Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Mothering Mothers: How Doula Work has Changed my Perspective on Modern Day Mothering

My kids are older, they do not need me as much as they used to. This has caused a feeling of emptiness and consequently I felt I needed to have more children. As a woman, I have an innate urge to "mother." For some reason, our Western society views mothering as a woman bearing and raising her own children. Since starting doula work I have come to understand that mothering encompasses so much more. Doula work is mothering mothers.

There was a time when most women knew about birth. They could provide support to other women during and after it. This was a time before birth became a medical event, before birth became feared, before birth became a condition to be fixed. During this time, mothers were mothered during birth, their needs known by other women through sheer experience. Weeks later these women would still provide support by helping the new mother take care of her house and other children. This was our village.

The rise of hospital births crushed the birth village. Mothers turned towards doctors for support. Doctors turned to medication and interventions. Birth became a moment to be controlled by others instead of experienced by the new mother. Supporting women were pushed from the birth space and replaced with medical professionals, IV medications, and surgical procedures.

Now, new mothers are sent home days after birth and left to deal with a new baby while taking care of everything else as if nothing had happened. Visitors come and go. Very rarely do women experience the comfort of having support for weeks while she recovers physically and bonds with her new baby.  New mothers can be overwhelmed, scared to take care of an infant, struggle with breastfeeding, and worry about their changed bodies, all while thinking this should be the happiest moment of their lives. The result is a very high rate of postpartum depression and a crushing sense of isolation.

Birth and new motherhood is a vulnerable time for most women. Birth can be powerful, healing, and amazing. But birth can also be tiring, emotional, and raw. It creates a woman who needs a village so that she can heal physically from the birth and sometimes mentally if it does not go as planned. It creates a woman who needs time and focus to bond with her baby. It creates a gap for other mothers to fill, to mother a new mother. Thankfully, the re-emergence of midwives as well as doulas and other birth professionals has helped fill this gap.

I now know that my children becoming more independent is not the end of my mothering but the beginning of a new chapter in my life. My newly gained independence is allowing me time to focus my mothering skills and needs in other very important ways. Doulas are an integral part of changing the face of birthing and mothering in America. I am privileged to be apart of this new village