Becoming A Doula… A Postpartum What???

When I began my career as a doula 19 years ago, no one I met knew what a doula was.

Today, birth doulas have become mainstream. You can hardly pick up a magazine without seeing an article urging women to hire one! Movies and sitcoms routinely portray their characters giving birth with doula in tow. And, as life often imitates art, many celebrities have publicly raved about their own birth doulas.

However, there’s another lesser known cast member you should know about in this drama called “Birth and Parenting”.

This one is content to wait in the wings while the main event takes place. But after the final act, you may very well find yourself calling for an encore. This little known character with the behind-the-scenes role is the Postpartum Doula.
According to the World Health Organization, the postpartum period is the most critical time for birthing women. Unfortunately, it’s often the most overlooked. This fragile period–when hormones and emotions are in a state of flux, when a woman’s body is recovering from birth (and possibly major surgery), when she’s trying to figure out not only how to feed her baby, but also feed herself—can be both an exhilarating and exhausting time for most women. This is where the Postpartum Doula comes in.

ProDoula, a certification agency for doulas, describes the Postpartum Doula as someone who…

“brings her experience, companionship and emotional support to parents and their newborns while providing physical, educational, and non-judgmental support. Her primary focus is on the mother’s recovery from birth and the baby’s adjustment to life on the outside. The doula is well-versed in breast and bottle feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, sleep guidance, infant soothing and general coping skills. Additionally, she assists with meal preparation, light housework and the general needs of the family during the postpartum period and beyond.”

Not to be confused with a baby nurse (who focuses strictly on care of the baby), the Postpartum Doula focuses on nurturing the whole family.

Her goal is to help the parents and siblings transition into their new roles with confidence. The plethora of often conflicting parenting advice available can be overwhelming to parents–even if they already have children. Doulas can help parents gather the information they need so they can choose what works best for their own family.

The mother’s physical and emotional recovery is another important focus of the Postpartum Doula.

Women experience a lot of pressure – both from without and from within – to “get back to normal” after birth. There’s an unspoken competition between women to be “the first”.

  • The first out of the house.
  • The first to go shopping.
  • The first to fit into her jeans.
  • The first back to work.

Unfortunately, this competition also comes with some rarely mentioned “prizes”–exhaustion, anxiety, and postpartum depression to name a few.

I propose we start a new kind of competition.

In this race, instead of trying to “get back to normal”, women will acknowledge the seismic shift that has just taken place in their universe.

They will get off the treadmill of life as long as possible and honor this time, themselves, and their babies by allowing themselves to be nurtured.

Instead of rushing to get out of the house and back to responsibilities, they will strive to stay in their pajamas and in their bed (or on their couch) for as long as possible.

They will recognize that because their body accomplished the amazing feat of growing another human (or multiple humans!) they have earned the reward of being rested, nourished, and nurtured.

In this competition, women will vie for the title of “the most”.

  • The most supported.
  • The most relaxed.
  • The most bonded.
  • The most confident.

And as the mother runs this race, her Postpartum Doula will be right by her side, cheering her on.

Compassionately authored by: Celeste Kraft of Gentle Spirit Doulas serving clients in Metro Detroit and the surrounding areas.