The baby is a few weeks old. For the last few weeks, friends and family have come to visit, meals have been provided. But the glow has soon worn off, and everyone leaves the new parent or parents alone to tend to their child.
There are often things that are forgotten in the afterglow of a healthy baby’s birth. It seems rare that people ask how mom is, or how their partner is doing. From personal experience with a difficult birth and recovery, a social worker did come to check on me in the hospital. She noted that I was coping well. I was also in a hospital where I was surrounded by people helping me, and also on rather powerful painkillers as well. Anyone looks ok when they are on enough Vicodin.
But at some point, you aren’t at the hospital and people stop coming. That’s when the real stress and difficulty of parenting begins. There are rarely people coming by or even calling to check in on you anymore. Social isolation often sets in. Depression. Loss of identity. That’s just if you stay home and have a way to stay home with the baby. Otherwise, you are working on little to no sleep and still recovering from the baby and go home to take care of a newborn. There is no time for you anymore.
There are often cursory mentions of these things in the news media or on blogs: postpartum depression is a serious problem, yes, and yes, the United States should provide better maternity leave. However, nothing new seems to be done but talk.
I don’t have any clear suggestions for large government policy here, because there is enough written about that. In the reproductive justice and birth space, there are things we can do to ameliorate this. Don’t downplay the potential difficulties of a new child, especially if it’s a first one. Talk seriously about the changes to one’s life and how hard the adjustment will be with expectant parents. Hospitals should avail the opportunity to make centering groups turn into new parents’ groups. Do not make all of the support just be about breastfeeding the child. Turn part of that support around for the mother’s well-being instead of just feeding her stats about how breastfeeding and bonding are good for her health. Remind her that she is still a person and that her needs matter, too.
Finally, if you have a friend with a new child, if you really want to be a friend, hang out with them. Be ok that you guys probably aren’t going out to party anymore, but maybe just sitting at someone’s house for a few hours. Talk to them about their baby if they want, but remember there’s more, especially to a new mom, than the baby. Remind her that she is still a person beyond the diapers, the laundry, and the current monotony of life. Trust me, such a simple thing might be the best thing you can do.
Join Jamie Starzyk for an evening of tasty handcrafted herbal tea, nutrition education, and a lesson in herbal medicine making. (See below for bio)
This salon series is open to all who want to learn more about herbal and nutritional treatment to ease and manage the symptoms of all strains of Herpes Simplex Virus and Human Papilloma Virus. We will also discuss the role herbal plant medicine has as an effective supplemental treatment in a clinical setting. Whether you work with people during pregnancy, in a medical setting, or simply want to learn more about caring for yourself and your community, it is never too early or too late to learn how nutritional therapy and diet can be a tool!
Who are the doulas who volunteer with the Bay Area Doula Project? They're amazing, diverse people, doing so much great work in the world, it's hard to believe any of them has time to volunteer with us. We've been using this space to introduce you to many of the BADP doulas. This week, meet Megan Messinger.
Megan Messinger is a fourth-generation native San Franciscan (whose mother crossed the Bay Bridge with great determination to give birth to her in the city!), who recently returned to Berkeley after several years out East. Megan studied English and Women's Studies at Barnard College. After graduating, Megan worked in digital marketing until she figured out that neither "digital" nor "marketing" were her ideal job descriptors. Now, a babysitter by day and post-bacc student by night, Megan is applying to medical school and hopes to bring the amazing energy of BADP and partners with her when she goes. Megan enjoys reading, green tea, and the separation of church and state.
A couple weekends back, BADP Volunteers Adriana Guerra, Mar Schupp, and Vanessa Norton spent a hot, sunny Saturday at the Women's Health Services (WHS) clinic in Sacramento, where they were oriented to join the other full-spectrum doulas at the WHS clinic in Santa Rosa. The orientation included an overview of OSHA policies, the clinic's practices, a role play, and disucussion on how we as doulas could support the patients.
Adriana Guerra chose to volunteer at WHS so she "could use her doula skills in a clinical setting, since [she] hasn't had the opportunity to do so. [Adriana] also wanted to gain more experience in advocating for the pregnant person's decision to choose whichever outcome they want with their pregnancy."
Vanessa feels the same as Adriana. "But it's also my curisoity that drives my desire to support women in a clinical setting. I like to understand how a clinic works, and having had an abortion in a clinic myself, I really feel close to the need for emotional support, at least that it be available. The experience of abortion should not have to suck."
Last Friday, BADP Volunteers Vanessa Norton and Megan Messinger drove up to Santa Rosa and supported three patients. It was a particularly low-key day; other days, the clinic serves closer to 20 patients. Vanessa said, "as this was my first day as a doula at a clinic supporting a patient I had not met previously, I mostly observed and learned. As a doula, I offered my hand, breathing techniques, and words of encouragement and support. Both of the patients expressed gratitude to the three women in the room--doctor, assistant, and myself--for being 'so pleasant,' but neither wanted my hand. Everyone's needs are different."