As a doula, my number one goal is to empower women. In the birthing room, I do not speak for them, I do not make decisions for them. If I’ve done my job well, both mother and partner are educated and prepared beforehand to ask questions, to know what could happen and to make decisions with confidence.
How a woman’s birth goes isn’t the biggest factor for if she will feel positively or feel empowered about her birth experience. It is if she felt she was able to make decisions, if she was in control of her experience, if she knew why everything happened the way it did and if, most importantly, she felt supported and safe.
There is a direct correlation between how one feels about their birth experience and how one feels about beginning motherhood.
As a doula, I can help make this possible for women at the birth but, as the church, we can make this possible in the postpartum period.
Women need community, compassion, and help in the first weeks and months of motherhood.
Here are some ways that were helpful for me and have been helpful for those around me that I believe the church can do in a big way:
1. Bring meals – our community does this well! As a side note, always text the mother or father when would be best to come and offer to leave the meal on the porch if mother is breastfeeding or sleeping or just plain needs to not be bothered. Sometimes company is needed and sometimes it’s not. Be sensitive to that!
2. Small, sweet gestures – Juliann left cookie dough with the meal she brought over when Eleanor was born and left a note saying “I know you couldn’t enjoy this while pregnant.” It was small, but incredibly thoughtful and I felt cared for!
3. Don’t ask how you can help, just help – especially after the partner goes back to work, ask when a good time would be to come over and then put yourself to work – clean the bathroom, the kitchen, sweep, or do any of the chores that you can tell are overwhelming. The mother needs to feel like she is able to completely focus on the baby. Make that possible!
4. Come over and hold the baby – give the mama a chance to sleep, take a bath or do something even for 30 minutes to herself. This time is few and far between in the beginning and necessary for the mother’s self-care.
5. Encourage – both mother and father that they are doing a good job. In the beginning, it feels chaotic. The mother is wondering if the baby is eating well or if she is doing anything right and same with the father. Many fathers express to me how difficult it is in the beginning because it feels like the baby needs the mom most of the time which is true. But fathers, the mother needs you. Take care of her, encourage her, hold the baby, give her time to adjust and soon the baby will be bonding with you too.