Ask A Doula: Getting the Partner on Board

Today’s question is a fairly common one with a million variations. Got two variations just this week!

My client really, really wants to have a home birth, but her husband is against it. I want to help her get her dream birth, and that’s a big part of why she hired me. How can I get him on board with what my client wants?

I have a client who wants to hire me, but their partner doesn’t think they can afford me. She thinks her partner just doesn’t want to spend the money. How can I convince their partner that I’m worth it?

This is such a tricky thing. It’s really important to remember that in your doula role, you are a support to your client’s plans, not an engineer making those things happen. You need to be particularly careful when it comes to the relationships between your clients and their partners. Be very, very careful to not get in between the partners or take sides in their relationship.

At best, you can:

Listen and validate the perspective and concern of both partners without judgement or counterarguments. Stay far, far away from the role of the judge or mediator.

Encourage them to communicate well – when I have had clients struggling with coming to an agreement, I’ve encouraged them to try communicating in a different way. Taking the conversation to email or written letters can help both partners stay calmer and more rational. In one case, I suggested my clients consider working with a counselor to resolve their many different conflicts.

Suggest potential compromises – If one person wants a home birth, and the other wants a hospital birth, could they consider a freestanding birth center? That’s not always a possibility (because some things, like circumcision, have no middle ground)

Ask them if they need AND would like more information – and ensure that all information you give to them is not biased in favor of one partner’s opinion over the other.

Tell them that you are sure they’ll come to a good decision – even if that’s not the decision you think they should make or the one the pregnant partner prefers. Their relationship needs to be strong as they move through this change in their lives, and that is more important than any of the small decisions. Support strong relationships. I’d encourage you to think of your clients as a unit. The partners – plural – are your client, not just the pregnant one!

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