In a nut shell, postpartum doulas support families who have recently welcomed a new baby into their home. But let's crack that shell and peel back the layers a bit.
Postpartum care is multifaceted, families are dynamically unique, right down to the type of support that is needed day to day.
On the surface we provide practical help, laundry, dishes, meal prep and other light household duties. We play with siblings, walk the dog, ensure you are well nourished and comfortable. I always do my best to make sure there is an opportunity for a shower/bath and some horizontal resting time, (whether you sleep or not, it will go a long way for recharging your batteries).
"What is your top priority today?"
As soon as I'm through the door and I've washed my hands, one of the first things I want to know after I've checked in emotionally is "What is your top priority today?" This may be having some nutrient rich muffins baked, tackling Mount Laundry, or having a tea in the bath undisturbed. All of these things are important and valid. The good news is, most days we do get it all done! The great thing about having a postpartum doula is knowing that you have an extra set of hands to lighten the load.
Postpartum Doulas hold space while you grow your new normal.
The other side to postpartum care goes beyond the check lists and exquisitely cute folded newborn onesies. This is where the emotional tending and holding space fits in. There isn't a "to-do" list to cross off for being truly heard and seen, a box to check for when someone sits across from you and looks you in the eye and bears witness to the break down of your previous identity and the beauty in seeing how your new self begins to shuffle into place. Postpartum is messy, it's vulnerable and it can take so many attempts to find what works for you and your baby. And guess what? A postpartum doula is a loving, knowledgable presence who helps you fumble, to listen while you work things out, with no pressure for perfection or expectation that this will happen the first dozen times. We get it. When I am with a new family they will undoubtedly ask "how do I..." or "will my baby...". And the sheer joy in this comes with a slight shrug of my shoulders and a serene smile on my face as I say "let's find out together". I am invested in the well being and success of your new family. When you finally nail that woven wrap carry, or when there's tears of exhaustion from both you and your baby, I'm here for you.
When I am in the presence of newborn I am always aware of how time seems to shift. Newborns are not in our clock-focused reality. My intention as a postpartum doula is to slow things down to their speed. There is no urgency. Things take time and while I love cuddling babies, I love even more to gently sway and hum as I sweep the other room while your body matches the breath and heart beat of your baby in your arms.
I'll be honest, affirmations are not something I have been attracted to intuitively. While I was pregnant I hung some aesthetically pleasing prints with phrases in my birthing space (I am a birthing goddess was my fave, lol ). Mostly due to nesting and feeling like that was something you "should" do to create a pleasing and welcoming atmosphere for you and your baby. Since then the idea of it all has been pushed aside. Like really, what is the point of saying something that may not even resonate with you?
As I continue my training with By the Moon as a Holistic Reproductive Practitioner there is a lot of space for self reflection and digging deep, not only is it a safe welcoming space to do so, but it is an absolute necessity. After all, we can only take someone as far as we have come. So I am following my path of self discovery and healing. But I digress.
What I have been more aware of lately is that internal voice that pops up, from time to time. Those little pokes and nags that so often go unnoticed. They may have served some purpose while I was in a different age and stage or I may have picked it up from someone else inadvertently and it became a part of me.
"I've never had great fine motor skills"
"You didn't need to eat another one"
"Hold back what you think, you might be wrong"
"You're too emotional"
Well let me tell you about my aha moment, this past week.
I do use affirmations every.single.day!
But they are not the ideals and thoughts that I want to be affirming in my reality. And I have decided I will no longer hold space for them to exist. The energy we are putting into our thoughts matter. We are powerful and we create our own reality. Now that I am more aware, what the heck do I do with this? How exactly does this look in a practical sense?
When we catch ourselves with a negative thought (because that happens to us all) we can say "clear, cancel, delete" and then follow it up with some positive affirming thoughts, even if they don't feel true at the time. I have also envisioned a gust of wind sweeping the words from my minds eye as well, if you are a visual person, like me. This will most definitely be a work in progress, and will be anything but linear.
Find an affirmation that resonates with you, spend a week or so journaling about what it brings up for you. Affirmations work best when practised on a regular basis over a period of time. Conversely it may just be that the affirmations that make us the most uncomfortable may be the ones that we need to bring in the most and where there may be the most room for healing. Feel out what may work best for you at this time.
Having a solid idea on how to replace the negative self talk with positive affirmations of self love and encouragement makes me feel empowered and hopeful. My intention is that there will be a few nuggets in this post that may inspire you to let go of thoughts that are no longer serving you to your highest self.
-References: Holistic Reproductive Practitioner training manual, Michelle Stroud at By the Moon
I have stumbled upon a new threshold today.
I knew there would be a time that I would come face to face with it. But how did I find it towering over me in a blink of an eye?
I feel as though I've had my head down, wandering this path for ages.
Of course I made sure to look up from time to time; birthdays, cuddles in hammocks, blowing dandelions, and learning to ride bikes. Countless trips to beaches that are now blurred together with only some special moments saved on the highlight reel.
I have found myself meandering this path of motherhood with my three boys, alternating between trying to keep up the eagerness to see what is just around the next bend, and getting caught in a web of stillness while something ever so slight has caught and held their fancy.
I must admit, I have gotten a little lost along this path. "Lost in motherhood".
Caught up in three other beings who are burrowing their roots in the rich soil as their leaves are trembling towards the sky. I don't think I could have appreciated all that they are becoming if I didn't also stray from my own path to bear witness to their magic.
Now, I find myself no longer scanning along the pine needle covered path, nestled with ferns, looking for lost lego, negotiating the rhythm of the day, foraging for snacks or navigating conflict.
I find myself taking a deep breath and looking around. I find myself noticing the shades of green, exposed roots and nurse trees. I find that the path in front of me has narrowed slightly and there is plenty of space to begin to find myself, again.
And my first blog entry goes to play dough!
I always thought my first entry would be some deeply philosophical quest to better understanding the meaning of life. But no, life presents itself and I was inspired this morning by my two year old. Although I am not presently postpartum, and he is my baby I was taken back to when his siblings were toddlers and I did have a newborn in arms.
Now this post is in no way to make you feel obligated to go out and buy Cream of Tartar, cause let's be honest, who has time for that when you may be rooted to the nursing chair. BUT if you have everything you already need AND you love making things from scratch homemade playdough was such a joy this morning.
Mr C was all in, it literally took 5 min to warm the ingredients in the pot and get it to a point where he could take over with the mushing and the squishing.
And can I tell you a little secret? (And this is what got me to this blog post). I mushed and I squished the heck out of that play dough right along side him, Fresh home made dough is so warm and soothing. It's totally therapeutic, Even after it was all cleaned up and packed away I could still feel the lasting effects of the warm dough and the lightly used muscles in my hands. I was relieved of tension and felt calmer. Parents need to pause and take the passenger seat sometimes.
A huge part of postpartum is establishing mom/baby relationship (as it needs to be).
Sometimes creating opportunities with older siblings takes some mindfulness. Have some things in the bank to draw upon will make those touch points effortless.
Bonus - you can still play with play dough with one hand even if you are rooted to that nursing chair.
1 c Water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp of cream of tartar
1c of flour
Mix water, salt, vegetable oil, cream of tartar and food colouring in a pot over low/medium heat until warm. Then add the flour. Stir together in the pot until smooth and not sticky to the touch.
(The play dough may have hot spots, please use caution and check the temperature before handling with your hands, especially with those tiny ones).
*Originally posted 12/12/18 on serenebeginnings.ca
Muskoka based doula and Mother of 3 boys. Here you can catch some of my wandering thoughts and knack for busting myths about birth, postpartum and raising environmentally conscious kids.