I was four months pregnant with my second, and I was telling my cousins how anxious I was to have a baby without my mom. I choked up every time I talked about it. There were nights when I would curl up in a ball and sob, terrified of how I was going to do this without her. At this point, she had only been gone from this earth for a little over a year, so my grief wounds were still incredibly fresh.
“You need a doula,” my cousin told me.
I barely even knew what a doula was. I asked a ton of questions, and as fast as my little fingers could search, I started browsing the doulas in my area (which was Cincinnati at the time).
That’s when I found Emily and JoEllen. The day I met them my fears and anxiety didn’t feel so unmanageable. I knew they would be a perfect fit. They cheerfully asked me questions about what I was looking for in a doula, and they listened as I told them about my anxiety of having a baby without my mom. Emily asked if I had thought about postpartum support, and I looked at her blankly, not even knowing what that meant.
To make a long story short, the postpartum support was major (and I’ll get to why in just a second). These angels dressed up as doulas saved me from a whole lot of ugly that would have inevitably come out if they hadn’t been there with me.
I’d be happy to share more with anyone who has specific questions. But for now, let’s get to why postpartum doulas are everything.
1. They’re Comfortable With Crying, Blood, Sore Nipples, and Your Dirty Laundry.
As in, really comfortable. Doulas who have been in the biz for a while have seen it all, so there’s really nothing you can do that’ll shock ’em. And even if you do, if they’re good at their job, they won’t let on that they’re shocked. They know exactly how to respond to even the wackiest postpartum mamas.
When Emily showed up to my house I was about a week postpartum. I was still bleeding everywhere. My boobs were so engorged they had their own pulse. Laundry had grown from small piles into individual barricades. And don’t even get me started on the hormones.
But Emily normalized every single thing in the moments when I could have very easily freaked the eff out. Every time I would try and explain something as a way of apologizing (such as, “I know this place is a mess,” or “Sorry you had to see all those nasty pads,” or “Don’t mind that I haven’t showered in a few days”), she would remind me that it was nothing.
“Of course it’s a mess. Let’s make a list of what you want me to work on today.”
“Girl, I’ve seen blood before. That’s nothin!”
“We’ll be sure to carve out some time for you to take a shower and rest today.”
On the second or third day I started to feel like I wouldn’t be able to live without her. I came downstairs, burst into tears, and told her just that. She hugged me and said, “Oh yes you will. I promise, by the time I leave, we will have practiced everything you will need to do by yourself so you will feel ready. But you don’t need to worry about any of that today.”
2. Your Mental Health Depends on Your Level of Support
They say it takes a village, right? Well, have you ever seen a mother who’s just given birth and didn’t have a village? It’s a sad sight, isn’t it? There are so many warriors out there who have to manage this monumental transition completely alone or with only the help of their partner. It’s probably no shock that reports of postpartum depression and anxiety are significantly increased when a woman feels she lacks support. Doctors and pediatricians will ask you if you have extra help after having a baby, knowing good and well how it can affect you and your little one if you don’t.
So if this is you, if you’re expecting a baby and your village is minimal, we need to get you some support (I’ll tell you how in just a bit).
3. You Need to be Taken Care of More than You Think
This is something that gets overlooked so freaking much. I have a sneaking suspicion it all comes down to how women are conditioned, but somehow we think we have to be able to do it all; that we only need the bare minimum when it comes to care after birth.
Every single mother feels completely worn down after having baby. The reason is simple: this experience is right up there as one of the hardest things you will ever do. Beautiful? Yes. But hard as shit. Even if you have close family members who can step in for a bit, most of them can’t drop their whole lives to be with you around the clock…or you don’t want them to be. And, believe it or not, that’s really what you need.
What you need is someone to come into your house, take inventory of your food, plan meals, make a list, run to the store, and then make those meals.
What you need is someone to walk through your house taking care of all the chores you won’t be able to get to for at least another month.
What you need is someone to be okay with emptying all the trash, nasty pads and all, and then hauling those big ass trash cans to the street on trash day.
What you need is for someone to sit down and write all those daunting thank-you notes.
What you need is someone to entertain your older children so you can sit on the couch as long as you want and hold your baby while watching The Real Housewives.
What you need is someone to wash, fold, and put away aaallll your laundry.
What you need is someone to sit with you and encourage you when the baby just won’t latch.
What you need is someone to take care of every little thing so you can go take a nap.
What you need is someone who can help answer all those weird questions you have.
What you need is for someone to remind you over and over how amazing you are and how great you’re doing with this new stage of life.
What you need is someone you can talk to and cry to and who won’t feel the immediate need to get you to stop crying.
What you need is someone to nurture you so you can recover after having a human come out of your body.
What you need is someone to just be with you. Woman to woman.
It’s probably no shock that when you are cared for this much, the emotional strain is lessened ten-fold, and you’ll actually hear yourself laugh again no matter how exhausted you are.
4. They Know What They’re Doing
They know moms, and they know babies. They know how to safely give a baby a bath. They know how to wrap that swaddle like a champ. They know about the new baby products that are worth the money and the ones that are shit. They know the latest on SIDS. They know techniques for getting your baby on a schedule. They know tips for breastfeeding and pumping. They know tips for basically everything.
JoEllen was there with me shortly after my birth and my little guy was having a hard time staying latched. As a badass lactation consultant, she was so great to have around. I was so relieved that she didn’t do what the hospital nurses were doing, which was get all up in my business, squeezing my boobs every which way while trying to force them in my baby’s mouth. I’m shocked that didn’t work. Instead, she was totally calm as she sat back and watched, gently coaching me to try different things.
Because she was calm, I was calm. She never once made me feel like if it didn’t happen right that second, my baby was going to starve. And whadya know? Her way worked.
5. They Help Build Your Mommy Confidence
Remember how I said I had that moment when I was scared I wouldn’t be able live without my doulas? It was like they knew I was going to feel that way before I did. During the last couple weeks of their time with our family, they started helping me get comfortable with doing things solo, like taking both kids out to run errands.
This was so huge. I will never forget how Emily walked me through even the little things, like getting them both in and out of the car safely and easily (put the baby in first, have your toddler keep his hand on the “circle”–the door to the gas tank–then walk around and put your toddler in).
They understood how hard it was to go from one child to two, and they talked me through all those irrational fears that I had in the beginning. I never knew how important it was to feel so empowered after having a baby. They made me believe that I could handle anything, and that was the greatest thing of all.
How to Find a GOOD Doula
This is important, so listen up. Not all doulas are good doulas. Got it? If you want to be taken care of like I was, you need a GOOD doula. A good doula knows what it means to be professional and comes with lots of education, experience, and references. Let me put a huge emphasis on references. Don’t give anyone a dime until you have received and checked (!) references.
If you can’t tell, I had an experience with a bad doula, and she proved to be flaky and unreliable. I was fortunate enough to find that out pretty quickly, so we kicked her to the curb and then I figured out real fast that I needed to do my homework.
If you live in Cincinnati, or close to it, consider yourself LUCKY because you for sure don’t need to look any further than Doulas of Cincinnati. That’s where you can find the Amazing Emily and JoEllen (and the other awesome doulas part of their team).
Also, if you live near the Seattle area (which is where we live now), I will say that Doulas Northwest comes highly recommended.
If you don’t live in either of these areas, head to ProDoula, which is a reliable website to help you find GOOD doulas close to you.
Tip: Look for doulas who work in pairs or are part of an agency rather than someone who works alone. The last thing you want is someone trying to take care of you who’s been up all night because another client went into labor unexpectedly the night before.
If you’re even the slightest bit anxious about bringing a little life into the world, please don’t try to grin and bear it. Do yourself a favor and get the care and support that you need. You’re gonna need it.
Ur a Mom Now.
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