In 2017 we launched our client stories project, with a focus on sharing stories from the postpartum zone: good things, hard things, mundane moments. Because we believe that supporting new parents is vitally important, our stories show how postpartum doulas can support families in many different ways.
Every family deserves postpartum support.
By Kari Hastings
Stay-at-home Dad C.V. already had 4-year-old twins (the bigs) when his second set of twins, boys Carlyle and Sebastian (the littles), were born in fall of 2015. He had forgotten what it was like to have two babies at once, but reality hit full force those first few months. And this time, the infants’ round-the-clock needs were compounded by having two other young children.
“Having twins, again, for me as a Dad … was overwhelming,” says C.V., who quit his job as a pastor to stay home after his first twins, a boy and girl, were born. “In my fuzzy memory, it was as though I was reliving a bad dream.”
Overnight, life turned into an endless rotation of diapering, swaddling, feeding, sleeping and bottle-washing. Competing with these demands were C.V.’s older children, who needed to be fed, entertained, bathed and parented. The sleep deprivation was brutal. The mental exhaustion was punishing. C.V. knew he and his wife, Stacy, needed help.
Stacy’s friend referred them to Bridgetown Baby, and a Go Fund Me account helped them purchase 36 overnights over a six-month period. The help, in the form of postpartum doulas Merriah Fairchild and Emily Darley Hill, brought a measure of sanity back to the household.
The North Portland father says although well-meaning family and friends tried to help, the complex feeding system and efforts to sync the twins’ feeding and napping schedules was difficult to navigate. But when he explained everything to Bridgetown Baby’s doulas, they not only got it, they helped him achieve his goals with professional guidance and seamless care.
“We continue to be in over our heads,” C.V. says, laughing. “But I look back on those overnights with such a sense of gratitude. They made me feel like I could keep going. I really don’t know what we would have done without them.”
What would he tell other parents about to welcome twins into their families?
“Know that you will get to the end of yourself,” C.V. says. “You need to prepare yourself to ask and to receive help. With Bridgetown Baby, you can trust your babies will be well taken care of. It’s a very significant release to be able to hand them over with peace of mind. Just know that when you are at your end, Bridgetown Baby is hope and support … and sleep.”
Having a baby surrounded by parents, in-laws and friends is … still hard. Having a baby in a city you just moved to, with few friends and no family around is … overwhelming, isolating and feels impossible.
That’s where Maggie H. found herself just before Thanksgiving 2015, as she ushered her first baby, Kaia, into the world, just 10 months after moving to Portland from Brooklyn, New York. Her parents live in California, and her husband Peter’s parents live in Philadelphia.
Maggie had been induced, and contractions were unusually intense, leaving her with severe abdominal pain for weeks. “I was crying every day,” she says. “I had so much anxiety about breastfeeding. Was she latching? I didn’t want to hold my baby because it put so much pressure on my stomach. Did this make me a bad Mom?”
Peter’s parents suggested a night nurse. Maggie, a self-described “tough Midwestern girl,” says she resisted the idea. But five days after returning home from the hospital, she relented. Through word-of-mouth, Peter found Bridgetown Baby. Mercifully, Maggie says, they sent postpartum doula Emily Darley Hill over that night. The relationship extended for four months of periodic overnights.
Maggie says Emily and postpartum doula / IBCLC lactation consultant Merriah Fairchild “literally saved my life. They were so knowledgeable and safe and warm. I knew I could trust them. They helped me feel empowered, like I was owning it.”
Emily and Merriah helped Maggie learn how to breastfeed Kaia despite her sore abdomen. Maggie also learned how to swaddle her new daughter and wear her in a sling. She went from getting one hour of sleep at a time to four. The doulas did laundry, cleaned and engaged in a friendly competition of who could bake the best chocolate chip cookies.
Now the family has a broader support system and “mama network,” but at the time, Maggie says Bridgetown Baby was a lifesaver.
“It’s just an incredible way to support yourself and your family during a difficult time. It’s beyond worth the money,” she says. “You can’t put a price on sanity.”
By Kari Hastings
When Carmen and Anand’s twin daughters made their debut in October 2016, the couple got initiated into baby land – times two. “Neither of us had any experience with babies, like zero,” Carmen says. “The first time Anand held a baby was when he held our girls.”
Going from zero to 60 overnight was intense, and both Carmen and Anand say they couldn’t have done it without Bridgetown Baby’s Welcome Home and overnight packages. Carmen had a cesarean birth at 34 weeks. Her babies, Anais and Amara, spent 20 days in the Neonative Intensive Care Unit, which she describes as “baby boot camp.” “We learned a ton from the NICU nurses,” she says. “But it’s different when you’re home with them, and you have to figure out what to do.”
Anais, born at just 3 pounds 12 ounces, had significant reflux issues and screamed in pain after every feeding. Bridgetown Baby postpartum doulas Merriah Fairchild, Rose Otter and Catherine Akerson Bailey all worked with the twins, demonstrating how to get them to breastfeed and bottle-feed at the same time, and how to massage their tiny bellies to relieve pressure, burp them and wear them around the house in a wrap. The doulas also assisted with practical things, like setting up an organized bottle-feeding system and figuring out which bottles and nipples worked best.
Anand says having their input was calming.
“I’m a research-oriented person,” he says. “I do a ton of reading and look up everything online. I was able to just let go, save up my questions and ask the professionals when they showed up every week. It really helped our relationship with the babies and our relationship with each other.”
Carmen says the “overnights” were the best.
“Those overnights were a godsend,” she says. “We just bought it like it was another resource. It’s really not a luxury item. It’s a need to have, not a want. Merriah would leave the next morning, and the babies and I would be happy and rested, the kitchen would look great, lactation cookies would be baked and breakfast would be on the table.
“The biggest gifts they gave us were confidence and peace of mind. Our postpartum doulas really were a bridge to our new life.”
Julia's Story (Postpartum Anxiety and Depression)
By Kari Hastings
Julia T., mom of Emma – born in February 2016, remembers her most vulnerable moment with Bridgetown Baby’s Emily Darley Hill. It was morning, and Emily was dropping in for one of their scheduled visits. Anxiety and postpartum depression had taken hold of Julia in the middle of the night, overwhelming her with feelings of negativity and a pleading question, “How will I ever feel better again?” When Emily arrived, Julia crumpled onto her couch and cried, “I just want to be a good mom.”
Although Julia had a good support system – a mother and sister living within blocks, plus many nearby friends – she says Emily’s support as a postpartum doula pulled her through that dark time and helped her find her footing as a new mom. “Emily normalized what I was going through,” Julia says. “She assured me I was going to be OK, and for me, that was huge.”
Emily connected her with a therapist who specializes in postpartum issues, and a neighborhood moms support group. Julia, who had a planned Cesarean birth, bought three Bridgetown Baby packages – a breastfeeding package and two home-visit packages.
Julia says knowing she would have a weekly doula visit was a lifesaver. “Emily would take the baby, wear her around the house in a wrap, clean, do laundry, cook, do food prep for the week, and my husband and I would just relax or sleep,” she says. “She would rub my feet, listen, give me advice, just anything I needed.”
Setting up Bridgetown Baby services in advance of her birth was one of the smartest things she did, Julia says. “I’ve struggled with anxiety in recent years, so I wanted to line up that support ahead of time,” Julia says. “I’m so glad I did. Emily was the sweetest, most calming presence. You can have the best family and friends in the world. The difference with a doula is that it’s their job to help you. There’s no guilt associated with it. They’re professionals.”