The doula is in
Whether by birth or adoption, your transition from non-parent to parent covers about two years and change — two years of monumental, unparalleled, bonkers, worrisome, heartbreaking, heart-healing change.
My daughter, my firstborn, changed me in about 5 billion ways. From the foods I ate, to the medical choices I made, to what I did with my free time. Of course, she changed how I understand life and love.
She made me a mom.
Her brother followed two years and five months later and he also changed me. He taught me that his sister was not, in fact, the center of the universe. Nor was she the only kind of baby. Nor was she the most perfect baby ever. There were other babies, equally lovely in different ways.
Pregnancy, birth, postpartum and infant parenting were not exactly easy for me — but these phases and transitions did come naturally to me. I understood babies, felt “in my skin” during pregnancy and fanatically (freakishly?) loved childbirth.
And then …
As my two babies became toddlers, I felt hesitant to leave the intensely simple yet crazy immediate and vital world of the mom-baby bubble.
So … I trained to become a postpartum doula.
I read all the assigned books and then some, sucking down knowledge and science and anecdotes — information pertinent to a branch of anthropology I was absolutely in love with. Biology, intuition, folklore, psychology, lullaby.
How to swaddle. How to recognize mastitis. How to treat thrush. How to know the difference between postpartum OCD and postpartum psychosis. Why so many cultures consider soup the traditional post-birth recovery meal. How to prepare a sitz bath.
I worked in the field for about seven years — meeting so many wonderful families and learning that there are so many different babies and different styles of parenting.
I worked with twins, triplets, babies with apnea monitors, preemies. I helped mamas through postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety, emergent cardio myopathy, Cesarean recovery, apocalyptic stomach bugs, husbands in rehab, domestic abuse, working-mom guilt, second-child guilt — guilt and guilt and guilt.
A school principal, a theology professor, a personal trainer, doctors, lawyers, a rabbi, a hairdresser, a 9/11 survivor. I worked with all these individuals and found that we are ALL so basic and good and scared and real in these two years — with a baby on the way, in the womb, in the house.
I eventually took my pregnancy, birth and postpartum knowledge and merged it with my other passion and profession — writing. I’ve explored many infant/new parent topics — what to put on the registry, colic and infant sleep to name just a few.
Humility and expertise
I’m telling you all this, in part, so you understand that I come from a place of deep knowledge and interest. I’m giving you my resume, in a way.
I’m also telling you this to share with you how happy I am to be here! Babies are my jam.
Lest I seem like a know-it-all — I assure you that I’m a humble “expert.” When I don’t have the latest information, I know where to look. I know the right people to ask. I’m not afraid to lean on my resources.
And my most important resource is you.
Now that you’ve read my resume, please hear that I wholeheartedly believe that YOU are the EXPERT on your own baby. You and only you.
The one universal truth that emerged from my years as a doula is that the wisdom of parenthood is powerful — and unique to each parent.
I’ll bring you some goods, some tricks of the trade, some hard science — but it’s the science of YOUR parental instinct that reigns supreme; and it is my hope that I may — like a doula — merely provide a little support along the way.
Jen Wittes is a freelance writer and mother of two who lives in St. Paul. Learn more about her work at jenwittes.com. Send questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.