Here is a sample of the expectations handout I share with clients. I think it can be really helpful for anyone interested in working with a postpartum doula as they transition home (or stay home, for the home birth families out there) with baby.
I have also been strongly recommending that all postpartum doulas add similar handouts to share with potential clients in the contract negotiation stages. Working through these concerns is a large part of my Contract Writing workshops and private consultations. The doulas I’ve worked with have been really grateful that someone validated their concerns in this area and helped give them the tools to smooth this bit of communication in the initial stages of a relationship with new parents.
Postpartum Expectations for Rosewood Clients
An intro to my approach:
I am really looking forward to working with you and your growing family in the upcoming months. It’s always nerve-wracking and exciting to get the call that baby has arrived, having gotten to know you maybe just a little and having not yet met this new little person. Though there are so many universal experiences in this time, there is so much that differentiates each family and each individual child.
The information in these pages is culled from my nearly ten years of working with infants, as well as my time working with children up to five years in schools, daycares, and as a nanny. I haven’t seen it all, but I’ve sure seen a lot and I’m excited to share with you what I know.
I mean to share all this knowledge in a non-judgmental way and I hope you see that. My role is not to tell you what to do, but instead to help present the myriad of choices, set positive and realistic expectations, and to help you implement the choices you eventually do make. It’s a full teach a family to fish situation. The schedule and approach we develop together is intentionally sparse for this reason. I don’t believe in swooping in to save you for a few months while implementing my ideas of what is “best” then leaving you suddenly alone. I want to flow smoothly into the rhythms that are going to develop organically within your individual family, offering information, support, and some extra hands in thoughtful spurts.
At times, I may offer information that is different than what you have received from your primary care providers. However, my work with you is never meant to replace the specialized and important care from your midwife, OB, pediatrician, lactation consultant, etc., especially in assessment of pathology. It is beyond my scope of practice to diagnose, and I will happily refer you to someone who can assess any medical situations that may pop up.
Instead, it’s a good idea to see my role as someone who can help explain and validate your experiences within the range of normal. Trust me when I tell you that the range of normal for an infant is wide and deep. Though this period of time is often met with a great deal of anxiety — some of it obviously justifiable and much of it because of the failures in our system of care and support in the childbearing year — the vast majority of what you will experience will fall quite comfortably in the land of normal. It’s a matter of recalibrating what your understanding of normal through the lens of a tiny creature who took less than a year to come into existence and who emerged from their protected space before they’re fully formed. There’s a lot of rapid adjustments and a limited means of communicating needs, and this takes a lot of work and reorienting for everyone involved.
I try and square my suggestions and support in sound evidence as well as a long standing trust in this process as being potentially full of joy and amusement over anxiety, depression, and fear, even amongst the typical exhaustion and hormonal changes and justified concern. Please don’t ever hesitate to ask me for my sources when I make suggestions. I’ve also included some wonderful reading suggestions, which have resonated with me and have greatly shaped my practice.
Though there are mostly similarities in the way doulas practice and we’ve all had at least the same basic principles passed down to us, there is a decent amount of variation in the way our practices look from a logistical standpoint. If you’ve had friends or family work with a doula (birth or postpartum), you may have some set of expectations based on their experiences. This may be what you want or think you need, or not. Truthfully, where the experiences of individuals you know and love can and should shape your expectations, the reality is that every family has very different needs and your experience might look very different. I would encourage you to not take what those you know have experienced as gospel, but instead as a jumping off point for exploring what you and your growing family might want and need in these months ahead.
Some major considerations are:
When are you and/or your partner going back to work?
Parenting styles and goals
Underlying health concerns for you or a family member, which might effect sleep and ability to physically support you and/or baby
History of mood disorders
Previous exposure to newborns
Scheduled obstetric surgery for birth or soon after
Access to coverage for in-home help from insurance or private sources
What type of in-home care your primary care providers offer (midwife check-ins, insurance-provided lactation support at home, hospital-provided nurse home visits, etc.) if any.
Previous postpartum experience with your older children
All these considerations (and certainly others) can shape the vision of what support you want and need in the months around when baby will arrive.
In my practice, I very intentionally work on a tapered system of care, with fewer visits in weeks 1-3, denser visits weeks 4-6, and a gradual tapering again from there on, up to three months. Even if you have all the money in the world to spend on me, I wouldn’t recommend it and I’m not willing to change my practice enough to accommodate, though you will certainly find a doula who can and will. This is not because I feel like being flippant, I just feel firmly that I am here to help usher you into new parenting, not do everything for you. I want to work myself out of a job and make myself available for then next family who’s at square one when you are finding your groove.
It is in this vein, too, that I try and help parents either not purchase or ween themselves from the myriad of gadgets, apps, and resources which focus on constant monitoring and data analysis (most of which is arbitrary at best and just wrong at worst) that continues to pump the idea of risk, fear, and ineptitude pumped into the brains of new parents from pre-conception onward. Sorry to sound like your Marxist fairy godmother here, but it’s all a bunch of BS meant to sell you a ton of garbage you don’t need. The internet is a dark, terrifying black hole of trolls when it comes to info on new parenting and a lot of my role is helping you find more valuable and fact-driven sources of information, as well as care providers in your community who will help support those decisions you are making for your child.
What you can expect when I come by will vary a bit each time. I’ll come in and chat for 15-20 minutes at least on how things are going with you, baby, and other family members. Then we’ll chat about goals for the day/night — take a nap, leave the house, figure out wearing a carrier, find an acupuncturist, go over questions and information from the pediatrician visit, talk about your birth story, answer breastfeeding questions, all the Is this normal?’s, sleep questions, helping you do the first bath, doing a midnight bottle feed so you can sleep more, transitioning baby from sleeping in the swing to the bassinet, etc. From there, the visits will vary a good deal with each family and each visit.
…there’s more, but it’s getting into the nitty gritty of scheduling, and that’s something I just share with clients moving forward.
Hope you found this helpful!
Please don’t copy or reproduce without my permission. I do offer doulas the chance to purchase the licensing rights to this and other documents I’ve drafted for a low fee. You can find that info under my Contract Writing Services Menu on the Services page.