Husband-Wife Doula Team: A New Doula Model?
Way back in the fall of 2014, I interviewed with a couple in Laguna Beach when I was still a solo doula. I instantly loved Heidi & Jori’s plan for birth and their overall vibes. Also, they have two giant fluffy cats that just made me swoon. This couple planned way ahead as they weren’t expecting their little one until the spring of 2015 (late March/early April). We were chatting the interview away when I started telling them about how my husband, Taylor, and I had recently trained as Placenta Specialists (he usually does all the cleaning pre- and post-processing and is the only reason the final product isn't handed off in a Ralph's paper bag). I think they were a little surprised that a guy would be A) not grossed out by placentas and B) interested enough to help with my business.
I don’t remember exactly how the conversation turned this direction, but the next thing I know Heidi was offering Taylor a space on her birth team. I asked a couple more times just to be sure she was serious and I specifically remember a point where she was like “Yeah, I’m totally okay with it…(turns head toward Jori)…I mean if you are”. We all giggled and Jori said he too would welcome it and support his wife’s choices in labor. I didn’t know if my husband would even be interested at that point, though I had the sneaking suspicion that I could convince him to attend as it’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a man (besides OBs) in our culture to attend a birth of someone other than his partner’s or surrogate’s. I was stoked about the possibility, maybe even excited on behalf of him in the beginning.
After all, I think the idea of male doulas is great. Especially if the "dudela" (not sure I like this nickname yet) has upper body strength, he’d be an immense asset for his ability to hold mamas up for long periods, use the rebozo with ease, and do about twice the number of hip squeezes that I can throughout labor. Plus, there’s the fact that masculine birth partners can feel utterly overwhelmed in the birthing situation if the only people around are female nurses, female birth assistants, a female doula, and possibly the female doctor or midwife. That’s a lot of feminine energy in one room for most American men to absorb while also watching the partner go through pain. Having another masculine presence in the room might be calming & reassuring-“if that guy’s not freaking out at all this blood and goop….” Of course, this extra presence could be in the form of a woman with more masculine energy, but in this case it was my husband (who, coincidentally, has more of a soft, gentle energy to him than I do most days).
Male doulas might even be able to more effectively model the type of behaviors that women in labor need from their male partners. Many first time dads feel awkward & weary of touching too lightly or too roughly. Worse still, he might feel like it’s not his place and then feel left out altogether (though usually with a doula of any sex this doesn’t happen because we try to get partners involved as much as they’d like to be). Besides some women just being uncomfortable with the idea of a man who isn’t family being a part of her birth and seeing her naked, I really can’t see many drawbacks to hiring a male doula.
In the months leading up to the birth, I asked Taylor to prepare a bit by attending a couple birth-related events with me, reading two pregnancy/childbirth books, and watching some videos of births that I have on educational DVDs. He also read basically every article I posted on my business Facebook page along the way to see what types of things I learn as a doula. The process was pretty cool for me, I was able to share my work and a part of my self that hadn't previously interested him. In the end, it was worth the time spent though because he rocked it as my assistant doula. If there was a Bradley-style course for husbands of doulas, he’d totally graduate with flying colors.
Another awesome perk of having Taylor there led to some awesome shots of labor and birth that I would never be able to get by myself because I'm usually sidled up next to or behind mamas throughout. Even though all the photos were taken with an old iPhone, the perspective on them was so different and special than the photos I'm usually able to hand over to clients at the postpartum visits.
Though I recognize that doula-ing is not Taylor's passion, I’m really glad he gave it a shot and even gladder we got to share this awesome experience at least once! Witho