postpartum doula

You have an all inclusive pass, new parents. It's okay.

I was horrified this morning when a business, one that supposedly helps and supports new families, posted this on social media:

“Just because you're a mom with little ones doesn't mean that it's OK to walk around with wrinkled clothes on being all frumpy looking…. Having children doesn't give you a "look like I just rolled out of bed pass."

Really?

How about, no. Thank you. 


It's no secret, we live in a culture that tries to make women, their bodies, their needs, and their lived experience, invisible.

I’ve lost track of how many magazine articles I’ve seen, lauding this celebrity parent or that for “getting their body back in just 6 weeks” or “being bikini ready after having a baby.”  The problem is, and anyone who has given birth to a baby will tell you this, is that you don’t, actually, get your pre-baby body back. Ever. Your body is irrevocably changed by the process of pregnancy and the forces of giving birth, whether that's vaginally or surgically. You might have plastic surgery, exercise the pounds away, and hide most of the external markers of motherhood, but your body, your mind, and your spirit are all, still, forever, changed. That means your life is forever changed. You shouldn’t have to hide that, and you shouldn’t have to feel ashamed of the changes. Yet our culture sets these unreal expectations up and berates new parents for not meeting them, all when they are at their most vulnerable.  

Getting comfortable with your post-baby body and your post-baby life is a big deal! 


As a birth and postpartum doula, a professional who works with new parents and young families, what I care about is this.  Has the person I'm talking to had something nourishing to eat yet, today? Are they getting any sleep (notice I don't say enough sleep, just any sleep) and are they getting any support from their family, friends and community? 

It's the first thing I ask them.  9 times out of 10, the answer is, “I grabbed half a stale bagel which I ate standing up over the sink/over my child’s head while they were nursing/on the way to work. I haven’t had more than 2 consecutive hours of sleep a night, my partner is working double shifts/overtime/7 days a week, my parents live 3000 miles away and had to go home last week, and I feel exhausted.”

The last thing you want, when you are stretched that thin, is for someone to give you a hard time over what you’re wearing or whether or not you managed to pull a brush through your hair.

Don’t let celebrity and pop culture gas-light you or shame you for your experience. Or parenting "experts" either! Believe me when I tell you, it IS a big change and it’s okay for your priorities to shift after you have kids. Practicing good self care is a challenge when you have children. Yes, it’s necessary and it is worth doing for yourself, but you get to define what that looks like and you get to define how that works for your family. And sometimes meeting those needs means asking for help, when you’re in over your head.


The very last person who should be judging you is the person you are paying to help you. 
 

New parents, parents of small children, I salute your yoga pants, your pj’s, your leggings. You have a pass to wear whatever the hell you want to wear, and I really only have one question for you. Well, two. Are you getting enough to eat? Did you get some sleep last night? 


How can I help? 

Three "Must Haves" For Every Pregnant Person

Every baby magazine and website on the planet has a list of “must haves.” From fancy creams, essential oils, bags, clothes and baby products, everyone has their favorite.  

I've boiled it down a little bit more to my three most essential things for every pregnant person.

A positive attitude can have a tremendous affect on your pregnancy, labor and birth outcome.  


1. A good sense of humor.  You’re going to need one.


Pregnancy is fraught with change, both physiological and emotional. Changing hormones, a changing body, it’s a roller coaster! There are days where if you don’t find something to laugh about, you might cry. And there days when you will cry anyway.  Heartburn, morning sickness, a sudden aversion to your favorite snacks, no sushi for 9 months, and baby rolling on your bladder 2 stops away from home on the subway; all of these things are temporary, but they can also be inconvenient, frustrating, and very uncomfortable.


Don’t talk yourself out of the very real feelings you will experience during your pregnancy.


Give yourself the space to simply experience what is real for you, good, bad, easy, hard, conflicted... It makes the ups and downs of making a tiny human just a little bit easier.  


2. A Reliable source of take-out and well-stocked snacks.


You don't always have the energy to run down to the corner bodega or go pick up an order of 9pm egg rolls. Having a reliable, pre-planned source of take-out during your pregnancy is key. When you want Thai food, you want it now, right? 

It’s also really handy if you think ahead each week and pre-stock your favorite pregnancy snacks. Whether that’s pre-slicing veggies, bagging up smoothie fixings, making up a batch of fresh, healthy salsa, or making sure your favorite ice cream is in the freezer.  By planning ahead you’ll be more apt to make healthy choices, plus you'll feel less deprived and grouchy when you’re peckish and wanting a nibble of something right now. And if you're planning ahead, you might just think about putting some healthy (well, healthier anyway) egg rolls or chicken satay in the freezer for those days when a smoothie just won't do. 
 

A healthy berry smoothie is a wonderful pregnancy pick me up and can contribute to your prenatal nutrition. 


3. A pregnancy buddy. Someone who is there for you through it all.

It really helps when there’s someone you can call, day or night, with questions and concerns, or when pregnancy anxiety has you fretting. It’s nice to know you have someone who will squeal at the tiny jammies you just bought and get excited that you bought your first box of newborn diapers.  That stuff is fun and believe me, you need that joyful, fun support just as much as you need support for the tough stuff. Could be your bestie, your mom, your sister, and... it could also be a doula.  

It helps to know you have the rock-solid support of someone who won’t judge the choices you make for yourself or your baby.

It helps to know that you have someone in your corner who isn’t going to put in their $.02 unless you ask for it. Who, even then, is going to keep the conversation centered around what you think is best for you and your family, not their opinion. That’s what doulas do. We’re there for you, when you need a laugh, a shoulder, wisdom, support, or just a ready ear.  Your doula is going to be excited to hear that you found a super cute Doctor Who onesie or bought a car seat and your doula will be there for you if you just need an ear because your sense of humor is faltering. Your doula will help you B.R.A.I.N through important decisions and help you with research to find the resources you need, when you need them.


And who knows? Your doula might even bring you egg rolls…