What new parent wouldn't want a relaxing soak or a dreamy hour to snooze? Many new parents can only imagine this being real, and many believe they aren't deserving of such a postpartum reality. It's hard to believe, I know. If you ask any new mother about treating themselves to some downtime, most likely there will be a hint of guilt in their answer. Okay. If they aren't comfortable taking a tub (or, maybe there isn't one where they live!) or napping, how ELSE can we give new parents hands on support? How can we change the drained, overwhelmed, and exhausted face of postpartum or life with a newborn?
Many new families (many people in general) do not have the foggiest idea what postpartum care is, or what the postpartum time period looks like. We as a culture are so far removed from what the normal expectations of new parenthood are, we are left shrugging our shoulders and bringing new families endless pot pies and casseroles. A lovely gesture, make no mistake! But, there is so much more to the picture we need to address.
Let's take a few steps back. Let's put ourselves in the shoes (or slippers) of brand new parents. How might they be feeling?
Huh? Nothing positive? Well, we can't speak for all new parents, but we do know that yes, the majority of them are happy and adjusting, but why can't we focus on the downside to being the caregiver of a very high needs and dependent newborn? It's hard work, people!!! It's exhausting!! It's frustrating, confusing, contradictory, and the house isn't going to clean itself. This is why the role of the postpartum doula is important. We are not a neighbor wanting to hold your baby as you fight back the urge to cry right there on your couch because you have no idea why. Or maybe you do know why but bringing up the fact that your partner snored through the night as you fumbled, trying to get your famished baby to latch or make a bottle? Maybe you just want to make a meal for yourself but every single time you think your sweet babe is finally asleep on your chest you can put them down for 5 minutes to heat up leftovers, but they wake up fussing to be held. Kind reminder here new parents: you are doing NOTHING wrong. You may need an extra set of hands and a warm body to help you out for a bit. And that is okay! That is where the postpartum caregiver comes into action.
Let's say a family reaches out to us at Rising Tide Women before baby arrives. Possibly, they live physically far from helpful family and friends. Or, they just know themselves well, and are opting for professional postpartum support because they know they will benefit differently. Options matter. Postpartum is important to prepare for (and many of you are nodding in solidarity if you have been there). So many factors enveloping the postpartum time make it a bit of a guessing game as how to prepare best for it. The birth that precedes it plays a huge role, so Liz and I do our absolute best to help our clients get ready for baby per their vision, but always keeping options available. We meet with our clients in their homes, whether they are in Provincetown or Plymouth, Kingston or Cambridge, to learn about them and what will be most beneficial to them. We learn about their learning styles, personalities, homes, nutrition preferences, lifestyle, careers, and parenting style they gravitate towards. We want to know how you operate, what makes you happy, what stresses you, and how you cope. New parenthood is stressful no matter how all the other factors play out (can I get another nod in solidarity?).
Okay, now let's look at being hired after baby arrives. Parents are usually feeling very overwhelmed, more confused than they have ever been, exhausted, and many in shock as to how demanding a tiny person really is. And how loud they can get, especially at 2 am when you might've been in a deep slumber. It's enough to rock us to the core, and it's really hard to brace yourself for. But, this is why your support system at Rising Tide Women is here. Even if you are a month into newborn life, you can call us. We won't come into your homes and save you, but we will teach you, love you, and not leave you until you have a sense of peace.
A day in the life of postpartum support may look like this:
Liz or I arrive at your home. Maybe we ran a few quick errands for you on our way over (groceries, smoothie pick up, dog food restock, cleaners, etc.). Per your instructions, we either let ourselves in or wait for you to greet us at the door. You are met with immediate love, a smile, and ears to listen, because sometimes a parent has had "one of those nights" or mornings, and they need to unload before they explode. We wash our hands and many times are handed a baby by the parent who hasn't had their arms to themselves in 10 hours. As a mother three times, I can tell you that handing off a clingy baby feels great, even if it's just for a moment to pee alone.
From there on, it is all about meeting the needs of the parents and baby, without the parents having to give much thought. It can mean sitting comfortably on the couch nest together, baby held in loving arms as a parent releases thoughts and emotions. Sometimes tea is involved. The constant in this picture is VALIDATION. It is that listening without always jumping to an answer or solution, but just honoring what a person has to say and giving them a safe place to say it. It's not always pretty, so we hold space. We hold the vulnerable in our hearts, and when the time is right, we let the family know that "it's okay". We then look to start exploring how we can pitch in and make a positive difference in their parenting experience.
Postpartum care also looks like Liz or me preparing and creating meals for your family. Our postpartum care is us cleaning the kitchen before we move onto the next task! Maybe the dishes have piled up or the dishwasher needs emptying. We got it, please feel free to put your feet up and feed your baby as we joyfully work to make your life a little less chaotic. It is us tending to the laundry piles that taunts you, washing, drying, folding, and putting away whatever you want us to per your instructions.
Our postpartum support is also giving you the freedom to maybe "take 5" (and we ALWAYS encourage our clients to take all the time they need), and step away from the baby duty for a bit. Do you need a shower? Do you need to send emails and return voicemails? Do you want to do some yoga up in your room? Do you really want a nap? Go get it, we want you to feel as refreshed as possible after our shift is over. These are simple yet profound things we know that you deserve, because we have been there and know the power of asking for help. We live for helping new parents. We are a click away.
Lindsay Miller is a certified labor doula, certified birth educator, RN-BSN, mother of 3 boys under 10, partner to her fabulous husband Shaun, and puppy crazy over her 12 week old mix, Rosebud. Lindsay resides in Kingston, MA on the south shore. She and Liz Libby serve postpartum families from Cape Cod up through the South Shore, to parts of Greater Boston.