SUPPORT and the role of a Postnatal Doula

Another topic I’d given zero consideration to pre-small humans but boy did I value it in so many different ways post.

Silly thing is first time round, despite the difficult emotions I was experiencing, I would often bat away offers of help. What an idiot! Why did I do that? Was I trying to prove to everybody that all was fine and I had this? I don’t think I was but my automatic response seemed to be ‘thanks, that’s kind, but I’m good.’ Why was I making things so much harder for myself, unnecessary, in a time of so much change when I was most certainly not ‘good’?

Did I ask for help? Not often. I had this feeling that this was my child and I didn’t want to put others out.

Well fast forward onto small human #2 and I’ve learnt a few things:

  1. If people offer you help, and you need/want it, bite their hand off. If they didn’t mean it they wouldn’t offer. You are not putting them out.
  2. If you need help with something, ask. If they can’t/don’t want to help you they’ll tell you. Don’t assume they wouldn’t want to do it. So many people would say to me now ‘you only had to ask and we would help if we could.’
  3. Surround yourself with people going through the same experience. I made two new groups of friends in my 30s. I didn’t imagine that would happen, that I’d need that to happen, but all my friends were at work. Those ladies saved my sanity in those early days and now we’re great friends in our own right, not talking about the consistency of our child’s poo or weaning habits (very important at the time) but actually talking about us. Second time round and I’ve made friends with lovely new neighbours who are having small human #2’s and with whom I can pass my days/share my thoughts (less so this time regarding our small human’s bowel movements.)

It’s in those first few weeks post small human arrival that I felt quite vulnerable. Not so much second time round but it was still a change to our family dynamic and the need to slow down again. First time round I wanted to get up and out, I could do this. Well turns out that pushing a small human out of you is really quite a big deal and your body needs to rest. Second time round I was a lot more selfish with our space. Few visitors until I felt ready, instead focusing on the needs of my new shiny human, myself, Toby and Darren.

So it’s at this point that I introduce you to my friend Grace. Grace has a full-time job but has also recently embarked on her journey to become a postnatal doula. You can find her at www.graceandmotherhood.co.uk I had heard of doulas but hadn’t given much thought to inviting one into my home. Que Grace turning up with her Mary Poppins bag full of useful thoughtful bits and bobs to help me in those early days. The homemade flapjacks by her children were certainly most welcome. Also, que Grace on the other end of WhatsApp with her font of knowledge on all things breastfeeding when I was frantically trying to give it my all but again experiencing such difficulty. This easy access to information and her support was invaluable.

A doula may sound like an additional luxury at a time when you’re having to think about your outgoings but I would definitely recommend any mum give it careful consideration, even if your shiny new human is not your first. I’ll let you hear from her as to what her role entails and you can decide for yourself:

POSTNATAL DOULA

If I had a pound for every time someone asked me “what’s a Postnatal Doula?” When I told them what I’d do, I’d be pretty stinking rich. I’d not heard of this role until I’d started looking at changing careers in the Summer of 2017. Simply put, a Postnatal Doula looks after a woman and her family after the birth of a baby. They provide emotional and practical support and help provide information to enable the parents to make informed decisions.

In the day-to-day care of a woman, a Postnatal Doula may make many a cup of tea and top up glasses of water. They may sit and listen to a Mother talk about how she is feeling, what she is struggling with, and the Doula’s role is to sit, listen and be a reassuring presence. A Postnatal Doula may also look after the baby whilst Mum takes a nap, has a shower, or wants some ‘hands-free’ time. The Doula will never give advice, instead they will walk with the woman through those first few days and weeks, signposting to places where they can find evidence based information and make the choice that’s right for them.

The second most common question I get is “I wish I’d known about you when I had my baby!” Those of us who have had children will know how overwhelming, exhausting, exhilarating and wonderful a time it can be in the first 3 months. You’re learning how to feed your baby, what their sleep is like, how to bath and wash your baby, how often you should be holding them, what’s ‘normal’ newborn behaviour. Having a Postnatal Doula with you can be a great way to tackle these things with someone by your side, whose job it is to instil in you your maternal instinct and make confident choices in relation to the care of your baby.

It’s an all-too familiar picture these days for women to feel many pressures after childbirth. To ‘bounce back’, for the baby to ‘sleep through’, to cope with this new phase of life. In years gone by we would have been surrounded by a close-knit network of women who would support you by popping in with a hot nutritious meal, to share their wisdom, show their love and support. These days, as we are more likely to move away from our families and begin families away from the family ‘home’ this type of support can be missing. Of course, a Postnatal Doula will never replace this village of women, but a Doula can be a vital source of support at that time.

I had the honour of supporting Emma with the birth of her smallest human and with other women once they’ve had their babies. It is honestly an absolute pleasure, and I am so honoured that they feel able to let me into this precious time in their lives.

My hope is that we see Postnatal Doulas become more common, as we recognize that women need these types of support roles and that they are encouraged to accept it.

And there we have it. If you’d like to hear more you can follow my page on FB https://www.facebook.com/lightboxblogger/. You can also join Grace and me for a live chat about support and her role as postnatal doula on Wednesday from 8pm in my private FB group https://www.facebook.com/groups/2126378154353824/ We’re a friendly bunch so come join us.

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