Meeting and photographing amazing and interesting people is one of my favorite things about my job. I’ve had clients who are educators, medical professionals, scientists, pilots, small business owners and other inspiring careers. These people have opened my eyes to so many different things. I am thankful for the opportunity to know each and every one of them. One of these clients is a postpartum doula named Sarah Gregory.
I first met Sarah in 2016 for her own maternity photos and then subsequent newborn photos when her first adorable baby girl was born. Sarah is located on the North Shore of Boston, so I thought she could be a very helpful resource for my clients. I recently had the opportunity to learn more about her services and asked about her inspiration for becoming a postpartum doula. As a mother of twin daughters, I can remember all of the questions and uncertainty of being a new mother. Learning about Sarah and her work as a doula makes me realize how helpful she would have been for me while I was navigating the postpartum time! I hope that reading about her, and her services, will help any of my new parent clients.
What Exactly IS A Postpartum Doula?
A doula is someone who is trained to be there for a new mother to offer relief and education. Their main goal is to be of support to a new mama. Some doulas specialize in pregnancy and birth, while others specialize in postpartum. Sarah is one that specializes in the time after the baby is born. When I asked Sarah to tell me more about what she does she explained it wonderfully. “I specialize in supporting the entire family after the baby is born. I work with families anywhere from 3 to 30 hours a week, depending on their needs. Overall, my job is to support, educate, and empower the family so they feel competent and confident by the time we are done working together.” I don’t know about you, but this is exactly what I needed postpartum.
Something that a doula is not, is a baby nurse. This is a common misconception, Sarah tells me. While a baby nurse is someone who is there to care for the baby, a doula is different. “Postpartum doulas are generalists – we know basic amounts about a lot of things (including newborn care), although usually we also specialize in certain areas.” In Sarah’s case, she further specializes in cesarean recovery and breastfeeding support. Although she does note that she definitely supports all feeding choices. Her job is to provide “education, guidance, referrals and support” to the whole family, but especially the birthing parent. “We know that if the birthing parent is well cared for and supported, the entire family will benefit.”
How Does Someone Become a Doula?
As far as how one becomes a doula, training and certification are available through various organizations. Sarah has completed her training through Childbirth and Postpartum Professional Association (CAPPA) and is working towards her certification. “I am a trained Fertility Doula, a Certified Lactation Counselor and a Baby Café Breastfeeding Counselor. I am also planning future certifications around perinatal mood and anxiety disorders and infant sleep consulting,” Sarah tells me.
What To Expect As A First Time Parent
I asked Sarah to walk me through an average day as a postpartum doula for first time parents. And I have to say once again, I would have absolutely loved having Sarah with me after having my lady babies! Here are her own words to describe a shift as a doula:
“In general, I offer a balance of relief and education, although my support varies greatly depending on the needs of the individual family. I might begin a shift by getting the birthing parent a snack and a glass of water, and then chatting with them while they feed the baby. We might troubleshoot breastfeeding issues, discuss how the night went, debrief the birth story, or I might listen while the parent expresses some frustrations about parenthood.” She even helps put the baby down for a nap. And will help around the house so the parents are able to nap alongside their little one.
But that’s not all. “Before I leave, I might answer any lingering questions and email the parents resources for topics we discussed during my shift (for example: studies about the effects of probiotics on reflux, or contact information for a lactation consultant, or login information for a virtual postpartum support group). My goal by the time I leave is that everyone is rested, fed, and learned something new.”
What To Expect With Older Siblings
For parents who already have children at home, the visits tend to take a different approach. Less teaching, more relief. Sarah helps with the older children, including helping them learn to interact with their new baby sibling. She’s also able to play with the older children to allow the parents to bond with the new baby. Or she can focus on the baby to allow the older siblings to have one-on-one time with parents. Whatever is the best fit for the family, Sarah is able to help!
The Personal Side Of Postpartum Doula Sarah Gregory
The work that Sarah does is so important and needed for so many parents. So I had to learn more about Sarah. In particular, I wanted to learn how and why she began her journey to becoming a doula. I also wanted to know more about the rewards and challenges she experiences as a doula. Like so many of us, Sarah felt like becoming a mother “flipped her world upside down.” Along with the usual stress of welcoming a child, Sarah had an unplanned C-Section and struggled with breastfeeding and sleep. This journey, as well as the many people who offered both wanted and unwanted words, led Sarah to her journey of becoming a doula.
Sarah’s personal connection to her work as a doula doesn’t end there. She also gets great joy and a feeling of accomplishment from her work. But that doesn’t mean it comes without any challenges. When I asked her what the biggest challenge was, her answer was one I think many of us parents can relate to. “Finding time for self-care is difficult but also vitally important so I can be the best possible doula, mother, and wife. Working with families in the postpartum period can involve a lot of emotional and physical energy. I am also a mom to two little girls, ages 2 and 4, who also require a lot of my attention at home.”
What she says next is something we should all remember, especially during these crazy and trying times. “Self-care is something that I am finding to be vitally important as I balance these powerful jobs. I find relief in meditation, yoga, reading, music, and eating well. By taking time to rejuvenate myself, I hope that my clients see the value in their own self-care as well.”
I asked what the most rewarding aspect of being a doula was. And I really loved her answer. “I absolutely love it when parents learn something new that will make their transition into parenthood more easeful. I was a classroom teacher for the last 8 years and I love bringing these instructional skills into my doula support.” Teachers are absolute rock stars (virtual learning has taught me that) and so are doulas. So, Sarah, you’re definitely a rock star in my book!
To learn more about Sarah Gregory, check out her website here: www.sarahgregory.com. I think we can all benefit from having someone by our side during that “fourth trimester” like Sarah.