Into the Mother’s Circle

May is International Doula Month and the month we celebrate Mothers!

I feel so grateful to do the work that I do; it is a blessing and an honor to support mothers and families, to welcome women into the Mother’s Circle.

The name Mother’s Circle has many meanings to me – it’s an embrace, safe arms around a family.  It is holding a space for moms and babies.  It is joining a community of women across generations and cultures and connecting mothers throughout history, around the Earth.  Mother’s Circle evokes an image to me of nurturance, compassionate envelopment and hands joining together – hands holding to buttress one another, to validate one another, to nourish one another in silent, expansive unity. 

Being a mother is so complex and contradictory – it is the deepest love, profound joy and intense frustration – it is special relationships and connection to another human being like no other.  It is overwhelming, emotional, physical, tiring, energizing, exhausting and invigorating.  It encourages us to explore our bond with this other person and our individuality from him/her; it leads us to reflect on our own mother, our own upbringing, our values, dreams, and goals for our families and ourselves.  Motherhood implores us to see ourselves anew, to be strong within ourselves beyond what we may have believed possible.

Mother, Mama, Mommy, Mom … we have a place of honor, prestige, great influence and great responsibility in a child’s life.  Becoming a mother is becoming a master balancer – balancing giving of yourself and giving to yourself.  Spending time alone, nurturing your spirit and body, living in the knowledge that caring for you is caring for your child(ren).  The title of Mother, Mama, Mommy does not replace the woman you are; let the role enhance you, add to you, give to you instead of detracting or diminishing. 

Trust yourself.  Honor yourself.  Bask in the glory of the Mother’s Circle.

The Value of Postpartum Support

What does Postpartum really mean?  Is the work of postpartum completed in six weeks?  Two months?  Five months?  Is there a “right” time to have mastered your new role as parent or your new role as parent of two, three, twins?

Postpartum, the time period often defined as the time it takes for the uterus to contract (involute) back to it’s prepregnancy size or six weeks, really lasts much longer and involves so much more than the physical restoration of the uterus. 

The disparity between expectations and the reality of a newborn can leave parents feeling out of control of their lives. Even with appropriate expectations, for example, adding a second or third child to the family, the time intensive requirements of caring for a newborn can clearly be challenging. 

Before the addition of a baby to your family, you have control over how you spend your time in working, leisure, sleeping, self-caretaking and other activities.  It is hard to anticipate how dramatically that will change after your baby arrives and hard to imagine just how overwhelming that can be to new parents.

A day in the life of caring for a newborn consists of:

  • at least five hours feeding your baby
  • about two hours changing diapers and clothing and bathing your baby
  • about four hours rocking, comforting and walking with your baby
  • about two hours admiring, cuddling and “playing” with your baby

All of which totals about 13 hours before Mom or Dad have showered, eaten a bite of food or slept a wink.  Parents need support and help after the birth of a baby.

The disparity between expectations and the reality of a newborn can leave parents feeling out of control of their lives. Even with appropriate expectations, for example, adding a second or third child to the family, the time intensive requirements of caring for a newborn can clearly be challenging. 

New parents need to be nurtured and cared for themselves in order to best able to care for their newborns.  The help from grandparents, sisters, neighbors and friends is a valuable support system for new parents.  In our generation and culture of families spread far apart, grandparents who may still be working and neighbors and friends who are busy with their own commitments, it is easy to see a gap in this support.

Postpartum doulas can help bridge the gap and help get new families off to a confident start.  Postpartum doulas main focus is on nurturing mothers, fathers and babies.  Emotional support, breastfeeding guidance, tips on physical comfort measures, practical household help (such as laundry, tidying, meal preparation and sibling care) as well as teaching parents basic soothing techniques and infant care are all part of a postpartum doula’s care.  The doula supports the family in a non-judgmental, gentle way helping them to feel confident in their new roles.