Confinement. Xuo Yue Zi. The first Forty Days. Ansei. Sitting Month. Baby Moon.
Whatever you call it, the first six weeks or so after a woman has a baby are a universally acknowledged time of much-needed recovery.
In several Eastern countries like Malaysia, Mexico, Thailand, and Japan, daily abdominal massage and various forms of wrapping the abdomen (in Malaysia called Bengkung Belly Binding) is practiced, bringing warmth and support to a recovering mother.
In Russia women are given an herbal steam bath in specially built saunas.
In China, women are served dishes of pig's feet, sweet rice congee, red date and ginger tea, among others, specifically made to warm her body, keep blood flowing, and help her breast milk com in quickly, easily, and in abundance.
In Korea and India, similar principles apply: women eat and drink only hot or room temperature items, like Seaweed Soup and special curries, to avoid creating "wind" in her body that might prevent healing.
Almost every doula brings a bag with her to every birth. But what's in that magical Mary-Poppins-like pouch? I can't speak for everyone, but I'll give you a glimpse of the most common items you'll find in mine - the items vary from time to time, but these essential things can always be found inside.
Why do you have that in your bag?
Some of these items might seem a bit strange, or maybe you don't know why a doula would want them at a birth, so here's a quick run-down:
Doulas have fees that can range anywhere from about $350 - $1,200, depending on location, training/experience, and cost of living in your area. That can be a stretch for some budgets, especially right before adding a baby (or two!) to the family. If you want a doula, and you find one you like and who feels right for you, the cost is actually a small hurdle to get over. Here are some ways you can choose to make this investment in yourself, your birth and your baby happen:
A note on doulas in training: there’s a wide-spread belief that a doula in training (meaning one who still needs to attend a few births to certify with a doula training organization) is the way to go because hey, they’re free, right?
Now days, most doulas in training do not offer their services for free. Some will offer them for a reduced cost or are more willing to trade. Realize this: the service they are providing is incredibly time consuming and valuable. If they value themselves, they will most likely ask for a fee, even a small one. And believe me, you want someone attending you in birth who is confident enough in their abilities to ask for compensation. This isn’t about entitlement, it’s about the value of a service being offered. Please respect that, and I promise, with the options mentioned above, you will be able to work with just about any doula to find an arrangement that works for you.
That said, there ARE doulas who will offer their services to low-income and in-need families for a reduced cost or free. If you are in a situation where you honestly can’t pay a doula anything, or could only afford a portion of her fee, then speak up! Talk to doulas in your area and be honest about your situation until you find one willing to support you in your desires. We are human people, we know that it can be hard sometimes, and we really want to help you. We’ll work to find something that benefits both of us, and everyone will be better for it.
Also realize that not everyone NEEDS a doula. If none of the above seems to be an option or paying for a doula doesn’t appeal to you, consider whether you really need one. If this is you, there is a lot you can still do to prepare, which is the topic of another blogpost I might write someday. But here are some tips: 1) Get a care provider (doctor or midwife) who supports YOU and the birth you desire to have. Don’t settle for anything less than someone who respects and listens to you. 2) Be sure your husband or boyfriend or anyone who will be in the room supporting you truly supports the kind of birth you’re planning to have and won’t change their minds in the middle of your birth. You deserve someone to support you fully! 3) Do your research, and DO take a childbirth education class! Learn everything you can about birth, and make sure your husband learns some ways he can support you and help you have the safe, positive birth experience you desire.