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Meaning of Postpartum?

What comes to mind when you hear the term "postpartum"? Or when you discover someone had the support of a postpartum doula? I have been hearing a multitude of things recently that got me thinking. For many years I served families as a postpartum doula. They would call me several months or weeks before the birth of a baby. I would go meet with them and if we felt a connection they would hire me to arrive when the baby did and take care of and educate the new family for several weeks after birth - or during the postpartum phase, commonly referred to as The Fourth Trimester.

But lately I have been hearing - oh, I didn't need that. I didn't have postpartum. Hmmm. If you gave birth...you had postpartum. That is the term for the recovery period that happens immediately after the birth of a baby.

Many new families believe they don't need help. Why would they need someone to come in and help them adjust or give time to help the birthing parent recover? My easy response is...because that is what is supposed to happen! If we take a look at other cultures around the world, women are given 40 days or 6 weeks to heal, recover and make milk if they plan to breastfeed. The community, village, tribe care for the new mother and relieve her of all her responsibilities. They clean, cook, that care of other children. In this culture we are expected to be back to work outside the home in 6-8 weeks or sooner. We actually give puppies and kittens more time with their mothers than human babies! Think about that! We also know this phase can last much longer than the initial 6 weeks.

There is a wound in the uterus the size of a small dinner plate that needs to heal. It is hidden so therefore many brush it off. After birth you have some restrictions. No lifting anything heavier than the baby; limited stair climbing; and a host of others that have an important role in the recovery process and the healing of that uterus.

In my workshops we do an activity where I draw a figure on a flip chart, hand out Post-It notes and ask the participants to start listing all the things that need to be accomplished in a typical household in one day. The results are amazing and everyone always just sits back and...looks. Wow, is a common comment I hear as an observer. Now I ask...who is going to do all that? Especially when most times partners are a bit overwhelmed and exhausted too and most feel...well, let the partner take care of that. The postpartum doula can take care of both of you.

Postpartum doulas are not housekeepers. They are not nanny's or babysitters. They are educated in what normal postpartum recovery looks like. So when anything out of the ordinary happens they know that as well! And can advise you in contacting your provider. They will listen to your story, be a companion, clean up a bit, take care of your baby while you rest or shower, educate you in breastfeeding and baby care, have resources available if you need them, make you a snack or simple meal, and help you not feel so isolated in this process.

Bottom line...they are good for families! Yes, they can help a family maneuver Postpartum Mood Disorders and Anxiety - but that is not their only super power. Family members are great in many situations but a doula can buffer that as well. Most families come to visit and hold the baby. They have an important role as well. But the postpartum doula is an objective, educated person who can swoop in, make your day, and take care of the mother in a way no one else can. And they pull this off in a non-judgmental way that makes you feel like you have a new best friend! (I provide a list of postpartum doulas for anyone interested or take a look on my website.)

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