(This post originated from an assignment submitted by one of our students that is participating in our development group for postpartum doula training. It is reproduced here with her permission. )
The Five Social Structures that Are Missing from Western Culture – How a Doula Can Make a Difference
There are so many ways these five social structures overlap in the ways a doula can provide for the mother and family.
- Distinct Postpartum Period – Before the baby is born, a doula can sit down with the parents and help determine the recovery timeframe they would like to set apart. During this time, it can be decided what activities will be delegated or eliminated for the new mother.
- Protective Measures Reflecting the New Mother’s Vulnerability – A doula will provide a safe, non-judgemental ear for the new mother’s worries and questions. This is a time to shield a new mom from needless stress. This may be especially important for the first time, breastfeeding moms as they figure out the procedure and overcome feelings of frustration and inadequacy. This is also a time to encourage the new mother in her role by giving her time to take care of and perhaps pamper herself without guilt.
- Social Seclusion and Mandated Rest – Perhaps 5 day of seclusion won’t work for a family, but every day a doula can help the mother limit her “normal” activities (focusing instead on herself and the care of the baby) will aid the mother in becoming stronger and more confident. As friends and family want to rush in to see the newborn, the doula can become the “bad guy” by letting the mother use her (the doula) as the reason for limiting visitors. The new mother may need someone to help her say “no” or “not yet” to social events and visitors.
- Functional Assistance – A doula is responsible for assisting in the new mother’s rest and recovery by making sure any items the mother will need are ready when she gets home from the hospital. This list may include nursing bras, juices, teas, healthy snacks, clean linens on the bed, etc. This is also an opportunity to teach the new father and siblings how they can assist in caring for mom.
- Social Recognition of Her New Role and Status – Many women today come home from the hospital and must focus on a quick return to the workplace. It is sad that new mothers are treated like heroes if they give birth, return to their skinny jeans, keep the house as before, entertain and not miss an event on their social calendar. (I have to wonder if this doesn’t contribute to the increased episodes of postpartum depression.) The doula can reassure the mother that she is what is important, not what she can contribute to the community during this time of recovery.