You still may be questioning why you would want a Postpartum Doula. I will tell you a little about my own personal experience with my first-born.
I had a homebirth (for both of my children), and had read all the baby books about labor, breastfeeding, and what I should expect for each month of pregnancy. I was so focused on the labor part, I really didn’t consider what would happen once I actually had a newborn, and except for all the cute clothes and baby things I had acquired, hadn’t put much thought into what drastic changes were about to unfold in my life. I had a supportive partner at the time, and my mother was going to come and stay for a week or so. I figured I was all set!
My first was born at around 2am, after a normal 24-hour labor. I had no complications during that time, but needless to say was exhausted. My newborn however, was seemingly not tired at all that night! I tried to breastfeed, and did "ok", but as my partner was male he couldn’t exactly give me any pointers, and my mother had bottle-fed us so I had absolutely no idea if I was nursing correctly. It may seem silly, but I hadn’t even thought about the fact that my breasts aren’t see-through, so I couldn’t know how much milk my baby was taking in (or if he was). He cried a lot that first (and second and third) night. As most parents, even years and years later can tell you, with a slight mischievous look in their eyes, of their first night home with their newborn(s).
So for a few days I had some physical support. My mother and partner (as well as other family members who stopped by), held my newborn and I was able to rest and eat and recover. I had a terrible time breastfeeding and will spare you the details, but it involved pumping on one side, nursing on the other and occasionally using a nipple shield for about 12 weeks until everything healed.
As with most families in Western society, the non-birthing caregiver has a day or two before they need to or are expected to go back to work. There goes one support system. Then my mother also had to return to her life, and just like that, I had a week old infant all to myself, breastfeeding problems, and of course all of those hormonal shifts that make new parents laugh and cry at the same time.
I was so unsure of my new role as this child’s caregiver. I had a sudden fear that if I left him for a minute to shower and couldn’t see or hear him then something terrible would happen. I couldn’t swaddle, I didn’t know when I was supposed to cut his nails, wasn’t sure if I was breastfeeding correctly, and was either hungry and dehydrated or having to pee all the time, but my little one would only (and I mean only) sleep when I was holding him.
We didn’t leave the house much in that first month. A few doctor appointments, and a few walks (but it was June and I did not have a great babycarrier for June weather), and a few friends who would stop by, and that was it. By the end of week two my partner and I were fighting fairly regularly due to lack of sleep, my hormones, his desire to bond with the baby but unsure how, the house being a mess, and also all those breastfeeding troubles.
So even after a peaceful birth, I found myself struggling the most in postpartum. I had no idea there was even such a thing as a Postpartum Doula. If I had, I would have had a person that would have come to my home for breastfeeding support, and that may have solved the latch trouble I had before it had even escalated. I would have been able to rest, shower, cook, clean, and have someone there to assist in newborn care. There would have been someone there for support and encouragement so that both my partner and myself could learn to individually bond with the new baby, and help gain confidence as new parents. Postpartum Doulas also support and help caregivers with their emotional journey, listening to their needs and worries, and helping them process the birth experience.