I Hired a Postpartum Doula & It Was Worth Every Penny

mother and doula with baby
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When my husband and I were expecting, we read baby books and took some prenatal classes. But the lady swinging a limp doll around the room, demonstrating how to swaddle and perform CPR on that tiny plastic mouth, did little to instill real confidence in either of us. Luckily, at the end of our last birthing class, which included some basic newborn care information, the teacher made a reassuring announcement: For those of us with no clue, and no immediate support, there are postpartum doulas. 

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We didn't have experience or help.

For some happy couples, newborn baby care may come totally naturally. And for many others, a family member can often step in and show inexperienced parents the ropes. But in our case, we knew we had neither the Mary Poppins gene nor the relatives to rely on.

Sometimes known as "grandmas for hire" (but often on the much younger side), postpartum doulas charge what seems like a small fortune to help moms and dads like us get through those first confounding days or weeks, as needed, until new parents can manage basic baby care on their own. Hallelujah!

We certainly had not budgeted for this expense, but with no idea how to fasten a diaper, hold a small child, or even warm a baby bottle properly, I felt I didn't have a choice.

The glut of information is overwhelming.

A 25-year-old I knew was sharing with me the merits of an infant tub with a hammock. (Wait, isn't the kitchen sink the place to bathe a baby, we asked?). My sister's colleague's wife passed along her list of things I should bring to the hospital. (Oh, we need an outfit to bring the baby home? They don't dress him for you?) And a concerned neighbor suggested we be sure to stock up on newborn-sized diapers, because they apparently sell out of stores quickly. (Diapers come in sizes? What?!)

It was clear we needed someone to fill us in on all the other things we hadn't thought of.

After interviewing a few postpartum doulas, we picked Maggie, the one who offered to massage my feet, because she seemed the most sympathetic and hell-bent on helping us. And from the moment we signed her on board as part of our "birth team," we knew we had made the right decision, cost be damned.

Maggie explained the need for a special infant thermometer, and mini nail clippers, and she later showed us how to use them properly on our precious, tiny child. She showed us five different ways to burp our baby girl (the upside-down-across-the-knees method worked miraculously for us; we would never have even tried without guidance). She demonstrated how to rub her tummy clockwise, and pedal her legs gently, when she was screaming with gas pain.

Moms need care too.

Our magical doula also took the baby for a walk when she could tell we desperately needed a half hour of alone time. She encouraged me to write down simple personal goals for the first few weeks postpartum, like, take a bath, take time to put my feet up and rest or read, and start pumping and introducing the baby to the bottle, so I could give my husband some nighttime feedings while I clocked a little bit of necessary sleep between nursing.

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When I developed a cough, Maggie made me tea, got ingredients for my favorite chicken soup that she simmered on the stove, refilled my humidifier, and took baby out for a walk, so I could recharge.

Babies don't come with a manual.

Maggie assisted us with those first slippery, terrifying baby baths and that confusing umbilical cord care; she talked us through what to do when the baby felt a little warm one morning, and she generally helped us not freak out. She showed us how to swaddle, and diaper, and change onesies and footie jammies like pros, and how to recognize when our baby was getting overstimulated, or hungry, or tired.

Breastfeeding can pose challenges.

She showed me several different nursing positions that felt lifesaving when my neck got too stiff to sit upright anymore, and gave me some amazing pain relief tips when my breasts became engorged and super painful. She even helped me get on a sort of sane schedule, so that my days and nights stopped blurring into one poop-filled, crazed whirlwind, thankfully.

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In hindsight, of all the things we did as incompetent expectant parents, the smartest thing by far was hiring that postpartum doula before our child was even born, to lend us a hand when we all needed the support most. Without her, who knows if our daughter would have even made it to pre-K. Seriously.

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