When my firstborn came in to the world over fourteen years ago, I had no idea what to expect from the birth experience. I went into it desiring to have a "natural" birth, but I didn't really do any research. I read "What to Expect When You're Expecting." I took a brief childbirth education class at the hospital with my husband. I asked my mom to be at the birth to help "coach" me (that was before I knew what a Doula was, but she fit the description perfectly!). I intended to breastfeed but never sought out any resources to help me post-partum. All I did was briefly scan a book I borrowed from my older sister.
That birth experience was a joyful one, but I was not prepared for the "after" part (no first-time mom ever is). We set up the nursery, dreamed about snuggling our newborn, and smiled at the days to come. This was going to be a piece of cake, right?
My baby boy was so sweet, but he was so tiny, so fragile, so...new. And I was new too. A new mom trying to figure out how to nurse, change diapers, and bathe my newborn. Breastfeeding proved to be an enormous challenge. He would cry and struggle, and I would cry right with him. I was struggling too! Did I have ANY milk? Was he getting enough? Why would he cry whenever I would try to latch him to my breast? I felt like a failure. I was seriously convinced he hated me.
Post-partum baby blues hit, and they hit HARD. I was unprepared for that too. I was weepy, fragile, and doubting my abilities. Exhaustion and sickness hit me at the same time, so as I was healing, I had a cough that wouldn't let up, thus making my already sore body that much worse.
My husband was a huge help, but he couldn't help me breastfeed my baby. He didn't understand my baby blues. He wasn't sure how to console me and help me see that I WAS enough for my baby and that eventually my teeny, tiny little man and I would get into a beautiful rhythm and figure it out. I didn't really have any family close enough that could drop everything and come help me. They all worked and had their own lives and families to tend to.
What I needed back then, what I wish someone had told me I needed, was a Doula. I needed to be lovingly instructed, helped, cared for, and supported by a woman who GOT it. Who understood my need and helped meet it. Who was only a short trip away and could be there when I called for help. Who was willing to climb into those struggles with me and help me figure it out. Who could say, "Your baby doesn't hate you! He's learning just like you! You're both doing great, and together we will get all of this figured out!"
Yes, I needed a Doula.
And this is why I am passionate about what I do.
I believe that we all need that special, loving person who will come alongside us at these critical times in life, whether it be during the labor or after.
Motherhood isn't for the faint of heart. But a Doula can walk beside her on the journey and say those words every new mom longs to hear: "You can do this."
Happi loves serving families in the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago as a labor doula and childbirth educator. When she's not at a birth, she loves spending time her husband and three boys.