I attended a birth about 5 weeks ago, which was co-doula'd, with another very qualified doula. We chose to work with this client because the mom could not afford doula care, and we both believe that if a mom wants a doula, she should have a doula at her birth. We met her together, for the first time, at a local coffee shop, and her partner was there. At some point before we even got the meeting underway, her partner left. I remember wondering if he felt ganged up on by three women. Didn't know what was in store for us.
The couple came to us on a Friday, when the mom was scheduled to have a cesarean birth on the following Monday. She was due any day to have her baby, so we agreed to work with her and her partner to help her have the type of birth she wanted to have.
When we got the call that she was in labor, we came to be with her. Her partner was there with us, and he was coming in and out of the hospital room. We both dropped hints to him (without drawing it to moms attention) that we normally share with the partner how important it is that he stays with the mom consistantly. Really, for every minute that passed in the birth, the father was becoming more and more out of control, and the birth atmosphere was no longer the bubble we created. He was making comments towards both of us, that were inappropriate, and offering to give US, the DOULAS, massages while we worked. I have accepted offers of massages before, but I was having terrible urges to leave, because I could see this situation was getting worse, and neither would mom tell dad to leave, nor would dad calm down enough for the mom to get comfortable and relax into her contractions. At some point, we hinted to dad to take a break. When he did, he went out and smoked pot, came back in even more strung out and disrupting. He was having trouble breathing, he was telling us that he didn't think he was ready for this (fatherhood), all while we were desperately working with the mother to help her accomplish her goals.
The hospital staff was becoming more concerned, but they didn't ask him to leave, and we asked mom if she was needed him to eat dinner or whatever (gently hinting that we thought she might settle more into the birth if she had some time without her needy partner).
As you probably guessed, the mother ended up with a cesarean birth, and it was the first cesarean birth I have been in involved in since I started attending births as a doula in 2001. I have been processing this birth since it happened, and especially in the beginning, I wondered what I had done wrong (blaming myself) and how I could have possibly have turned this around. Since then, the mother told us that she couldn't even visualize having a vaginal birth, not before she was pregnant, not during her labor and especially after her birth. I felt so terrible. I'm not one of those doulas that shows up to a birth and make no suggestions or try to help the mom change the outcome. I have always met with my clients in advance (well in advance most times) and know them very closely, know where they live, have done prenatal visits with them, know which books they have read, know how they really feel about giving birth ect, ect. So this birth, and the cesarean section at this birth, just left me feeling overwhelmed. I attended the DONA workshop recently and got some closure on this particular birth, in the best possible way I could...talking with Debbie Young the president of DONA.
I know I had trouble processing this birth because of the behaviour of the father, the complacency of the mother and the cesarean birth that followed. I had spoken many times to my doula partner who seemed to be dealing well with the birth...UNTIL yesterday.
Our moms partner contacted her saying that he wanted to payback to us for helping, for being there ect, and that since he didn't have money....
he'd like to do some massages on her.
We both know that this man doesn't want just massages, and we were taken under again by how to deal with this. She has made it very clear that she doesn't want the massages, but he has called twice. We both don't want the mother to have no one to turn to, with a partner like this, I assume that he has done this to all too many of her friends, and ultimately isolated her.
She is a mother, who may very likely need further support, even though our support has ended (after 2 weeks postpartum). My co-doula friend is leary about cutting contact off from this family, but does not know how to deal with the partners advances.
I have talked this over with an attorney friend of mine, who has given me some very clear things we can try (wait till he calls again and tell him that we don't want any more contact with him, that the services for the family have finished, and if mother wants to call, it is alright, but if he calls again, we will tell the mother about his advances on both of us at the birth, and on my co-doula yesterday).
My worst fear is that the mother will be cut off from the only type of support she has. As a doula, helping out by doing a birth pro-bono, that I did only to benefit the mother and child, but always welcome the benefits to the father too.
I need to know how to proceed, if at all, so that we can from now on only be concerned with the mothers need, and not the fathers.
While I could have avoided this all together by only taking on a mom who I have gotten to know well, gotten to know her partner well ect, but these issues I have coped with finally, I just really need help on how to end this without isolating the mother any further.