Mary :: How I Became a Doula {Guest Post}

How I Became a Mother Logo{Click image above for more beautiful birth stories in this touching series.}

Mary’s Story

As a professional birth and postpartum doula, the myriad blessings and challenges of motherhood are my life’s fascinations. The beautiful and brave stories shared in this series on how women become mothers have been a joy to read. I am thankful for the mothers who shared their stories, and I am honored to share a story of my own, about how I became a doula.

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I decided to become a doula during the summer of 2011 after I graduated college with a fancy, but useless, liberal arts degree. I had studied women’s health issues and reproductive health, planning for a professional career in health promotion research. During my long and arduous post-collegiate job hunt, I found myself applying for jobs that had less to do with health and more to do with posting marketing stuff on Facebook and Twitter. I was feeling dejected about the prospects in my field until a good friend of mine forwarded me an email alerting me to an upcoming training for postpartum doulas in my area.

Once I figured out what exactly a postpartum doula is {a professional, non-medical expert in baby care, newborn behavior, infant feeding, and maternal postpartum health who helps parents of newborns in the home} I knew that this was the kind of work I had been searching for in vain elsewhere. I realized that as a postpartum doula I could promote health while offering practical support to people who truly need the assistance. I attended a doula training later that summer, and my career as a birth and postpartum doula began in earnest.

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Becoming a mother is one of the most significant life-changing transitions in a woman’s life, but the support that surrounds this transformation is often inconsistent, if it exists at all. Many new parents find themselves in a state of shock when they bring their baby home from the hospital. Our cultural norm is to let new exhausted and sleep-deprived parents struggle to learn how to properly care for their baby in alarming isolation.

To be fair, there are thousands of excellent pregnancy preparation books and baby care manuals available to parents, but the books all pale in comparison to the real deal. A former client of mine once told me, “My baby hasn’t read these books, and frankly, he couldn’t care less what they said!”

To make matters even more difficult, moms and dads in America today are strapped with extremely high expectations about what it means to be a “good parent,” and the pressures to raise a perfectly well-adjusted child who sleeps ten hours a night and never cries are felt by most parents long before their babies are even born.

As a postpartum doula, I serve new mothers, babies, and their families during the chaotic whirlwind of the “fourth trimester” – a term for the first 3 months of a newborn’s life outside the womb. Postpartum doulas help bridge the gap in care between pregnancy and parenthood. The role of the postpartum doula is to provide parents with unbiased educational, emotional, and physical support so that parents can skip all the guilt and enjoy their new babies.

During a typical day as a postpartum doula, I help a family strike a balance between their existing needs as human beings {sleep, food, etc.} and their new responsibilities as parents, including seemingly around-the-clock breastfeeding, understanding their newborn’s sleep cycles, hunger cues, and unique personality, how to safely prepare, store, and feed a baby formula, how to use a breast pump, how to find the proper breast pump flange, how to store and serve breast milk, how to swaddle and soothe a newborn, how to understand and manage the new emotional landscape of parenthood, how to screen for postpartum mood disorders, how to eat healthy during the postpartum period, and the list could go on, and on, and on…

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No two families are the same, so everyday is a new adventure. It’s a joy to share tips, tricks, tried and true wisdom, and most importantly, reassurance and praise, with first-time parents and even parents who are on their third or fourth child. Every new child brings with him {or her} a unique, new personality to the family dynamic. And integrating the newest, littlest, neediest family member can come with a few challenges for even the most veteran of parents. It’s a great feeling to take some of the burden off of these parents’ backs and replace it with good vibes and evidence-based knowledge.

Recently, I decided to expand my expertise to include birth doula work. Like many new birth doulas, I was at first attracted to the work because I wanted to be an advocate for women’s health and help women achieve beautiful, empowering, natural childbirth experiences. But after extensive study, practice, and hands-on experience, I have come to understand my role in a more nuanced way.

As a birth doula my goal is for my clients to achieve the births they want, no matter what that looks like. A happy, satisfied mother is my barometer of success as a birth doula. Some happy, satisfied moms want an epidural, others need a c-section, and others choose to birth without medication.

Birth doula work is a very challenging career. The training requirements are rigorous, the certification process is time consuming and tedious, the hours are wildly unpredictable, finding professional support and guidance is often a challenge, and the doula work itself is physically, emotionally, and mentally intense.

Luckily for me, I found support and encouragement in a group of like-minded professional birth workers at Bassett Baby Planning. As a birth and postpartum doula at Bassett Baby Planning, I got to expand my knowledge directly under an experienced doula mentor, Nina Bassett. Bassett Baby Planning is also home to other maternity professionals including baby planners and childbirth educators. Like doulas, baby planners are professionals who are experts at helping parents figure out what is right for them. Baby planners are trained as maternity concierge specialists for their specific metro area. They can help parents with just about anything – from researching the perfect stroller to add to their baby shower registry to finding the most supportive obstetrician available that is covered by their insurance.

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Don’t get me wrong – any expecting couple can adequately prepare for birth and life with their new baby. And most parents will remember their experiences fondly even if they don’t use a doula or any other professional maternity experts or educators. But preparing for birth with professionals {by taking a childbirth preparation class, working with a baby planner, and/or hiring the support of a birth doula} and managing the postpartum experience with a professional postpartum doula ensures that both parents are confident, informed, and supported from the very start.

Becoming a doula has changed my life. The majesty of a birthing mother is intoxicating. Every day that I get to support a woman in her sacred ability to birth and nourish new life is a gift. Protecting a woman’s passage into motherhood from unnecessary intervention, judgment, and interference is an honor. And that’s why I became a doula.

Here at Houston Moms Blog, we have been so honored to have Bassett Baby Planning sponsor our ‘How I Became a Mother’ series over the course of the past six months, and we would love for all of you {both pregnant moms and those who are not} to experience their one-of-a-kind services for yourself.  So for the next 48 hours, anyone who contacts Bassett Baby Planning directly can receive 40% off the massage of your choice.  {Click here for options.}  All you have to do is just mention this post when contacting them, and please remember this special will expire Friday morning – so get in touch with them soon!  You will be so glad you did.

Bassett Baby Planning

5757 Woodway Drive #225 | Houston, TX 77057

855.455.BABY

[email protected]

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About Mary L.

Mary Lingwall is a birth and postpartum doula and Certified Lactation Counselor at Bassett Baby Planning, a maternity concierge and doula boutique.

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