Should I tell her how I really feel about her doula?

(73 Posts)
NotQuiteSuperman Thu 27-Feb-14 06:21:44

I had to look it up (http://doula.org.uk in case you didn't know either)

Now, I realise I'm a man entering the arena of women while waving a banner that says "It's about me", and admitting that my wife's choice to have a professional birthing partner with us makes me feel emasculated isn't going to be seen as cute in anyone's eyes... but if I may state my case?

Three years ago my previous partner went into premature labour. Both her aunts were in the room and went things got hectic, the doctors told her there were too many people in the room and someone had to go. I don't know if it was me being polite or her aunts being overbearing or, the simple fact that she didn't want me there, I stepped outside.

For 12 hours. It was horrific for her, the baby was dead, and I did nothing. This sort of thing makes a man feel pretty useless, I can tell you.

I'm now happily married to a brilliant woman, she's now five-months pregnant and we're as over the soon as can be. But it's her first child, and at 38, she's read and heard enough scare stories about women in labour (some, alas, from me) that she's now thinking of hiring a doula.

She can tell I'm uncomfortable with the idea and wants me to meet the doula so we can be a team working towards the same goal of making my wife feel supported, but between you and me, I can't stand the idea.

The doula is a professional - by definition she'll be better at supporting her than I can be. I wish I didn't feel so threatened by her. I wish I wasn't in this horribly selfish catch 22 where I'll feel sidelined if the doula is there, and feel like it's my fault if the doula isn't there and my wife suffers.

God, I could do with some advice....

marfisa Thu 27-Feb-14 10:19:48

I am sorry for the loss of your first child. sad

Doulas are wonderful and your wife absolutely should have one, but it has to be one both you and she feel comfortable with. Don't be afraid to have interviews with multiple people until you find someone you really 'click' with.

As others have said above, a doula (or any doula who is doing her job properly!) would never sideline or exclude a partner. Your roles are complementary but different. She can reassure your wife about the labour and childbirth process because she will have seen many, many births. You can provide emotional and psychological support to your wife because you know her intimately, you love her, and you created the child together. Quite simply, the two types of expertise are very different, and both are wonderful for the mother.

On a practical level, labour can last for hours and days and it will be comforting for your wife to have someone present when you need to slip away to go to the loo, get a cup of tea or even snatch a few hours' sleep.

My first child was born prematurely and my DH was out of the country at the time. It was a horrible experience (although the baby was fine in the end!) and for my second birth, I really really wanted a doula because I was frightened and wanted to feel more 'in control' of the whole birth experience. Our doula was great, she met with my DH and me together a couple of times before the birth and talked us through everything and we both felt a lot calmer about the impending birth because of it. My second DC was born premature as well but the experience was so much better given that I had my DH AND my doula there.

There is nothing to be scared of. Doulas are trained to respect the partner's feelings about the birth as well as the mother's (though of course the mother is the first priority!). Help your wife have the birth she wants with a doula (a GOOD doula you both like!) and that will be the best thing possible for both of you. Good luck!

ReadyToPopAndFresh Thu 27-Feb-14 10:22:34

I'm sorry for your loss, I really am. But two different women and two different scenarios.

Your wife wants a doula she should have one. You aren't giving birth, you don;t know what its like, you don't know the fear or lack of power some women feel. There is obviously a reason your wife thinks this is a good idea. and you need to respect it.

Your wife must realise how worried you are after what happened with your first child, and you must still be suffering with that loss (which I can see was made worse by being excluded and powerless) - I can imagine many people thinking a man should just get on with it afterwards which is rubbish. I agree with Burren above - please seek some support for yourself before your wife's due date.

Any good doula will want to hear what happened to you in the past and know that this is relevant to you and your wife now; this will help her to do her job, not hinder. I didn't have a doula as I wanted when DD2 was born and I regret it as it was fairly traumatic; my husband was asleep most of the time, he didn't stand up for me, he didn't know what to do when things went wrong. But I don't think you are planning on behaving like that so as others have said, the doula is not an issue but your previous bereavement is. I am so sorry for you and the baby you lost.

ReadyToPopAndFresh Thu 27-Feb-14 10:27:58

Also can I say the doula is really just your wife's advocate. You don't want to be the one arguing on her behalf. Dh was lovley in the room, but the truth is I ended up fighting my own corner with HCP (inn between bloody contractions) while he was basically a wreck.

I think because of your previous situation especially you might even have a risk of PTSD and I don't think you would be the best person for that job. Just be there for your wife and let the doula do the crappy bits she's trained for.

drivenfromdistraction Thu 27-Feb-14 10:37:28

Yes, I think doulas are very good at advocacy skills - helping the mother to get the type of birth she wants. Mine were good at questioning the midwives without sounding aggressive, reminding them of my wishes (e.g. about cutting cord/injections etc.) at points when I wasn't able to concentrate on that, and needed DH's attention on me not on the medical staff. I don't think DH would have been as good at that (because he's not seen the same number of births and wouldn't know what was normal or not and when to push for something and when not to) - but the doula couldn't have been as good at him at making me feel loved and supported. So having both is ideal.

Echocave Thu 27-Feb-14 10:42:41

I think the doula could actually be what you need OP as long as you talk to her and make sure you and your dw both understand what everyone's expecting from the arrangement. You can work with the doula to support yourself and if you feel a bit wobbly, there's someone there who's got lots of experience. Your dw might think birth understandably freaks you out and wants the doula for all three of you. I do find some of the 'her body, her choice' comments on here a bit aggressive. Yes it is in a way but it is their baby.

Divinity Thu 27-Feb-14 10:43:32

Has your wife interpreted your last experience and thought that you would prefer not to be in the room? Have another chat with your wife about why she wants a doula and tell her your thoughts on what you want to do. If you want to be there for her tell her.

If she wants a doula and you, then that's ok. Just make sure you are with her during the labour (and your wife knows you will be). Husband before doula yes?

Have you told your wife how you feel? This is the first step. She may be getting a doula so that YOU don't feel under pressure if things get difficult for you, considering your previous history.

Please talk to her. Explain your concerns, listen to her reason ing and go from there. If you can't discuss this then your problem is not the doula.

X post with Divinity

marfisa Thu 27-Feb-14 11:03:35

I agree with the above posters. Talk to your wife! In fact you could show her this thread.

As long as you make it clear to her that you have no desire to dictate to her about whether or not she has a doula, or make that decision for her - if my DH had tried to do that to me I would have gone bonkers.

But saying to your wife, "I love you and I want you to have the kind of birth you want. I just need to tell you that the thought of a doula makes me feel anxious for the following reasons" - is fine! If you don't express your anxieties, you won't be able to be reassured.

For what it's worth, I'm sure that if your first partner had had a doula at her birth, you would NOT have ended up being excluded from the room for 12 hours in that awful way. The doula would have been communicating with both your partner and you and kicking out the bloody aunts unless your partner was crystal clear that she wanted them there.

peacefuleasyfeeling Thu 27-Feb-14 11:17:24

I am so sorry for your loss.

Well done you for raising this already, when there is still so much time to find a solution that will please you both.

After a traumatic birth experience with DD1, after which DP suffered PTSD and developed severe depression and anxiety (from which he did eventually recover, with the help of therapy), we were very frightened (as well as thrilled) when we became pregnant again. I spent a lot of that pregnancy feeling really stressed and caught between a rock and a hard place; I didn't feel I could let myself lean on DP on account of his experiences during the birth of DD1, so wanted some other form of support, such as a doula. If I am really honest, part of me felt it would be easier not to have DP there at all sad. I also wanted to respect his most heartfelt wish to "do it right this time" (not that the previous traumatic events had anything to do with his conduct) and let him be the active and supportive partner he so wanted to be. He did not want a doula at all. I felt very alone and guilty, and really struggled with the idea of whether to go outright for putting my needs first or try to reach a compromise. It was a mess, and I feel like I "missed" so much the pleasure and joyful expectation of that pregnancy because of it.

In the end, our compromise did arrive, unexpectedly (and not in a way that you could emulate at will) in the shape of a trainee midwife who wanted to follow me through to term, having managed my caseload and pre-natal appointments, even though her practice would technically already have finished -she was basically attending our birth in her free time out of the goodness of her heart. The point is that she did fill the place of an informed, supportive, flexible, unintrusive other, and the relief for both DP and I was immense in the end. However, we did not make this arrangement until I was nearly 8 months pregnant and she plucked up the courage to ask if she could attend, and it was as a huge black cloud had lifted for me, and allowed me to really enjoy the last 6 weeks of pregnancy.

During the birth (which was a home birth) I felt best supported by DP doing practical stuff, keeping everything ticking along, making tea, chatting with the midwives, telling me I was a star etc, but I really didn't want him to touch me or hold my hand or coach me, but I think that is quite common.

There is so much good advice here. Could you share this thread with your wife as a starting point for a conversation? But please, don't let her feel guilty and suffer with uncertainty. Support her by letting her explore the options she wants without guilt.

perfectstorm Thu 27-Feb-14 11:18:19

I'm so sorry for your loss.

The thing is, we have a system where the midwives won't be personally known to your wife. She won't know what their views are, how compassionate they are, and won't have any familiarity at all, in a very vulnerable moment.

I needed my husband there in labour. But what I needed was for him to sit down, shut up, and let me focus on birth, and that's not uncommon when things go well. Your ex's aunts had no right or place to make you feel like you were redundant; it was your baby, not theirs, and you were closer to the mother than they were - their actions probably made things worse for the two people most central to the situation, and that was awful of them. But a doula is a professional, albeit less skilled/trained than a midwife, and part of her professionalism will be knowing your role is more significant than hers, and that you are an important element to the birth for both mother and baby. It's not an overbearing relative seeing "their baby" in the form of the mother suffering, and treating adult emotional ties as less significant - it's a skilled, knowledgable birth attendant who will be better informed than you or your wife, and not in the throes of labour, so she can advocate for what your wife seems to want/need, and actually also explain to you what's happening because she won't be physically intervening with the midwives' actions. A good doula is a woman-centred supplement to the medical team, not a replacement for a birth partner, let alone the father.

I actually had my mum there at my first birth as well as my husband, and it was just as well. My midwife was herself very pregnant and it was the middle of the (weekend) night, and so she was monitoring me via thermometer in the birthing pool without noticing that an oral temperature might be skewed a little if the patient was sucking ice cubes between contractions. There was a change of shift, and the new midwife panicked because the water in that pool was in the mid-40s. I'd been relying on very hot water and gas and air for pain relief, and nobody had noticed how hot it had got. A baby born into that would be in a lot of trouble - 36/37 is the recommended top temperature and most adults would find mid-40s scalding hot. She tried to get me to get out, but I was in transition, off my head on gas and air and one continuous contraction by then. So she got more aggressive and shouty from panic, at which point my husband started shouting at her to back off me and to stop talking to me that way. Meanwhile, my mother quietly turned the cold tap on full blast and started swishing the water around. They both turned, stared at her, and the midwife went "oh" and then rushed over to start filling the water jug with cold from the sink and adding to it. Water cooled, easy delivery, baby thriving and Apgar results all good. And I still needed my husband there, and the photos of his delight holding our PFB and his excitement at the moment of birth itself "he's here, he's really here!" will always remain with me. I don't really remember my mother's presence because she just wasn't on my emotional radar - my husband and baby were. But her being there was undoubtedly hugely helpful.

I think my point is that having a baby is such a huge, personal and shared thing between the parents that nobody else really matters, as long as the birth attendants are doing their jobs right so things progress safely and smoothly. My mother is fairly emotionally detached in moments of crisis, after a boarding school from 7 childhood, which is hard in many ways as her child but quite brilliant at moments of high stress: she was the only person in that room to think calmly and sensibly because it wasn't her professional neck on the line, and it wasn't her baby. Yet her presence wasn't remotely as important to me emotionally as my husband's. It was our baby being born, and he is the person I love most in the world along with those babies. Nobody can replace or undermine or threaten that role because he created them with me. And oddly, I think if I'd had a closer bond with my mother she'd have been less use to me in that scenario. She has a medical background and fabulous professional interpersonal skills, so I knew she'd be a wonderful advocate because she'd go into that professional mindset. My husband would love me, worry about me and be there for me in a way nobody else ever could be - and actually that's reflective of our relationship generally, not just in the labour. But funnily enough, my husband is a very calm, gentle man and I'd wanted her there as she can be tank-like in her assertiveness, but when I was threatened my husband blew up and she was meekly circumventing the argument to fix the issue practically. Their roles were different - one was practical, the other emotionally supportive, from just from sitting there and quietly reading a book to clearly and angrily stating to the midwife that I was a human being in immense pain who deserved basic courtesy, whatever the situation. I needed him there emotionally, not her. But when there was a minor crisis, as it turned out I needed her there too in that capacity.

I do think your feelings are completely natural, after experiencing such a horrendous bereavement. It would be odd if you didn't have such feelings, actually. But the great thing about a doula is that they're a familiar, yet detached figure. An informed and experienced figure. She'll never be your wife's spouse or your baby's father, and after the birth period ends you'll probably never see her again, any more than you will the other birth professionals. But meanwhile, she can support both of you in ensuring the sort of continuous, one-to-one care we all want and need, but the NHS just can't afford.

It's also worth talking with the doula and your wife about not wanting to be pushed out, as you undoubtedly and unfairly were last time. You could even have it in the birth plan that you are not to be requested to leave under any circumstances. Try to be open about your fears and anxieties, because while your wife is the one to labour and birth, you've lived through something so terrible associated with that process, and you would be a robot or a sociopath were you unaffected.

I do hope, and actually believe, that witnessing a normal delivery will be pretty healing for you. What happened to your baby last time was such a tragedy, and in this country a very, very rare one. Most births are simple, straightforward and uncomplicated, and even the complicated are almost always safe. Your loss was so very, desperately unlucky, and hopefully witnessing a good birth with a healthy mother and baby will heal some of those hurts for you.

I wish all three of you the very, very best.

perfectstorm Thu 27-Feb-14 11:19:31

For what it's worth, I'm sure that if your first partner had had a doula at her birth, you would NOT have ended up being excluded from the room for 12 hours in that awful way. The doula would have been communicating with both your partner and you and kicking out the bloody aunts unless your partner was crystal clear that she wanted them there.

Yes; this. Absolutely this. She's not an interfering rellie, she's a pro.

(And sorry my comment was so long! Didn't realise until it posted.)

LurcioLovesFrankie Thu 27-Feb-14 11:28:23

OP, sorry for your loss. I can't begin to imagine how terrible this must have been for you.

I'm not sure that your feelings have been sufficiently addressed on this
thread (perhaps not suprisingly, because most of us are women who have experience of giving birth but not of being the supporting partner). I have good friends who are gay - they've now had one child each, and made the very interesting comment that both of them found that psychologically speaking, it was tougher for them being the supporting partner than being the partner giving birth. This is despite them having had totally different birth experiences - the one who had the 3 day active labour followed by Em CS (followed by infection) said she still found it harder to be the supporting partner, even though her
wife's birth was a straightforward natural labour (so much so that she
found it easier to manage without G&A as she was getting better pain
control from breathing exercises).

So I guess what I'm saying is "don't minimise your own feelings here." Ultimately, your wife needs to feel comfortable with what she's doing (and my gay friends, incidentally, have a rule of thumb that whoever's actually pregnant gets the casting vote), so if she does decide that a doula will be helpful, you'll have to find some way of working round that. And I can see that it's difficult to talk to your wife about this because you don't want to relive a terrifying experience with her when she's stressed about pregnancy. Would a possible way forward be to ask for choice of doula to be a joint decision - that you have to find a doula you're both happy with? And maybe also ask your wife whether she'd be okay with you having a private discussion with the doula about your own previous experiences so that the doula knows why you're going to find being present at your wife's labour a very difficult time.

I honestly don't think, given what you've been through, that advice to
"man up" and "suck it up" is actually helpful in these circumstance.

Quoteunquote Thu 27-Feb-14 11:37:06

We had quite a few traumatic births with tragic endings, for our last birth we had a doula (she was a friend)

She enabled us to concentrate on the birth, and each other, by dealing with all the other things,

she had spent a huge amount of time going through all the endless possibilities and our priorities prior to the birth,

because she was there communicating our needs and making sure that we were protected from anything unnecessary.

My husband was able to be actively involved, rubbing my back sitting on a ball behind me, catching our daughter, cutting cords, holding me,

If our amazing doula (who is also a midwife) hadn't been there my husband would of had to focus on lots of other things that were having to happen to me, she freed him up to focus on me, by being our protection and resourcing everything we needed.

I would find the right person for both of you, and spend time explaining how you want to be supported.

best birth I ever had, and I have had a lot.

lucy101 Thu 27-Feb-14 19:17:18

Hi there, I really feel for you and am glad that there have been some very sensitive postings about just how difficult it is to deal with such a tragic situation. My husband and I had a stillbirth which was devastating and we had very different ways of coping and preparing for the birth almost exactly a year later of our healthy son. However in some ways we could work as a team because we had shared the same terrible experience.

A friend of my DH's had a stillbirth at a similar time, split up with his partner, then met someone else who became pregnant quickly and I know she found it difficult to manage her DP's feelings as she hadn't had the same experience.

I do think you need to consider that you might need some support (away from your DP) before the birth to discuss and work out your feelings about such a traumatic event and how you will manage them at the next birth, rather than get them all muddled up with supporting your new DP.

Could you get some counselling on your own, even just a session or two? Perhaps post some extra support, you could even have a meeting with whoever is in charge of your DP's care at the hospital to make sure you do not feel excluded and this is noted in the notes and birth plan? I would also be communicating your experience to other caregivers/midwives etc. so they can be sympathetic.

It is complicated because you do need to respect that your DP has everything she feels she needs to give birth confidently and be able to support her in the way that she needs to be supported (which might be very different to what you are both expecting).

Regards the doula, I had one for the first (still)birth (she was booked before we knew the baby wouldn't survive) and it turned out that I did not want her at the birth which has also happened to friends of mine. However, I may just have picked the wrong doula though....

Perhaps if you had support before the birth to work through some of your feelings you might find that a sympathetic doula would be able to support you both.

I would also suggest that you try and prepare yourself for the different situations that you might find yourself in so that you can be a little more emotionally prepared and hopefully are not overwhelmed by your memories and emotions around the past birth.

I hope you find a way through it and that you find it is a healing and bonding experience. I can say that for DH and I it has, despite very difficult feelings.

ohmeohmyforgotlogin Thu 27-Feb-14 20:42:58
drivenfromdistraction Fri 28-Feb-14 13:00:22

Quoteunquote - it sounds as if you have had an unbelievably tough time, I am so sorry.

Sillylass79 Fri 28-Feb-14 13:22:17

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Sillylass79 Fri 28-Feb-14 13:33:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PicaK Fri 28-Feb-14 13:45:39

Some lovely responses here. Just to add you should also look at the Birth Trauma Society online - theyhave a section for dads.

I haven't had a doula myself but from lack of funds. From what i've read they are a real plus.

Blu Fri 28-Feb-14 13:46:23

NotQuiteSuperman, so sorry about your previous experience. It sounds incredibly painful, and I am not surprised you now feel the way you do.

You will be a great birth partner. Your wife will want you there and will not want or allow you to be pushed out just because of someone else's presence. If she wants you out for any reason (sudden 'cave' instinct or whatever) that would happen with or without a doula.

When I was expecting for the first time I planned a hb. So I knew that the mw from the specialist hb unit would be with me non stop from established labour onwards. That does not always happen in a busy ward, and had we been planning a hospital birth I may have felt the need for a constant experienced presence.

But certainly not instead of DP!

Have you signed up for NCT classes? Go together, and so many issues for you to talk about will come up.

You can of course talk with a doula about how you feel and your relationship with the process. A good doula will be very supportive of you and your role! And help you to undertake it in a true Superman way.

My DP was anxious that he might not do the right thing. Once he shared that with me, I told him I didn't actually want him to do anything except be there, unless I asked hi. Then he felt much more confident.

Congratulations...and good luck!

badbaldingballerina123 Fri 28-Feb-14 14:20:36

Superman I totally understand what your saying and I would feel the same if my spouse effectively doubted whether I could provide the apropriate support . I won't go into it but I've had home delivery with just me , Dh and the midwife. Dh cut the chord , washed and dressed baby , neither of us wanted anyone else involved.

My dp in his previous marriage had his mil and sil present and says he felt that they intruded into what should have been a lovely private time.

Your wife is obviously scared and I can understand why . Reading horror stories won't be helping . There's plenty of independent sites to read , and you don't leave your choices at the door when you enter a hospital. If there's a horrible midwife your perfectly capable of dealing with that.

Speak to your wife honestly about how you feel , are you attending any classes ?

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