The first few months of parenthood can feel like an uphill battle. During this time, new parents are learning things like the nuance between a "tired cry" and a "hungry cry," while discovering the limitations of bodies that have recently given birth. Medical professionals and loved ones may say reducing stress is important in those early stages, but there's minimal real guidance on how to achieve this while managing all of the other new responsibilities. There are even fewer people volunteering their support.
Second-time mother, Brittany Bright, posted a TikTok video detailing her preparation for the night time doula who supports her family twice a week from 8 p.m to 6 a.m. She said the help has been crucial as she managed the first 12 weeks as a mother of two. She hadn't anticipated the decision to prioritize her mental health might be regarded as controversial and some of the reactions she received on social media highlight how perceptions of Black mothers can be rooted in stereotypes and expectations of suffering.
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Bright says, though her loved ones were extremely supportive, she suffered from postpartum depression after her first delivery, and needed extra help. Seeking out a postpartum doula was a necessary and easy decision that allowed her to get a headstart on struggles that her family may have been unprepared for. "There were times my family was not equipped to help me through that," she explained.
Across social media, TikTokers had questions about everything from the cost and frequency of the service to the impact on the bonding process. A few had criticisms. One user responded saying it was her job to take care of her kids, regardless of the mental cost. "No," said another. "The days fly by and these middle of the night feeds are so special in the early days." Another was "sad. Some of my best memories are with my babies throughout the night."
Through a series of short videos, Bright responded to many of the questions that viewers had — her doula was paid $5,700 to support her, through the prenatal and postpartum periods, and $25 per hour for overnight support twice weekly.
Though the cost of Bright's doula was an important fact for many, considering the cost without valuing mental health, or considering the overwhelming realities of new parenting, reinforces stereotypes that contribute to the problem.
"It started a much needed, long overdue conversation about how Black women should prioritize our mental, physical, and emotional health in postpartum, just due to the fact that we're three to five times more likely to die from pregnancy, childbirth and maternal-related complications," Bright, who delivered at 38 weeks due to preeclampsia, told Newsweek.
Black women are also three to four times more likely to die from complications in the first year after birth and suffer from life threatening complications. Racism-related stress is a main contributor to the risk for death, complications, and preterm labor. Doulas, like the one Bright hired, help mitigate the risks of delivery.
"Our postpartum doula is not just here for the baby, she's here for our entire family," Bright said noting the care makes it possible to complete tasks around the house and ensure their 5-year-old has undivided time with them as well.
Despite the criticism, there's also a genuine interest from viewers interested in hiring doulas to support them through birth and postpartum. Bright's video, "How to pay for a Doula" suggests a few options, including the Black Birth Equity Fund, which provides Black birthing people grants in hopes of reducing the maternal care gap.
Bright's doula support has since ended but her transparency started an important conversation. Doula support is an alternative to the belief that motherhood should be rooted in struggle, especially for Black mothers. Parents and mothers, especially those who are marginalized, deserve rest.
Instead of asking why Bright deserves high quality postpartum support, we should be asking how we can make it widely available for all parents.
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