Justifying the Value of Postpartum Care
Commonly, when I tell people I'm a postpartum doula and I explain about all the wonderful things involved in postpartum care, people will respond something along the lines of "wow, that sounds really nice, I wish I could afford that". So, I've been reflecting on that a lot lately and trying to figure out how to address that statement.
I totally get it, having a baby is a big drain on the bank account, and most families will drop down to 1 income for a period of time after baby arrives, so things like postpartum care get shuffled into the realm of luxury expenses. Well, today I'd like to challenge you to start thinking of postpartum care as a necessity you deserve as opposed to a luxury service you can only dream of.
Most people have heard the adage "it takes a village" in reference to babies and parenting, and it still holds true to this day, even though many of us have now lost our "villages". New moms in America are woefully and inadequately supported upon coming home with their babies, and there is a mindset in place that we have to "do it all". In my opinion, there is nothing more damaging to our families with babies.
Before the advent of the nuclear family and modern society, a young girl would grow up surrounded by female relatives in different phases of life, so it was not uncommon for her to see pregnant women, childbirth, and new babies. Whenever someone in the family had a baby, all the female relatives would pitch in to help take care of the mom and her new baby, including the young girl herself. When the young girl grew up and had a baby of her own, she already had some experience taking care of babies from helping her relatives before her, and then she would also be supported through her postpartum phase by others she had previously helped. As she became older and more experienced she would then pass down pearls of wisdom about parenting and babies within her family unit, thus teaching all the new young girls, repeating the cycle.
Unfortunately, in the United States, many of us have moved away from this model.
The world has grown, and many of us live far away from our families (our built in support people), or our families are busy living their own lives and supporting themselves and unable to dedicate the time to properly support a new mother. There is now also more evidence-based information than ever before on things like baby safety, so if any baby care information has been passed along from the previous generation, it is likely outdated and no longer considered best practice. Also, a lot of people never really have an opportunity anymore to be around an infant as they are growing up, so the first baby they hold or care for, may be their own. However, just because our society has changed, doesn't mean our families with new babies need any less support.
Our new moms and babies need just as much support as they ever did before, except now it is not a built in part of the childbearing journey, so most families are stuck trying to navigate their way through the postpartum transition themselves. This is not right, and in fact, in many other countries/cultures around the world, the postpartum transition is still honored and respected, with much emphasis placed on providing support and rest to new moms and their babies. In these other countries/cultures providing a mom with postpartum care is just part of the whole package of having a baby.
Here's the thing, many of us have muddled through the postpartum period on our own and figured it out just fine, because humans are amazingly adaptable and capable. However, just because you can do something by yourself, doesn't mean you have to do it by yourself, especially when it comes to such a huge life transition. Postpartum doulas help fill in that crucial support role many of us no longer have built in access to.
If you still think postpartum care sounds great, but you're unsure of the value of paying for it, here's a comparison for you to think about. Think about a wedding and marriage. Now think about birth and postpartum. Lets equate those 2 things now, so the wedding equates to birth, and the marriage equates to postpartum. Of course, in this scenario, the most attention is always paid to the wedding/birth, because it is a big event. Most people don't bat an eye at spending money for those big events. However, most of us can acknowledge the thing of more importance is what comes after the big events, so the marriage/postpartum (the actual parenting part).
Most people, place a lot of value on going on a honeymoon after their wedding, to start their married life off right. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, most newlyweds spend an average of $4,466-$9,954 on their honeymoon.
So, what about postpartum then? How do you start life with your new baby off right? If you're willing to spend a large amount of money on a honeymoon so you can relax with your new spouse, and bond with them after the strenuous event of a wedding, don't you think you deserve to have that same experience with your new baby? An average price for 12 hours of care from a postpartum doula in my area is $360-$480 depending on their rates,. Compared to the price of a $5000 honeymoon, the price is not half bad, plus this is money that is contributing to the overall health of you and your baby, because evidence has shown, access to proper support during the postpartum time is crucial to a new moms mental health, which directly affects the health and well-being of their baby.
Of course, we all have the right to choose how we spend our money, and when a new baby is entering the world, it sometimes feels like spending money is all we do. Birth costs money, and babies need clothes, and diapers, etc., and some of us need to buy a bigger house to fit the baby, and the list goes on of what we can spend to ensure we have a happy baby. In the end though, I feel, one of the best things you can actually do to ensure a happy baby is to ensure the baby's mother is supported, nurtured, and happy, because the mother is the new baby's whole universe. That's really what a postpartum doula does- we take really good care of the mom, so the mom can take really good care of the baby.
It doesn't matter what top of the line baby gear you have, or what brand onesie your baby is wearing, your baby will always benefit the most from having a happy mom. So, going forward with your baby registry planning or budgeting for baby, I challenge you to be really intentional about what you're spending your money on. For example, consider purchasing gently-used (instead of new) clothing and gear and using the money you save to hire a postpartum doula. Spending money towards bettering your overall health and well-being is a purchase you'll never regret.
It is my dream, someday in America, we will have a much better system of support for postpartum families, where no one has to pay out of pocket to receive basic postpartum care. However, until that day, I ask you to really think about how much value you place on your care and well-being during one of the most profound, and trans-formative times of your life.