One thing that most new mothers agree on? The early postpartum days require way more support than we’d anticipated. If family live far away and paying for a doula isn’t something you can afford, asking friends, family and colleagues to contribute as a present for the new baby – aka crowdfunding with your nearest and dearest - can be a great option for you.
I’m a newly trained postnatal doula, pre and postnatal yoga teacher and mother, and I find that nearly every woman I work with is surprised at the intensity of early motherhood. Hands up if you feel like everyone neglected to mention how full-on the early days can be?!
A lot of our energy and planning goes into the birth, often with little thought about what happens afterwards. In reality, after the great psychological and physical exertion of birth and amongst the exhaustion and challenges of adjusting to the huge shift to motherhood, the early days can be overwhelming.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. The right planning and support can make a huge difference. Women should be treated like queens in birth and in the early postnatal period, held up and celebrated as the warriors they are. Nurtured and supported in every possible way. They should feel more empowered and powerful at these stages than at any other times in their lives.
But so often these are the times we feel smallest and the most vulnerable. In our society we don’t mother in groups like in other cultures, and the early days can feel lonely as we hold ourselves to high account, question ourselves and wonder if we’re doing things “right”.
A postnatal doula can help with practical matters like establishing breastfeeding and baby care (also known as “learning how not to break the baby”), cooking nourishing food and doing light housework so you have a few less things to worry about and can concentrate on the only task you should have to think about right now – caring for your new baby.
But just as importantly they can provide vital emotional support and the reassurance, wisdom and companionship that can give new mothers confidence and a brilliant start to their mothering life.
How do I pay for doula support?
We live in a weird world where it’s normal to spend our annual salary on our weddings but no one advises us to put aside a month’s salary for birth and postpartum doula support. I totally get it – I had nothing put aside and assumed I could, and should, do it alone.
So many mothers say “I wish I’d had a doula” that I also suspect the barriers are not just financial – those these are real for most people – but also linked to how able we are to give ourselves permission to receive support. Not many of us are good at that, after all.
So if you have plenty of time, e.g. you’re planning to get pregnant, I’d advise overestimating what you might need and starting to save as soon as you can. If you’re further down the line and can’t afford this support? A crowdfunder to pay for a birth and/or postnatal doula like couple Chloe and Jude’s on platform Patchwork, can solve the issue of requiring support and avoiding being given 24 babygros you don’t need at the same time!
So many people want to give new babies or their mums a present and, like a honeymoon fund when you’re invited to a wedding, a doula fund allows the new family to spend any generous gifts in a way that works for them. No waste and a happy new family.
Once donations add up from friends, family and colleagues who might have bought you something you didn’t want anyway, you’ll be surprised at how far your fund goes to allowing you the postpartum support you need.
It can be difficult to ask for help in this way, but if people love you (they do!) they will want to help in a way that works for you. The following script might help:
“Dear friends and family. We have decided the best gift we can give our newly-formed family is support from an experienced doula to provide practical help, allow us to get some rest and provide a reassuring presence as we settle into parenting life. We know our friends and family will provide brilliant support too, but we feel the more support there is at this stage the better! We have set up a fund to cover the costs of our doula. If you wanted to contribute in lieu of gifts for the new baby (we are all covered for this), we would be extremely grateful.”
Investing in yourself
Many postnatal doulas get their enquiries when the new baby has arrived and families realise they may need some extra support. Many doulas are already booked up at this stage, so it’s best to plan with as much notice as possible.
Will you really “need” your doula? I haven’t met anyone yet who regretted investing in a doula. I believe it’s one of the most valuable gifts you can make to yourself as a soon-to-be or new parent. A gift that, above all, you deserve.