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Reluctant Dad

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I'm hoping to get some ideas from experience doulas. My first client is due in about 4 weeks, and really wants a doula at her birth. Her husband, however, does not. They are young (mid-20's) and after my meeting with them yesterday, it's clear that the husband is totally checked out of the birth. The mom has been preparing herself - reading books, a hypnobabies homestudy course, breastfeeding class, birth plan, etc. But, the dad won't get involved at all. We had our first prenatal yesterday, and dad stuck around for about 30 minutes and then left because the antenna went out and he couldn't watch the football game. After chatting with the mom, it turns out that dad really wants her to go to the hospital at the first contraction and is not supporting her desire of a natural birth at all. He won't go over scripts with her, or practice really supporting her and becoming involved in the birth. And yet his reasons for not wanting a doula are because he want the entire birth experience to be between them, which I understand, but he's really setting her up for a birth experience in the operating room. He's afraid I'm going to hijack his birth experience. I explained my role, and even used a head versus assistant coach analogy to explain that he and his wife are controlling the "plays" of labor and birth. I can be there are the silent assistant on the sidelines being told what to do, or can step in and take a more active roll.


Sorry for the long rant. I really want this woman to have a positive birth experience, and I fear that, as it stands now, it's going to lead to stress during labor and little support. Just curious if anyone else has been in a similar situation and has any suggestions. Thanks. 

post #2 of 9

I attended a birth like this, except that the mom was a late-30's third-time mom and she was happy to say "whatever" about her husband's attitude.  She explained to me early on that he was not supportive of her desire to have an unmedicated birth, and at first I just wanted to kill this guy.  But MY husband (always the voice of reason) encouraged me to try to learn a little bit more about the situation and hold off on judging him.  Turns out, the guy was semi-traumatized by how much pain his wife had been in during the birth of their second child.  The epidural she got with Baby #2 was a huge relief for him, because he just couldn't stand to see her in so much pain.  So this time, he was like "well, of course it's your choice, but I don't think I can go through that again, so I may or may not be in the room during the whole labor."  No one in her family was supportive of her wishes either - everyone had gotten epidurals and thought she was "insane" for trying to do it without one.


At our second pre-birth meeting, her husband introduced himself politely and then left the room to play with their older kids.  I left my client a video of a very calm, not scary natural birth (the film Birth Day) and suggested that she might ask him to watch it with her.  But I left it at that. She was my client, after all, and she was okay with him being a little checked out.  She was disappointed, but not devastated.  Later, he also admitted that he was feeling left out because now she had this new birth partner (me).


Fast forward to the birth itself, Dad was much cooler and more involved than it originally seemed he would be.  Granted, he was on the couch in the hospital room on his Ipad most of the time, but my client was really "in the zone" on a birth ball with an Ipod herself, so she wasn't wanting a lot of hands-on support.  She had a few legitimate medical complications which made it impossible for her to walk around/get in the shower, so in the end, she opted for the epidural anyway - but she said she had a much more positive experience with a doula there than she had with the two previous births.


Not sure if this helps at all, but what I learned was I just had to let go of any outcome in regard to the Dad.  I treated my client basically as a single mom, and if I changed Dad's mind about doulas/birth, great.  If not, at least my client had a positive, supported experience.


Here are some links that *might* help break down his defensiveness (stories written by pro-doula dads): http://mamasandbabies.blogspot.com/2010/08/fathers-perspective-on-doulas.html and http://betterbirthdoula.org/?p=1356 - if your client asks him to read them and he won't even do that, I feel for her, because that is NOT a supportive partner at all.


Good luck!

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the links. I've passed them on to my client with fingers crossed. I got an email from her today saying that she was still talking with her fiance regarding my involvement, but would keep me posted. She had an appointment & they found a high bp - possible pre-e. She is waiting the results of some blood work (nst was fine), but I can't help but think that the stress of going into labor and birth when you're not being supported in your "dream" might be adding to it. Sigh. 

post #4 of 9

I think it's great that you're encouraging him to become more interested and sharing resources. You sound like a great doula!


At the end of the day though, you have to remember that ultimately it's his choice to make. Even if he ends up being one way at the birth, your client can still have a positive birth experience with you there. People make their own birth choices (including this dad's potential choice to be uninvolved) and as a doula you're there to support them no matter what. It might not be what we would choose for ourselves, but ultimately this is your client's chosen partner and the baby's father so his presence is valuable no matter if he takes an active role or not.


Best of luck. heartbeat.gif

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thank you for all of the advice. I heard back from my client today and they've decided to have me to read the hypnobabies script & "deal with the hospital staff". May have to clarify that last one to make sure that they understand that I do not speak for them -- I support their voices, but that they'll have to verbalize their wishes. I guess the father says "he doesn't want suggestions on what he can do to help from anyone or to be criticized for what he is doing. "  


It should be an interesting first birth, but I'm actually pretty used to curve balls being thrown my way. Regardless, I'm happy that I'll be there to support as I can and I'll just roll with the punches once I get there.

post #6 of 9
post #7 of 9
Thread Starter 

Just wanted to update this. The mama was admitted on Friday night for PROM & high BP. She ended up having  beautiful birth on Saturday morning & dad totally stepped up. We all worked well together, and I think that both mom and dad felt that they had the intimate experience that they were looking for. So thank you for all of the advice!

post #8 of 9

Yeah!  That's wonderful news!

post #9 of 9

I have a husband who is somewhat anti-doula.


I have some serious health issues and a non intervention pregnancy is not in my path.


Our first pregnancy we took Bradley classes and felt pretty good  and prepared for birth.  We had an induction due to some complications I was having and it was _horrible_.  They pried the baby out of me, it was incredibly painful and really nasty.  W e did labor together, and have many good moments but the birth itself was brutal.  I was so confused when I had the baby, it didn't even register that she was alive and ok.


Second Baby I wanted a doula and to labor at home.  Hubbie was horrified (that I was replacing him) and we were in a very bad spot in our marriage for other reasons.  He was willing to attend Bradley refresher courses but did not want a doula.  He felt having the second baby was a chance for us to reconnect and come out as a team.  With the first baby,I had met with a doula for the second baby and he just exploded with anger and threatened to not attend the birth etc.  I dropped the doula thing and he settled.  At 40 weeks  they said show up for an induction and I freaked out.  We called a lay midwife to get involved.  She was closer to our age, had similar interests, etc and slid more into the "friend role".   She had delivered our former Nanny's baby and DH knew of her.    She gave some advice to get me into labor on my own and then met us at the hospital.  We had a loooong labor that  ended in a c-section.  She was a godsend and made the csection so much more mentally understandable.  "Michelle, if you were home with me.. we would transfer -it is time"  The hospital was not friendly to her and in the end, I woke up in recovery alone  during shift change with no husband, no doula, and no baby with no idea of what was going on.  She stayed with us the whole time though.  She had a wealth of information along the way despite her being treated horribly by the staff and hospital.  Hubbie will never out and out admit it but he was glad she was there.  I heard a rumor that he said to his Mom he was happy to have her with him.  She really physically worked the birth, decoded what the doctors said, and left DH to do the hand holding.


This baby (due Feb 2013) , after 2 rocky labors, and my health is a scheduled c-section and our "friend" will be with us again.  Hubbie was at first not into having our doula back because he just figured we would run in, get a csection, and be done.  Then my anxiety started to climb and he said "if you want her there -it is fine with me".  She has been written into the hospital care plan (by the hospital) .  "Michelle has a friend she wishes to have in the OR /recovery with her along with her husband".  Every funky glitch I have hit in my pregnancy prenatal care I have called her about and passed on the much calmer/rational information to my husband.  I don't think he is overjoyed but I think he is relieved.  I am not the most rational person with any type of surgical experience and he will have his hands full keeping me calm. 



I think in the end, respecting hubbies wishes is a must but/and/or Mom needs to feel safe too.  It can happen to swing DH to the other side but if he feels replaced then you have a long battle ahead of you.  Becareful because the doula is with you for 1 or 2 days and hubbies resentment can carry over for a long time.   Having Dad exposed to the different roles of a doula is a good idea.  DH did much better with our doula in the role of midwife. It was her job to help get the baby out safely without ripping me apart.  He could still be the comfort and be with me but he had no idea to tie a bed sheet to the foot of the bed to try and "row" the baby out.  He was the one behind me rubbing my back telling me to try and row her out though.

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