I’m writing to you four months postpartum while sitting in the stunning Mill Valley Library, surrounded by glass walls and redwood trees. And the only reason I have the strength, energy, and confidence to have slipped out of the house to write these words for you is because I had a postpartum doula.
Period. End of story. Hard stop.
Well–not end of story. I’ve actually got a lot to say on this topic! You’ve likely landed on this blog post because you’re on the hunt for a doula. Whether you’re hoping to learn more about hiring a night doula, a postpartum doula to help lighten your load during the days, or just generally curious what doula care looks like–I’m here to lay it all out for you.
Like always, I put my TLDR up front in case you don’t have a ton of time: I hired Birth Realm for postpartum doula care and it was the single best decision I made in my entire postpartum experience.
Now let’s talk about why.
Doulas aren’t exactly new–but it seems like not a lot of new parents know about this option.
I distinctly remember when I shared on my Instagram that we’d be hiring a postpartum doula as first time parents. My inbox was suddenly flooded with questions. Wait, what exactly is a doula? What do doulas even do? Do you mean you’re hiring a night nanny? How much does a doula cost?
Let’s dive in.
What is a doula?
According to the group of strong women that make up the company I chose to hire a doula from (more on this in this post!), a doula meets the needs of expecting families from conception through the first year of parenthood. There are doulas for just about every stage of this new parent journey.
Doulas are unique from your OBGYN, midwives, night or day nannies – and yes, even from your own care or that of friends and family.
Doulas focus on you and the new family unit: yourself, your partner, and your newborn.
What are the different types of doulas?
Labor & delivery
While midwives and doctors help deliver babies day in, day out, their typical focus is the health and delivery of the newborn. Not only do doulas provide guidance and support in the delivery room for actual delivery, but they’re especially focused on mom and dad. Labor can be fast, furious, slow, steady–all of it wild and beautiful and sometimes frightening. Doulas help provide physical and emotional support through a beautiful traumatic event. From encouragement to tips and tricks in the delivery room to having the exact type of delivery you’re dreaming of, doulas serve as the ultimate advocates for new parents when it comes to L&D.
Daytime doula care
Daytime doula care is the bomb dot com. I say this from personal experience. I hired a postpartum daytime doula! I was really drawn to bringing a postpartum daytime doula into our care team even before giving birth because I was convinced the extra support as a new parent would be worth it.
I was so right.
Daytime postpartum doulas are professionals that come into your home ready to help with a whole host of things including caring for your new baby, general household tasks, but most importantly taking care of you as a parent.
If you’re hoping to learn more about what a daytime doula can do for you, check out the Birth Realm site.
Overnight doula care
When our son was born, we were feeding him on demand every 2-3 hours. All. Day. We were exhausted. Raising a newborn honestly introduced me to an entirely new level of what it means to be tired. This is why overnight postpartum doula care is so valuable.
A postpartum night doula is there in those middle of the night hours to help you care for your new baby. Doulas can help with baby care when you’re at your absolute most fried as a human, they can help make those night wakings that much easier, and most importantly–they help you get the most sleep possible.
Not only do night doulas help with general overnight care, but they can also help answer questions about everything from sleep deprivation and sleep training. The thing I personally loved about my doula experience was I felt like I had a resource to ask any and all questions without judgment–an expert that knew all the options for this stage in our postpartum journey as well as the next several stages.
How to choose the type of care that’s right for you.
With so many options for newborn care, how do you decide what type of doula is right to add to your postpartum care support system?
Here are some of the hard hitting questions we asked ourselves:
- How do I feel about labor and delivery? Do I feel adequately supported by my medical care team?
- What does my current support system look like for the baby? How much help do we have available from family or friends and during what hours of the day?
- How do I want to feel as a new parent?
- What parts of parenting a newborn are the most intimidating to me?
- What am I most worried about entering the first stages of the postpartum journey?
When we laid questions like this out on the table a few things became really clear to us really quickly:
- My due date was during my husband’s busiest time of year at work. He may or may not have the flexibility to take immediate paternity leave.
- Although I had optimistic views of my labor and delivery, ultimately life throws you curveballs and we don’t get to choose how our baby enters this world. I wanted to make sure I had postpartum care focused on my own recovery in case my birth plan didn’t go to plan (spoiler alert: it didn’t).
- My husband’s parents live quite close, but my own parents live almost four hours away.
- We had absolutely no idea how to do even basic baby tasks like change diapers, sterilize bottles, or swaddle.
Since it seemed we’d need more daytime help than anything else, we chose to go with a daytime doula. Although, let me tell you, once the sleep deprivation started settling in, we nearly pulled the trigger on adding nighttime services as well.
What exactly do doulas, you know…do?
How we found our perfect match when selecting our doula
I want to dig into all the beautiful things our doula did for us. We booked our doula services with Birth Realm. And again, this was hands down the best decision we made as a family postpartum.
All about Birth Realm
Birth Realm is a doula-led, mama-run company that supports families across the Bay Area with doula services. I interviewed quite a few doulas when we did our search and Birth Realm stood out even from that early interview process. Jackie, the founder and owner, asked the most absolutely astute and caring questions. Some questions we honestly hadn’t even thought to ask ourselves. I felt like from that very first phone call I had an experienced sister helping prep me for what would likely be the most challenging process of my life.
What our doula did for us
Prepped us for the arrival of baby B.
Birth Realm was part of our team even before baby B (now officially known as Leo!) joined us earthside. Birth Realm had us answer questionnaires about our current support system, the hopes and wishes we had for postpartum life, and other logistical and tactical things. Birth Realm also does a home visit prior to your due date and baby’s arrival, to do a walkthrough of your house and get acquainted with everything from the nursery set up to saying hello to your pets.
Jackie and our cat, Popcorn, became fast friends.
Cared for me, even remotely, while I was in the hospital.
My labor and delivery did not go to plan. I actually thought prior to delivering I had no expectations or plans at all–and then I had a traumatic labor and delivery that ended in an emergency c-section.
I was destroyed as a human. For weeks I’d close my eyes for naps or at night and have flashbacks of staring up into operating room lights. I felt disconnected from my body and my baby. I felt sad, scared, upset, and almost robbed of what I had hoped to be a beautiful experience. I’ve always been very open and honest about my own mental health journey and that I regularly do see a therapist. But I’ll just be very honest here: there were so many moments during my first few months postpartum where my doula gave me support no one else really could.
Jackie was in contact with me while I was still at the hospital, texting and calling to check in each day. If I had questions about what happened to me or what was going on, she was there. My doula’s support during this time only became increasingly valuable as we made our journey home.
Helped us come home from the hospital.
Birth Realm was in our home the moment we were. When we brought our baby into the house, Jackie was right there helping us get him situated and us set up to start this whole parenting thing for the first time. But my favorite part?
The very first thing Jackie asked me when we arrived home was how I was doing.
Everyone, including myself, was so incredibly (and rightfully so) focused on the baby. Birth Realm was of course helping care for Leo. But our doula always made it very clear I was a primary focus, worthy of care during this tender time, too.
Ongoing care for about six weeks postpartum.
I kept a literal Apple Note in my phone with a daily diary of every single one of Jackie’s visits to our home. Here are just a few of the photos and snapshots of all the amazing ways Birth Realm supported us postpartum.
- Nursing support: Jackie helped me get set up as a first time pumping mom. The hospital sent me home with random, mismatched pump parts (which I didn’t even realize). She helped me learn how to pump correctly, and most importantly, safely. Jackie also helped me breastfeed. Over and over and over. Breastfeeding didn’t come naturally to Leo or I and I truly can’t even tell you the amount of hours and dedication Jackie devoted to helping us find our rhythm.
- Baby gear help: Jackie helped set up our stroller! We literally had no idea how to even put the bassinet into the stroller, fold it, unfold it…you get the idea (LOL).
- Nutrition: Jackie helped prep endless healthy snacks and meals. I’ll just drop a few of the photos of said meals here (“Instagram eats first,” we always joked). Nursing and caring for a newborn is exhausting, physically demanding work. Jackie always had snacks prepped from items in our fridge, serving us a balanced lunch during her daytime shift, as well as getting dinner started so we wouldn’t have to worry about that as well!
- Household help: Jackie did everything from help us sort through the pile of Amazon deliveries at our front door to dishes to laundry to quite literally anything that needed doing around our home. During our initial interview I had told Jackie that a chaotic home makes me feel chaotic–I can’t stand clutter. This was something I noticed she took extra care in focusing on when I came home.
- Allowed me to rest: In hindsight, I was pretty stubborn about taking care of myself and resting during my immediate postpartum time. With Jackie in our home, I was frequently encouraged to slow down, to nap, to take a long shower, or just genuinely do anything I could for myself. This felt absolutely indulgent. But Birth Realm taught me that encouraging a mom to take care of herself shouldn’t be indulgent. It should be the status quo.
- Words of wisdom: Our doula was our gentle voice of reason. I badly wanted to take a walk less than a week postpartum. Jackie supported the choices I wanted to make for myself, but also gave me great education on how to slow down and watch out for my body’s limits. I openly admitted to her after that first walk that she was right…I was aching for a couple days afterwards!
- And of course, caring for Leo: Jackie took care of our baby as if he had been her own. I always felt so safe and relaxed when she had him in her arms (or in her baby carrier, which was the cutest darn thing).
The TLDR: why I loved having Birth Realm as my postpartum doula
I gained confidence as a new mom.
I knew nothing about parenting or newborn care when we brought our baby home from the hospital. Nothing. And not only did I know nothing, but I had just gone through a traumatic event bringing my baby into the world. Our doula taught me practical parenting skills (from feeding to swaddling to everything in between). But our doula also taught me to trust in my own instincts as a parent.
Jackie constantly reminded me I was built to do this.
I always knew I had backup.
Postpartum and parenting is scary! I felt so safe and secure knowing I always had an expert on speed dial to ask questions, both big and small.
I had someone caring not just for my baby, but for me.
We were so blessed (and still are to this day) to have help from grandparents and family when it comes to caring for Leo. But what Birth Realm did was something entirely unique: our doula cared a great deal for me. Jackie helped me learn how to take care of my rapidly changing postpartum body. Jackie checked in on my mental health every visit, asking how I was feeling and what emotions were rising to the surface. Jackie provided the wisdom of hundreds of mothers and babies and families–quite literally thousands of hours of experience and care we truly couldn’t have gotten from anyone else.
If you’re in the Bay Area and on the hunt for doula services, Birth Realm has my heart
You can learn all about the services Birth Realm offers and get in touch on their website. You’ll find out incredibly quickly why I fell in love with the Birth Realm team–and you’ll absolutely fall in love with them, too.