He’s Your Doula?
“Doula,” like “midwife” is a word that connotes a female person. “Doula” is from the Greek for “a woman who serves” and “midwife” is middle English for “with woman (mit wife).” Similarly, the French word for midwife, “sage femme” or “wise woman,” implies a female. But in our modern age where lines between the sexes are blurring in many ways, there are now a few male doulas and a a few more male midwives, even in France where they were unheard of until very recently. Years ago, one of my midwifery partners at OHSU was a man. When I asked the women I saw for prenatal visits in clinic if they would see him the next time, most of them demurred, saying they would prefer to see another female midwife. (We tried to have our moms meet all the midwives before labor, in case we weren’t around for the big event.) I would push a little, and they would agree to meet Tom. Then, when I saw them again, they were all gushy, telling me how great he was. And he was. He had all the qualities of a caring, nurturing, compassionate midwife; he was calm, gentle, and low-key. If our moms did have Tom as their midwife in labor, they were happy with his care. But I knew that, for him, it was a hurdle to get the women to accept him in the first place, a hurdle that the rest of us never thought about. I am sure that the same applies to male doulas. Only a man who is deeply committed to this work would even consider doing it. The work is hard, the hours are terrible, the pay is not so great, either. The reward comes from knowing that being a doula can make a critical difference to a mother at a seminal time in her life, and that you have what it takes to do that. While it is usually women who have the passion to care for women during pregnancy and childbirth, men can share that passion and become terrific male doulas, midwives, and, why not, obstetricians!
Bonnie Rochman writes of one such man in her post on the “Health” blog in the December 2, 2013 New York Times, “Men at Work for Women in Labor.” Read her article to “meet David Goldman of Bellingham, Washington, the … “dude-la””!