Tuesday, April 23, 2013

What do postpartum parents want? Part 2

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 people I know personally, people 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 second sampling of what they said (Part 1 can be found here):
I want someone to tell visitors to leave! Or at least drop the gentle hint that while Mama may not want to sleep, she may not want to entertain any guests either!
All I wanted was someone else to clean my house, or at least put the dishes in the damn sink! And if I had had troubles with breastfeeding, to help with that. Someone to help me manage postpartum pain would've been nice. Advice about the cord would've been handy, too. I was too scared to touch it and freaked when it bled a little when it fell off. If It hadn't been for The Leaky B@@b i would've freaked about growth spurts and cluster feeding, too. A postpartum doula can warn new moms about stuff like that.
My husband went back to work really soon with our first and it worries me for when we have our second. i would LOVE to have someone to help with anything. I tore a lot with my first, as well, and would have loved help with that -- tips on healing, help with baths, etc. It sounds so nice!
I didn't have a postpartum doula, but I would have liked one to help with light housework and meals after my husband went back to work, to troubleshoot breastfeeding issues like latch problems, and to generally have someone to talk to who understood what my body was going through. Some warning about post-partum "fun" would have been nice too -- sweating, hormones, hair loss, etc. If they are trained in lactation counseling, then some general support and the ability to call them with questions would also be great.
I wanted lactation help and someone to meet my needs for a couple hours. Help me get comfortable with a glass of water, change my bed sheets, talk about the emotional issues I might be facing with postpartum depression, give me a massage, bring dinner for me and my family, offer encouragement and positive support, talk about how my relationship with my husband can be strengthened postpartum (because let's face it, it is NOT a very passionate or glorious time)! It's hell! I was taking care of 2 reflux newborns, it's work, and I needed someone to help me get through it.
Feed me!
I'd love someone to do light cooking and cleaning, with a knowledge of breastfeeding techniques.
Help me with the LAUNDRY!
The most helpful was when my doula would ask me what needed to be done -- and then do it -- as well as when she was being proactive and just seeing what needed to be done (housework, taking my kids outside to play, making sure we had food & water, etc.).
Our laundry was in the basement. I could have used some help in that department, especially doing cloth diapers. I had a c-section and couldn't get into bed, much less carry a load of clothes down the stairs, without help.
This is my second pregnancy. Things that would be awesome for me (in the postpartum period) would be time to have a shower/nap, help with a meal or two (or getting food prepped and put into the slow cooker, etc.), and a little bit of washing dishes/laundry. Also, I'd like breastfeeding support and good chats over tea. Little things make a huge difference.
Meal preparation would have been amazing, someone to hold and snuggle my baby while I showered, and another grown-up around to talk to and work through what just happened to me. A little help with the laundry would have been lovely, too. Essentially, I wanted an extra set of hands and a warm body to snuggle on my newborn so I could get something done.
Breastfeeding help, of course. A friend who will support and talk with me.
My postpartum doula started work when I came home from the hospital after having ECT for my postpartum depression/OCD. She was such a blessing. She helped me bond with the baby and also checked on not only my well being, but also my husband's.
Someone to talk to would have been nice, especially with my third. It also would have been nice to have someone help pick up and do dishes.
I didn't have a postpartum doula with number two, but I had my mom, who helped me with getting food to eat, getting baths ready for me, holding the baby while I napped, rubbing my back through bad afterpains, doing dishes, and looking after my older baby.
My doula helped by setting up a meal calendar and then meeting people with food and bringing it out to me (I live 20 miles out of town). She did laundry and dishes. Immediate postpartum help from my labor doula was also great. She wiped blood off of me, put new socks on me, helped me to the bathroom, even brought me tea and snacks shortly after the birth. Mine was my "placenta doula" and also fed me a bite of placenta, made a placenta print, and encapsulated it for me after the birth. I love postpartum helpers! I honestly think they are more important than birth helpers!!

I am going to repeat myself (from Part 1) here, because I'm still so inspired and moved by these entries. 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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