by Rebecca Pazi, BWI Postpartum Student
Postpartum doulas support a family as they transition from birth into settling in as a new, extended family. The postpartum period might be one of the most challenging moments of one's life; wise, loving support can help to make this period of great transition, a little easier.
In most developed countries, we are more and more disconnected from our greater families and communities. We are most commonly living in isolated, nuclear family units. The care of mother and baby, in the immediate aftermath of birth, can weigh heavy on the family. Many women do not have the support systems in place, or know how to plan and activate their community; others might have very challenging circumstances. This is where a postpartum doula can step in.
In a very tangible sense, a postpartum doula’s primary work is to nurture the mother and baby, as well as support partners and older children. The mother and baby in particular, need special attention as they recover from the birth. This work could come in the form of caring for the baby while the mother takes a shower, preparing a nutritious meal, looking after the older siblings as the mother and baby focus on breastfeeding, or even a shoulder rub.
A doula will also provide guidance and reassurance as the parents make decisions for themselves and their baby (sleeping, nursing or bottle feeding and baby care basics etc). They are there to help parents find their confidence and independence. Additionally, they are also able to help with activities around the house such as light cleaning, meal preparation, planning and organization. These tasks might seem minimal, but can have a huge impact on creating space for the mom and baby rest and bond.
Birth is an incredible physical, emotional and spiritual right of passage. There can be moments of utter ecstasy and joy, mixed with feelings of profound doubt, grief and sadness. A doula can help to track a mother’s mental state, be a neutral listening ear when she needs to express herself and to normalize difficult feelings. A doula can also signal when additional therapeutic help is needed. PMAD’s are so prevalent in our Western societies, and it is so important that a mother's mental health is a primary focus in the months postpartum.
A doula gently asks and suggests ways in which she can be of service, as this will look different for everyone. Each family is unique, with their own struggles, dynamics and challenges, which means that doula must be sensitive, and receptive to their clients.
Doulas are present during a very powerful, raw, beautiful and sometimes messy moment in a family’s life - their whole world is changing. Doulas bear witness to this stage, walking alongside families as they rediscover themselves in their new roles.
In a larger sense, doulas provide value to the entire community. When mothers and babies thrive, families thrive, as does the entire community.