Let me just start by saying- I believe there is a major lack of support for families after the birth or home bringing of their new baby. With most births and immediate after care in the United States occurring in a hospital or medical setting new families only have a few bleary eyed days with extra care before being sent home to figure it out on their own. Yes you have the early newborn visits to the pediatrician- after packing up your newborn and showing up a little late, and baby needs to eat and then you have fifteen minutes in the office with the provider before they send you on your way. Or maybe you have parents or extended family that say they will come, but now grandma and grandpa are there and just feel in the way and not at all helpful. Or your aunt wont stop telling you about how she did things when she raised her children. And there are baskets of newborn clothes that need to be folded and everyone who comes by just wants to look at the baby and then leave. And what about the trash in the bathroom that needs to be taken out, but it is full of adult diapers and you don't want to ask anyone to do that.
In other places around the world some amount of time in the immediate postpartum period is recognized as a time when new parents and families need extra support. In some places there are set rituals, foods, and care that are provided to birth parents. This kind of care is known and provided within the community or family. In other places there are organized home visits with a care provider covered by the national health care system. Care providers are trained to visit new families in their home in the early postpartum days. Whether community, family or provided by trained professionals families know and expect that they will get supportive and helpful care after the birth or home-bringing of a new baby. They are not expected to go at it alone.
For most people who live in the United States we have grown up in a culture that encourages independence, to do it on your own, a bootstrap mentality. This cultural understanding is pervasive even in our most vulnerable moments, the times when we could use the most support. The weeks after a birth and early days with a newborn is one of these times. Many families expect to go at it alone and it isn't until they are deep in the thick of the experience or even sometimes in reflection months or years afterwards, that they realize that doing it alone was near impossible. How did they survive? The majority of families who have gone through it once can look back and say, yes we needed more help.
Postpartum doulas are working to change the experience for families after a birth or home-bringing of a new baby. We are trained individuals, either formally or through experience, who understand the needs of a new family. We come to your house without judgement and provide support in ways that you need (or had no idea you needed). We can help you understand what is going on with your body or baby, we can refer you to additional care if needed, we can take out that bin full of used adult diapers and fold those baskets of laundry without you asking us to, most importantly we can be a calm and supportive presence in your home as you and your family grow, learn and transition. We are a listening ear, a brain when your too tired to think, and eyes to see what needs to get done. And we don't care if you are still in your pajamas from yesterday or have been half naked all week. Go take a nap. We got you!