I'm a 31 year old man, and I just got doula'd so hard!
Doulas are amazing, let's just get that out of the way. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am married to one. You may think that I could be biased because of that, but in that vain let me say this also: If you aren't going to hire a doula you should at least try to marry one!
To be completely honest, when my wife first became a doula there were aspects about what she was learning that I was skeptical about. For example, when she decided to become a Certified HypnoBirthing® Childbirth Educator, I thought the ridiculousness of the situation had reached its peak. However, I continued to support her and be a good husband so I buried those skeptiflags, and picked up my doula flag and cheered her on.
The problem is, unless you've been through a birth without a doula and through another birth with a doula, it's hard to conceptualize what their role is.
Flash forward a few months and I'm playing with my youngest son on the kitchen floor at 6:30 in the morning (I know, kids, right?) . I'm feeling good, I'm well rested, I've had some coffee, and he's sitting in front of me. I reach forward to lift him onto my lap and I feel this “Snap!” thing happen. My lower back throws itself way into left field and I see black and purple spots for about a minute. The next thing you know, I'm lying on the floor trying not to freak out my toddler while simultaneously trying to yell out for help. “SARAH! SARAH! [Daddy's ok, buddy don't worry] SAAARAAAAAH! [Really, buddy, Daddy is fine] SARAAAH!” You get the idea. Finally she came downstairs, assessed my situation, put our son in front of the television, helped me sit up, knelt down beside me, smiled and said, “I know just what to do. Wait here.” ... As if I was going anywhere!
She came back with her HypnoBirthing class binder and I was thinking "I'm not having a baby... or am I... Maybe this is what it feels like?" I'm kidding - labour is worse, I know!
As she opened her HypnoBirthing binder I kept thinking “Woman! I need drugs, and doctors, and drugs - not the power of positive thinking!”. My calm wife & HypnoBirthing doula told me to close my eyes and began leading me through a breathing exercise. She guided my thoughts to help me move and breathe with the pain - to experience it, but to not be mastered by it. She helped me focus my mind and relax my body to the point where it didn't really hurt at all anymore! Usually when I throw out my back I'm out for days, this was all in all about 35 minutes!
It was at that moment I began to see what the care of a doula felt like, and how valuable their role in the birth experience could be.
A doula anticipates your needs when you don't even know how to express them and provides you with moral, emotional, and in my case physical support. They keep you on track but support you when you deviate from the original plan. They coach you, they hold you, and for those hours that you are in their care - they love you. Not only do I see these traits in Sarah, but I see them in her business partner too. I also hear from their former clients I am lucky enough to meet how gentle, firm, supportive and loving Sarah and Carol Anne are, and I just smile because, of course they are.
They are doulas, and doulas are the best!
So, to reiterate my original point: If you don't have a doula, get one.
If you aren't going to get one, consider marrying one!