Before I had my first baby, I had heard the word “doula” thrown around. I’ll be honest that I jumped to some assumptions, and decided without almost any knowledge that a doula wasn’t for me in particular. I knew I was going to have my baby by C-section, for reasons I won’t get into, and I really thought that doulas were basically birth coaches.
It’s only now that I’m immersed in the world of trying to be supportive to other new mothers that I’m kicking myself for not looking into getting help from a postpartum doula, just to have some female community and support for the craziness. So I asked my new friend Emily Skyrm to guest blog about why she loves being a postpartum doula. Emily is the co-founder of Baby Caravan, in NYC, and spends a lot of time supporting new mothers who are heading back to work. My kind of girl. So without further ado…here’s Emily!
As new mothers we come across so many people who consider themselves “experts.” The sleep experts, lactation experts, expert postpartum chefs…the list goes on and on. It’s gotten to a point now that there are so many “experts” in this field that woman are finding it harder and harder to actually trust themselves.
As a postpartum doula and back-to-work coach living in New York City, I step into the homes of some pretty incredible women. My job is to help them develop their own pathway into motherhood. But the true value I bring to a home is when I help a new mother realize that she has the inner knowledge and strength to be her own expert.
Ok, ok, I know how late I am to the game of commenting on the "World's Toughest Job Video" thing. (If you are even later than I am, watch it here.)
But I've been mulling over this video for a couple of weeks now, and finally had to put digital pen to digital paper.
First I ought to say that I mean no disrespect to the people who loved, got verklempt over, and posted/shared this video. If it made you happy, I'm happy for you. And if you are a mom, I bet you're awesome at it, and deserved a moment of feeling appreciated.
And I get it. I get that sappy "moms are the best" videos play to our nostalgia and gratitude for our own mothers, and for current in-the-thick-of-it moms, play to our exhaustion and deep desire to be appreciated and recognized for what we do. I also get, as might sometimes be overlooked, that this video was made BY AN AD AGENCY, TO SELL A PRODUCT FOR A BUSINESS. That business? Trying to sell us cards to give to our moms for Mother's Day. So, job done. A kazillion people have watched the video, and I'm sure both agency and card-selling-company have lavished in the click-bait.
When was the last time you talked to your boss about your breasts?
Breastfeeding and working is no longer an exception for new mothers. It is no longer a valiant few women, secretly locked in closets with breast pumps: it’s the new reality of an America where women are all at once breadwinners and, for the first few months to few years of a baby’s life, milk-makers.
American workplaces need to catch up with this reality. They need elements both hard (rules, policies, and infrastructure) and soft (culture, rigorously protected by HR and executives) to ensure that every working mother has the tools at her disposal to make this situation work. Today, even in companies with lactation-friendly policies, many women are at the mercy of their particular manager (or HR team). Support can make all the difference to a successful, productive return to work that empowers a woman to continue to feed her baby breast milk. Cultural and physical hurdles often mean a premature end to breastfeeding – which has implications on not just the baby’s health, but on the mother’s attitudes toward her employer.
Before your maternity leave ends, prepare your body, your baby and yourself for becoming a working -- and pumping -- mom.
For many working women, ending maternity leave (if they get it) and leaving a new baby to go back to work is one of the hardest days of their working life (I would recommend waterproof eye makeup). This one day combines guilt, anxiety, sadness, exhaustion, and stress – all while trying to prove that we’re “back.”
Making it harder? For those of us who choose to (or attempt to) continue breastfeeding our babies while working, we have a third job: making milk for the baby during the work day. Planning for the time, space, awkwardness, and physical and mental effort of hooking up to a machine several times a day can be completely, paralyzingly daunting.
Work. pump. repeat.