Gold Coast Doulas Registered Trademark

Month: February 2023

Navigating Parental Leave: Podcast Episode #173

Kristin discusses the ins and outs of navigating parental leave with Linzay Davis, Founder of The Park.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Linzay Davis today.  Linzay is the founder of The Park, and she is a mom of two.  The Park is a consulting agency which is focused on helping businesses create equitable and inclusive parental leave policies and programs that support women and keep them in the workforce after they become moms.  Six months after returning from her own maternity leave, Linzay quit a job that she loved because becoming a working mom of a newborn and a toddler in the middle of a global pandemic became too much.  She quickly realized the system for working moms in the US is broken, and so she started The Park to fix it.  Welcome, Linzay!

Linzay:  Hi!  Thank you so much for having me!

Kristin:  So what an awesome story to really see a problem and go ahead and start a business to hep make it more equitable in the workforce.

Linzay:  Yeah.  I mean, I had such a challenging time through my maternity leave and then getting back to work as a working mom, and I figured I couldn’t possibly be the only mom out there struggling with all of that.  So I created The Park to hopefully make it a little bit easier for all of us moms that are trying to make it all happen.

Kristin:  Yes.  So tell us a bit about The Park and how companies can connect with you.

Linzay:   Yeah.  So like you mentioned, I started The Park because I had just not a very pleasurable maternity leave situation.  It was unpaid.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I thought I had set myself up for success and my team when I went on leave, but I had such a small team, and when I got back to work, it just was like, this is – I never felt like I was going to get my head above water.  And if you live in a state – like, I live in California where we have state-sponsored leave, and it’s just so challenging to navigate.  And there’s so many nuances, and there’s so many parts of maternity leave that are historically holding moms back in the workforce.  And I saw the gender inequities, and so I decided that I needed to get that information out there.  So I started working with companies to help them make more equitable and inclusive parental leave policies so that they can have a more diverse workforce that includes moms because so many women leave the workforce after they have babies because it’s just too challenging, and maternity leave is a big part of that.  So I work with companies to make their policies better.  I work with moms to help them navigate maternity leave.  I make reels upon reels on Instagram just to help moms figure out how to apply for statewide sponsored leave programs, and how do you even write your out of office email when you go on maternity leave.  So that’s all to say, check me out on Instagram.  I’m @theparkconsulting everywhere.  LinkedIn, Instagram.  My email is linzay@theparkconsulting.

Kristin:  Awesome.  So, Linzay, let’s get into really understanding your options and rights and also just having that uncomfortable discussion with your superiors about, say, a pregnancy announcement, having that initial discussion and then really setting up your leave, any sort of temporary help that may fill your role while you’re on leave, and what it might look like coming back, whether it’s part time – I’m sure you do that with your consulting, of what’s the best for you and your family, coming back full time, part time, working remote a couple days and then in the office.  So how does that look for you as far as your consulting role?

Linzay:  Yeah.  Well, how much time do we have, because I feel like that’s such a loaded question.  I could talk for hours.  I’ll try to keep it short.  So, yeah, when people think about maternity leave, they think about this, like, golden rule of 12 weeks, and they go on leave, and they come back, and everything is perfect and fine.  But really, when I look at maternity leave and parental leave, I look at it so much farther.  It’s so much more encompassing.  It’s the weeks and months before you go on leave.  It’s the weeks and months that you’re on leave.  And then it’s the weeks and months that you return to your job, as this new person.  You’re a mom now.  Everything has changed, and society doesn’t really set us up to really accept that new person that we become when we come back to work.  So that’s all to say, I think that it’s so important to support moms, even before your baby is a glimmer in your eye, before you’re even pregnant, before you’re thinking about adopting.  Like, think about your options.  Consider your options.  What’s your parental leave policy at your office?  What’s the culture like?  Have people gone on leave before?  It’s not too late if you’re already pregnant or if you’re already in your adoption process to think about these things, but I encourage women to think about this far ahead of time so that they’re not pregnant and feeling like they’re up against a wall and have to figure everything out when their hormones are in flex.  I know for me, I was crying every day about everything, so, like, maybe think about it before you get to that point.

Kristin:  Yes!  In your family planning, yeah, include that, and also just your plan career-wise for moving up within the company you’re at or on to other jobs.  So, yeah.

Linzay:  Yeah, exactly.  We spend so much time at work, so make sure that it’s a place that you enjoy being at, because even especially once you have your baby, it’s going to be a place that is really pulling you away from your family.  So make sure it’s a good place to be and the culture is accepting.  But so going back to just the first things, like telling your boss that you’re pregnant, like I said, look at the culture.  What is it like?  Can you just go to your boss and be like, hey, I’m so excited to tell you I’m pregnant, and your boss is going to give you a hug and say, amazing, that’s awesome.  Don’t worry about anything yet.  We’ll take care of everything down the line.  Or do you have a promotion on the line, or do you have a review coming up in the next few weeks?  Legally, you’re protected when you tell your boss that you’re pregnant.  Culturally, though, that might not necessarily be the case.  And I don’t want you to be the martyr.  Unless you’re willing to be, but don’t – if you’re going to have a review or promotion that’s something that’s really important coming up in the next couple of weeks, maybe you wait just a couple more weeks and hide your pregnancy if you can.  But also remember that once you tell your boss, you’re now protected under several polices and protections through the federal government and likely through your state government, also, that make it so they can’t fire you for being pregnant.  Because we all know that used to be something that happens, and hopefully it’s not happening anymore.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So every state has different laws as far as breaks, but of course for breastfeeding and pumping moms, having the dedicated space to be able to pump and store milk and take those breaks is also a big part of navigating coming back to work.  How do you work with companies in that way and really making sure they’re set up, especially those that don’t have a lot of female employees?

Linzay:  Yes.  So like I said before, we go back to work at this magical 12-week mark – hopefully later – and we’re just supposed to go back to work like nothing has changed.  But unfortunately, a lot has changed, and you are likely – or there are a lot of moms that choose to breastfeed, and when you don’t have your baby at work with you, you’re going to have to pump.  And so legally, we are protected.  All new moms when they go back to work are legally protected to take break time to express milk whenever they have the need to do so.  And we also are legally protected to have a safe, comfortable space to do this.  And the safe, comfortable space is a room with no windows on it, or if there are windows, it has a screen on it and a door that locks.  So you’re not in the bathroom.  You’re not in, like, an office that people are going in and out of.  You legally have these rights.  So if you get any pushback from any of your managers or supervisors that say that you can’t take this time to pump, they are legally in the wrong.  So it’s so important to advocate for yourself and know your options and what you’re legally entitled to.  So just stand up for yourself.  Advocated for yourself.  And when you go back to work, you’re just this strong, badass mom, so, like, remind them of that.

Kristin:  Indeed.  And also, I mean, navigating childcare.  So you had a child during the pandemic, and it is more challenging to find a childcare center, licensed in-home childcares, like, all of it is so much more challenging during pandemic times than even before, and even then, you had to get on a waitlist as soon as you knew you were pregnant.  So navigating the times for pickup and drop-off and the sick policies and your own flex and vacation and sick days that would need to be used if your child was sent home from daycare, for example.

Linzay:  Yeah, it’s complicated.  Like, I was ten minutes late to our call this morning because I had to take my kids to the doctor this morning, and things just took longer than I expected.  If I wasn’t talking to a doula, maybe that would have been a little bit more complicated to explain, but it’s so important to – that’s why I was saying earlier to plan ahead.  If you’re at a workplace where you don’t feel like the culture is supportive of taking time off when your kid is sick or if you need to take them to the doctor, really evaluate where you are.  I’m not saying, like, jump ship and go get a new job right away, but that’s why I think it’s so important to think about not just your family planning and you having – when you and your partner decide to have a baby, if you have a partner, but also everything else that comes with it.  And when you go back to work, having someone trustworthy to watch your baby and having the time off to be able to watch your baby when that falls through or if they have a doctor’s appointment is so important.  So think about that ahead of time, and look at the culture of your company and see what they expect and what they’ve done in the past.  Stand up for yourself.  Maybe gather a team around you, if there’s other women in your office and the culture is not what you want it to be.  Like, maybe you can create an ERG, an employee resource group, and create one for moms and change the culture so that it is supportive and your manager does understand you can’t go to work because you have to take your baby to the doctor, or your daycare falls through.  There’s so many moving parts.  All the moms know.  I’m preaching to the choir here.

Kristin:  Exactly, and even if you have a nanny in your home, if the nanny is ill, then you need to stay home.

Linzay:  Yeah.  Backup plan B, plan C, plan D.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And hopefully your partner has a flexible schedule and vacation and flex time so the partner can also, you know, share in the load as far as just managing everything.  And when you have more than one child, it gets even more complex than just the newborn.

Linzay:  Yeah, I tell my doctor all the time when I take my kids to the doctor when they’re sick, like, I don’t know how people do this.  How do they have more than two kids?  Because I feel like we’re constantly sick and constantly at the doctor.  But we all make it work.

Kristin:  Exactly.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  And so now again with pandemic times, there’s a lot more remote working and flex working, so how are you navigating this with both employers and also your clients who are planning for their leaves, or if they are working from home, how to separate the mother role from their time on Zoom and deadlines and really trying to get back to where they were production-wise output?  That can be very challenging, even with a postpartum doula in the home or a nanny.  There’s still the cries that you respond to, things that need to be done, so distractions.  So I’m sure you do some coaching on staying focused and even setting some breaks within the schedule to see your children.

Linzay:  Yeah, so COVID was a really terrible thing that we all went through, but there were some silver linings, and one of those silver linings was everybody had to stay home and figure out how to work from home.  And there are definitely pros and cons to that.  Working from home is great because you don’t have your commute.  You can work in your pajamas.  Like, you’re there for – say if you have a newborn and your nanny is taking care of your newborn, and before you were going into work and having to pump.  Well, now you can just take quick little breaks to go breastfeed your baby.  But you’re at home, so you hear every single cry.  Every single whine, every time that somebody needs a snack, you can hear it through your office door.  And it can be so challenging.  So like you said, setting some really good boundaries and setting expectations with your managers, with your family members, with your caregivers.  It’s going to be the best path to success.  And also, setting yourself up for that.  Like, knowing that you’re going to be at home and you’re going to hear your baby cry, and it’s going to be okay because you trust your caregiver to take care of them and learn their needs.  We all know that mom knows best, and you can just go in there and swoop them off their feet and do whatever you need to do and then they’re going to be a happy kid, but then your caregiver is never going to learn to have those intimate moments with your child.  So that’s all to say, setting expectations with yourself and with everyone else involved; communicating with them.  Letting your boss know that you do have a baby on the other side of the wall, and if you really need to in the middle of a meeting, take a moment to go soothe them or feed them or whatever it is.  Let your boss know ahead of time so it’s not this thing that becomes a negative.  It’s just part of your work schedule that needs to get done every day.

Kristin:  Exactly.  We work with a lot of executive in Gold Coast that really do focus a lot on that planning during maternity leave and want to set themselves up for success when they return, so they hire either a sleep consultant and/or our overnight postpartum doulas to ensure that they’re getting rest, and then when they’re back to work, they have a system in place.  So they may have an overnight doula three nights a week.  So they have at least some staggered full nights of rest where someone is caring for baby and they’re able to, again, get back into their career without having so many bumps.

Linzay:  Yeah, I mean, that is one of the most important things for all parents, especially in the newborn stage, but it’s getting enough sleep to even function to go back to work.  This holy grail of 12 weeks that I’ve mentioned is just what we’ve been brainwashed into thinking is the perfect amount of time for us to be this well-rested perfect mom that’s ready to go back to work, but that’s just not the case.  And so having an overnight support system like a doula or your partner is a really good option.  So to share those responsibilities because if you have to go back to work, it’s – you’re not going to be a very productive employee, and you’re going to struggle to be that number one mom if you don’t have enough rest.  So pull in your support system.  Make sure you’re asking for help.  Set expectations with your partner.  When my husband and I had our children, we both decided that, because I had the milk, I was going to be doing the breastfeeding at night, and if the diaper needed to be changed, which it didn’t always need to be – we learned that the second baby.  You don’t always have to change the diaper every single time they wake up.  And then if the diaper needed to be changed, I passed over the baby to my husband, and he took over those responsibilities.  But even better if you can have an outside resource like an overnight night nurse or a doula to help you out with that process.  No shame at all.  You’re just getting enough rest so that you can be a functioning human during the day, especially if you have to go to work.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And again, being sleep deprived, it just adds up.  And if your partner is going back to work within two days or two weeks or whatever that leave is, and it really is falling on you, so they could be rested to again get back to work and have the regular pressures of everyday work life.  So I think really the importance of asking for help, whether it’s family, friends, hiring help, and then also understanding the signs of perinatal mood disorders.  Being sleep deprived is one of the biggest factors.  So I’m sure part of what you’re seeing is also, like with that plan, is if you’re dealing with a client who’s struggling, like how do they go to their employer about having a PMAD, whether it’s anxiety, depression?

Linzay:  Yeah.  Well, I have my own story that I can tell from this.  I had put together this foolproof plan, I had thought, of I’m going to take – in California, we can take four weeks off before our due date, so I did that.  And the I was planning to take six weeks of California disability leave if I had a vaginal delivery; eight weeks if I had a C-section, and then eight additional weeks through California paid family leave.  And that was the plan with my employer.  And I ended up having a C-section, so I got those eight weeks, and then I had eight additional weeks through paid family leave.  But I was struggling.  Like, even though I had that time off with my baby, my husband had to go back to work after, like, a week.  I was by myself.  I didn’t bond right away with my second daughter the way that I did with my first, and I just felt like something was wrong, like I was doing something wrong.  There’s something wrong with my daughter.  And I remember going to my doctor and just crying through the entire doctor’s appointment.  And she’s like, I think you have postpartum depression and anxiety.  And it was such a relief to hear that validation and hear that there was, like, something that was, like, described what I was experiencing.  And she gave me four more weeks of disability leave.  And my first thought was, how am I going to tell my boss, because I know they were waiting for me to come back.  They needed me to come back.  And I was having more anxiety because I knew they were waiting for me to come back.  But my doctor assured me that, like, this is okay, and it’s just going to take a little bit of extra time for me to get through this and for me to rest and recover and spend more time with my baby, and those four weeks will go by, and hopefully I’ll be feeling so much better and ready to go back to work.  And I just had to send a note to my manager, and I said, I’m having some complications and I need to take four more weeks off.  And they were super supportive, and legally, I’m entitled to that, so remember, if you’re in that situation, this is your legal right.  And it was fine.  And now I’m feeling so much better.  I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old, and I’ve seen the light.  But I had to get through it, and it was really hard, especially because I knew my job was waiting for me on the other end, like counting down the days until I got back.

Kristin:  Right, and you didn’t want to let them down, but you have to take care of yourself first before you can go back to your employer, before taking care of your children.  And so I’m so glad you said something to your doctor because many women hide it and try to mask what’s going on, and that just spirals even more.

Linzay:  Yeah.  And I did try – I mean, I didn’t necessarily try to hide it.  I thought I was doing better.  Like, I got into the appointment, and she’s like, so, how are you doing?  And I’m like, I know, I’m making it through.  And the triggering question for me is, she asked me – because she wasn’t there for my delivery.  She’s like, so you had another C-section, and I had done everything in my being to try to have a VBAC, and that’s when I just exploded with tears and couldn’t stop.  And I think there was a lot that came from me having a failed VBAC that aided in the postpartum anxiety and depression that just made me spiral even more.  So I’m glad my doctor asked me that question so that I could be more vulnerable.

Kristin:  Exactly, yeah.  To be heard and tell your story.  Yeah, there is that fear of failure, especially for VBACs.  There’s a lot of pressure, and you obviously work very hard to try to achieve that, so yes.  I mean, there can be some posttraumatic stress after a birth that needs to be resolved, and again, talking to a therapist or your doctor or a friend, writing out a birth story, can all be helpful tools.

Linzay:  Yes, very helpful.  They were very helpful for me.

Kristin:  So any tips on really understanding your rights and options in your own state and how to navigate the system?  Obviously, California has amazing maternity plans.

Linzay:  Yeah, well, amazing is – it should be the norm everything.

Kristin:  Compared to many states.

Linzay:  But yeah, so my first tip is, like I said before, plan ahead.  So before you’re pregnant, or if you’re already pregnant, look into your employer’s policies.  If you’re interviewing, ask about their parental leave policy.  Find out that, so that when you do get pregnant, you already know what your options are, and you didn’t get a job right before you got pregnant that doesn’t offer any leave, or maybe they offer a really great policy, but you have to be there two years, and you’ll have only been there a year.  So look ahead.  Find out what your employer’s policy is.  The standard for the United States, the federal law, is through FMLA, the Family Medical Leave Act.  That is not through your employer.  That’s through the government.  And that offers you 12 weeks of unpaid job protection, which is good, but not great at all.  Basically, your employer – if you qualify.  They have to have 50 employees and a few other qualifications.  They have to hold your job for you for 12 weeks.  But that doesn’t mean you’re getting paid.  So that’s when you need to look into your state options.  So if you live in a state like California, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, you are going to have something that you can take advantage of, a benefit that the state offers you.  And some cities even have additional laws.  Like, I just read Birmingham, Alabama, is offering 12 weeks of paid leave to all of their city workers.  And I know San Francisco has some really great policies that go above and beyond what California offers.  So look into what your employer offers.  Look into what your state offers.  And know that there’s going to be some general federal policies like FMLA that protect you, but you’re not going to get paid through them.  So look into other avenues like state, local, and your employer to figure out how you can get paid while you’re on leave.

Kristin:  Excellent advice.  And I love that you and The Park is focused on really helping companies retain their workforce, so you’re not only helping working women, but it is so hard to retain talent and attract new talent.  I mean, the workforce is so competitive right now.  So companies can work with you in order to not only retain their workforce, but also attract new.  And I feel like maternity plans are becoming more and more competitive.  Like, many companies are now adding doulas to their benefits, for example.

Linzay:  Yeah.  I used to be in HR communications in the Bay area, and I can tell you some wild offerings that some of these larger tech companies offer.  Anything from, like, fertility treatments to – some offer 52 weeks of fully paid leave for both partners, no matter what their gender is, and like, I look at those, and I’m just like, how is this – like, this is amazing, and how can we make this the norm for everyone?  Because we’ve been brainwashed.  The United States has no paid parental leave policies, and we’re the only wealthy country in the world to not offer anything.  Other countries offer lots of things for new parents.

Kristin:  Oh, yeah, a year paid?  For sure.

Linzay:  And we’re the only ones, and we just think it’s normal, but it’s not.

Kristin:  No, not at all.

Linzay:  Not at all.  So yeah, I work with companies to try and make their policies better, and I use better with air quotes because that’s going to be different for every company and what their employee population looks like.  I try to encourage all of my clients to create policies that are equitable.  So what that means, it’s the same for all genders.  So we’re not using terms like primary parent and secondary parent.  What does that mean?  Or even birthing and non-birthing because there’s so many different ways for families to start families these days, and we don’t want to leave out people or make people feel like they’re being singled out by saying birthing and non-birthing or primary caregiver.

Kristin:  Right.  With surrogacy, adoption, so many different opportunities.

Linzay:  Exactly.  And it’s so important for gender equity in the workplace for men to be taking the same amount of leave as women.  We’ve been historically, like, just told that women need more time than men, and men can go back to work after two, three weeks.  Maybe if they’re lucky, they get six weeks.  And the woman stays home for at least 12 weeks with the baby.  But what happens in that discrepancy, in those ten weeks?  That’s a lot of time that the man can be at work getting a promotion, getting a salary bump, while the woman is at home taking care of her baby and probably getting looked over for promotions.  Or maybe there’s this big travel opportunity that’s coming up, and women will just get overlooked completely because we just assume she needs to be home with the baby.  So I advise all of my clients to look at all of their policies from a gender equity lens to make sure that they’re not even not purposely saying things and doing things that could be setting women back in the workforce.

Kristin:  Yes.  You’re doing so much important work!  I really appreciate you sharing all of your wisdom with our audience, Linzay.  I could talk to you forever.  So let’s collaborate.

Linzay:  Thank you!  It’s been so fun.  I could talk about this all day long.  So if you ever want me to come back, I’m here.

Kristin:  Okay.  So, again, why don’t you share your social media links?  I know your website, and you’re on LinkedIn?

Linzay:  Yeah, LinkedIn, you can find us @thepark, but also if you want to follow me or connect with me, I’d love to chat if you have any questions.  I’m on LinkedIn as Linzay Davis.  I also post a lot of reels, like I mentioned earlier, about, like, how to take advantage of your state-sponsored leave programs or just how to navigate parental leave in general.  So you can find us on Instagram @theparkconsulting.  And if you have any questions, like even if it’s very specific to you, you’re not the only one that has that question, so DM me.  Ask.  And I can – if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out for you, and we can share your question and answer with the world so that some more moms can get some help if they have that same question, too.  So don’t be afraid to reach out.  I love hearing from moms.  That’s my favorite part of my job.  So reach out.  I’d love to hear from you.

Kristin:  Thank you so much, Linzay!  Take care:

Linzay:  Thank you!  Bye!

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

The Secret to Creating More Calm and Joy in Motherhood: Podcast Episode #172

Kristin chats with Peg Sadie of the Resilient Mom Academy about self-care, joy in motherhood and so much more.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Peg Sadie today.  Peg is a trained psychotherapist and resilience coach.  She’s the wife of 19 years and boy mom times two.  Peg founded the Resilient Mom Academy to realize her vision and bridge the gap between therapy and thriving for struggling moms.  Peg has been featured in over 40 media outlets, including In Style Parents and Women’s Health.  Her own experiences with postpartum depression, anxiety, and overwhelm as a new mom ignited her passion to support other women in their motherhood journey.  Welcome, Peg!

Peg:  Thank you so much, Kristin!  I’m super excited to be here with you today.

Kristin:  And I am excited about the work that you’re doing in the motherhood space.  I feel like self-care is an overused term and not really understood, so I’d love your approach and I think we should start off a bit on, again, creating this joy in early parenting and motherhood and reducing the overwhelm.  So what are your thoughts on that?

Peg:  Sure!  Wow, I have so many.  Yes, this self-care – I 100% agree with you, Kristin.  Self-care has become this, I feel, fluffy buzzword as of late, and for so many of us moms with so much on our plate as it is, it kind of feels like one more thing to add on our to-do list.  Like, oh, great, now I have to practice my self-care.  When am I going to fit that in today?

Kristin:  Exactly.  It tends to be more of like a spa day or meeting up with friends; things that may not fit in that very early parenting lifestyle, or even in budgets, to be honest.

Peg:  100%.  I have, actually, a social media post that was very popular, and it’s called, you don’t need a bubble bath.  We have this idea that we need self-care as bubble baths and massages and pedicures and manicures.  And that is not the reality of self-care because if you’re struggling and coming from a place of true overwhelm and your resilience threshold is reduced as a mom managing all the things, it doesn’t matter how many bubble baths you take.  That is not a long-term solution to feel better.  It’s kind of like putting a band-aid on a broken arm.

Kristin:  Yes, exactly.  So what are your tips to really feeling confident in early motherhood, and again, not feeling that huge amount of overwhelm?  What are your top tips in your resilient mom group as your students are asking you questions?  I would love to hear what you’re hearing on a daily basis.

Peg:   Yes.  So we have a little bit of everything, and my personal experience, as well.  The most important thing to remember is your self-care journey and your routine doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s.  I feel like we see other people doing these certain things for self-care and think, well, I need to do that.  Why am I not doing that?  Now I have to fit that in my routine.  One of the best pieces of advice I would give to moms that are about to embark into motherhood is to, first off, have – because this is, I think, for me personally, with the birth of my first son – my kids are spaced almost a decade apart, and part of the reason was because I was – I did have such a traumatic experience with postpartum depression and anxiety and chronic overwhelm for years.  And it took me a really long time to get to a place emotionally where I felt ready to embark on that journey again.  I didn’t even know if I was going to get there.  And I didn’t do this with my first – to have a self-care and support system plan in place prior to the baby coming.  You think you’re going to be able to just go with the flow and manage and do all the things, but what happens is, our life drastically shifts.  Like, for me, I had decided I was going to stay at home with my child, and we all stay home for a short period of time; at least for maternity leave, right?  And it is – if you don’t have a support system in place, if you don’t have a self-care plan in place, it can be extremely overwhelming and isolating, and then if you’re like me, or how I was with my first, I wasn’t asking for help.  I wasn’t realizing that this wasn’t normal, for me to feel this way.  I kept thinking I was very hard on myself.  I should be able to do all these things.  Why am I feeling this way?  Why am I struggling with this?  And the second time around, I did little things like – well, I guess this isn’t little, but I was six months pregnant, and I hired a housekeeper.  I knew this was one thing that I didn’t want to deal with once my child came.  I wanted to reserve my energy, and I didn’t want to have to stress about the house.  I didn’t want to have to argue with my husband over who was going to do the dishes.

Kristin:   And you’re not supposed to be vacuuming or going up and down stairs anyway, so there’s that healing and bonding and feeding time.  So that’s ideal.  We talk about that in our Becoming a Mother class, of really prioritizing what’s important to you in the postnatal phase, and a housecleaning service or even some meal delivery service plans or things to make life simpler.  Even the thought, for certain personality types, of needing to entertain family members or friends when they come in to see the new baby, and then the house isn’t perfect.  So if you have someone to help or a postpartum doula, whatever it might be, to make life easier.  If that is one of your stressors, that you want a clean house at all times.

Peg:  100%.  You made such a good point there, Kristin, because, I mean, going to visit your friend when they’ve had a baby is not, like, helping.  Like, going and holding the baby for a couple of hours is not helpful because exactly like you said, depending on your personality type, like I am, I feel like I have to entertain.  I feel like I have to have food ready.  I feel like I have to have the house clean.  So people popping in that aren’t my mom –

Kristin:  Yes.  It’s different with family.

Peg:  Yes.  So make a meal.  Put it on the doorstep.

Kristin:  Empty the dishwasher; something.

Peg:  Exactly.  That is so huge.  And then for me, the second time around, I also joined a mom group, so I knew that I had other women going through the same thing, that I could get out of the house and be around other moms experiencing the same thing, because I felt so isolated and alone in my struggles the first time around.

Kristin:  Yes, and that can intensify postpartum depression and mood disorders if you’re feeling isolated and don’t have a support group.  I know with my first, having kids later in life, and my husband went right back to work as soon as I got out of the hospital.  So I would wait for him to get home and want to, like, connect and talk and tell him about my day, ask him.  And he’s trying to unwind, and so we really had to find our groove with that change because I was so used to my professional career and being busy, and my friends were all working.  So really, like you said, finding a mom group or Le Leche League and some in-person meetings.  And now that – I mean, the pandemic is still around, but it’s not as isolating as it was early on when mothers didn’t have the option of in-person groups.

Peg:  That’s so true.  And you touched on it earlier, too, Kristin, about knowing the kind of mom you are going to be.  For me, I realized, okay, my energy doesn’t support this lifestyle.  I am an introvert.  I’m an extroverted introvert, but for the most part, I’m an introvert, and I’m also an HSP, a highly sensitive person, empath, and so many moms come to me and they don’t realize that they’re an empath or highly sensitive, and you feel the energies of others.  You can feel touched out, and when your baby cries, it causes pain; like, physically causes discomfort for you.  It’s a much more different sensory experience for you as a mom than someone who’s not a highly sensitive empath.  And if you’re an introvert, you need that alone time to recharge.  That means away from your baby, too.

Kristin:  Exactly, because otherwise you feel like your baby always wants to be attached to you, or you’re waiting for that cry after a nap.  So yeah, as much as we tell our clients to rest when baby is resting, they don’t always take that advice.

Peg:  Oh, my gosh, you know what I had to do, Kristin?  I remember with my second one, I realized that this is something I had to do.  My husband was home.  I would say, “Okay, I’m taking a nap now,” and I would put earplugs in.  I knew if I heard my baby make any noise, that was it for me.  I’m up.  Because also as an empath, you feel deeply connected to your child on this crazy level, that you – it’s hard to relinquish control a lot of times when you are this way.  Trusting someone to babysit or even your partner to do things; you feel like even when they’re taking care of your child, you have to monitor and supervise.  That’s a hard struggle, as well.  Knowing your energy, knowing what you need, and taking the steps to kind of manage that, manage your expectations.

Kristin:  So true, Peg.  And I mean, really understanding that sometimes when a baby is upset, it’s because they’re getting your wired energy and know that you’re exhausted, and so babies feel whatever the caregiver, but certainly, especially the mother feels.  Even as a doula, I want to maintain a very calming energy when I’m with a new baby.  Sort of that balance and really understanding that you need to care for yourself in order to better care for your baby, and your baby may be upset because you are.

Peg:  100%.  I believe that it’s – I even have content with this title, and it’s titled, “It’s not your kids; it’s you.”  Because a lot of moms think, well, I’m so overwhelmed because of all the things I have to do for my child.  And I help moms understand that it is cyclic when it gets to this point because your nervous system isn’t regulated; you feel overwhelmed.  Just like you said, Kristin, our kids are little energy magnets.  That is how they connect with us, especially when they’re newborns, infants, even toddlers.  They don’t have that verbal capacity to communicate.  It’s a survival mechanism that they have.  They even have mirror neurons that mimic our emotions.  Not what we’re saying; how we’re feeling by our facial expressions.  So it is innate.  It is intuitive.  And if our energy is off, they’re going to feel that, and they’re going to respond to it, and they may be even more clingy because they’re feeling unsafe in that moment, if you are feeling riled up.  So learning how to regulate our own emotions and knowing what we need; intrinsically listening to our body, knowing when we’re anxious, when we’re overwhelmed, and addressing that is so imperative for moms who are struggling.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  And when is a point where the mother should identify that everything they’re doing as far as self-care and self-regulation is not working, and when do they – at what point do they need to seek help from a therapist or go to their provider and really share what’s going on?

Peg:  That’s such a good question, Kristin.  I love this.  It’s really – well, first of all, we want to make sure we are doing the things that we can that are in our control, the basics: physical self-care, making sure we are getting sleep, adequate sleep if we can.  Well, I call it survival years, 0 to 3, especially if you’re breastfeeding, and it’s very hard to get – you’re not going to get the seven, eight hours of sleep at night.  And to respond to that – so when we start to feel hopeless, helpless, when we start to lose interest in things that we typically would enjoy, something that we like to do, and we find ourselves not able to laugh and find joy in things that we would normally do, if we find ourselves pulling away and self-isolating from others, if we find ourselves either sleeping too much or not sleeping at all, if we’re having so much anxiety that it’s interrupting our daily functioning, if we’re waking up every 20 minutes to make sure our child is breathing in the middle of the night, you know, if we’re not able to leave our child alone with our partner, whom we should trust with our child, or our parent.  I’m not saying a stranger, but if we’re not able to for even a short period of time out of anxiety.  Or if things that are really minute that normally wouldn’t stress us are causing big, overwhelming, stressful situations in our mind, like, oh, my gosh, how am I going to make this decision, then it is time to maybe go to your provider and get a workup.  I say to all my moms, get a full panel done.  Get your hormones checked, blood level checked, have your iron, your thyroid.  It could be something simple to address.  As you know, Kristin, our hormones go all out of whack afterwards.  I have many moms who go through my program who are either diagnosed with postpartum depression and/or anxiety during the program or prior to it and then come into the program as a supplement.  Because that has to be addressed, whether it’s medication or a combination of medication and talk therapy.  So that is what I would suggest.  If you’re at that point where things – you don’t – you feel hopeless or helpless, and you feel like things are out of your control, then I would just go get checked out.  They’ll ask you some questions, and you’ll know if this is something that – for me, I waited way too long, and another thing I would like to share is that most moms don’t realize you can be diagnosed with postpartum depression up to age 5 of your child.

Kristin:  Absolutely, yes.

Peg:  So it is not just strictly after they’re born.  I recently had a mom who was diagnosed, and her kids are all toddlers.  So yes, I waited too long, and then it became a chronic condition.  So you want to just err on the side of caution, and go see your healthcare provider.  And then you can move forward from them.

Kristin:  And it’s also not known that partners can develop postpartum depression.  Husbands can suffer as well, which can then impact the baby and the marriage.

Peg:  So true.  And another thing, which is nice to do prior to the baby coming, is have your partner at least – educate your partner and maybe any other support team that’s going to be around you – your mom, mother-in-law – on the signs to look for of postpartum depression.  Because I like to say, at least it was for me, it’s hard to read the label from inside the bottle.  Even as a therapist myself, it was hard for me to recognize what was happening with me because I couldn’t differentiate what I should be feeling versus thinking, oh, I can get myself out of this.  It will just go away.  But someone on the outside looking in can be like, okay, this is a sign; this is a sign.  We need to go to the doctor and just nudge them and help them take that first step.

Kristin:   Yes, and the six week appointment can be much too late, so talk to your pediatrician.  Those pediatrician visits are quite frequently, and if there are concerns, they may be able to give you resources.  There are plenty of postpartum support groups out there, in addition to, of course, calling your midwife or OB-GYN and letting them know what’s going on, or your primary physician.

Peg:  Yes, absolutely.

Kristin:  I feel like people just want to wait for that six week visit, and you can get so much help before then.

Peg:  That’s true.  I feel like the first – the baby blues is very typical, as well, right?  The first few weeks.  Usually, that will subside.  But postpartum depression can onset any time thereafter.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So, again, sleep, the lack of sleep really just escalates everything.  Focusing on sleep, self-care, getting a plan, as you said, set during pregnancy, and expressing your needs to family members and to friends and how they can best support that is so essential.  So I love that you brought that up earlier, Peg.  I would love to also spend some time on your Resilient Mom Academy, who that’s for ideally, and let our listeners know how they can best engage with all of your different services.

Peg:  Thank you so much.  Absolutely, yes.  So I founded Resilient Mom Academy – I founded the exact program that I wished I’d had as a new overwhelmed mom because I felt like talk therapy had its limitations.  And I wanted to create a program that kind of combined coaching and education and community together because I feel like community is the one thing that’s lacking in talk therapy, and it is so healing in itself to be around other moms who are just simply acknowledging that they’re struggling, too, and they’re going through the same thing, because I feel like we see everyone’s highlight reels on Instagram or Facebook, and we compare.  Why does everything else have it together and I just don’t?  What’s wrong with me?  But I’m telling you, I know the moms with the highlight reels, which we all are, and I talk to so many of you, and you would never know from your highlight reel, from looking at that reel, that they are struggling behind the scenes.  So I just want women to know that they are not alone.  I’ve created that safe space.  The first thing we do when we start working together is we do a self-care audit and energy audit to kind of get a snapshot of where you are, because everyone’s journey is going to be different.  Everyone’s self-care plan, just like a business plan for success, everyone’s self-care and resilience plan is going to look different.  It’s a self-paced program, and there’s also coaching and that community aspect, as well.  So it’s my baby, and I’m so proud of it and excited to help moms with this.

Kristin:  I love it.  So it sounds like it’s not just for new moms.  Like, moms of teenagers can certainly benefit from it?

Peg:  100%, yes.  Any mom that’s struggling right now, because we not only deal with self-care and resilience building, which most people, when I share this, are surprised.  There are six parts to self-care.  There are six components.  It’s like a wheel, a pie wheel.  And then we also touch on conscious parenting.  There’s a huge module on conscious parenting because I feel like becoming a more self-aware parent, we tend to repeat these intergenerational patterns, negative patterns, unconsciously from our own parents.  So getting in tune with that, deciding what kind of parent we want to be and deciding to connect with our kids on a much deeper level, to have more connected relationships.  I feel like there’s a lot of adults that don’t have a deep connection with their parents because parents have tried to control their kids, and it can become more achievement-oriented and superficial accolades.  So that’s a really popular module.  And then we talk a lot about relationships because our relationship with our partner shifts.  The dynamic shifts.  There’s a lot of stress and stressors in the marriage or relationships.  So there’s a huge module on that, as well.  There are bonus modules in there.  So yes, it touches on a little bit of everything, and I’m always adding to it.

Kristin:  I love it.  So you’re all over social.  Where else can our listeners and our doula clients find you, Peg?

Peg:  Absolutely.  You can find me on my website.  I love to hang out on Instagram.  My handle is @peg.sadie.  And I’m also son Facebook @pegsadiecoaching.

Kristin:  And a podcast?

Peg:  My podcast, the Resilient Mom Podcast.  And I would love to share a free resource with your listeners if that’s okay?

Kristin:  That would be amazing!

Peg:  Okay, fantastic.  I have a brand new resource I’m really excited about.  I offer retreats a couple times throughout the year, and I’ve taken kind of – it’s called the Calm Mom Method Retreat, and I’ve taken kind of my best tools and tips and infused them in this smaller little micro-course.  It’s called the Resilient Mom Starter Kit, and it’s a seven-day video training.  It comes straight to your inbox, and it’s filled with tools for moms ready to create a calmer and more intentional life.  If you’re a mom who’s struggling with stress, anxiety, or overwhelm right now, you will love this training, and it’s an absolutely free resource.  You can find it right here on my website.

Kristin:  Fantastic.  Is there anything that you would like to add as far as final tips for our listeners?

Peg:  Yes.  Thank you for asking that question.  I just want moms to know that they are not alone in their suffering and their struggles.  One thing I wish I’d done earlier on is I wish I would have shared with somebody close to me that I trusted what I was going through, another mom friend.  It just takes one mom friend that you can connect.  I also want moms to not be so hard on themselves, especially if you’re a perfectionist.  Give yourself some grace.  Allow yourself to make mistakes.  It’s a learning process.  As long as you’re correcting along the way; you’re growing, you’re learning.  Nobody has all the answers.  And above all, I want to tell moms – I just got goosebumps about this, every time I share it – to listen to your instincts and trust your gut in all things related to your child because in retrospect, looking back – I’m speaking for myself.  I don’t know if this speaks to you as well, Kristin.  Looking back, I feel like there have been situations with my own kids where I wish I’d listened to my gut instinct the first time upfront.  I don’t care who it is you’re speaking to; a friend, a parent, doctor, an expert.  I don’t care how many initials they have behind their name.  You know your child better than anyone else in the world, and you need to trust that instinct.  Listen to what your heart is telling you.  Get that second opinion, and do what you feel is right for you and your child and your family.

Kristin:   100% agree, Peg.  We tell our clients that no one knows their baby the way they do.

Peg:  Absolutely.

Kristin:  Fantastic advice.  It was wonderful to chat with you.  Thank you very much, Peg.

Peg:  Absolutely.  100% my pleasure.  Thank you so much for doing what you do, Kristin, and your resources.  What an amazing gift to moms that you guys provide.  So thank you.  I’m honored to be on your show.

Kristin:  Thank you!

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

Navigating Life After Loss: Podcast Episode #171

Kristin chats with Michelle Valiukenas from the Colette Louise Tisdahl Foundation about navigating life after loss.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas.  And I’m here to chat with Michelle Valiukenas today.  She is the proud mom of her angel sweet pea who she lost due to miscarriage.  Her angel daughter, Colette Louise, was lost at 9 days old, and her only living child, her rainbow baby, is Elliot Miguel.  Inspired by her journey with Colette, Michelle and her husband founded the Colette Louise Tisdahl Foundation, whose mission is to improve outcomes of pregnancy, childbirth, prematurity, and infancy, as well as aid in the grieving process through financial assistance, education, and advocacy.  Their flagship program financially assists families dealing with high risk and complicated pregnancies, NICU stays, and loss.  The organization’s ability to help families relies on donations and grants, and they are grateful if you’re able to donate.  Michelle also participates and advocates on issues of maternal health, maternal mortality, infant health and safety, and pregnancy complications.  Michelle lives in Glenville, Illinois with their son Elliot, husband Mark, and dog Nemo.  Welcome, Michelle!

Michelle:  Hi.  Thank you so much for having me.

Kristin:  So happy to chat with you.  I would love to hear more about your personal story and why this was on your heart.  I know it’s so much work to start a foundation and to maintain it and promote it.  I would like to hear more about your journey.

Michelle:  Yeah, absolutely.  I think the journey began when we started trying for kids.  And, you know, we’re both reasonably healthy people with no real issues, so we kind of expected a couple of months, and the tests would show that we would pregnant and we would go on.  And really what we found was that over and over again, we weren’t getting pregnant.  And when we sought out infertility testing and results, it was really an unknown cause.  That’s particularly frustrating, and I think that was sort of the start of the loss of control that you have over so many things.  So we started with infertility treatments, and that in and of itself is a whole big mess of things that – a lot of stuff that happens; a lot of timing.  Again, the loss of control.  You don’t have —it has to go by how your body is reacting to treatment, so you no longer have the control over your schedule.  You’re trying to do this; I was trying to work at the same time, and having to take days off and come in late and all of that.  It was a difficult journey.  When we finally decided to go to IVF, we got pregnant on our first round.  And that was – we were thrilled.  We just thought, okay, maybe we just needed the extra help.  We were thrilled.  We told everybody in our family.  It was really just an exciting time.  And a few weeks later, I started bleeding, and we went to the doctor for an ultrasound check, and they could see a gestational sac, but no baby, so they said I was in the process of miscarrying.  We expect it will pass naturally, but we’ll do bloodwork now, and then we’ll have you repeat it in a few days just to make sure.  That was the Friday before Mother’s Day of 2017.  I still have visions – my husband had decided – because I said, finally, I get to celebrate Mother’s Day.  So he had planned things like – later on, he told me the story of – he was on the phone with Edible Arrangements saying, please, you cannot deliver this.  Like, you cannot deliver this.  So every once in a while when I need to laugh, I think of him, you know, tackling the delivery guy with fruit all over our lawn.  I think that, you know, really, laughter was really an important thing, and that was the thing that carried us through all of this.  When I went back for repeat bloodwork, they found my numbers were rising, so they had me come in for an ultrasound.  It was really at the point of, maybe you’re not naturally miscarrying, and you’re going to have to do a D&C.  So during the ultrasound, they found a heartbeat and said, okay, we were wrong.  Baby is just measuring a little bit small, and that’s what we didn’t see a few days ago.  So you’re pregnant.  You know, start back up and everything.  And that’s really stunning news to hear and just really kind of messed with us.  And so somehow we managed to go to work that day, and after work, I was meeting up with my sister.  And as I was meeting with her, I felt a gush of blood.  So I fully miscarried and ended up in the ER where they told us, yes, everything has passed; no gestational sac, nothing.  So having to relive it again in such a short time – we were talking Friday to Wednesday – was really tough, and that really took a strain on us.  That was a really low point for us in our relationship and our marriage, and I found that we were sort of pushing each other away in a lot of ways instead of trying to grieve together.  That was something that I made sure, after we had been in that for about a week or so, I really made sure of that and insisted that we start couples counseling and really work through that, because I thought, we can’t do this where we’re pushing each other away.  This isn’t going to work.  I wanted to get right back to trying again, and my husband supported me.  We had a failed IVF, and then we got pregnant with Colette.  And, you know, that was – we were so thrilled.  Oh, my God, did I have pregnancy symptoms.  We actually found out we were pregnant with her a couple days after Christmas 2017, and at Christmas, apparently my whole family knew because at one point, my sister gave me a tote bag that had a picture drawn of my dog and his name, and I started crying.  They were like, it’s not a crying thing.  Like, what is going on with you?  So I had every pregnancy symptom, and terrible morning sickness.  That is the most misused word because it’s not morning sickness.  It’s just all day sickness.  But that all meant I was still pregnant.  So we went through and we got past the first trimester and really were excited.  I was excited to tell my employees.  I was excited to tell the world, my friends, everybody.  And everybody was so excited for us, and things were going well.  We crossed the second trimester.  At 21 weeks pregnant, I went to a standard OB appointment.  Actually, that day, I felt the best I had felt during the entire pregnancy.  I had energy.  I finally was like, oh, this is what they say in the second trimester.  You have, like, this boost of energy.  I get it now.  Okay, I feel better.  And my blood pressure was 188/110.  And so I’m sent to labor and delivery, and then I was admitted to the hospital and was told, you’ll be here until you deliver.  And just to give you a frame of reference, that was the evening of May 8th, and I was not due until September 7th.  So a really long time.  And what does this mean?  I went with it, and one of the things that really started sticking to me was that when they told me that, I had a million questions in my head.  Everything from what I now realize as a parent is the stupid, minor stuff at this point.  Like, we don’t even have a car seat.  We don’t have a crib.  What are we going to do?  To, you know, the important stuff, like I supervised a team.  What we were going to – you know, how we were going to – how was I going to do that from the hospital?  I hadn’t had a plan.  There wasn’t a backup for me.  There wasn’t, you know, all of that stuff.  To, am I going to survive this?  Is my baby going to survive this?  And so really kind of struggling with all of those things.  And it’s really scary.  They come in, and they start spouting a bunch of numbers at you about survival rates and what their treatment will be once you get to this week, all of these things.  At one point, I had a doctor who said, let’s just sign it now since we know we’re going to do a C-section.  And I said, well, maybe not, and she looked at me, and she said, “We’re going to do a C-section.”  All of those things.  Everything was just pulled away.  But when I had time to settle, I really thought about, where am I blessed?  And one of the things that I really thought of was, I didn’t have to worry about money.  In all of this, that was a big thing that was just off my mind, and I knew how lucky I was to be in that position.  So I started thinking already at that point of doing something, and when I said doing something, I didn’t know what that meant at that point.  And it went on, so ultimately, I was in the hospital a little over three weeks.  When we had done an ultrasound when I was first admitted, Colette was measuring a little bit behind, and the doctors were not super scared.  They were hoping that once they regulated my blood pressure and everything, that she would catch up.  When they did a repeat ultrasound, what they found was not only had she not caught up, but she had had no growth in that three-week period.  So they came basically saying, you know, really, we think that the best thing to do is to deliver because we have more interventions we can do on the outside.  So I had an emergency C-section, and they pulled her out.  It was a lot of things that she really defied right at the beginning.  One of the things they had said to us to prepare us, and everyone had said to us a bunch of different times, is “You won’t hear her.  She’s too young to cry or make sounds.”  And after they took her out, some of the chaos was a little bit over for me, at least, and they were taking care of her.  All of a sudden, the room got quiet, and there was a little squeak.  I said, “Is that her?”  All the doctors said yes, and they said she shouldn’t be able to make that sound.  And so I thought, well, of course.  This is my badass daughter who is going to defy everything, right?  They had warned us about one of the worries of interventions was if the smallest intubation tube didn’t fit for her, then they couldn’t intubate, and then they weren’t left with very many options.  And the second to smallest fit her.  It was just all these little things happening.  She was in the NICU; straight to the NICU.  That, again, sort of is just a really chaotic time and stressful time.  I think the best advice that I got was from my mom who was herself a former preemie mom.  My sister was about eight weeks early.  She said to me, “Okay, look.  This is a roller coaster.  I mean, it’s a roller coaster.  You’re going to feel great in the morning because your baby is doing so well, and then by the evening, you’re going to feel terrible because all of a sudden something happened.  And then vice versa.  Sometimes you might ride the roller coaster up and down two or three times in a day.  You just have to hang on.”  That was really important advice that I always appreciated having because that is really what happens.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Michelle:  We settled into kind of a routine once I was released from the hospital.  So my husband would get up early, and he would go into work, and on his way into work, he would call the nurses.  Since I was recovering from a C-section, I would move a little bit slower.  So I would get up and move slowly and then get ready, and I would go over to the hospital and usually stay there most of the day.

Kristin:  That’s a lot.

Michelle:  Yes.  And then my husband would join me after work and we would spend some time with her, and then we would both go home.  And when my husband would call the nurses in the morning, he would send me a message or give me a call and say, like, oh, you know, this happened over night, or she’s stable or whatever it was.  And so on her ninth day of life, same kind of plan happened, but my husband called me, and he said, yeah, so when I called the nurses, they put the doctor on.  And I thought, oh, shit.  And he said they had to jumpstart her heart last night, and there’s some concern about how she’s doing.  And he was like, I’m going to go into work, but let me know anything.  And I basically got dressed very fast and got out the door and went to the hospital.  And I was in denial.  Like, oh, you know, we went through this.  There was another time where they called us at 3:00 a.m. and it was a whole thing, and she pulled through and she was fine.  And when I got there, the doctor said to me, yeah, hold on, let’s talk.  Again, these are kind of those words that you know in the medical system – you’re like, crap.  And he found a private room for us, and he proceeded to tell us – which was a worry we  had always had – so typically, with micro-preemies who are that small – Colette was a little over a pound when she was born – they will place them onto a certain ventilator, and that is supposed to be a temporary thing to give them time for treatments and things while they get healthier, and then after a time, they’ll switch them to a different ventilator because that first one, while it’s amazing and wonderful and helps so many micro-preemies, can also, after a little bit, start stripping the lungs.  And so they had tried to move Colette several times onto the other ventilator.  She would take it for maybe five, ten minutes, and then they would start to see numbers crash and they’d have to bring her back to the first ventilator.  So really, it was now that what we feared was they couldn’t get her onto the other ventilator, and the first one had started to strip away at her lungs, and that she was suffering.  And they just didn’t see that they could make it better.  They were going to do everything they could, but they really wanted us to be aware of what was going on.  I sat there and listened and nodded my head.  Again, total denial.  It was like, oh, they’re going to freak us out, and she’s going to pull through and she’s going to be fine.  And he said, you can stay here as long as you want, and as he turned to leave, he came back and said, do you believe in baptism?  I said, I do.  And he said, I think it’s time.  And that to me was really – so, this is really what you think is happening.  And so I called my husband, and he came and family members came.  I still was in this, like – she’s just going to pull through.  I mean, this is not what happens.  And then I started to turn when she was going – they were going into shift change, and shift change in the NICU, parents weren’t allowed in.  So I was actually in the family room with my sister-in-law, and then the nurse came in and said, Mom, you should come in.  And I was like, it’s two minutes to shift change.  So they let us stay throughout shift change.  At some point, and I don’t remember exactly when that happened – they were pretty strict about two visitors, so it was my husband and I in there.  At some point, my sister was able to come in.  And it was like, you’re bending these rules, and you’re only doing this if this is really serious.  So ultimately, we saw her numbers drop, and they said, we will keep her alive.  We’ll baptize her, and then you guys will get to hold her while she passes.  So we said goodbye in the best way possible.  We were in a family room, and so our parents, both of our sisters, and both of our brothers-in-law were able to be there.  And we all got to hold her.  We all cried together and hugged and did everything and ultimately said goodbye to her.  It’s still surreal to think that’s what happened.  It’s the most devastating time.  They come out, and I still remember somebody coming in and talking to us and saying the phrase, do you guys have a funeral home in mind?  And just thinking, no.  Both of my parents were alive.  My husband was in college when his father died.  We hadn’t planned a funeral.  We didn’t know what to do.  And you’re definitely not thinking that when you’re preparing to have a baby.  You’re not thinking about a funeral home at that point.  So it was really just – it was devestating.  It was sad.  It felt isolating.  You know, it was just one of those things – I mean, I felt so much guilt thinking it was my fault and it was my body.  But again, sort of that money thing came up.  It was – at one point, I guess I must have had a weird look on my face, and the person who had come into the room, and I don’t remember if it was a doctor, nurse, social worker or other random person – I don’t know who it was.  He said, if money is an issue, a lot of people cremate because it’s much cheaper.  And that has always – like, it hit me hard that day and it’s always stayed with me.  Why are parents having to choose something in how they memorialize their child who died over money?  And that really stuck with me.  Again, it was all those money things just coming in throughout the process.

Kristin:  Like medical bills and then you’re looking at –

Michelle:  Medical bills and cost of transportation, you know, one of the people who was in the same pod as us in the NICU who had probably a good – I’m in the Chicago area – in good Chicago traffic, had probably an hour and 15 minutes’ drive because that was the closest NICU to them, and so that expense of gas.  And this was when gas prices were good.  Now if we think about as gas prices have risen and dropped and all that, how much worse that is.  Usually at a time when one or both parents are either working less or not working.  All of those things really were folding into my mind.  So really left with thinking about it, we decided, this is what we’re going to do.  And so we established our nonprofit foundation with really trying to do financial assistance for kind of what we see as essentially three stages of Colette’s life.  High risk pregnancy or pregnancy that develops complications; NICU stay, or loss.  And in a lot of ways, this is me running it; it’s how I’m parenting Colette, and it looks very different.  It’s very different than I parent my living son, but that’s really what I think is really truly important is to be in that spot and be able to do it.  So we’ve been in operation a little over four years.  I think we’re coming up probably about a month on our anniversary from the first grant we gave.  We’ve given away over $1 million in grants.

Kristin:  That’s amazing.

Michelle:  To families across the nation.  The need is astounding to me.  I probably had the biggest vision of what this was going to look like and what the need really was, and I am constantly shocked by just how much need there is.  So yeah, that’s really what we’re doing.  Along the way, we realized how many issues the general public wasn’t aware of, so we also did some education.  And then advocacy wherever we can because really, some of these problems are so structural and so institutional that we need to really change those in order to change the course of some of our mission.

Kristin:  So how do families, if they are seeking assistance from your foundation, how do they connect with you?

Michelle:  Absolutely.  They connect on our website.  There’s a brief application that they fill out, and then we also need a verification.  That’s typically – the vast majority of times, it’s social workers who are submitting those, but it could be a case manager.  Could be we’ve had some doctors and nurses.  It could be a death certificate or other paperwork that’s from the hospital that establishes is.  But basically, just a third-party verification of it.  And once we have those, my husband and I review them every week, and we give a decision.  So basically, if your application and verification and everything is in Friday at 5:00, then we review it on Saturday, and you’d have a decision by Monday morning.  And then once you get a decision, the decision is usually, we’re going to approve you for X dollar amount, and then clients have to submit where they want to spend that, and we would pay the bills directly to the service provider.  So directly to a utility company, directly to a landlord, that kind of thing.  The only kind of, I guess, exception of sort is we do gas gift cards, and that had been our biggest request for some time, and we have actually now seen in the last couple of months that rent is actually a bigger need.  We’re actually giving away more in rent dollars than in gas gift cards.

Kristin:  That makes sense with the rising housing costs.

Michelle:  Which is also – I mean, this is all interesting to see, like, how shifts in the greater world affect families and where they’re at.  So that’s basically what happens.  It’s a very quick turnaround.  That was intentional because we know things are happening very fast, and the people need help when they need help.  And usually when they’re turning to us, things are already pretty bad on their end.  So that’s really what the process is.

Kristin:  And how do our listeners get involved or donate?

Michelle:  So donations are great.  We really – what we have built in as structure is we have a generous donor who is covering essentially all of our overhead.  So postage and website hosting and all of those things.  So donations to us go 100% to families in need.  So it just goes straight into that fund so that you know that you’re doing – you’re not paying for anything other than helping a family, and we really appreciate that.  The ability to give really is affected by what’s coming in, so we appreciate that, for sure.  In terms of getting involved, spreading the word, whether that be for families who might need help or people who might be interested in donating, I think that’s really important.  We’re a small organization.  It’s essentially very much just me.  We’re doing a lot on a national scale, and so getting out the word, sharing some things, learning about something, and then really deciding to share it is really helpful for us.

Kristin:  That is fantastic.  So you are – not only do you have the website, but you’re also on social media, so if our listeners wanted to connect with you, what channels do you prefer they find you on?

Michelle:  So we’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn.  Any of those are great ways to reach out to us if that’s your preferred method of communication.  We will respond and let you know how we can help or answer questions or anything like that.

Kristin:  Wonderful.  Any final tips for our listeners navigating loss, Michelle?

Michelle:  Yeah.  I think, you know, feel what you want to feel.  Grief – you know, I think we have this notion that grief ends at some point, and it doesn’t.  You know, grief is reactivated over and over again.  And we have – we just came off things like school pictures, right?  The first day of school pictures, which are really popular to post on social media nowadays.  But they’re really triggering for loss parents because if they’re seeing somebody who’s the same age as the child they lost would have been, that’s really triggering.  That’s really difficult.  And so sometimes there’s a lot of grief over that.  You know, we’re coming up on Halloween; that can be really tricky.  The holidays can be really tricky.  And then there’s just the random Tuesday where out of the blue it kind of hits you and overwhelms you.  And all of those things together – it’s a lifelong struggle, and it’s working through it.  I am a big proponent of therapy, so I’d say individual therapy, couples therapy if you can do it, because there’s still conflict and there’s still issues to work through and to just make sure you’re communicating about how all those things are affecting you.  And then I always recommend finding sort of your village, your people, because I have found, and I have a couple of really good, close loss friends who are also parenting after loss, and it’s really nice because all the thoughts you have, all the actions you take that you know are really resulting from grief – it’s nice to be in a space where you can just reach out to other people and say, this is the thought I’m having.  And you’re getting the, “Yep, I get that.  Uh-huh.  I felt that way, too.”  And you’re not feeling like you’re alone.  And so I think those are the things I can really say, you know.  These are tragedies that honestly will bring out the true nature of other people in your lives, and there are people that are not going to be supportive, and it’s really devestating when that happens.  You have to make decisions as to whether or not those people should remain in your life.  And if they are, how you’re going to interact and deal with them.  That’s really hard, and I think – so that’s why I really say having your village is nice because you can sort of bounce things off and say, you know, I have this one friend who is saying X to me, and we can kind of talk through that and say, what does that mean, what does that look like, how are you going to deal with that.  So I think that’s my best tip.  For parenting after loss – parenting after loss is tough, you know?  There are things that I do and ways that I react – I go in the worst what-if scenario in just about every case.  If he starts with a cold, I’m starting to worry about, oh, my God, what if it turns into pneumonia or COVID or anything like that, and that’s really just because my experiences in my life have led me to this feeling of, like, we are going to experience the worst case scenario.  And luckily, I have a very healthy, very active toddler who is always happy, so that helps a lot.  But still, it’s hard, you know?  It’s just all of those things.  Right now, he’s not really talking yet.  He’s in speech.  And you can look up things, and I have gone to everything from, oh, my God, he’s deaf – which makes no sense, and we’ve tested him now to – you know, just all the extremes that I’ve gone to, when all the experts are telling me, especially COVID babies, are a lot of the time being very delayed because they didn’t have the same social interaction with other kids that they would have and other adults.  And so it all makes sense to me logically; it’s just those feelings, those pit of the stomach feelings that you have, and I think not only is it okay, it’s just how it’s going to be, and so I think, you know, really the individual therapy helps to make sure that you are not over-worrying and, you know, doing things that are really harmful to you and harmful to your child, but also that you are still following your instincts and doing that, and it’s hard.  Parenting is tough.  We all know that.  And trusting your instinct is a good thing.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell when it’s just my mom instinct kicking in or the feeling, or if it’s coming from loss.  And because I never parented without the loss, I don’t know.  You know?  I don’t know which one it is.  And that is really difficult to navigate and to figure out.

Kristin:  Thank you for sharing those tips and your story.  It will help so many listeners, and especially the work you’re doing with the foundation.

Michelle:  Thank you.

Kristin:  It was a pleasure chatting with you, and we’ll be in touch soon.

Michelle:  All right.  Sounds great.  Thank you so much for having me.

Kristin:  Thanks, Michelle.

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.