I Googled “weird jobs for moms.” I scrolled past “Organic farm manager” and “Secret shopper.” I was feeling restless with my work as a reading specialist, and at the same time, nostalgic for the days when my three kids were all home and needed me in ways that they just didn’t anymore. Finally, there it was, staring back at me. Postpartum doula. Postpartum doula?
Provide non-judgmental support to moms in the first days and weeks after the birth of their babies? I can do that. Offer evidence-based information on infant care and breastfeeding? Love to! Nurture new moms with emotional support, nutritious food, and offer them the opportunity to nap while I tend to their baby? That would make me happy!
In essence, the job of a postpartum doula is to reduce stress and empower new mothers to be the best versions of themselves so they can establish a healthy relationship with their child from the start. Why hadn’t I known this even existed?! Sign me up!
During my intensive training, I was reminded how my Depression-era mother shamed me and stormed out of my house while I was breastfeeding my first born in the living room. She was angry and embarrassed that I would not retreat to my bedroom.
I remembered feeling utterly exhausted when my second baby, suffering from an undiagnosed nasal infection, kept us all on edge. And I remembered feeling inadequate while trying to pacify my colicky third.
My mother, the eldest of six, was raised by her Syrian Jewish parents until her father died suddenly when she was 9 years old. She worked throughout high school and beyond in order to get her family off welfare. My father, a Hungarian Holocaust survivor, was understandably ill-equipped to deal with the emotional needs of his family. The trauma both my parents faced as children never left them.
For better or for worse, our experiences as children shape the kind of parents we become. For me, becoming a postpartum doula feels like a fitting antidote for the struggles that parents who came before me had to endure.
Now I get to calm parents’ fears and assure them that there are very few “absolutes” when caring for their new baby. I have the honor of being present with a new mom as she struggles with the emotional roller coaster that having a baby guarantees. I educate mothers on best practices for successful breastfeeding. I offer suggestions as parents bathe or bottle-feed. I help relieve stress by doing the baby’s laundry, preparing yummy meals, and organizing the household. With each visit, I assess the mom’s needs and make referrals to other professionals if needed. And, I encourage the mom to rest or shower while I look after the baby.
My doula trainer, Ann, warned our class to “make sure to tuck in our capes” as this profession tends to bring out the superhero in us. Our job is not to solve the problems at hand; it is to support new mothers as they come to realize their own answers. I’m no Wonder Woman, but I’m glad I found this “weird job” that can help a new mother find her own strength.