Your partner can do a lot to support you during the process. Their presence and love plays such an important role. There's few things I love seeing more than a partner who is excited, helpful and involved in the birth of their child. However, they are not professionally trained and they don't have objective experience in the same way that a doula does. It will be a better experience for YOU and for THEM if you add the support of a doula.
Having familiar, loving support is so important during the process. We were not meant to birth alone. Our bodies labor most effectively when we feel calm and safe. For most people, that means having someone they love and trust nearby.
It is difficult to watch someone you love go through something that is so physically and mentally BIG. Normal labor can have a really wide range of mental and physical feelings and sensations. If you have never seen it before, it can feel confusing, overwhelming and upsetting. It's hard to see someone you love feel pain. It's hard to know how to respond. Many partners go into "fix it" mode and want to solve it. But you can't fix it. You can't do it for them it, you can't control how it will unfold.
The research also shows the importance of professional labor support. Someone who is familiar with the birth process and landscape. Someone who is a third party and not emotionally involved in the same way as a friend or loved one. The thing is, it's really not fair to expect them to know all there is to know all about the process and to remain calm and level headed in the face a big, unpredictable life changing-event.
Unless your partner is a birth or medical professional, they are not familiar with the setting, the common terminology, the possible risks and side effects of medications and procedures. Even if the person supporting you has given birth, they may have not experienced birth in the way that you might be hoping for and it may affect their beliefs about labor and birth. Sadly, the history tells us that many of our mothers and grandmothers likely had some tough birthing experiences. Some of the common practices of another generation are not supported by the research and led to unnecessary complications and trauma (routine episiotomies, overuse of forceps, withholding of food and drink, being forced to stay in bed and give birth on their backs, immediate separation of mother and baby to name a few)
My doula friend Evelyn, uses this analogy which I really love.
Imagine you and your partner want to visit a foreign country and have a very enjoyable and stress-free experience. Maybe celebrate a special occasion? The problem is you've never been here before. You don't know the language or the customs, you aren't familiar with the common cultural norms. You and your partner may have some time to learn a few basics, but will you feel confident navigating all on your own? Will you remember everything you learned if you face a stressful challenge? What if you needed some special attention? Would you expect your partner to know all the ins and outs of this new and unfamiliar place?
Likely you would want the help of a guide, a local. Someone who knows the territory, speaks the language and has some inside knowledge. This is where a doula fills those gaps and helps you: educationally, physically and emotionally. They are with you the entire time, to answer your questions, to clarify any unfamiliar language and to share their inside knowledge. Could you do it on your own? Of course. But you will enjoy your experience more if you have someone experienced nearby who can offer their knowledge and help you communicate? Definitely!
photo: Tribe Birth Photography | Boise, ID
I love seeing the connection between partners during a birth.It is something very tender to see a laboring person being held and cared for as they work that baby into the world. I am never there to replace that bond. The support from the doula allows your partner to MORE FULLY support your emotional needs. They are looking in your eyes and holding your hand while the doula rubs your back and squeezes your hips. When your partner has the benefit of a professional, they are able to participate in real time. Without the pressure of doing everything, remembering everything and knowing everything your partner can focus on their most important job: loving you, holding you and encouraging you.
I hold the camera and the cold washcloth and you hold each other
Without fail, every time I work with a family, the most common feedback I receive is how glad the partner was to have me there. When the big day arrives and emotions and tensions are high, it is a relief to have the extra benefit of a calming voice, an extra set of hands, reassurance that things are well, reminders, and suggestions for difficult moments.
One of my favorite parts of my job is actually helping the partners be involved in the process. Partners, I am here for you too.
The doula supports everyone.