When you’re a new mum, it helps to have some knowledge about the postpartum. Danielle Bensky, postpartum doula and founder of Mothers Transition, talks to us about her own experience of becoming a mother during a pandemic, and how her knowledge of the postpartum helped her through.
Danielle has always been fascinated by pregnancy and motherhood – and when she learned about the importance of the postpartum period, she decided to pursue being a postpartum doula as a profession: “I love babies. I’m the oldest child and I have a lot of cousins so I always had babies around me, I always thought pregnant women were beautiful. I really admire the process of pregnancy and giving birth, I just have a natural draw to it. And when I found the postpartum story as well, and the connection and the village for new mums, I was like ‘yes, this is what is missing’. New mums need a village, they need more support. There are lots of birth doulas already, but women deserve postpartum care as well – so that’s what I want to focus on.”
Becoming a mother a few months ago meant Danielle could experience this delicate period for the first time not just as a professional, but as a new mum herself. With some newly gained insight, she happily shares her tips with us about how to navigate this challenging time.
Prepare for the postpartum
Most mums are well-prepared for pregnancy and birth, but not so much for the postpartum. Knowing about the importance of the weeks that follow the birth, and indeed having a postpartum doula training, came very useful when Danielle became a mother herself:
“There is such a thing as preparing for having a baby. A lot of people say nothing will prepare you, but that’s not 100% true. I think even the knowledge that you’re going to change, the knowledge that things would not be the same, the knowledge that you’re not weird or something is wrong with you if you’re having mixed emotions and ups and downs, it’s fine, it’s normal, you’re not alone – just that knowledge alone helps.”
Of course, most women are not postpartum professionals, but in the age of the internet it’s easy to find information at our fingertips. Preparation is key, and a postpartum plan is a good place to start, Danielle says: “We downloaded and filled out a postpartum plan together with my husband, and maybe we looked at it once after the baby was born – but I think the point of it was that it brought up conversation. It was a conversation starter for us around things that we didn’t know we needed to think about. So I think that’s where a lot of work can be done.”
Slow down for a few weeks
Danielle explains that the first six weeks after giving birth are a really special time, a time when the new mum is in “slow-motion” as she recovers and gets to know her baby. She knew this from her postpartum doula training, but it was interesting to experience it also as a mother: “I really felt the six-week mark, like calmness after six weeks. For example, at the beginning taking on any project was too much. I had to reorganise the baby closet because I was always taking out clothes that were too big and I was getting frustrated. So I started going over it maybe three weeks postpartum, and my head just could not handle it. It’s exactly what I learned in my training, baby brain can’t handle measurements, it can’t handle numbers. And also the clothes had different measurements, and that was just killing my head. There was 0-3 months, and then 50-56, and I just couldn’t keep track. Compared to this, three or four weeks later I was already enjoying finding something to do.”
“I really felt the change of what I was able to take on myself before and after the first six weeks or two months.”
Postpartum care for the new mum is also very important, says Danielle: “Having someone there with you after the baby is born, someone who isn’t judgemental, who will support your growth and your intuition, and will tell you you’re doing a good job, that’s really beneficial. Because sometimes, family is great, but they don’t always know what you need.” This is where a postpartum doula can help, who visits you and takes care of you – so you can recover and regain your strength.
Having a baby during a pandemic meant Danielle didn’t have this kind of help herself, even though she would’ve loved to. Still, she says her experience of having a baby during lockdown wasn’t all bad: “Personally I found it much more positive than negative. I was planning to be in the first six weeks in slow-motion because of my knowledge of the postpartum, so I had this expectation in my mind. So really that was very special, I didn’t feel pressure to go anywhere, I didn’t feel pressure to meet people, everyone was at home, everyone was slow, everyone was available for a phone call. We were having zoom dinners with our friends because anyway we wouldn’t have been able to leave the house because of the baby. And they were also home, and they were happy to have a zoom call with us; while on any other day that would not even cross our minds I think.”
Community is everything
Postpartum is not the time to do everything on your own – now you need all the help and and support you can get. As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child – and it also takes a village to help a new mum. But what about those mums who don’t have a “village”?
Apart from your partner or friends and family who live locally, Danielle also recommends getting to know your neighbours because they can also be a source of help: “I think a really big untapped resource are your neighbours. The way we live now is we might not know the people around us; and when you have a baby you’re gonna want support nearby, and I think neighbours could be a really good way. For example my grandmother lives in Israel, and in her building there’s a couple with two kids, and my grandmother loves to hang out with them. She misses her own grandchildren, because we’ve all grown up now. So you can make these nice matches between a mum who needs support, and an elderly person who wants to see kids, so it’s a win-win. You can try to find something like that.”
Living in different countries as a child meant Danielle learned skills that came very handy in village-building. She shares her tips with us about making new mum-friends: “It may be trivial to say but it’s kind of like flirting, you have to put yourself out there. It’s not easy to get to know new mums, and it’s a skill that I have built through travelling and relocating as a child, I just step into a room and be like ‘hey, where are you from’, and get the conversation going from there. So I would recommend, if you see another mum just ask ‘hey, how many weeks pregnant are you’, or just try chatting. It’s a place to start.”
Community and postpartum care are really important. Danielle recommends the concept of choosing one friend for each day of the week, based on the book Seven Sisters for Seven Days by Michelle Peterson: “You choose seven of your good friends and each one of them takes one day of the week, and on that day they are on call for you. And sometimes they can bring you food, or they come in and just chat with you; but think of who these seven people are before the baby comes, while you’re still pregnant, and reach out to those people and tell them what it is you need. They can give you the gift of their time instead of a baby shower gift; you can just say I don’t need a gift, I need your time. Plan this with them already in your pregnancy.”
If you don’t have seven friends living nearby, don’t worry; even one or two friends being on call for you will be better than none – and those who live further are only a zoom call away.
Following Danielle’s tips will certainly help you prepare for having a baby. Not all of us can be a postpartum doula, but with the help of the internet and social media we can all educate ourselves about the postpartum, plan to be in slow-motion for a few weeks, and organise help from friends and neighbours. It will get us off to a better start on our postpartum journey – and if you can get the support of a postpartum doula on top of that, then you’re on to a winner!
Follow Danielle on Instagram at Mothers_Transition for more inspiration about the postpartum.