One of the most frequent questions I am asked during doula interviews is, “What is your doula style?” That is a great question and an important consideration when choosing who to invite into your birth or postpartum space. I have thought about my answer to this question over the past few months since my postpartum doula training, but my answer might change as I come to know the Houston market and what clients in this area want and need. For now, these are some of the ideas I have about what kind of postpartum doula style I would like to have.
While I hope to cultivate close relationships with my clients, I do not see myself providing long-term help, such as you might expect with a nanny or infant care specialist. I am an expert in nurturing, education, and transitions. I help bridge the gap between fresh new baby and settling into a routine as a parent.
What will I offer families as a postpartum doula?
I do not see myself as the type of postpartum doula who will arrive each day at the exact same time, staying for the exact same amount of time each day, and staying for months at a time. I see myself as the type of postpartum doula who may come at the same time each day, who may stay for the exact same amount of time, for a few weeks. And then my time will taper off as you become more confident and independent in your parenting skills. Maybe I will need to come back for a few days later on when your baby enters that four month sleep regression. Or maybe you experience late-onset postpartum depression when your third baby is nine months old and you still have two active preschoolers at home. Maybe you just need someone to come for a few hours around lunch time each day so that you can feed your baby while someone else makes sure you have lunch. Maybe you need help just long enough to get back on your feet.
I enjoy helping my clients empower themselves with knowledge. I hope to share resources with them for every step of the way. Are they unsure about vaccines, sleep training, breastfeeding, or basic baby care? I am delighted to share with my clients everything I know about how to research these topics. It is important to me to help people learn how to do their own research and how to know whether or not their sources are credible. I hope that people feel confident in their decisions after learning for themselves what works best for their families.
I see myself being the kind of postpartum doula who stays with you as you give your baby his or her first bath. I will accompany you as you get to know your baby and be a sounding board as you discover what works to make your baby happy. I will be a guide and a companion. There is no right way to take care of your baby except what works for you and your baby. I can sit and listen as you tell me how hard night time parenting is without giving you advice or asking you, “Did you try xyz?” We can come up with a plan together about what to try to help your baby sleep/eat/fill-in-the-blank better after we’ve talked about what feels right in your heart and soul and taking into consideration the research you have done. Or we can come up with no plan. I am always happy to listen and validate.
I have confidence that you are the best person to take care of your baby and that you know your baby better than anyone else on the planet. I have confidence that you will find your way on this amazing yet sometimes difficult parenting journey. It will test you and stretch you in ways that you have never imagined. It will try your relationship with your partner. I know you will find your way. I know your family will figure out how to make room in their hearts and schedules for this new little creature that has joined it. Even if you are unsure that life will ever get better, or that you will ever figure out how to be a good parent to this baby, I know you will. I know you already ARE a good parent to this baby and you are exactly who your baby wants and needs. Your baby loves you. You are an amazing parent. I know this, and I don’t mind telling you over and over again until you know it too.
I hope that I can create an atmosphere that my clients can feel safe telling me anything. I hope they can feel confident that I will not judge them. I understand that postpartum is hard and messy, and that sometimes the thoughts that we have as new parents aren’t pretty. Sometimes we may say, think, or do things that are completely out of character. I may not completely understand every situation or thought that a person has, but I have had a compassionate heart for as long as I remember. I am always striving to improve myself as a human being, and empathy is one skill that is important to me to continue to cultivate.
I also want my clients to know that it is important to me to follow certain guidelines set forth by my certifying organization that are put into place to keep everyone safe. I will not behave in ways that could jeopardize the safety of my clients, their babies, or myself.
I believe that even the tiniest among us are human beings worthy of respect, love, and care. People have teased me, even fellow birth professionals, that I ask permission before placing my hands on someone. I learned this skill early on during my educational psychology class in college and when working with middle-school and high-school students during flute lessons. When working on embouchures and trying to teach students how to feel those tiny mouth muscles, I ask, “May I touch your mouth?” When helping them learn how to breathe, I ask, “May I touch your stomach?” When working with clients on their baby’s first latch, I ask, “May I touch your breast?” When working with students in my childbirth classes, I ask, “May I touch your back, glutes, hips, etc.?” Most people think that it is funny that I ask, but it is important to me to make sure people feel comfortable with my touch and that they understand that I respect them. I also strive to show respect to babies and children. I am not as practiced with tiny babies as I am with older children, but I even try to ask little babies, “May I hold you? Would that be okay?” And I promise those sweet little babies that I will give them back to their mommies or daddies as soon as they get tired of me.
Do you need someone to help you with folding baby laundry, cleaning baby bottles, holding your baby while you take a shower or nap, help with bathing your baby, or someone to accompany you to your baby’s pediatrician appointment? I can help with that. The specifics of the practical support I offer vary based on each family’s unique needs and would be discussed in the interview.
If this sounds like the kind of postpartum doula support you would like, let’s set up a meeting! For now, I am still looking for a few more families who will allow me to serve them for at least 20 hours (per family) as I work toward postpartum doula certification through CAPPA.