You can have a postpartum doula instead!
If there was a sappy ad about giving birth on television, it would have a mom smiling serenely at her newborn babe, her face perfectly made up and her hair in place; a dad glowingly watching them, full of joy; the calm older child is sitting on the bed, gently patting his new baby sister; Grandma and Grandpa in the background, just itching to get their hands on their new grandchild, smiling and clasping their hands.
For most people, this isn’t even close to the reality. For one thing, not all families look the same. But for another, not everyone is surrounded by family at this critical time in their lives. Childbirth comes in all styles: easy, difficult, frightening, thrilling. But at the end of all the activity of actually giving birth comes the postpartum period. It’s at this point that you need someone in your corner.
The excitement of anticipation of the birth and the fog of the actual event are over. That’s when reality sets in. You’re in charge of this tiny person, responsible for its survival, and even if it’s not your first go on this merrygoround, going home with the tiny being is still a daunting prospect. Particularly when you have no village. No parents, a working spouse, no spouse, no extended family on whom you can call for help. What now?
The answer is a postpartum doula.
A postpartum doula’s role begins where a birthing doula leaves off: after the delivery room. There are so many things that are just harder to take care of with a newborn around, to say nothing of the worries. What if baby isn’t latching? Why is she crying like that? Is the umbilical cord stump supposed to look like that? These are all normal concerns which a postpartum doula can help alleviate.
Without a village to talk to, some very normal concerns can become enormous worries. So if you don’t have a village nearby, it’s a good idea to consider a doula. While they are not medical professionals and their advice should never replace that of your health practitioner on matters of yours or your baby’s medical well-being, they are a great sounding board and helpful with all the other issues that come with babies: feeding, diapering, bathing, sleeping, communicating (aka crying!). A postpartum doula can be your village.
When should you hire a postpartum doula?
Ask around for referrals from your midwife or OB-GYN and take your time to find someone who you will like working with in those days after the birth when you might be a little emotional and a lot tired.
Ideally, you will have someone booked by the beginning of your third trimester, but if that doesn’t happen, don’t panic. There are many services that have doulas available for last minute bookings. The other advantage of planning to use a doula in advance is that you can plan for the cost of it in your ‘baby budget’.
Most people find that as time goes by, they need the doula less and less. At first, it can be every day but down to a few hours a week within weeks. Really, a postpartum doula is ideally placed to get you over the big changes that occur when a newborn comes home!
Do I need a doula even if I have friends, family or a spouse around?
It’s still a great idea to consider a postpartum doula, even if you have a village not too far away. For one thing, the advice a doula is going to give you is independent and without judgment. If you want to stop breastfeeding in favor of bottle feeding, your doula will not pepper you with guilt, but will instead look at your options with you and answer any questions so that you can make the best decision possible.
For another, a doula will respect your wishes as to how things get done. Unlike in the case of your mother-in-law, if you want to use disposables instead of cloth, there’s no judgment from your doula.
Women who have strong levels of support postpartum are far less likely to suffer postpartum depression and they and their babies are in better health overall, thanks to the ability to get some rest and eliminate some of the stress that comes with bringing home baby! Consider it for yourself and let us know if you have any questions. We’re here to help!