No way you’re expecting a baby!? Holy crap shut up congratulations that’s awesome. You’re probably freaking out in anticipation of the coming rapture. But heed one recommendation to vastly improve everyone’s birth experience – yours, your wife’s… even your baby’s: Totally get a doula.
Unless you live in Berkeley you could probably use a refresher on what the deal is with doulas. Fair enough.
Doula. Rhymes with “hula.” A doula attends a birth for the express purpose of supporting the mother. Why is this necessary? Because you, the expectant father, are beyond useless. You may be all set with clipboard, whistle, and stopwatch – ready to play Birth Coach. But your skill set is more suited to the role of cheerleader. JV squad.
Consider: whenever you try a potentially lethal activity like, say, scuba diving or parachuting, you are paired with an experienced instructor possessing technical expertise. The same should apply when a woman attempts to extract a baby from her loins. Doctors and nurses don’t count, because their real patient is the baby.
A good doula is akin to a revered yogi. Except instead of Ashtanga or hatha postures, the doula guides a woman through advanced childbirth poses – like stepping through her own vagina.
Perhaps if I briefly delineate our experience, it can serve as a template for what you might expect.
Our doula, Angie, met with my wife a few times well in advance of our due date. They reviewed Sarah’s expectations for the pregnancy and delivery. During a subsequent session, Angie performed some reflexology thingy. It must’ve been some next level shit to have relaxed Sarah, because my woman is strung like a Stradivarius. The pre-birth meetings also established a rapport, which is useful during childbirth.
In the delivery room Angie was in her element. She had an array of techniques for mitigating the various stages of labor. These included relaxing massage, acupressure to spur contractions, and simply appreciating the moment. I’m pretty sure there was some other stuff, but to be honest the whole experience was for me fairly nebulous. I mostly provided moral support. Plus I conferred with doctors on important matters like where in the hospital’s vicinity one was likely to find the best takeout.
Shortly after we got home from the hospital, Angie paid us a postpartum visit. I thought she was just swinging by for a high-five. But it turned out she was checking on Sarah’s recovery from childbirth and adjustment to motherhood. It was also at this time that Angie gave us the recipe* for her soothing vaginal gel-packs. For my male readership, a brief explanation is in order:
For some time after a woman gives birth, she reportedly experiences the prolonged sensation of having been punched in the vagina by Mike Tyson. (I have not yet been able to validate this analogy, but I’ll let you know when Robin Givens responds to my text messages.) The soothing power of these gel-packs is difficult to convey. But try and imagine the cooling pleasures of Junior Mints as infused via the gentle exhalations of divine kittens.
Doulas do not stumble into their profession accidentally like, say, air traffic controllers. Their greatest passion is healthy childbirth. They have wisdom, and they have stories, (some of which you don’t want to hear). There’s a lot of overlap between doulas and midwives. But whereas midwives mostly attend home births, doulas are welcome in the delivery room of a hospital. (I can’t think of a compelling reason to enlist a doula’s services for a planned C-section. But I invite enlightenment and scathing criticism in the comments section.)
Doulas are generally a crunchy bunch. They often subscribe to some combination of homeopathy, New Age, and the redemptive pleasures of the Lilith Fair. Few besides doulas are more opinionated on the merits of ingesting a placenta. Even fewer swap afterbirth cooking tips.
The cost of a doula ranges from a few hundred to over a thousand dollars. That might sound like a lot of moolah for a doula. But given the hours involved, it’s an incredible bargain even at the higher price range. It’s a curious quirk of American obstetrics that a doula isn’t deemed a mandatory component of all pregnancies, like ultrasounds. Maybe the profession should consider a name change. I propose ultradoula.
* For the full recipe, drop me an email and be sure and write the words “Soothing Vaginal Gel-Packs.” I’ll totally know what you’re talking about.