I remember life before children, when all of my clothes were in the correct drawers, my nicer things hung in the closet, there was order to my laundry chaos. And then I got pregnant, and everyone's happiness manifested in tiny onesies and even tinier socks. Not only did we have an overwhelming amount of baby clothing, we also had a happy spitter, so all of those onesies got put to use! She was born in late November, so spit up on her onesie resulted in a cold, fussy baby. Eventually, we broke down and bought bibs, which is about the time she outgrew the spitting. Oh the irony.
What I then had to deal with was the massive pile of clothing associated with the smallest member of the family. We also cloth diapered, and washed at home, so the mountains of laundry were daunting. Thank god I have a patient and loving partner, because eventually, I got overwhelmed and just left the laundry in the baskets. We just had too much!
I remember sitting on the couch, yet another pile of baby clothes to be folded lying next to me, and browsing Pinterest. That's when I found The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. (Yes, that is a link to Amazon. No, it is not an affiliate link.) She found joy by decluttering. Could I find joy this way?
I don't think I'd call it joy. A profound sense of relief, yes. An easiness to life with a rough and tumble, roll in the mud, pour spaghetti on her head, kind of girl. I sat down with those 45 piles of baby clothes, and let go of the ones we were done with. Eventually, when we started talking about a second child, I started to store her outgrown clothes instead of passing them onto other families. But now they're in their own bins, organized by sizes, and ready to be pulled out when the time comes.
After finishing the baby clothes, I moved on to the dozens of receiving blankets, little bins and totes of baby toys, and all the other things we think we need as parents. Gizmos and gadgets can be helpful, but others just sit on the dresser, unused and cluttering. Growing up, we had so many kids and so many things, I didn't know what an uncluttered house looked like. Since starting the KonMari method, it's been a gradual progression to getting rid of objects that don't bring me joy. My own clothing, the knick knacks, the art supplies (and half finished projects)... I let go of the things and looked around. I didn't find joy, but I found a sense of peace. I was surprised at how easy it all seemed, when I didn't have as much clutter.
I think that's one of the reasons I enjoy cleaning as a postpartum doula. I want to bring a sense of easy comfort in a stressful time. When you look up from rocking your baby, and you see all the blankets and onesies tucked away into their drawers and baskets, I want you to breath a sigh of relief. One less thing for you to worry about.
I was meeting a dear friend in Oakland for a celebratory "oh my gosh you had your baby and I'm so happy for you" lunch, when I noticed a mom who was really stressed out. She was at the bus stop, her newborn was crying, she was struggling with a nipple shield, and it seemed like the least I could do was offer her a hand, or at least a sympathetic ear.
I walked up to her and introduced myself..
"Hi! My name is Megan, and I'm a postpartum doula here in the Bay Area. I noticed you've got a lot going on right now... Is there anything I can help you with?" At the same time, I handed her my rack card and business card, because you can't always take the word of a stranger.
She hesitated for just a minute before nodding. I asked her for permission to hold her baby and calm him so that she get her nipple shield ready. I helped to get him settled and it was much easier for her to get ready to nurse. I helped prop her diaper bag under her arm to make nursing a bit more comfortable, and asked if she needed anything else. She replied with one question:
What's a postpartum doula?
I take care of the family. I do what I can to alleviate stress. That might be doing the bottles and the baby's laundry, or it could be taking the dog and the baby for a walk so that the parents can shower, nap, and recharge. If I have time to do meal preparation, or start a crock pot meal, I'm happy to do so!
I answer questions, provide evidence-based information, and have a lot of midnight conversations about breastfeeding support. I offer gentle sleep support that goes hand in hand with breastfeeding goals, but I'm also experienced in bottle feeding as well.
I listen to your goals, fears, desires, and I do what I can to help you with all of those things.
There are so many things that I do, and I love doing it. Supporting new families through the postpartum period is a special glimpse into a family's heart. Periods of transition can be so life changing, and I am honored to help.
There is a new baby in your life. She probably wants to eat every 2-3 hours, and probably fills her diapers just as often. That means your sleep is probably being interrupted, and who knows when the last time you ate a meal while it was still hot. I know we have an appointment at 6:30 this evening. But please, don't feel like it's required to have your home spotless before I get there. Or before the in-laws, or your own parents get there.
Instead, while you're sitting there nursing, start writing down a list. Oh, you need the laundry started? Write it down! Dishes need washing? Put that on the list, too. Could you use some easy to eat snacks? Just add that to the list as well, "prep some quick snacks for me." When I wrote my list, I called it the "Washing Up Wishlist" because I kept it by the sink. Then, whenever visitors came over to see the baby, they would see this wonderful list right next to the soap. "Please help before you hold" reminded our guests that we needed help with more than just baby holding.
Don't get me wrong! Sometimes, all I wanted was someone to hold the baby so I could shower. But having those ready made snacks for me to eat while nursing, or knowing that the laundry wasn't piling up bigger than Mt. Washmore was such a godsend.
Be kind to yourself. We live in a society that tells us we need to bounce back from birth immediately. Especially here in the Bay Area, where life is always moving so quickly. Instead of picking up before I get there, please. Please put down the laundry. Please leave the cups in the sink. Hand me your list, and relax. Sometimes, asking for help is the hardest step but the best gift.