Tuesday | June 23, 2015

Today, many families have some idea of what to expect when they are about to have a baby. We have an abundance of information on the internet and social media that can confuse new parents and cloud their intuitive and instinctual abilities. Everyone has an opinion these days and we have moved ourselves further away from our families and villages. We are left to our own devices to figure things out and expect other things to come naturally to us. We’ve lost our villages. We’ve lost our unique wisdom of our ancestors. We no longer have memories of our mothers tending to babies, carrying them on their backs and freely breastfeeding at their will. We don’t remember our mothers soothing their babies and tending to their own needs as their sisters and their mothers nurtured them and allowed them rest in the early weeks after a new baby is born. Most of us today have never even been around one baby prior to becoming parents, let alone many babies.

Upon news of a pregnancy, many new mothers will rush to the bookstore to buy the latest what-to-expect resource that tells her how to eat, sleep, and nurture her body so that she can produce the healthiest baby at the end of her long awaited 9 month journey. She is celebrated with gifts and showers while she builds a little human inside her womb. But what happens after the baby is born? All the books she has read become faint memories and now that her baby is here she has no idea what to do. This is NOT what she has expected. If she has family near, they may come to assist her in the early days when most babies are sleepy and still adjusting to life outside her womb. She may not even have family around and feel isolated and alone with a new baby. There is often a profound sense of responsibility for this new life and it can be very scary for new mothers who are taken by surprise at the intensity of the time and effort required to take care of their infant.

When I became a postpartum doula, as a result of my own struggles with the adjustments involved in new motherhood, I began to realize that most people have no idea what we do and who we are. The lack of recognition across the North American society is an exact reflection of the need for postpartum support. All around the world mothers are nurtured and celebrated after the birth of a baby. There is a resting period where people such as relatives and friends come to help with the care of other children and attend to everyday household tasks. The mother’s only job is to nurse her baby and learn how to take care of him/her. The mother is the centre of the attention, not the baby. Many of her “visitors” will stay until she is strong and confident enough to do these things on her own.  In our society, most of our parents’ generation are still working full time jobs and often unable to commit to the time it takes to nurture and care for a new mother. New mothers often feel overwhelmed and isolated.  They are physically very vulnerable, tired, consumed and need to know that they are not alone. That is where the postpartum doula is so crucial to the new mother.

When a mother feels supported and cared for, she is more confident in her abilities to look after herself and her baby. A postpartum doula plays an important role in helping a new mom bond with her baby while drowning out all the outside noise around her. Creating a sacred space and allowing for rest is crucial to establishing breastfeeding and an abundant milk supply for her baby.  If a mother is given this time to recover from childbirth and focus on her baby, she will feel less stress and anxious which can also help to prevent the onset of postpartum depression and anxiety. Part of her recovery and healing process is being able to tell her birth story and reflect on her emotions. A postpartum doula offers empathetic listening, honest communication, compassion and nurturing caregiving while empowering the new mother to believe in her intuition and ability to make healthy decisions regarding her family. In addition, the doula acts as a non-judgemental presence in the home to offer evidence based information on infant soothing, breastfeeding support and newborn care techniques. The postpartum doula is trained to recognize when other resources are necessary and will provide timely referrals to appropriate professionals and support groups in the local community. This results in a significant positive outcome for the family.

Creating, carrying and delivering a life is an amazing feat and the transformational shift for women into motherhood should be celebrated and supported. I am honored to support families during such a remarkable transition as they settle into their new normal.

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