After writing last week about a father's role in the birthing room, it occurred to me that I would be remiss not to address my own personal experience in the delivery room as you might find it surprising and perhaps even helpful.
Like many dads, I attended birthing class with my wife, watched videos and even read a book or two on the subject of birth. However, studying for the experience and being in the frontlines of a birth are, of course, two different things; and as prepared as I tried to be for the occasion, I thank our lucky stars that we decided to have a doula present with us in the hospital room.
Yes, you're reading this correctly. As a dad, I strongly encourage parents to have a doula present at the birth, especially if it's in the hospital. I realize that for many dads this might be considered some sort of demotion of their role in the birthing process, but I see a doula's job rather differently. Let me explain.
First, when my wife, Deborah, and I initially interviewed doulas, we were looking for someone who could work with both of us and who would be respectful of my role in the delivery process. We ultimately hired a doula, named Sabine, who was very considerate of what our needs were as parents. While it was an additional cost to hire her, we thought it would be worth the extra money. Little did we know how true this would be as I'll soon explain.
When the day came for the baby to arrive, Sabine was there, not just to support Deborah, but myself in the process as well. The nurses seemed a bit taken aback by her presence but we were so glad she was there.
While Sabine was supportive of us, she took a backseat to our doctors and nurses; but then, after 19 hours of intense labor, it seemed that our baby was not going to arrive by natural means. The doctor then informed us that surgery would be necessary. At this, Sabine spoke up and asked for a few minutes to try some alternative birthing positions to help along the process. The doctor nervously granted the request and when Sabine instructed my wife to get off her back, the nurses were less than thrilled.
A few minutes later, our first son, Charlie, was born naturally. If not for Sabine, Deborah would easily have had a caesarian birth as were 32 percent of births in this country in 2007 - up 53 percent from 1996. In our home state of New Jersey, 38.3 percent of births in 2007 were caesarian. The reasons for these increased rates are often attributed to hospitals seeing caesarian births as a more controlled, efficient approach as well as having less insurance liability than a vaginal birth. The World Health Organization suggests that the rate should be no more than 15 percent. As a dad, I find the statistics about caesarian births in our country to be problematic and I feel very grateful that a doula like Sabine was present in both of our son's births.
So, if you're a dad-to-be and you are hesitant to rescind your position as the only advocate for the delivery of your child, consider the percentage of caesarian births in this country and how those statistics might change with an experienced doula by your side, giving you and your partner the support you deserve during one of the most challenging and meaningful days of your life.
(Dana H. Glazer is the award-winning director of the feature length documentary film, The Evolution of Dad. To learn more about the film, please visit www.evolutionofdad.com)