In the run-up to our Ten Moons Pregnancy Day retreat in September, We are taking the time to speak to all of the event collaborators to share their wisdom and give some insight into what to expect on the day. First up is Sarah Tessier, South East London based Postnatal doula, founder of the Mothermoon workshops and Mother of 2.
Hey Sarah, thanks so much for taking the time out to chat today…Can you start by telling us a bit about what you do in your role as a postnatal doula?
My role as a postnatal doula is to be a helping hand and a reassuring presence. I provide practical and emotional support so Mum can rest and recover, enjoy this precious time with her new baby and find her way as a new mother. I support families from as early as when their baby is born and for as long as they feel they need me. My role as a doula is to ‘mother the mother’ as well as provide support to the whole family.
I help with things like baby care, breastfeeding support, light housework, looking after older children, filling the fridge and freezer with delicious home cooked food and looking after baby so Mum can rest or have a shower. Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience that comes with a range of emotions so I’m also there to listen to Mum reflect on the birth and make sense of all the advice out there. I’m a listening ear, an encourager, an unbiased information giver, a sleep-enabler, a yummy food maker and a need anticipator. I’m whatever you need me to be, in that moment.
That all sounds absolutely amazing, I know I wish I had given some foresight to all of this when I was pregnant! What made you go down this path?
I was drawn to supporting women as a postnatal doula because I had two very different experiences after the births of my own babies. After the birth of my son, I tried jumping back into ‘normal’ life again too quickly which resulted in feeling tired, sore and emotionally low. I struggled with the trauma I experienced during his birth and my relationship with my partner suffered. I struggled to cope with the lack of sleep and any kind of stress and all of that not looking after myself in those early days and weeks took their toll and I struggled to adjust to motherhood in a big way.
It was while I was pregnant with my daughter that I came to realise I wanted something different the second time around. I wanted what I now refer to as a Mothermoon. During my Mothermoon, it was important to me that I was well fed and able to practice lots of self-care and that we simplified life for the first few weeks to focus on bonding as a family of four. For the first few weeks after she was born I focused on resting, nourishing myself and getting to know my new baby and I felt so much better for it both physically and emotionally.
I once again planned a home birth and nearly got my wish but decided to transfer to the hospital shortly before my daughter was born. The birth itself was straightforward but unfortunately, my placenta became only partially separated and was removed in theatre while I was under general anesthetic. I lost a significant amount of blood in the process and required a blood transfusion. I was now recovering from another physically challenging birth and looking after myself was critical and I credit the care I gave myself for helping me to recover.
It was experiencing for myself the difference that looking after yourself postnatally and having a Mothermoon can make to your recovery that motivated me to become a postnatal doula. I am passionate about doing whatever I can to ensure that women don’t experience what I did after the birth of my first child and that they have the start to motherhood that they deserve.
I can really relate to that, I was fortunate to have a relatively straightforward birth but a hospital stay with a 5 day old followed, that led to challenges with breastfeeding which meant that I could have really done with some extra help! I didn’t ask as much as I could have done and I realise that with hindsight It’s part of the reason I always talk about life after birth and the 4th trimester as part of my hypnobirthing classes. What’s your take on the 4th Trimester?
The 4th trimester is considered to be the first twelve weeks after giving birth and a period of adjustment for both a mum and her baby. Unlike other animals, our babies are completely reliant on us as their parents for meeting all of their needs when they are born in order to survive. The first three months after your baby is born are thought of as the last stage of their fetal development and adapt to life outside the womb. For new mums, it’s period to rest and recover physically from pregnancy and birth and adjust emotionally to life as a mum.
How do your Mothermoon classes help with preparing for the 4th trimester then?
Most women will have written a birth plan, taken antenatal classes, practiced their hypnobirthing techniques, but what about the postnatal plan?
So much about the preparation for birth and parenthood is focused on preparing for the birth. My Mothermoon Workshop is all about helping women prepare for the postnatal period and giving them the information and tools they need to be able to spend the early days and weeks post-birth focused on resting, recovering and bonding with their new baby.
The workshop teaches mums to be what they need to know about resting and recovering after giving birth, adjusting to life as a new mother and how to write a postnatal plan. During the workshop, we talk about the postnatal body and what to expect physically and emotionally in the days and weeks after giving birth and how to look after yourself physically, emotionally and nutritionally. We also talk about understanding your new baby and how a Mothermoon can help them. Finally, we talk about creating your circle of support and writing your own Mothermoon plan.
I so wish that you were doing this course when I was pregnant – I would have been there in a heartbeat, I can’t wait for your workshop! It would be great if you could share some insight into why this R and R period so important to both Mama and baby?
Your body goes through an incredible transformation over the nine months that you grow your baby. Once you’ve done the amazing work of giving birth, your body changes once again. Think night sweats, swollen boobs and a roller coaster of emotions. Knowing what’s coming and how to cope with these things can make it all a bit easier to deal with.
All across the world, cultures embrace the practice of ‘lying in’ where a new mother is looked after for between ten to forty days after giving birth. She is relieved of household responsibilities, fed nourishing foods, massaged and expected to do nothing but rest and get to know her baby. Research has found that in cultures where rituals and
customs are integral to the postnatal period, new mothers are at a reduced risk of developing postnatal depression, more likely to establish and continue breastfeeding and more confident in their role as a mother and in caring for their baby.
It is crucial that a new mother focuses on looking after herself during this time. I’ve come up with the term ‘mothermoon’ to draw attention to this. A Mothermoon is the time for a mother to nurture and be nurtured, nourish and be nourished.
A Mothermoon can also help to recreate some of what life was like in your womb and ease your baby’s transition into the world. Spending time in a calm, quiet environment with few distractions and lots of time spent skin to skin allows you to get to know this little person and can help them feel safe, secure and more settled.
It’s all fascinating stuff learning about how other cultures do it, particularly when you consider the pressure we are under from the media get back to normal to snap back. You only need look in the latest magazines for that! Although I’m hoping the tide is slowly turning and we have to take some ownership for that too right? What are your top tips for expectant mums to prepare for the 4th trimester?
- Have a plan – It’s common to write a birth plan outlining what’s important to you, what you want and don’t want so that you’re more prepared to handle whatever your baby’s birth throws your way. The same should go for the postnatal period!
- Stock the fridge – Making sure you’re eating plenty of nourishing food and drinking plenty of fluids is important and surprisingly tricky to do with a newborn to look after.
- Gather your village – Whether it’s help from family, friends or a postnatal doula, gather your village and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
- Pull up the drawbridge – It can be so tempting to want to show off your gorgeous baby to everyone once they arrive, but think about limiting visitors in the early days.
All sound advice! Last question then, are there any good resources you recommend for expectant Mums who want to read up more
These are my favourite books….
Brave New Mama – Vicki Rivard
The First Forty Days – Heng Ou
The Food of Love – Kate Evans
I LOVE the first 40 days too, I always talk about that book. Thanks so much for your time Sarah.
For more information on Postnatal Doulas or to find one in your area visit www.doula.org.uk