I love my job as a birth and postnatal doula. I find them both equally rewarding. It’s an honour to be part of a family’s birth experience. The joy I feel when I leave a client’s home, having fulfilled my purpose in the fourth trimester, never waivers.
When you meet your doula, before baby is born, it’s wise to clarify some boundaries. It’s rare that a doula will say no to a request... we’re here to help. However, think about the doula’s valuable skills and how you can make best use of them. Having them wait in the garden for your dog to finish its morning poo isn’t the best use of their talents or time!
The mother’s birth experience influences how they feel during recovery. Sometimes breastfeeding may not be easy and if pain relief was used, it can affect baby’s responses to feeding straight away. A debrief of the birth is a must and new parents will tell their birth journey so many times. This is so beneficial, particularly if the birth didn’t go the way the mother had hoped for. Listening to the experience from start to finish helps a doula identify potential needs going forward and helps them to understand where a new mother is at mentally, physically and emotionally. It also helps for the parents themselves to feel supported and be heard without judgement.
Each family is individual and will have their own specific needs. A good doula should be flexible and fit into many variations of the family unit. This period is an important transition for a mother, her body and indeed, the whole family. In many respects, the most important skill a doula possesses is active listening, plus providing a shoulder to cry on. Hormones and emotions run high, often heightened by a lack of sleep. Sometimes it’s easier and more useful for both parties to voice concerns, fears and questions to somebody other than a partner. A doula can help with informed decision-making with regard to every aspect of being a new parent.
There are many reasons to consider a postnatal doula, including:
A lack of support network with no family close by
Gathering information on what to expect – physically, mentally and emotionally
Considering the wider family – adjustments for siblings, grandparents and often a neutral person to help keep visitors at arms-length.
Providing support and guidance with infant feeding
Support with physical recovery, particularly after a caesarean
An extra pair of hands with baby number 2, 3, 4 or more
Support, without the opinions and judgement
Paternity leave often lasts only 2-3 weeks, so help if a mother feels alone.
As an independent worker, a doula is part of an enormous support network and if your doula doesn’t know the answer, she’ll know a doula who does! We signpost everything you will need as a new mother locally, from closing the bones ceremonies to a lactation consultant; from postnatal massage to nutritional therapy; homeopathy; placenta encapsulation; baby massage; new mums’ groups and so the list goes on.
A postnatal doula will also help with other essential tasks, including help with housework; light cooking; caring for older siblings; feeding; winding and soothing baby so mum can eat, shower, sleep or catch up on personal admin; accompanying mum to appointments; helping with first outings and so much more. Our priority is mothering the mother and each new mum has a different personality, style and baby to raise. One thing all new mums have in common is that they just need to be heard, to vent and to be reassured.
Who wouldn’t need the expert advice of a doula, an extra pair of hands and a listening ear?
Sharon Pollard, Birth & Postnatal Doula