Why on earth would you work with a Postnatal Doula? It is hard to imagine exactly what sort of support, if any, you might want or need after your baby is born. It can seem like a selfish indulgence, even. This article will list some of the benefits of postnatal support and hopefully answer some of your questions.
I met my last client over a cuppa at her house one evening when she was around seven months pregnant. We connected straight away and I was thrilled she asked me to support her and her partner postnatally. Not all parents book me before the birth. Some realise after the baby is born that they need a hand. There is no right or wrong way to engage a doula.
The following month we met up for their ‘4th trimester planning session’ where we went through all their hopes and dreams for what the first few months with their new baby might look like. We discussed everything from baby essentials to local postnatal support services. I also held her Mothers Blessing. Afterwards we kept in touch over text and email and she let me know when the baby arrived. For the first two weeks her partner was on paternity leave and her family were around, but after that her partner had to go back to work and her family headed home, so we arranged my first visit.
I arrived at 10am to find a very tired looking Mama still in her PJs with a fresh baby in the crook of her arm. She showed me in and I made her a cuppa and we chatted. She told me her birth story, and how the first two weeks had been.
While I tidied her kitchen, we chatted some more. I watched the baby and unpacked the lunch I’d brought for her as she grabbed her chance for a shower. Afterwards, she fed the baby and we chatted about some breastfeeding challenges she’d been having. I suggested that she might like to go to a local breastfeeding support group, but she was understandably nervous. So we arranged to go to the next one together. I left her eating lunch, dressed, with a sleeping baby and a plan to go to the breastfeeding group.
As the visits went on and we became more relaxed with each other we chatted about everything from breastfeeding to bottles, from stitches to parent groups. Normally I’d stay around 3 hours at her house and a few times we met out. A couple of times she opened the door looking so tired, I simply held the baby while she napped. I accompanied her on their first solo trip to the supermarket and a trip to the GP. We also did a tour of local breastfeeding friendly cafes and I introduced her to a nearby Postnatal group which she began to go to independently.
After a while I noticed that she seemed much more confident, she no longer opened the door in her pyjamas and our chats where full of all the things she was doing with her baby and who she was meeting. I knew it was time for me to move on. Her baby was by now 3 months old and we arranged our last meeting. I brought extra cake and left her with my number and my sincerest hope that she would feel free to contact me if she needed anything. I caught up with her a few months later and was so happy to see how the family was and how confident they now were, finding their own path through all the challenges and joys of parenthood.
Why is it that families are supported in this way in most other cultures around the world? Mother are encouraged to have an intense period of rest and recuperation as they adjust to post-birth life. The few weeks after childbirth are a time to be supported so you can bond with your new baby and heal from birth.
Over a period of roughly 40 days women in traditional communities stop their chores, are given special foods and massages and are looked after by close family and friends. These societies recognise that in life there is no going ‘back’ to normal. We can only move forward as positively and healthily as possible after birth. And to do this, human beings need support. In Western society we have lost our traditions and now the focus is on ‘bouncing-back’, leaving new mothers to heal and learn about parenting totally on their own.
What you may need from your postnatal doula may look very different to another mother. The important thing is that you can build a relationship of trust. Whether you choose long-term support or just a couple of hours to grab a nap or share your worries, doulas promise to support you without judgement. We remember how it feels to be a new parent!
The emotional and physiological changes a woman goes through when she has a baby are immense and should not be underestimated. Everyone’s journey is unique and uncharted. Of course there are midwives, health visitors and GPs there to ease parents through any medical worries, but they won’t clean your kitchen, make you soup or jiggle your baby to sleep while you catch up on your own.
Food, sleep and an organised home are the building blocks of postnatal sanity. A doula cares for you so you can care for your baby without throwing your toys out of the pram!
I hope this gives you a little insight into what a day with a Postnatal Doula might look like. No one knows what support you might need better than you do, but finding, staying in touch with and booking a Postnatal Doula will guarantee you as many support options as possible.
Did you have a postnatal doula? I’d love to hear how she helped. Are you thinking of having a doula? Feel free to leave a comment or contact me with questions or to enquire about a no-strings chat to find out more.
Edited by my wonderful Doula Mentor Maddie McMahon on 14/8/2018