As far as my doula life is concerned I just had my best birth…ever!
If you are a doula then you know that each and every birth that you attend is so unique…
Some of them are set apart in their own specific category.
I had that birth.
It was special because I had those ahas upon aha moments — the biggest aha for me was to consider what the word and work of doula means.
We know that doula means “woman servant”. With this last birth I see that my definition of doula had meant not simply a servant that is a woman, but I really assumed that doulas are women that serve women through pregnancy and birth.
Most recently I have learned of full spectrum doulas who support women throughout the range of the reproductive health cycle. They assist women through birth, planned cesareans, abortion, adoption, surrogacy, and unintentional pregnancy loss. Full spectrum doulas work to ensure that women have positive experiences and support through all their reproductive health choices.
I have had my own inner working definition that doulas (of whom most are women) are centered upon supporting pregnant women and from that core work they attend to a father’s or other family member’s needs. And once the baby is born doulas assist the mother and her family through postpartum. Again, even in postpartum, a doula’s care centers out from the mother. Helping her with breastfeeding, providing newborn guidance, and doing light household chores. An expecting or new mother’s needs are usually the primary focus of a doulas work.
Doulas support fathers. A well trained doula will tell couples interviewing her that she is “your doula”. Meaning working for both mom and dad. Although, father’s are not usually the primary focus of a doulas work.
If I were to chart in a pie graph the amount of support I give to both mother and father it would look something like this:
Dads are not usually numero uno at a birth.
So my best birth to-date has been supporting a gay male couple. They used a surrogacy agency and their son was born by cesarean. The experience was amazing.
Our doula relationship began through a referral and then exchanged emails and a phone call meeting.
The cesarean was scheduled so I met them at the hospital about 45 minutes before their baby was born. We hugged and I felt connected to them right away.
As we waited in the birthing room for the surrogate’s husband to be taken into the OR and for the cesarean to begin they told me stories about the bond they shared with the surrogate and her family.
I learned about their journey to this point and how they selected their egg donor. They shared stories about their 20 year relationship, how they had recently gotten married, and why they decided to now have a baby.
Then our conversation just fell quiet as the surrogate’s husband was taken to the OR and we moved to a room near surgery to await for the staff to bring us in to meet the baby after the cesarean had been performed.
Oh the time passed slowly…but finally I looked down the hall and saw a staff member approaching and I motioned to the dads that I think it’s time.
And it was. We gathered our things with haste…this moment had been anticipated for so long…years…and finally the dads get to meet, greet, see, and hold their son.
Wow! That moment…no words.
I took the iPhone from the dad’s hand and said let me take some pictures. As each dad touched and began to hold their baby boy.
The nurse then walked us back to the birthing room where the biological dad took off his shirt and did skin to skin holding and bonding with his son. After about 30 minutes the other dad also did skin to skin holding. And through out they cried, gazed at each other amazed, awed, and over come by the moment — really in disbelief. They had their son. They were dads.
This was my first birth with gay men, but not my last as a doula. Really, I feel this sadness and my heart breaks. I want all gay men to experience birth this way. I want them to feel the support that a doula can bring.
I remained with the dads as they needed me for 5 days helping them navigate their new world. Mostly, I affirmed their parenting instincts and was a listening ear.
What made this experience unique was I got to see doula-ing from this other side. I supported men at birth…making sure that as much as possible in my doula powers it was a good birth. That they and baby were able to transition well, because how you are born and how birth happens is foundational for building a family.
The honest truth is that childbirth is biasedly female…
History shows in many cultures men were excluded from the birthing experience of their own children and up until recent times men did not participate in any active way in childbirth.
Birth can be scary and overwhelming and no couple should have to face it without support. The experience of a well trained doula is oh so beneficial. Men building families should have doula support just as women do.
As I parted from the dads I handed them my written version of their “birth story” typed on decorated stationery and sealed in an envelope.
Tears flowed down as they read it.
And I got that special tingling feeling all over when you are really doing that doula spirit work you are called to do.
I’m not finding the words to crystalize what I observed in that moment, but much like when I attend the birth of a woman…it was honoring the moment. It was acknowledging birth; not judging it.
As a doula you stand witness to the transforming power of birth in all it’s forms…
My joy is that the dads received this…I wish this experience for all individuals.
I learned so much from the experience that I just still need time to reflect and take it all it. I’m still on a birth high! So I will continue to share in the coming weeks. Look for more posts about my time supporting these dads.