I know what many of you will say when you hear about crowdfunding a postpartum doula package for your soon-to-be-mom friend.
Unnecessary, right? Frivolous? Expensive?
Maybe you’re thinking: We’re here for our friend. We’ll give her all the support she needs. We did a meal train for our last friend and she loved it!
I get that. Best friends, co-workers, aunts, cousins, and grandmas-to-be are all crucially beneficial to a mother in the first month postpartum. We cannot and will not try to replace the real benefits of the community surrounding a mother. But, let me offer some ways in which postpartum doulas are different, why their training is special, and why a meal train can’t cover everything:
- Your best friend might not do your laundry and your granny shouldn’t clean the toilet.
When people from your social circle come to see you postpartum, they are often coming to meet the baby and see how you’re doing. Maybe they’ll bring a meal. But will they clean it up after? Maybe the grandma will hold the baby while you shower, but are you going to ask her to clean the toilet?
Some of us have people who will throw in that load of laundry or tidy up the house without being asked to. But often, even a best friend doesn’t want to mess with your dirty laundry nor do you want them to. It just makes all parties uncomfortable.
On the other hand, this is what doulas do – they take care of household business! Most of them have seen it all and take initiative, so mom doesn’t have to worry or even ask for things to be done. It’s what they’re there to do. And it’s a professional relationship, so even nitty gritty tasks get done.
- There are things family and friends don’t know and won’t catch.
Nobody knows you better than those who live with you day in and day out – your spouse, mother, and best friends. But even women with healthy relationships can struggle with perinatal mood disorders, which range from baby blues to the more serious Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety. Often, mothers who struggle with this don’t get the help they need because loved ones who know her best may still miss the signs or have trouble pinpointing what’s really going on.
Hormones course through a woman after they give birth like coffee beans through a civet. And every woman’s experience is unique – your mother or best friend may have struggled differently than you and may not be able to empathize with your unique birth and postpartum experiences.
Doulas are said to be “experts in normal.” They can assure you that your thoughts and feelings are not insane. They help moms process their birth experiences and transition into motherhood and their growing families. Even more importantly, doulas know how to recognize Postpartum Depression (PPD), Postpartum Anxiety (PPA), and distinguish them from a case of the baby blues that needs a simpler emotional outlet. But if you need extra help, they provide that too, whether personally or by referral.
In addition, the knowledge doulas possess goes beyond ushering positive emotional processing. They bring their training and experience in lactation, baby quirks, and postpartum nutrition. This is a different realm than what your family and friends provide for you.
- Best friends and family members have a different role.
Doulas know how to tune into a mom and connect with her on a deep emotional level. However, that connection cannot replace the long-term, day-in-and-day-out emotional care and support that family and friends bring! When there’s a doula taking care of the behind-the-scenes work of the household, the people in a new mom’s life are free to enjoy the change with her. Bringing a new baby into the world is a time of celebration! Friends and family ought to be able to share in that joy! I don’t know if there’s any research on this yet, but I believe that this idea – people coming together just to say, Congratulations! We are so excited for you! – helps mom make that transition. It helps her overcome funky emotions and the difficult newness of motherhood. It helps her realize that the transition into motherhood – though stressful – is a good and exciting time. It helps her see herself and her family as others see her – worthy of enthusiasm and support! As Heng Ou suggests in The First 40 Days, “Ritual and acknowledgement of the mother has always helped to hold the social order in place and let mom know where she is in the large story of her life. More than a few sociologists have observed that formally acknowledging motherhood as a source of pride and power helps a woman to decrease the fear of birth and stress or even depression afterward.” (Ou, 36)
I think if more people enjoyed transitions with new mothers – purely and simply – PPD would be less and mothers would feel more peace.
So that, my friends, is why doulas are not frivolous. They may not be necessary for plain old survival. But, they sure do help a mother get what she deserves – a rejuvenating, peaceful start with her baby.