My husband, John, and I are the quintessential, proud parents of two "Figglets"...Riley (8) and Rowan (6). I have worked full time inside and outside of the house and just about everywhere in between. I openly admit that for me, sometimes it's much easier to go to work outside of the home than manage a houseful of little people, and thus The Village Doula was born…
My experience as a new mom was not what I expected. I am a well educated, career oriented woman who “had it all” and never thought that I would find myself where I did in 2010...
After giving birth, my life changed more dramatically than I had ever imagined. Like many mothers, I had a traumatic birth experience. I felt as though my unplanned/emergency cesarean section was my first failure. I soon found my new role as a mom to be isolating and lonely, often wondering if I was truly cut out to bring a child into this world. No one talked about how hard it was adjusting to motherhood. I was also grieving the loss of my old self and my marriage as I had known it.
On top of all the "normal" changes new moms face, I was diagnosed with postpartum anxiety when Riley was just 10 weeks old. Beyond the severe anxiety, I was experiencing panic, had obsessive compulsive tendancies, as well as extreme insomnia (not because of the baby). I was devastated to say the least. To be diagnosed with a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder is not what you expect to encounter when you give birth to a beautiful new baby. Looking back, those were the most desperate and challenging days of my life. I felt worthless, overwhelmed, and overcome but fought to find my "old" self again. My own patient advocacy helped me through some of my darkest days.
Because of my experience, it’s become my passion to inspire other moms by sharing my journey. It's not just my story that I aim to spread, but also honesty about motherhood and the parenting profession in general. Just as the African Proverb states, “It takes a village to raise a child." It also takes a village to support the mothers of those children.
Postpartum care in the United States looks very different from other cultures. Motherhood is a long journey and all too often we feel as if we have to do it alone or are forced to do it alone based on circumstances. In our culture, after a short stay in the hospital, mothers are typically sent home to recover from pregnancy and childbirth as well as take care of their newborn. Most often she is left to fend for herself. In Misconceptions, Naomi Wolf points out, “…American women are profoundly under supported-by their families, their workplaces, and the larger society-in coping with the strains of new motherhood…non-Western cultures believe that the healthiest mother-baby bond depends on the community of women doing everything possible to mother the new mother, so that she can focus on becoming a mother to her newborn.” In my opinion, we are setting our mothers up for failure by not providing them with the appropriate emotional and physical support during such a critical time of need. The “fourth trimester” (a nonmedical term referring to the first 3 months postpartum) is a time full of adjustment and growth for mom, baby and family. Facts such as these have fueled me to seek out change when it comes to how we treat our mothers.
As The Village Doula I will provide nurturing and non-judgemental support deserving to all mothers (along with partners, support persons, and families) during this transitional time. Bringing a new little person into your world is a challenge, whether it's your first baby or your fourth. I will also continue to advocate and work diligently to de-stigmatize maternal mental health issues for mothers who suffer during the postpartum period.
Over the last 6 years I have worked in our postpartum community and look forward to continuing to do so in the West Michigan area.