What is a Virtual Postpartum Doula?

In my career as a postpartum doula, I find that I’m often educating people about what I do. I like to say that I offer practical, educational, and emotional support to the parents of newborns to build calm, confidence, and connection in their early parenting experience. Sometimes, I go with a quick answer, something like “I help new parents at home after they have a baby.” Like so many of us, the events of recent weeks has forced me to consider how I can do my job while doing my part to limit the spread of this new virus, and a big part of the answer has involved a switch to working online. Many of my clients initially seek help keeping up with the practical needs of the postpartum time- learning how to care for a newborn, getting rest, grocery shopping and cooking, laundry and tidying up, for example. These can often seem like the most pressing needs to an expectant family, and do indeed play an important role in recovery, bonding, and mental health. But the truth is, looking back on the other side of those first intense weeks and months, it is common to hear families say that the most important part of doula support was actually the emotional piece. Feeling heard, the ability to share the full range of emotions and experiences without being judged, help to discover their own way without pressure to follow another’s advice, someone to talk to who isn’t emotionally invested in your choices, and a path to community support through meeting other new parents and professionals, are all benefits that can have a long-lasting effect on a new mother’s (or father’s) sense of identity and well-being long after the extra help is no longer needed. And the good news is, this level of support does not require us to be in the same room. Here are some of the ways video call support from a postpartum doula can transform your experience of a difficult time:

  • Reducing isolation and stress- In the best of times, new parents can feel cut off from the world and unsure of the future and their abilities to cope with the day-to-day. Now, these feelings seem to be magnified for everyone. Human beings are hardwired to seek social connection as a way to survive stressful situations, but we often don’t know where to turn to find the support we need. I am here for that.
  • Protection for your physical health- With the current concerns about exposure to the new virus, people are trying to separate themselves from the outside world as much as possible. Video calls allow us to build and maintain a sense of connection without risking exposure to illness.
  • Increased flexibility- When I visit a client in their home, I charge for a minimum of four hours per visit. With video calls I am able to offer a package of as little as one hour a week, plus text support every day. This may allow some families to experience the benefits of a postpartum doula who might find it difficult to commit to a greater number of hours. It also removes the restriction of location, allowing me to support you no matter where you live. I am excited for this increased opportunity to work with many more families, whether weekly or in a one-time session to address specific issues and concerns.
  • Visual education- Educational support is another aspect of my work that is available through video calls. I can use my collection of newborn parenting education materials to demonstrate anything from soothing and burping techniques, to latching and paced bottle feeding, to different styles of baby carriers. You can also allow me to see what you are doing and offer in-the-moment suggestions of things that have worked for other parents with similar issues.
  • Resources and referrals- As a doula, I consider myself a sort of living library or search engine for newborn parenting information and expertise. I do not push parents towards making any particular set of lifestyle decisions, because I believe that they are the experts on their own family’s needs, and different situations regarding caregiving, sleep, feeding, etc. are going to work best for each individual situation. At the same time, I realize that the sheer amount of information and advice available at our fingertips can be overwhelming and often serve to increase the universal feelings of parental self-doubt. It is my goal to balance these two factors by listening carefully as you describe your experiences, thoughts, feelings, and circumstances, and offering suggestions for you to consider that I believe have the best chances of being helpful to you. I am always seeking to expand my knowledge of books, videos, techniques, research, groups, and experts that I can connect with families that might find value in what they have to offer.

No matter where you decide to seek support and self-care, remember that every time you make a commitment to show up for yourself and get your needs met on a regular basis, you are making it easier to be the person (and the parent) that you want to be. It’s cliché, but true- you can’t pour from an empty cup, you can’t give what you don’t have. It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed by the pressing needs all around you, but if you don’t take care of your health, including your mental health, you will eventually lose the ability to be helpful to anyone. Like meeting a friend for a workout or signing up for a yoga class, many people find that making an appointment or financial commitment helps to ensure that life doesn’t get in the way of their best intentions. The effort is worth it. 

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