Nine Challenges of a Postpartum DoulaFeb 03, 2022
Postpartum doulas face challenges, just like in life or in any other professions.
These are the main ones I’ve discovered in my life and postpartum doula career and the ones that other doulas have spoken about.
- Letting go when the job is over - Ask yourself some questions. How do you know when you’re done with a client? Is everything running smoothly? How much time have you spent? Do you feel that you’ve done and said all you can to help the family establish great habits and they feel comfortable? Are there still challenges? Are you the one to be solving them?
- Not bringing the job home - Every job has the potential of spilling over into other areas of our lives. Being a postpartum doula is no exception. Take some time on your way home to breathe, let it go, and set your intentions on being present at home. Whether you have a partner, or you're alone, being present with yourself and others is what matters.
- Communicating effectively with clients - Everyone has a different style. Do you know what yours is? Know when to talk and when to observe. Ask the questions you need for clarification. Your tone and approach are what counts. Also, let your clients know how you prefer to communicate between visits. Is it email, text, or some other way? The challenge here is in not knowing enough about your clients sometimes, and how they communicate.
- Supporting choices you may not agree with - Postpartum doulas meet people where they’re at. There are lots of choices to be made about caring for a newborn; from sleep to feeding, diapering, and lots more. Your choices may not be the same choices your clients make. Remember to leave your judge at home, and offer an objective view on any situation.
- Adapting to a wide range of personalities - We all have our unique personalities. When a newborn enters the scene there’s an additional personality in the mix, and then there’s you, the postpartum doula. Your job is to get to know what type of person (s) you’re working with. A common way to look at this is referring to type A or type B. The more uptight and regimented, or the easy-going. There is much in between. You get to fit in with ease and know when to do or when to speak. You may be handed a list or you may be asked to take charge. What is your preference? Do you know how to adapt to different personalities?
- Adapting to a variety of circumstances - You can think of this as lifestyle choices like eating habits, discipline of other children, and how someone keeps a house (messy or perfect). Also, as a postpartum doula you may find yourself in the midst of a rocky marriage, or financial troubles. You don’t always know what you’re walking into. You want to be prepared for everything, and again, fit in with grace, and acceptance. Of course, if your safety is a concern, you can find your way out.
- Emotional giving - We postpartum doulas are very heart-centered. We can wear our hearts on our sleeves. It can be challenging to not get sucked into someone’s emotional pain and trauma because we’re hired to be part of the support team. Know your boundaries, and establish them from the beginning. Also, line up your support team and people you can refer your clients to when needed. Remember to fill your cup. You will feel depleted quickly if you’re giving and giving and not receiving. Talk to another doula about a challenging situation, leaving out names for confidentiality.
- Bottle-feeding challenges - This can be with a formula fed baby or a breastfed baby. There are some breastfed babies that have difficulty taking from a bottle when parents decide to do this. Sometimes it’s a nipple issue. There are different flows and styles, and it may take some time to get it right. Formula fed babies can have these challenges as well, and additionally, digestive issues. You can make suggestions, and offer ways to feed the baby slowly. Sometimes, it’s trial and error.
- Loss of a baby - Postpartum doulas could face this situation at any time. You’re ready to work with a family and get the call that they lost the baby. This is obviously devastating. Your services may not be needed, and could be a reminder that there is no baby. You can offer to be there for the family, and could bring food, or arrange a meal train. Still be available for emotional support. If there is another sibling, you could possibly be asked to help with them. The grief process is something that everyone handles differently. You can always take additional training specifically on this topic. You can also ask other doulas for support.
After reading this, you may have a sense of where your challenges are as a postpartum doula. We all have our strengths and weaknesses. Lean into your strengths and be aware of your weaknesses. Tap into your wisdom.
In time, after working as a postpartum doula in a variety of situations, you’ll gain more and more confidence. Trust your intuition as you learn more about yourself and the work of a postpartum doula. Take a quality postpartum doula training, and apply what you learn and keep going.
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