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Every once in awhile a Dad will ask me, "How long do you think this will take?" when his wife is in labor. At the begininng of my doula career this question annoyed me. It leant itself to a question based in anxiousness and boredom. I would try to hide my frustration that the most important member of the birth team was clearly bored and anxious to get labor over with.

Now that I have been a doula for over ten years, I realize this question is not a Dad asking out of boredom. He isn't trying to figure out if he can watch the football game later. The Dad is typically trying to find out how long his wife must endure the contractions she has had during labor. 

Laboring women often have a. "I can't do this" moment in labor. This moment is a milestone that labor and delivery nurses, doulas and care providers know well. In a textbook labor, this signals the end of transition. The woman is almost ready to push her baby out. This moment is often met by a reassuring, "Yes. You can." by her birth team as they know, the end of the contractions is near.

A woman is not alone in having  a, "I can't do this" moment in labor. A Dad has this moment too. It can manifest in a Dad asking, "How long is this going to take?" or the less obvious sign of, "You don't need to do this. Can you do anything to make this easier for her?".

Dads are the most important person on the birth support team during a woman's labor. A Dad also needs support. As a doula, I am the support for the birth team when they reach their, "I can't do this." moment. I become the assurance that birth is normal. That their laboring loved one is coping well. She is safe. She is cared for and she can feel their support and belief that she CAN do this.

Prenatal education - including the dreaded videos - can help the entire birth team learn about the sights, sounds and smells of labor. Being familiar with the phases of labor and what a woman may sound like or need during each phase can be the game changer when trying to help her renew her confidence and strength during her, "I can't do this moment." .

With the support of her loved ones, her doula, and her careprovider, a woman and her partner can have an amazing birth experience.