The following snippet comes from a January 12th article about doulas from the Seattle Times. While I find some aspects of the piece problematic, particularly the assumption that doulas are women and that only women give birth, it does a great job at shedding a bit of light on the racial and ethnic disparities faced by people of color and the babies of those people.
"A week into my son’s life, he wouldn’t stop crying. I can still see his scarlet face and hear the alarm in his voice. Exhausted and new to motherhood, I was flummoxed and near panic myself.
Then my doula rang the bell. A no-nonsense woman, she swooped Malcolm up, whispered in his ear and massaged his little body. Identifying that he was hysterically hungry, she fed him a few fingers of formula — calming him down long enough to nurse.
She also asked me how I was doing and listened when I admitted: “Not great.” She was a lifeline in the chaos, and I still think of her with deep gratitude.
A person* is a woman who is trained to assist women during childbirth as well as in the pre- and postnatal period. It’s a tradition with roots around the world but a practice that has been resurrected in the U.S. as research increasingly shows doulas reduce C-section births and encourage successful breast-feeding."
Read the rest of the article here.
I remember my first tough postpartum visit like it was yesterday even though it was three years ago. It was one of my first births and it went beautifully. The mother labored at home all day and when we arrived at the hospital she was 10 cm dilated! She pushed out her baby girl and had skin-to-skin right away. It all went according to plan.
So when I arrived to her apartment two days later I wasn't prepared for what I encountered. Her little one was wailing in her bassinet and the mama's face was streaked with her own tears.
"My breasts!" she exclaimed and threw open her shirt. They were large, bright red and painfully engorged. I wracked my new doula brain for what to do; we got her little one settled down and latched on, but it was at that moment that I realized that the entire birth process tends to be focused on labor and birth and not so much on the postpartum period.
We found that Mama an amazing Le Leche League Lactation Consultant and she nursed her Little One until she was almost 2. Since then I have been suggesting that all of my doula clients come up with a solid Postpartum Plan. These plans can include specific thing like rules for visiting the new family after the baby is born, a chores check lists guests can help with, and creating a meal train plan. I also encourage clients to create a list of resources including lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, new parent groups and more.
Your Postpartum Plan, like your Birth Plan, should be as specific and as personalized as possible. Think of everything you could need to make your transition into parenthood easier. Having a plan can take some of the surprise out of those first few weeks.
Re-posted from Gloria Lemay Birth Blog
After the Birth, what a family needs
Posted on October 28, 2008 by gloria
This is a cross-post of a cross post originally posted in 2001, but you know what? It's still relevant. I've changed the language so that it's more inclusive of the varieties of family structure and added a few more of my own needs at the end. Did I forget anything? What did you really need when your baby came home?
“Let me know if I can help you in any way when the baby is born.” … “Just let me know if you need a hand.” … “Anything I can do, just give me a call.”
Most pregnant women get these statements from friends and family but shy away from making requests when they are up to their ears in dirty laundry, unmade beds, dust bunnies and counter tops crowded with dirty dishes. The myth of “I’m fine, I’m doing great, new motherhood is wonderful, I can cope and my partner is the Rock of Gibraltar” is pervasive in postpartum land. If you’re too shy to ask for help and make straight requests of people, I suggest sending the following list out to your friends and family. These are the things I have found to be missing in every house with a new baby. It’s actually easy and fun for outsiders to remedy these problems for the new parents but there seems to be a lot of confusion about what’s wanted and needed…
1. Buy us toilet paper, milk and beautiful whole grain bread.
2. Buy us a new garbage can with a swing top lid and 6 pairs of black cotton underpants (women’s size____).
3. Make us a big supper salad with feta cheese, black Kalamata olives, toasted almonds, organic green crispy things and a nice homemade dressing on the side. Drop it off and leave right away. Or, buy us frozen lasagna, garlic bread, a bag of salad, a big jug of juice, and maybe some cookies to have for dessert. Drop it off and leave right away.
4. Come over about 2 in the afternoon, hold the baby while I have a hot shower, put me to bed with the baby and then fold all the piles of laundry that have been dumped on the couch, beds or in the room corners. If there’s no laundry to fold yet, do some.
5. Come over at l0 a.m., make me eggs, toast and a 1/2 grapefruit. Clean my fridge and throw out everything you are in doubt about. Don’t ask me about anything; just use your best judgment.
6. Put a sign on my door saying “Dear Friends and Family, Mom and baby need extra rest right now. Please come back in 7 days but phone first. All donations of casserole dinners would be most welcome. Thank you for caring about this family.”
7. Come over in your work clothes and vacuum and dust my house and then leave quietly. It’s tiring for me to chat and have tea with visitors but it will renew my soul to get some rest knowing I will wake up to clean, organized space.
8. Take my older kids for a really fun-filled afternoon to a park, zoo or Science World and feed them healthy food.
9. Come over and give my partner a two hour break so they can go to a coffee shop, pub, hockey rink or some other r & r that will delight them. Fold more laundry.
10. Make me a giant pot of vegetable soup and clean the kitchen completely afterwards. Take a big garbage bag and empty every trash basket in the house and reline with fresh bags.
Kavanah Doula Edits
11. Bring some groceries and put them away where you think they should go.
12. Change the cat litter boxes, walk the dog, feed the turtle. Be sure to give our animals a little extra love.
13. Go into our bathroom and make sure there's toilet paper and fresh towels
These are the kindnesses that new families remember and appreciate forever. It’s easy to spend money on gifts but the things that really make a difference are the services for the body and soul described above. Most of your friends and family members don’t know what they can do that won’t be an intrusion. They also can’t devote 40 hours to supporting you but they would be thrilled to devote 4 hours. If you let 10 people help you out for 4 hours, you will have the 40 hours of rested, adult support you really need with a newborn in the house. There’s magic in the little prayer “I need help.”
First posted online August 2001
Hi there! I'm Erika Davis and I'm a doula working in the Seattle and South Puget Sound area.