Caring for Mamas: The Introduction
Welcome to the Caring for Mamas Blog!
I’m Dashanna Hanlon and Caring for Mamas was born out of my desire to empower women to construct a postnatal narrative centered around their desires for themselves and their families. This blog is my way of spreading the word about assisting women as they make transitions beyond the first six to twelve weeks. I don’t think we’re having enough conversations about what all goes into the postpartum period including going back to work or managing a home.
On this blog, I’ll be talking about how I worked through some of the craziest moments of the last year. I’ll be sharing my suggestions to help you through these transitions (and I hope you will too)! I’m looking forward to telling stories of moms I admire, moms I know, and some I want to know better. Mostly, I’m really looking forward to learning more from and about you!
For this first post, I share a bit of my birth, maternity leave, and stay-at-home mom journeys. I’ll be sharing them in full in the future. I hope you get a feel for who I am and what Caring for Mamas is all about.
A little birth backstory: I had two due dates a week apart. One from the calendar, one from the ultrasound - not a big deal right? Well, by the date on the ultrasound I was induced at one week late with my son Lucas. By the date on the doctor’s calendar I was induced the day I was due. I knew my doctor would induce at 41 weeks but I assumed he would be going with his date. I was surprised, to say the least, when I was told 24 hours before my due date that I would be induced the next day. I spent the day hanging out with Tom (my husband), making arrangements for Ulysses (our dog), and packing my final snacks. It mostly went smoothly. At a point during my labor, one of my nurses tried to mentally prepare me for the possibility of a Cesarean. I cried. I got an epidural and slept. Thankfully, doctor was willing to take the “wait and see” approach. I was completely dilated an hour after I was told I’d likely have surgery. My epidural was cut off and I started to push. Lucas was born sunny-side up in 25 minutes! After my birth experience, I realized that I wanted to know how to properly advocate for myself during childbirth and empower other women to do the same.
A little maternity leave backstory: I had 10 weeks out of work and I needed every single one of them. It took two weeks to stop sitting on a donut and four weeks to wear real pants. But we all survived, with lots of grace and coffee. Tom says I adjusted super well but my secret was just to clear my mind of expectations. I had no idea who Lucas would be and I didn’t want to impose my ideas on the experience. I knew that was the fastest way to become overwhelmed. My goal was to just be there for him and welcome him into our world as nicely as possible. But as those weeks passed and my confidence grew as a mother, I started to get anxious about my return to work. I’ve never taken more than two consecutive weeks away from work. How was I supposed to come back after TEN?! And maternity leave was nothing like vacation. I had to heal my body, learn my baby, and figure out how to grow two more hands. It was hard but it was wonderful. All of my friends said “you’ll figure it out.” So I did what any person looking for advice does, I asked Google. I got suggestions back that basically amounted to… “we don't know.” From doing a “dry run” dropping off the baby and the commute to work, to “seeing the return as a career opportunity”, I was at a loss for practical, what-to-do advice. I was good at my job and I wanted to go back and crush it, I wanted everyone to know that I was happy to be back because I was.
A little stay-at-home mama backstory: It took me about a month to find my groove with work but there were some rough mornings. There were some rough evenings. And after a few months, a lot of tears, and conversations with Tom, I quit my job. I was pretty lost but also looking forward to staying home with Lucas. The beginning was exactly what we’ve all imagined. We no longer needed to pay for daycare! I watched so much Netflix! I painted my nails and washed my hair regularly! This glorious state lasted all of three weeks. Lucas was about six months old and I had no idea how much his mobility would change my life! After a couple of months, I started to feel mentally restless. I talked to Tom about going back to work part-time because it would bring in some money and I’d have something new to do. Truth be told, we live in Massachusetts and it will take two incomes to accomplish the kinds of goals we have for our family. Even though we were saving an entire month’s rent in daycare, it didn’t feel like enough. During those conversations, he encouraged me to think of the unique qualities I possess and how I could share those with people or just find a good part-time job for a stay-at home mom. That first thing stuck with me, so I sat down during Luke’s naps and wrote out my dream job. I wrote out ways to help women make smoother transitions back to work. I wrote out a few plans to make staying at home less hectic. After telling a few close friends about what I felt I’d been called to do, I started the Madriella Doula birth and postpartum courses and became a certified doula!
Then I hopped online and started up conversations with the moms on Glow and Peanut and BabyCenter message boards who were overwhelmed or unsure of how everything were going to work after maternity leave. We all know how freeing it can be a be a random mom online. It’s easier to be vulnerable and share your struggles with complete strangers than friends. In talking to other mamas I learned that we aren’t sharing because we’re all scared to be judged, scared to be honest with ourselves that we don’t have it all figured out, or that we need some help. l’ve gotten better at sharing my stories and giving advice, I’m getting better at asking for help too.
A large part of being a doula is helping women advocate for themselves before and after their pregnancies, as well as help with informational and emotional support. After talking to other moms I knew I wanted to extend myself and my services to women beyond the “fourth trimester”. And that’s really what I do as a postnatal advocate.
I want to help take the guesswork out of understanding and navigating these kinds of transitions. My work is all about uplifting mamas by helping them to live their most fearless and purposeful lives in or out of the workplace.
I’d love to know about your post-postpartum journeys! Please leave your thoughts/comments/questions below!