This question came up earlier this week with one our doula clients. The sister asked, "How do Muslim doulas support a woman whose husband will be attending the birth. Do the sisters have a policy on this? How do they generally navigate the situation?"
"Muslim doulas generally adhere to Islamic guidelines when supporting sisters during childbirth. They will avoid staying alone in a space with the birthing woman's husband. They also won't invade the husbands space when he is interacting with his wife. Muslim doulas have also observed that husbands maintain space between themselves and the doula when she is closely interacting with the woman.
Of course in birth, the environment is very different to a normal environment, as all attention is on the woman and her needs; and this tends to eradicate any discomfort that would normally be experienced by non-related Muslims of the opposite gender.
All energy revolves around the woman, and doulas is mostly very skilled at being able to pick up on when the woman is in need of her husband, and when she is in need of her doula.
So when the woman is interacting with and being supported by her husband, the doula will disappear into the background and tend to the birth environment, and other external factors that serve the woman and her birth.
When she notices the woman's need for her, she slips back into the her immediate space and the husband tends to step back at that point. This gives him time to have a break to refresh, perform his prayers, update family members etc., whilst knowing that his wife has a professional Muslim doula supporting her. The cycle usually continues in this way for the duration of the woman's labour.
During the last moments of birth, when the baby is born, the woman usually needs all of her support people's attention directly on her; and this is often the only necessary time that the doula and the birthing woman's husband may be within the same immediate space.
Once the baby is born the doula takes a big step into the background, ensuring the new mother and father are not interrupted during the precious moments while they are meeting their baby.
The unspoken understanding between Muslim men and women is quite beautiful. Most sisters say their husbands reported feeling very comfortable having a Muslim sister attend the birth of their baby in a professional capacity. There is no such thing as "awkward silence" when the brothers are dealing with Muslim women. As we know, some brothers may feel uncomfortable engaging in "awkward conversation" (which occurs with the purpose of building rapport), and they appreciate the doula politely fulfilling those moments by conversing with the staff and facilitating the indirect rapport building that may be more culturally appropriate."
We thought we'd share this explanation here to help those sisters, who are considering engaging the services of a doula, understand how we navigate our role in birth as practicing Muslim women. Hope it helps!