A tired mom with a baby.

Family Health

A Postpartum Doula is a Luxury and Privilege Most Moms Can’t Afford

Mar 19, 2018

I remember the weeks after my first child was born as a kind of nightmare-like blur of events. My prenatal fears were being realized, and my daughter was having serious trouble breastfeeding. I was furiously pumping and attempting to latch her at every feeding and using a nipple shield, which no lactation consultant would ever recommend.

I was a zombie. I have no idea which family member it was who, while visiting, asked me if there was anything they could do. I remember with great clarity, however, pointing at the sink and snapping at whoever it was, “How about those dishes?!”

It was rude, but it was sleep deprivation-induced honesty that I wish more new mothers would succumb to. Too often, new moms are left alone trying to do it all shortly after the baby comes, and I’m not sure why that is. At this point, the postpartum doula, a person you can hire to help you during the first months after giving birth, is a viable option. This doula will help with everything from dishes and laundry to watching the baby while you sleep — all the while providing emotional support.

Related Reading: Postpartum Depression Can Happy to Anyone

Sounds divine, doesn’t it? It just saddens me that we must pay someone to do this.

I’m not knocking the doula profession — they provide incredibly important services both during and after a woman gives birth. But not everyone can afford to pay for those services, and what are those new parents left with?

I remember with great clarity, however, pointing at the sink and snapping at whoever it was, 'How about those dishes?!'

Obviously, there are many scenarios where a new mom has limited resources to tap into. She could be new to the country or the city, her family might live elsewhere or she might not have much in the way of family at all. She might have friends who don’t understand how much help they could offer because they don’t have children of their own, or she could have plenty of friends with kids of their own who don’t have the time to help.

Some of these situations are more extreme than others, and might leave a new mom with no choice but to either hire someone (if they have enough money) or, more likely, tough it out alone. If an expecting mom has enough friends or family to attend a baby shower, however, she has enough people in her life who could be offering help during the first few weeks postpartum in some way. This kind of help doesn’t just give that mom a break, it can help mitigate the effects of postpartum mood disorders. Being a new parent is scary and overwhelming at the best of times, and to feel isolated on top of that is a recipe for disaster.

Related Reading: I Couldn't Wait to Get Back to Work After Having My Baby

I was incredibly lucky to have family and friends who showed up with meals, or stayed to help tidy up around the house (with that one exception). I wish this was the case for all new parents and, even more importantly, that it was a natural part of our social dynamic in western culture. Imagine how supported new mothers would feel and how that might benefit the children they were raising.

So, if you know someone who’s expecting, why not plan a meal train with friends of hers for the first month? Or, if you come to visit, offer to fold laundry or do dishes. And if it’s you who’s expecting a baby soon, just send your family or friends this article. They’ll get the hint.

Article Author Glynis Ratcliffe
Glynis Ratcliffe

Glynis Ratcliffe used to be an opera singer, but after her daughter begged her to stop singing and be quiet for the millionth time, she decided to use her inside voice and write instead. Two years later, this mom of three writes regularly about parenting and mental health for online publications like Scary Mommy, BLUNTmoms, Romper, YMC and The Washington Post, as well copywriting, editing and ghostwriting for anchor clients in various industries. Find her on Facebook, Twitter as @operagirl and her blog, The Joy of Cooking (for Little Assholes).

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