Luxury is defined as a state of great comfort and extravagant living. Many believe that luxury is only available to the wealthy and that someone who isn't that doesn't deserve to reap its benefits. Luxury can also be defined as something that adds pleasure or comfort that's not necessary to one’s life.
A postpartum doula is defined as a professionally trained person who can provide informational, physical and emotional support for a new family. It's especially important for both mother and baby during the first few weeks of motherhood. Shouldn’t a postpartum doula’s role be an essential part of recovery and transition into motherhood instead of a luxury?
For many, a postpartum doula is a necessity. In this current society, our “village” isn't close by. Many don't have the help of family or friends nearby. Many don’t ask their friends for help because many of them are in the same boat. How can we call an extra support person who can help us as mothers thrive or drown in this new role a luxury? Why are we setting up women to fail from the start by labeling a postpartum doula as such? This “luxury” is one that should be affordable for all. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
How many times have we put the care of another before our own? It’s the norm for many new mothers to do the same. They neglect themselves because they feel like they're supposed to put the baby before all else. As a result, these mothers are suffering needlessly. So, who's caring for the mother if a village doesn't exist for her? Quick answer: a postpartum doula.
A postpartum doula is trained to focus on how she can best help the mother. She guides the mother into motherhood with greater ease and confidence, provides the best practices of caring for the mother’s body after birth, and helps prepare meals so it's one less thing the mother has to so. A doula can use her expertise to watch the baby so mom can get the much-needed rest she desperately needs... Or maybe even a shower. (Is three years postpartum too late to hire one? Asking for a friend…)
Most importantly, a postpartum doula is someone the mother can talk to. They're a neutral person who gives support informationally and emotionally to help the mother make educated decisions for herself and her child. She can help recognize that a mother's struggling with a postpartum mood disorder, and can encourage her to talk to her doctor.
In this society, we spend so much money on a wedding, honeymoon or the perfect crib to match the baby’s themed nursery without much thought. Yet no one considers how you care for yourself in the postpartum period. Not only do you have to care for your newborn, but you also have to recover from delivery with hormones raging through your body and living off little sleep- all while accepting your new role as a mother. Sure, you have the aid of nurses and doctors in the hospital for the first few days. But what happens when you go home still aching from delivery, sleep-deprived and unsure of yourself?
I didn't know that a postpartum doula was someone you could hire after giving birth. I struggled with both postpartum depression and anxiety. It was a long road to recovery and felt very lonely at times. I wasn’t confident in my ability to be a mother of two, nor was I handling this role while working full time very well. Through work with both my life coach and therapist, I decided to share my story.
A friend reached out to me after I shared my story on Facebook, and we got into a casual conversation regarding this lack of support. She mentioned that she believed every woman should be gifted a postpartum doula when they left the hospital. I told her I didn’t know what that was, and she explained it to me. With her information, I began my quest to learn more. With my struggle and deep desire to help postpartum women not feel the same way I did, I pursued my certification to become a postpartum doula.
I'm passionate about the necessity of more doula support in the fourth trimester. The resources they provide are essential in caring for yourself and your newborn while juggling normal daily activities. You have someone who understands, can relate to your troubles and offer educated advice to all your parenting problems. She can offer her baby whisperer secrets from best swaddle wraps to the benefits of wearing your baby so you can get something done. They create a support system when your families and friends aren't nearby to offer their help and guidance. Also, studies show that the use of a postpartum doula during the fourth trimester helps reduce postpartum mood disorders and improves success with breastfeeding.
If postpartum doulas are a great benefit for women, why do women choose to not hire them? The biggest hurdle for many is that they believe postpartum doulas are expensive. While some may be more expensive than one would want to spend (usually during unpaid maternity leave), there are programs popping up for low-income families who could benefit from a resource like this. Some states have recognized the importance of doula support for both delivery and postpartum. While Minnesota, New York, and Oregon allow Medicaid to provide reimbursements for doula services for low-income families, I have a feeling that many more will follow in the pursuit of a better way to care for mothers, if not paying for maternity leave.
The United States paid maternity leave policies are severely lacking. Many women are forced to go back to work because they cannot afford to live without their paycheck. The benefit of having a postpartum doula help mothers with shortened leave time prepare themselves for going back to work by guiding them through baby care and allowing them to rest when needed. A mother with shortened leave may dread the end of their leave every day, and not enjoy whatever time off they have can result in very flustered exhausted mothers who may not feel confident in their abilities.
The other reasons for why postpartum women won’t hire a doula include not preparing for postpartum and not realizing how much help they'll need. Others don't want the help- either because they believe they can handle it, they have the help they need already or don't want to admit that they need help. The stigma around asking for help and appearing weak prevents a new mother from getting the support she truly needs.
There's pressure for women in western society to manage it all without asking for help. This leads to burnout, exhaustion and overall negative affect on your mental health. I saw this meme the other day that listed out expenses we encounter day to day: daily coffee habit, dinner dates, binge-watching Netflix daily, and the newest iPhone. Those expenses are compared to other items that most people deem to be too expensive: organic food, gym membership, attending a personal development conference and starting a business. The “expensive” items are actually similar in price to those daily habitual expenses. What if you put yourself first after going through childbirth, and line up the support of a professional so you can care for your baby? How would your postpartum period have changed if you had this support?