Why I Refused to Hire a Baby Nurse or Postpartum Doula

Photo taken By  London King

Photo taken By London King

My first baby was born almost five years ago, how that can be I do not know, but while I was pregnant I spent A LOT of time getting ready for him.  I actually took off from work a month before he was born, which turned out to be a really bad idea because I ended up sitting around watching hours and hours of The Hills and that can’t be good for anyone.

But I also spent time nesting, reading books on how to teach your kids to read (which still hasn’t panned out), cleaning all our new baby stuff and resting.

I had everything all set for the big day, an AMAZING birth team which included one of the best birth doulas in New York City, an extremely open-minded OB and my wonderful husband.

I remember my doula casually asking if I was interested in hiring a postpartum doula.  I actually had never heard the term before.  My mother had suggested we hire a baby nurse, as did most of the guys in my husbands office, but for some reason we just never got on that.  I really thought once the baby was here, everything was going to be just fine.

Holy smokes was I wrong!  My birth was fantastic, Charlie was handed to me and I was totally in love.  During the first two nights in the hospital, I was getting the hang of things.  Breastfeeding was painful and confusing but he was latching ok and getting what he needed.  During the night, I was just doing my thing.  He would cry and I would change him, feed him and re-swaddle him.  Rinse, wash, repeat.  "I got this thing, lets go home," is what I thought.

Then we got home and my husband and I lost our minds.  The exhaustion was brutal and because we didn’t know what to expect when we got home, we didn’t plan to have ANY help.  Seriously, WHAT WERE WE THINKING. 

The next days that followed didn’t seem to get any better.  I was so anxious about this new love in my life that no matter how tired I was, I couldn’t fall asleep.  The exhaustion was mounting and it wasn't good.  By morning two at home, I walked into my living room where my husband was and just started shaking with fear. 

I called my doctor who told me to go for a walk.  She called me in some anti-anxiety medication but I never ended up getting it from the pharmacy.  That night, after some fresh air and eyeing other people outside who were also raising children and not dying or killing their babies by mistake, I was able to relax a little and get a much needed two or three hours of sleep in a row.  Life started to become manageable but nothing was really “easy” until Charlie was a few months old.

During those days of panic, while I lay in bed wide-awake, I repeated a very important mantra that I will never forget.  It went something like this “you can hire a postpartum doula, you can hire a postpartum doula, you can hire a postpartum doula”.  The mere fact that I COULD hire someone if I was in fact going to lose my mind, actually started to calm me down.  But why did I feel the need to go through such GREAT lengths, such pain and suffering instead of just ACTUALLY hiring a postpartum doula?

There were a few things.

1.     I thought it would be way too expensive.  I had this misconception that hiring someone to come help me would cost me thousands of dollars and that I needed to commit to weeks and weeks of help.  I didn’t know that most doulas only charge $40 to $50 an hour and that you only had to commit to about three or four hours in a row.  So for $200, I could have kept my sanity and stepped into motherhood with a little more confidence.  

2.     I though my husband would think less of me.  This motherhood thing was suppose to come naturally to me.  I mean, I had been telling my husband for years that I wanted to have a baby and here I am with the baby I had always wanted and I couldn’t hack it.

But the fact is, NO ONE knows how to be a parent until they actually are one.  And it NEVER comes naturally – to ANYONE.  Parenting is a learned skill and NO ONE is an expert at it, no matter what they tell you.

3.     I thought I should have been stronger.  It makes me sad just writing this.  To think of what I went through instead of just throwing up my hands and saying “I need help”.  All because I thought I should have been something that in actuality, nobody is.

When I started working as a postpartum doula and began Baby Caravan, I would walk into my clients homes and feel this sense of relief that came over them and their partner.  They knew that for just four hours, everything was going to be ok.  They knew a trained professional was there and that I could help them. 

Most of the time, I just tidied up around the house or chatted with them about their birth and how they were feeling.  I would take a look at how they were doing with breastfeeding, make suggestions and teach them how to sooth their baby.  But mostly, I listen to their fears and concerns without any judgment and I told them “its going to be OK” and “it all gets better and easier”.  Sometimes, that’s all a girl needs to hear. 

Now-a-day’s, when I walk into a clients house I think – this is one put together strong mama who knows what she needs!  I don’t think she’s weak or giving up, I think she knows what’s up and she is prepared.  And I hope that she grabs the ear of her friend who has just announced her pregnancy, pulls her aside and tells her, "DON’T buy ANOTHER baby thing – please call my postpartum doula instead.  It will be the best decision you will ever make!"

I sure wish someone had convinced me of the same.

Jen Mayer