It feels like I have spent a lot of time talking to people about doulas, what it means, what doulas are able to offer and the like. I realise (maybe belatedly!) that most of the time I focus on the birth bit. I guess that’s the bit most people ask questions about and so I have learned to respond in kind. The birth of a baby is a big deal – it’s a big day in anyone’s calendar but I haven’t shared so much about the other side of doula support, after the baby is born.
So, what’s a postnatal doula do? Well, pretty much whatever that mum and baby need!
My role is to ‘mother the mother’ to look after the new mum so that she can best care for her baby. In some families, this is making sure that mum has eaten, has a drink and can just snuggle up and feed her baby. Sometimes it might be giving her the chance to sleep, shower and rest while I hold the baby. Often it involves sitting and listening to a new mum, while she tells her story, sounds out her feelings as a parent, slowly re-engages with the outside world after retreating for the birth. Invariably there is discussion around feeding and sleeping and nappies and the birth and all of it specific to that woman, to that family – the themes may be similar and the signposts may be too but every mum deserves to be listened to and attended to while she tends to her new baby, while she gets to know the new life that grew inside her. That new life that is now outside and looking for milk and mum’s smell and comfort and is so small and needy. As a postnatal doula I am there for mums, in the way that helps them the best. Birth is a big deal, but then so is parenting. Being there for a family as they take their first steps together and work out how it’s all going to start to fit together is a wonderful thing.