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


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.