Valerie Trumbower is a DONA Certified Postpartum Doula, a Certified Lactation Counselor and the mother for three, including a set of twins. Her online courses Expecting 101™ and Expecting 101…You’re Adopting™ have helped many families prepare for life with their newborns. For all things baby follow her on Instagram @newparentsacademy.
Some people have never heard of a doula. “You do what?” Is something I’ve gotten used to hearing. When I explain what I do as a Postpartum Doula, most people who have lived through the first weeks at home with a newborn think having a doula sounds like a dream. I’ve realized recently though, maybe because of the word postpartum, that adoptive families are unsure of whether a postpartum doula is “for them”.
Let me tell you, without hesitation, you would absolutely benefit from a doula and here’s why…
Life with a newborn is hard. There, I said it. I realize that some families are afraid to say it. Maybe even more so in the cases of adoption. You’ve waited so long for this baby to arrive, you’ve invested so much and now he’s finally here and well, maybe you’d feel like a jerk if you complain. Listen there is nothing, I repeat NOTHING, like the first weeks home with your new baby. Yes, there’s joy and cuddles and A LOT of cuteness, but there’s also crying and confusion and a major learning curve as you all get to know each other. Getting to know each other, not because you didn’t carry the baby for the last 9 months, but because he is adjusting to life on earth! He has never drank milk or even breathed air! And you are adjusting to life as a parent.
The first three months after the baby is born are often referred to as the fourth trimester. This is your trimester! As new parents, this is when you will learn about your baby. How does he like to be soothed? What does that cry mean? How do you know that he’s getting enough to eat? Yes, there are things you can do to prepare for life with a newborn: read books and take classes. (I might be a bit partial, but I totally recommend my online course Expecting 101…You’re Adopting!). But one of the greatest things about having a doula, especially during this fourth trimester, is having your own expert on the scene!
When I get to someone’s house, typically one of the first things Mom or Dad does is whip out their phone and open the notes section where they’ve jotted down some questions. Is it weird that his skin is flaking on his head? Last night he was so gassy, any ideas how we can help him at times like that? I feel like we need a bouncy seat, any recommendations which one? Life with a newborn will be a temporary stop for you. Before you know, it he’ll be rolling and crawling and you’ll be off to the toddler years. As postpartum doulas newborns are our life. Having an expert to walk alongside you during this transitional period can help things go much more smoothly!
But What Does a Doula Even Do?
The answer really depends on what will help your transition as a new family. Sometimes this means a doula works during the day so exhausted parents can take a nap knowing that the baby is well cared for. Doulas prep bottles, handle baby laundry, help with meal prep, the list goes on. I work primarily overnights. This means my shift is usually from 10:00pm to 6:00am. Typically, I arrive and have an info download with the parents. We talk through how things are going and I answer any questions they have. Maybe it’s time for the baby’s first bath, but the parents are nervous to handle it alone so we do it together. Maybe they want to start using the new sling that they got but aren’t sure how to get the baby in and out so I help them get comfortable. Then they’re off to bed, to get some much needed sleep! While they are asleep, I care for the baby. I also usually throw in a load of baby laundry, get bottles prepped and start the dishwasher. I am always asking parents what will make their day feel less overwhelming and go more smoothly. If they mention that they keep running upstairs every time they need to change the baby, then I set up a changing station on the first floor. If their day is so busy that they’re not eating enough, I might cut up some veggies or prep dinner for the next night. It is a constant communication of where they feel they need help.
“For us the most valuable thing about having a doula was that you were there in our home coaching us through the whole process. It was like a crash course in having kids really fast. It’s not just the help caring for the babies and helping us learn how to bond with them– The part that made such a difference was you saying: here’s what to do, here’s what to buy, don’t be nervous about this, I’m here to talk you through it. It felt a lot like coaching, having a coach on call in your home.” – AFTH family who utilized Valerie’s services post placement
How Do You Find a Postpartum Doula?
Two sites that I highly recommend are doulamatch.net and DONA.org. Generally, you will reach out to someone by phone and then meet with them in person. It is very important that you feel comfortable with your doula. This person will be coming into your home at a very sensitive time. If you meet someone and feel like they aren’t a good fit for your family that’s okay, just keep looking! If it is important to you, you will want to confirm that your doula is certified, insured and has background checks. You can also ask for references and speak with families that the doula worked with previously.
One of the challenges of hiring a doula as an adoptive family might be that you are matched just before or right after delivery and don’t have time to look for a doula. If you are in the process of adopting and think that you might want to hire a doula, my advice would be to reach out to a few now and meet with them. Since you won’t know the due date yet the doula cannot guarantee availability but you can have a plan in place to call her as soon as you get news of the baby’s arrival.
The cost of a doula varies based on where you live. On average you can expect to pay $25-50/hour. This is an investment for sure, and I understand that it’s not feasible for everyone. If it’s something that you think your family can afford I encourage you to consider it. Be open with your doula about your budget and she will be able to help you allocate it. She can help you ensure that during challenging times, like when most babies experience growth spurts, you will have support in place. There is no minimum timeframe for working with most doulas. I’ve had families that I worked with 5 nights per week for months and families that I have helped for only two overnight shifts. You really can customize doula care depending on your needs and your budget!
Valerie’s Expecting 101…You’re Adopting! course qualifies for Adoptions From The Heart’s childcare class requirements.