Photo by flequi, used under Creative Commons license.
I’m only 13 weeks, so this is super early, but I’ve been thinking about how much I’d like a doula with me during labor. I’m not super crunchy, but I plan on having an unmedicated birth and I’m really happy with my choice in hospital and doctor. However, I also think a doula would provide even more support and make it as close to the experience that we want as possible. (There are no guarantees and I’m going to be flexible, but we can try, right?)

Well, the only problem is that my husband is not down with me getting a doula. It’s not the idea of them (he thinks they’re super helpful) or the cost, but the fact that he thinks he can be the advocate and support I’ll need during the birth. I think he’s amazing and absolutely will be great during the birth… but I don’t know that he’ll be able to remember everything from class, worry about me, worry about the baby and advocate for our birth plan while dealing with how he’s about to become a father!

We’re still talking and will probably interview some doulas before we make a final decision, but part of me feels terrible for possibly talking him into something he really doesn’t want. Another part of me is terrified that if we don’t have a doula and he isn’t able to be as supportive as he wants, I might resent him for it.

Am I being selfish, and will I regret not giving him the birth he wants too? I know it’s my body and I’m the one doing the work, but it’s his first kid too and I want him to be as involved as he’s able. — Alyssa.

Comments on I want a doula, but my partner doesn’t. What to do?

  1. From my perspective, doulas are worth their weight in gold. No platinum.
    I really cannot imagine my natural, out-of-hospital birth that quickly turned into 30 hours of labor at the hospital only to turn into a c-section without the support of my doulas. (I had two, one we hired and one close friend who was able to travel to be with me during the birth). My partner is everything I would want in a partner, but there was no way that he could have given me all of the support I needed. I mean, he had to sleep, eat, get fresh air, etc. sometime during those 30+ hours and thankfully I had my doulas there. They all complemented each other so nicely. Not to mention their familiarity with the hospital routines and discourse…they were there to “translate” and advocate for me when me and partner had no idea of how to take in all of the information/communicate to hospital staff.

  2. I wish I would have had more information when I was pregnant. I would have totally had a doula. My husband thought he was going to be my rock, but in the end he didn’t stay with me for the birth. Not for lack of of wanting, simply when I started to crown he was the perfect romantic comedy style fainter haha. It just goes to show that no matter how much he thought he could do it, nothing is certain. Still, to this day, I will never forgive myself for not making sure my needs were met first. I love my husband to death and he is an amazing father, but I ended up being the one there for myself the day my babe came into this world. That is something a lot of mommas can do, but it wasn’t what I wanted and nothing is wore than feeling resentment on your big day. Good luck!

  3. From my perspective as a dad, it’s nice to have backup, and a doula is someone who can fill in as needed, freeing me up to focus on whatever I can do best at that moment. For the birth of our son (our first child), we had a “professional”, who’s since become a good friend. For our second, my wife’s childhood best friend, an L&D nurse, was able to join us and fill in that role (and so much more). I highly recommend having someone to support both of you. During a brief crisis during our son’s complicated birth, our doula was able to hold it together for a few minutes when I couldn’t, and I’ll always be grateful for that.

  4. If you feel you need the added support of a doula, you should hire one. Your husband will probably be wonderful, but he’ll be overwhelmed as well, and a good doula will be able to help in ways that allow both of you the best experience. Partners need doulas too, because while you’ll be giving birth, he’ll be stressed.

  5. Disclaimer: I am a doula.

    I wish we’d had a doula at my labor. I had my partner, my mom, my best friend, and three midwives. (Before transferring to the hospital!) But I would have exchanged my mom and my best friend, as much as I love them, for a good doula. Neither of them was assertive enough to take over when my partner was too exhausted to keep going. My labor ended up being a bit traumatic for him. I think he would have had a better experience (and a better postpartum experience) if we’d had a doula.

    The thing is, not only are so many new fathers unfamiliar with the course of labor (not their faults!), but they may never have seen their partner in such a challenging, raw situation. Having someone present who knows what’s going on and isn’t emotionally invested and can help guide you both through is worth it. A good doula will not supplant your husband’s role; she’ll facilitate it.

  6. While I agree with a lot of the comments made here, I wanted to give another perspective. My husband and I are very private people and we really value our independence. We also have a naturopathic doctor who literally saved my life last year. If all works out, when I’m pushing, it’ll be her, my husband and a midwife in the room. We also have friends and family nearby who will be able to sub my husband out if necessary.

    Sure a doula would compliment my husband but given the amount of support we have, I just don’t think it’s necessary in our case. I would rather put the money into having my naturopathic doctor attend my birth, and use our medical for a midwife, who would work with her (where I live in British Columbia, you can have either a midwife or a doctor attend your birth under our medical coverage). While I could see why some women might want a team, including the women in their family, that would cause me a lot of anxiety. I’d prefer not to have many people in the room, and so I really have to consider who I want there and how many people I can connect to, given who I am and who my husband is. For us, a doula doesn’t quite make the list, though if our naturopath can’t do it, I think we’ll change our minds fairly quickly.

  7. As many others have said, a Doula is not just there for you, but also for your partner. Think of labour as a theatre – you and your partner will have a tough time remembering your lines, your positions and your cues without adding other stress. Your Doula is your behind-the-scenes crew – they are there to make sure everything is running smoothly, change the set, find your props, and prompt you if you miss your cue. A good Doula will do as little or as much as you need.

    I acted as a Doula in the UK, so some of these examples may not be appropriate for a hospital birth. When I was called over the first thing I did was check on Mama and Papa and find out how long they had been going prior to my arrival. I would then check on any older children in the house, make sure they knew what was going on, make sure they were fed and watered and that a friend or family member was coming to look after them (if they weren’t there yet I would support the child/children as much as possible until they arrived). I then made Papa some food and prepped some fluids/ice chips/food for Mama. I would take over physical support whilst Papa took a break (including a nap if need be). I would time contractions. I would communicate with the midwives/medical professionals and make sure they had a copy of the birth plan to hand and understood any wishes regarding pain relief etc. I would recommend labour positions and breathing techniques to help manage any pain. Since I am a bit ‘crunchy’ as are most of the people I worked with, I would often set up crystals/candles/scented oils/music etc. I used affirmations/songs/meditations/breathing techniques to help Mama and Papa cope. If I was asked, I would take pictures throughout the labour as a birth record. If the waters had already broken, or broke whilst I was there I would clean up. If Mama was sick, I would clean up. I would run baths, fetch food and drink, find items the midwives needed, answer the phone, answer the door, change the bedsheets, whatever anyone needed – I was your ‘Go To’ girl. I never took over the partners role – unless I was asked to. After the baby arrived, I would clean up, change the bedsheets, put on the laundry, give Mama a bath whilst Papa cuddled the bubba, found clean clothes, organised panties and maternity pads, freeze the placenta (if they were keeping it), cooked a meal, cleaned the dishes, cleaned the house, prepped clothes and diapers for the baby the next day, and a few hours after the baby was born I would head home and write a birth story for the family to keep. Post-partum I would visit for a few days to check up on everyone and help whatever way I could.

    Your partners role is to love and support you – and that is so important – but it is also to participate, to be present, to immerse himself in the birthing process as a Papa. As many people have pointed out, that process is long, hard and emotionally overwhelming. Anyone who can help, even if that is just to make sure everyone is fed and watered, will be a welcome relief in those long, overwhelming hours. Interview Doulas together, find someone who can support both of you and is down to earth enough to just fetch, carry and clean if that is all you need. But find someone who can give you BOTH the peace of mind to fully experience the birthing process.

  8. My doula was a huge support to my husband during labor. It was a long labor and she was able to give him breaks when he needed to get some food or whatever. Having an experienced person there to assure him was and guide him in what he needed to remember to do was a huge help for me because nothing was forgotten. Once you get to the actual labor and emotions are running high it’s easy to forget everything.

  9. A doula is there to support BOTH of you. Plus, it is super helpful to have a second, very experienced, person there especially for your first child, because you are going to have so many, “is this normal?” questions that a doula will be able to put in perspective – which your husband won’t really be able to do unless he’s attended & helped in a fair number of births himself. It’s not that he won’t be enough support for you, it’s that when both you and he are exhausted, a doula will be able to keep you both comfortable & keep things in perspective. When nurses & doctors urge towards one option, she may be able to help you ask the questions you need to ask in order to get information on all of your options.

    Also, let’s be real. At some point during labor, your husband is going to need to pee. If he is feeling that he will be enough to be your only support during this experience, should he feel guilty leaving you alone every time he needs to use the bathroom? When he runs to grab a snack? If he needs to take a nap? Of course not. Having a doula there means he never has to leave you alone (unless, of course, you request some alone time).

  10. I didn’t read any other comments, but thought I would give my $.2… If you explain that the doula can be there purely if he needs her, that might help. I am training to be a doula, and I have attended a few births. Usually I am there for when the father needs help. The mother calls the shots, until she doesn’t. Then it’s him. Does the mom need a drink but also needs her partner to be comforting her? That’s where a doula comes in. She is not just for the mom. She is for both parents.

  11. Explain to him that the doula is for BOTH of you! It didn’t matter how many books we read, who we talked to, or how much we prepared; everything went out the window when I went into labor. The doula took care of both of us during/after my med free hospital birth. I picked my doula based on her emphasis on what a big role dad plays in labor. The two were a great team. Because of her, I would feel more comfortable the second time around with just him being the only support with the ticks he picked up from her during labor, but I think he would jump at the chance to have her there!

  12. So, I am a little biased because I am a doula, but doulas can be a huge help to partners during labor. unlike the plethora of ever-changing nurses you are likely to have in a hospital, your doula will be with you throughout your entire labor. and labor can take a long time! what is your partner needs a nap? or gets scared and would like an explanation about something? a doula has the time and patience to sit down and cover all of these topics, where as your nurse or doctor may not have the time. part of a doula’s role is to act as your advocate, and he or she will not be afraid to be pushy or speak up to the nurses and doctors if they try to go against your wishes, which is sometimes intimidating for partners in the heat of the moment.

    there are a ton of great articles about doulas and daddies online. maybe print a few out and leave them for him? doula and dad can work together. your doula is not there to take over. he or she is there to help.

    as far as cost goes, plenty of new doulas working toward their dona or kappa certification work for free until they get it! contact your local birthing centers and midwifery schools or check out the dona website and you are certain to find a doula that will work for free!

    • As a doula, though, I have to say, it helps to get the partner on board before the birth. It is so hard for me to do my job when there are people in the room who don’t want me there, especially when that person is the partner. I’ve worked in a few situations like that before, and I want to help, not cause resentment, which is why I agree with other people’s advice to make choosing a doula a process that’s done together. I know as the doula, I want to get along with everyone at the birth, and it helps to meet beforehand and make sure we’re ALL a good fit.

  13. I told my husband before I gave birth that if something happened and I had to be separated from the baby immediately after birth for medical reasons, I wanted him to be with the baby. Thank goodness that didn’t happen, but if it had I would have wanted him to not worry about leaving me alone.

    • This is one of the primary reasons I want a doula for our second childbirth in a few months. My first baby was taken away after birth and his father went with him briefly but then came back to me because he felt like he should. In the meantime, in a mercifully brief NICU stint, our baby was bathed without his father there, and he was also given a pacifier. This ended up causing us lots of start-up nursing problems.

      I want a doula this time so that my husband can stay with the baby, PERIOD, if something comes up, and I will have my own support as I am transferred up to my room (and my mother has time to get to the hospital; she will not be there for the birth as she is an extremely anxious person and it would do me in). ALSO, because I was not able to nurse right away last time, and because I have flat nipples that make nursing challenging anyway at first, I really want some extra help when I hopefully nurse right away this time and the doula I have chosen is also a lactation consultant.

  14. What I have to say has already been said here by so many others… the doula is there for your husband too!. We delivered in a hospital, and though our nurse-midwife was awesome, our doula was really the reason we made it through the 36 hour labor and delivery. Our doula arrived at the hospital only 15 minutes after us and stayed the whole time. Because of her, my husband was able to occasionally leave the room to eat, talk to family, or simply take a short break (at one point to cry on my mom’s shoulder). After laboring for the first 24 hours unmedicated, trying every position, walking, getting in the bath, etc, it was our doula who helped me to feel okay with getting an epidural so I could rest. She agreed that it the epidural would allow me to have the vaginal birth I really wanted and avoid a C-section. She suggested I look at it as simply “another tool in our birthing tool-kit). My husband was amazing, but he was nearly as exhausted as me at that point and did not have the experience or the emotional energy to help me through that difficult decision. I would HIGHLY recommend a doula for anyone. BTW, my doula was also a licensed massage therapist. BONUS!

  15. Y’ALL. Question-asker here and I cannot thank everyone enough. The response has been amazing and super helpful. AND, while it’s strengthened my desire for a doula, it’s also strengthened my desire for him to truly understand why I want one but NEED him there. Thank you all for so many great comments and advice, which I hope keep coming because I love all these stories!!

  16. you might kick yourself for not hiring a doula. my husband broke down and cried from stress and worry watching me go through labor… and that was when i was about 9cm dilated! he has never cried in our entire relationship, he’s just not an outwardly emotional guy. labor cracked him! he was with me in the hospital for two nights getting a little bit of sleep the first night and zero the second night.

    please let your husband know that natural labor is a crazy experience and that he will benefit from a doula’s services just as much as you will. doulas are very special people in that they can bring a sense of calm to many situations that pop up during the birthing process. no, she cannot advocate for you, but she will know what she CAN do to help slow things down and get you the time you need to have your baby in the way that is best for your family.

    hiring a doula has been proven to help laboring women avoid the “cascade of intervention” that can really up your chances of needing a c-section. lots of women say c-sections aren’t that bad, but mine sucked. a lot. and i don’t want you to go through that if you don’t have to. vaginal birth was easier on my body and the difference in my recovery time was amazing.

    i am certain that your husband will be a great birth partner. i am also certain that a doula will help him be the GREATEST birth partner.

  17. I agree with everyone else here, but I wanted to add, as someone who mistakenly thought they didn’t need a doula, that I think not wanting a doula can stem from thinking you know how labor will go. You’ve read all the books, had all the classes, know all the tricks, whatever. You’re sure it’ll be fast, you’ll be able to handle it, back labor pain is all in the mind, or whatever kind of nonsense. Truth is, you have no idea how it will really go. Having one more experienced, patient, helpful, supportive, voice of reason in this situation can only be a good thing.

  18. Any Doula worth her salt will be more than happy to connect your husband with other dads who can give him first hand commentary about a Doula’s (quite necessary) role in childbirth.

  19. keep your husband involved! Having a doula does not mean he should be any less involved. Make sure he knows that you want him to be involved and that the doula will not replace him.

    I strongly believe in the power of women supporting women during labor. Don’t underestimate it.

  20. I was the non-gestational parent with our first child, and I was the one who was advocating for a doula when my partner was not opposed, but not strongly in favor, either. I wanted someone to be there who could spell me for a minute so that I could go pee, or who could go ask the nurses something so that I didn’t have to leave my wife, etc. I wanted someone there who knew more than I did, so that I could just focus on *being* there for my wife, for whatever she needed, rather than worrying about needing to *do* something. And, to be totally honest, I wanted someone there to be my support, if I needed it.

    Our son’s birth wasn’t terribly long (well, active labor wasn’t, my poor wife was in pre-labor for three days…), and it wasn’t particularly complicated, but we were both SO grateful to our doula for being there. I really feel like she helped us both have the birth experience we wanted. And, as an added bonus, she took pictures, so that I didn’t have to worry about that either. I’m enormously grateful for those, as well.

    We’re about to start trying for our second (my turn to carry this time), and I think one of the first things we do after the stick turns positive will be to call up our doula and ask if we can book her immediately for the second one, too.

    I can understand your husband wanting to be the support you need, but if it helps, my experience was that having a doula is what allowed me to be the support my wife needed. She’s what let me be totally in the moment with my wife, and that’s an amazing gift. Our doula gave us *both* the birth we wanted.

    I would say ask him to try to keep an open mind, and interview a couple of doulas with you. Hopefully you can find one that you both click with, and she can help him understand how helpful a doula can be for *both* of you. Best wishes to both of you!

  21. Talk him into it! I researched doulas but decided against it for several (stupid) reasons. My husband was fantastic through my pregnancy. We practiced labor massage techniques at his insistence and read about pain management and what to expect. Fast-forward to my actual labor. It’s 4am and we had JUST gone to bed when my water broke. I am a very stoic person so just seeing me in pain and panicking was enough to completely freak him out. Add in a total lack of sleep and there was no way either of us could remember most of the details of our birth plan. The nurses were zero help. Although I had purposefully chosen a birthing space that offered a tub, no one suggested that I get in it. I was happy with my labor over-all but I know that it could have been much, much better and more empowering with a doula.

  22. This may have already been said but it’s not just about support for you during labor it’s for him too. This is going to be physically and emotionally draining on both of you and having a support system that is somewhat “outside” of your family unit and what the birth of your child will mean to your family could be really helpful. She will be able to be much more level headed and your partner may need that just as much as you do. It’s not a question of his ability to support you it’s about having someone ther to help you both through the labor.

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