By Mellanie Crane
“Did you know that after birthing your baby you have an internal wound the size of a dinner plate?”.
This question stopped me in my tracks. I was at a postpartum preparation workshop, it was my fourth pregnancy (but this time with twins), and I thought I already knew a lot about postpartum. Clearly, I thought, I did not.
I’m embarrassed to say that until that moment I had never even heard of a postpartum doula, let alone think I needed one. But the more I came to learn what a postpartum doula could offer, the more I knew they were the kind of support that every newborn mother needed. Sure, the other three times I had made a few meals for the freezer ahead of time, but I had never considered the other kinds of nourishment that my body needed.
A postpartum doula ensures you consider deep rest, warmth, the love and support of your village, boundaries, and the safeguarding of that sacred bonding time for you and your baby. After all, as Heng Ou says, “nourishment is a lot more than a bowl of soup; it is the sensation of being cherished and sustained”.
You may be thinking, “I have my mum and my husband around to help, I’ll freeze some lasagne and sleep when the baby sleeps, I’m all set! I don’t need a doula!” and to tell you the truth, I thought the same thing. Until the day came that hubby went back to work, Mum was sick and couldn’t come over and I found myself at home, alone, three weeks after a caesarean with newborn twins and three older kids to look after, feeling totally helpless and lost. By then it was too late for me, so I’m here to help you avoid making the same mistake, by showing you how a postpartum doula will make all the difference to your fourth trimester.
1. A postpartum doula can help you plan for postpartum
We all know that prior planning prevents poor performance, so engaging with a postpartum doula to plan for the first few months post birth is the first step you can take to give yourself, and your baby, the best possible start to a joyful life together. Navigating situations ahead of time allows you to approach possible scenarios from an emotionally neutral place and can avoid unnecessary disharmony. From communicating your support needs, setting boundaries for visitors, preparing your relationship and prioritising sleep and rest, a solid postpartum plan can take you from surviving to thriving.
2. A postpartum doula can help you harness your village
They say it takes a village to raise a child, but more so I feel it takes a village of mothers to raise a mother. In this day and age, the village can look a lot different to the ‘red tent’ days of old, and as women we need to find ways to integrate ancient connection in a modern world. Enter the mother blessing. A mother blessing is an opportunity to celebrate and honour the mother before baby’s arrival, while unifying the group of beloved women into the trusted support network to carry her through her hardest times. Many mothers are opting to hold this modern take on traditional ceremony in place of a standard baby shower, and some postpartum doulas will offer this service. Even if you don’t hold a mother blessing, a postpartum doula can still help you organise your tribe into coordinated visits or even set up a meal train for you.
3. A postpartum doula offers emotional support
You can have the most supportive partner, the loveliest, most caring mum, a sympathetic village that you have harnessed, but there will come a time that you feel like you just need to unravel your emotions with a completely impartial third party. A postpartum doula can hold space for you to completely surrender to the complexities of motherhood without judgement or opinion, and simply allow you to be as you need to be. You may feel like you don’t want to worry your loved ones, or fear that you have dissected your birth story too many times to your friends, or can’t understand why you cried when the neighbour asked you how the baby is sleeping (No? Just me? OK). Doulas are not there to just dole out advice, they are there to help you find your feet as a mother and to give you the secure space to lean into your instincts.
4. A postpartum doula also offers physical support
To have a peaceful and calm fourth trimester, your home needs to become your sanctuary. Rest is required to support your milk supply, for your body to heal and repair, and also for your mental health. You can’t pour from an empty cup, and a postpartum doula is there to ensure your cup doesn’t run dry. You might need a load of washing done, or a meal prepared for when the older children come home. Maybe your nervous system needs to switch off for a moment while someone takes your toddler to the park so you and baby can sleep. Perhaps you just want to go and get your hair done to feel human again and want someone to lighten the mental load and stay with your baby. When you’re exhausted, sleep deprived, not finding breastfeeding as easy as you thought and just need someone to adult for you, a postpartum doula can step in and leave you to do the most important thing, REST!