FIVE WAYS TO PREPARE YOUR HUSBAND TO BE YOUR DOULA
Sitting on my birth ball, I leaned over my bed with my head rested on a stack of pillows. I asked my husband, not very gracefully, to grab various tools from my doula bag to try with the next contraction. We repeated various iterations of this process throughout my labor. (Full story here)
A few weeks before my due date, I briefed him for labor like this:
“I’ll need you to stay calm, keep me hydrated, make sure I go to the bathroom at least once per hour and try different relaxation techniques during contractions. I’ll make sure to let you know what’s working and what isn’t. Once my doula arrives, she can take it from there.”
At the time, neither of us realized that it would be just us. No doula (other than me, of course), no midwife, no OB. We doula-ed me for three hours, alone, until my doula and the EMT arrived (after my baby girl’s head was out). It just all happened so fast!
We were an amazing team.
Having said that… I have some tips on how to really prepare your husband to be your doula.
First, what exactly is a doula?
A doula mothers the mother.
She calms you.
She supports you.
She massages you.
She shows Dad how to support you.
She does the ‘butt hug,’ sometimes. (My name for the warm compress on your perineum while you’re pushing)
The origin of the word doula means "a woman who serves" in Greek. Note that there are male doulas, too.
This post is for you if you’re NOT hiring a doula… not every family does. Cost, availability and personal comfort level can sometimes present issues.
This post is for you if you ARE hiring a doula. Case in point: my third birth. While rapid labors aren’t common, there will be a period of time during labor when your doula hasn’t yet reached you.
Either way, it’s a good idea to get your hubby ready for doula duties.
1. LEARN TOGETHER
The best preparation comes in the form of education. Below are my fave classes, documentaries, and books.
Take Him to Class… from the couch
If you’re able to find a local childbirth education class that supports the type of birth that you want, take it. In person classes are a great way to practice breathing techniques and labor positions (muscle memory is real).
Or, there are a ton of amazing online birth classes that you can watch in your PJs.
Netflix & Chill (birth documentary style)
Remember that movie with the pregnant woman? You know, the one where her water breaks and everyone rushes to the hospital screaming? Yeah, that’s not usually how it goes. Plus, that’s effing frightening.
For most moms, labor looks quite different than that. Watch some documentaries to see what real labor looks and sounds like.
Most of the births in the suggested films are all natural. Even if you’re an epidural kinda girl (no judge zone here), I still recommend watching. There’s so much knowledge packed into these films. It’s truly eye opening.
Here are my favorites:
The Business of Being Born - It’s 10 years old, but freakin’ awesome! Plus, you get to see Ricki Lake give birth in a bathtub (fan girl of her talk show wayyyyy back in the day).
Orgasmic Birth - That’s right. Women orgasm while giving birth.
These Are My Hours - Brand new documentary of a woman giving birth undisturbed on her living room floor. I imagine that this is what I looked like when I accidentally gave birth on my bedroom floor. Except I was laying on my side, because save the cookie. It’s powerful AF.
Go Deep with Books
This one is going to depend on: 1 - How involved your hubby plans to be in the birth, and 2 - If he’s into reading.
If you answered ‘very’ and ‘yes’ to the above, here are my book suggestions.
The Birth Partner - This book is actually part of many doula training requirements. It’s thorough and Penny Simkin (the author) is right up there with Ina May Gaskin with the knowledge bombs.
Husband-Coached Childbirth - While I haven’t read this one, it comes highly recommended if you’re planning a bradley method (natural) birth.
2. TELL HIM HOW TO SUPPORT YOU
Start with figuring out your needs and preferences. Need help figuring that out? Download the free birth plan template here. Then, tell him.
What do I mean by that?
Think about how you want to be supported emotionally during labor. Get specific.
Do you want him to talk to you during contractions? Give him phrases that you like to help you get through the mental part. Example - You’re doing great, babe.
Or, would you prefer that he make quiet eye contact?
Example - When I was on the toilet in transition (with baby #3), I grabbed my husband’s arm, pulled him down and said, “Sit down, stay with me and talk to me!” How’s that for clear communication? ;)
Then, consider how you want to be supported physically. Again, get specific.
Do you prefer gentle or firm massage? A bear hug? A snuggle and make out sesh?
Don’t forget to let him know that your preferences might change in the moment.
3. GIVE HIM THE TOOLS
What guy doesn’t like tools? Be sure to check out the DIY Doula module of my online birth class. It’s packed with tools and techniques. After you’ve watched the class, be sure to pack your tools in your hospital bag.
4. DOWNLOAD A CONTRACTION TIMER APP ON HIS PHONE
My favorite is the Full Term Contraction Timer, but any will work.
5. ASK HIM TO USE YOUR CAMERA TO TAKE PICS & VIDEO
If you are okay with photos, of course. That way you have control over what gets posted.
Yes - even if you’ve hired a birth photographer.
My birth photographer was waiting patiently at the hospital when I arrived in the ambulance, baby in arms. Luckily, my hubby discreetly set up the iPad on our dresser to capture a bit of video from my labor.
Don’t forget to give Daddy some grace as he prepares for your birth. I know, I know… you’re doing the vast majority of the work, mama. It can be tough for some husbands to see their wife in pain. Keep in mind that these tips will help to prepare him for how to help you through that temporary situation.
No matter how your birth events unfold, he will be in awe of you and your incredible power. This will be a game changing day for your relationship, in the best way.