We welcome the sweetly & fervently brewing curiosity and energy around Virtual Postpartum Care.
Today we will dive into the possibilities and offer guidance to doulas pursuing this work path, and for families seeking virtual postpartum care.
Let’s begin by acknowledging what is: Virtual support and connection just isn’t the same as in-person doula care. Video calls are different from in-home visits or chatting at a coffee shop. And virtual ceremonies are going to look and feel different than in-person ritual celebrations.
This is true.
AND…We still need connection and support! We still need each other, and we can still be here for each other. So let’s talk about what doulas CAN do right now to support families during the current global and social circumstances. And we’ll start with this simple acknowledgement: The support we can give today looks and feels different than the support we could safely give a few weeks ago.
As caregivers, we can hold space for expecting, birthing, and postpartum parents to express their feelings around the unfolding drastic changes.
Parents may feel a broad range of emotions around the shifting circumstances: anger, sadness, frustration, worry, grief, mourning, disappointment…We can hold space and offer acceptance to these parents whose plans are foiled. And for parents who are finding themselves preparing for what they never expected to plan for: ceremonies, births, and sacred windows without the physical presence of the support people they desired to companion them during these times. Not to mention the understandable health concerns of childbearing amidst a viral outbreak. Even prenatal care has taken a drastic shift. More appointments are happening via tele-health, and in some cases parents are receiving less prenatal appointments altogether. And this, too, is different.
Through our work and resources, we hope to inspire doulas and families to continue giving and receiving deep, meaningful care and reverence around pregnancy, birth, and the sacred postpartum window.
Shift of focus
Now more than ever, we can all increase our focus on education, preparation, and partner support.
Graduates of our Ayurvedic Postpartum Caregiver program are equipped to offer parents education about postpartum wellness and self-care. They provide sacred window preparation with organizing support networks and care plans. And they support partners prenatally and in the days and weeks after birth.
Education & Preparation
This is a critical time for doulas to focus on providing ample education around postpartum wellbeing, preparation, and self-care. And it is an urgent time for parents to actively seek this knowledge and guidance. Of course there are many great books out there, but in this acute time we need immediate solutions. Many renowned individuals and organizations are providing free, up-to-date support information for parents preparing to birth during this pandemic. Our regularly updated list of excellent resources for birthers can be found here.
To meet the current need, the Center for Sacred Window Studies is offering a DIY Ayurvedic Postpartum Care course for parents. This will be a condensed version of our APC program, with an added component of postpartum planning specific to this time.
As parents may be heading into birth and postpartum with very little in-person support, preparation is paramount.
Many doulas, including the CSWS Team, provide Postpartum Planning Consultations. Having support and guidance in creating your plan, specifically suited to your personal needs in conjunction with this unique time is essential. During our Postpartum Planning Consultations, we:
- support parents in identifying their needs and desires
- instruct birthers on our how to self-replenish with abhyanga (oil massage)
- guide parents in how to set up their home to maximize rejuvenation
- review wise dietary guidelines for supporting postpartum recovery
- help birthers/couples create a personal postpartum care plan
- teach parents how to give their baby abhyanga to support growth and immunity
- answer any pertinent questions
You can schedule a consult with us here.
Doulas can help parents decide which aspects of postpartum care the mama can really take on as her own self-care and which elements her partner will support with. And together we can identify ways that family, friends, and community can continue to provide support even during a time of social distancing. We can still have phone & video chats with our loved ones, attend virtual support groups, and receive tele-health care from midwives, doulas, and even physical therapists.
In lieu of in-person support, loved ones can offer their care in the way of helping parents acquire:
- essential care items
- quality food ingredients
- virtual doula care
- preparation courses & books
- tele-PT support
There are food takeout options in some areas, and we can help nourish parents and families in this way as well! This can be a great option for feeding the family and/or partner while the partner prepares postpartum-specific foods for the mom.
This is a time when partners are being faced with extra responsibility for caring for the birther, the Motherbaby unit, and any other children in the family. They deserve extra attention right now! We are calling for doulas, caregivers, and extended family, friends, and community members to check-in with partners often. See what emotional support you can provide. Make extra time for phone calls with partners. Ask how THEY are doing and feeling. Listen to their concerns. Doulas can help partners connect with beneficial support resources at this time. There are partner support groups! And partners will likely want and need increased education around birth and postpartum care to better support their birthing partners. Beginning with acknowledging the increased responsibility on partners at this time is a crucial step for our collective wellbeing.
Adapting Postpartum Care to the Virtual Platform
For this section of the article, we will focus on adapting Ayurvedic Postpartum Care to the virtual platform, though much of what is suggested here can apply for other doulas and caregivers offering postpartum support as well.
Daily Wise Woman Check-ins
A vital aspect of Ayurvedic Postpartum Care is daily wise woman check-ins. This is a core part of the Ayurdoula’s routine every time she visits the birther. This will look different depending on each doula and each doula-birther relationship, but essentially it involves checking in on
- the mother’s emotional climate (how is she feeling, her mood, etc.)
- sleep quality
- diet (is she enjoying her food & eating enough, how’s digestion, how’s her appetite)
- her relationship with Baby
- the relationship with her Partner
Though we will miss the physical touch and presence of one another, doulas can still offer so much in the way of emotional and strategic support for the postpartum experience. We can help the birther identify beneficial dietary adjustments, how to improve breastfeeding, suggestions for sounder sleep, and support for tending the Motherbaby relationship as well as the relationship with her partner. Even from a distance, we can support families in growing into new rhythms together.
Support in birth processing is another essential function of the postpartum doula. We can help with this virtually! Again, we will all miss physical touch and presence, but we can still connect through the digital platform. We can still read each other’s body language and facial expressions, and receive one another’s warmth through smiles and expressions of reassurance. And birth processing can be many-layered. It tends to not unfold linearly, and doulas can still be present virtually to hold space for birthers and couples through how and when they desire to process their birth experience.
Infant Abhyanga Instruction
Baby abhyanga is a beautiful, wholly nurturing aspect of Ayurvedic Postpartum Care. And, beautifully, we can readily teach this skill through a digital platform! Doulas and parents can plan to meet virtually about 10 days postpartum to exchange infant massage instruction. And doulas can provide ongoing support as needed/desired by parents.
Family Support Via Partner
So, let’s check-in for a moment and acknowledge that birthers often feel sensitive to technology exposure. This can be very noticeable especially at the end of pregnancy, through labor, and during the sacred window. Instead of speaking directly with the birther, we can offer partners emotional and strategic support over the phone and via video chat. Sometimes this support may look like helping them figure out how to help their partner. This also may look like providing them extra space to share their own feelings and experience.
Connecting Parents with other Resources
Hopefully we supply much of the connection with resources, support groups, and other professionals during a birther/couples’ pregnancy. However, the postpartum experience evolves on its own accord, and can present new challenges and desires at any time. We can help parents identify when it may be a good time to reach out to a breastfeeding professional, their midwife or doctor, a physical therapist, a counselor, another support group, etc. And we can help parents stay in-the-know about available tele-health options, as well as supporting them in knowing when to seek in-person health care.
- Doulas are cut out for this! We are in the business of providing our heart-centered, nonjudgmental presence in times of unknown.
- We are in this together. There are SO many doulas, caregivers, and advocates around the globe who are digging deep within themselves and casting their networks farther out than ever before in order to provide the BEST support to families in this time. Connect with the Collective! We are all doing our best TOGETHER.
- This is temporary. The current circumstances will not last forever. Just as a virus passes through an individual and does not stay indefinitely, this time will pass through us. Let’s choose optimally how we will pass through it: with intention, love, awareness, and connection.