Almost without exception I hear from couples when I first meet them, “we don’t know what we need in the way of support.” This is a totally individual thing to sort out and generally a question that most expectant couple don’t know how to answer. DONA (Doulas of North America) provides a very helpful Postpartum Plan that I review with pregnant mom and partner. It can provide answers by assisting couples in assessing what support they can expect and/or may already have and the areas in which they need to supplement. It is still extremely helpful to discuss possible additional areas of support with an experienced postpartum professional.
There are several areas that parents want to consider and then determine what level of support they have in each (see the Postpartum Plan mentioned above.) These are, the need:
- for rest in the early weeks after giving birth
- to have friends who are also parents of young babies
- for nutritious meals and adequate hydration
- for knowledgeable, empowering breastfeeding support
- for support for older siblings
- for ‘Mommy and Daddy time’- maintaining our sense of ‘self’ and ‘us’
The key here is to spend some time together while still expecting to carefully identify who is available in each of these areas and realize that these things have actually occurred to parents beforehand. For some there are going to be helpful grandparents or other family members, friends and/or neighbors, and/or community or organizational support. Some couples or possibly a single mom will gain awareness that there is some support but only for a short time period or there really isn’t much that she/they can rely on for those early critical weeks. Also, sometimes the support that may be available will cause stress that parents to be realize negates the benefit of the possible assistance.
In general, when I meet with couples or the pregnant mom-to-be we spend some time going over the areas mentioned above and I recommend completing the DONA Postpartum Plan. We then discuss what makes most sense also reviewing any budget considerations.
I found one of my earliest experiences with Postpartum Doula clients to be so successful in determining the amount of my services. I often share how this couple structured it as a useful example of one way to look at it and decide. This couple, who I will refer to as Mom and Dad, are working professionals and were expecting their first baby who was determined needed to be delivered by c-section. As the Dad is in sales, he knew that with the exception of the first few days immediately after birth, once Mom and baby were home, he would need to return to work.
Mom would definitely need assistance and support from the day she got home from the hospital and for some weeks to follow. Even though there were loving grandparents who all wanted to be there, they were all out-of-state. Mom and Dad realized that for them having that much excitement from the beginning wasn’t what they felt would be helpful. They really wanted to have some time to determine together how they wanted to parent their new baby – what they would feel comfortable with. They believed that they would be in a better position to spend time with their own parents and share how ‘they like things to be done’ after being home for a week.
What we agreed upon – and worked out very well – was that I would spend full days for the first week, Mom’s Mom would come to spend the second week, Dad’s parents the 3rd week, and I would be there again for week 4. Another positive thing we agreed on was that I would spend half a weekend day between each grandparents’ visit with Dad. We arrived at that when the Dad realized he wasn’t going to be home when I was there and he said, “when do I get to learn from Joan?”
The above is an example of how one couple decided to structure postpartum support. There are probably as many ways as there are new parents. One thing most, if not all, of my clients found to be very helpful is to agree with a Postpartum Doula that she be available the day they come home from the hospital if they have a hospital birth. Most important, however, what I hope the message is here, is that some time be spent BEFORE the baby arrives assessing what support there is and what additional support may be beneficial.