For most people, there are few greater highlights in life than welcoming a new baby into their lives.
Along with the cooing, smiles and joy, however, come stress, exhaustion and lots of questions. Parents, especially first-timers, aren’t truly prepared for all the changes that an eight-pound person can bring.
There is help, though, in the form of centuries-old resource available to parents and families.
The term “doula” was first used in a 1969 anthropological study conducted by Dana Raphael, but the practice of the doula dates back to ancient times.
A postpartum doula is a professional support person trained in the needs of a family in the days, weeks and months after the arrival of a new baby. The doula offers guidance, evidence-based education and practical, hands-on support immediately after birth through the first year.
Cranston resident Janet Iacobucci is a certified postpartum doula in Rhode Island, as well as the mother of three children.
“From what I can remember, I was always fascinated by birth and the postpartum period from a young age,” she said. “I remember being a child and faithfully watching my favorite show on TLC called ‘A Baby Story.’ This show followed couples throughout their pregnancy, labor and delivery [and] included a quick follow-up with the parents after they brought their baby home from the hospital. The follow-up always showed exhausted parents with the main focus being on their newborn.”
It wasn’t until the birth of her own children that she realized how much planning, education and energy went into baby planning – and how little went into her postpartum recovery or the emotional and physical transition into motherhood.
“Just like my favorite show as a child, the main focus was on my pregnancy, then on my baby, and I was rarely, briefly checked in on or taken care of the way I needed to be. I was left in survival mode trying to figure out this new life, baby and body of mine,” Iacobucci said.
Her husband was also trying to figure out fatherhood and ways to provide support.
“I knew from the moment I had my first child that I had a bigger purpose and was born to help others transition into the most important role of their lives. I turned my passion into a career in 2019. I became a certified postpartum doula and started my business called Well Nested RI,” she said.
Iacobucci said doulas provide families with information and support on infant feeding, emotional and physical recovery from childbirth, infant soothing, and coping skills. They can also help with light housework, meal preparation and incorporating older siblings into the new experience.
“These services can help increase a woman’s understanding of how to meet her own needs – improving a woman’s overall state of mental wellness, thereby possibly preventing or decreasing the experience of postpartum depression,” Iacobucci said.
The postpartum time is supposed to be about connection and recovery.
“Whether you have had an uncomplicated birth or an emergency C-section, rest is imperative for your healing,” she said. “Well Nested RI provides in-home services that help educate, limit outside distractions and increase family bonding time, which helps families gently settle into parenthood. I also incorporate weekly personal/family goals and help couples establish healthy routines and teamwork. That state of being needs every bit as much protection from disruption as giving birth does.”
Iacobucci moved to Cranston when she was 13, attended Cranston High School West and met her high school sweetheart and now husband, Frank. In 2009 they welcomed their first child, Roman, and they were married in 2011.
In addition to Roman, now 10, the couple has 6-year-old Gwenyth and 4-year-old Monte.
“In May 2019, I started Well Nested RI after I was certified through Childbirth International,” Iacobucci said. “It took me a little over a year to complete the reading, education and workshops associated. I was working three jobs and raising a family trying to make this dream become reality, working part-time at Miriam Hospital and Rhode Island Medical Imaging as a unit secretary. I am a certified child passenger safety technician through Safe Kids Worldwide, CPR certified and a member of Doulas of Rhode Island.”
The doula community is growing and the types of doulas are expanding. Birth, postpartum, bereavement, antepartum and geriatric doulas are a few examples. Women’s health and education are extremely important.
“I do keep in touch with all of my families and talk to them regularly,” Iacobucci said. “I am with these families over the course of weeks/months during such a life-changing and pivotal time. We all bond. I have the honor of watching these parents and children grow together as a family and individually. Our time together may come to an end but I am always here for my clients and they know that. I still receive photos and news of new milestones accomplished which fill me with joy.”
Stephanie Parente, a client of Iacobucci’s since September 2019, spoke of the positive impact the experience had on her family.
“Janet was a lifesaver, baby whisperer and a friend. She had endless tips for the baby, our toddler who had difficulty adjusting, and for our family during the transition time,” she said. “While she was here, I could catch up on much needed sleep, and as a major bonus I would wake up from my nap to find she did my dishes, emptied my dishwasher, took out the trash and cleaned my floors. Janet was one of the only people who could get my baby to stop crying. She treated my baby, and my family as if we were her own. Janet is there for whatever you need.”
Meaghean Noonan, a client from 2017, said Iacobucci helped her navigate postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter.
“When I was isolating myself completely, she sat in my driveway just so I wouldn’t feel alone,” she said. “She guided me through the complex and emotional process of breastfeeding. She pushed me out of my darkest days without pushing me too hard or too far.”
To learn more about Iacobucci’s services, visit wellnestedri.com.