Erica Angert, MM, Postpartum Doula
I am a postpartum doula, a wife, and a mom to three kids (two boys and a girl). My family and I have lived in Richmond since 2012, though I grew up in North Carolina and have also lived in Philadelphia and Baton Rouge.
When I had my first baby, I was in graduate school for music theory, with family halfway across the country and very few friends in town with children. Having him changed my world in so many wonderful ways, but I also found it to be incredibly isolating and difficult. My husband is an involved, loving father and jumped right in from day one, but he had to go back to work after a week’s vacation time. I hadn’t been at all prepared for the negative emotions that would come with motherhood, and I struggled to feel like myself for almost a year until I finally found a support network in town of other parents with whom I could share my joys and worries.
After earning a master’s degree and getting most of the way through a Ph.D. with a new baby, I was starting to question whether life in academia was going to be fulfilling for me. I grappled with this and ultimately quit my degree program to be a stay-at-home mom, not knowing exactly how I was going to find my footing professionally but wanting to be with my son and have another baby sooner than the path of dissertation and tenure-track job would reasonably allow. I floated in the stay-at-home mom world for a while, learning from others’ journeys through the tough early days of parenting, balancing home life with work aspirations, and listening to the beautiful ways the moms around me helped each other through their worst days.
This support proved so crucial to me after the birth of my second child that I realized for the first time how much easier it is to bring a baby in the world when you’ve done the work ahead of time to find your “people”. None of us is meant to do this alone. And yet, our culture does little to honor the transformation in birthing people who become parents or to support them through the early months with a new baby. Knowing what a difference meaningful support could make, I found myself wanting to help friends and family with their new babies, filling up their refrigerators with homemade food, listening to their experiences with sleep and breastfeeding, and folding their laundry when they weren’t looking. It suddenly clicked to me that I should turn my passion for supporting other parents into a career, so I trained as a postpartum doula in 2013 and immediately jumped into this amazing world of pregnancy, birth, babies, and of course parenthood.
Because our culture is generally so focused on self-reliance and independence, we can inadvertently make it harder for new parents to know how to reach out for help, but this is the time in your life to start learning. I find it so satisfying to walk with a family through their initial days getting to know their new baby (or multiple babies!), gradually stepping back myself as they find their footing, and celebrating with them their transformation as a family. All of us who come through this journey are able to then turn to those who come after us and be *their* support, and it is such an honor for me to be able to serve in that role.