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what it would be like to have (or be) a male doula? I got the chance to talk with Brian, aka The Birth Guy, and find out. Brian Salmon is a male
doula, birth coach, lactation counselor and so much more. He works in San Antonio, Texas, where he has
helped over 19,000 expectant families with birth and beyond. In a field understandably dominated by
females, he brings a unique perspective to the birth and breastfeeding
process. Here were some of my burning questions:
Being a male
doula and birth teacher is not very common. How did you fall into this
usually crack a joke for this answer, but I will just get to it! When I was 19
I was asked by a dear friend to coach her birth. I really loved the process. I
was fascinated by the entire journey. At the time I had been completing
my radiology internship and degree. Fast-forward to about 2004 when I was
having my first baby, I found that resources for dads were limited. The
only programs available felt very superficial. We had also decided to
leave Los Angeles and move to San Antonio, Texas. Upon moving, I decided
to open a pre-natal imaging center and combine it with childbirth education,
especially focused on not just supporting women, but families.
As the years
went on I began to hear horror stories of judgmental birth workers guilting
moms and partners into feeling failure at birth. This was a direct call
to me to make change. I started training in various methods and even
certifying as a Lactation Counselor. I did doula training with DONA and
another program. I really felt that hearing the stories of well over 10,000
families gave me deeper insight. The last few years has been full of tons of babies, thousands of
students, abundant joy and no boundaries for my career. I even have offers for
TV shows! I average 8–15
births a month with my group and am also doing work with Baby Gizmo as the
education side of the product reviews.
Do you have a
specific birthing philosophy? For example do you advocate for drug-free
labor and delivery, and if so, do you follow coping styles such as the Bradley
philosophy is exactly that: mine. I really shouldn't put my beliefs on others, so I
share my practical experience and knowledge to well educate and empower my
clients. I find that most of them end up using the information I teach them to
make informed decisions which generally lean towards gentle mammalian
birth, so as close to natural birth with breastfeeding as a priority. When
families understand the process, ancestral birthing, how the body and hormones
work, as well as the babies' natural way of just knowing how to breastfeed
because of ingrained reflexes, common sense and simplicity gets their
attention. We have, as a society, taken birth far from that which has made it
hard for some families without help to understand the process.
always support what the family's decisions are. My
method is strict. I only work with couples if their partner takes my
Rocking Dads program. It is about 4 hours long and covers everything from
relationships, forming your family, birth planning, communicating with your
birthing staff, early labor, active labor, pushing, cesarean delivery,
breastfeeding, hospital and home birth/birth center birth.
The foundation of all my classes
including Facilitating Fearless Birth is relationship and communication with
your partner. For instance, I like to shift the paradigm of my clients by
simply asking, "What does goodnight mean to you when you say it?" and they
usually say it means goodnight. I challenge them to say it with intention, such
as, "Goodnight, I am so glad to have another day we shared and I look forward to
seeing you first in the morning, I love you." Shifts like this bring
amazing changes to families. Women who are supported with love and feel
protected by their partner or support person seem to birth much easier and
Of course we go through all the birthing and
breastfeeding things too. I teach them visualizations of their birth as
well. As far as pain coping, it is limitless because there are many ways
to pain cope. When they have a huge toolbox, they have a higher chance at
achieving their goals. If a parent decides on pain meds, well that, to me, is the compassionate use of pain medicine and no one should be judged or
shamed—that is just horrible and leads to birth trauma.
I always make a point to say that TV and society made women feel that they were supposed to be mean to their partner, as if it is glamorous or funny. It only slows down labor because how can anger and frustration be helping an oxytocin-based process?
Have you ever
felt discriminated against being a man in a female dominated field?
have no idea, but only from people who consider me competition. My mentor and
dear friend, midwife Jennifer Kelleher, has always told me to keep my head down
and focus on my heart. I did and now I couldn't care less because I am a doula on
the website of two major hospitals in my community and they both feature the
class I wrote and welcome me to do births at their facilities. OB-GYNs
distribute my materials and I am always busy. My clients are emphatic and I have five-star reviews all the way around. I just show compassion towards those
who discriminate against me because they are obviously not happy and I only
wish them happiness.
I noticed that
you teach breastfeeding classes. How are you able to instruct people in
never done yourself?
Well, I don't just teach, I
average at least three lactation consultations a day. Some are Skype or
FaceTime, home visits, or even phone. I do some quick free phone
consultations as well. I also have a team of IBCLC's who teach and
consult with me.
far as teaching something I never have done, I help so many families achieve their
goals because they trust my intentions. I have never had a person leave
my class without feeling totally confident. You see, breastfeeding is a
natural process and for hospital births we have to navigate that differently. I
feel it is super important that partners are a HUGE part. When Mom's
partner understands all aspects, pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and the
pitfall support I teach them, Mom is more confident and empowered. I
really don't have people freak out seeing me teach
breastfeeding especially because they have been referred by hospitals, doctors
and midwives, seen my videos, read reviews, seen me on TV ... and I'm
pretty good at breaking the ice. I really am doing exactly what I am
supposed to be doing. I absolutely love it!
What advice do
you have for nervous soon-to-be parents?
education, education! That is the key to confidence. The other main
point is to fix your relationship if there are any existing major issues,
animosity or jealousy problems. I always say, "You
build a house on sand," and I firmly believe that. If you do, it will fall in a
day or a few years, but it will fall. When couples can love on each other, nurture
their relationship, get education, work together, then the fear of the unknown
turns into instinctual reasoning due to the confidence their love and education
puts into them.
laboring women unexpectedly don't want any men around, including their
husband. Has this ever happened to you at a birth you were attending?
personally have never seen this happen. I always make a point to say that
TV and society made women feel that they were supposed to be mean to their
partner, as if it is glamorous or funny. It only slows down labor because
how can anger and frustration be helping an oxytocin-based process? On top of
that, partners feel hurt, isolation, exclusion and carry animosity around that
type of environment. Not to mention a bad birth story. Women who feel that way
should definitely get some help to figure out what is causing those feelings
towards their partner.
What is your
favorite part of your job?
love it all! I seriously feel blessed to be doing what I was meant to be
doing. I am so excited to see what the future holds. As a father of two
amazing girls, Eva, 10, and Daisy, 6, I feel that seeing families together for
the first time deepens my gratitude for my amazing life. I couldn't be
more blessed—well, except maybe having another baby of my own!