Do I Really Need to Do(ula) This? Part 2

Art by Catie Atkinson @spiritysol

Art by Catie Atkinson @spiritysol

As promised, we are back with Part 2 of our doula blog. We pick up from where we left off a few weeks ago when the leaves were not quite as crunchy…

In Part 1, I featured the work of the Labor Support Doula, and what she can offer during pregnancy and birth. Before anyone calls me out for being sexist, let’s acknowledge that there are currently a few men who are trained doulas around the world (and, fun fact for any Gleeks out there: Matthew Morrison’s father was a midwife!) However, since women tend to be the overwhelming majority working in these areas, I will, going forward, refer to doulas as women.

Now it’s time to focus the spotlight on Postpartum Doulas (aka PPDs).

To reiterate: long ago and far away, women were surrounded by family members and friends during pregnancy, birth and the postpartum period. New moms were cared for by their mothers, sisters, grandmothers, cousins, aunts, friends, etc. This meant that she would have others around her continuously to help her recover and to soften the learning curve as it pertained to new motherhood.

Just what did that look like after a baby was born?  Picture this: a new mom never had to lift a finger, since all of the housework, meal prep, cleaning, chores and errands were covered (women who have just given birth need to be off duty for complete recovery). She was provided with measures for comfort and healing. She had lots of nursing help and bathing help and TONS of wisdom, guidance and moral support. A new mother could depend on this circle of women for anything she needed at any time. And more often than not, her needs were anticipated before she even knew what they might be.

Sounds heavenly, right? “Where do I sign up,” you ask? There are still many cultures around the world that welcome new families in this way. There are even some nations that provide this kind of support to all citizens for six weeks after a woman gives birth, free of charge (I’m looking at you, France!).

But here in America, women are often left to their own devices, and I just don’t think that’s fair. Not only do many of us find ourselves living far away from family and friends, but concepts like family leave and childcare are woefully lacking and can leave new parents feeling like they are jumping into the abyss without a parachute (or at least an accurate GPS app).

Having a baby is joyful and miraculous and beyond anything we can ever imagine before our little ones make their way into the world. But one thing to which people rarely give thought is the idea that the baby is not the only one being born here. Women and men are born into parenthood. This transition is enormous, and cannot be underestimated.

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Postpartum doulas are here to help! They prepare meals, make sure that a woman is staying well-hydrated (because who, in their elated-yet-exhausted haze, will do these things for themselves?).  They straighten up and make your “nest” as comfortable for you as possible so that you can forget about the dishes and the laundry and the texts and GET SOME REST. That last bit’s in upper case for a reason, Everyone. Rest is essential for healing and recovery, both physically and emotionally.

PPDs will run errands, and watch older siblings. They are well-versed in newborn care and breast feeding and will educate parents in these areas. They know how to recognize signs of emotional distress which are common in the days, weeks and sometimes months following birth. They can provide resources and referrals and that extra pair of hands that all new parents need and treasure. For a comprehensive list of services PPDs can offer, click here.

Many people wonder what the difference is between a baby nurse and a PPD. A nurse will traditionally live with a family for a few days or weeks, taking care of all things baby: laundry, diaper changing, calming, bathing, etc. (Some, but not all,  are trained to help with nursing – good to ask when exploring this option). PPDs usually work approximately 5-6 hours per day (though some do overnights), and help mother the mother so that the mother can mother the baby. That’s a mouthful, but an accurate one, as you can see from the aforementioned description of services (which obviously are wildly helpful to partners, too).

The transition to parenthood (and it’s always a transition, whether this baby is your first or your fourth) can be greatly eased with the support of a Postpartum Doula. Those outfits from that store down the block? Adorable. Another stuffed animal or set of ironic-sayings bibs? Precious. But the gift of a PPD that you can give yourself, or that those who love you can purchase on your behalf? Priceless.

Photo by Megan Hancock Photography

Photo by Megan Hancock Photography

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