“It takes a village to raise a child” is an African proverb that implies that a family needs outside support to nurture a baby and its family. Africa’s “villages” are well known for utilizing this principle by taking care of all of the children in the village as though they were their own.
I recently attended a postpartum doula training at the Center for the Childbearing Year in Ann Arbor. Postpartum doulas are considered non-medical support for the family with a newborn(s). We were taught how to educate parents regarding infant care, breastfeeding, diapering, soothing, sling care, etc.
The seminar was very educational and also surprisingly validating. I have a 16 month old daughter so the postpartum time is still fresh in my mind. Everything that we learned about the normal transition to parenthood was exactly what I had experienced. For example, prior to having my daughter I thought that if a woman had the “baby blues” (not to be confused with the much more severe postpartum depression), that she was experiencing a unique medical condition that was not related to her circumstances. What I’ve learned now is that the “baby blues” are very common. And if you consider the changes a woman goes through at that time, it would almost seem unnatural for her not to have the blues. She starts her transition to motherhood by giving birth, which is a life altering experience no matter how “smoothly” it goes. Then she begins her postpartum time, which consists of not getting enough sleep, constant care & feeding of her child, & hormonal upheaval due to breastfeeding and birth. All of this with no users manual and no thanks from the little one!
It does get better, as everyone says it will. Now, when my daughter tells me she loves me, it all seems worth it. But those first 3-4 months are a very sensitive and fragile time in a family’s life.
It truly does seem to “take a village to raise a child” and also to keep the parents sane and happy. Part of the postpartum doula’s work is to meet with the couple prenatally to plan for support for the family. Be it from family, friends, or doulas, the new family will need help with housekeeping, baby care, meal preparation, etc. They also need a pat on the back once in a while and a smiling to face to remind them that they are doing a great job. I hope to be that smiling face.