As the year winds down, we find ourselves reflecting on what we’re grateful for and gathering with family and friends. While we’ve outlined many resources mothers need to thrive in pregnancy, postpartum, and parenthood – from physical to mental and emotional – we know that without a social support network, maintaining wellbeing is much harder.
It truly does take a village. In part 4 of our series, we’re breaking down the aspects of your social safety net that can help you navigate the life changes of becoming a parent and raising a child.
When your entire body and life are shifting to accommodate growing a little one, bringing them into the world, and caring for them earthside, your relationships must also be dynamic and evolving.
We make friends in a variety of seasons of our life – childhood, young adulthood, different careers, living situations. With the different rhythms of modern life, friends may start families earlier than us, later than us, or not at all. Staying in community with all our friendships requires compromise from both parties, but it’s so necessary to mothers’ wellbeing.
Writer Anne Helen Petersen has an excellent breakdown of functional tips and ideas for how to be in a relationship with both friends with kids, and friends without kids; the needs of both are so important, and we would encourage you to have open communication with your friends no matter what stage of parenthood you’re currently navigating.
Intentional gathering around specific aspects of parenthood is not always a facet our friendships can offer us. Support groups in your community can create a space for you to discuss particular parts of pregnancy, new parenthood, or childrearing that you need support around.
At Carolina Birth & Wellness, we’ve just begun offering a monthly Pregnancy After Fertility Challenges group – many mothers feel relief at being able to discuss the difficult emotions that surface in pregnancy after a journey to getting pregnant. Postpartum Support International hosts NICU support groups, and groups based on specific identities that impact the experience of parenthood.
Support groups can offer an emotional and social outlet that help mothers enjoy their other relationships more by knowing all their needs are being met. Additionally, with experienced facilitators, support groups provide opportunities to process experiences individually rather than in the context of other loved ones’ feelings.
We once had a dear client refer to her doula as a “professional friend,” which is an excellent explanation for the way birth or postpartum doulas can function as a member of your social support network.
With both broad knowledge and experience in the many ways to mother, doulas can hold space for you and all your feelings, providing you with both the expertise of a support group facilitator and the one-on-one time of a close friend. Usually reachable by call, text, email or in-person, doulas are often more accessible and available.
Depending on whether they are your birth or postpartum doula, they’re also with you. They have experienced your pregnancy, delivery, and fourth trimester firsthand, and are familiar with details that other members of your community might need to be filled in on for context in order to support you.
Doulas are meant to complement your greater support network, not replace it, so they can also provide secondary care for your whole family, ensuring you are all able to embrace the journey of parenthood.
We are deeply grateful to be a part of your village as a member of HER Health Collective, and we hope you’ve enjoyed this four-part blog series. Be sure to check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of this series if you haven’t had the chance. If you ever need support resourcing your toolkit, the HER Experts directory is an excellent place to start!
Maris is a full-spectrum doula and reproductive justice advocate. Experienced in supporting birth, postpartum, loss, and bereavement, she also works as a childbirth educator and placenta encapsulation specialist. With an evidence-based approach, Maris creates spaces for women to make informed decisions that feel intuitive for their bodies and families. She is constantly in awe to share these moments in clients’ lives. Beyond being a full-time doula, Maris also stepped into a new role as co-owner and director of Carolina Birth & Wellness.
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