My name is Genevieve and I’m a postpartum doula. I am also a trained yoga and pregnancy yoga instructor too. I’m originally from South Africa. I’ve been living in Cork for 20 years with my husband. We have four beautiful but wild boys and a dog. The boys are 12, 10 and for added fun we also have 7-year-old twins!
Postpartum doulas are still relatively new especially in Ireland although the word ‘doula’ is becoming more commonly known in the birthing world. I strongly and passionately believe that there is a large and important place for doulas in the community. What is a postpartum doula? A postpartum doula provides evidenced based information on things such as infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from birth, mother–baby bonding, infant soothing, and basic newborn care. A postpartum doula is there to help a new family in those first days and weeks after bringing home a new baby.
For the postpartum doula our skills are varied and really depend on each individual family. I really try to listen to the families needs and help them feel at ease as they find their way through the new baby fog.
I have two different example scenarios (not actual clients) as to what a typical day for me as a postpartum doula may look like.
My client is a first-time mom. Both mom and dad are professionals and their choice was to create stable careers before they started their family. Their extended families live a considerable distance away and their close friends work. The birth was a little traumatic and was an emergency section and mom feels a tad shaken by the entire experience. After meeting with mom and dad we sketch out a rough idea of what the family’s requirements are.
When I arrived on my first day the baby is four days old and mom is exhausted, no one has been getting much sleep and she hasn’t been eating very well either. Dad had to go back to work a little earlier than expected too. The first thing on her mind when I walked in was to bath the baby but she asked me can I do it. I suggested that I make her some breakfast and a cuppa so we can sit down and chat for a bit. She was very nervous about handling the baby whilst bathing her so I guided her through it giving her plenty of tips and found some light humour in the process, the inevitable poop in the bath or straight afterwards! Together we bathed the baby and she gained an abundance of confidence by just having an extra pair of hands and a little support.
For the rest of my time spent with the family I adapted my days to suit them based on what we had previously agreed. Some days I would put a wash on or I would hang out some laundry. I unpacked the dishwasher or ran the hoover round. On one of the days I was there mom wanted me to organise the babies clothes as she had no time to do it prior to baby’s arrival and she had so much she just didn’t know where to begin. We sorted through gifts and made a list of people to thank. All of which helped her to relax and begin to see some sense of order back in her life. Some days we sat and chatted while she fed the baby and other days I took care of the baby while she went back to bed or had a soak in the tub. On my last day I prepared a nutritious meal for both mom and dad.
When I tell people about what I do some find it hard to understand why someone would need this kind of help, let alone pay for it, when so many of us have struggled through on our own. In many cultures around the world it is believed that the postpartum period is sacred, that the mother needs as much care and nurturing as the baby and that it all takes time. With our busy lives and modern day living we have forgotten how invaluable this time is for both mother and baby and for the rest of the family. I felt this mom had amazing strength and courage to know that to be the best she could be for her new baby, for her family that she would need an extra pair of hands and she sought it out and asked for it.
My second scenario I have written to highlight how my availability may be used to its greatest advantage. As my family are still quite young and my business is too, my intention is that we grow together. My passion lies with both my family and my purpose as a postpartum doula but they have to run alongside each other in order to flourish and grow. Because of this my time allows me only to visit a client between 9.30am and 2pm, weekends I am more flexible and some evenings I may be available from 7pm onwards.
My first contact with my client was a telephone call. She told me she was expecting baby number 4. Her other children ranged from 7 years old, 5 years old and 3 years old. The youngest 2 were in crèche until 12 pm and her eldest finished school at 3.30pm.
Her main concern was how she was going to manage when she had to collect the two smallies from crèche and her eldest from school and that this would be the time she would need those extra pair of hands. She was hoping to exclusively breastfeed this time as she combination fed with her older children but felt she could successfully breastfeed if she had the support this time around. She had quite a traumatic birth experience with baby number 3 so she was nervous to say the least.
When we finalised the schedule for her and her family it looked a bit like this:
I arrived at 9.30am after her husband had helped with the morning mayhem and had taken the three children to school and crèche and himself off to work. Whilst she tended to the baby I got busy sorting the breakfast dishes. I gave the house a general tidy and popped a load of laundry in the machine and hung out a wash. I prepped snacks for mom and lunch for the kids for when they came home from school and chopped veggies for the evening meal that night. I made sure that I was like a house fairy and mom didn’t even know I was there. By the time 12 noon came around it was time to walk to the crèche to collect the two smallies. We walked home together and I’d give them their lunch. With mom’s help we had arranged for a friend of hers to collect and drop her eldest son, and I left at 2pm. All mom had to do that afternoon (that she thought was going to be her busiest time) was to spend time with her kids. She had no housework, washing or cooking to do.
Over the time I spent with her she did ask for help with the breastfeeding, so we discussed various ways she could help baby latch better. I talked her through some mindful meditations to help her relax as she was quite anxious in those first couple of days and I put her in touch with a local breastfeeding support group and thankfully all of this support was sufficient for her requirements. I did put her in touch with a breastfeeding consultant who would be available to meet with her at short notice should she need it.
Even though this particular mom thought her requirement was to have those extra pair of hands in the afternoon, together we managed to work it out to suit her needs and for me to make sure I was there to help her.
My job as a postpartum doula is not to swoop in and take over. My job is to quietly and unassumingly guide and nurture new moms. To help families find their way on their own unique path, to help them integrate to life with the new tiny person in their lives. Everyone, especially mom has to get to know this new little person and it takes time. All we need is guidance and a helping hand.
If you would like to know more about accessing my services or have any questions about what I do please feel free to get in touch with me via my facebook page. You can also stay connected with me on these social pages to access post partum tips and information www.facebook.com/helpinghandsdoulacork or my Instagram www.instagram.com/helpinghandscorkdoula
*Please note that in order to maintain privacy, the scenarios used above are examples, not real life stories, but based on generalized client experiences.