Mothering the mother

| May 8, 2014 | 1 Comment
Postpartum doula Hallie Rogers, right, visits with client Kelly Pennington, who gave birth to Willie Pearl in April. Rogers helps Pennington with household chores and finding resources new moms could use. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Postpartum doula Hallie Rogers, right, visits with client Kelly Pennington, who gave birth to Willie Pearl in April. Rogers helps Pennington with household chores and finding resources new moms could use. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

For new mothers who feel like they have to do it all, Hallie Rogers has this to say: Don’t.

“In our culture, we put a lot of value on a woman being able to bounce back from birth really quickly — get back in those skinny jeans, go to the mall two weeks postpartum and show the world that you’re hardly phased by this amazing event that just happened,” said Rogers, who attends Maternity of the Blessed Virgin in St. Paul, where she formed a mothers group.

“Really, what is probably most helpful to a woman is for her to really rest the first two weeks and have all the support she needs to bond and heal,” Rogers said.

When the 31-year-old isn’t at home caring for her two daughters — Genevieve, 3, and Mari, 19 months — she works as a postpartum doula for families with a new baby, offering support with everything from breast-feeding to folding laundry.

Rogers shared the joy she receives in promoting the dignity and beauty of motherhood and the blessing of children while helping mothers in the throes of caring for an infant or who have a case of “the baby ate my brain.”

Bridging a gap

Rogers started her business, Better Beginnings (betterbeginningsmn.com), in March 2013 before knowing what a postpartum doula was. (“Doula” is a Greek word meaning “woman’s servant.”)

Realizing the beauty, but challenge, of being a new parent, and grateful for the help she and her husband Mike received from their mothers after the births of their daughters, Rogers wondered about the women who don’t have any support.

“There’s just so much focus on pregnancy and birth,” said Rogers, who is certified with Doulas of North America. “And then I really felt in my experience as a mother that it was sort of like, ‘OK, you’ve had your baby, now go home. See you later. Good luck.’ No matter what the circumstances are of how this baby came to be, or how the pregnancy went or how the birth went, you don’t necessarily instantly ease into motherhood.”

Having felt called to bridge that gap in postpartum care, Rogers wants to help families “in the trenches” amidst tears, a sink full of dirty dishes, or even when life with a newborn (or two) is going well, but parents just need more sleep.

Essentially, Rogers said, her goal is to work herself out of job — to help clients feel confident and empowered, even talking with them about ways they can ask others for help.

“I think most people want to help when a baby is born — like ‘Yea, congratulations, let me know if I can help!’ — and most people really mean that, it’s just that they might not actually know how to do that,” Rogers said. “And so, I talk a lot about asking for specific things — ‘Great, could you come over and bring me milk and eggs? Could you come over and vacuum while you’re here?’”

Client visits can last up to eight hours, but Rogers has found that a four-hour shift is just the right amount of time to be with mom and baby — and sometimes dad and other children — and to complete household tasks that were rightfully swept under the rug before the baby arrived.

Kelly Pennington and her husband, Derric, weren’t aware of the role of a postpartum doula until they attended an informational session for expectant parents. It mostly focused on birth doulas, but Rogers was there educating the group about what a postpartum doula can offer a family.

“She mentioned a postpartum plan, which made me realize that I had been so focused on our baby’s upcoming birth that I had not put a lot of thought into how we would navigate the first few weeks as a new family,” said Pennington, who gave birth to Willie in April. “We decided that Hallie’s approach sounded like a good fit for us.

“Hallie’s work with our family afforded us the time and space for all three of us to bond as a new family,” Pennington continued. “She also supported me as I gained confidence as a new mom.”

In terms of payment, it’s not unusual to barter for goods and services in the doula community. Rogers offers discounts for adoptive families and military families, and has arranged payment plans. Some health insurance covers partial reimbursement. Rogers is proud to have served families who are affluent and those who qualify for food assistance.

“I think people assume that you have to be wealthy to have any kind of doula service,” Rogers said. “It goes back to that cultural piece — it’s seen as a luxury. Increasingly, we’re seeing that it shouldn’t be a luxury, it should be a basic.”

Although postpartum doulas are not medical professionals, Rogers said postpartum support could prevent and alleviate issues such as mood disorders and adverse physical conditions.

“We’re not counselors, we’re not mental health providers, but we are a listening ear,” said Rogers, who added she would refer a client to a professional if any issue was beyond her scope.

A pro-life cause

Because Rogers wants to be with her daughters two full days per week, she works with clients part-time. But being passionately pro-life has her looking toward future business goals.

“I hope someday to assist women who do give their babies up for adoption, because they’re still postpartum,” Rogers said. “They don’t have a baby, but they’re still dealing with a lot of the same issues, and probably many really different, perhaps even harder issues.”

As a former high school English teacher, Rogers holds a place in her heart for teenage mothers, and eventually sees providing services pro bono or with deep discounts.

“[The mother] made this really brave and really difficult choice to carry this baby to term. And if she’s keeping that baby, she needs all the support she can get,” Rogers said.

Additionally, Rogers would like to receive special training to extend this support to anyone who has suffered infant loss through miscarriage or stillbirth. And she would love to have a team of doulas to offer services to families from different cultures.

“I think it’s a vocation, I really do,” Rogers said. “And it’s a vocation that I kind of didn’t expect to discover. I want to evangelize in a way that’s out of love and service.”

 

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  • Juliana Woods

    There’s a Catholic Doula Program and Catholic Postpartum Training Program go to http://www.catholicdoula.com to learn more!