Ten years ago, when I was early in my postpartum doula career, I visited a home with a new set of triplets. After the feeding routine one morning, I noticed the mom had a half-finished cup of coffee, now cold. My tidy sense said pick it up and take it downstairs with the bottles to wash…but my doula heart said ask first. So I said, “I see that you have some coffee here that you didn’t finish. Would you like me to heat that up for you or take it downstairs to wash?”
The mom started to cry. “No one ever asks about my coffee--only the babies!”
No one that is, except her doula. And all at once I realized the value of my work.
She was an amazing mom. She had so much together with these 3 babies. She had a system, a schedule, was pumping, breastfeeding, bottle feeding, washing, diaper changing, and getting those babies to sleep (and one had severe reflux) --and she was managing quite well. (I’m guessing that is why others weren’t asking her about her coffee.)
She had a great husband, grandparents who loved the babies, and even a wonderful aunt that came once each week to support the babies overnight.
But doulas are different. Our job is not to come and “check on the babies” but rather to come check on the mother. We know that if mothers are well cared for, babies will be too.
That mama taught me something that day. Not just to ask before making an assumption, although that is a worthy doula skill. She taught me the value of having someone that was there FOR HER, and not just to make sure she was caring for the babies well, but for the sake her well-being and enjoyment of her own experience.
A doulas primary role is to the mother (or primary parent; be that father or grandparent or guardian). Although we are expert caregivers for babies, we exist so that babies get the best of care—which mostly comes from their mothers. Any family member can play this role, but postpartum doulas are professionally trained to honor the role of the parents and to not interfere or judge what the parents goals are but rather to support them as they get to know their baby.
You never know how much it will mean to you to have someone say, “How are you feeling today?” when you have been up all night, when your baby has been crying for hours, or you have been isolated at home while your partner goes back to work. And then for that person to help make you feel better, doing things you haven’t even thought to request.
When your doula comes over, know that her goal is to heat up your coffee--amidst all the other nurturing things she can do for you, many of them that you don’t even need to ask for. There is nothing quite like having someone there for you, who can also stand in for you while you shower, eat, or rest, and carefully following your wishes while you take time to recover from birth and the adjustment to newborn parenting.
Even better when they can magically read your mind and make you food JUST when you are about to desperately tear into those stale leftover Girl Scout cookies. Or run a sitz bath for you JUST when you pause long enough to realize that your vagina still hurts. Or clean off your counters when you can’t stand to look at them one more day. We know these things…and we can help.
If you find yourself getting lost in the flurry of early parenting, weepy and emotional, without enough sleep or self-care, drinking cold coffee day after day, consider having a visit with a postpartum doula.
Every day we are supporting moms like you in the Portland, Oregon metro area who don’t need a nanny to care for their babies, but rather someone to allow them the time to recover, learn about their baby, and get their into new mama groove. Give us a call if we can help you too. www.abcdoula.com or 503-752-1691.