14 years of postpartum doula work has reinforced one thing I learned early on. The old cliché that ‘people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care’ really is true, especially in doula work. We can be the most educated doulas in the world, offering the best resources that really will change our client’s life, but if they do not feel our heart that honors their instinct about their baby, they won’t be able to hear or receive what we offer.
One thing I have learned is to really make sure those last 5 minutes count towards building confidence in my clients. Not that I don’t focus on building them up the entire time I am with them, but specifically those last 5 minutes before I go, I make sure they know that overall things are going better than they feel like they are, and that I have great hopes that things will improve very quickly. Which is true, but of course families can’t see it in the midst of their chaos. So I am sure they don’t always believe me when I say,
“Your baby is lucky to have you as parents”
“Things really are off to a great start.”
Parents of brand new newborns can usually not see past what they are going through, especially in those very early days where oxytocin is high but other more familiar hormones and sleep are pretty much gone. This is normal, and as a doula sometimes I am the only one who believes that everything will not only be ok, but actually pretty great in just a little time.
Everything we do as doulas is nurturing. Everything we say is intended to help parents recognize their own instincts and affirm them as being fully able to care perfectly for their baby. That means every cheese sandwich grilled, load of laundry folded, sitz bath run, soothing tip given for better sleep, and changing station set up for more efficiency, we are thinking of what will make our families feel competent and capable. But it only takes a minute to recognize how well things are going and how much better they are going to be. Choose those minutes at the end of the visit to show you have seen them at it, and it is all good.
So postpartum doulas, take a minute before you gather your stuff and head out the door, to really recognize your client’s abilities, your observation of their bond, and how much hope you have for them as they recover and get to know this amazing newborn. There is nothing like the affirmation of an expert that you are going to be great at this. It may be the only thing they remember from your visit, but they will probably remember it forever.