What is a Postpartum Doula?

So, maybe you think you know what a doula is, right? She’s the lady who’s grabbing the fruit juice popsicles while your partner walks up and down the halls with you just after your water breaks and that woman holding you as you breathe through your next contraction…

…Or she’s the person who shows up at your doorstep two days postpartum to cook your dinner and fold your laundry while you and your husband take a nap with the baby. She might be the woman who takes your four year old to play outside while you give your newborn a bath. She could be the one who comes over with the bag filled with different kinds of cloth diapers and baby carriers to try and then helps correct your latch as your figure out how to nurse that new baby.

A postpartum doula helps with all those things that come after the birth of your baby, whether it’s helping around your house with cooking, shopping, and some light cleaning, or helping you become more familiar with the things you said you wanted to do (baby wearing, co-sleeping, clothe diapering, breastfeeding), but now that the time has come, you’re not entirely sure where to begin or how to troubleshoot.

I have recently decided to begin the certification process (through Birth Arts International as DONA does not offer a postpartum doula training in New England) and have started offering some postpartum doula services.

What does this mean for you, my lovely potential client?

I will:

  • Allow you time with your newborn by helping you with cleaning, cooking, shopping, your older children, or other chores/activities
  • Give you time to rest and relax by providing some care for your newborn
  • Can give you information and instruction on cloth diaper use and care
  • Can give you information and instruction on use of a variety of baby carriers (slings, soft structure carriers, wraps, etc.
  • Can give you some guidance in breastfeeding

Above all, I will help you to create and hold a safe, peaceful, and happy environment within which you and your family can adjust to your new roles.

Things I cannot/will not do:

  • I will not transport you or your older children barring an extreme emergency
  • I cannot perform any medical tasks (beyond CPR/First Aid, for which I’m certified) like baby well checks or checking c-section scars
  • And while I have a lot of positive and successful breastfeeding experience and knowledge that I believe is an asset, if you are having a lot of difficulties with latch, engorgement, infection, etc., I will suggest you get in touch with a lactation consultant (and I can happily help you do that!)

And a last word on safety – Obviously you want to be sure that whomever you bring into your home to spend time with your family is a safe person. I currently work for a public school district, which means I have to be fingerprinted and background checked stringently. I sort of feel the same should go for a doula, particularly a postpartum doula as she is potentially with your family a lot. I absolutely have no issue showing you my CHRC (Criminal History Record Check) certificate that I have been issued by the state of Maine (just like any other public school employee).

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Woot! Week Five!

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Week Five (June 11 – June 18)

Esitmated Due Date: February 11th, 2013

Symptoms: Muscle pulls in my abdomen, exhausted, moody, feeling like someone pierced me “up there” while I was sleeping, the beginnings of nausea, lower immune system as I’ve caught my first cold since this past winter, and headaches.

Body Changes: Extra booby and I swear I can feel the top of my uterus. I think it’s time to start those weekly photos!

Cravings: Savory, savory, savory…and sour! I had some delicious homemade pickles at our end of work BBQ on Thursday and I nearly died. They were that good!

High Point: Well, though it has very little to do with pregnancy, it was pretty great I could feel miserable at home as school is officially off until the end of August! And I was pretty excited after a few days of telephone tag I was able to schedule two appointments with All About Women and will be seeing them at the beginning and middle of July. I’m feeling a lot better about my prospects, though I did have a bit of a nightmare last night about having to have another c-section 😦

Low Point: This week I felt extra emotional. Not sure why, just very weepy and on edge. Part of me feels very silly for feeling this way, but another part wishes the people I’m around most would be a bit more understanding. I mean, I’m not intentionally being an emotional mess…I just am right now. Understanding would be appreciated.

Paranoid Moment: I’ve been surprisingly unparanoid this week. I’ve started to relax and have accepted that I am, in fact, pregnant and, hopefully, will stay that way until a healthy baby is ready to be born. I mean, I do still worry that I’ll go for my first ultrasound and there will be nothing to see, but as it stands right now, I have no reason to think that will be case.

What I did to prepare this week: I finally got in touch with All About Women and got those appointments scheduled. I also started looking at maternity clothes/accessories as I’ll probably need real maternity clothes this time since I’ll be, you know, going in public (unlike in my first pregnancy, where I became a hermit and just watched a lot of Law and Order). I also started reading The Pregnancy Book which is awesome and I highly reccomend it to expecting mommies. It has far less of the doom and gloom of “What to Expect” while still providing great information. I do think it’s missing the extra information on fetal development, but I have Your Pregnancy Week-by-Week, so that supplements what the book is missing. Also, it’s a tad bit dated, since it was written in ’97 and does repeatedly say, “The ’90s are a great time to have a baby!” This totally cracked me up since, really, there are women who could read this book and have been born themselves in the ’90s. I mean, I was born in ’88! However, that’s not say it’s not true. I’ll have to ask my mom if the ’90s is the lost decade of great childbirth experiences…

Also, I have a tentative plan of how this whole birth thing will go down, or at least who will be there. Namely, I will not be having a midwife, as far as I know, present. I will be utilizing the supplementary care provided by The Birth House in Bridgton (got to schedule an appointment, in fact). I will be having a doula. I plan to deliver, as it stands now (I may change my mind, or circumstances may change it for me), I’d like to deliver with a OB from All About Women at Mercy Hospital. I will be taking birth classes through The Birth House in Bridgton. I’m hoping this is the right combination to lead me to a successful and fulfilling and safe birthing experience for me, my baby, and my family.

What’s going on “in there”: The folks of BabyCenter say: Deep in your uterus your embryo is growing at a furious pace. At this point, he’s about the size of a sesame seed, and he looks more like a tiny tadpole than a human. He’s now made up of three layers — the ectoderm, the mesoderm, and the endoderm — which will later form all of his organs and tissues.

The neural tube — from which your baby’s brain, spinal cord, nerves, and backbone will sprout — is starting to develop in the top layer, called the ectoderm. This layer will also give rise to his skin, hair, nails, mammary and sweat glands, and tooth enamel.

His heart and circulatory system begin to form in the middle layer, or mesoderm. (This week, in fact, his tiny heart begins to divide into chambers and beat and pump blood.) The mesoderm will also form your baby’s muscles, cartilage, bone, and subcutaneous (under skin) tissue.

The third layer, or endoderm, will house his lungs, intestines, and rudimentary urinary system, as well as his thyroid, liver, and pancreas. In the meantime, the primitive placenta and umbilical cord, which deliver nourishment and oxygen to your baby, are already on the job.”

Doing

This year hit me with a bit of a crisis. I had spent nearly five years earning a degree that I had suddenly thought to myself, “What if I never use this?” It’s a scary thought, in some ways, freeing in others. While I covet the chance to have my own classroom, to plan units, to guide students through one year of their teenage lives, I am also open to the idea that may not be my path, at least not yet or in the way I had initially thought.

What’s more, there’s grad school. I’m going. At some point. I just don’t know where or how or for what. I have a list saved in Evernote on my iPad listing all the possible programs I’d like to check out, ranging from straight up education to library science to creative writing (and everything in between, it feels). I just don’t know what will be right for me, because, as a friend at work pointed out, what you get your Masters’ in sort of determines what you do for, like, ever. That’s a bit of a heavy decision.

So, I haven’t quite known what to do with myself at the moment. I’ve been going after a goal nonstop for years now, and with that initial goal crossed off my list (graduating with a bachelors’ degree), I feel lost without something else to work towards. I needed, more desperately than I realized, I think, something to work on. And I think I’ve found it.

This weekend I’m attending a doula training course. A doula, in case you were wondering, is a labor support professional, a woman who helps laboring women have the best, most fulfilling birth possible, regardless of circumstances. She is an advocate, an advice giver, a go-between for the parents and caregivers, and, in many ways, a birth partner, helping to physically and emotionally support the laboring woman in the most amazing event of her life.

I could get into the what’s and why’s in my decision to pursue becoming a certified doula, but I don’t want to – it’s complicated and long-winded and I seriously doubt anyone wants to read my explanation. But I will say that I am utterly thrilled that I have given myself this opportunity. Maybe the most exciting thing about being an adult is that I can choose to do this. For the first time in a long time I feel like I’m making a really great decision for myself entirely on my own. I didn’t consult anyone – I just did it.

This is, I think, the first step into creating a future of which I have dreamed.

Revelations, Part III

Family and career are two massive parts of my life, but those are areas that change a great deal over time. There will come a day, many years in the future, when my children will be gone and while I hope to still offer them something as their parent besides cash, the everyday duties will diminish significantly. And, though it currently feels highly unlikely, I would like to retire at some point down the road, so my career may, at some point, become a fond memory as I go down other roads (travel, anyone?).

This leaves me with my passions. What will I carry on, in some capacity, after my children have left the nest and my job is no longer my job? After much thought, research, and, admittedly, some prayer, I’ve decided I want to get the ball rolling on becoming a doula. It’s a longish process, but one that I look forward to. I’ve begun by doing some reading, which is suggested by DONA International (the organization that certifies doulas), which is only adding to my desire to work with expecting women as they work towards the most life-changing event they’ll ever experience – bringing a child into the world.

I am continually in awe of pregnancy and the process that occurs during birth, and though I currently have little desire to go back to school for my medical degree (but who knows, perhaps I will at a later time), I feel that I could be a comfort and help in the delivery room (or birthing center or even someone’s home). Any material, text, audio, and video, regarding birth is something I suck up with fiendish desire, with a fervor that used to only be reserved for Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings novels and films. It’s one of those knowledge bases that, once absorbed, stays in my mind and I can’t shake it off, even if I want to, and become a walking encyclopedia on the subject (again, very similar to how I can be with Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter). I have been thinking about pregnancy and birth constantly for several months, and not only in the context of my own possible future pregnancies, but in the context of being that “helper” to the mother as she brings forth new life.

I find something incredibly honorable, yet humbling, about working with women and their partners to bring about the best possible situation for the birth of their child. Pregnancy and birth are the most beautiful and natural processes a woman can experience in her life, and I love the idea of being able to promote that beauty amongst other women. I think in these modern times, where there is so little left that is truly untouched, it’s important for all of us, female and male, to realize that we are still so capable of doing incredible things like making new life.

The journey has begun, and while there will be a lot to do ahead of me, thankfully they are all things I truly look forward to doing and are things I will be able to do while still working my regular (awesome!) job. I plan on completing the initial required reading over the spring, applying for DONA membership this summer, and then taking either a breastfeeding or birth course over the summer as well.

I know I may be the only person who’s really excited by this, but trust me, I’m really, really excited by this. A lot.

It feels good to be following through with dreams.