Doula helped me navigate fatherhood: Lessons equally proved to be important to the fathers-to-be as well

By , K24 Digital
On Wed, 24 Jul, 2019 00:00 | 3 mins read
Peace and Ken Olwala have some fun time with their children. Photo/COURTESY
Sandra Wekesa @Andayisandra

It’s a sunny afternoon. Using a feeding bottle, Ken Olwala gives his six-months-old son some water.  And as he expertly holds him in a comfortable position to prevent him from choking, one wonders where he learnt all this.

He is not only good at feeding the baby, but also does well when it comes to putting the baby to sleep. 

“My biggest business in life is raising my children and that is why I have always made sure that I play an important role in their life.

Also, in our home, my daily chore is washing my children and this is the fun part of being their father because I get to bond with them,” says the father of two.

Conflicting information

In 2016, when Ken and his wife Peace Olwala were expecting, they were worried about the whole process of nurturing and raising a child.

As a first time dad, Ken was quite nervous and this didn’t help in making his wife feel any better. And Peace was confused with a lot of information she got over the Internet. She got so much conflicting information. 

“When I was expectant I would read widely. It was confusing. You would get one opinion from one source and a different opinion from another. So we decided to seek an expert opinion, which at that time was from a doula,” she recalls.

A doula is a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous, physical, emotional and informational support to an expectant mother before, during and just after birth.

At week 30, the couple resorted to getting a doula. “We didn’t take long on doing our homework, especially when it came to getting the perfect doula.

All Peace wanted was someone who was much experienced, a mother figure. So, getting Nerea Ojanga, a midwife at Kenyatta national Hospital suited,” he says.

But Peace did not attend the classes alone. Ken accompanied her. They had six classes and these were enough lessons to prepare them to welcome their bundle of joy.

This also made Peace experience the assure support from her husband and made her pregnancy easier. 

It wasn’t any different for Ken because he wanted to be fully present during childbirth. However, the lessons he learnt not only helped him during childbirth, but also after his son was born.

Three weeks after his child was born, he started bathing him, something that shocked his mother-in-law when she came visiting. 

Home alone

“My mother wondered how times have changed saying in her time, men were not involved in raising children. But, this didn’t make Ken change his mind, on being physically present in raising his children,” she says.

Peace recalls one time when she had to travel for work when their first born was just five months old and Ken didn’t have an issue staying home with the child.

“We have always had a day bug. he didn’t have any issue with me being away. My husband, a teacher would come home early to release our househelp.

Anytime I called home, he would assure me that the baby was fine. Also, when I came back I found that he had sleep-trained our baby and he could sleep throughout the night. The two of them bonded well,” she remembers.

But Ken agrees all this wouldn’t have been so easy without the help of a doula who empowered him for his fatherhood journey. Also, the fact that Peace gave him space to be involved fully in raising the children. 

“What men want is to be fully involved in their children lives and this can only be made easier when given that chance,” Ken says. 

According to Jenifer Matiku, a doula, getting expert opinion is important, especially for expectant mothers as well as their husbands.

“Most of the time, antenatal care might not give you all the information about child birth, especially since the gynaecologist work might just involve checking on the growth of the foetus and its progress.

However, when you resort to seeking a doula’s advice, your pregnancy becomes easy,” she says.

Also, apart from helping a mother understand her body and safe delivery, they play an important role in educating the father on their supporting role as co-parents.

They give them practical lessons on how to rub their wives’ back, especially when in labour. This helps in easing the pain of the mother. 

“Part of the practical classes includes learning how to wash the new born and also how to take care of the child after birth. Most of the time, attentive and interested fathers do well,” she says.

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