Saturday, February 11, 2012

I do declare...

I'm going to be a postpartum doula!

I meant to blog last night, but instead got wrapped up in a couple of things that are coming up.  First, I paid my registration fee for a postpartum doula training course through DONA.

I have been contemplating how I wanted to and could be involved in supporting women through the childbearing year since I was pregnant with Bean.  I have decided to wade in beginning with postpartum and antepartum doula work, possibly expanding into other forms of support...we'll see! 

A what?!?  Why?
Doulas are becoming more and more common in the delivery room.  Birth doulas, that is.  These are non-medical support for laboring women.  They provide information, practical support (a back rub, relief for the labor partner, suggestions for comfort measures and laboring positions), and moral support for both the mother and her partner.  But what about after the baby's arrival?  Or what about moms on bedrest at home, unable to tend to more than their most basic needs (like getting up to pee or take a shower)?  Or women on bedrest in a hospital setting who cannot even get up to pee?  This article does a great job of outlining some things that are missing from our cultural traditions around birth and the following months.  These omissions are often thought of as pampering - as though mothers emerge fully-formed from their baby's birth and should just carry on...  This attitude leaves mothers vulnerable to the "baby blues," postpartum depression, and other postpartum mood disorders.

Personal Inspiration
We have never had family in our area, and most of my friends finished graduate school and left for jobs in other states as I entered my third trimester of pregnancy.  After several weeks of being secluded and lonely while on bedrest, the wife of one of The Beast's colleagues found out and gave me a great gift:  she organized her friends to come clean my house, prepare the house for the arrival of my baby, and bring us meals before and after Bean's birth.  And they were simply around to talk to (as they cleaned my house!!).  It was such a gift.  So there's the antepartum part - mainly for women on bedrest or needing a little extra help (or support) in preparing to welcome a baby.

As I went through that rough first pregnancy, I also began to get connected with the local birth community (mainly by taking childbirth classes and hiring a birth doula, but also by calling Bloomington Area Birth Services when I found myself 37 weeks pregnant, naked, alone, and unable to move.  Ah...symphysis pubis dysfunction...  We had some good times together...argh). 

When I was recovering (both physically and emotionally) from Bean's difficult birth, that community helped keep me from shattering.  We had about 2 weeks between Bean's birth and any of our family arriving.    I could hardly walk for the first week or two, then we struggled to breastfeed, then I came down with mastitis - twice.  Add to that the renewed grief over not having my mother there for yet another milestone in my life, the trauma of Bean's birth for my husband (he feared at times during the birth that Bean and I would die, or that I would die and leave him to raise our baby alone), and the fact that he had just spent two months taking care of bedrested me with very little help...

And enter the angels.  I joke that we had "an army" of postpartum doulas.  I don't even remember who they all were, and I know some of them were never paid a dime.  One angel would ask what we needed and would ask permission to bring in someone else to get our needs met.  Strangers were walking our dogs.  They were bringing us food (and low sodium, to boot!).  At one point while I was pumping, our favorite postpartum doula cut up that food and fed me.  They washed pump parts.  They helped me take baths, with and without my newborn. 

Help that had initially seemed "decadent" to The Beast was really a necessity - and I have come to realize that this is a necessity for all mothers, not just those who have whacky stressful experiences like mine.

This feeling that it is a necessity does bring up potential moral dilemmas for me as I pursue this work.  Bottom line:  I need to bring in income for my family right now.  So my volunteer hours, working with families who probably need the most help, will have to be kept to a minimum and/or wait until a time when my income could be considered supplemental.

So that's my exciting news!  I will take the postpartum certification course at the end of April, and I hope to start working with postpartum clients at the beginning of May.  I am not completing an official antepartum training or certification at the moment, but I think my experience on bedrest and with two high-risk pregnancies might qualify as some on-the-job training. 
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