The last 24 hours have been some of the fullest of my life. In the morning I was with my husband and his family as his father passed away; and before the sun had risen again I watched a brand new life slip into the world. Try to go through a day like that and not wax poetic while blogging!
Just like the new moms I serve, I realize I will need a few days to process all that I experienced this day. There are so many similarities, so many contrasts. One thing is clear already. Life goes on. All around us everyday, people slip in and out of our world and our lives; often with little or no fanfare; often without our awareness. And life goes on.
“In the entire history of the universe, let alone in your own history, there has never been another day just like today, and there will never be another just like it again. Today is the point to which all your yesterdays have been leading since the hour of your birth. It is the point from which all your tomorrows will proceed until the hour of your death. If you were aware of how precious today is, you could hardly live through it. Unless you are aware of how precious it is, you can hardly be said to be living at all.”
And that is the bitch of it. (excuse my language) . It is the adjustment to the life that goes on afterward that can be so much more of a challenge than getting through the birth (or death) . As an evolving culture we recognized this. We developed rituals for both events that are very similar; we visit, we bring food, send cards and flowers, and have religious ceremonies of celebration. There is a mourning period in many cultures that has a very rigid time structure and sets of behaviors that should be followed just as many cultures have ritual postpartum behaviors of isolation and care.
In our busy, more modern culture many of these rituals have fallen away. People are less connected to their communities, and have less familial support nearby. Postpartum doulas are filling many of those gaps with the care they provide new families. Parents spend so much time planning for birth, with showers and shopping and classes. But it is really those first few precious weeks when the newly shaped family needs so much more support as they adjust to the world in their new roles. Whether they are offering guidance with breastfeeding or loading a dishwasher; preparing a sitz bath or reading to a sibling while mom catches a nap; postpartum doulas are a wonderful way to acknowledge and support the value of the transitional period surrounding birth.
We need to start shaping some new rituals that work for us in our current evolution of society, and the postpartum doula is a great one. Studies have shown that families that get good emotional and educational support early on are more confident and satisfied in their new roles as parents. That is something we could use a lot more of in our society.