Part 1 of 3, The Holistic Approach to Childbirth and Postpartum
by Stephanie Finn, Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and Registered Nurse
In this series of posts I would like to share with you some things to consider when searching for pediatric healthcare setting. First, I will share a little background about myself and few personal insights from my experience with having a doula and snippets from my postpartum journey.
I entered the scenario of prenatal care and obstetric services as a pediatric nurse practitioner. In addition to managing my own unique health concerns and wanting the best for our baby, I had several years of education and experience as a nurse working with children under my belt. I have witnessed first-hand the concerns of parents fraught with so many important decisions to make in a short amount of time, albeit a precious emotional time. This spans everything from breastfeeding issues, formula selection, vaccination concerns, treatment side effects, potential surgeries, food allergies, mental health concerns, you name it. I knew that I needed to provide my body with the most healthful foods and supplementation, exercise, meditate, pray, and stay centered and at ease throughout the turbulence that can surround pregnancy and early motherhood. Pregnancy is a joyous time, and although we are designed to carry and birth children well, it can be particularly demanding for mothers juggling work, caring for other children, or managing health concerns. With all of this in mind, I began my search for a doula.
First, I must say, I am so thankful to have a loving and supportive husband, who took great joy in helping me with decisions surrounding our birthing day. This was huge! For those in a relationship, having a doula can bring a lot of relief and support to both you and your significant other. Not every mother will have this support—and as I see it, doula care is even more valuable in these situations.
Although I have a handful of very close friends and family who have walked beside me in the best of times and the worst of times (incredibly thankful for them), and very kind extended family members, there was one key piece missing for me during my pregnancy, and more so postpartum: Nearby family-the ones I grew up with so close to me.
My mother and the close-knit family I grew up with do not live in the same state as my husband and me. This was disheartening for me as I longed to share more special moments as a new mom with them. Even though they are not extremely far away, I missed the communal aspect of being near them. Growing up with a large family full of women and children, I was blessed with the joys of engaging in frequent chats around my grandmother’s kitchen table, having tea on the back porch, time to vent frustrations with family and share our joys, laugh together, and most importantly, do this with those who knew me well as a person. I realized this interaction was so much a part of my norm and integral to my being. While it did not dampen my joy and gratitude surrounding the blessing of a baby, this need became so apparent during my pregnancy and journey postpartum! I’ve heard many mothers relate to this need in varying ways. Whether one’s family is large or small, the key is that the support network must be one that is relatable and unique to the mother. It’s her village, her sustenance. Though the circumstances are unique to everyone, we all share the desire to connect with those close to us and to fulfill our needs and matters of the heart.
Social support has been reported to be a buffer to postpartum depression. What social support means is individual. While one mom may need a few weeks to bond with her new baby with one or two significant others around, another may prefer a more extended network of visitors around. Many new moms may need to make arrangements to visit family, and some may need to warm up to visitors or childcare situations. A new life has shifted from the inside of her body, to the outside world; she has evolved, and there is a beautiful yet major shift taking place during this time. This precious time is not without some degree of vulnerability.
The common thread which is important to keep in mind postpartum is to ensure the new mother is comfortable and has the conditions she needs to heal physically, rest, and bond with her baby. Baby needs mom to be supported! I vividly remember our doula encouraging us to make choices that would be conducive to mother-baby well-being and our health as a growing family, regardless of outside pressures.
The experience of missing family postpartum, being extremely exhausted from breastfeeding and the accompanying sleep deprivation (along with expected hormone shifts) certainly granted me moments of feeling anxious. It’s quite the adjustment. To date, my sweet little one has spent more time in my womb than outside of my womb. The motherhood rollercoaster is just beginning!
My heart is full. I am happy to say that with a supportive husband, an encouraging doula, awesome healthcare provider, a supportive employer and a handful of close friends and family as advocates, I truly ended up with the support I needed. Despite the longing for back home, I was able to stay afloat and keep from spiraling into postpartum depression. Support showed up in unexpected places.
The good health and smile on my child’s face was more than enough to keep me going on days when sleep was out of reach. I had to be proactive to create time and space for what I needed to take care of our baby and myself. Also, I reminded myself that there are gracious and understanding people who have been there. Moms, do not lose sight of this! Thankfully, from the beginning I had the most joyous bond with our baby girl. My heart has stretched with welcoming our greatest treasure into the world, and also for new moms out there who are in the throes of postpartum hormone swings or depression.
We can all help pregnant women and new mom’s seek out the support they need. Be proactive. Ask, and do not assume what they may need or what they should be doing. As the old saying goes, “Mother knows best.”
As you navigate the world of pregnancy and postpartum, be true to yourself and trust your inner guidance. Reach out for the care that YOU need to be healthy, and fully embrace it. Trusting that you are doing what’s best for you and letting go of the rest will become easier with practice. Pray about it, meditate on it. Find your advocate(s), and extend this custom care to your child and family.
In my next post, I will share a few things to look for in a healthcare setting for the bundle of joy that is entering your world! Soon to follow I will be sharing more details about my birthing day!
Stephanie Finn is a Certified Pediatric Nurse Practitioner and Registered Nurse at CentreSpring MD.
Read Part 2 of 3: Holistic Care For Your Child After Using A Doula