When I was pregnant, I had a doula. She was fantastic. I knew before I got pregnant that I wanted to have one when the time came. After I got home from my first meeting with her, however, I realized I hadn’t consulted Chris - I just kind of assumed he would be on board. I asked him about it, and even though he was trying really hard to be supportive, I could tell that he had some reservations.
His primary worry was basically that he was concerned that the doula would “replace” him when it was time to go to the hospital. I thought that was a valid concern, given that he really didn’t know what a doula was, or why I wanted one. We had never talked about it.
According to the DONA International website (which is a great resource for learning more about doulas and finding one in your area):
“The word "doula" comes from the ancient Greek meaning "a woman who serves" and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.”
For a first-time parents, you have no idea what’s going to happen when your baby is born, and for many people that’s stressful in the best situations, and can be downright terrifying to some. Doulas come with the experience of witnessing many births, and will be an advocate for your best interests as a third party, unaffiliated with the hospital or birthing center you’re going to. They also will be with you throughout your labor. Nurses may come and go, but your doula will be at your side.
In my case, Chris (and I, obviously) ended up really appreciating having a doula, because aside from being able to support me in countless ways, it took a lot of pressure and expectation off of Chris, which made the birth experience that much more positive for both of us. It allowed Chris to be in the moment and there for me the whole time, because he only had to worry about me, while the doula could worry about everything else.
I think most people believe that doulas are only there for the mothers, and while their focus is, of course, mom and baby, having a doula present gives dad a chance to relax (as much as he can) and focus on the main event, and not everything else that’s going on.
One last doula-nugget: Studies have shown that when doulas attend birth, labors are shorter with fewer complications, babies are healthier and they breastfeed more easily. In my experience, I would attribute this to the reduced stress and advocacy doulas provide during labor and birth. Need more convincing? Here’s a great article on reasons why dads should demand a doula.