It's a common scenario, a new parent sitting alone in their home, thinking they are the only one having challenges with the transition of becoming a family. Whether it's breastfeeding, sleep, health concerns or a sibling adjusting to the baby, it's not easy and can feel quite daunting. I remind new parents that they are definitely not the only ones going through a tough patch, but we rarely ever see what happens in other families homes in those first few weeks.
Sometimes, our idea of what it should be like is terribly unrealistic. Often, we see families out and about, they seem to be handling this transition flawlessly and we may start to judge ourselves according to what we see. What we may not realize is that their baby is likely weeks if not months older than a delicate newborn. Perhaps the birthing parent has had time to recover physically from the birth, perhaps the partner was able to take a lot of time off work to be home and help with the new baby...maybe they even had support day and night to help them all get some rest and ease into parenting. Regardless of someone else's story, it probably wasn't a breeze at first, and there are adjustments for everyone. The problem as I see it, is that we tend to go through these adjustments and challenges alone. Here in Squamish, the majority of the families I support do not have a large network of family and friends close by to help out once baby arrives. Instead of having a conversation with a relative or friend, there is a tendency to jump online to diagnose and validate our feelings but with the overwhelming amount of information at our fingertips that in itself can be its own stressor! So what to do? Well, for starters, be gentle with yourselves in this transition. And know that the majority of new parents aren't floating seamlessly through this transition. It is very important, essential really, to build your tribe and create that network of "family" and friends if you do not have that.
Meeting other families while you're still pregnant can be a great way to build this community. In Squamish we have great yoga and fitness classes, prenatal classes, community centres, HPOP etc.. Squamish Baby does a great job of listing local gatherings, I highly recommend having that site on your radar.
And remember, once your baby arrives, it's OK to stay in and go into hibernation mode. There are so many changes that take place in those first few weeks, and often the birthing parent is still quite vulnerable. Having loving support around you is one of the best things you can do for your recovery and transition into early parenting. And know that there's no right way to do this, you will always do what is best for you and your family in the moment. It gets better, it really does.
Lunamama Doula Services is fundraising to purchase a second breast pump for Squamish General Hospital!
I have seen first hand that families birthing in our local hospital could benefit from having a second breast pump. While our town continues to grow at a rapid pace, there is often more than one family at a time who need to use the breast pump, Right now, there is only one pump. Sharing the pump makes extra work and takes extra time. With a hungry new babe, waiting for the pump can add stress to a family who may already be experiencing breastfeeding challenges. It's time for a second breast pump!
A Medela Symphony Plus with a trolley costs $2650.00 and while that's a lofty fundraising goal I believe we can make it happen for families birthing in our community. Watch for upcoming events in support of this fundraiser!
Once upon a time I was a fiercely independent and strong willed individual. My first career as a dancer, ballerina to be exact, taught me perseverance and determination that I carried with me after my brief career ended. I could do anything if I just practiced hard enough and put my mind to it, even if it meant falling over and over and over... "No one else could do the pirouette for me, it was all up to me". Unfortunately, this train of thought crept into my experience as a new Mom, but the ability to get back up again after the fall had disappeared, so it constantly felt like all I was doing was falling, over and over and over again. Then slowly, and with much resistance, I branched out and started to meet people, other people who like me, had a new baby and needed a tribe.
Fast forward six years and I still feel those pangs of fierce determination to pick myself up and go full steam ahead on my own. With the help of many dear friends along the way, I've grown to lean into the hard bits and instead of refusing to grab the hand reaching out to help me up, I'm grabbing on. It's no good mucking through the shit life throws at us alone, it's much more enjoyable with a sidekick...or four!
As a doula, my replies to invites for brunch, playdates, meetings or any other type of scheduled affair are often accompanied by my constant caveat - "if I'm not a birth!" Lucky for me those replies are met with the expectation that if I don't show I'm likely at the side of a family who is about to welcome a new human into this world. And lucky for me, I've found a tribe of friends who get it. Friends that are willing to watch the kids, or who swing by the hospital with coffee and actual real warm food, or who understand why I'm asleep at 1pm, those folks are a close second to my partner, and without them I couldn't do this work.
I know how fortunate I am to have people in my life that I can lean on, I hope they know how much they mean to me and my family - and to the families I support through birth. This work has taught me many things, one of which is to say Yes when help is offered and to be humble enough to ask for it when its not. Everything is better with friends, we were never meant to do this alone, so reach out to your tribe and celebrate your triumphs or ask them to help you up if you're struggling, trust me, it's worth it!
This week of celebrating Doulas and all we do, I want to acknowledge my fellow birth workers. The ones that will back me up in a flash or that randomly show up with coffee and real food (that doesn't come in the form of a granola bar or energy chews) that make going on during a long birth possible. To those who listen when things are hard and who celebrate triumphs, thank you. Not having "colleagues" can make it a tough at times but having fellow birth workers makes all the difference!
What better time to celebrate this work than when the ground itself starts to show signs of new life. Spring equinox, return of fertility and of course...world Doula week. I don't really need a reason to celebrate this work, after-all, this work is my life, it's the kind of work that is all encompassing. And I love it. I get to witness new life coming into this world and the transformation of couples into parents and families growing by one (or two!) at a time.
Someone asked me recently what I like about this work, they couldn't fathom the late night/early morning calls to births, the long hours, the not knowing when you get to sleep or eat or see your own family. I smiled, like birth itself, it's hard to explain the most tender moments that strike right into my heart and make it all worth while. Seeing the unbelievable strength of a birthing woman as they make it through transition, watching their partner see that same strength and be beyond proud...locking eyes with a laboring woman and not speaking a word but being able to translate to her that she's safe, she's strong, she's going to be alright. Seeing a new life emerge, watching the new parents in awe of their baby, supporting the first latch...these are just a few of the moments that keep the fire burning to continue doing this work.
Image credit: Bloom Business Solutions
A quick little post to send out love to all the fabulous families I've worked with and am working with now on this incredible journey! Inviting me in to one of life's most intimate events is always humbling and always fills my heart. So here's to your hearts being full today and for many moons to come!
XOXOxo, Your Doula,
I tend to tread lightly on controversial conversations but this time I feel compelled to add my own thoughts. The experts have shared theirs and I haven’t heard one of them speak from experience. I do not have a PhD, I am not a medical care provider, but what I am is a Mother who recovered from postpartum depression, a supporter of birthing families and a supporter of fed babies. Families need to feed their babies, whatever that looks like for their individual family. Period.
The discussions are great for bringing awareness to the subjects of both breastfeeding and postpartum depression. But what it boils down to, in my mind, is that a conversation between experts doesn’t solve anything. Action, taken by individuals who care deeply for new families, individuals who are able to put their own agendas and ideas aside and listen, really listen, to what the families needs are is what is being called for here. We need to quit making assumptions and take a moment to stop and listen.
The idea that all Leaders and birth workers are staunch breastfeeding advocates is simply not true. I have never liked the term “lactovist”. We support families, yes, but not at the expense of mental health. I am especially aware of this, having been there, tasting failure on every breath, looking at my newborn daughter and feeling so sorry for her that I was so shitty at being her Mom. Feeding babies is not as simple as choosing breast or bottle, especially without support and or knowing if it’s even a choice. My own breastfeeding journey was not without challenges, we learned a lot in that first year. I never expected that the connection with my daughter would feel the strongest when I held her to my breast and fed her. Breastfeeding was a huge part of my recovery, but that’s just me, and I am grateful for it. Your journey will be different, and I am hopeful that you will find your way. And if you get lost, know that we are here to guide you, to lift you up, to celebrate your successes and validate you where you’re at in this moment.
I’ve said this many times before, we are not meant to do this alone. We are not meant to somehow know how to feed our babies when we’re not surrounded by it. If we saw it every day then maybe, but unless you work in the birth world, you probably aren’t exposed to what it’s really like in the first two weeks after giving birth. The experience of parenthood is 24/7. Even with around the clock training, starting a new job on the spot and being expected to flourish, is an unrealistic expectation. Trying to make the right decisions in early parenting while dealing with sleep deprivation and the pressure to do it “right” can make every little thing in life seem quite daunting. I strongly encourage you to reach out and ask for help, and accept it once it arrives.
The amount of shame in early parenting saddens me. It doesn’t have to be this way. There are so many of us out here who want to help you but we won’t know until you ask. It gets better, it really does. Keep reaching out.
My two cents on why just using the internet and reading some books on birth might not cut it when it comes to your labor and birth...
I am so often humbled by this work. The intensity of it, the raw emotion of it, bearing witness to one of life’s most incredible events... and sometimes it’s greatest tragedies. There have been many moments of overwhelming joy, sweet relief and deep painful sorrow and through it all it’s always felt like I am in the right place. There are times when it’s so much to carry inside that for a second, the thought of continuing to do this work scares the shit out of me. And then out of nowhere I’ll run into a past client and see them flourishing as a Mother and my heart soars, or I read a text that includes a picture of a positive pregnancy test accompanied by “so what are you up to in 8 months time?!” and I can’t stop smiling for days thinking of that precious secret. And just like any job that one loves, it’s become very clear to me that once in awhile, taking time off to recharge and refuel is what I need to do to be a better birth worker. And so, I would encourage you, Moms, to take some time today to do something for yourself. However big or small it is, you need to take time to recharge yourself, no one functions better when they are depleted.
What you do EVERY DAY for your family makes a huge difference in their lives. You are always ENOUGH. I will continue to strive to do what I can to support families in this community and if that means taking an occasional time out to reset, I’m ok with that. I too, am enough. I am beyond grateful to all the families who have allowed me to grow beside them, connecting in this precious life if only for a small time. Lucky me, what a gift.
I mention "self-care" a lot when I'm speaking with new Mothers. There are a ton of reasons for putting it off but at the end of the day, if you're not taking care of yourself, eventually, you will become depleted. I urge you to take the time to nourish yourself, you're important and you're quite likely the "project manager" of your home so treat yourself to some tender loving care.
You are worth it.
Here are some ideas to get you started, this list is not exhaustive but rather a starting point to help shift your focus towards what fuels you.
Be gentle with yourself new Mothers, this is a big transition!