"So, You're Like a Nanny?"
Raise your hand if you really- truly, actual-factual know what a postpartum doula is?
Now if when asked to describe the role of a doula, your answer is something along the lines of, "Well, they're kinda like a nanny," then I am sorry to say, you do not really know!
A common misunderstanding of this profession (which I want to quickly say, is the best ever) is that postpartum doulas come in to love on the baby and run some laundry. Sure babies are sweet and few things in life leave me with the satisfaction as a freshly folded basket of clothes.
But postpartum doulas bring so much more to the table than tricks to soothe fussy babies and fold those (equally fussy) fitted sheets.
A postpartum doula is a trained expert in the recovery period after childbirth- and for the months beyond. The doula is someone you can feel comfortable talking with about topics such as:
I was using those ice packs in the hospital, but now I'm home and my bottom is sore- what can help?
My baby cries all the time! I don't know if she's getting enough to eat and I'm so overwhelmed I gave her a pacifier even though the hospital told me to wait a month. I don't know what to do!
My OB gave me the all clear to normal activities, whatever that means! I don't feel like I'm back to normal yet.
While your postpartum doula cannot diagnose any issues, they are equipped to recognize when something develops outside of the expected range, and have the resources to refer you to appropriate support. Even though our culture is shifting to recognize the importance of mental health, there is still a long way to go before the majority of folks understand Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs) and how to offer help to someone struggling.
Your doula is your non-judgmental sounding board when you need to tell someone about how you've been feeling, without worrying about receiving a cliche response. As a doula, I have had those tough conversations with clients as they described thoughts they had been having, then talked through their options for help. I've held their hands as they made the call to their care provider.
The fun part about this work is getting to know each family. I mean, we're going to talk about poop (basically everyone's) so we get pretty chummy!
Your doula is a buddy and a safe person. You can vent to her about intrusive relatives and the annoying night sweats nobody bothered to warn you about. And if you want balanced advice for dealing with those things, she is happy to oblige.
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