At some point in just about every baby shower, the mother-to-be opens her gifts as the attendees ooh and aah over adorable outfits, the latest innovations in baby gear, and preciously impractical baby shoes.
There are diaper cakes, and Costco-size boxes of diapers and wipes; those who have already had babies remark that even all of those diapers will last just a few weeks.
There are generously-loaded gift cards, and practical items like nipple cream and wash cloths. Occasionally there is a present for the pregnant person as well, like a gift certificate for a pedicure or a prenatal massage.
What isn’t gifted very often, however, is what very well may be needed the most: support. Not hugs and encouragement, although these things are wonderful to give. The support I’m referring to is the in-the-trenches, middle-of-the-night, time-intensive, utilitarian, hands-on support that anyone needs when going through a major life transition.
Often a family member or friend can do a couple of these things once or twice. Sometimes these needs can be met consistently by one person. But all too often, new parents are left on their own to figure it all out. What if they didn’t have to?
What if in addition to the dozens of outfits the baby may wear just once, each person attending the baby shower committed to bring a home-cooked meal to cover the first month after the birth? Or to go grocery shopping once a week? Or what if they each contributed toward a postpartum doula fund?
What if someone who was able to contribute a larger amount purchased a couple night’s worth of sleep in addition to the fancy new stroller?
Or what if a few friends pitched in to cover a portion of birth doula costs, so the expecting couple are able to labor and birth their baby feeling supported, emotionally safe, and confident? Perhaps then the sleepless nights and disorganized house wouldn’t feel so overwhelming?
That in-the-trenches support that is so needed, and that a doula is trained to provide, cannot be wrapped in beautiful paper. It can’t be seen, or always understood, even by the expecting couple themselves. But it can be felt, and it is always needed.
Whether it’s given by a professional like a birth or postpartum doula, or a family member or friend with the heart of a doula, the support that keeps new parents fed, rested, and feeling secure is always needed, as long as it’s given in a way that respects their autonomy and preferences.
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Many of us did not have this kind of support when we had our babies. And we survived, right? Well, some of us barely did. Some of us had a really, really, hard time.
And is surviving the standard for new parents who are nurturing and growing a tiny human being? Shouldn’t those we love who are in that position thrive in their new role instead of just survive?
Expecting parents: Ask for the boring gift of support. Be specific in what you need. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Gift givers: Go ahead and buy the newborn tutu. But also be boring. Get in the trenches, and if you cannot, give the gift of someone who can, like a doula.
I am a certified labor (birth) doula and professional postpartum doula serving Boise, Eagle, Meridian, Nampa, and the greater Treasure Valley.
Did you know that you can add Elevated Birth doula services to your baby registry?
We now offer gift certificates in any denomination ($50 minimum order).
I've worked in the forest, in the lab, and in an office cubicle. My favorite and most passionate work has been alongside clients as they reach inside to find their innermost strength, and give birth to their babies. Each birth is an honor to witness.