Movies and media have always painted dads as clueless during the stages of childbearing, and usually depict men panicking and fainting while in the delivery room. But their ignorance is the furthest thing from blissful. As difficult pregnancies, stillbirths, and maternal death rates continue to increase across the country, more men are stepping in as doulas to protect and support the women in their lives.
A doula is a trained birth worker, traditionally female, who is equipped to support a mother emotionally and physically during pregnancy, labor, and delivery. Doulas are not medical professionals, but they do work in conjunction with them. Any birthing environment is suitable for a doula to be present, regardless if its a hospital, birthing center, or home. Having a doula's support has been shown to improve birth outcomes and maternal health for pregnancy, delivery, and postpartum.
Doulas are especially crucial for communities of color. CDC data shows Black women have the highest rate of maternal deaths in the US. They’re 3.5 times more likely to die during childbirth, five times more likely to experience fatal postpartum cardiovascular distress, and more than twice as likely to die of hemorrhage or embolism. The statistics prove how the healthcare system has been failing black mothers and babies for a very long time, and everyone knows it.
Fortunately for us, Black men around the country are stepping up to be part of the solution in the face of this crisis. Long gone are the days of clueless dads hyperventilating and vomiting at the sight of a baby crowning. Devoted men are setting new precedents by proving that birth is not just a woman’s job.
When I learned of my pregnancy, I didn't want to go the traditional route. I knew I wanted the care of a female health professional, so I interviewed midwives and attended free workshops taught by doulas. Though I obtained a wealth of information, I didn't feel spiritually led to entrusting my birthing experience to anyone but my fiance and myself. And I certainly did not feel invited to fork over $2k-$6k. I even tried the female obstetrician route, but every doctor's visit felt like I was walking into an asylum, and it was beginning to take a toll on my mental health.
My fiance was very receptive to my chosen path, but he didn't just agree and leave everything on my shoulders. He sat by my side and we watched videos, read books, and attended appointments together. He learned various maternal massage techniques, aromatherapy with essential oils, herbal tea remedies, and how to prepare them; he studied acupressure and different meditation practices. He knew all the signs to look for, how to time contractions, and measure dilation without tinkering with my cervix.
His presence alone was enough to boost my confidence in opting for a natural unassisted birth. But his choice to learn and adapt to the circumstances was truly a salve for my soul. After delivering our healthy beautiful, daughter, I cried profusely for days, if not weeks out of sheer gratitude for his support and involvement. I mean sure, my hormones were all over, so I had a great incentive to cry a lot. It's just... these tears felt heavier than normal and there was no sadness.
The more I journaled and therapized myself, I discovered why the tears were spiritual cleansing. My mother struggled and didn't have my father's protection and support when she was pregnant with me, and he showed up three days after my birth. He went on to be a part of my young life, but his relationship with my mother was still tumultuous. It also didn't help matters that my dad was killed and I grew up without him. This became the energetic burden I carried throughout life. I was aware that this impacted me, but that empty feeling consumed me in ways I didn't realize. Unexpectedly, my birth experience changed all of that.
After processing this reflection, it's only right that I united with someone who is instrumental in helping me to redefine love and rewrite my genetic code. It would have been unfortunate to repeat the cycle and thrust my child into a similar dysfunctional dynamic I was born into. Many great things beyond childbirth can come from being intentional about who you procreate with. I'm greatful for being so loved on, and taken care of during my darkest hours when I've needed the most.
It is my prayer that every mother be so fortunate to have an enriched and loving birthing experience with a man they love, whether it be her partner, father, uncle, brother – even a close male friend. The rewards can be enormous for everyone and could make a great birth story for the baby.