Your partner is awesome! But they aren't your doula

If you’ve ever thought, “I don’t need a doula! I have a partner(s),” this post is for you!

Don’t get me wrong, your partner is (or partners are) pretty awesome! And I’m so happy to have them on board. While I love partners and love working alongside them as part of a birthing person’s team, doulas bring different qualities and backgrounds to birth preparation and the birthing space. Let’s talk about how your partner and doula complement one another and each fill a vital role.

Why your partner is not your doula, even if they are great at supporting you

Your partner is experiencing a big transition, and they need support, too!

A birthing person has a big job to do — bringing a new life into the world is no small or easy task! It will likely alter your body, mind, and identity for the rest of your life. Partners that accompany a birthing person along this journey are also transformed. If they are parenting with you, they now have new routines and challenges and joys in their life. They might feel new emotional dimensions in your relationship, and their feelings might be all over the place!

Because I know what a transformational experience birth can be for new parents, I protect this space and honor those feelings along your journey. I come alongside you and your partner to calm your anxieties, delight in your joys, and ease your frustrations. The physical support of a doula is important for partners, too — I keep partners nourished, hydrated, rested (as best as possible!), and cared for so they can keep their attention on the person in labor. Doulas know the bigger picture of birth and new parenthood, and expertly oversee your path in all its uniqueness.

Sidenote: as an added bonus, I am well-versed on the complexities of becoming parents for the first time, as my dissertation research was on that very process. This is what drives my passion for supporting new families. If you have an interest in reading my academic work, just ask!

Your partner likely has limited experience with your birth location and birth in general

Many people tour their birth location (if it’s a birth center or hospital) as part of their childbirth education class or a “meet the midwives/OBs” event to get familiar with the atmosphere, rooms, layout, parking, food options, and other features that may be important during birth. But unless you’ve navigated this unfamiliar setting while in labor, or while accompanying someone through it, you and your partner will probably lose sight of most of that info when things get intense! Your doula, on the other hand, is likely familiar with your birthing location (or with the type of location you are birthing in) and can guide you along the way. Doulas know the sights, sounds, and smells of hospitals and are experts at creating a calm and safe atmosphere amidst what might look and feel like chaos to someone in labor.

Doulas also know birth. Unless your partner is in a profession that routinely brings them into contact with pregnant and birthing people, their exposure to the actual process of labor and birth — from start to finish — is likely limited to the births of family members or friends (which also bring up emotional attachments; see below!). Doulas bring in-depth knowledge about birth from training, experience, and the continuing education that we are always involved in. We’ve seen many birth choices and outcomes, we’re familiar with the various paths that birth can take, and we’re able to share evidence and resources that you might not otherwise encounter. I often say, “your partner knows you, and your doula knows birth!” What a great combination, right?!

Your partner likely has limited experience with other birth-related activities

birth plan doula

Are you and your partner nervous about making a birth plan, breast/chestfeeding, or caring for a newborn or a person who has given birth? Your doula is experienced with all these things! I can help demystify the choices you will be asked to make, walk you through creating a birth plan (I know plenty of great tools!), provide for the postpartum needs of you and baby, and connect you with so many other birth-related professionals in the community. And I can help both you and your partner feel confident throughout the journey, because you can rely on my knowledge and judgment-free care to get you going in the best possible way.

Your partner is emotionally invested in you and your birth outcomes

The emotional connection you have with your partner is so important. And you will hopefully develop a connection with your doula, too — albeit a different type of connection. Your partner is emotionally close to the process of birth and, as an insider to your relationship and family, might be missing pieces of the larger picture or context. Even though your partner is not the one giving birth, they may have desires and goals for the birth process and the postpartum period. Your doula, on the other hand, has one goal: to support you through an empowered, informed, and healthy journey to parenthood, no matter how it looks!

Your partner (or you) may face unfriendliness from staff and not be sure about how to respond

When your body, gender, sexuality, or family looks different than people expect it to or are used to, they may react in ways that are negative or harmful to you or your partner. Intolerance, discrimination, and poor treatment are unfortunate realities for many already-marginalized folks as they navigate birth and birth spaces. You shouldn’t have to express and defend your pronouns, gender identity, family structure, or choices to any medical staff while you are giving birth, and neither should your partner (especially if they are the ones experiencing unfriendliness). Your doula can help clarify your situation and needs and make peace when there is intolerance. Giving gentle reminders to staff, modeling language, and providing inclusive care are all things that doulas are very good at. I can protect you without disturbing your birthing space or your flow with your partner. I can also help find resources and other professionals that are affirming of your body, identity, and family, so you don’t have to go through the trial and error of finding out yourself if someone can care for your properly and respectfully. I’ve got your back (and your partner’s)!

Your partner has important jobs that are outside of your doula’s scope

Photo courtesy of Broadly’s  Gender Spectrum Collection.

Photo courtesy of Broadly’s Gender Spectrum Collection.

While there are things that partners are not equipped or able to do, there are also things that only partners can do! Most doulas, for instance, will not provide transportation from your home to your birthing location for liability reasons. Or I might call upon your partner to cuddle, kiss, or massage you in intimate ways that only you and your partner can share (get that oxytocin flowing!). Or I can assist your partner in speaking up for you in healthcare settings, where I would never presume to do so. In short, I know my limitations, and know how to support those who have different roles than ourselves in achieving our shared goal of a healthy birth experience for you!

Building your dream team

Your birth team is not an either/or situation, and no doula would (or could!) ever take the place of your partner. Doulas and partners complement one another and come together to provide loving, compassionate, and judgment-free support along the journey to parenthood. It’s important to assemble your birth team carefully and think about the mix of personalities and support styles you want involved in your birth experience, making sure everyone is prepared to walk alongside you with their unique gifts and skills. Let’s chat more about how we can work as a team to support your best birth!