Updated: Feb 16, 2019
In essence the word Doula means a "Woman who serves". With Greek origins, the word has since evolved in definition to describe a person providing physical and emotional, sometimes spiritual support during pregnancy, birth and postpartum. However Women serving Women during this special time is as old as birth itself and "Doula's" can be found in all cultures around the world with various names. Often this role would be fulfilled by one's Mother, Aunts, Sisters, Partner and close Friends. With our busy modern lifestyles people need to work more making them less able to provide support, also sometimes we may live far away from our close support networks or our partners may work away or many hours.
In the 1970's Dana Raphael revived the concept of a Doula and the phrase "Mothering the Mother" paving the way for the modern Doula movement. Raphael highlighted the importance of postpartum care in regards to successful breastfeeding and the emotional and physical health of a Mother. If you have heard the word Doula, it was probably in relation to birth. In my last blog post I touched on the "why" postpartum support is so important. I will now expand a little more on how such support can have a deep impact on a new Mother, baby and family.
Mothering the Mother! I love this phrase so much. When a Woman becomes a Mother she must focus all of her energy into the new baby, often in our modern world this is taken for granted without much thought of where all of this energy is going to be sourced. This is like expecting your flowers to bloom without the soil, sunshine and water! My wonderful teacher Julia Jones from Newborn Mothers (learn more: https://newbornmothers.simplero.com/S/https://www.newbornmothers.com/?ref=12486-shelley-k-mcclure) passed on a lot of fantastic wisdom, oxytocin production, the love and bonding hormone, being up there on the list! Lets take a look at the 5 sunshiny pillars again:
- REST notably in the 4-6 weeks after birth, adequate rest assists with healing after birth, breastmilk production and allows your body to transition from pregnancy hormones into postpartum Mothering hormones. This means doing much less than you are likely used to. Less, housework and activity in general. It's also a good time to rest your mind. Limit too much mental stimulation, negative inputs like the news, excessive social media etc. It is a good time to look at your baby, flick through a lovely magazine, watch your favourite series on netflix or DVD.
- WARMTH and often massage is necessary to ensure the Mother and baby thrive in a safe and nurturing environment. Studies have shown that just holding a warm drink can increase oxytocin! Imagine what a warm environment and massage could do. Oxytocin production increases breastmilk and bonding - a mothers two most important jobs. As a postpartum Doula I would offer a gentle massage with warm oil, if anyone deserves this, it's a new mother, so sit back and relax.
Depending on the time of year you could keep the heating going a little longer, use hot water bottles, rug up with your favourite wooly socks and blanket. Avoid winds and being outside too early and late in the day when the temperature can change quickly.
- Nurturing FOODS and DRINKS to promotes oxytocin production and great wellbeing, always warm, often with particular herbs in food and tea assisting with healing, easy to digest and extremely nourishing and enjoyable. Each culture has different special meals given to new mothers. Often easy to digest so warm and well cooked meals such as stews and soups. If you feel like salad try to add warm cooked foods to it also, like roasted sweet potato and pumpkin. Special herbal teas including herbs that promote healing and breastmilk production. I will be providing a herbal tea blend in my postpartum goodie basket. Good Fats! This is not a time to worry about calories. Good fats assist with breastmilk production and can provide much needed collagen for muscle repair after pregnancy and birth. I will cover this important topic further in future blog posts. Examples of good fats are; bone broth and meat stews, coconut sesame and olive oils, ghee (clarified butter), butter, avocado to name a few.
- SUPPORT from close family and community members. This is where "Mothering the Mother" really becomes so essential. By creating a safe supportive network, the Mother can focus on the huge but simple task of falling in love with baby and breastfeeding if she chooses to do so. Again oxytocin production is enhanced from feeling loved, connected and supported. Gentle loving touch, words and presence can be profound for a Mother's wellbeing during this time.Anyone who enters the house should have the one sole focus of supporting this vision, by assisting around the house in some way, with the housework, other children, cooking etc. If the new Mother tries to host or entertain, gently remind her that you are there to support her during this special time and would rather she put her energy into baby.
Ritual can be a really lovely way of honouring and celebrating a life transition. Most cultures around the world had a new Mother ritual at the end of the fourth trimester/sacred postpartum window. Baby showers or blessings are common during pregnancy. You may choose to also or instead of have a Mother Blessing at the end of your fourth trimester. I would love to help create a vision or facilitate a simple tailor made ritual for you involving a mini party of all he above aspects of postpartum care. Giving you and baby an extra boost of nurturing and love before entering the big wide world. This could take the form of a supportive circle of Women and family members, sharing warm delicious food, showering you with love. This could include a herbal tea ceremony, meditation, flower crowing plus much more.
References and links:
Newborn Mothers Website: https://newbornmothers.simplero.com/S/https://www.newbornmothers.com/?ref=12486
THE MIDWIFE AS DOULA: A Guide to Mothering the Mother Dana Raphael, Ph.D. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1016/0091-2182%2881%2990170-1