to-be role. He is a very important part of her birth experience. He can love her in only the way that he can, he knows her more than a doula or any labor support person can. It is great to see a father settle into that loving role.
If you have any questions about what and how a doula supports a family before, during and after pregnancy feel free to contact me, I'd be happy to help.