Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What do postpartum parents want? Part 1

When I started training for my postpartum doula certification, I began asking parents to share with me what sort of support, if any, they received after giving birth and what kinds of postnatal care they would most value.  I've gotten an overwhelming (in an exciting way) response from parents I know personally, parents I've met through new parents' groups, and online parents. Some have hired doulas for past births and some have not.

I am enjoying these parents' comments so much that I thought I'd share some of them with you in a few installments.  Here's your first sampling of what they said:
I don't need breastfeeding support and all that, but I would pay anyone to come make me breakfast. Everything else is always covered but I don't do well without eating when I start my day. Well, I would also pay someone to help me wash my dishes afterward too. 
I would have loved to have been able to sleep. Let someone else do dishes.
I could use someone to fix herbal sitz baths/compresses, perhaps light cooking (making sure Mom is eating/drinking enough), breastfeeding support... Those would be my top needs.
Keep up with the housework and meals so I can focus on baby (and actually sleep when baby does!!).
Lactation support!
I'd like someone to help keep things tidy and someone just to CHAT with, esp. if partner must return to work shortly after babe arrives. 
My doula cooked some dishes that could be divvied up into portions and frozen before I went into labor. That was VERY helpful to me! 
I would have appreciated light housework and a prepared meal. If it was my first baby I would want breastfeeding help and general newborn care help.
I could have used food, someone to the dishes, and help with the older one. I had a really hard time doing anything for my older child -- like putting her in her highchair and changing her diaper -- without pulling muscles.
It depends on the mom, for sure. Food and laundry are huge. Freezer meals are awesome. I've been having my doula watch the baby so that I can go on dates with my older son. I also used a doula to introduce a bottle. 
My doula put the house back into order following my homebirth and washed everything. She bought meals. She cleaned the toilet -- a big one, as I felt embarrassed that it was so gross but felt like I couldn't do it myself. She changed my sheets for me. I didn't need help with breastfeeding, but she talked through the birth with me a few times. She told my husband how to keep unwanted visitors at bay and helped him know how to look after me extremely well.
I just gave birth a few weeks ago and I think that the most important thing for me is SOMEONE TO TALK TO WHO LISTENS AND UNDERSTANDS WHAT THE HELL I'M GOING THROUGH!!!! And could give me good advice on how to stop feeling the way I do sometimes and tell me why I've been crying so damn much and being so emotional.

I'm so inspired and moved by this list. Clearly, every parent is an individual, but there are also recurring needs.  I'm getting some great ideas for how to help new parents after a birth, and I feel fired up about assisting birth parents and new families. 

If you're thinking about hiring a postpartum doula, I hope this list starts to describe what one might do to support you -- as well as why it's helpful for you to be clear with your doula (or friends and family) about what you may need.

I'll continue to post responses to the question of what postpartum parents want in future posts, and please feel free to add your own in the comments.

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(Quotes above have been edited for clarity and to preserve anonymity)

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