Step 17b: Supporting the Mother

Supporting the Mother

Upon reading this scenario, reflect on how you would support this family as a postpartum doula.

Mary is four weeks postpartum. Nursing is going well but she is very tired. She tries to get things done around the home while baby naps but the baby doesn’t nap well unless Mary is holding or lying with her. Mary is concerned as her mother thinks she is creating a dependent baby and she is frustrated she can’t keep her home tidy.

Mary is also recovering from an unplanned cesarean birth. She planned an unmedicated delivery but things did not go as planned. Her husband, though very supportive, struggles to understand why Mary isn’t happy because their baby is just fine. He thinks Mary talks about her birth experience too much.

Supporting the Mother

As doulas we have the privilege of being invited to share the journey of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood. This is a deeply intimate and life changing time. We need to be conscious of our words, attitude and body language in order to establish a positive relationship and trust with our clients. An acronym to remember is WATCH: watch your Words, Actions, Thoughts, Character, and Heart.

The first step to building a positive relationship is connecting with the mom. You do not need to pretend to know or understand her exact situation, but it is important to show interest and caring. Following S.U.P.P.O.R.T. is a very important part of providing adequate support in a professional manner.

Be positive

Find a way to compliment mom, her home, or her child(ren). If she says, “Excuse the mess!” you could say, “It’s exactly the way it can be with a new baby at home.” Or if she says, “Look at me, my hair isn’t even combed yet and I haven’t had a shower!” you could say, “Well that’s the reason I’m here to help you.” It can be hard to invite someone into your home especially when it is in a state of chaos. For a new mom who takes pride in how her home looks, this can be a source of major stress. Helping her to relax and letting her know you are not judging her for the state of her home, can help build trust in your relationship together. Let her know that you care.

All women have a level of vulnerability during this intimate journey. Showing you care through your actions, attitude, and choice of words during your visits will build her confidence. Start each visit with a time for chatting, discussing what has happened since your last visit, and being sure not to rush through conversations. Invite her to talk and simply listen. If she asks a fact based question, reply with evidenced-based answers. If she asks an opinion-based question, be sure you are clear about your opinion-based and evidenced-based answers. Being clear and honest will help to build integrity and a positive relationship.

When emotional, difficult, or personal situations come up, do not jump to share your personal story. If she asks about your personal experience, keep it brief and redirect back to her. If she asks for advice, try to help her think through the situation and make decisions for herself. Open-ended questions allow her to process her answers without suggestions.

Avoid judgments. When interacting with a diverse group of people, you are inevitably going to come across situations with which you disagree, find unusual, or that might make you feel uncomfortable. Remember it is BirthWorks philosophy that a doula “Fills her heart with compassion and is prepared to help anyone of any age, race, religion or community, acknowledging that babies are beings of love and should be met with only one language, the language of the heart.” It is helpful to remember that somethings are simply different, but not wrong. For example a new mother could say, “I’m keeping my baby in the crib so she can sleep better.” You may feel it is best for the baby to be in her arms to go to sleep. Remember, you are there to help the mother relax and to eat and sleep well and to abide by her wishes.

The Meta Message is that which is felt but not said. Therefore, be conscious of your tone of voice and body language as it can reflect how you feel. There are many ways to support the new mother, from simply listening and being there, to hands on support, and everything in between.

Application and Understanding. Enter your answers to these questions via the Submissions link below.

  1. Using the acronym WATCH, describe how you could support Mary in the text article scenario.
  2. What are some ways in which Mary’s birth experience might be affecting her and her baby in the postpartum period? Please include hormones in your response.
  3. How would you support Amanda’s family in the following scenario? Amanda is six weeks postpartum. She thought she was experiencing the baby blues but now that she is still feeling down she is a little concerned. Her partner, Mike, thinks she just needs to try harder to enjoy their baby. Amanda has considered calling her midwife but is a little embarrassed. Mike does not think she has a postpartum mood disorder, she seems too “put together” to act like the women from the news stories where they snap on their children or family. How would you support this family?
  4. You are with a new mother who is distressed that she doesn’t feel herself bonding with her new baby. She says, “Maybe it’s because she was in the NICU for three days before I could hold her!” How would you respond?

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