By Jackie Hanselmann Sergi
As the Mother's Day holiday approaches, I find myself in a place of reflection and gratitude for the support of postpartum doulas. With our first child, I thought I was prepared for motherhood because I read all the books, blogs, and attended all the classes in addition to my former nanny experience and treasured Auntie status. I had a phenomenal team of midwives that helped me prepare emotionally and physically for the arrival of our little girl. I even had a beautiful water birth with no complications. However, please note that I did almost have her in our Subaru on the way and my husband earned a few more gray hairs from that drive full of screams. But, in all seriousness, I wasn't ready for what happened after she arrived. I remember loading her into the car and thinking, I can't believe they are letting us leave with this little life unsupervised. It was a mix of joy and fear wrapped into one moment. And I didn't realize that the recovery and post-partum experience would rock my world.
In the movies, the new mom seems fresh and recovered immediately after giving birth. I was barely able to walk, wearing a new mom diaper, and leaking. In the movies, the baby immediately latches onto the boob and is happy. I was battling my body's shock of milk coming in and a baby who had no idea what to do with my firehose oversupply coming at her. In the movies, the new mom has a support system to help her take care of the baby and support the new transition into motherhood. I was alone and grappling with the newness of motherhood and sadness of not having my own mother to take care of me or reassure me that it was all normal and going to get better. The movies sold me a false bill of goods. Not shocking for anyone reading this, but it was kind of shocking for me. Instead of a dreamy post-baby glow, I was living in the real world where I was a hot mess of hormones, wearing disposable underwear with a much coveted cold pack, and crying because my boobs were in so much pain and my poor daughter was not latching and losing weight. It was awesome and I had no idea how to ask for help.
In my Asian culture growing up, I was told that a new mother was taken care of in her first month postpartum with special soups and the support of family. Sadly, I didn't have a mom to come take care of me or a village of relatives to relieve us from our new reality of parenthood. Culture said one thing and reality gave me another. I was a kid that grew up and left home at an early age without a healthy connection to my childhood. My husband and I had a few friends in town to bring us meals but we didn't feel comfortable asking for much more than that. My saint of a husband took on the brunt of the work and did his best to support me, but he was as clueless about this new rollercoaster of recovery and life with a newborn as I was. It was hard and I was hard on myself for not doing it "right" and I didn't know how to ask for help. I promised myself that the next time it would be different.
When we found out we were expecting our second child, we prioritized postpartum recovery and seeking the support of our village as well as professionals. As a leadership coach that specializes in supporting working parents, I knew this was not only an opportunity to live what I coach in seeking out and accepting help, but also an opportunity for me to honor myself in allowing time to heal and recover. Many would assume that since we were not first time parents we didn't need the help of others, but in fact we needed it even more, as we had a spirited two year old at home and a baby due during the Christmas holidays. We sought out help from doulas to help us stay focused on recovery for me, ease the transition for our firstborn, to enable my husband to not feel like he had to do everything around the house, and for all of us to have the time to bond with the new little human in our world.
After my first conversation with Merriah and Bridgetown Baby, I knew that she and her team were the right fit for our family. She listened and helped craft a plan for to make my postpartum recovery very different from my first. It was going to be okay and someone was going to be there to help me recover and adjust after this new little life joined the world. We encouraged our friends and family to gift us with doula support instead of the traditional gifts. We didn't need another pack 'n' play or noisy light-up toy, so when folks asked what we needed, I would send them the link to our plumfund. From cooking us meals and making lactation cookies with our toddler, to baby-wearing while helping us with the ever present mounds of laundry, our doulas provided us with the support that we needed and appreciated. They helped me give over the control of trying to do it all "right" and just be in the moment of bonding and transitioning into a family of four. Instead of suffering in silence, I had the support of the amazing women at Bridgetown Baby, and for that I am forever grateful. Through their work, they helped me recover, bond, and grow to be a healthier and happier mom to my children.
Jackie is a proud new member to the two-kid club. When not helping her three year old daughter refrain from smothering her baby brother with love, she is joyfully supporting other working parents as a leadership and career exploration coach at Radical Spark Coaching.