Recently, I came across an article highlighting the differences between how American mothers are treated before and after birthing their children as compared to the treatment of mothers in different cultures. The article was eye-opening in many ways. While reading about how little support American mothers encounter after having children—and how completely different an experience this is from other cultures—I started thinking about the birthing experience I had with my son.
I thought back to those hours, days and weeks before and after the birth, and the support I had. I'm thankful that I did have a strong support group, made up of my husband, my parents (who provided significant support despite being long distance), and my doula.
As a first- and second-time mother, I firmly believe that having the support of a doula is extremely important. Our doula served as a friend, a sounding board, a support person during labor, a teacher, a caregiver and a wise source of information before and after we brought our son home from the hospital.
Prior to the birth, our doula came to our home for several visits, discussing and understanding our birth plan, so that when my son's birthday did come, she didn't have to ask—she already knew. She also spent time teaching my husband and me about parenting topics of interest to us, such as cloth diapering and baby wearing.
During birth, our doula held my hand, applied pressure to my back, brought me hot rice packs and even provided support when my husband became emotional from seeing me in pain and needed a few minutes to collect himself. When I began to push, she was right there at my side, just as my husband was, coaching me through, providing a gentle and calm presence that neither my husband nor I embodied at the time.
After birth, our doula again provided not only support, but presence. She visited our home and was available for breastfeeding and new baby support 24 hours a day. She also offered light housekeeping, meal preparation and just time to help care for our family. We did not take her up on the latter options, but she did teach my husband several tips, including how to run a postpartum herbal bath for me and baby. It was a simple gesture that proved immensely comforting—having someone learn how to take care of me.
Sadly, our country does focus the majority of its typical maternity care on the mother before her birth. But this doesn't have to be a norm that you accept. Whether it be female family members, friends or support persons such as a doula, surrounding yourself with people who know how to care for you after your birth is important in your path as a mother.
Jayne is a mother of one awesome little guy and a new baby girl on the way, as well as a speech pathologist. Jayne can be found on Twitter @thenaptownmama or follow her crunchy trek through parenting and a life more organized on TheNaptownOrganizer.