Blog written by Ayesha Chatterjee, Metropolitan Doulas

If you are pregnant or hoping to be, it is likely you have a plan for your birth setting and space, the people you would like present, and the process you would like to see unfold. These are your choices – and you know that articulating them in advance will help your providers and partners support your needs during labor. For the same reason, we now encourage you to stretch your planning beyond birth, to your needs for healing after.

Anticipating Needs

Doulas are asked this question all the time: “… but what will I need once we are home?”

The honest answer: Some needs are basic and common. All parents, for example, eat, sleep, pee, poop, and yes, weep the occasional good weep! Other needs are unique, rooted in one’s past and present. A history of mental health issues, for example, or parenting while teenage, BIPOC, or differently abled. Moreover, given the unpredictability of birth, postpartum needs are sometimes less apparent right off the bat; they emerge along the way.

Although experienced doulas can often anticipate needs, based on vast and varieties of experience, parents are ultimately the experts on what makes them tick. Our role is to urge you to think through your list early and remain flexible as you – and your needs – evolve.  

Needs to Consider and Plan Around

To help you get started, here are some areas that many postpartum doulas believe will benefit from early planning.

Community

As social animals, we need company through good times and bad. Postpartum is chockfull of both and lonely without your peeps. So, populate your trusted village early (although it is never too late!) Throw in a postpartum doula, if possible. Do not shy away from seeking and accepting help: information… local resources… mind-numbing chores (definitely hit “repeat” on laundry!)… a sympathetic shoulder for all the big and small feelings.

Nourishment (Yours)

Organizing on this front will include shopping, turning groceries into something edible, and following through on eating. Planning grocery and meals during pregnancy, either home-based or home-delivered, will be a relief when you have a baby strapped to your chest.

Betsy Quilligan, a postpartum doula with Metropolitan Doulas, offers simple suggestions on feeding your family. This includes preparing and freezing a variety of one-dish meals in the last trimester, stocking up on prepared (healthy!) snacks, and enlisting your community to keep your food chain going. As a postpartum doula, one of my first acts of support is placing snacks within arms reach around the home, in spots where a parent and their newborn is likely to hangout. Family can do the same.

Nourishment (Your Baby’s)

Breast versus bottle, milk versus formula, the “what,” “when,” and “why” of feeding a baby can be a landmine for many parents: there is a lot of information (Kellymom, Healthy Children, La Leche League, etc.) and even more (mostly) well-intended opinion. Fact and fiction are best sifted during pregnancy. This is when you will have time to review culturally sensitive evidence on your options; make decisions that are informed and right for your family; and invite supportive lactation experts into your community.

Emotions

Regardless of whether a parent has an existing mental health issue, or develops one during pregnancy and postpartum, being aware of the signs will make or break recovery. Research on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and local perinatal mental health professionals is best done in advance, during pregnancy. For parents with prior and ongoing conditions, regular contact with their care provider through pregnancy and postpartum will be essential.

Your fourth trimester might seem far away and hard to imagine (beyond piles of poopy diapers and nights of no sleep). Even thinking about it might be overwhelming! We understand.

However, like a birth plan that centers you, a postpartum plan will be a vital buffer – prioritizing your adjustment to a new “normal” that will bear no resemblance to older, familiar, drumbeats.

This post offers a nugget; and, as you look ahead to your birth and beyond, DC Birth Doulas and Metropolitan Doulas are here to help. We hope you will consider our suggestions, reach out with questions, take a class, or seek our support.

Congratulations from all of us!