You've waited and waited for 40+/- weeks, and the moment you've been anxiously waiting for has finally arrived. Out pops your brand new bundle of joy! After a short, sleep deprived 2 to 4 night stay in your delivery hospital, you get to bring your baby home. It's game time. The trouble is, you might not be entirely on your game.
This is exactly how I felt bringing my first child home from the hospital. Not on my game. Here I was a labor nurse with 6 years experience, a certified lactation counselor, with an excellent support system. I had meticulously planned for my birth using my own experiences as a labor nurse, taking a childbirth preparation class, packing a well-stocked diaper bag, creating a safe sleep environment for my little one, and purchasing every new baby item a parent could dream of. I was ready. "I am MOM. Hear me ROAR," I thought. Well, so I thought....pre-labor and birth experience.
I fully expected to bring my little guy home right after a relatively short 2 night stay at the hospital. Fate had other plans. After a long 26 hour labor, out popped my snuggly new bundle of joy. I was in love, but delirious. Our bedside snuggles were short lived. Unfortunately, a day after his birth it was determined that he was entirely too jaundiced and he ended up needing to stay in the hospital for an additional 2 nights under photo therapy in the nursery. Graciously, I was able to board in the hospital with him, which helped me hold onto my sanity (by a thread). On the 5th morning post birth, he was finally given the all clear to come home.
Off we drove. Our first trip home as a family of 3. Incredibly sore, relieved, exhausted, and completely overwhelmed with what to do next, we arrived at home. To say it was a jarring experience is an understatement. Determined to do all newborn care "on my own" I nixed all prospective help offerings in the butt and figured that my husband and I would have it down pat in no time. Reality set in and it was so much harder than I had been expecting. By night two, I begged my mother in law to sleep over with us because what I was experiencing with sleep deprivation and the near constant feeding just couldn't possibly be normal. What was I doing? Could I even do this? Why did I ever want this? My head was in a fog from the incredible sleep deprivation and what the general learning curve of new parenthood had in store for me (and my husband). After multiple crying episodes (both mom and baby), and about 6 weeks of stress, anxiety and LEARNING, we began finally finding our groove, and I began to genuinely enjoy my new journey as a mother. It was far from sunshine and roses from then, but boy did it improve after that point for us.
Your journey into motherhood may vary widely from my own experience. I offer my story as a way to convey that even the best laid out plans and best of intentions can fall short of the reality that is new motherhood. Your story may include another young child (or children) at home waiting eagerly for you to come back home and have you right back into regular"mommy mode." Or perhaps this is your first baby and you and your partner have limited family and friends close by to help you out with your new adventures in parenthood. Regardless, my own experience as a first time mom has made me realize that I would have benefited greatly from the services that a postpartum doula can offer you. A possibility that at the time, I didn't even entertain. Because of that, I'd like to discuss some of the services a postpartum doula may be able to offer you and your family.
I had the amazing opportunity to sit down and interview DONA certified postpartum doula, Terrah Mulligan, as she defined her role and services to me so that I could better convey them to you. Terrah has graciously offered a FREE hour of postpartum doula care for those that mention "Strong as a Mother" when booking her services as of a month of this posting! Terrah's services can booked through her company Bloom Postpartum Care at www.bloomppdoula.com. A synopsis of our interview can be found below!
Strong as a Mother (SAAM): What services do you provide your clients as a postpartum doula? For how long?
Terrah Mulligan (TM): As a postpartum doula, I typically work with the family during the first 12 weeks after bringing baby home. The services I provide vary greatly from family to family, but generally speaking I offer infant care education (including infant sleep education),
breastfeeding support and education, help with sibling adjustment and sibling care, light
housekeeping (laundry, vacuuming, nursery organization, etc.) and meal prep. Sometimes I come for a few hours a week, or for several days as first. I can also offer over night care as well (9pm - 6am). This gives you the chance to navigate nighttime feedings or gives you a break completely to catch up on sleep.
SAAM: What are the benefits of choosing to use a postpartum doula at home for support?
TM: We no longer have much of a village to help us care for ourselves during the postpartum period. A postpartum doula's main priority is to "mother the mother." It's a way for the mother to receive extra love and care so that she can focus on healing and bonding with her new baby. I do not offer any medical advice or care, but I can help you assess whether or not you should contact a professional. Having a trusted, unbiased source to go with your concerns can bring you so much peace of mind in those early days.
SAAM: Any postpartum advice you'd like to pass on to new moms?
TM: I think the main piece of advice is to just be patient and present. I see so many moms who feel pressure to get back to the way things were pre-pregnancy (whether by losing the baby weight, working out, being able to clean the house, etc), or by reconnecting with friends and family or attending to older siblings and spouse. They don't allow enough time for their minds and bodies to heal. Even the most ideal birth can be traumatic and emotionally triggering for some moms and nurturing a new life is never without struggle of some sort.
One more thing...don't be off put by the cost of hiring a postpartum doula - many doulas offer sliding scales or package discounts, and the help they can provide your family is often priceless.
SAAM: Are you certified? Through what organization?
TM: I am certified as a Postpartum Doula (CPD) through DONA (Doulas of North America). I am also fully insured and certified in infant CPR and first aid. It’s important when you start looking for a postpartum doula that they are certified through a legitimate organization. Each organization has slightly different philosophies and certification requirements so, as with everything, it’s important to do your research. You can learn more about DONA and doula care in general at www.DONA.org.
So there you have it folks, a little insight into the help that a postpartum doula can bring you and your family! Stay tuned for future blog posts where we explore other pregnancy, labor, and postpartum topics of interest. Be sure to comment below if there's anything you'd like to see featured on my next blog posting!