Male Doulas, Pt. 4

Wow! I really had no idea we'd make it this far. I hope you all are enjoying reading these as much as I am putting them together.

 

Next is Louis Maltais, student midwife in Montreal, Canada. This post was edited, with permission, as English was not his first language.

 

-Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I am a student midwife at the half of my third semester of the program. I study in UQTR (Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières) which is the only university in Quebec thats offers this program. I started to study when I was 27 years old. Before, I was a gymnast-acrobat-dancer and I worked in some companies for different shows. I also did a one year course in massage therapy. After a few experiences with pregnant women, I knew that I wanted to learn more about pregnancy and midwifery.

-What led you to become a birth-worker?

It’s hard in few words to explain all the feelings and the thoughts that led me to want to become a midwife. I really like to work with the limits of the body, with the intensity, with the natural medicine and with the essential things in life like love, health, emotions, birth and death. Since I began working with midwives I love this job more and more.

 

-What do you like to be called?

In french, which is my first language, we call a man midwife a 'sage-femme' (midwife) or a 'homme sage-femme' (man midwife) and I really appreciate to be called like that. For me I don’t think that it’s necessary to say man in front of midwife, but it doesn't really bother me. But a lot of people think that we call me 'sage-homme' (kind of midman). Sometimes, I say nothing but I often prefer that they call me midwife even though I am a man. I explain them that 'wife' is attribuated to the pregnant woman [not the provider] and people are positively surprised, and usually understand why we don’t have to change the name of this occupation.

 

-People don't hesitate at the thought of a male OB/GYN, but often scoff at the idea of a male birth-worker. Why do you think that is?

The job of an OB/GYN is very different of a midwife. First, they are specialists with complicated pregnancies, while midwives work with low risk pregnancies. A sepcial part of the job of midwives is to support the physiology of the labour and the delivery. Now, we all know sides that less interventions during a labour increase the chances of the woman to have a physiological delivery, which is the most secure way to give birth. I think that it’s necessary to be comfortable to do nothing but support [the woman] in all the normals steps of a labour including pain and all the difficult emotions. For this reason, socially, we are more comfortable imagining a woman to feel confident with a woman in labour because she has to be very empathic with her. Even if one needs more 'feminine' qualities to be a midwife, I think that men can also be empathic and good supporters with a woman in normal labour. In fact, general practitioners also work with low-risk pregnant women, and some of them practice the midwifery model of care. So I prefer to be compared to a general practitioner who chose to only work with pregnant women. An OB/GYN has to do interventions in front of abnormal factors during a pregnancy, and it’s "less important" in these situations to support women. [An OB's] goal is to keep them alive, and we can thank them because we can save women that a midwife probably couldn’t. In this kind of job, we can easily imagine a man because we know that they can be comfortable when they have something to do.

 

-Are dads uncomfortable with hiring a male birth-worker? / Do men ever feel insecure about having another man support their wife or girlfriend?

Most of dads are comfortable with a male midwife, but they have different reactions. Some are very surprised, most are open and curious, some are suspicious. Some men of different religions don’t want another man seeing their wife intimately.

-Do you have a hard time finding clients comfortable with a male birth-worker?
In Quebec, midwives only work for public services, so people don’t really choose their midwife, but they can refuse a man, exactly like with doctors. Most of the time, women and men are very enthusiastic to meet me.
-Do you feel that you can offer something different from a female birth-worker?I feel that I can offer something different from a female midwife which means that sometimes it will be easier and sometims harder, and most of the time it will be similar. I also think that being a man show to the women that it’s them, the women, who give births, and not the midwives. In all the ways, everyone will learn from each other. The most important thing that really helps me to learn how to be a good midwife is the openmindness of the women. They are generous, confident and very powerful!
-Do you provide hands on help with breastfeeding?It’s a very important part of the job to help with breastfeeding, so yes I give a hand in that. For the moment, I don't give much advice to the women because I’m still studying, but I feel very comfortable with this part.

Find out more or contact Louis here: maltais_louis@hotmail.com

If you could ask a male doula any question, what would it be?

Male Doulas, Pt. 3

I have to say, my readers are awesome. Thank you all so much for the great feedback.

 

Next up is Jacob Engelsman, aspiring doula in Athens, Georgia. He is currently the owner of Engelsman's Finest Ferments and Local Cook at Earth Fare - Athens.

-What led you to become a doula?

I believe that everybody has a super power. Some people play music by ear, some are natural cooks, some are really lucky, etc. I call mine baby-magic. I've always been one of those people, even when I had spikes on my jacket and a big pink mohawk, that babies just love. 

 

About 2006, before I even knew that male doulas were actually a thing, I was living in Asheville, NC. Doulas and midwives are pretty common there, and I've always felt a connection to babies but it seemed to me like being a midwife or doula was somehow "off limits" to men. A lot of research and conversations I had did not dissuade me from this feeling. So the idea was put on the back burner. Then life happened; I met my future wife, ended up moving back and forth across the country 4 times (long story), married her, and helped put her through grad school. Finally, we decided to settle down in Athens, GA, and I got to thinking about what I actually want to do with my life. 

 

All that bouncing around the country led to a lot of different jobs, but pretty much all of them were food service, with which I have lately been growing weary. I started thinking about what, when I'm older, would I regret never having done with my life. That's how I decided that 2015 will be the year I decide, once and for all, if I really want to be a doula. If I do, fantastic; if I don't, no regrets. I've been reading books and articles, watching documentaries and talking to many people about it. The world definitely seems to have opened up to male doulas in the last 9 years, and now it really seems like a feasible goal.

 

-What do you like to be called?

I'll just go with, "doula." I'm fairly certain that I hate the word, "dudela" but I have a complex relationship with puns :)

 

-How does your spouse feel about your work?

My wife, Liz, is very supportive of me in this endeavor. She knows that I've always felt a connection to babies and, since we've decided not to have children ourselves, does everything she can to encourage me.

-People don't hesitate at the thought of a male OB/GYN, but often scoff at the idea of a male doula. Why do you think that is?

I'm sure you could write a whole essay on this question alone, but I think a good short answer is: sexism. Historically, when people think of doctors they think of men and when they think of caregivers, they think of women. While women are breaking down barriers to become doctors and OB/GYNs, fewer men have become professional caregivers. 

 

-Do you have a hard time finding clients comfortable with a male doula? / How much of the time are you sought after *because* you are male?

Since both of these will be purely conjectural for me, I elected to combine the questions.

I don't foresee a time when there will be so many male doulas that we will be the only option for a woman (or couple.) I imagine that anyone who hires me will do so specifically because of who I am (which may or may not include my gender,) and not despite it.

 

-Do you feel that you can offer something different from a female doula?

I have met some women who feel more comfortable with men as opposed to women. I could be helpful with those new mothers. Other than that, any doula offers something different from other doulas. I don't necessarily believe male doulas offer something different from female doulas, on the whole.

 

You can contact Jacob here: finestferments@gmail.com

 

If you could ask a male doula any question, what would it be?

Male Doulas, Pt. 2

Wow! The feedback from part one of this series has been AMAZING! Thank you all so much for taking the time to read it.

Next is Ray McAllister, doula and massage therapist in Barrien Springs, Michigan. Something that also sets him apart is he is totally blind.

-Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

On an airplane, the pilot directs the plane, while the flight attendants see to the comfort of the passengers.  The midwife or OBGYN is like the pilot, getting the baby born, but the doula is like the flight attendant.  I see to the comfort of the client and her family.  I do everything from instruction in good labor management skills to massaging the aches and pains of pregnancy, labor, and post-partum existence.  I am a licensed massage therapist, and trained as a “massage doula.”


-What do you like to be called?
Doula. Nothing else. A female president of the USA is not a female president, but the President.

-What led you to become a doula?Turning 40, no children, totally blind, want to witness the miracle of birth. 
-How does your spouse feel about your work?Very supportive, getting up at any hour of the night to drive me to the hospital.  She is an aromatherapist, and made a special labor oil blend as well as a pregnancy blend.

 

-People don't hesitate at the thought of a male OB/GYN, but often scoff at the idea of a male doula. Why do you think that is?

Doulas are more of a relational role with the mom, and people don’t think a man can do that. 

 

-Are dads uncomfortable with hiring a male doula? / Do men ever feel insecure about having another man support their wife or girlfriend?

In more conservative areas, dads are more uncomfortable with another male, although I’ve talked with men who would rather the balance of another man in the room.

 

-Do you have a hard time finding clients comfortable with a male doula?

Yes. I’m finding I do best, not in my own area, but reaching out to the less fortunate, those who don’t have much support and are open to any helping hand. 

-Do you feel that you can offer something different from a female doula?
I can offer strength, and the position of a male role model, which for many of the less fortunate single moms out there, it’s important to see how a man is supposed to treat a woman with respect.  I have also resolved small conflicts with boyfriends causing problems in the delivery room by being rude.  I am not certain if another female would have done as well as a “man-to-man” communicator.
-Do you provide hands on help with breastfeeding?I have given verbal counsel concerning breast feeding which did help a woman increase her milk production. 

Find out more or contact Ray here: https://www.facebook.com/HealingsRaysMassage

If you could ask a male doula any question, what would it be?