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BASIC Tips for Mama’s of Newborn Twins!

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Life with newborn twins can be twice the pleasure, double the fun and plenty of challenge. Chew on these tips to get yourself in gear for a great adventure! 

  1. START HERE: You were given two precious ones to love because your heart is big enough, your arms are roomy enough, you are enough. Don’t let the idea of double everything scare you. You will all find your rhythm and dance through the days soon enough.
  2. WELCOME HELPERS: People who love you will want to be around you, see the newbies, and help you. Let them. Compile a list of things that others can do while they visit, or on their way to visit you. When someone asks how they can help, refer to it and let them know! Here is a list of common ways others can help  you at this time: https://www.twiniversity.com/2014/02/how-to-help-a-new-parent-of-twins/. Seek out help if it hasn’t come to you. You may also think about hiring a postpartum doula, overnight baby nurse, or counselor. In order to do this “let others help you thing,” you might need to work on the whole “Let go and let God thing.” You might need to trust Him by trusting others to help. Take it as a chance to rid yourself of some ego, some detrimental perfectionism, or controlling tendencies.. Even if they don’t do it 100% like you would, 75% of the work has been done and you can always touch it up to your liking. This absolutely goes for singletons as well, but bringing home twins-multiples does increase the overall workload and you may find the extra help more necessary than ever. 
  3. WATER BREAK. Get water. No, Seriously. Take a sip of that water you have next to you, or take a short walk to the refrigerator to get some more. Drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day is typical protocol for good health, and imperative for a healthy pregnancy. When breastfeeding singletons, it is important to stay hydrated with at least 8-10 glasses. When breastfeeding multiples, realize that you may need 10-12 glasses of water. This can include some non-caffeinated teas as well, and you can tint* the water with fruit juice or something to add variety. Hydrate yourself throughout each breastfeeding ‘sesh’. I understand that 10-12 glasses seems a bit much, especially if you aren’t used to drinking the recommended 8 glasses/day. Just do your best here.. Keep a pitcher of filtered water handy and remember to refill your glass just before feeding the babes. 
  4. SUPPLEMENT AS NEEDED. You may need to supplement feedings with formula while you double your milk production. Do not fear this, mama. When done properly, supplementing will not hinder milk production. This can be for a short time, maybe just the first week, or on and off until lactation regulates. 
    1. Helpful hints for supplementing:
      1. Use a syringe at breast so the babes are still suckling through supplement feedings and triggering more lactation. 
      2. If bottle feeding, use a slow flow nipple & tip bottle just enough to get formula/breast-milk into nipple without letting baby suck air. (Keep the bottle more horizontal than vertical) This will help to slow the flow and prevent baby from falling into the lazy feeder trap. 
      3. Supplement only after breastfeeding. If supplementing with bottle, let someone else feed babies their supplement while you pump. 
      4. Inform yourself. Check formula labels/ingredients and pick the formula that’s best for your family/children. Use WIC if possible to ease cost. Or choose an organic formula with less cornstarch if you wish. Remember, you are mama and quite capable of making the best choice for you and your kiddos. 
  5. EAT. If Breastfeeding twins, be sure to eat around 3200 calories per day. Otherwise, you can aim for 1200-1800  calorie diet depending on whether you just gave birth to twins or supertwins. In any case, eat foods that are nutrient rich and favors fruits, vegetables, healthy fats,  proteins and unrefined carbohydrates. Eat often (at least 3 meals and 2 snacks/day). Eat a stack with dairy just before bedtime. 
  6. EAT YOUR VITAMINS. Especially Calcium, Omega-3’s, Zinc, Iodine, and Iron. 
  7. CONNECT WITH A LACTATION CONSULTANT. Whether you plan to breastfeed or not, finding a lactation consultant while still pregnant can help you get a head start on what to expect. Building a relationship now will help you overcome any battles with breastfeeding or stopping lactation as necessary later. 
  8. HAVE A SET OF BOPPY PILLOWS/BOUNCERS/SWINGS HANDY. These will make care routines, especially feedings, with twins so much easier. The great thing about boppy pillows is that they keep the babies propped up a bit during & immediately after feeds while they begin digesting. This is true with bouncers and swings as well, but then each of these have motion which is not ideal for settling tummies. The only issue with boppy pillows is that most of them do not have any type of restraint to keep a baby from sliding/falling/front flipping off. So, only keep them on boppy pillows while you are right there with them. You may even want to move the whole deal to the floor as they begin to move around so there are no dives off the couch. A Cuddle-U by Leachco might solve this problem as well, though I haven’t had personal experience with it, and so cannot give you my full recommendation. Same goes for Table for Two twin feeding system. 
  9.  LEARN POSITIONS FOR TANDEM FEEDING. Whether it be breastfeeding or bottle feeding, taking care of two at once is a challenge. Good thing for us there are a ton of resources out there with suggestions for how to do this in a way that is comfortable for you and your babies. Lactation consultants are an amazing support this way, as well as doulas. Here are some ideas  for breastfeeding your hangry duo: https://www.twiniversity.com/2018/08/the-best-positions-for-breastfeeding-twins/ 
  10. COLOR CODE or label bottles, pacifiers, bibs, etc to keep track of whose is whose. This is especially important with bottles so that you can see how much each of the babies drank. 
  11. KEEP A DAILY LOG. Life with twins is busy and can be exhausting making it hard to keep track of and remember how much your babies have eaten, slept, or had wet/soiled diapers. Keeping a daily log will give you, your partner, and your pediatrician peace of mind as you jot down important notes and reminders. Here is an example: 
Date Sophia            Michelle 
Time Feed Diaper Sleep Note Feed Diaper Sleep Note
5a 4oz F W Up @ 5:10a

Down @ 5:45a

Up @ 515a
6am Down @ 6:20
Notes:
Meds: 
News:

 

  1. CREATE & STOCK A BABY/MAMA ESSENTIALS CADDY. Have a caddy stocked with diapers, wipes, tissues, coconut oil, hand sanitizer, nail clippers/files etc. Bottled waters and snacks for mama. Bottles filled with water and a container for  pre-portioned formula if formula feeding. Ideally have a couple of these in typical caregiving spots around the home, or one that you can easily carry with you to another room. 
  2. GET OUT. Make it a point to get out at least twice a week to enjoy some fresh air and new surroundings. Call a friend, hire a doula, enlist help as needed so that you can enjoy this time! Postpartum hormones can be changing doubly, so get 
  3. CONNECT with husband/partner, children, family,  friends and yourself. Let others enjoy time with babies and allow yourself freedom to spend a few moments alone, with other children, with lover, etc. 
  4. MORE OF EVERYTHING… Including doctor visits, for you and babies might be necessary. So keep a plan for that in the back of your mind.
  5. CHECK IN on yourself and get your partner or someone who knows you well to do the same. The risk for postpartum depression can be higher after giving birth to twins, mainly due to increased hormones in flux.
  6. STOCK UP ON PADS. The amount of lochia and blood loss will be more after a twin birth. This is due to twice as much placenta and twice the uterus stretch. Make a few “padcicles” by putting aloe, witch hazel, and a bit of lavender on an overnight pad and put them in the freezer or refrigerator. I suggest refrigerator so that it’s not unbearably cold! 
  7. EXPECT EXTRA WEIGHT. Mom’s will typically gain 30-70 lbs during a pregnancy with twins. This weight can come off with a healthy diet, exercise, and adequate sleep. If you feel like you need extra help with this, consider investing in a nutritionist, health coach, or pull together a group of friends that will buddy up with you for walks and recipe sharing. As your doula, I am available to encourage walks & exercise, and provide healthy cooking!  You can also check out www.drbarbaraluke.com and register for her nutrition and health program during pregnancy to help keep desired weight gain, and then lose it afterward. 

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In the Sears’ Baby Book, Tips for Parenting twins are outlined in this way: 

Doubly Prepared – Set up and stock the nursery by the beginning of your third trimester. Join a Mothers of Twins Club, and whatever multiples clubs there are locally. These are so helpful, for building friendships to carry you through twinning, resource for parenting tips, and for some great second hand items. 

Double team – The father or another committed caregiver, other than mother, should helping mama through all caregiving tasks, including breastfeeding! If papa has to work, ask around for help. 

Dinner for two – Getting babies on a simultaneous feeding schedule will give everyone more time for other things. Otherwise you will feel like you are literally feeding babies all day. It doesn’t always work out, but it is definitely a good target.

Double Duties – Try to get babies on a similar eat, activity, nap schedule and develop a consistent routine.

Doubly Organized – Learn to delegate tasks to family members or hired help. Get tips for shortcuts and prioritize. For instance, the need to nap might come before the need to do dishes.

Double up in bed – Twins can share the same bassinet for awhile. 

Double the help – Hire help or get a good schedule of help flow from family/friends. 

Carrying Double – Babies need to be held, a lot. Find ways to carry babies around in baby carrier/sling. Get Dad to hold one while you take care of the other etc.

Seeing Double – Get different bracelets, painting toenails different colors and other identifiers can help you keep track of whose who, especially for identical twins. After spending some time with your babies, you will know better, but for the first few weeks it may be confusing. Don’t feel bad, just get a system to keep it straight. 

Two Names – Make sure you are parenting individuals, not one person with two bodies. Call them by their names.  You have two individual little people in your life who will probably grow to be quite different. As these differences present themselves, you will see more and more that this is true. 

 

 

 

Resources for parenting twins: 

 

Multiples of America 

http://www.multiplesofamerica.org/ 

 

Greater Nashua Parents of Twins & Multiples 

http://www.greaternashuapotm.org/

 

Queen City Mothers of Twins Club (Manchester NH) 

http://www.nhtwins.com/ 

 

NH/MA Twin and Multiples Service Agency

http://twinloveconcierge.com 

 

Websites like Twinslist.org  & Twinversity.com are great! 

 

Mothering Multiples: Breastfeeding and Caring for Twins or More, by Karen Gromada

 

“The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby from Birth to Age Two”, by: William Sears, MD, Martha Sears, RN Robert Sears, MD and James Sears, MD

 

“When You’re Expecting Twins, Triplets, or Quads: Proven Guidelines for a Healthy Multiple Pregnancy”, by Dr. Barbara Luke and Tamara Eberlein

 

“What to do When You’re Having Two: The Twins Survival Guide from Pregnancy Through the First Year” by Natalie Diaz, founder of Twinversity 

 

Postpartum Support for Low-Income Families

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Christmas time was upon me as I looked down at my 7 month pregnant belly. Tears welled up in my eyes and panic started to grip me as I wondered if I would be bringing my baby home to a bedroom shared by my mother and grandmother (you read that right, one master bedroom shared with my mother, grandmother, my husband, the family dog, and my big belly). Or worse, into a car, or some other temporary shelter. A series of happenstance lead us to this place. Although my husband and I were both very thoughtful, budget conscious, clean, God-centered, hard-working people.. Life throws curve balls to the best of us. Fast-forward to the roaring month of March when we brought our tiny princess home to a precious double bedroom in a shelter for families at risk of homelessness. As I look at my princess, born into poverty, just like our King Jesus.. I am humbled that we had all the necessities, and none of the barn animals! I wonder what it was like for Mary as she spent those first two (or so) years in flight, travelling for the census and then running from Herod’s army. Did she have anyone to teach her how to be a mother? My own family were not allowed to come visit me in the shelter as everyone who entered had to be background checked, vetted, and limited for obvious and good reason. In any case, that hurt, and still does. I had nobody I trusted to teach me how to raise my child. Breastfeeding was ridiculously painful in every way, but especially emotionally. I just wanted what I thought was a normal postpartum experience, where close family and friends came to dote on the new mother and baby.  It was also not easy to open my doors and have a 35 person household of people from all different walks of life enter our newborn family bubble… but at least I had a few experienced ears to bounce my new mother concerns around with. My overwhelming feelings of matresence were compounded with the stresses of shelter rules, being financially strapped, having a terrible first pediatrician, and a disappointing birth experience. 

 

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“If only everyone had a postpartum doula” wonders a recent headline from the New York Times that briefly highlights the role of the postpartum doula and how they benefit families across the board. Other articles in this vein are finally popping up everywhere, revealing a desire for postpartum support among women and families in all realms of social strata. Long before even meeting my husband, I had the desire to become a postpartum doula, and to do something special with it for families in financial crisis. In this essay, I will focus on how a postpartum doula can be a beacon of light for families who are experiencing poverty, and how finding ways to serve them deserves our thoughtful consideration. 

Families in poverty need access. They need someone to help them access information and services with the flexibility of time and transportation that they often lack themselves. Extended families may also be lacking in time, income and resources to help especially if they are within a generational cycle of poverty. Just having access to childcare that doesn’t cost them their whole paycheck, or more, can be nearly impossible. 

The stressors in low-income families with newborns are two-fold: practical and emotional. Being financially burdened and strapped outcasts them from needed support, healthcare options, good nutrition, and child care. Feelings of inadequacy run rampid between mothers and fathers who feel they cannot provide the life they imagined for their children. More often than not, they receive unfair treatment from health care providers, and others who are supposed to be working for their best interests due to underlying prejudice and fear. The stress between partners grow as there is no money for a break, self-care, date-night etcetera. Postpartum doulas are there to ease the stress in a number of ways. By listening, honoring, respecting and affirming parents they can build up morale and encourage hope. Postpartum doulas can guide parents toward finding better healthcare options within their network, by building relationships, helping them navigate their insurance, conversations with social workers, and knowing the recommended providers in the area. We can also be present at appointments to advocate for the parents and baby. 

Nutrition is a big factor in helping postpartum women heal and families thrive. Obviously, being depleted of funds also means having a tight budget for food and, unfortunately, healthy food is the most expensive. Doulas can point families to food pantries, WIC and other helpful nutritional supports. While the postpartum doula is there, she can share recipes for great nutritional meals on a budget. Having the time and energy to cook may seem nearly impossible for some women who are facing all the stressors listed above. A postpartum doula can offer to cook meals, or set up a meal-train to ensure that mom and family are well fed during the first few weeks postpartum. 

Families struggling financially may not have the best options for childcare. Doulas can help parents assess their child-care needs, apply for child-care assistance and search for quality child-care options. Doulas can be an extra set of hands for the older children while mama feeds newborn, or they can watch the whole clan while mama enjoys a slice of time for herself. Just having this support may be all mom needs to relieve some stress and feel herself again. 

Doulas can help mom navigate the full-time job of getting the state assistance that is available to them. Just thinking about tackling this project within the postpartum period is overwhelming. Pulling documents together, making and keeping appointments with a newborn-in-tow (possibly other children), facing the financial facts and the judgements of people handling your “case” can be quite a daunting task. Having a doula’s support, even just a listening ear, can make all the difference. 

Marriages can find themselves on rocky ground within the postpartum period as the family’s dynamics go through a period of re-adjustment. Within a family facing poverty, these days are wrought with financial stress as well. This can create a double edged sword that is almost impossible survive. A doula is there to listen, offer insight, connect the family to counseling as necessary, and offer moments of peace for the parents to breath and connect.

Of course, in addition to all the practical support, a doula brings a wealth of comfort, stress relief, and postpartum care options including: baths, music, prayer, meditation, massage, aromatherapy (at client’s direction & discretion of course), a safe space to feel all the feelings with matching empathy, and encouragement to keep going. 

With the picture we’ve painted so far, it seems to follow that postpartum depression would be more prevalent among poor women. In fact, “According to this study, 56% of low-income mothers showed signs of depression at some point between two weeks and 14 months after giving birth.”(Poverty Raises Risk of PPD) When you imagine what daily life is like for those in poverty, especially in this day and age, where the genuine village atmosphere is more or less unattainable, -especially if your friends and family are just struggling to survive as well-  it is obvious why they would have higher rates of PPD. In the abstract write up for “A_Situated_Analysis_of_Postpartum_Depression_Among_Mothers_Living_in_Poverty” the list of conditions contributing to PPD among poor mothers is as follows: 

      1. “1) mothering as overwhelming, which captures how mothers related their symptoms to parenting demands; 2) mothering alone, which describes how mothers understood their depression in relation to their emotional and environmental isolation; 3) juggling, which underscores how women experienced their symptoms in the context of multiple and demanding responsibilities; and 4) worry, which captures how women grounded their anxiety features of PD in relation to their daily circumstances” (A_Situated_Analysis_of_Postpartum_Depression_Among_Mothers_Living_in_Poverty) 

 

Commiserating with all of the reasons why poor women are at high risk for postpartum depression, are the reasons why they will not seek help for themselves- and why they may even reject it. According to Divya Kumar, Co-founder of The Every Mother Project and Postpartum Doula at Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center in Boston,  “Different moms have a different hierarchy of needs, and addressing their own mood and mental state may be seen as overly indulgent when there are bigger fish to fry.” .. and.. “some communities may view postpartum depression and related illnesses as unacceptable—or as something that happens to other people.” (Postpartum Progress: Underserved Women PPD 5 Things You Should Know)

So, How can postpartum doulas help? A postpartum doula can be a first auxiliary to preventing and discerning PPD. Doulas provide a consistent, open line of communication that is non-judgmental, familiar, and allows for more comfortable sharing and connecting. Taking on some of the household duties, chores, and even child-care demands so mother can have some space can offer a tremendous relief to someone suffering from baby blues and may even be a key in PPD healing and prevention. Doulas provide an anchor of empathetic encouragement while acknowledging real concerns, all the while reminding families of their continuing support and pointing them in the direction of attaining counseling and other professional support as needed. 

An exploration of the ways in which impoverished women can benefit from having a postpartum doula wouldn’t be complete without a discussion around feeding the new baby. Breastfeeding is rightfully considered the ultimate food for baby, and is the primary food source for infants-toddlers in most places around the world where they experience extreme poverty. The WHO is very blunt about their opinions around breastfeeding, and especially why it’s the first option in times of poverty and crisis. The facts remain in unanimous agreement that breastfeeding offers vital and unmatched nutrition, immune support, and other amazing benefits to the baby, and mother as well. To this end, it is also known that breastfeeding is more successful with a team of postpartum support. All that being said, there are a number of reasons why formula is needed and postpartum doulas are masters at giving non-judgmental, holistic support for whatever path mama chooses. We are there when the tough decisions have to be made, and while we offer sound education in the facts, we also realize that first and foremost, mama and baby must be well. We are well-versed in breastfeeding, bottle feeding, and formula. We can help the mother work with WIC to get the right formula for her baby, and troubleshoot when there are issues. 

Breastfeeding was something I’ve always known I would do and I was pretty stubborn about it. This dedication to breastfeeding amidst a pediatric culture that benefits from offering formula at the first thought of insufficient supply, together with the label of “homeless living in shelter” almost cost us guardianship over our precious baby girl. These are the kinds of things women living in poverty deal with. Even though I was completely cooperative and supplemented as much as my daughter could want. I was constantly belittled, spoken down to, and absolutely oppressed. The stigma of “mother living with her first child in a shelter” was held over my head and I was not being heard, even though I was educated and knew the facts. This oppression stunned me and I began to feel completely demoralized. With no direction offered for how to make breastfeeding work for me and my girl, other than to supplement with formula, I knew something was not right and I began a search for a new pediatrician. When we switched doctors, we got a letter from the department of health and human services stating they were coming to visit us to assess the situation due to our daughter’s “failure to thrive” diagnosis. This broke me.. But that appointment came and we were given firm pats on the back for parenting a perfectly happy, healthy and totally thriving baby!  The social worker praised us for being so conscientious and proactive in her health care and for finding my daughter better medical care. She left happy for us that she was able to soothe our bleeding hearts, but also quite annoyed that the report had been sent in the first place, when there are so many critical reports that needed her attention. I often wonder how these experiences would have been different had we been able to invest in a postpartum doula. 

 

Going forward, we must try to find ways to improve the lives of our brothers and sisters living in poverty. Please note that there are so many impoverished families that are educated, strict with their budget, absolutely clean (no drugs/alcohol problem), faithful, hard-working, and yet completely broken by their circumstances. Be the hand that reaches out to help when so many hold labels over their heads. Postpartum doulas can be a lighthouse to perinatal families experiencing poverty by throwing out the labels and just serving their families with joy.

 

The Postpartum Doula’s Hat Rack

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Postpartum doulas wear many hats to accomodate each household’s specific demands. Read on to find out all the ways we can serve you and your family throughout this remarkable time of adjusting with your new little people. ❤ 

 

 

20180404_144341Becoming a mother is an immensely transformative event which requires nurturing, time and support. This is most dramatic after the first child is born, but happens in some sense again with each birth. For this, a postpartum doula offers: A safe space for mama to be and become, a listening ear, competence through education and wisdom, and confidence through genuine respect, admiration and affirmation. 

Taking a newborn home can be intimidating, even for the most experienced, Just the thought of one little life being totally dependant on you is remarkably stunning. For this, a postpartum doula can offer newborn care support, courage through education, affirmation of parental instincts, and connection to resources. A doula is that consistent someone to check-in, who provides tools for the season, without any friction or judgement.

Breastfeeding challenges can be overwhelming. While it is totally natural and somewhat instinctive, it requires learning, patience, sometimes gritty dedication and of course, practical help. For this, a postpartum doula can bring a wealth of knowledge regarding breastfeeding, attentive eyes and ears, helping hands, tools to relieve stress, as well as connection to professional breastfeeding resources.  We are there to walk the mother through breastfeeding struggles, troubleshooting with the help of education and professional connections while remaining unattached to an outcome — We would just as easily help the mother introduce formula if that’s what she wanted. 

Postpartum Depression and anxiety disorders are a risk for every mother and father bringing home a new baby. Stressing about this with no outlet can only make matters worse. Having a postpartum doula can provide that outlet for your baby blues, feelings of inadequacy, worries or concerns. We can provide an extra set of eyes and ears, offering reassurance as well as connection to professional counseling services as needed. Postpartum doulas can be a pillar of strength, encouragement and non-judgemental clarity when dealing with mental and emotional struggles postpartum. Offering help in other areas, especially practical support, or to just “be there” providing companionship and a breather from parental duties as needed is key to buffering symptoms of postpartum depression and/or anxiety. 

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Appointments following the arrival of new baby can be many and feel intrusive to the postpartum sanctuary. Those first few weeks of pediatric appointments provide many firsts for baby and new parents and can bring up serious concerns. Postpartum doulas can accompany the family to appointments for moral support, to remind parents of any questions they have, and to help explain things, and to discuss post-appointment feelings. We can help families prepare for appointments and then process the topics discussed therein. Besides offering moral support, we are always there for logistics.. Help with transportation, child-care, getting things done at home so that they are ready for mama and baby when they return, and even with navigating insurance or financial aid. 

While pregnant, and even more-so once the baby is born, a mother feels a dramatic shift in concern for baby over herself. It might not be explicit, or bothersome, but having someone dedicated to the mother’s well-being is essential. Many times, a husband can fill this role, but note that the father’s life is changing as well and they could use someone to check-in on them from time to time. A postpartum doula can offer welcome relief from the pressures of being mama all day every day. Postpartum doulas make it a point to remind women of who they are, what hey love, who they were and are becoming. They give postpartum women a place to be themselves, play their favorite tunes, cook their favorite meals, and breath fresh air. As a postpartum doula I color and craft with these women, pray and laugh with them, serve their favorite tea and draw baths with their favorite aromas. In a sense, a postpartum doula mothers women while they learn to mother their babies — all the while not taking anything from grandma! Whatever that looks like will only depend on the postpartum family’s wishes. 

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Fathers take a backseat to mama and baby postpartum, and not for nothing! However, let’s not forget that they are going through a life-changing event as well and would absolutely benefit from a postpartum doula. Postpartum doulas are there to show new dads how to help their partners through matresence (becoming mother), but can also encourage them in their fatherhood. We listen to their thoughts, concerns and the things that cause them stress. A break to catch up on lost sleep, a helping hand with the kids and household responsibilities to spend some time as husband and wife. Postpartum doulas can meet father’s concerns with education on family dynamics, marriage after children, newborn care, child care and other topics, Connections to financial resources, family counseling, or men’s groups may also be welcome aid to new fathers. 😊

Households can use an extra set of hands while parents focus on bonding, nurturing, and loving new baby. Settling into new family dynamics can take up as much mental space as preparing for birth. Letting some household chores fall to another’s hands for awhile can provide the space for parents to breath, bond, and create the family life they envision. 

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Of course the health and well-being of the family is important to doulas. Nutrition and exercise play key roles in this, as well as resource referral. Preparing nutritious meals, and/or setting up a meal train, and sharing information from nutritionists or offering a list of local professional resources are all ways postpartum doulas support women. Taking a daily stroll with mothers and providing resources for gentle postpartum exercise including connections to personal trainers specializing in work with postpartum women are all ways a doula can support healthy exercise. 

The nursery is typically done before the baby comes home, but is also another aspect where a postpartum doula can help with some expertise. Helping to organize the nursery and home for easy baby care with functionality and style according to your personality and dreams is something many doulas have come to understand quite well. Intelligently designing nurseries in a way that appeases the eyes of parents and their new baby, bringing a sense of peaceful joy and soothing love while providing ease of use and quick access to daily essentials is something I love to do. Having organized infant rooms in daycares, and nurseries in homes, I am well versed in functionality, and have studied the effects of color, and just enough design to encourage play and promote sleep. Even if you know exactly how you’d like everything, a postpartum doula can offer helping hands with this – (even before the big birth-day)! It’s always a good idea to meet with your postpartum doula once or twice before the birth anyway. Helping with the nursery is a great way to do that! From organizing baby clothes, to building nursery furniture, a postpartum doula will be there.

Securing child-care for your infant within the first two-three months home is another full-time job. Child-care providers that meet your specific philosophical, educational, safety, and wellness standards for your child can seem few and far between, especially for infant-toddler care. A postpartum doula can certainly help you through this process. As an early childhood professional myself, I am well versed in child-care/education centers, home-based group and family options as well as nanny/au-pair care. I will be right there to help  navigate the process and even weigh in on candidates, if asked. 

Postpartum doulas can be a resource for newborn-infant growth and development topics. Coming with a wealth of education from my personal background in Early Childhood Education, I take this seriously, while encouraging families to seek help from their pediatrician and connecting them to early intervention specialists as appropriate. 

Some postpartum doulas also help with bereavement in the case of infant loss. I plan to provide this at no cost to families who have hired me for birth or postpartum care. In this arena, a postpartum doula would first help with resource connection for proper bereavement counseling. I would then make an appointment to come like I would for a normal postpartum visit and just sit with mama, helping to heal, organize, and work through this reality of postpartum without a baby. A woman who has gone through miscarriage/stillbirth, has held her child in her womb and now must heal in all the ways. A postpartum doula can still be a tremendous support during this time and we will not abandon a mother whose child could not come home with her as hoped. 

As you can see, the list of ways a postpartum doula is there for women and perinatal families is rich and can expand with each client’s particular desires. In the Netherlands, there is government funded postpartum care. There, home maternity nurses do many of the same things a postpartum doula can do except that they are regulated by the medical model. Clearly the Netherlands sees this type of postpartum care as basic, something every mother should have. Maybe one day America will too, until then, we are here, at your service and as you wish!

 

October: Change and Surrender

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October brings out Autumn’s finest… Apples, pumpkins, family photos, scarecrows, costumes and candy, set to a backdrop of falling leaves and trees of every color. In New Hampshire it is prime time for leaf peeping.  Fall foliage is said to be most beautiful when its leaves are allowing themselves to be changed, letting go of their branches, and falling to the ground creating a quilt over the ground, as if to comfort the chilled soil. I’m sure you have seen the quote on a meme somewhere out there that says the leaves fall to remind us to let things go… Most often shared with a Marie Kondo style comment about letting go of anything that does not serve us or bring us joy. I would like to dive deeper. Watching the falling leaves over a cup of tea or coffee can inspire us to surrender to the changes happening around us and in us. We can use this time to let go of our need to control every detail towards our ideal of perfection, trusting God and nature through our cycles of change and surrender. A beautiful surrender of gently letting go and letting God, just like the like the leaves.

Pregnancy is an awesome example of this. During pregnancy, our bodies change significantly and there is much to surrender. You might be feeling too exhausted to do all the fall things this month, or too hungry to care about that second helping of apple pie. There are also things we must simply give up in order to have a healthy and happy pregnancy, with a happy and healthy baby. For instance, you may have to significantly limit, or give up coffee altogether, or even smoking. On the other side of this coin, there may be changes in your appetite, there might be a certain food on the top of your favorites list, that you just cannot even smell without getting nauseous now. You may have to let go of the infamous FOMO (fear of missing out) and lay low this season, so you can rest or focus on preparing for baby.

Surrendering to a changing body image is another huge task for some of us in pregnancy. I think our society is in a place where we are typically happy with our baby bumps, even showing them off. This baby bump and your pregnant mama glow may even enhance self-image as people recognize your enterance into motherhood. So, even while you might feel like a fat penguin, (because don’t we at times!?) you remember your body is an offering of space and material to build God’s new masterpiece, your precious baby, and feel beautiful in that.

Clearly, I believe pregnancy becomes you, but there are some women who struggle with body image immensly during this time. You may have gained more weight than you wanted, and you may be planning your postpartum weight loss plan already! What if, just this month, you practice surrendering to the beauty and sacredness of pregnancy. I’m not telling you to eat poorly or to quit exercising altogether (unless prompted by your doctor or midwife). I’m just asking you to look at yourself in the mirror, take a deep cleansing breath, breathing out all your ideals of perfection, and just be okay with the changes you see. See how the leaves change and create such beauty. You are doing the same. I challenge you to do this again, postpartum.. when your hair is falling out. LOL

The skill of surrender is an amazing tool for childbirth. So, practicing it throughout pregnancy will serve you well in the clutch. Childbirth itself comes about through stages and changes within each phase, as well as the dance of rest and contraction, rest and contraction. Surrendering to the process of childbirth will help it to go more smoothly and perhaps even more quickly. There’s that whole fear pain cycle that you can temper very quickly by an attitude of surrender, and trust. You may even have to surrender part of your birth plan in order to have a healthy birth. A change of plans can be disappointing, disheartening, and bring on feelings of guilt, but an attitude of holy surrender will help you to see where God turned all of that around for your good.

Immediately postpartum you will be hit with a whole new set of family dynamics, whether it is your first or fifth, as each child brings a whole new person into the mix. Postpartum also comes with regular lifestyle changes where mama’s find themselves consumed by routines of caring for a new baby, postpartum healing, and trying not to lose herself or neglect her family in the process. There is so much change and much to surrender in this precious time. It is helpful to have some support on hand so that you can have time to connect all the dots, process all the changes, and forge a family dynamic that works for you and yours. You may have to surrender the idea of doing this without outside help. You may have to surrender some of the items on your To Do list in order to get through the day with peace.

While we sip our hot apple cider, or pumpkin spice (anything!) and gander at the beautiful October scenery around us, let us make ourselves like the leaves who just let it go. Whatever has been bothering you today, let it go. Whatever you are worried about, let it go. Let nature teach you to trust in the process; and to trust in God.

 

To continue this meditation:

Grab your favorite hot drink and sit outside. Breath in the fresh air and watch how the leaves surrender to this season of letting go.

Journal: List the changes you’re going through, and describe how you might surrender more throughout pregnancy, birth, or postpartum (wherever you are at).

Pray: “Lord, I believe, Help my unbelief.” Father, I receive the grace to trust in your providence over my life and to recognize you and your grand design in this process. Holy Spirit, enlighten my mind and strengthen my soul with the “serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.“ Mary, beautiful example of how to trust in God’s divine plan, how to joyfully accept pregnancy, and motherhood, pray for me.

 

Theotokos, Helper In Childbirth

 

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Theotokos: Helper in Childbirth

As a teenager I was introduced to the Byzantine liturgy and fell in love with the awe-inspiring nature of it all. One of the beautiful things in the Eastern rite church is their use of iconography. Icons are used to make visible the invisible nature of God in an albeit limited human way. They are not worshipped but they are venerated as a way for our limited humanity to draw closer to God in His divinity, and to honor the communion of saints. The iconographers pray through their work on every icon, often with every brushstroke, to humbly paint with the Holy Spirit guiding their paintbrush. Since icons are inspired by God, they are viewed to be sacred objects, and often used in liturgy as well as personal prayer. Most represent specific characteristics of God, or the scriptures, and have written prayers associated with them. Here we have an image of the Mother of God: Helper in Childbirth, so of course I am compelled to include this beautiful devotion in my blog of all things birth, baby & mama.

I could talk about its history, but I’m not here to bore you with those details. In fact, I think it would be kind of superfluous to do so considering who and what is represented here. I mean, of the many things that could be painted with love and prayer, an image of the blessed virgin mother of God, as helper in childbirth, seems like it should have been painted by thousands of artists all over kingdom come. Perhaps the main question is, why do we not see more of these? <– a research endeavor for another entry.

Today I just want to bring this beautiful image to your attention, to elaborate on what this beautiful image represents, and discuss how it can help us through pregnancy and childbirth. Every icon has a story to tell that is rich with symbolism. From the name to the colors, all point towards the grand nature of God, and His beloved church. So, let’s dive into this beautiful representation of the Mother of God, Helper in Childbirth, shall we?

What’s in a name?

First of all, let’s just be clear that the name “Helper in Childbirth”, sometimes called, “Maternity Assistant” or “Assistant in Childbirth”, is basically calling Mary a doula. Doula comes from a Greek term that means handmaiden or woman servant, a helper of women. Of course, a doula in today’s world means to be a servant of a woman in labor and postpartum. Mary calls herself “the handmaiden of the Lord”, when the angel Gabriel announces to her that she will give birth to the Son of God. As this icon depicts, she is an experienced doula, and as a doula, I’m constantly asking her to teach me the best way to approach every mother I serve through her intercession and inspiration.

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(I’d love to give credit to whomever took this awesome photo! I haven’t been able to track them down. Let me know if it’s you!)

Mother of God: Birth Doula

Let’s talk about how Mary is a doula. Of course, through the prayers of countless women in pregnancy and childbirth, she has attended quite the sum of births. I believe that, in the moment of transition, she has met the souls of women at the very space where heaven kisses earth and shared the wisdom of a thousand mothers who have gone before, as well as the power of God through the Grace of the Holy Spirit, the Strength of her Son, and the Blessing of The Father. I believe she graciously shows up to mother the mother, watch over the babies, and send grace and wisdom to the birth workers, every time a mother prays during childbirth.

About 6 months (we guess) before Mary experienced childbirth, she took a week’s journey to be a doula for her cousin Elizabeth. Mary was in her second trimester, which is typically considered to be a joyous, and slightly more comfortable phase of pregnancy – which I see as a practical and sweet example of how God’s timing is so perfect. Elizabeth was entering her third trimester, probably feeling stretched and heavy, but joyfully expectant, looking forward to the birth of her long prayed for son, John the Baptist. Mary had about three months to be with her cousin before aiding her in childbirth, which provided an awesome time of fellowship and preparation for new baby.

(((I would say, as your doula, I’d like to be hired and begin our prenatal meetings by the time you are entering your third trimester. I’ve spoken with a lot of mamas who are looking into having a doula at the last minute, and hey! better late than never I always say, but I think about how much more help I could have been throughout the third trimester and truly want to provide as much support as I can. So, just in terms of best practice, modeled after the Mother of God, I would like to begin meetings at the start of your third trimester. I think God had his pick of women to be his Mama… and He picked her. So, for all things feminine and motherly, I look to her example for wisdom.)))

Mary comes to Elizabeth, bringing God within her womb, and from this womb He blesses Elizabeth and John the Baptist. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Luke 1:41) When Mary comes to our assistance in childbirth, she brings the Holy Spirit, and we are filled with the Joy of the Lord. The same God that she cradles within her womb, comes to live inside of us and gives us the grace to enjoy pregnancy and childbirth. Mary meets Eve here in a fantastic way. As Eve was made to suffer in childbirth, Mary was made to birth our Redeemer. She is able then, to bring us tremendous peace, comfort and healing by the power of the Holy Spirit, and to redeem our birth story through the power of Her Son. …“Selah”… pause and reflect on that, because if that is not a mic drop, I don’t know what is.

At this point, we have established that Mary has a unique charism for helping us through childbirth. We’ve also painted a picture here depicting the story of our redemption, as women, even amid labor pains and unexpected birth trauma. As Mary comes to our aid in haste, to bring peace. A doula comes in a hurry to support the family with a lot of practical help, but essentially, to bring peace. This peace that, no matter what happens, I am with you, God is with you, and in this very moment you have all the grace and power of redemption within you.

The image of Theotokos: Helper in Childbirth tells the story of Our Mama, Our Doula. It speaks to us of her role as the New Eve, and how she can help us attain a birth that is filled with the grace, peace, and healing power of the Holy Spirit.

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I’m posting this on October 7th, the feast of the Holy Rosary.  The rosary is an amazing way to welcome Mary into the birth room with us. It is repetative and rythmic, giving laboring women a beautiful ritual element to use during contractions. Penny Simpkin, an elder in birth work, speaks of the three R’s, elemental coping strategies women use during labor. These are: Relaxation, Rhythm, and Ritual. The rosary can be a sure-fire way to incorporate all three elements. The meditative factor of the rosary helps us to relax. While we ponder the life of Christ, and to see it’s reflection in our own lives, we are reminded that there’s nothing we can go through where God isn’t present, where His Providence doesn’t reign. We are reminded that Mary went through labor, just as we do, only it began on a donkey and ended on hay amongst the animals in a barn. We’re reminded of Christ’s sacrifice and by His cross, we find strength even in the suffering. You can visualize Mary’s “Yes” at the Annunciation and use her strength to say yes to each contraction that moves your baby into the light. Go with her to Elizabeth’s house, and remember she is with you in the same way as she was at The Visitation.

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Luke 1:39-56

[39] At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, [40] where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. [41] When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. [42] In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! [43] But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? [44] As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. [45] Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

[46] And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
[47] and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
[48] for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
[49] for the Mighty One has done great things for me —
holy is his name.
[50] His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
[51] He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
[52] He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
[53] He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
[54] He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
[55] to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.”

[56] Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.