Preparing for Postpartum: Q&A with Kate Turza, Postpartum Doula
Before connecting with Kate Turza, I admittedly didn’t know that much about postpartum doulas. I HAD heard of Doulas, specifically “Labor Doulas” – women who provide support during pregnancy and labor. Since talking with Kate, and learning more about what I can expect during my own postpartum, I think this is an amazing service for women during (as Kate accurately puts it) an extremely vulnerable time. I greatly appreciate Kate sharing her personal experiences with pregnancy and postpartum, as well as her wisdom as a trained postpartum doula.
What exactly is a postpartum doula, and how is this different than a labor doula?
A postpartum doula is a support person that is specifically trained to help you navigate your postpartum. For most moms, even experienced ones, the postpartum period is an extremely vulnerable time. A postpartum doula is there to “mother the mother,” to provide support so the mother can rest and recover. A postpartum doula is trained in baby care, feeding (including breastfeeding), mother care (including c-section and perineum tear recovery), baby soothing & bonding, and postpartum depression & mood disorders. She is there to ease your transition as you become a mother by providing emotional, physical, and spiritual support to both the mom & the family unit.
How did you get into this field?
After having three children of my own and navigating some difficult postpartum experiences with each one, I want to normalize the postpartum period for moms. I wanted to remind moms that “doing it all” ACTUALLY doesn’t happen (and doesn’t benefit anyone). And, that taking it slow to learn yourself and your baby is something that every woman should have the time and support to do.
I provide the support that I needed when I navigated my own journeys; reassurance and guidance in a time in your life that you are unsure (and hormonal, to boot). Soon after having my third child, I began my training with CAPPA and started helping families in my area.
What were your experiences with pregnancy?
My first and second pregnancies were great. I had “easy” pregnancies with the normal ups and downs. I got pregnant with my second child 9.5 months after my first was born (yes, it was planned). So, despite being tired from having a toddler to waddle after, it was great. My third pregnancy was a bit more challenging for a variety of reasons, mostly I attribute it to having two energetic boys to run after 3.5 and 2 year olds). I felt much more run down, had a harder time taking care of myself, and had a much more difficult time enjoying my pregnancy.
What about your postpartum experiences?
My postpartum experiences were all vastly different.
My first postpartum experience was the hardest, I think. The biggest struggle was the loneliness and isolation I felt. I didn’t have many friends or close peers that had children, all my intimate support people (my mom and husband) worked full time and overtime, I didn’t know where to find people to talk to. I literally would go all day without talking to anyone. My husband would come home from work and I felt like I had nothing TO say to him. I wouldn’t have the energy to make dinner, let alone get dressed. I just was in a rut that I had a hard time getting out of. But, with time, I did. I gained confidence in my parenting, returned to work, and met some other moms through daycare.
My second immediate postpartum was the easiest. It was blissful, actually. I had two babies; the oldest was 19 months old, so all he wanted to do was sit around the house and play all day. My second was a great sleeper (totally different than my first). I also was more willing to ask for help and had more “mom friends” so I wasn’t going the whole day without talking to anyone over the age of 2.
My third postpartum was the experience that made me realize I needed to help other moms. To make an extremely long story short, I was unable to breastfeed my daughter due to medical complications from my delivery (don’t worry, we were all okay in the long run). This time around, I was dedicated to breastfeeding for at least six months (previously, my goal was three months, which I met). I had a 4-year-old, a 2.5-year-old and a baby and had returned to work at five weeks postpartum (which, was my decision).
I had lots of balls in the air, and I was juggling them all. Then, at almost two months postpartum I found out I wasn’t providing enough breast milk for my daughter and she wasn’t thriving as she should be. I remember my lactation consultant asking me if I had help at home so I could work on my breastfeeding relationship with my daughter. I didn’t know anyone I could call to help me with my other kids while I figured out what was going on with my daughter and me. At the time, I think I laughed at her (thinking, “no, I got this, lady”). A couple of days later, I realized she was right. I did need help if I wanted to meet my breastfeeding goals. Unfortunately, I still didn’t know anyone I could call.
I’m sure that if I had gone through my third postpartum period as my first while battling the loneliness, isolation, and loss of interest, that would have debilitated me. The saving grace of my third postpartum was knowing who I could call for emotional support, and not feel guilty about it.
In your experience, what are the biggest postpartum surprises for new moms?
There are a few. I think the first is the “newness” of it all; not knowing what to expect, and not knowing where to find support and answers. And, not feeling like a failure because you don’t know the “right” answer. It’s important to think about where you can turn for help during your pregnancy. Think about how you want your postpartum to look like and who you want to help you can help with that.
Second, relationship shifts. I think the relationship with yourself as a new mom, including your new identity and finding self-worth, can be surprising to lots of new moms. Practicing self-care, and what that looks like now that you have a baby in tow, can get some getting used to (or completely forgotten). And, the relationship shift between your partner and yourself, can be hard. Communication between the both of you is key but can be hard to do when you are exhausted and burnt out postpartum.
Third, I would say learning to “let go.” Let go of any expectations you had of yourself, your baby, your partner. There are no expectations other than to love your baby, yourself, and your partner. That’s it. Nothing else. The rest will come with time.
Is there anything that you recommend that pregnant women do to prepare for postpartum?
As I mentioned before, setting up your support network for your postpartum can be greatly beneficial. I recommend knowing where professional support is in your community (lactation consultants, maternal mental health specialists, etc), peer support (new mom support groups), practical support that you are willing to hand off to someone else (like grocery shopping, laundry), and individual support (who you can count on in your intimate circle to provide emotional support).
Are there any resources you recommend for women to get informed about what to expect postpartum and how a postpartum doula can help?
Yes. To find postpartum doulas in your area visit:
- DONA International https://www.dona.org/
- CAPPA http://www.cappa.net/, (they also have great explanations for what support a postpartum doula provides.)
For postpartum depression & mood disorders information: http://www.postpartum.net/
For my postpartum support workbook: www.ktpostpartumdoula.com
Kate Turza is a mom of 3 and postpartum doula on Long Island, NY. She’s passionate about normalizing the postpartum periods for all moms. She provides postpartum counsel, breastfeeding support to all moms, and in-home services in her area. To find out more about her, visit: www.ktpostpartumdoula.com