You've made your birth plan. You've taken childbirth education classes. You've practiced relaxing. The nursery is put together and you know what car seat you want, which pediatrician you're going to use and whether you're breastfeeding or formula feeding. You're prepared!
Or are you?
Most new parents (and even some 'been there done that' parents) take careful steps to prepare themselves emotionally, physically and financially for the addition of a new baby. But many times, after the birth, mom's find themselves home, alone and filled with a whirlwind of emotions.
The baby is FINALLY asleep-what to do? The house is a mess. You need towels washed. You haven't eaten a hot meal in days and you're so tired you can't see straight. Friends and family have offered to help, but your mind is so scattered and emotional you don't even know how to accept or ask for help.
These are common feelings found in the postpartum period in America. We expect mothers to resume normal tasks almost immediately. Women get ONE postpartum visit with their OB six weeks postpartum and that is basically looked at as the "ok for sex" benchmark.
But this time in a mother's and an infant's life is extremely important. Both mother and baby are recovering from a major life event. Both mother and baby have higher levels of hormones in this time then they ever will again. What are we to do? If we look around the world, we'll see many cultures have rituals or traditions put in place surrounding childbirth that don't just stop after the birth of the baby, but extend into the postpartum period. Let's take a quick trip around the world, shall we? And then let's look at the role of a postpartum doula
La Cuarentena: where for six weeks new mothers abstain from sex, certain foods, and any moderate to heavy activity. During this time they focus on healing themselves, establishing breastfeeding and taking care of their newborn. Traditionally other members of the family take care of any needs the mother may need.
In Bali you won't see an infant touch the ground in the first 105 days of their life. The task is shared between mothers, grandmothers, sisters, and aunts who all wear the baby.
In Japan, women stay at their maternal home for up to eight weeks after the baby is born. There a postpartum woman can rest, recuperate, and learn how to take care of the infant. Infants are usually cared for by the mother of a postpartum woman. This should be kept in mind as Japanese women in Australia may not have access to this support system. In Japan, showering or washing hair is prohibited until seven days after birth (including in hospitals).Postpartum women should be informed that in Australia showering after birth is recommended, but it is the woman’s choice.
The majority of the births in Holland take place at home. Excellent in-home postpartum care is provided by women called Kraamverpleegsters (professional maternity nurse). They arrive at 8am and leave at 5pm for 8 days. These angels take care of the laundry, cooking, shopping, child care, act as hostess for visitors, and do postpartum check-ups as well. They have daily contact with the midwife or doctors who attended the birth, reporting all progress of the mother and baby. Infant care is provided, parenting skills are taught and breastfeeding is supported.
In North America it is custom for woman to be expected to be back in the work place within six weeks, and some women don't even get that much maternity leave. We have no cultural support system in place to help new mothers transition through this highly emotional time. The rolse of women have been changing and fluid through out America and all this can contribute lack of care and compassion in this transitional phase. However a movement is starting here. Postpartum doula's are trained woman who come in and "mother the mother" in the time of transition.
A postpartum doula is an expert trained to provide emotional, physical, and evidence-based informational support to new families as they transition into life with their new baby. We are trained in topics of postpartum mood disorders, bonding and attachment, breastfeeding, mothering, and newborn care. We empower parents to trust their instincts and to make their own decisions and we gradually step back as mom recovers from birth and as everyone in the family adjusts. Studies have shown that when new parents have support, they have fewer instances of postpartum depression, they bond better with their babies, and they feel more empowered through the transition. Many people rely on family and friends for help, which can be really wonderful, but one benefit of hiring a postpartum doula is that you’re getting a professional who won’t take your parenting decisions personally and who really is solely there to support you in your role.
A postpartum doula is there to 'mother the mother' as often times she gets forgotten. As a postpartum doula I will make sure you're coffee is warm, that you've eaten something warm and fulfilling in the past few hours, I'll make sure you are getting the rest you need and I can even run errands, go grocery shopping, plan meals and cook light meals for the family. I offer sibling and spouse support and will even come spend the night to watch over baby while you get some much needed rest! When baby wakes up I will bring them to you nurse and then take them back and cuddle, sway, sing, and get baby back to sleep. We will meet at least once before the birth of your baby to make a postpartum plan-all those offers of help from friends and family I can help you to organize!
While it would be great if our culture had a built in tradition to help ease and guide new mothers in the postpartum period, we don't-yet. So it's time to take matters into our own hands and ask for what we need. Contact me today to talk about what you may need in YOUR postpartum period. Even if you need something I can't offer, I can connect you with a doula who is right for you!
I am a mother of two, a breastfeeding advocate and an outspoken natural birth enthusiast. I believe that birth is a normal, biological process that is accompanied with a psychological rite of passage. By educating and preparing most women can enjoy the wonderful benefit of unmedicated birth.