It's always amusing to me that, at interviews, the dad is usually pretty apprehensive about hiring a doula, but after the birth he is almost more grateful than the mom! I think that labor support, especially for first-time dads, is really hard. They've typically never seen a birth before, so to see their wife or partner going through such an intense ordeal can be very taxing emotionally. He often has a hard time knowing how to support her, especially if she starts asking for drugs when he knows that she really wants a natural birth! I can't imagine what it must be like seeing the person you love most in the world experiencing the crazy ride that is childbirth.
This is why I love my job so much. As a woman having gone through childbirth twice before, and as a trained birth professional, it is so rewarding for me to deduce what a laboring mom needs at a certain point, and gently instruct her loving partner to know how to best support her.
I remember at one of my very first births (this couple happened to be some of our best friends), they were working so well together, swaying and relaxing through some of her most intense contractions. And I just stood in the corner, giving the dad an occasional calm smile letting him know that everything was going perfectly. When she went into the bathroom by herself, I just gave him a little pep-talk on what to expect over the next hour or two (she was entering transition, so I told him she would probably get emotional and start having some self-doubt). Within minutes after her coming out of the bathroom, she started crying and saying she couldn't do it anymore, and it was so beautiful to watch her husband calmly tell her that she could, and that she was doing great, and how they fell into their perfect rhythm together again.
And last week I was at a birth with a super sweet couple. Young, newly-married, first-time parents, they hired me at the last minute because someone in their birthing class told them that they HAD to have a doula (yeah!). The dad had been very quiet and reserved throughout our prenatal meetings, and continued to be so during the birth. During her labor, I just did my thing, helping his wife, giving her words of encouragement and prompting him to do the same, telling them both what to expect through each stage of labor, and really just guiding them through the process. Toward the end when things were getting quite intense, she really needed some eye-contact to keep her grounded. So I did that for awhile and breathed with her. Then she went to the bathroom, came back and was lying on her other side facing her husband, so I said, "During this next contraction, I want you to really focus on her eyes, and breathe with her in rhythm." It think it was really hard for him--he was crying quietly from seeing his wife in such a state, and I could tell he wanted to withdraw from the situation because it was just so emotionally overwhelming. But I gave him a tissue and prompted him to stay close to her. And they both got into this amazing zone together, connecting in a deep and meaningful way. What a privilege it was to have facilitated such a beautiful moment! Afterwards, at their follow-up visit, she told me that her husband had been telling a pregnant relative of theirs how much of a help I was, and that they should hire a doula, too. :)
So as much as I am passionate about women and our amazing bodies and all things birth/mothering related, I think dads are pretty cool, too. I love creating a space where a couple can really connect without worrying about outside distractions, assuring them of the normalcy of birth as they work together to bring their baby into the world. Whether it's getting dad a coffee and a sandwich, or showing him how to put pressure on his wife's back in just the right way, my goal is to help him to be as integrated and as involved in the birth process as possible.