Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cock-a-doula-do

I'm enjoying a sunny Sunday morning alone in the kitchen with coffee and the cat, listening to Handel's Messiah, and feeling quite blissed out. Finally, a few moments to write the doula post I kept meaning to write. (I'm sure you were all holding your breath…)

For those who aren't familiar with what a post-partum doula is or does, it's a woman who helps you in the first weeks or months after giving birth with everything from breastfeeding support/advice to baby care to laundry and cooking. Her main role is to "mother the mother" -- help mom (and dad, as the case may be) make the transition into parenthood without losing their sanity, and get a good meal and a nap now and then.

She'll come four hours a day, three to five days a week, for the first two to three months, probably. A.'s parents are generously paying for this for us. (At $29 an hour, we could never swing it.) My MIL actually wanted us to get a live-in nurse for the whole first month, but we opted spread their generosity over a longer period of time. 24-hour help seemed like overkill to us since we'll both be home, and my mom will be around for the first few days. And I'd like at least a little privacy.

So. Two weeks ago we met our post-partum doula-to-be, Arlene, who specializes in twins. In spite of her name, I think I was expecting a yoga-teacher-ish sort of woman, maybe in her thirties or forties. Someone who had backpacked through Southeast Asia and frequently baked bread from scratch and used all cruelty-free, non-petroleum based personal care products and wore cool, crafty jewelry.

But in walked a gray-haired woman well into her sixties, in pants that couldn't be described as anything but slacks, and a top that was most decidedly a blouse. She was carrying a woven Guatemalan bag, kept talking about having children as a "spiritual experience," and revealed later that she was active in a Unitarian church, so she certainly has an earthy streak. I mean, she's from Cambridge, after all. But if you saw her on the street, you would probably think "nurse," not "doula." (In fact, she was a nurse for many years.) I'll admit, I was a little disappointed.

This woman was intense, assertive, and fairly opinionated. At first, I wasn't quite sure what to make of her. But the more we talked, the more I liked her -- her practicality and no-nonsense attitude. During her one hour visit it was settled that the couch in our living room will be my primary nursing site, our sideboard will serve as a second changing table, we should start locking the cat out of our room at night to get her used to it, and she (Arlene, not the cat) will bring over a blender so she can make me smoothies. At one point, when she saw that was looking a little uncomfortable in the chair I was in, she suggested we switch places. I, of course, politely demurred, but she insisted. Next thing I know, I'm lying on the couch and she's arranging pillows around me. And I'm much more comfortable as a result.

She was not rigid, though; for example, when she suggested I use the chair in my office for breastfeeding upstairs, I thought about it and said that I'd rather not make my work space -- my sanctuary -- a baby space if I can help it. She was very understanding and supportive of that. In fact, she was quite warm and encouraging and generally maternal (or grandmaternal, I guess), but in a no-bullshit sort of way, which I appreciated. Mary Poppins meets Juliet's "Nurse."

By the time she left, I was actually thoroughly glad she wasn't a young, yoga teacher type. Because, I realized, if it were a young, yoga teacher type, closer to my age, I think I would feel more of a need to be friendly and sociable; to make her like me. I would be less likely to ask for help. But with Arlene, I feel like I really don't have to make any effort at all. She will take care of business. She will take care of all of us. Away with the maidens--bring me a crone!

A. liked her too, though he found her a bit intense, and didn't appreciate some of the more personal question she asked. (We got into a conversation about religion which was a bit odd, but I think she basically was just curious to know if he was Jewish, because she is.) I told him I agreed she was sort of a strange bird, but I thought it would be a good fit. BUT, I said, I would be happy to interview some other candidates if he wanted to find them and set up the appointments. Yeah, well, that sealed the deal. Arlene it shall be.

In other news, yesterday I went to Goodwill and bought a pair of size 7-1/2 shoes (a size up from what I normally wear) because my feet are so damned swollen that even my fab Dansko clogs are tight by the end of the day. I swear, my calves, ankles, and feet look like they belong to someone else. Someone very fat. I try to avoid looking at them, and urge you to do the same.

7 Comments:

Blogger Churlita said...

What a cool idea. My mother-in-law was up from Mexico when I had my first daughter and she was really good at just taking the baby from me when my milk still wasn't in and I was sure my daughter hated me.

You will definitely want a take-charge person during all the chaos.

2:41 PM  
Blogger Motel Manager said...

I think Arlene sounds great. I'll have to get me one of those.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous winecat said...

Arlene souns wonderful but why lock the cat out of the bedroom? Instead get out the baby stuff - like carseats and bouncer and let the cat become familiar with them so he/she doesn't feel excluded from the family when the girls arrive. I have a great picture from a friend of their cat all curled up inside the baby's catseat.

8:00 PM  
Blogger Jane said...

Winecat -- the babies are going to be sleeping in our bedroom in a co-sleeper for the first couple of months, and the cat is a cuddlemonster. We don't want her getting into the co-sleeper with the babies and loving them to death. But we'll be sure to make sure she's fully integrated into all the other baby equipment! I have visions of her in a Johnny Jump-up....

10:06 AM  
Blogger Larki said...

Arlene sounds like just the ticket. I loved my post-partum doula,and she definitely brought a measure of sanity to the household. I agree: bring in the crones!

6:03 PM  
Anonymous RCH said...

Wow! Arlene sounds great. If I hadn't had my mom around the corner, I would have loved someone like Arlene. My mom (as you know) is a take-charge person who always just *knew* when I needed a break/nap, needed someone else to hold the baby, needed someone to reassure me, needed laundry done, etc. You definitely need someone like that around when you are feeling clueless, exhausted, and overwhelmed.

I'm pretty sure I inherited Roseanne Barr's ankles and calves when I was pregnant. At least it's winter so you can cover them up - I was in sundresses and sandals!

9:46 PM  
Blogger Idon'tcare said...

I searched calamity cock on google and this is where it brought me, giggle giggle he haw.

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11:44 PM  

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