We adopted a new dog 4 or 5 years ago. She’s a rescue dog that was relinquished at RSPCA in Melbourne when she was 11 months old and brought up to our local dog shelter because she’s a working dog and should live in the country with plenty of space, as we do. When I went to see the dogs, there she was. Our dog. She’s a working dog for a country property.
What’s this got to do with postpartum, new mothers or being a doula?
When I trained as a postpartum doula, I was thinking about how little support new mothers in our western culture receive, compared to what was available to us when we adopted our dog. Sure, we were given some dried dog food, a collar and a booklet and we brought a lead and toy from the RSPCA for her, but it was the support for us (The ‘parents’) that was like a community if and when we needed it.
We had the option of leaving her there for a couple of days to get our home ready for her (like an extra day or two hospital stay after birth), we were given contact details for dog classes (like postnatal classes or my workshop), we had access to a dog ‘ whisperer’ who would come to our home, we knew a good vet practice, we could get someone to house sit and care for her if we needed a break, (like grandma, a trusted neighbour or postnatal doula for your baby), we could get a mobile dog wash, (like a someone showing first time parents some options to bath their baby),someone we know owns dog kennels where we can leave her for a rest or break and ask questions or get information and support from the vet, dog kennels, dog trainer or dog shelter. Like a village of ‘dog doulas’ or dog owner doulas.
Right from the moment of adopting her and becoming her ‘parents’, we had support, resources and care from animal professionals , as well as support from family, friends and community.
How many new mothers/couples have the amount of support that we had as new dog owners, after their baby arrives? I’m pretty sure, sadly, not many.
You get more support when you get a dog (or puppy) than when you have a baby. Caring for a new baby is hard work, exhausting and 27/7, unlike a dog.
That makes me sad and want to support new mothers and families even more.
Sure, some new mothers receive support from the maternity health nurse, family if they’re nearby and maybe friends. Some don’t. Most people don’t understand how much support you need as a new mother until they have their first baby. After all, how can such a tiny baby take so much of your time, energy and effort? Who knew babies don’t sleep ‘like a baby’. Like a puppy or young dog.
I imagined every new mother having the amount of support we had when we adopted our dog. ( Of course babies need more care than dogs and new mothers need more support than dog owners). If new mothers had a village of support after birth: meals cooked, dishes washed, a massage or shoulder rub, someone to care for the baby while they had a nap or showered or just have a break, asked if they needed anything from the shops, took care of older siblings, gave them resources, information, and referred to professionals if they needed them, those first few days, weeks and months would be easier and smoother. New mothers would feel less overwhelmed, exhausted and lonely and feel nurtured, nourished and confident on their mothering journey.
They deserve that and my wish is that one day they will get all the support they need and deserve.