If you’ve had a kid in the last ten to fifteen years, you would be lying if you said you’ve never Googled at least once concerning your child.
When should my kid….?
What is this…. on my kid?
How do I….?
Our first child was born in Japan in Yokosuka Naval Hospital. We did not have the room for a mother or mother-in-law to stay with us in our tiny Japanese house nor did we think we needed the extra help. I was fiercely independent at the time and thought it would be too much stress to host a family member AND have a kid.
Oh, did I miss out.
Just weeks after the birth my husband deployed and it was solely up to me to observe, contemplate and diagnose the symptoms that came from every pore of my sweet little baby. I was a studious mom leading up to labor, and I knew about the stages of poop, the immediate weight loss and need to feed throughout the night. But no amount of reading can prepare you for the fire hose of seemingly critical symptoms that exude from your kid. With the absence of a grandma to calm the irrational fears that every mother feels, I did what every other millennial does: I turned to Google.
Some of my early google searches included:
What does Whooping Cough sound like?
Are vaccines dangerous?
When should my child turn over on his own?
What is a normal sized postpartum blood clot?
When do babies get their first tooth?
Symptoms of Mastitis
Does my baby have ACNE?!
I felt like the lady in Gilman’s The Yellow Room at times. Stuck in my lonely room, with only myself for intelligent conversation. I was alone in a foreign country, without a husband, without family, physically too weak to go out for long periods of time. This baby was all I had to focus on, and I got a little crazed at times.
With the low percentage of paternity leave available and the family sprawl that exists in America, I know that my situation is interesting but not unique. A lot of women feel the pains of isolation after giving birth. This is what leads to postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, baby blues, and the alarming trend of postpartum psychosis. The Yellow Room.
And what did I rely on? Google.
And I’m not alone! Which is scary, considering the limitations of Google. Google is a great resource, but it’s also a terrible resource. Who can you trust online? What is real and what is just a joke? Who out there is good at sounding confident but essentially has no idea what they’re talking about? How do you filter good information from bad information? I wouldn’t have had to Google eighty percent of what I did if I had swallowed my pride and asked my mom to be there with me. Matriarchal heritage is a normal thing around the world and throughout history, for good reason. The grandma provides the balance a new mom needs and is able to give her the direction to focus on the things that matter. Unless you’ve done it before, raising a baby doesn’t usually come naturally.
Unfortunately, the option for grandma to stay for an extended amount of time becomes less and less available to women. Even if a new mother has a good relationship with her own mother, grandma might have a career she can’t leave, live too far away, or their family dynamic doesn’t foster this kind of support. The silver bullet that is grandma is tough to fill with anything or anyone else.
But: postpartum doulas are a close second.
Postpartum doulas have the breadth of experience and the professional training to calm those initial fears and guide a new mom towards where she needs to focus, just like grandma. Many doulas call themselves “experts in normal.” They are able to calm those fears and temper the mind of a new mother. Before long, she is able to regain her center and move forward through the postpartum process.
Obviously: grandma knows you best, and the emotional connection you have with her cannot be replaced by anyone else. This is why in many other cultures, Postpartum Mental Illnesses (PMI) are rarely an issue, because grandmas stay with their daughters and bring peace and balance to a new mama’s life. The benefits of grandma living-in far outweigh the stress I imagined I would feel.
Although a postpartum doula will likely not have a life-long connection with you, they are proven to shine by pulling mama out of The Yellow Room and arresting the pitfall of PMIs that can ensnare a new mother. Most PMIs require treatment to go away, so postpartum doulas’ abilities to identify and confront PMIs are crucial before they become too serious. They can encourage a mother who is otherwise oblivious or anxious to seek professional help and to discuss it with their doctor. And because they have experienced many women’s journeys into motherhood, they have seen all the angles PMIs can come from. Where postpartum depression may be hard to identify, a postpartum doula will be able to catch it.
Google has replaced grandma. Let’s replace Google with postpartum doulas.