“Why would I need a doula, I am giving birth in the hospital” is a statement I often hear when talking to women expecting their first baby. The truth of the matter is that if you really knew how much time you and your partner will be alone in that labouring room, you may feel differently. One of the reasons for this misunderstanding is the expectation of how physically present the hospital maternity staff are while you are in labour.
The reality is that upon arrival in the hospital you get a maternity nurse and a clinical midwife or resident doctor assigned to you. The nurse sporadically comes in and out to check on you or to do her routine tests. She is responsible for a number of birthing couples in other rooms at the same time and however much she may want to she cannot stay for lengths of time with you. Even more sporadically the midwife or resident doctor are with her to check how the labour process is going. If it is very quiet on the ward then you may get some extra attention, the nurse wants to support you as well as she can, but if she has more than one birth at a time she cannot physically be in two places at once. If you are being transferred, or handed over to the hospital, by your midwife, because of a complication or the use of certain pain relief options, then she may or may not stay with you. Probably not! If you are under the care of a gynecologist for your pregnancy, because of a medical indication, then you will definitely not have continual physical support in the room with you during your labour.
The Gynecologist only comes if there is a complication. He or she is keeping an eye on your situation by looking at the computer screen in the nurses station showing your contractions and the baby’s heart rate. They are in charge of the ward and are mostly referred to outside of your room. You will likely only meet them face-to-face if you need an intervention of some sort or if the midwife needs to confer about an issue in your presence.
At any time you can call on the nurse by pressing a button that alerts them you need assistance or help and they will be there as soon as they can. But, in-between there are quite some hours that you and your partner are alone. Just the two of you!
During the time you are alone with your partner, you are busy labouring in the best way you know how. You may appreciate being alone but it is also likely that your partner will feel helpless and have questions plaguing him like: Should I call the nurse now? What can I do? Isn’t it time? And, Why are they taking so long they said they would come and check again in 1 hour? What if the baby comes and no one is here? Is this normal, so much pain? He will want to support you but inside will likely feel stressed out however prepared he felt before hand. You will likely also have a variation of these questions circling around in your head at some point or another. A birth is very unpredictable and takes turns we don’t expect that can cause uncertainty and concern.
How can you prepare for those hours alone in the birthing room with just the two of you?
1 ~ Follow a birth preparation course together. This can help you and your partner know more about what to expect during the process. Your partner will feel more at ease because he knows how the process of labour works and will have learned some ways he can coach you through the process. It is very common for the pregnant woman to do a lot of reading about labour and birth but the partner is often reluctant to read or just can’t find the time to.
Why take a course as a couple?
- There is nothing better than having your birth partner be as educated as you are!
- It forces you to spend time together preparing mentally and emotionally for the baby and not just practically (with all those jobs and endless lists that need doing/buying and making.)
- Good birth preparation is worth the money and will educate and prepare you for a better birth experience.
- Preparing alone and having your partner just come to a ‘partner session’ is (better than nothing) but not even half as effective as preparing together.
- It will blow your partner away because he will actually enjoy it and feel better equipped for the job and that… is awesome… for you and him!!
Not… be with just the two of you!!
2 ~Hire a Doula. Consider what a difference a doula will make to your birthing experience. I know it is quite an investment but you will not regret it. What ever your birth journey ends up being, doula support will improve your outcome. She can’t guarantee your dream birth or a perfect birth but she can support you and your partner in a way that makes the whole experience a more positive and supported one.
- A doula will be with you from beginning to end. Better still she has gotten to know you a bit in the months leading up to your birth so she feels familiar and you feel safe with her present.
- When labour really starts to kick in she will be making sure you are comfortable, helping you find whatever position feels comfortable, massaging you, giving you sips of water. At times she may sit in the corner chair and just “be there”
- She will help your partner feel at ease and giving him ideas of how to “be there” for you.
- She will encourage and motivate you when you feel like you can’t go on. She will believe in you and your ability to birth your baby.
- If interventions are advised she will help you weigh up the pros and cons and walk you through whatever is necessary to make a healthy decision.
- You will feel safe because she is familiar with birth. During those seemingly endless hours, she understands what is going on and will tell you that what you are experiencing is normal.
- Your partner will feel less stress because he can ask his questions as they come up and not feel the responsibility of knowing if he should or shouldn’t call the midwife or the nurse AGAIN!
- Your doula will do all she can to keep those stress levels down. Stress will hinder the process and slow it down so she will spend time in her prenatal visits finding out what your fears are and what causes you stress so she can make sure your birthing environment FEELS safe to you, so your birthing experience will benefit.
- A doula lightens the load and brings a dose of humour to the atmosphere bringing a sense of calm and confidence.
If you are not planning on using a doula, or even if you are, be as prepared as you can for your birth, take a course and be informed about the birthing process so you can minimize the stress and the unknown.