When It’s Her First Denise Bolds, MSW CD(DONA) April 25, 2019
As a birth doula, I encounter many couples where the partner/spouse has children from another relationship. In the current relationship, the mother-to-be is experiencing her first pregnancy and birth. Her experienced partner may not be as engaged; there’s a been-there-done-that attitude (and sometimes that knowing smirk) that can come across in the pregnancy as a lack of participation, indifference and generalization. The experienced father may also compare the mothers, pregnancies and births of his children. Many first time mothers-to-be with partners who are experienced in childbirth/parenting are often indifferent, not as engaged, not listening to the mother-to-be or supporting any of her suggestions. I am using these adjectives because the mothers-to-be identified these feelings this way. All of my interviews and clients raise this concern is this couple dynamic.
The generalization places stress on the pregnant mother to be as the expectation; the pink elephant in the room grows bigger as the pregnancy progresses… “You’ll be fine, it’s not a big deal.” “I paid for that class before, it wasn’t any thing great.” “I’ve paid for this before, I don’t want to pay for it again.” “You go ahead and do your thing, I’m right here…” “You don’t need that, I didn’t use it with my other kids…” “Why do you want this? I didn’t use it with my other kids.” “I’m busy working, you take care of it.”
Here’s How To Help: Do Not Compare Or Generalize.
Experienced fathers supporting the first time mother can embrace these helpful suggestions; make time for her, go with her to classes and mother/baby/parent expos, sit and listen to her, ask her how she was raised by her parents, ask her how she wants to give birth. If she is expressing any apprehension, offer the suggestion of hiring a birth doula to support you both during the birth. Offer her the resources of childbirth education, acupuncture, prenatal yoga and massage. Most importantly remember not to compare your current spouse/partner and upcoming birth with your former spouse/partner’s pregnancy/birth. Do not assume all pregnancies/births are alike because they are not.
Dad, you could be the champion: suggest touring the hospital where you are going to have your baby; explore classes and resources in your community. Suggest hiring a birth doula; the doula can provide support for the both of you as well as offer you a refresher on how your support can and will be the perfect fit.
When it is His First.
The same suggestions above apply for the first time father and the seasoned mother: communication, education, support, time, resources, and of course a birth doula to provide support and advocacy to the couple. Experienced mother, make sure the first time Dad has access to education and get a birth doula to support him during the pregnancy, at the birth and be an extending resource after the birth!
Keep in mind, there’s a possibility Dad-to-be may suppress his feelings, and thoughts which isn’t supportive to him as a parent. Society demands fathers act a certain way that may promote more trauma than support. Dads need resources, support, communication and saved space just as much as the mother does.
‘Baby Nurse’ or Post Partum Doula
By Denise Bolds MSW CD(DONA)
December 29, 2018
As a birth doula of over 4 years, I have encountered many clients announce with pride: “I have hired a baby nurse to help me once the baby is here!” In my mind I am thinking my client must have been told at a prenatal visit that her unborn baby will be born with huge clinical needs that must be supported by a ‘baby nurse.’ I asked my client who laughed and said: “Oh no! My friend had one and recommended the service to me.”
This new Mom like so many others hear the term ‘Baby nurse’ and they all want one. They have no idea what a ‘baby nurse’ is. Here’s the scoop!
There are circumstances where a baby is born with intense medical conditions that require clinical support in the home such as special medications, oxygen, blood monitoring and recovering from surgeries. This is where a clinical, registered nurse who specializes in neonatal (newborn) care is a Baby Nurse.
The ‘baby nurse’ that many new parents hire are predominately women from the Caribbean who are skilled in caring for a new born. These ‘baby nurses’ are not of a clinical background, many are without any CPR training. ‘Baby nurses’ come from agencies that charge a bundle and they do not support the Mom, Dad or the home for that matter - just the baby. There is an alternative.
A post-partum doula is certified and is trained in supporting the family. They are CPR trained and will support the home with light meal prep, light house cleaning, breast-feeding support, belly binding, infant massage and more. The post-partum doula is also more affordable and flexible in hours. Why hire support that is only for the baby when a post-partum doula supports the baby and the family.
Remember, there are birth doulas and there are post-partum doulas. The birth doula supports prenatally and the labor/birth. The post-partum doula supports the newborn and the family with a variety of supports that include breastfeeding, belly binding, meal prep, house cleaning, overnight support and more. Both birth doulas and post partum doulas support breastfeeding! Many birth doulas provide placenta encapsulation services.
Do not be misled by the term ‘baby nurse.’ You are paying more for less support. Ask your birth doula if she/he/they can recommend any post-partum doulas. Bold Doula sure can!
Mourning During Labor
Denise Bolds, MSW CD(DONA) November 12, 2017
I am always fortunate to have amazing clients whom always teach me something new in my doula practice. Awhile ago, I had a client who was a VBAC getting ready to give birth to her second child. My client comes from an affluent lifestyle; her first born son is 2 and a half years old. Her VBAC successful, her birthing room was filled with family celebrating the birth; however the mother was not celebrating the birth of her beautiful baby girl. In fact, her demeanor was one of anticlimactic, bordering upon disinterest. It was evident something was amiss.
This mother was despondent over the change in her routine with her first born son now that her newborn daughter had made her arrival. For over two years this mother focused all of her mothering upon one child; there was a routine, a lap, a hug for her first born. With the birth of her second child, this mother did not process the addition of another child entering her life. Many parents of multiple children express anxiety over affection, routine and family structure.
This mother hired support so she could try and maintain the routines she and her firstborn had before her daughter was born. She became frustrated and anxious; she was the perfect candidate for mental health support from a provider who specializes in post-partum issues, including managing siblings. Luckily this mother was receptive to receiving the support.
Fast forward 18 months later. Another client, Kathleen was giving birth for the second time. Her first born son is two years old. During Kathleen’s labor, she began crying to the point where it evolved into hysterical sobbing. Kathleen’s hysteria had nothing to do with her labor, in fact, her hysteria was so pronounced, it shut down her labor.
I immediately stepped in to find out what was happening. John, Kathleen’s husband tried to console her to no avail. Before leaving the house, Kathleen forgot to kiss her sleeping son good bye. John did his best to rationalize with Kathleen; her sudden bleeding in her labor resulted in the couple rushing to the hospital with a potential emergency. Kathleen did not accept this reasoning; she continued to sob about how much she loves her son; she forgot to kiss him and touch him for the ‘last time.’
I remembered my client of 18 months prior; I knew what Kathleen was experiencing; she needed validation if we were going to move forward in the current birth. I went to Kathleen and I explained that I understood how she was feeling; I validated her, I saved space for her to mourn the loss of having an only child. I validated this mother’s anxiety with a simple statement: “Your lap and your heart are big enough for two.” Kathleen is an only child. She hugged me breathing a sigh relief. I was able to identify what Kathleen could not immediately express.
As doulas, we are on the front line witnessing what our clients experience. As part of prenatal support having a conversation about parenting multiple children and having a resource of mental health specializing in maternal health is very beneficial. Having this topic as part of the doula prenatal intake is something to consider in empowering your client and the family.
Here are some tips for the client and the growing family:
Have a sibling visit at the hospital.
Have a gift for the older child.
Have a ‘celebration’ of the newborn’s birthday.
Have the eldest child be a helper to the newborn sibling.
At home, set aside ‘Mommy & Me’ time with the oldest child while the newborn is with dad/mommy/partner.
Find a job in the home that the eldest sibling and Mommy can do together like setting the table for dinner or getting the mail from the mailbox.
Identifying and saving space for our clients when they cannot fully understand their own feelings brings trust and empowerment that affects the family as a unit. Many parents experience anxiety of having enough emotional resources, time and energy in parenting multiple children. This can be especially evident if the parents themselves are from single child families.
Kathleen and John used some of my suggestions from above; Kathleen is both empowered and confident in her motherhood of her two boys. Post partum, she sent me a lovely thank you gift and card commemorating the space I held for her in her labor where she mourned before giving birth.