It's 3 AM. He's crying again, and in this sleep deprived, zombie state; I hold him. I rock, walk, change, nurse. He's only content when being fed and I'm drowning. My nipples are cracked and bleeding. He sleeps in my bed until he's three years old, because I couldn't stand the tears. Well-meaning friends tell me the only way to move him to his crib is to let him cry.
I'm sure many parents find the scenario familiar. I was young when I had my first baby, and utterly clueless. I had never cared for my sisters as babies, we didn't live near family, and I was the first of my friends to give birth. The extent of my family's advice came in waves of outdated information, and the coy remarks such as, “you were like that as a baby”, “you slept on your stomach and survived!” or “I think someone needs to eat!”. I had never even changed a diaper. Furthermore, as a family full of girls; I had no idea about male hygiene. My mother had breastfed three of my sisters but no one taught me about latch. I had no idea it was abnormal to hurt so bad that I cried for nearly three months. Mental health was never discussed and I went through a period of complete emotional and physical detachment. In the beginning, he cried a lot, and was only soothed by the breast. It was hard. I felt alone.
I am a strong believer that it takes a village to raise a child. Not only in the health and care of a baby, but in the mother, as well. Babies need changing, feeding, and rest. Babies need someone to listen and help when they cry and a soft touch when they’re stressed. Moms can feel like this all falls onto them, and who will be there to mother to the mother? Babies get warm soaks in a tub and mothers get fast showers. Babies are fed every two hours while moms can't get up to fetch a sandwich. Who will be there in the middle of the night when mom is crying from the hormones and the thought of, “Oh goodness, this tiny person is relying all on me…what if I mess this up?”.
I have not forgotten about Dad. Unfortunately, in our society, if dad works outside of the home, he will probably be back to the office in two weeks or less. Dads can find it hard to connect with the new little person in their life when it's a string of: change, feed, burp, sleep, all while they’re trying to hold things together just like mom. Parents can troubleshoot these problems together, but sleep deprivation, the trauma of birth, and the ensuing never ending cycle of baby care can make connecting as parents hard.
I became a Postpartum doula after my second was born. Armed with new information and a fierce passion to make birth and parenting as easy as possible, I embarked on this journey to help families feel not so lost, not so alone.
Life as a doula is extremely rewarding. I love when babies have their first week of long sleep stretches at night. I love when moms and babies get the breastfeeding thing down. I love when parents say, “thank you for everything”. It is, of course, a bittersweet victory when families don't need me any longer. However, it is my goal to make the family unit thrive. I play the part of an educator, and I am to be dismissed when everyone comprehends the material and is implementing it flawlessly. I want a parent’s journey to be looked back on with cuddles, smiles, and quiet times of alertness, instead of memories of tears, pain, and confusion. This is why I'm a Postpartum Doula. The village is here, in people like me.