As soon as someone finds out that I am a professional doula, the first question I most often get asked is some variation of "Isn't that my partner's role?" While I understand the confusion, it's important to understand the vastly different roles of your partner and your doula.
Your partner, especially if you are romantically involved, has the single most important job of anyone in your birth space. They are helping to create and flood you with oxytocin, which is vital in the birth process. Oxytocin, also known as the 'love hormone,' helps stimulate powerful surges, dilate the cervix, aids in bringing your baby down through the birth canal, as well as regulates bleeding after the placenta is born. How is oxytocin produced? By participating in activities that make you feel loved, safe, and, well, just good. Nobody can jump start an oxytocin release better than a romantic partner. They know you more intimately that anyone, so they can touch you in all the right places, say all the right things, and their presence itself just makes you feel safe. No doula can even come close to that, even though we do work in prenatal meetings to strengthen our connection to each other.
A doula on the other hand, brings with them a special set of skills, knowledge, and intuition. We are often logistical managers, reminding the birther to hydrate, eat, and empty the bladder. We are assessing the room for stress, watching your body for tension, or gently guiding you into new positions. We are watching for signs that labor is progressing within the range of normal, and helping to make adjustments or suggest phone calls to care providers when things may not be. We can suggest a wide range of comfort measures, which usually involve the partner's support. We aren't there to replace the partner, we are there to show them all the ways in which they can comfort you, together as a couple, either through positioning, touch or encouragement. We reassure both the birther and the partner that things are normal and safe. The feedback I hear the most often from partners is that they found the reassurance of normalcy the single most valuable thing that I could bring to the table for them. Just hearing that everything is ok was enough to let them relax and be fully present for the birther.
Before labor even begins, we meet with both of you to talk about your birth preferences, answer questions about the choices you have, prepare you for what normal, physiological birth looks and sounds like. We provide resources, information, and suggestions throughout your pregnancy, all of which can help release anxieties and fears so that you won't have to work through them during labor.
A partner and a doula have two very different roles. Both of them important and vital to the process, but different. Doulas allow the partner to be present in the moment, to be an active participant in the birth of their child (after all, this is their baby too!), and to let their own fears and anxieties melt away and just be. I often find myself doula-ing both parents, which is absolutely perfect in my book.
For more information, please feel free to contact me! I'd love to chat about how a doula can support both of you, no matter where you're from, your experience with birth, or how many pregnancies you've had. Another great resource to check out is The Birth Partner, which does a great job explaining how a partner can support you while a doula is present.