Birth Series - Part 2C; Doulas - Calm Amongst the Chaos
There is no better time to be selfish than when having a baby and directly after. It's hard sometimes for mamas to remember that because most of the time, women are expected to have their shit down when it comes to anything babies. Here's the thing though - it's chaos. No matter how peaceful your birth was or how chill your baby is postpartum, there was or will be for sure a moment of completely and utter chaos. Enter the doula.
There are two main types of doulas - a birth doula and a postpartum doula - and you should consider both. Doula is an ancient Greek word meaning "a woman who serves" and that is exactly what you can expect from both a birth and postpartum doula. Unlike a doctor or a midwife, the doula is there in service to the mother. A birth doula provides support to the mother before, during and sometimes directly after birth while a PPD provides care and support to the mother only after the birth, usually starting as soon as baby is home and ending about 6 - 8 weeks postpartum. A birth doula can help come up with a birth plan that's right for you and be able to provide ideas that you might not have even considered. During birth, she'll assist with breathing, relaxation, laboring positions, and massage. A PPD will assist in basic newborn care such as diapering, baby wearing, and soothing techniques as well as evidence based support in breastfeeding. She can also offer support for partners and siblings, light housework and meal prep.
So how do you know if you should hire a doula? Birth doulas are an amazing advocate for a mom in regards to honoring her birth plan. For moms who want a more natural route, birth doulas can serve as a barrier between you and your care provider. In the thick of birth, a mom who previously stated she wanted a natural birth might shout out for an epidural. A birth doula will run point and make sure that this is really what the mom wants. Maybe they had a previous discussion about waiting until she requests an epidural 3 times before going through with it or maybe the doula quietly reminds mom that she wanted a natural childbirth, she's doing amazing, and could she continue on a bit longer intervention free. I know that in the moments where I felt like surely I was giving birth to a baby hippo rather than a baby human, I would have gladly given up my left arm for the pain to stop but a gentle reminder that I could do this and that this is what my body was built for and I was back on track. If your partner is a bit nervous about the birth or you could see them having a mini panic attack day of, a birth doula is there to help get those ice chips or massage your back or remember to put on your birth playlist.
Your partner needs to take a break to pee during your labor but you've been using them as a literal support? A birth doula can step in! Newborn baby HATES baths (like my little guy did at first)? A postpartum doula can help find the right bathing technique for baby! (And now my fox cub is King of the Bubbles!)
Postpartum doulas are awesome and I'm not just saying that because I am one. The first couple weeks after baby is born can be stressful. You don't know this kid! All the planning you had done prior could potentially fly out the window because your new bundle of joy isn't a fan of that one soothing technique you learned or wow, are they so much harder to get still enough to diaper than that doll you practiced on! A PPD is a wealth of resources and baby knowledge and she'll be able to show you a plethora of additional soothing techniques including one that will get that squirmy baby to stay still long enough for you to get him dressed! A PPD is also great for things that you didn't even know you needed - baby chiropractor?! Postpartum acupuncture?! A Mohel for a circumcision?! - they'll have names and numbers at your disposable. They can also help assist with physical after birth care for mom like a sitz bath or running out to buy additional pads because you forgot to have someone pick those up as well as light housework so you can spend time with baby rather than time doing baby's never ending laundry. Feeding baby is a mamas number one concern and sometimes it doesn't go as planned but a PPD offers breastfeeding assistance (different latches, clogged duct care, pumping know how) as well as bottle fed assistance (bottle types, preparation and bottle sterilization) because we all know FED IS BEST!
You're probably thinking that you already have a friend/mom/sister that will be coming to help during labor or postpartum. Having a doula is still a good idea even if you think you'll already have help because (and hold onto your butts cause this is important) a doula provides UNBIASED and NON-JUDGEMENTAL assistance. Change your mind about having that epidural in birth? A doula isn't going to exclaim "I knew you'd give in" like a sister might. Feeling like you're having a hard time bonding with baby? A PPD might suggest talking to someone and not tell you that "you don't have postpartum depression, you're simply a mom now!" like a mother-in-law might. A doula isn't going to get upset if something in her toolbox isn't working for you. She's there to help you create your own toolbox! A doula is your ultimate champion, a shoulder to cry on, and arms to hug. They listen, support, and encourage you to do what's best for you as a mom. Birth is stressful and things are often forgot...but not by a doula. Life with baby can be overwhelming or lonely...but not with a doula.
Babies are crazy. They're selfish and loud and they poop their pants on a very frequent bases. It's easy for those special, magical, wonderful moments to get lost. With a doula, it's that breath of fresh air, a reset that you so desperately need. It's the calm amongst the chaos that is life.
Mamas - what was your experience with a doula? Did you even consider one?