First Time Mom: A Postpartum Doula’s Story

Holiday Survival – A Parent’s Guide
December 13, 2017

Becoming a mother for the first time can be overwhelming. Through her work as a postpartum doula Danielle now helps new families to minimize their challenges and find their way. That doesn’t mean it was easy for her or for any of us. Danielle shares her story of what it was like for her as a first time mom.

Danielle’s Story

I was definitely not prepared to become a mother when I did. I’m a big believer in “going for it anyway” and I approached pregnancy and motherhood the same way. Everyone says it will be hard. Well, I didn’t exactly think it would be easy, and so I read all the books and watched all the videos and dutifully took a childbirth education class with my partner.

Then, when I was still weeks out from my due date, at a routine visit with the midwife I was told I needed to go to the hospital to be induced. I had pre-eclampsia and my baby needed to be born.

“Ok sure” I said, “so I’ll go home and get some sleep and you’ll call me tomorrow morning to come in?”. Nope, baby had to be born soon, no going home. Is it weird that my first thought was “But my baby shower is tomorrow”?

In any case, my son was born about twelve hours later, healthy, but a tiny 5lbs 4oz. He was about three and a half weeks early, was terrible at nursing, and my hormones where All. Over. The. Place.

Early Days

So many of the challenges we faced in those first few days and weeks are very common for babies that are born a few weeks early. They often have a hard time nursing, can tire at the breast quickly, and are just a little less quipped for life outside, than a baby born at, or after, their estimated due date.

As a postpartum doula I now know how common these issues are, but at the time? I was clueless. Everyone kept saying that he was born ‘full term’ because he was born just past 37weeks gestation. I had no idea my baby might need a little extra time to get himself sorted. When you think about it, it makes sense. Two or three weeks extra time in the womb to develop is pretty significant when you consider that your baby was literally an unfertilized egg less than 40 weeks ago.

As a mom, I felt ill equipped to deal with this new role. There had been no separation between the working woman and the new Mom stage of my life. I had planned to have a week ‘off’ before the baby arrived, to, you know, clean a nest or something, or at the very least clear my head in order to prepare for this new baby I was expected to push out of my body…somehow.

In the end there was no transition or space between going to work and..well, going back to work with a newborn. I have never worked so hard as I did on mat leave. Going back to work at the end of the year was like going on a cruise.

In those early weeks, I hated breastfeeding because his latch was so painful, but managed to learn how to do it, my son lost too much weight and we ended up spending a day and a night at CHEO, and I swung back and forth between tears and anger and tears.

Postpartum Doula Perspective

Sometimes I will arrive at a new client’s house, and right away, I recognize her. Not because I know her, but because I WAS her. I recognize the inner struggle as she learns to adjust to this new thing called motherhood. The inner turmoil, because you love your baby, but you don’t necessarily LIKE being a mom so far.

Feeling overwhelmed. The guilt. The loneliness. The sadness. The slightly hysterical laughter.

All of the feelings, all of the time, and all of it is okay.

It’s been 9 years since I brought my baby boy home, but working as a postpartum doula with new moms, sometimes, it feels like yesterday. I remember it all. Every woman’s experience is different, but many of the emotions are the same. Drawing from my own experience and talking with parents, helps me offer the kind of support and encouragement they need to keep going. Believe me, you CAN do this. And you are definitely not alone.

DJS

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