OYM Bonnie | Postpartum Doula

It is indeed alarming that the word postpartum has become synonymous with depression, though in fact, it pertains to the transition stage between pregnancy and motherhood. To help mothers and their respective partners get through this challenging life phase, the help of a postpartum doula is extremely valuable. Exploring this profession with Timothy J. Hayes, Psy.D. is professional doula Bonnie M. Griffin. She focuses her discussion on her duties as a doula, breaking the common misconceptions surrounding her work that usually overlaps with midwifery. She also emphasizes why postpartum moms need extensive support beyond cute baby clothing and baby showers; they need assistance in terms of service and emotions as well.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Breaking Misconceptions Surrounding The Postpartum Doula Profession With Bonnie M. Griffin

Bonnie M. Griffin is a Postpartum Doula who specializes in preparing her clients for their postpartum experience while they are still pregnant. Her individualized postpartum support is informed by her background and knowledge in social work, herbalism, breastfeeding and babywearing. Bonnie has two children and enjoys reading, being in nature and doing yoga. Bonnie’s website is BonnieMGriffin.com.

Bonnie, thank you so much for joining us here now. Welcome.

Thanks for having me.

I’m delighted to be able to have a chance to talk to you. This is such an important topic that many times people don’t get a chance to address or even know there’s a possibility to address. What does a doula engage in? What’s the postpartum process like? Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into what you’re doing and what drives your passion for it?

OYM Bonnie | Postpartum Doula

Postpartum Doula: It is a misconception that doulas take over the role of the partner.

 

I have always worked with people. I have a Master’s degree in Social Work. I have always loved one-on-one person interaction. When I got pregnant with my first child, I heard about a doula for the first time. I ended up hiring a birth doula and that went amazing. I fell in love with the work that they do. After I had my second child, I decided to stay home. From that process, I was itching to get back out there to work with people. I decided to pursue doula training. I trained as a full-spectrum doula. I decided to have this little niche in postpartum and preparing for postpartum.

If you know what a doula is, you almost always assume that it’s a birth doula but there are other doulas out there. Postpartum is like an afterthought in our culture. We prepare for birth. We spend all this time worrying about birth and how it’s going to go. We hire providers to help us with our birth but then we find ourselves in postpartum and are a little unprepared. That was my experience. I did years of research as I was trying to conceive. I was so focused on birth and found myself in the postpartum not understanding how to navigate that.

What are the misconceptions about what a doula is and does?

I like to start by talking about what postpartum is. In our culture, we say things like, “I don’t want to get postpartum. She got postpartum.” What we mean by that is postpartum depression. Postpartum is the time period after you’ve given birth. The fact that we associate depression with that time so much that we use the word postpartum to mean that is concerning. That’s a misconception of postpartum. When it comes to doula work, one of the big misconceptions is that all doulas attend births or their purpose there is just labor support. Even a birth doula will spend time with you in the pregnancy. They do see you a little bit in the postpartum. Although they are helping you with birth, oftentimes you get a lot of emotional support as well from a doula. There are postpartum doulas, bereavement doulas, miscarriage doulas and fertility doulas. There are doulas out there for anything you can think of for any major life transition.

How would you distinguish for people who aren’t aware of the differences between a midwife and a doula?

[bctt tweet=”In our culture, we tend to focus on material things instead of on the infant. ” via=”no”]

A midwife is a medical professional that provides medical care. That could be inside a hospital setting, a midwife that works within a hospital or that could be a homebirth midwife. A doula does not do any medical interventions. We wouldn’t be helping to deliver a baby. We wouldn’t be listening for baby’s heartbeat or anything like that. The doula complements a medical professional whether that’s a midwife or an OB. They provide that emotional support and some extra education that you don’t always get from your care provider and gets to know you one-on-one a little bit better. You can spend more time with your doula than you typically would with your care provider. The other big difference between a midwife and an OB is that midwives can do pretty much everything except for surgery. Midwives can also do pap smears and things like that. Midwives are not specific to birth, either.

I had somebody tell me that they were hoping that their midwife would help coach their husband so that the husband could be more involved in a useful way in the birth process. Even in the postpartum doula, do you incorporate the husband and the family?

Yes. Specifically, as a postpartum doula, I don’t often attend births. Some doulas will also attend births and focus on postpartum. No matter what transition we’re supporting, the role is to get the family involved. It is a misconception that doulas take over the role of the partner and that the partner isn’t needed then. I’ll say it was my husband who wanted a doula with our first child because he didn’t want to feel like it was just up to him. If I were attending a birth, I would be making sure that the birthing person’s needs are met. In my periphery, I’m making sure that the partner’s needs are met too whether that’s water, food, rest or emotional support through that transition. It’s the same in the postpartum. The birthing person and the baby are the focus. Oftentimes, at a postpartum doula meeting at my client’s house, I’m interacting with everybody and assessing their needs.

As a postpartum doula, what’s the range of time that you’re engaged with someone when they retain your services?

My little niche is to focus on preparing for the postpartum and not just supporting in the postpartum. I like to start working with a client in their pregnancy. As we prepare for birth in the pregnancy, we can prepare for postpartum in the pregnancy. I like to start working with people and developing a relationship in the pregnancy. The length of time that I’m supporting somebody in the postpartum would depend on their needs. I like to say that postpartum is forever because the definition is the time after birth. If you’ve birthed the baby, you know that your body will be different for probably the rest of your life in certain ways.

OYM Bonnie | Postpartum Doula

Postpartum Doula: Just like you prepare for birth in the pregnancy, you can also prepare for the postpartum phase.

 

Granted, the medical professional would say that your postpartum time is about six weeks because that’s when your uterus returns to its normal size typically. Psychologically, to have a diagnosis that is related to postpartum time, you have to be within a year of birth. Honestly, if you have a toddler around, you’re extended breastfeeding or multiple children even, you have sleep and breastfeeding issues, you have all the things for much longer than even a year. It is about that individual family’s needs. I don’t like to put a cap on it. I like to do hourly services so that I can be utilized when needed.

What are some of the primary issues that you find your clients struggle with most in the postpartum period?

Immediately, it’s typically adjusting to attending to everybody’s needs. Even if this is the first baby that they gave birth to, that is a whole other person that has needs to attend to in addition to their own and maybe a partner. If there are multiple other children, you’re adding another person to the mix. You have this adjustment period where everybody’s figuring out how the dynamics are going to look in the family now that there’s an additional person in the family. That often translates for the birthing person this identity crisis in a sense especially if it’s their first baby that they’re adding to their family.

It’s a big life transition to go from somebody who doesn’t have a child to now does. What that looks like for your identity, what you can and cannot do anymore, what you have time for, how you’re going to prioritize your time, how that will affect your family dynamics with the extended family, how that affects your friend dynamics, if that’s going to affect your employment and things like that. In addition to that, the other big thing that I like to talk about that people don’t always think about in the postpartum is the birthing person oftentimes struggles with how to care for themselves. Everybody has these needs and your priority of yourself is lost. I’m here to help remind you how to take care of yourself while taking care of others. I’m looking out for the birthing person and caring for them while it’s so hard for them to figure that out for themselves.

Self-care, adjusting to a new role, creating or letting your sense of identity morph into what it’s going to be as a parent instead of a single person and balancing that care for others and care for self. You mentioned something about breastfeeding and some other issues. Name a couple of these others that might entice somebody to either start doing their research or looking at the potential of engaging a doula service.

[bctt tweet=”A birthing parent is not required to do anything other than bond with their baby and physically heal.” via=”no”]

Every doula has things that they specialize in. I’ve done some training in some breastfeeding support. I am able to offer breastfeeding or chest feeding support if that is something that the family is choosing. Babywearing is another skill of mine that I like to incorporate into my postpartum work. Babywearing is a skill that you often need somebody to tangibly help you with. It’s harder to learn from a video, in my opinion. Especially in the pandemic, the babywearing group in my county isn’t meeting. Oftentimes, I’m there to help parents learn how to wear their newborn and how that can help them to bond more but also to feel more confident in their parenting. Maybe if they have multiple children, wearing that baby when they’ve gotten to the point where they’re physically able to do that so that they can then also play with their toddler with two hands can make a difference.

I’m also an herbalist. That’s another thing that I bring to the table. In the pregnancy, I’m helping with herbs to support you hormonally and nutritionally. We bring that over into the postpartum as well. A lot of times that looks like herbal teas and herbal infusions. Depending on how often those are drank, I’ve seen new parents gained some energy from that. Maybe it’s a postpartum herbal bath to help with healing. There are lots of different ways we can incorporate herbalism as well. My three little niches are breastfeeding, babywearing and herbalism, in addition to things like self-care.

This other aspect that you mentioned is so prevalent. It has become part of the culture to talk about postpartum and mean postpartum depression. What would you share with us about postpartum depression as a phenomenon?

Postpartum depression is an issue that we deal with in this country. We know that there are other countries that don’t have as high rates like that. It’s interesting to take a look at how we support new parents when it comes to things like paid maternity and paternity leave, which doesn’t exist in our country. Whereas other countries have sometimes up to two years where both parents can be paid to stay home. Also, in our culture, we tend to focus on the baby and material things. The way that we often celebrate somebody being pregnant is through a baby shower. We focus on what that baby’s going to weigh like, what it’s going to look like and what color of hair it’s going to have. We play all these guessing games around it. We buy cute, little baby items. Parents end up with all of these baby clothes that newborns don’t need. They end up with all of these gadgets and contraptions for their baby to sit in whether that’s a bouncing seat or whatever.

I’m not saying that is the wrong way to support parents. I’m saying that can’t be the only way we support parents. If everybody that attended a baby shower could then pitch in tangibly, financially or something like that to support that family after the baby came and not just purchase some cute, little baby socks that don’t even work where they fall off a baby’s feet. They say, “Can I stop over to see the baby?” They want to hold the baby but they’re not sweeping the floor and bringing food, things like that. That’s the shift in the culture that I would like to see. We have to create that community and that village around families that are adjusting to new parenthood. They need a lot more than baby clothes and baby gear. They need somebody to bring them food. They need somebody to support them emotionally. They need somebody to do the dishes, honestly, things that you physically can’t do when you’re healing and trying to take care of a newborn.

OYM Bonnie | Postpartum Doula

Postpartum Doula: Postpartum moms need a lot more than just baby clothes and gear. They need somebody to serve and support them emotionally.

 

We lack these things like our government supporting us and people around us supporting us, I believe that affects our rates of postpartum depression. If you don’t feel supported through a major milestone and transition in your life, it’s very easy to feel sad. It snowballs in a sense because your hormones are affected by your stress level and by your nutrition. If you don’t have somebody helping you to make sure you’re eating and that you’re not super stressed out, it does affect your hormone production. That can affect postpartum depression. Especially in the pandemic, we are dealing with isolation with new parents. That is scary. You’re not meant to be alone with a new baby all day long. That’s not ideal. Postpartum depression is a thing. Postpartum anxiety is a thing that is often not talked about. Postpartum psychosis, postpartum autoimmune disorders are definitely things. It’s hard to say how much of this would be seen if we supported new parents when they needed it the most.

As a doula who specializes in postpartum, do you find yourself trying to help either construct, connect or activate the network around the new mother and father and push or initiate some of that support?

Totally. As one of my freebies on my website, which is BonnieMGriffin.com, I have a form that’s called the Postpartum Education and Support Inquiry form. That is a form that educates quickly family members or friends about how we don’t do a great job in our culture supporting families after they’ve had a baby. Traditional cultures around the world all seem to have the same thing. They support that family for roughly six weeks, 40 days to the point that a new parent, the birthing parent especially is not required to do anything other than bond with their baby and physically heal. It educates about that and how we lack in that a little bit. It also has a form where people can sign up for activities that would support the new parents that they feel comfortable doing.

A lot of times we hear people say, “Let me know if you need any help. Give me a call.” That’s vague. In our culture, we feel weird about asking for help because we think that makes us weak. If somebody writes down on a piece of paper, “On Thursdays, I can make sure your garbage is taken out,” it’s easy for us to accept that help versus asking for something specific. The people are offering help more because they can offer to do things that they feel comfortable doing. It can be overwhelming to say, “Let me know whatever you need,” because maybe they need something I don’t know how to give. That is a form that I created that is great for baby showers to put on the table, send as an email or something like that.

That’s the work I’m doing a little bit in the beginning. Ideally, I would like to meet with extended family members in the pregnancy to talk about these things as well. I’m also coaching the new parents on how to communicate their needs and set up boundaries for things that they don’t need. Maybe they don’t need five extended family visitors on day one of being home that they don’t want to see yet. I’m helping them to realize what it is they’re going to need, figuring out and getting creative with their supports. Maybe they have parents around, that’s great. You don’t want the new grandparents to get burned out, either. Can a neighbor make sure your trash is pulled out? Do you know somebody else that could walk the dog? Simple and easy things so that a bunch of people is pitching in.

[bctt tweet=”If you don’t feel supported through a major milestone and transition in your life, it’s very easy to feel sad.” via=”no”]

You have to get creative with that because our culture is not used to helping with that. We’ll talk about how to set up Meal Train so people can offer to bring certain foods by. I encourage them to ask for gift certificates for their favorite restaurants in place of a bunch of baby gear they may not need and things like that. The nice thing that I’ve been seeing with my clients is the things that I’m modeling and the support that I’m giving. I’m watching the mother’s mom and the mother’s husband following my footsteps a little bit. I’ve modeled and shown what type of support has been helpful. It’s easier for them to give that once they’ve seen it work.

As you talk about this and the benefit of having communal support, I think about the book Tribe by Sebastian Junger and how so many aspects of our lives are thin or hollow compared to what they were when we lived in a more communal setting. That book specifically talks about welcoming veterans back from war, helping them integrate, giving them a sense of belonging in the community and having the community involved in the healing process. What’s an aspect of your work that we haven’t even touched on yet that you’d like to be sure that people know or one of your favorite aspects of the work?

My favorite aspect probably goes back to my social work and therapy background and not as a doula, I’m a therapist. You create relationships with people in this work. That’s the whole point. I’m in their home on a regular basis, supporting them through life transitions where they often don’t have all their clothing on through birth and postpartum. It’s a very vulnerable setting. I enjoy knowing that I filled the role. That I am, in a sense, a neutral person that’s there and can witness objectively some things that might be starting to snowball. Sometimes it gets cloudy because you have that emotional connection with your family. They don’t always see objectively what you need especially a partner is going through this themselves as well.

I enjoy being able to solve a problem before it gets there. This may be that I’m noticing, “You look tired,” so I’m asking, “How much sleep have you got? How much sleep did you get last night?” Maybe there’ll be an issue to problem solve about sleep. Knowing that the next day, they were able to get better sleep and feeling more emotionally stable. They were able to access joy better because they weren’t exhausted. Whereas if we wouldn’t have had that conversation, there’s a good chance that you’re already so tired, you can’t problem-solve these things. That’s when things start to snowball. We have crises in the postpartum when people aren’t eating, sleeping and generally not taking care of themselves.

Those are the three things I usually ask when I show up to a visit is, “When was the last time you showered? When was the last time you ate and what was it? When was the last time you slept and for how long?” Those are the things that I’m preempting to make sure that things don’t snowball. Oftentimes, a partner is so tired that they’re not able to problem-solve that for the birthing person. The new grandparents are figuring out their role, too. Sometimes there are weird boundary things between parents and children. Coming in as a neutral person, being able to objectively look at those things and help us to avoid greater issues.

OYM Bonnie | Postpartum Doula

Postpartum Doula: Support from your family members sometimes gets cloudy because you have that emotional connection, and so they fail to objectively understand what you need.

 

You just hit it there, avoiding those greater issues because as you’re trying to recover, heal, integrate, build these new roles, all of those things take energy. If you’re trying to heal, you don’t have the energy for the healing and you’re trying to learn the role of a caretaker for your child and/or your spouse, you don’t have proper sleep or proper nutrition then it snowballs rather quickly. If people are looking for a doula, are there keywords to search for, groups to look for, “I want somebody who’s certified with this group or that group?” What kind of training certification or guidelines can you give people if they’re trying to look for a doula in their area?

A doula is a profession that isn’t licensed at the moment. You can get a certificate of completion from your training. There’s no actual certification either, at the moment, depending on what state you’re in. There are a couple of states that have started to look at licensing, to allow for the doula services to be covered under insurance, Medicaid and things like that. Most states don’t have any of that yet. Most people that are looking for a doula are on social media. I do like to encourage people to search #Doula or #PostpartumDoula. That’s a nice way to get to know people through social media a little bit versus just Googling and finding a list and calling someone. You can get to know somebody through their social media and figure out if their interests are what’s going to support you. You can Google and look for people.

Oftentimes if you are birthing in a hospital, they will have what’s called Meet the Midwives and Meet the Doulas. If you attend one of those presentations, that’s how I met my first birth doula. I attended the Meet the Midwives and Meet the Doulas presentation. They put that on so that you can get to know all of the midwives within an hour versus seeing them over your pregnancy. That’s how I met my doula. That’s always a great thing if you’re birthing in a hospital. If you’re using a homebirth midwife, I’m sure they have doulas that they love to work with. You could ask for recommendations from them as well.

There are bodies that give certificates. DONA is a big one in our area. There are so many options out there. I wouldn’t say that it has to be a DONA-certified doula. There are lots of great doulas out there that aren’t DONA. That seems to be the biggest one in our area. It’s important to make sure you’re not just picking somebody randomly. It’s important to get to know that person a little bit. That’s why I offer a 30-minute consult to get to know each other so that these services would even be valuable to you. Word of mouth is good, too. If you know somebody that’s used to doula then that is a good way to figure out if they recommend that person as well.

[bctt tweet=”Any good doula should be turning you away if you don’t fit with their particular expertise.” via=”no”]

The other thing that I have found so important especially with different patients I was working with is I need to give them permission to match the personality of the provider, not just say, “This person comes recommended by the midwife.” It’s like if I go to an AA meeting or an NA meeting, the plans are a good, solid plan, a twelve-step program, etc. Every meeting is different because it’s this chemistry of personalities. From one meeting to the next, if two people are there that weren’t there the last time or one key person is missing, the whole flavor of the meeting is different. I may not be comfortable with it.

I’ve had people who go and they have somebody who was recommended to them as a doula or a midwife. It looks great on paper. In the first meeting or two, they realized this is not a good mix chemistry-wise. They feel compelled to follow through because their OB-GYN person recommended the midwife or their midwife recommended the doula. I encourage people to look for it. Any good provider will not take it personally if you decide it’s not a good personality mix or chemistry that we call it.

Any good doula should be turning you away if it doesn’t fit for them as well. It’s a two-way street on that as well. For instance, I am a white doula. If someone who was black decided to contact me about my services, I would let them know that the research supports that a black provider would support them better and bring them better outcomes. Not that I’m not willing to do it but maybe make sure that there isn’t a black provider that they jive with out there first. We know that in the maternity world, racism is a huge issue related to outcomes. The biggest thing that affects that is to pair black birthing people up with black providers.

That is an example of where I might say, “I’d be willing to talk about this for sure but maybe we need to see if there is another provider that would fit those needs better.” It could be another example. Maybe somebody doesn’t plan to breastfeed and I know a lot about that. Maybe there’s a provider out there that knows a lot more about bottle feeding, for instance. That is where the social media aspect comes in. If they’re showing up on social media, you can get to know what people specialize in through that where you wouldn’t necessarily get just on Google.

People can get ahold of you through BonnieMGriffin.com? How do they contact you on social media?

OYM Bonnie | Postpartum Doula

Postpartum Doula: Going on social media and following hashtags are safer ways to find a doula than searching aimlessly on Google.

 

If you go to BonnieMGriffin.com, there’ll be links for all my social media and my email on there as well. If you go to the Resources page, I do have some freebies as well.

Thank you so much for spending the time with us. It’s a delight to learn more about what you do. If you branch out into a new area, start a new program or write a book, please let us know and we’ll have another session.

Thanks so much for having me.

Take care.

Bonnie M. Griffin is a Postpartum Doula who specializes in preparing her clients for their postpartum experience while they are still pregnant. Her individualized postpartum support is informed by her background and knowledge in social work, herbalism, breastfeeding and babywearing. Bonnie has two children and enjoys reading, being in nature and doing yoga. Bonnie’s website is BonnieMGriffin.com.

Important Links:

About Bonnie M. Griffin

My unique doula offering teaches and guides pregnant people and partners in preparing for their postpartum experience in order to feel loved, supported, and confident post birth. 

I lovingly guide my clients through multiple honest and crucial discussions and exercises in order to keep them authentic and aware of what may be problematic for the postpartum period. 

I offer postpartum doula support post birth that is unique as it allows us to integrate what was uncovered in  pregnancy.

 

 

 

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OYM Bonnie | Postpartum Doula

 

It is indeed alarming that the word postpartum has become synonymous with depression, though in fact, it pertains to the transition stage between pregnancy and motherhood. To help mothers and their respective partners get through this challenging life phase, the help of a postpartum doula is extremely valuable. Exploring this profession with Timothy J. Hayes, Psy.D. is professional doula Bonnie M. Griffin. She focuses her discussion on her duties as a doula, breaking the common misconceptions surrounding her work that usually overlaps with midwifery. She also emphasizes why postpartum moms need extensive support beyond cute baby clothing and baby showers; they need assistance in terms of service and emotions as well.

Watch the episode here:

Listen to the podcast here:

Breaking Misconceptions Surrounding The Postpartum Doula Profession With Bonnie M. Griffin

Bonnie M. Griffin is a Postpartum Doula who specializes in preparing her clients for their postpartum experience while they are still pregnant. Her individualized postpartum support is informed by her background and knowledge in social work, herbalism, breastfeeding and babywearing. Bonnie has two children and enjoys reading, being in nature and doing yoga. Bonnie’s website is BonnieMGriffin.com.

Bonnie, thank you so much for joining us here now. Welcome.

Thanks for having me.

I’m delighted to be able to have a chance to talk to you. This is such an important topic that many times people don’t get a chance to address or even know there’s a possibility to address. What does a doula engage in? What’s the postpartum process like? Can you tell us a little bit about how you got into what you’re doing and what drives your passion for it?

I have always worked with people. I have a Master’s degree in Social Work. I have always loved one-on-one person interaction. When I got pregnant with my first child, I heard about a doula for the first time. I ended up hiring a birth doula and that went amazing. I fell in love with the work that they do. After I had my second child, I decided to stay home. From that process, I was itching to get back out there to work with people. I decided to pursue doula training. I trained as a full-spectrum doula. I decided to have this little niche in postpartum and preparing for postpartum.

If you know what a doula is, you almost always assume that it’s a birth doula but there are other doulas out there. Postpartum is like an afterthought in our culture. We prepare for birth. We spend all this time worrying about birth and how it’s going to go. We hire providers to help us with our birth but then we find ourselves in postpartum and are a little unprepared. That was my experience. I did years of research as I was trying to conceive. I was so focused on birth and found myself in the postpartum not understanding how to navigate that.

OYM Bonnie | Postpartum Doula

Postpartum Doula: It is a misconception that doulas take over the role of the partner.

 

What are the misconceptions about what a doula is and does?

I like to start by talking about what postpartum is. In our culture, we say things like, “I don’t want to get postpartum. She got postpartum.” What we mean by that is postpartum depression. Postpartum is the time period after you’ve given birth. The fact that we associate depression with that time so much that we use the word postpartum to mean that is concerning. That’s a misconception of postpartum. When it comes to doula work, one of the big misconceptions is that all doulas attend births or their purpose there is just labor support. Even a birth doula will spend time with you in the pregnancy. They do see you a little bit in the postpartum. Although they are helping you with birth, oftentimes you get a lot of emotional support as well from a doula. There are postpartum doulas, bereavement doulas, miscarriage doulas and fertility doulas. There are doulas out there for anything you can think of for any major life transition.

How would you distinguish for people who aren’t aware of the differences between a midwife and a doula?

A midwife is a medical professional that provides medical care. That could be inside a hospital setting, a midwife that works within a hospital or that could be a homebirth midwife. A doula does not do any medical interventions. We wouldn’t be helping to deliver a baby. We wouldn’t be listening for baby’s heartbeat or anything like that. The doula complements a medical professional whether that’s a midwife or an OB. They provide that emotional support and some extra education that you don’t always get from your care provider and gets to know you one-on-one a little bit better. You can spend more time with your doula than you typically would with your care provider. The other big difference between a midwife and an OB is that midwives can do pretty much everything except for surgery. Midwives can also do pap smears and things like that. Midwives are not specific to birth, either.

[bctt tweet=”In our culture, we tend to focus on material things instead of on the infant.” username=””]

I had somebody tell me that they were hoping that their midwife would help coach their husband so that the husband could be more involved in a useful way in the birth process. Even in the postpartum doula, do you incorporate the husband and the family?

Yes. Specifically, as a postpartum doula, I don’t often attend births. Some doulas will also attend births and focus on postpartum. No matter what transition we’re supporting, the role is to get the family involved. It is a misconception that doulas take over the role of the partner and that the partner isn’t needed then. I’ll say it was my husband who wanted a doula with our first child because he didn’t want to feel like it was just up to him. If I were attending a birth, I would be making sure that the birthing person’s needs are met. In my periphery, I’m making sure that the partner’s needs are met too whether that’s water, food, rest or emotional support through that transition. It’s the same in the postpartum. The birthing person and the baby are the focus. Oftentimes, at a postpartum doula meeting at my client’s house, I’m interacting with everybody and assessing their needs.

As a postpartum doula, what’s the range of time that you’re engaged with someone when they retain your services?

My little niche is to focus on preparing for the postpartum and not just supporting in the postpartum. I like to start working with a client in their pregnancy. As we prepare for birth in the pregnancy, we can prepare for postpartum in the pregnancy. I like to start working with people and developing a relationship in the pregnancy. The length of time that I’m supporting somebody in the postpartum would depend on their needs. I like to say that postpartum is forever because the definition is the time after birth. If you’ve birthed the baby, you know that your body will be different for probably the rest of your life in certain ways.

Granted, the medical professional would say that your postpartum time is about six weeks because that’s when your uterus returns to its normal size typically. Psychologically, to have a diagnosis that is related to postpartum time, you have to be within a year of birth. Honestly, if you have a toddler around, you’re extended breastfeeding or multiple children even, you have sleep and breastfeeding issues, you have all the things for much longer than even a year. It is about that individual family’s needs. I don’t like to put a cap on it. I like to do hourly services so that I can be utilized when needed.

What are some of the primary issues that you find your clients struggle with most in the postpartum period?

Immediately, it’s typically adjusting to attending to everybody’s needs. Even if this is the first baby that they gave birth to, that is a whole other person that has needs to attend to in addition to their own and maybe a partner. If there are multiple other children, you’re adding another person to the mix. You have this adjustment period where everybody’s figuring out how the dynamics are going to look in the family now that there’s an additional person in the family. That often translates for the birthing person this identity crisis in a sense especially if it’s their first baby that they’re adding to their family.

It’s a big life transition to go from somebody who doesn’t have a child to now does. What that looks like for your identity, what you can and cannot do anymore, what you have time for, how you’re going to prioritize your time, how that will affect your family dynamics with the extended family, how that affects your friend dynamics, if that’s going to affect your employment and things like that. In addition to that, the other big thing that I like to talk about that people don’t always think about in the postpartum is the birthing person oftentimes struggles with how to care for themselves. Everybody has these needs and your priority of yourself is lost. I’m here to help remind you how to take care of yourself while taking care of others. I’m looking out for the birthing person and caring for them while it’s so hard for them to figure that out for themselves.

OYM Bonnie | Postpartum Doula

Postpartum Doula: Just like you prepare for birth in the pregnancy, you can also prepare for the postpartum phase.

 

Self-care, adjusting to a new role, creating or letting your sense of identity morph into what it’s going to be as a parent instead of a single person and balancing that care for others and care for self. You mentioned something about breastfeeding and some other issues. Name a couple of these others that might entice somebody to either start doing their research or looking at the potential of engaging a doula service.

Every doula has things that they specialize in. I’ve done some training in some breastfeeding support. I am able to offer breastfeeding or chest feeding support if that is something that the family is choosing. Babywearing is another skill of mine that I like to incorporate into my postpartum work. Babywearing is a skill that you often need somebody to tangibly help you with. It’s harder to learn from a video, in my opinion. Especially in the pandemic, the babywearing group in my county isn’t meeting. Oftentimes, I’m there to help parents learn how to wear their newborn and how that can help them to bond more but also to feel more confident in their parenting. Maybe if they have multiple children, wearing that baby when they’ve gotten to the point where they’re physically able to do that so that they can then also play with their toddler with two hands can make a difference.

I’m also an herbalist. That’s another thing that I bring to the table. In the pregnancy, I’m helping with herbs to support you hormonally and nutritionally. We bring that over into the postpartum as well. A lot of times that looks like herbal teas and herbal infusions. Depending on how often those are drank, I’ve seen new parents gained some energy from that. Maybe it’s a postpartum herbal bath to help with healing. There are lots of different ways we can incorporate herbalism as well. My three little niches are breastfeeding, babywearing and herbalism, in addition to things like self-care.

This other aspect that you mentioned is so prevalent. It has become part of the culture to talk about postpartum and mean postpartum depression. What would you share with us about postpartum depression as a phenomenon?

Postpartum depression is an issue that we deal with in this country. We know that there are other countries that don’t have as high rates like that. It’s interesting to take a look at how we support new parents when it comes to things like paid maternity and paternity leave, which doesn’t exist in our country. Whereas other countries have sometimes up to two years where both parents can be paid to stay home. Also, in our culture, we tend to focus on the baby and material things. The way that we often celebrate somebody being pregnant is through a baby shower. We focus on what that baby’s going to weigh like, what it’s going to look like and what color of hair it’s going to have. We play all these guessing games around it. We buy cute, little baby items. Parents end up with all of these baby clothes that newborns don’t need. They end up with all of these gadgets and contraptions for their baby to sit in whether that’s a bouncing seat or whatever.

[bctt tweet=”A birthing parent is not required to do anything other than bond with their baby and physically heal.” username=””]

I’m not saying that is the wrong way to support parents. I’m saying that can’t be the only way we support parents. If everybody that attended a baby shower could then pitch in tangibly, financially or something like that to support that family after the baby came and not just purchase some cute, little baby socks that don’t even work where they fall off a baby’s feet. They say, “Can I stop over to see the baby?” They want to hold the baby but they’re not sweeping the floor and bringing food, things like that. That’s the shift in the culture that I would like to see. We have to create that community and that village around families that are adjusting to new parenthood. They need a lot more than baby clothes and baby gear. They need somebody to bring them food. They need somebody to support them emotionally. They need somebody to do the dishes, honestly, things that you physically can’t do when you’re healing and trying to take care of a newborn.

We lack these things like our government supporting us and people around us supporting us, I believe that affects our rates of postpartum depression. If you don’t feel supported through a major milestone and transition in your life, it’s very easy to feel sad. It snowballs in a sense because your hormones are affected by your stress level and by your nutrition. If you don’t have somebody helping you to make sure you’re eating and that you’re not super stressed out, it does affect your hormone production. That can affect postpartum depression. Especially in the pandemic, we are dealing with isolation with new parents. That is scary. You’re not meant to be alone with a new baby all day long. That’s not ideal. Postpartum depression is a thing. Postpartum anxiety is a thing that is often not talked about. Postpartum psychosis, postpartum autoimmune disorders are definitely things. It’s hard to say how much of this would be seen if we supported new parents when they needed it the most.

OYM Bonnie | Postpartum Doula

Postpartum Doula: Postpartum moms need a lot more than just baby clothes and gear. They need somebody to serve and support them emotionally.

 

As a doula who specializes in postpartum, do you find yourself trying to help either construct, connect or activate the network around the new mother and father and push or initiate some of that support?

Totally. As one of my freebies on my website, which is BonnieMGriffin.com, I have a form that’s called the Postpartum Education and Support Inquiry form. That is a form that educates quickly family members or friends about how we don’t do a great job in our culture supporting families after they’ve had a baby. Traditional cultures around the world all seem to have the same thing. They support that family for roughly six weeks, 40 days to the point that a new parent, the birthing parent especially is not required to do anything other than bond with their baby and physically heal. It educates about that and how we lack in that a little bit. It also has a form where people can sign up for activities that would support the new parents that they feel comfortable doing.

A lot of times we hear people say, “Let me know if you need any help. Give me a call.” That’s vague. In our culture, we feel weird about asking for help because we think that makes us weak. If somebody writes down on a piece of paper, “On Thursdays, I can make sure your garbage is taken out,” it’s easy for us to accept that help versus asking for something specific. The people are offering help more because they can offer to do things that they feel comfortable doing. It can be overwhelming to say, “Let me know whatever you need,” because maybe they need something I don’t know how to give. That is a form that I created that is great for baby showers to put on the table, send as an email or something like that.

That’s the work I’m doing a little bit in the beginning. Ideally, I would like to meet with extended family members in the pregnancy to talk about these things as well. I’m also coaching the new parents on how to communicate their needs and set up boundaries for things that they don’t need. Maybe they don’t need five extended family visitors on day one of being home that they don’t want to see yet. I’m helping them to realize what it is they’re going to need, figuring out and getting creative with their supports. Maybe they have parents around, that’s great. You don’t want the new grandparents to get burned out, either. Can a neighbor make sure your trash is pulled out? Do you know somebody else that could walk the dog? Simple and easy things so that a bunch of people is pitching in.

[bctt tweet=”If you don’t feel supported through a major milestone and transition in your life, it’s very easy to feel sad. ” username=””]

You have to get creative with that because our culture is not used to helping with that. We’ll talk about how to set up Meal Train so people can offer to bring certain foods by. I encourage them to ask for gift certificates for their favorite restaurants in place of a bunch of baby gear they may not need and things like that. The nice thing that I’ve been seeing with my clients is the things that I’m modeling and the support that I’m giving. I’m watching the mother’s mom and the mother’s husband following my footsteps a little bit. I’ve modeled and shown what type of support has been helpful. It’s easier for them to give that once they’ve seen it work.

As you talk about this and the benefit of having communal support, I think about the book Tribe by Sebastian Junger and how so many aspects of our lives are thin or hollow compared to what they were when we lived in a more communal setting. That book specifically talks about welcoming veterans back from war, helping them integrate, giving them a sense of belonging in the community and having the community involved in the healing process. What’s an aspect of your work that we haven’t even touched on yet that you’d like to be sure that people know or one of your favorite aspects of the work?

My favorite aspect probably goes back to my social work and therapy background and not as a doula, I’m a therapist. You create relationships with people in this work. That’s the whole point. I’m in their home on a regular basis, supporting them through life transitions where they often don’t have all their clothing on through birth and postpartum. It’s a very vulnerable setting. I enjoy knowing that I filled the role. That I am, in a sense, a neutral person that’s there and can witness objectively some things that might be starting to snowball. Sometimes it gets cloudy because you have that emotional connection with your family. They don’t always see objectively what you need especially a partner is going through this themselves as well.

I enjoy being able to solve a problem before it gets there. This may be that I’m noticing, “You look tired,” so I’m asking, “How much sleep have you got? How much sleep did you get last night?” Maybe there’ll be an issue to problem solve about sleep. Knowing that the next day, they were able to get better sleep and feeling more emotionally stable. They were able to access joy better because they weren’t exhausted. Whereas if we wouldn’t have had that conversation, there’s a good chance that you’re already so tired, you can’t problem-solve these things. That’s when things start to snowball. We have crises in the postpartum when people aren’t eating, sleeping and generally not taking care of themselves.

Those are the three things I usually ask when I show up to a visit is, “When was the last time you showered? When was the last time you ate and what was it? When was the last time you slept and for how long?” Those are the things that I’m preempting to make sure that things don’t snowball. Oftentimes, a partner is so tired that they’re not able to problem-solve that for the birthing person. The new grandparents are figuring out their role, too. Sometimes there are weird boundary things between parents and children. Coming in as a neutral person, being able to objectively look at those things and help us to avoid greater issues.

OYM Bonnie | Postpartum Doula

Postpartum Doula: Support from your family members sometimes gets cloudy because you have that emotional connection, and so they fail to objectively understand what you need.

 

You just hit it there, avoiding those greater issues because as you’re trying to recover, heal, integrate, build these new roles, all of those things take energy. If you’re trying to heal, you don’t have the energy for the healing and you’re trying to learn the role of a caretaker for your child and/or your spouse, you don’t have proper sleep or proper nutrition then it snowballs rather quickly. If people are looking for a doula, are there keywords to search for, groups to look for, “I want somebody who’s certified with this group or that group?” What kind of training certification or guidelines can you give people if they’re trying to look for a doula in their area?

A doula is a profession that isn’t licensed at the moment. You can get a certificate of completion from your training. There’s no actual certification either, at the moment, depending on what state you’re in. There are a couple of states that have started to look at licensing, to allow for the doula services to be covered under insurance, Medicaid and things like that. Most states don’t have any of that yet. Most people that are looking for a doula are on social media. I do like to encourage people to search #Doula or #PostpartumDoula. That’s a nice way to get to know people through social media a little bit versus just Googling and finding a list and calling someone. You can get to know somebody through their social media and figure out if their interests are what’s going to support you. You can Google and look for people.

Oftentimes if you are birthing in a hospital, they will have what’s called Meet the Midwives and Meet the Doulas. If you attend one of those presentations, that’s how I met my first birth doula. I attended the Meet the Midwives and Meet the Doulas presentation. They put that on so that you can get to know all of the midwives within an hour versus seeing them over your pregnancy. That’s how I met my doula. That’s always a great thing if you’re birthing in a hospital. If you’re using a homebirth midwife, I’m sure they have doulas that they love to work with. You could ask for recommendations from them as well.

There are bodies that give certificates. DONA is a big one in our area. There are so many options out there. I wouldn’t say that it has to be a DONA-certified doula. There are lots of great doulas out there that aren’t DONA. That seems to be the biggest one in our area. It’s important to make sure you’re not just picking somebody randomly. It’s important to get to know that person a little bit. That’s why I offer a 30-minute consult to get to know each other so that these services would even be valuable to you. Word of mouth is good, too. If you know somebody that’s used to doula then that is a good way to figure out if they recommend that person as well.

[bctt tweet=”Any good doula should be turning you away if you don’t fit with their particular expertise.” username=””]

The other thing that I have found so important especially with different patients I was working with is I need to give them permission to match the personality of the provider, not just say, “This person comes recommended by the midwife.” It’s like if I go to an AA meeting or an NA meeting, the plans are a good, solid plan, a twelve-step program, etc. Every meeting is different because it’s this chemistry of personalities. From one meeting to the next, if two people are there that weren’t there the last time or one key person is missing, the whole flavor of the meeting is different. I may not be comfortable with it.

I’ve had people who go and they have somebody who was recommended to them as a doula or a midwife. It looks great on paper. In the first meeting or two, they realized this is not a good mix chemistry-wise. They feel compelled to follow through because their OB-GYN person recommended the midwife or their midwife recommended the doula. I encourage people to look for it. Any good provider will not take it personally if you decide it’s not a good personality mix or chemistry that we call it.

Any good doula should be turning you away if it doesn’t fit for them as well. It’s a two-way street on that as well. For instance, I am a white doula. If someone who was black decided to contact me about my services, I would let them know that the research supports that a black provider would support them better and bring them better outcomes. Not that I’m not willing to do it but maybe make sure that there isn’t a black provider that they jive with out there first. We know that in the maternity world, racism is a huge issue related to outcomes. The biggest thing that affects that is to pair black birthing people up with black providers.

That is an example of where I might say, “I’d be willing to talk about this for sure but maybe we need to see if there is another provider that would fit those needs better.” It could be another example. Maybe somebody doesn’t plan to breastfeed and I know a lot about that. Maybe there’s a provider out there that knows a lot more about bottle feeding, for instance. That is where the social media aspect comes in. If they’re showing up on social media, you can get to know what people specialize in through that where you wouldn’t necessarily get just on Google.

OYM Bonnie | Postpartum Doula

Postpartum Doula: Going on social media and following hashtags are safer ways to find a doula than searching aimlessly on Google.

 

People can get ahold of you through BonnieMGriffin.com? How do they contact you on social media?

If you go to BonnieMGriffin.com, there’ll be links for all my social media and my email on there as well. If you go to the Resources page, I do have some freebies as well.

Thank you so much for spending the time with us. It’s a delight to learn more about what you do. If you branch out into a new area, start a new program or write a book, please let us know and we’ll have another session.

Thanks so much for having me.

Take care.

Bonnie M. Griffin is a Postpartum Doula who specializes in preparing her clients for their postpartum experience while they are still pregnant. Her individualized postpartum support is informed by her background and knowledge in social work, herbalism, breastfeeding and babywearing. Bonnie has two children and enjoys reading, being in nature and doing yoga. Bonnie’s website is BonnieMGriffin.com.

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About Bonnie M. Griffin

OYM Bonnie | Postpartum DoulaBonnie M. Griffin is a Postpartum Doula who specializes in preparing her clients for their postpartum experience while they are still pregnant. Her individualized postpartum support is informed by her background and knowledge in social work, herbalism, breastfeeding and babywearing. Bonnie has two children and enjoys reading, being in nature and doing yoga. Bonnie’s website is BonnieMGriffin.com.

 

 

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