What does doula care look like in the postpartum period?
As in everything with doulas, it can look different in different situations! I’ll talk first about the postpartum meeting I include in every birth doula package, and then about postpartum doula services specifically.
Postpartum Visits for Birth Clients
I meet with every birth client I serve once after they have their baby. I visit them in their own home (so no trying to leave the house with a newborn!) usually around five to seven days after baby has been born. If the client has a partner, I try to find a time where all three of us (four including baby!) can meet, so that I can honor the experiences and feelings of both new parents.
First I focus on how the new parents are doing: sleep, breastfeeding, any weird baby or postpartum healing questions, etc. My first goal is always to listen. New parents typically have so many people in their lives telling them how they “should” do things, and so few people just listening and honoring their experiences. By listening and acknowledging what the new parents are going through, I’ve helped them understand that their perspectives and observations are valid. I ask questions to make sure I understand. Then I offer some thoughts and action options. While I’m sure I fail at this, it is my goal to educate new parents about options and refer them to helpful and evidence-based resources without advocating for the “right” way to approach an issue, and definitely without judgment. I also encourage new parents to reach out to me down the road if further questions come up. I always make sure to refer to the appropriate medical personnel if needed.
Next, I shift to helping the birthing person and their partner process the birth experience. I have found three questions that I just love and that tend to spark meaningful discussion. These questions are:
What surprised you about the labor and birth process?
What met your expectations?
How has this process transformed you?
These questions allow the three of us to process the birth experience through the eyes of the birthing person and their partner. Through these questions, we can focus on what is important to them; we can celebrate what they want to celebrate and acknowledge and validate the hard things. My theatre training has helped a lot in this regard – big feelings don’t scare me. The birth of a child (and the transformation into parents) is a big life transition, and it can be accompanied by many intense and seemingly contradictory feelings. I will help clients give space to whatever they want to address.
And with that, our professional relationship comes to a close . I make sure my birth clients have had the space to discuss everything they want to discuss with me. I let them know they are more than welcome to contact me about anything at any time. And I wish them well in the rest of their journey through parenthood!
And now, on to what postpartum doula services look like!
Postpartum Doula Services
The work of a postpartum doula operates from a very similar emotional place to that of a birth doula, it’s just that the circumstances are very different. My focus as a postpartum doula, just as when I serve as a birth doula, is on my client – what are their goals, their hopes, their fears, their struggles, and how can I assist in supporting them through this life transition?
What is very different is that unlike birth, which is a defined event, the postpartum transition into parenthood is fairly nebulous as to when it ends and how it is defined. In terms of fees, that means that postpartum clients decide how long they want me to support them based on an hourly rate. In terms of what that support looks like, it means that postpartum clients have a lot of autonomy in deciding what they need most to feel their best.
Some clients, especially with newborns, just want someone to watch their child while they take a nap. Being able to sleep as a new parent without worrying about baby’s wellbeing is a huge gift, especially in those early weeks, and so that simple task provides these clients what they need. Other clients are welcoming a second or third child into their family. They need someone to help them care for their newborn, support the older siblings in their daily activities, and allow the parents to get the rest they need to recuperate and (for the birthing person) to heal. Some clients want to focus on bonding, breastfeeding, and snuggling their baby, so they hire me to take care of household activities like laundry, sweeping, cleaning bathrooms, dishes, etc. Some clients want me to hold their baby while they shower, rest, or eat with two hands. I’m happy to do it all!
As a postpartum doula, I offer access to all the same resources as my birth clients: my lending library and any information and resources that I’ve gathered which are relevant to areas in which they are wanting to learn more. I also offer basic breastfeeding assistance and ideas on various areas of newborn care and post-birth healing.
One thing that I offer in addition to all these possible duties: someone who will listen, without judgment and without agenda. I will give clients a hug when they need a hug, laugh when they need someone to laugh with them, and cry with them when they need someone to cry with them. I hold space for all the feelings that accompany this big life transformation. And I do so with compassion and respect.
I hope this helps you get an idea of what doula care looks like for clients after their babies arrive! If you want to learn more, please see my postpartum page or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!