Doulas: A Dad's perspective

Doulas: A Dad's perspective.

March 25, 2017|

Justin Phares

Something I realized, not too long ago, was you rarely meet people who simply want to help. Even more rarely is it possible to find an entire profession that exists, for much the entire purpose, of helping a person they have literally never met. A doula represents something that I had a hard time finding in our world anymore, kindness and positivity.

I admit, birth just wasn't something I understood for a really long time. You learn about it, yeah, but do you really get it? Answer the question yourself, but I didn't. A doula is there to help, to teach, to guide. She wants you to succeed in the most literal way. Her purpose is to give you the affirmation and steadfast compassion so you can have a healthy baby, your way. Your way can change, and your way can be hard, and your way can be loud, but she'll do it your way for that baby. She is a support system built on knowledge, experience, and transparency.

Then there's us, the dads. Most of the time we like to think we're pretty knowledgable resources for clarification in life. Not this time, you've got secondhand context at best and a false sense of understanding. You don't have to admit it, but I will. Birth is a beautiful mystery and you can only prepare yourself to be the best advocate you can,
a doula provides the support and affirmation required for the task at hand. Birth isn't easy. I hope I'm not the one breaking that news to you, but it's 100% true. It's especially not easy when you only have the secondhand knowledge stated above. A doula represents the bridge that spans the gap we often have between what we think and what we know about birth.

Pregnancy and birth can be a roller coaster of emotions, an untamed and unpredictable ocean of possibilities. You can never truly prepare for what each new day will bring, but knowledge and experience are power. Knowing what COULD happen protects you from panicking when anything does happen. A doula can provide as little or as much information as you want, they bring an infinite pool of best practices and information that no book or article or website will provide. They go out of their way to give you the information you need and couple that with the information you WANT so you are able to experience birth with far few what ifs.

When we found out my wife was pregnant, I believe I was far more anxious than I ever imagine because I was so genuinely lost in my understanding of the topic. A doula showed me that birth wasn't hectic or stressful, it was beautiful. She showed me the event is as calm as you make it. That your mentality and preparation will greatly effect the outcome. When we found out about baby #2, a doula was the easy decision. Someone to assist in our greatest moment of vulnerability could be nothing but positive. Someone would ALWAYS be there with the mother of my child, even if I was pulled away for who knows what reason. She provided stability and comfort when it was needed most.

Here's the deal, I don't like to admit when I'm wrong and I don't like to ask for help. Total honesty, real life flaws of mine. In regards to the role a doula has played in my life, I have nearly never been more wrong and the help I received has impacted the man I am today. A doula is not someone you're hiring to have your partner's baby, nor are they magicians who make it some fairy tale experience, and they definitely aren't there for the vast riches of the profession. They are there because they care about you, they care about your partner, and they care, to an incredible threshold, for that beautiful ball of life. That wonderful human they can't wait to meet. A doula is a clear mind, an affirmative reassurance, an walking Smithsonian of knowledge, and an unrelenting advocate. Doulas amaze me, and I am honored and humbled by those who surround me. Honored because I have never know deeper loyalty, and humbled because they baffle me with the power they inspire. Pregnancy and birth, as was said, are not things I was born or equipped appropriately for. One can assume things are going well or poorly using context clues. What a doula provides is logical fact, valid research, and an affirmative "it's gonna be ok" in a time when it's needed most.

Thank you doulas, dads everywhere need you more than you'll ever understand.


Justin Phares


Doula: Natasha Woodard   Gulf Coast Doula

Photo Credit: Maren Kathleen Photography

Childbirth Education/Doula:  Kate Fillinghim

Frequently Asked Questions About Doulas

What is a Doula?


a woman who is trained to assist another woman during childbirth and who may provide support to the family after the baby is born.

Doula is a Greek word meaning "woman servant".  In modern times the word doula refers to a non-medical person who provides physical and emotional support to a woman and her partner during pregnancy, labor, and birth. Studies have shown that when doulas attend births, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily, and women report higher levels of satisfaction with their birth.

Will the doula take the place of my husband/partner during the birth?

No. A doulas job is to work with you and your partner to create a supportive birth team.  Natasha and Star will go over techniques with you and your partner during the prenatal visits.  Your doula will suggest techniques during labor to help your partner support you.  A doula can provide breaks for the birth partner (or partners) if they feel they need them but will not take their place in the birth process. Her goal is to work closely with your support team so everyone has a positive experience.

Do doulas only attend unmedicated or homebirths?

Doulas can support every type of birth whether in the hospital or at home. Interventions and c-section rates are lower when doulas attend births.  Natasha and Star have training in techniques that are useful during inductions or planned epidurals. They can also support for a planned cesarean. A doula's role is to support the birth choices you make. Your doula will prepare you for birth and provide the support to achieve your goals.

Will the doula talk to the hospital staff on my behalf?

No, a doula should not speak to the hospital staff on your behalf.  Your doula can ask you if you would like more time to discuss something but it will be up to you to communicate your wishes with your provider and nurses.  Your doula will help you research the birth process prior to labor so that you and your partner will feel confident and be comfortable speaking up on your own behalf. This does not mean she will not talk to the staff at all; she simply will not speak for you.


Won't my nurses provide the same care a doula would?

While there are many great and attentive nurses, they simply do not have the time to provide continuous care to every laboring woman.  Many times the nurses have multiple women in labor at the same time. They will be dividing their time between you and other women. A nurse also works in shifts. There may be a shift change during your labor in which time the nurse will go home. When you hire Natasha or Star as your doula, they do not leave your side.  A nurse is trained in the clinical tasks whereas a doula is trained in comfort techniques.


Can't my friend do the same thing a doula does?

While having a friend support you is an option, you have to ask what you are looking for in your labor support person. A doula has very specialized trainingin comfort techniques to help you relax during labor. A doula also has an in depth knowledge of the process of childbirth and hospital procedure, they can help answer questions that arise. While a friends support is great, their knowledge is not likely as specialized as the doula who is trained and has attended births regularly.  Another thing to consider is if your friend will need to tend to their families needs and possibly have to leave you at some point?  A doula has childcare in place and a good backup secured to ensure you will not be left alone without your support person. 

I am having a homebirth with a midwife, can I still benefit from a doula?

A midwife and doula have distinctly separate roles in their support ofbirth. Midwives perform the clinical tasks during labor and the delivery of the baby. While they can also assist you in getting into comfortable positions, there may be times when all of their focus will be on the clinical tasks or the baby. This is where a doula comes in, the doulas entire focus is on providing emotional and physical support to the laboring mother.  Doulas and Midwives work together to provide a supportive birth team.


What if I can't afford a doula?

Doula services are an investment in your birth.  If you are unsure if you can afford the fee, discuss the possibility of a payment plan with your doula.  You can also think of some creative ways to save for a doula. Think of an "extra" item you purchase in your daily life, cut that out and set that money aside during the pregnancy.  You can also ask for donations to your doula fund in lieu of a baby shower gift. Most of the things people buy for a baby don't end up being used (babies don't need as much gear as we think they do).  Clean out your closets and consign clothes you don't wear anymore.  You don't get a do-over on the birth of your baby. Having a doula is worth the investment. If you plan early in the pregnancy, saving across 30 weeks is not as daunting as coming up with the full fee at one time.


"Women who have used a doula are more satisfied with their birth experience, feel more confidant in their ability to mother, bond faster with their newborn, are less likely to have postpartum depression, and are more likely to breastfeed".  - Klaus, Kennel, and Klaus


How to afford a Doula in 5 easy steps

You've heard about them. You want one at your birth.  You've found a Doula you like, now how do you afford her fee? 

 First let me start by saying childbirth education and doula support are an investment in your birth. You don't get a do-over for the birth of your baby. It is worth every penny to prepare for what will likely be the most transformative day of your life. Below I will give you some tips to afford a Doula's fee. 

Skip some of the baby gear & gadgets! We spend so much money on gadgets and gear for babies and a lot of times they don't get used. Luxurious swaddle blankets to find out baby hates being swaddled, adorable outfits they will probably outgrow before wearing, fancy swings to find out baby doesn't like being in a get the idea. So the first place to start is to ask the people around you what products they actually ended up using when their babies came home. You will be surprised to find the list is shorter than you think.  

Enlist the help of family and friends! Another way to find money for a doulas fee is to ask for donations to your doula fund in lieu of baby shower gifts. Keep your registry to the necessities and ask your friends and family for moula for your doula. You can even set up a jar at the baby shower. 

Do some Spring Cleaning! Do you have clothes hanging in your closet that you don't wear? Chances are your style preference is going to change once baby arrives. There is a reason yoga pants are called the "mom uniform" comfort over style usually wins. Go through your closet now and consign some of your clothing to put into your doula fund. I am not suggesting giving up all of your pre-baby clothes but if you didn't wear it before baby, you probably won't wear it after baby.  

Give up your guilty pleasure! Do the baristas start writing  your name at Starbucks without asking? Do you snuggle up on the couch with Ben & Jerry every night? Do you go out to eat every day? I am in no way suggesting giving up your guilty pleasure for 9 months, just a few times less than you normally indulge adds up. Take that money and put it in the doula fund. Nutrition is important during pregnancy so if your guilty pleasure involves added calories, this has a double benefit.   

Discuss a payment plan with the doula!  Chances are she connected with you and wants to see you have the birth you desire. Most doulas will work with you on a payment plan. It never hurts to ask.  

 And there you have it- 5 steps to afford a Doula. Most women I speak with regret not hiring a doula. I haven't met many that do regret taking a Childbirth class or hiring a Doula. Your birth and having a satisfying experience is worth the money. 

If you plan early in the pregnancy, saving across 30 weeks is not as daunting as coming up with the full fee at one time.

Can my friend be my Doula?

Have you thought about having a doula at your birth but wonder if your friend can do the job instead? 

The short answer: of course your friend can attend your birth and provide support. 

The longer answer depends on what you want out of your support person and your birth. Women throughout history have had their births attended by close female relatives and friends. During this time in our history, birth was something most women witnessed many times before they gave birth themselves. In modern times the women around us don't have much exposure to childbirth. Even if they have given birth themselves, their experience may differ greatly from what you want for your own birth. A Doula studies birth extensively and has witnessed many births in a variety of settings. Her knowledge of birth is much more in depth. She can help you navigate many different scenarios. While having a friend support you is an option, you have to ask yourself what you are looking for in your labor support person. The purpose of this post is not to discourage anyone from having a friend attend their birth, it is to highlight the difference in a doula being there and a friend being there. Read on for a few of the difference between doula support and the support of a friend. 

Experience: A doula has specialized trainingin comfort techniques to help you relax during labor. A doula also has in depth knowledge of the process of childbirth and hospital procedure. They can help answer questions that arise during labor. While a friends support is good, their knowledge is not likely as specialized as the doula who is trained and has attended births regularly. As we look back on our history, relatives and friends who attended births had this unofficial doula trainingbecause they had witnessed birth frequently. When you hire a doula you get your own personal birth assistant. The doula has trained and studied birth. They are specially trained to help a couple navigate birth and to help them explore all of their options. They have experience with a variety of birth settings and situations that present themselves in birth. A doula can suggest things such as certain position changes, comfort techniques, and they help you address emotional blocks. She also helps your partner during the birth and suggests ways they can support you more effectively. A doula practices these things regularly so she can call on these techniques during labor. A friend may be well read on childbirth but it is  hard to recall everything they have read about in the moment. When you hire a doula, you are hiring someone with experience and knowledge. 

Availability: Another point to consider is if your friend will need to tend to their families needs. Will they possibly have to leave you at some point? Will they be available when you go into labor? A good doula has childcare in place and a backup doula secured to ensure you will not be left alone without your support person. Your support person having to leave during labor may sound alright to you beforehand but it can be very upsetting when you are in a vulnerable state during labor. A doula makes arrangements and is on call for you to meet you when labor begins and stays with you for the duration of your labor. When you hire a doula you can be sure you are not left without your support person. There have been instances where women talk about a doula not making it to their birth. It is important to ask questions about how a doula handles the on call time and what their backup situation is like when you are interviewing them.  

Access to a community: When you hire a doula you are gaining access to a wealth of resources that your loved ones may not be aware of. A doula is connected to the birth professionals in your area. If you are experiencing breastfeeding issues she can refer you to lactation specialists; if you are having questions about your birthplace or provider she can provide insight into their policies; if you are interested in placenta encapsulation she can connect you with the right people; and if you are interested in homebirth she can provide you a list of midwives. Your doulas support also extends to the postpartum period. She can help you set up a mealtrain, connect you with postpartum doulas, and provide continuing emotional support as you navigate caring for your newborn.  
At the end of the day, having someone there that you trust to provide support during your birth is the most important thing. If you have read about a doula and doula support sounds like something you want, hiring a doula is worth the investment. A friends support is valuable but the two are not interchangeable. When you hire a doula you get so much more than a person to hold your hand in the delivery room.

What's the deal with birth plans?

plan NOUN 

noun: plan · plural noun: plans 

  • a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something: 


Birth plans have been getting a bad rap. Why?  There are some doctors who say a woman who shows up to labor and delivery with a birth plan will definitely end up with a c section.  There are women who are met with opposition by nurses and doctors at the mere mention of a birth plan.  They may even be met with a flippant attitude from their own family and friends.  Why are birth plans creating so much strife?

We make many plans in life and it is usually with the understanding that things don't always go 100% according to plan.  We still make plans to give us an idea of where we are going and how we want to get there. Doctors themselves mapped out a plan on how to become a doctor.  The plan may have taken some twists and turns but I doubt they set out to become a doctor without some sort of plan in place. Nearly everything we do in life starts out as a plan. 

What is so wrong with making a birth plan? In my opinion, nothing.  A birth plan isa list of things the couple would either like to avoid during labor or things they would like to have happen at the birth.  Most expectant parents make a birth plan with the understanding that things can change and they will revisit their options if something changes.  They have researched the process of labor and have put down their wishes.  This gives them comfort and eases some anxiety of the unknown. We should encourage this preparation, not brush it off!

I offer assistance with the writing of a birth plan as part of my labor doula services.  During this process, I encourage couples to think of the "what ifs" and have a back up plan in mind in the event things don't go according to plan.  Instead of meeting birth plans with negativity we should respect that the parents have thought enough to prepare for childbirth.  In our culture, it has become expected for women to show up for childbirth and do what they are told.  A lot of people are not satisfied with this status quo and want to have a say in the birth of their child and be respected and included in the process.  If you are being met with opposition for talking about  a birth plan, take a good look on why that person is so vehemently against it.  If it is a provider, it may be that they are not fully supportive of you having a choice in your birth.  If it is friends and family, they may not understand there are options other than just "going with the flow". 

I don't encourage my clients to hide their birth plans or to call them something else, a birth plan is just that, a plan. We all know things don't always go according to plan but it doesn't stop us from making plans.  Birth isn't any different. Make a plan and then make a plan for that plan.  Then find people who support you and you trust to help you navigate the options in the event things don't go according to plan.  

3 things to keep in mind when looking for a Doula

March 26, 2015

Natasha Woodard- Gulf Coast Doula

So you have read about or heard about birth doulas and decided you want to have a doula at your birth. The search for your doula begins and may bring up a whole new set of questions. How do you decide if a doula is right for you?  There are some things to keep in mind as you search for a doula.  

The first thing is certification, you see doulas that say they are certified with DONA, others say they are certified with Prodoula, CBI, BAI, or another organization, but you aren't quite sure what all of that means.  At this time doulas are not required to be certified to be a doula. Therefore, there are many organizations that a doula can choose to certify with. Each organization has differing criteria for certification. Unless you research each organization, a doula being certified doesn't tell you much about the process they went through. There are also seasoned doulas that choose not to certify with any organization. An important thing to look for is if the doula has attended a training. You should go more in depth with your questions when you interview them and gauge their knowledge of birth and how they can support you.  There are exceptional doulas out there that are not certified and there are some not so great doulas that are certified. If you are more comfortable with a certified doula it would be a good idea to read up on the philosophy of the organization they are certified with and see if that aligns with your beliefs.

Another thing  you may be asking  is how many births has the doula attended?  While attending births definitely gives a doula more experience and knowledge it does not necessarily define how good they are as a doula. I would suggest looking at the entire picture, how many births they have attended, their relationship with care providers, what their previous clients are saying, and the overall feeling you get with their level of experience. That being said, all doulas have to start out somewhere. Most doulas study in depth and attend trainings before attending births. There could be a newer doula in your area that meets all of your expectations. Inviting someone into your birth space is an intimate thing and you should feel comfortable and confident in that persons ability to support you. Asking questions to see how they would handle specific situations might give you a better idea on their level of experience.  Now, if it is important to you that a doula has attended a certain amount of births, that's ok too.

Lastly, a doula is a part of your birth team and should work with your team to help you achieve a satisfying birth. When you are looking over a website, Facebook page, or interviewing a potential doula, pay attention to their language. Ask how they support your birth partner and what they do to include the birth partner. Ask how they work with providers.  In the end you should choose a doula that you feel comfortable with and that leaves you feeling energized, empowered, and confident to achieve the birth you envision. 

A Doula Whata?

March 21, 2015

Natasha Woodard


 What is this Doula word that you are hearing these days?  Have any of your friends been talking about a doula at their birth? Are you curious what a doula does (or doesn't do)?  Why are families hiring doulas?  Are you wondering if a doula is something you may want at your birth?  Read on for some answers to your burning questions! 

First,  what is a doula? A doula is a person who is trained to assist couples during childbirth and who may provide support to the family after the baby is born. There are two types of doulas, a labor doula, who provides support before, during and after the birth of the baby. There is also a postpartum doula, a postpartum doula provides support and assistance with caring for the baby after the birth.  The focus of this post will be on labor doulas.

A labor doula will help prepare a couple before the birth with education on the normal and natural process of labor. She will help them practice coping and comfort techniques to use during labor and provide continuous support during labor.  

So that all sounds nice but what does a doula actually DO?  A doula believes in your ability, a doula helps you find evidence based information, a doula educates you on the normal and natural process of labor, a doula supports your decisions, a doula is on call for you, a doula comes to your side when you need her and does not leave until the baby is born, a doula assists your birth partner, a doula helps you breathe, a doula gets you a cool washcloth for your head, a doula massages your hands, feet, back or any other part you like massaged, a doula applies counter pressure if you are experiencing back pain, a doula holds your space, a doula sets the tone for the room, a doula speaks words of encouragement, a doula does so much more. Listing all of the things a doula does requires a post all its own. The most important thing a good doula does is support you and help you achieve a satisfying birth as YOU define it. 

Now, what doesn't a doula do? A doula is not a medical person. A doula should not be doing any medical tasks such as vaginal checks, fetal monitoring, or delivering a baby.  A doula coaches and doesn't catch. A doula should not pressure you into a certain way of giving birth. A doula provides information and then supports you in your educated decisions. A doula should not be judgmental. A doula does not make decisions for you and should never speak for you. A doula should build up your confidence so you feel comfortable communicating your wishes. 

Why are more families hiring doulas? Doulas are not a new thing. As long as women have been giving birth there have been doulas. The role was usually filled by women in the family that had given birth before. When birth was moved out of the home and into the hospital, the knowledge on how to support a laboring woman became less common.  Childbirth in this country has become less mother centered and more about "managing" labor.  Women are wanting a different experience. They are wanting to feel a part of the process, whether they are choosing a natural birth or a medicated birth.  They are wanting to feel included in their birth process.  They are wanting more satisfying birth experiences. They are wanting their voices to be heard and they are hiring doulas to help achieve this.  

That leads us to the last question.  Is a doula something you want at your birth?