January 2024

Kristin sitting in white jacket in front of colorful geometric background

Childbirth Prep When You Don’t Want to Take a Class: Podcast Episode #222

Kristin Revere offers tips on ways to plan and prep for childbirth if you don’t have the time or funds to take a childbirth education class.  Some ideas include: YouTube videos, listening to podcasts, reading books or blogs, downloading meditation or pregnancy apps, Pinterest, and more.    

Hello, hello!   This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am excited to share a solo episode today, all about childbirth prep when you don’t want to take a class or don’t have time to take a class.  So before we dive into that, I would love to give those you who don’t personally know me a bit about my background.

I have been teaching childbirth classes since right after my son was born in 2012 and became a doula shortly after that.  I am a certified elite birth doula as well as a certified elite postpartum doula and infant care specialist.  I am a newborn care specialist trained through Newborn Care Solutions, and I’m also a transformational birth coach through Birth Coach Method.  I love educating my clients and my students.  I teach a virtual as well as in person Comfort Measures for Labor class.  But not all of my doula clients have the time or extra funds or interest in taking a childbirth prep class.   So I wanted to chare some resources that I give my clients with those of you who are in a similar position.

My number one tip is to look into books.  There are so many great books on everything from feeding your baby to newborn care to childbirth preparation.  We offer HypnoBirthing at Gold Coast Doulas, and there is an amazing HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method by Maria Mongan that you can certainly either check out from the library or get a printed copy from a bookstore, or even get an audio book for many of the books I’ll be recommending, depending on if they’re in that format.

Natural Hospital Birth; Ina May Gaskin has a variety of books.  You can look into spending some time reading and even having your partner read.  The Birth Partner is an example of an excellent book to read with your partner.

We have a book coming out, but it won’t be available until later this year, so stay tuned for more info on that!

Podcasts are excellent.  Of course, I love our own Ask the Doulas Podcast, where we interview experts in the birth and baby space, our own doulas, our own clients, and our own HypnoBirthing students.  You can get birth stories in past episodes and stories from students of our HypnoBirthing course and other classes that we teach.  If that is inspiring to you, The Birth Hour is great with birth stories, and you can look into Evidence-Based Birth.  They have a podcast.  There are just so many great ones.  So choose one that works for your schedule.

YouTube is also amazing.  You can learn everything from a hip squeeze to paced bottle feeding to information about how to use a baby carrier and info about all the baby gear questions you have.  You can pretty much learn anything on YouTube.  Gold Coast has an awesome YouTube channel, so check that out.

You can also look at articles and read anything from blogs to subscribing to a parenting magazine or just read articles in a bookstore related to parenting.

There are so many different ways that you can get information that can be free, from online articles, or certainly paid.  And Gold Coast has a blog on our website that has everything from expert guests who contribute blogs; we have each of our podcasts transcribed into blog posts, to our own blogs that we write.

You can look into documentaries related to childbirth.  One of my favorite streaming sites is Informed Pregnancy+.  They have everything from The Business of Being Born to information about different feeding options and loss and maternal mortality rates.  Definitely check out some documentaries related to issues that you want to become more educated on.

Another option is Pinterest.  Pinterest can be great for planning a baby shower, setting up your nursery, figuring out what to pack in your hospital bag, coming up with a birth plan.  Those are some things that a childbirth class might cover, like birth plans and packing your bag, some of that postnatal preparation, information about breastfeeding and resources.  Gold Coast has an amazing Pinterest page with a lot of awesome resources for you to check out.  I often send my clients some of that information, as well.

Another thing that you can do: it may have a fee with it, or some of these apps are free, but you can download anything from a contraction timer app that you would be able to figure out when it’s time to go to the hospital based on the frequency of your contractions.  I don’t have a favorite, but any contraction timer, I would recommend and use.  Looking at apps like Expectful could be a great one, or even looking into some guided meditation related apps to doing things similar to what you’d learn in Gentle Birth.  I know they have an app, or in HypnoBirthing, with some of that calm breathing and guided meditations.  That can be very helpful because, as I say, and I feel like I can’t say it enough, birth is as mental as it is physical.  It is helpful to prepare in many ways, and also get your partner on board.  You can send your partner articles or have your partner listen to a podcast about how partners can be supportive with newborn care, or the partner role during birth and so on.

Again, so many different options.  Sometimes that childbirth class comes at a time where your due date is too soon and the class is offered weeks before and so it doesn’t work out.  I know at Gold Coast, we offer some self-paced classes, like our Becoming a Mother birth and baby prep course, as well as some different options for just thinking about a private class or something that doesn’t have to be as planned.  It could be an individual class if having a group is intimidating to you.

Depending on where you live and what options you have in your area, you might have more childbirth ed examples and options than you previously thought.

Again, it’s all about knowing your options.  If you don’t know them, then you don’t have any.  So just a few of my top of mind tips, and I hope that can be helpful.  I would love to hear from any of my listeners and doula clients about things that you’ve done that I may not have mentioned as far as prepping for your upcoming birth.



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Childbirth Prep When You Don’t Want to Take a Class: Podcast Episode #222 Read More »

Endira Davis is a postpartum doula and newborn care specialist with Gold Coast Doulas.

Caring for Newborns with Endira Davis: Podcast Episode #221

Kristin Revere chats with Endira Davis of Gold Coast Doulas about everything from infant swaddling to feeding in this fun episode on newborn care.  They also discuss caring for twins and NICU babies. 

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with one of our own doulas, Endira Davis, today.  Welcome, Endira!

Hi!  I’m so glad to be here.  Thank you for having me!

I am excited to chat about caring for newborns.  You are one of our amazing elite certified postpartum doulas and infant care specialists, so you work with families through the first year at Gold Coast, but oftentimes we do get hired right after families are bringing their baby home from the hospital – or they’ve delivered at home – while they’re in those first few months, where they especially may have questions for postpartum doulas about caring for baby. 

So, Endira, let’s get into a bit about your background and why you chose to work with newborns.  You, of course, are a postpartum doula.  You’re also a nanny, and you work for a local nonprofit that supports families with volunteers helping out in the home, MomsBloom.  We actually had Carrie from MomsBloom on Ask the Doulas about a year ago.

Awesome!  Yeah, so my background – I have kind of a mix of everything.  I worked in early childhood, and I worked in more of a clinical role with midwives and OB-GYNs, and I couldn’t figure out how to mesh the two together in a way that felt like I was honoring my desires and what my journey was in work, but also offering something that’s really necessary.  And so I found doula work was like, oh, wow, I can start this journey from the beginning and kind of lean into in a way that starts the process with heart and a great foundation.  Newborns are so fun, too, and being able to create that connection with families and a process that can be really difficult and isolating has been such an honor and something I hold really close to my heart.

And newborns can be intimidating for first time parents.


It is helpful to have an expert in their home to learn everything from swaddling techniques to support with any type of feeding to some basics on creating a safe and comfortable nursery.

Absolutely.  I think people see little babies and they immediately think, oh, they’re so fragile.  They’re so vulnerable.  We have to be very, very careful.  And I think that is true to a certain point.  They are fragile, and they are vulnerable, and we do have to take care of them, but also, they’re humans, and we can handle them with a sense of fragility but also, like, it’s okay.  They’re trying to figure it out, and we’re trying to figure it out, as well.  That can kind of alleviate some of the anxiety in conversation of being like, yeah, we’re just figuring this out together.  We’ve never done this before.  Let’s give ourselves some grace.

Yes, that is what it’s all about.  And certainly even those baby sounds and trying to communicate and understand what your baby needs, having a doula there, even as a reassurance during sleeping – I mean, some parents wake to every single noise the baby makes, but it’s normal for babies to grunt or make noise and self-soothe versus needing that constant touch and pick-up from the bassinet.

Yes.  Active sleep is a huge thing, and many people don’t know about it, so they are keeping themselves awake to kind of soothe a baby that is actually sleeping, but just going through the normal process of a baby who sleeps.  So being able to educate on that and then finding ways to support you so that you can sleep while your baby is doing their normal development sleeping as well.

Exactly.  And feeding is obviously a big topic, as postpartum doulas, so what are your clients asking you for support with?  Is it more breastfeeding, or do they have questions about their pump or bottles to purchase for that transition or storing pumped milk?  What questions do you get with your clients in a typical shift?

So it’s all across the board.  Every client is different, and every parent decides to feed their baby in different ways.  I would say probably the biggest thing is, am I doing this right?  Does the baby seem okay?  But I think that for the most part, it’s just watching me do things and kind of giving that extra push of like, yeah, this is – you’ve got a great thing going on.  That can be like, how do we assemble this pump?  What recommendations do you have for pumps, because this one doesn’t feel like I’m getting enough milk.  Or how can we get you more water so that your milk can increase?  Or what does your diet look like?  Bottles, if baby’s having gas or baby is colicky.  Okay, this is a bottle that I really recommend for that.  Paced feeding.

That’s a big one.

It’s a huge one, and I think there’s a lot of transitions of, like, a lot of different things work, and a lot of thing don’t work.  And so we give it an amount of time to be like, hey, is this the one for us, or is it not?  And it’s okay if it’s not, because there’s so many incredible products that we can trial and find something that works really well for you and your baby.

Exactly.  And baby gear – I’m sure you get questions about assembly, especially some of those new swaddles or even some of the bassinets.

Yes.  There are so many products.  It can actually be really overwhelming.  I have my go-to favorites, and sometimes I’m being educated by the parents.  It’s like, oh, this is a new thing that I found, and then I go home and I do my research on it, and we talk about it.  But there are so many things always coming out, and I always look for a quick YouTube video and we watch it together if I don’t know how to do it properly.  But really just learning together and leaning in with curiosity, finding baby-wearers that work really well for your body and for your baby, and finding a bassinet that can come up to your bed, if that’s what you desire, or finding a car seat that is able for you to lift well.  Things like that can be an overwhelming process, but there’s so many good things, and we’ve done a lot of research, and so we’re able to encourage you to buy things or help you decide what kind of thing you want.

I’ll never forget my first postpartum doula training.  The trainer did mention that if you can’t figure out an appliance for your client, if you need to figure out a gadget, go to YouTube.  There’s a video for everything.  Again, babywearing, as you mentioned.  You can figure it out with your client.  You don’t need to have all the answers because things change constantly, especially with technology.

Absolutely.  I will never forget when I first started nannying.  I was in the parking lot of the zoo, and I couldn’t figure out how to close the stroller.  And so I’ve got a baby that I’m holding, and I’m watching a YouTube video, and I’m trying to figure out how to close this stroller.  And years later, I was at a client last week, and we are setting her up with her baby wearer, and it’s her first time wearing this baby, and it’s such a surreal moment of, hey, I knew how to do this, and I can pass this knowledge on to you now, and you can have this really special, intimate moment with your baby.  And we don’t have to look at YouTube.  So it was a full jump ahead of learning and all the growth that comes with this work as we meet new people.

Exactly.  And we have a big team of postpartum doulas and newborn care specialists, and we’re able to – we have a messaging platform that we work with, so if a doula is not familiar with, say, the Snoo or another product, I’ve seen questions fly when they’re with a client trying to figure out a product, and our team is able to give each other advice, as well.

I think the continuity that Gold Coast has created within the doulas and the team – we’re able to really all stay on the same page and provide a level of service and care where, even if you’re not within that client, you are able to know kind of what’s going on and how we can potentially relate it to someone else and be able to support with things because you never know what’s going to pop up.  So if you’ve heard somebody else’s experience, you’re able to kind of take what you need and bring it to the next.  So that’s really helpful within the communication platform.

Exactly.  As postpartum doulas, we’re a bit different than a newborn care specialist, who’s focused on the needs of the baby and, of course, supports feeding and does a lot of overnight work which postpartum doulas do, as well.  But as postpartum doulas, what would you say the main difference is in the care that you provide?

I would say it’s caring for the parents through caring for the baby.  That would be the biggest highlight, and that can look like a number of different things.  We have clients who we don’t hold their babies at all, and we offer sibling care, and we wash bottles, and we set them up for when we go home.  And then we have other clients who we go in, and we hold the baby and they take a nap and they shower and they reset themselves to be able to feel like the human that can sometimes be lost in the early days of exhaustion and the realities of having a new baby in your family.

And one of the questions that I get asked the most when it comes to postpartum doula support is what happens if I breastfeed my baby, and how is the doula involved?  And how does that overnight work make sense for me?  The biggest part of that is we do support feeding.  We can bring baby to the parents, or we can have the mother come in to the nursery and feed and we can give suggestions.  But it does optimize their sleep, I would say.  You don’t have to do the diaper changes.  Your partner is not having to wake up and take different shifts as they’re returning back to work.  And the sleep shaping that parents do, the burping – all of that does help.  I mean, you’re still waking to feed if you’re breastfeeding or even pumping throughout the night, but it’s a different – you’re sleeping more, and your baby is also getting into some patterns and routines that are very helpful.

Yes.  Bringing in a baby to feed in the night and still being that go-to person, where you are awake and you are conscious and you are fully aware of everything that’s going on for safety – but also, the person who’s feeding is able to really just kind of be in a state of relaxation, and no, they don’t have to get out of bed.  We can bring the baby right to you and then go do the poopy diaper that’s definitely going to follow and the burping and the reswaddling and all those things.  And you’re really able to just stay in that moment of hibernation and relaxation and be taken care of.  And I think that’s so necessary and healing.  Our brains want to be productive and go-go-go.  We see dishes in the sink and diaper changes that need to be done and diapers on the floor that need to be done, and just being able to exist and be cared for is so necessary for healing and bonding and preservation of your family unit.

And you did mention sibling care.  Sometimes clients will want that time for the doula to care for the newborn and then they spend time with the other kids.  As you mentioned before, sometimes the doula is getting snacks for the other kids, and the parent wants that one on one time with baby.  Having some entertainment, some help with the household tasks and the other children can be very helpful.

That’s a huge thing.  I always set up my days when I come in.  I go in and immediately wash my hands, because that’s the number one thing you do.  But then we just have a conversation.  What are your goals for today?  How have the last couple of days been?  And that can kind of set the standard of what the time that we’re together will look like.  If the past couple of days have been difficult and siblings are needing a little extra support, that’s definitely going to be a time where mom or dad is like, hey, I need you to tap in with the baby, and we are going to go spend some one on one time.  And if it’s the opposite, then we get out a craft, and we do crafts and snack and dance parties while mom or dad goes and snuggles with baby.  It really is just a matter of the day, what have been the hours leading up to this, and how can we support you in this moment.

And there’s just so much to that after baby, postnatal time where sometimes in my time as a postpartum doula, clients would just want a friend and someone to talk to and spend time with.  If the partner goes back to work immediately, there were times where I felt like I needed to keep myself busy and do different tasks, but really, when it came down to it, I learned that my client just wanted my presence and to talk through things and to have reassurance about their role as a new parent.  And I didn’t have to do a list of tasks at each visit.  And of course, each family and each day can be very different, as you mentioned before.

Yeah.  This can be really exciting as you get into doula work to know that there’s a lot of variety in the care that we offer.  It can also be really difficult for doulas to go into a shift and have there be no requirement and they just want to hang out because you feel like, wait, I’m here to support you.  How is this supporting you?  And so I think really recognizing and capping on the fact that support is what support feels like.  So if you have a parent who wants to do the bottles and wants you to talk to them about whatever while they do that, then that’s the support and the care that they need.  And if that’s watching a movie together while folding new baby clothes, or even just sitting and watching a movie together and having that companionship and letting them know, you’re not alone.  You’re supported.  If anything happens, we can tag team it together – really just knowing that that is something we can do.  We are there to support you, and support is what support feels like.

And with a lot of our families working from home and having Zooms, I found for a while there that clients hire me so they could get onto work Zooms and focus strictly on the newborn care during a short daytime shift while they needed to concentrate, to get dressed up.  That can also be a difference in our work, and again, the remote working.  A partner may never go to the office now with the changes after the pandemic, so there is a need to have someone in the home, even though two parents may be there the entire time.

Yeah, that one is huge.  And the variety of what we’re able to offer, of like, hey, we can come for three hours, and that may be that you want to hop on the Peloton and you want to take a shower and you want to watch your favorite episode.  Or we’re there for eight-plus hours, and you have a work shift and you need to put away a grocery order.  All these different things; it can vary, based on what the need is.

Exactly.  Endira, what are your favorite tips for caring for newborns?

I would say – oh, that one’s tricky.

Yeah, it can be different for everyone, but generally, in your experience, what are your top tips that you share with families?

I would say just get to know them.  They’re new humans, and it’s such an odd way to think about it, but they’re new, and they’re new to the family and they’re new to earth and they’re new to breathing, and trying to get to know them is really important, and figuring out what they need and how you can better connect.  Sometimes that just means you’re holding them and you’re just looking at them and you’re talking to them.  Just creating that bonding and that connection that will not only release all the hormones that our bodies want and need, but also just create this level of connection and intimacy with your new baby that is so important in the development of both your parenthood journey and them joining your family.

That’s beautiful.  Such a great tip.  And I would say, yeah, just noticing your own emotions would be my tip.  Baby can sense if you’re stressed, and if you’re doing skin to skin with baby, the baby can pick up on that, and the baby gets cranky.  So as you said, get to know your baby, but also take a minute for yourself and breathe and relax because they can sense your stress, and then they feel stressed and start getting a bit cranky and cry.  The more calm a parent is, the calmer the baby can often be, unless there are some medical issues going on.

Yeah, absolutely.  Recognizing, I think, probably in reflection, the biggest tip I would actually have, also, is it takes a village, and we often hear that saying, and it’s quite cliché, but it is necessary.  It does take a village.  It takes a community.  It takes togetherness and connection and being able to build that and see it flow in.  People want to support you.  People want to love on you.  Creating those boundaries in that, but really allowing yourself to be taken care of is the biggest thing in healing and growth.  Having a good experience in something that can be hard.

Exactly.  There is this perception that you have to be wonder woman and do it all and that asking for help in our society is a sign of weakness.  But it’s honestly not, and we need each other.  In many countries and traditional communities, the village takes care of the mother and the newborn, and they don’t lift a finger.  In Malaysian culture, there are so many different traditions that still exist where the mother is mothered for 30 to 40 days. 

Yeah.  Changing the narrative is really the work.  Changing the narrative so that we know, and people who need support know that they can ask for it.  We may not be able to meet the exact need, but we can find and network and create a way to get the needs met.

In between postpartum doulas and organizations like MomsBloom who offer families support, and certainly just asking for help instead of feeling like you need to do it all.  Look into your budget and find options, whether it’s meal delivery service or a housekeeper, someone to help out, paid or unpaid.


So Endira, you work with twins, and we also work with triplets at Gold Coast.  What are your tips for managing more than one newborn?

I would say finding the things that work for each baby and really leaning into those.  So each baby is – you can think that they’re duplicates of each other, but they’re very much not.  They have different needs, and they may want to feed in different positions, and they may like different bouncers.  Really allowing yourself to get rid of the idea that everything’s got to be matching and the same and really lean into the individuality of the babies, because it will allow you to have an easier transition into the fact that there are two.  And I would say another thing would be trying to keep the schedule, but also not too close that you feel over-capacity when you’re trying to feed.  So if feeding two babies at once is too much, that’s okay, but let’s try to get it to be in a way that they’re both being fed at a close time so that you do have that break in between and you are able to reset before it’s time for another feed.

Excellent advice.  And any tips with NICU babies?  I feel like having a NICU baby myself, they can be so intimidating.

Absolutely.  NICU babies are so intimidating.  You’re filled with anxiety.  You’re trying to recover from the fact that you just had this whole experience in the NICU, and now this baby is at home.  I would say the biggest thing would be, obviously, keeping germs at bay as much as you can, so washing hands.  And finding things that make you feel supported and safe, so finding a swaddle that feels really good, or finding a baby monitor that you feel really secure with, or having the bottles.  Really ensure that you are handling this with fragility but you are also encouraging the baby to figure things out as it develops and gets older.

And sometimes you need to chart things and make sure baby is gaining weight.  There is more organization that’s needed and structure with a NICU baby, oftentimes.

Yeah, keeping track of things.  And I would say that goes back to multiples, as well.  Get a little whiteboard, and track everything, because it can be so easy to forget these things.  When did Baby A eat last?  Baby B is seeming like – just track everything.  Write it down.  Don’t pressure your brain to remember everything because it’s just too much.  A little whiteboard with a little marker will do the trick perfectly.

Yes, and I know some of our clients use different apps to log baby feedings.  We also keep a written log, so doulas coming in are on the same page, as well as our communication platform, to understand how a day or night went with baby and anything that should be noted from a pediatrician appointment and so on.

Yes, yes.  Making sure everyone’s aware of what’s happening and on the same page is really important to make sure that things all flow smoothly.

And I feel like even if families aren’t using a postpartum doula, you may have grandparents caring for baby.  You may have a part time nanny.  Again, just having some way that all caregivers are on the same page and also understand your goals.

Yes, that’s really important.  Understanding the goals and being on the same page – I like to highlight that.  We can’t be there for every moment, which is the reality.  We can’t be there for every moment.  At least insuring that the people who are caring know what our desires are, so those can be followed through on.

Yes.  And grandparents may be used to – I know with having a big family myself, my siblings had different ways to parenting and feeding their kids, so as grandparents trying to help out, it can be completely different from family to family, and certainly when they had kids.  I mean, everything is different, from feeding to sleep to car seat safety.  There’s a lot to learn for new grandparents or even just different family goals or having one child that has twins and another has a baby that has no restrictions and doesn’t need a log and is less complicated to deal with.

I would say also with having other people care for our babies and care for us, that’s when the education for them is really important.  So, like a grandparent class or a video that you’re sending that’s educating them on the ways that, if you’re doing baby led weaning or you are doing paced feeding, having them be able to be educated so that there is no room for pushback.  It’s like, hey, this is what we’re doing.  This is the evidence on our choices, and this is – any more information you want to know, this is how you can find it.  But this is the track that we are choosing for our family, and we invite you to come along, but I’m not going to be the one that has to do all the education.  I’m going to leave it with you to be curious and figure it out.  Because that can be difficult at times.  Everyone has a different philosophy on things.  And when we have a new baby, it can really exhausting to feel like we have to do all the education or set all the boundaries.  Finding ways to do that is really important.  I always encourage people to use the resources available for other people to be educated as opposed to you having to be the primary educator.

Yes.  And as you mentioned a grandparents class – Gold Coast offers an in person and virtual option.  We find that more of our clients gift their parents the class than grandparents actually seeking the class out and registering themselves.  It is a lovely way to get them up to date on overall newborn care and the differences and understanding how to support, with the changing times today and again, all of the different swaddles and safety and feeding changes in caring for a baby.

We are ever changing, and that be really exciting, and it can also be very exhausting.

Yes, for sure.  So how can our listeners learn more about you?

Well, if I’m your postpartum doula, that’s one way.  Another way is on socials or just interacting in the community.  I am always in the community, and I’m always doing things.  Just being able to connect in those ways.  MomsBloom is a great way to connect with me, as well.  Gold Coast; I’m on our website, so you’re able to see me there and we can set up interviews if you need a postpartum doula.  Those are the main things.  And I think the biggest thing for everybody would be community connections because we have a really cool community, and there’s always ways to connect with each other.

Exactly, and for our listeners who are local to West Michigan, you’re certainly out in the community at tables representing Gold Coast Doulas and MomsBloom.  There’s a baby expo coming up in the spring, so excited for the in-person connections that are opening up.  But yes, you have a fantastic bio at Gold Coast Doulas’ website.  Our listeners can certainly work with you if they’re local.  Otherwise, we do have, as I mentioned, the grandparents class on our website.  We have a newborn survival class led by Alyssa Veneklase that is self-paced and comes with a free call to answer questions after the class is completed by parents.  So no matter where you live, you’re able to take that class.  We also have our birth and baby prep course that covers a lot of newborn care, as well.  That is called Becoming A Mother.  So check out some other options if you’re not able to work with Endira directly.

Thanks so much for sharing all of your wisdom, Endira!  It was so lovely to chat with you today.

Absolutely.  Thank you for having me.  It was such a pleasure to be able to have conversation and reach a larger platform than just the people we connect with day to day.


Endira Davis

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Grandparent classes from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother course

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Alison Prato is the founder of Infertile AF and author of Work of ART.

Infertility Support with Alison Prato: Podcast Episode #220

Kristin Revere chats with Alison Prato, Infertile AF Founder and author of “Work of ART,” a children’s book about IVF and ART.

Hello, hello.  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Alison Prato today.  Alison wears so many hats, but she is the Infertile AF group founder.  She’s a podcaster.  She’s a new author, and she is a reproductive organizer.  Welcome, Alison!

Hi!  Thank you so much for having me.  It’s great to talk to you.

Yeah.  We’re both Hey Mama members, so I tend to see a bit about your rally and some of the work that you’re doing in the fertility space, and I’ve been so impressed.

Oh, my gosh, thank you so much.  Yeah, Hey Mama has been such a great way to connect with so many women doing incredible things.  So I’m happy to be here.

Totally agree.  So let’s get into a bit about your background and what led you to making a career of your personal journey.

It’s so funny because I never would have imagined 20 years ago or more that I would be in this fertility space, but it kind of does make sense.  I have a journalism background.  I got a journalism degree from the University of Illinois in Chicago, and I started right away working in magazines when I graduated from college.  I always wanted to tell people stories.  My favorite thing to do was to write profiles about people.  I ended up, over the course of the two decades that I was in magazines, I did a lot of celebrity cover stories for magazines, a lot of features just about getting with a group of people and kind of talking about what they did all day.  A lot of college stories, a lot of music stories.  I’ve just always been fascinated with people who have big personalities who are doing interesting things, and that was kind of my career path for 20 years.  I started working for Playboy Magazine.  That was my first job out of college.  It was awesome.  I worked there for ten years as an editor, and I was their music editor.  And that was a really great background because the whole cliché that everyone says they read it for the articles, Playboy – they really did have great articles, so I grew up kind of around all these really great journalists and writers, and they kind of taught me how to do my thing and helped shape me into the storyteller that I am now.

Anyway, I did magazines for a while, moved to New York, bounced around a lot, worked for everybody from Rolling Stone to Harper’s Bazaar to Teen Vogue, and while I was doing that, my husband and I are high school sweethearts, and we had gotten married in 2002.  It’s kind of nerdy, but we always say we did go to two different colleges and we dated other people in college, so it’s not that quirky, but when we moved to New York, all of our friends back in Chicago where we had originally been from were starting to build their families and have kids and stuff, and we were like – we were just turning 30 at the time, and we were both like, we can’t have kids right now.  We’re moving to a whole new city.  We have to start from scratch.  We don’t have really a lot of friends.  We don’t even know how to ride the subway, so we’re not ready to have our kids.

And this is all leading to kind of our fertility journey because I did put it off for a while, having kids.  And I say this all the time now: I didn’t know much about my fertility.  I didn’t realize that at the age of 35, things kind of start going downhill in terms of being able to have kids more easily.  I was looking at Hollywood and being like, well, Halle Berry just had a baby at 46.  Janet Jackson, 50.  Not knowing behind the scenes what might have been going on.  I’m not going to speculate.  They never really, either of them, came out and told their stories about how they actually had their kids.  But point being, I just thought that you could have a baby whenever you wanted.  And I honestly thought that.

So we did start to try when we were in our mid-30s.  I did get pregnant, and we had my daughter when I was 34.  Then second kid – we always talked about having one, but we didn’t start to try for the second kid for two or three years, and that’s when I started down the infertility journey, which I never thought I would be in.  At that point, I was having a lot of problems not getting pregnant, but staying pregnant.  I had four miscarriages after I had my daughter, trying to have our second kid.  And that’s when I found myself in this world of infertility and being like, what’s going on?  Tell me if you want me to stop because I feel like I’m just droning on and on.

Oh, no, I am loving all of it.  And I feel that secondary infertility is not discussed enough.

It’s not.

There’s a lot of focus on that first conception, but as you mentioned, you delayed a couple years.  You started later in life.  I also – we have many parallels.  I started later in life, as well.  I had my kids at 36 and 38.  I didn’t have fertility struggles, but I delayed having kids for multiple reasons, career being one of them, and I also have a journalism degree. 

We are living parallel lives.


So, yeah, after I had my first miscarriage, I kind of felt like – I have so many friends who’ve had miscarriages, unfortunately, and it’s always very sad and devastating, but to be honest, I was like, okay, this seems pretty common.  It’s maybe kind of like a rite of passage, I guess, if you’re trying to have a baby.  I didn’t think too much about it.  But then once I had the fourth one, I was like, okay, something’s wrong.

So we did end up going to a reproductive endocrinologist who ended up being the doctor that we worked with, this amazing doctor, Joshua Klein, who now works for Extend Fertility in New York.  He’s awesome, and I got very lucky because it was just kind of – a friend had recommended RMA, where he worked at the time, and I ended up with him, and he was just great.  So basically, he did the workup on me and realized that it was age related.  It was that I had a healthy egg reserve, because now I was about 37, 38.  I had a healthy egg reserve, but the reason that I was having miscarriages was because the unhealthy eggs were meeting with the sperm, so they weren’t healthy embryos.  So he basically said to me, in laymen’s terms, your body is doing the right thing.  It’s getting rid of pregnancies that aren’t going to be healthy.  But that doesn’t make it any easier, obviously.  So he said, you’re the perfect candidate for IVF.  If we can find the healthy eggs and then put those with the sperm, then we should be good because we know that you can get pregnant.  It’s just a matter of having a healthy embryo when you do get pregnant.

So that was the way that it was explained to me.  I never even heard the term secondary infertility until later, which is kind of wild, because I feel like it’s so much more out there now.  But it was really, really hard.  Those four losses, and between my daughter and my son, I got so depressed.  I’ve been really open about relationship problems.  My husband and I were kind of not on the same page after a while.  He’s like, why are we doing this to ourselves?  And I totally understand his side of the story in retrospect, but at the time, I was like, you don’t understand.  I’m going to die if I don’t have a second child.  I just felt like our family wasn’t complete, and it was so devastating to me that I just couldn’t have this second baby.

And yeah, you mentioned secondary infertility.  The thing about it that’s so unique and kind of hard to explain is that you kind of get sometimes some pushback from people.  Like, oh, that’s not a thing, or that’s not as hard as not having a baby at all.  You already have one.  You should be happy with what you have.  And they kind of make you feel guilty for wanting another one.  Not everybody, but some people.

Yeah, I get that.  I led some fertility support groups during the pandemic, and some of the participants had expressed exactly that.  Some of that shame, almost.

Yeah, shame or you’re being greedy.  And what I always tried to explain was that I’m not being greedy.  I just love being a mom so much.  My daughter was everything to me, and I just wanted to do it again.  I wanted to be a mom even more, if that makes any sense.  It was coming from a place of love, not a place of greed.  And it’s kind of hard to explain, I guess, if you haven’t been in that position.  We always talk about in Fertility Rally, which is the community that I co-founded four years ago – we always talk about, it’s not the pain olympics.  Everybody’s got a different story, and when women kind of try to compare or say, oh, you haven’t been through as much as me or that’s not as hard as what I’m going through, I feel like we’re really doing ourselves a disservice and doing each other a disservice.  So I try not to compare pain.  I feel like with infertility in particular, a loss is a loss.  The loss of having a retrieval that didn’t go well and you didn’t get what you wanted, or having a failed transfer or an embryo that doesn’t fall correctly and you aren’t able to use it anymore or an early gestational miscarriage, a chemical pregnancy – all these things are losses, and at the end of the day, it’s all the loss of a dream.  It’s all the loss of how you thought your life was going to be, and it’s all hard.

It really is.  I love that you have the rally as a safe space and an education option for just the general public.  You’ve gotten a lot of publicity, and you’re getting the word out so people who aren’t even considering having kids are getting exposed to things that we might not have during our own pregnancies.

Well, thank you for mentioning it.  I’ll tell you a little bit more about it in a second, but I will say, the whole thing for me was when I was going through all the miscarriages and the infertility and then we ended up doing IVF, which again, I didn’t really know anything about, and I say this feeling so embarrassed on my own behalf that I thought IVF was for people that wanted multiple babies.  I didn’t realize – I had no idea what it was.  I was so completely clueless, and I feel like such an idiot even saying that.  But when it was proposed to me, I was like, wait, IVF?  What?  Like octo-mom?  That was a thing at the time.  I don’t know if you remember that.

Right.  Oh, I totally remember that.  Unless you had family or friend that went through the IVF process, how would you know?

Absolutely.  And turns out I did have some friends that went through it, but nobody was really talking about it at the time.  I remember going to the book store and looking for books about IVF and miscarriage, and there was really, like, a handful, and that was it.  And I was like, what?  Where are all the books?  Why is no one talking about this?  And that’s why eventually after I had gone through IVF and had my son, thankfully, we did one round and that was kind of our Hail Mary round because we were like, it had been years.  We were – our marriage was kind of crumbling.  We were like, this is – we didn’t have enough money.  We had to borrow money from my parents and my husband’s parents to do the IVF because it was all out of pocket, and if people don’t know, it’s $20,000 or $30,000 per round, depending.

It’s very costly, and if you’re not a celebrity, how can you afford it?

Yeah.  Some people have insurance, thankfully, that do cover it, but we didn’t.  So we did do the one round.  I got so incredibly lucky.  I only had one healthy embryo to transfer.  We had five that were tested.  Four were chromosomally abnormal.  One was healthy, and that ended up being my son.  So it was absolutely a miracle, if you ask me.  The odds were pretty low that it was going to work out, but it did.  He just turned eight.  My daughter is 14 now.  But point being, when I was going through, I really just didn’t have resources.  I didn’t have a group.  I didn’t have – Facebook was kind of a thing, but I had poked around on there, and I couldn’t really find my people.  There weren’t really any podcasts that were really talking about that.  So that’s why I did start Infertile AF, which is my podcast, where every week, we tell different family building stories.  I started with – episode 1 is me telling my story.  Episode 100, I went to my husband, and we had some drinks, and I interviewed him about his side of the story because even though we were in it together, he had a totally different version of what he was going through, which is kind of interesting.

I love that.  I’ll have to check that one out.

Yeah, it’s good.  So we started that in 2019, and this week, the 254th episode will come out.  So it’s been every week.  I interview everybody from celebrities to people I’ve met through Fertility Rally to people who email me or I’ve met through Instagram.  It doesn’t matter.  I feel like everybody’s story matters.  You don’t have to be – people sometimes will write and say, I don’t know if my story is interesting enough, and I’m like, that’s BS.  Everybody’s story matters.  It doesn’t – you don’t have to go through X, Y, and Z to make it interesting.  I think these are all human stories and human experiences.  So we talk about same sex family building, single parents by choice, surrogacy, egg donation, adoption, people who don’t end up with babies and are childless not by choice at the end.  I just want to put as many stories out there as I can to let anybody who’s going through something know that they’re not alone because I felt so alone when I was going through it.

It’s so needed.  You didn’t have that community, and you built your own.  I love it.

Yeah.  I started with the podcast, and then in 2020, Blair Nelson, who’s someone I met through Instagram, who’s also a big infertility advocate, she and I formed Fertility Rally.  We started just kind of doing Zoom support groups during the pandemic.  It was literally mid-lockdown.  And it just kind of spiraled and snowballed, and people were like, we need this every week.  So we started doing a weekly group, and we formed this membership community called Fertility Rally.  Today, we have over 400 members.  We have six support groups per week hosted by us and other people that we’ve hired.  We have events.  We have Fertility Rally Live twice a year, which is an all-day virtual conference, if you will, with speakers and giveaways.  The whole thing, the whole overarching theme is just letting people know that they’re not alone and providing support no matter what people are going through when they’re trying to build their families because it can be so hard and so lonesome and so devastating.  To just have a group of people that get it that you can come on and you can cry or you can laugh or you can say something, and people will be like, don’t think I’m an asshole, but when I met my sister’s baby, it didn’t make me happy, and we’re like, we get that!  Stuff like that.

Exactly, and some people don’t have access.  I mean, if they live in a rural area, the option of these remote virtual rallies and this membership group makes them feel less alone.  I mean, obviously, in New York and Chicago and some of the more metropolitan cities, there are more resources as far as support.

Yeah, there are, but yeah, that’s the good thing about being virtual is that we can have somebody who is in New Zealand, for example.  One of our members, Jenny, who comes on, and it’s the next day for her, because we have our calls at night.  And we’re like, Jenny from the future.  It’s Thursday morning for her, and it’s Wednesday night for most of the rest of us.  We’re able to meet people in Hawaii or the Pacific Northwest or here in New York and New Jersey where I am, or Blair’s down in Texas.  We’ve also had these IRL events.  We had one in Chicago last summer where – we had 40 people come in from all over the country to spend a weekend together and just bond and have fun, and they all met through Fertility Rally.  It was just amazing.

That’s beautiful.  Yeah, nothing replaces in person.  But certainly, having virtual options is more accessible.

Agreed.  Absolutely.

So let’s dive into your journey as an author and your Work of ART.  This is a children’s book, correct?

It is, yes.  I wrote a children’s book.  I actually just got the hard copies delivered to me yesterday.  I hadn’t had them in my hands until yesterday, and I opened the box and just started crying because it was so cool.  Such a cool moment.

Like I said, my son is 8, and we’ve always been super open with him about how he was born.  You know, he hears me doing the podcast.  He’s heard me talking about infertility and Fertility Rally and IVF and all this stuff.  And I realized that there weren’t that many books out there that explained to kids about assisted reproductive technology or IVF.  There are some, and the ones that are out there are wonderful, but I wanted to do my take on it.  So I just wrote this manuscript a handful of months ago, and I called it Work of ART, the ART being assistive reproductive technology, and it’s the story of me telling my son how he was born in such a cool way and how wanted he was.  And my daughter is in the book, as well.  It’s kind of just our little family story.  Again, it’s just to demystify assistive reproductive technology, and there are so many kids out there who are born this way.  Just to have parents share with their kids, if they feel comfortable doing so, this is how you were born.  We wanted you so badly.  You were made in the lab.  Isn’t that cool, that science is so cool?  That’s kind of my spin on it is just explaining to him.  He overhears me talking to another mom on the playground that he’s an IVF baby, and in the car on the way home, he says, Mom, did you say – what was that?  Did you say something about ivy?  And then I say, oh, do you want me to tell you tonight what I was talking about?  So I explain it to him.

I found this really incredible illustrator, Fede Bonifacini, who is in Buenos Aires.  He sent me some stuff.  I sent him the manuscript, and it was just exactly the tone and the level of cuteness and coolness that I was looking for.  The illustrations are gorgeous and fun, and he really – there’s a lot of easter eggs in the book, like little things.  There’s a little Infertile AF logo hanging in the car.  Just little things that people can kind of pick up on.  There’s a place where I’m wearing a sweatshirt that says Worst Club, Best Members, which is our Fertility Rally tagline.  Stuff like that.  It’s for young readers.  It’s a hard cover book.  I’d say it’s for ages 4 to 8, maybe a little older, too.  But it’s just something that people can share with their families.  It’s been really embraced, which makes me so happy.  The first 150 copies, I’m personalizing and shipping for free in the US, and those are sold out.  So that’s awesome.

Wow, congrats!  That’s huge!

Thank you!  I’ll do another run, and they’re available on my website, which is infertileafgroup.  And this is the first in what I hope to be a series.  I already have the second and the third and the fourth ones kind of swirling around in my head.  I want to do one about donor conception.  I want to do one about same sex families.  I want to do one about surrogacy.  They’ll all be under the Work of ART umbrella.  I just think it’s such a good thing to have these available to normalize the conversation, you know?

Exactly.  And not all of your readers have the background that you do, so to be able to have a frank conversation through a book is such a wonderful gift because it can be overwhelming to have a discussion with a four year old or an eight year old, as you mentioned.  A book is a great guide, and then being able to share their own personal story after reading the book with their child.

Right, yeah.  And in this story in particular, I say to my son – he’s like, IVF, is that like NBA?  That’s with basketball.  So we kind of tie in some basketball stuff in there, and then there’s a whole thing about secondary infertility, and kind of like I explained to you earlier how I loved being a mom to Ever so much, I wanted to do it all over again.  It’s not super heavy.  I had to try to keep the tone digestible for little kids.  It’s not really scientific.  But we do talk about how he was made in a lab, and he’s like, I don’t think Jack was made in a lab.  And I’m like, maybe he was.  There’s a lot of kids who were.  That’s kind of foreshadowing to one of my future books.  I’m going to have another.  My friend Jack will be in one of the next stories.  So, I don’t know.  It’s exciting.  It’s a good creative outlet for me, and it was really, really fun to work on it.  I hope everybody loves it as much as I loved writing it.

Well, I can’t wait to pick it up.  Any tips for our listeners who are either pre-conception stage or struggling with infertility?  What are your top tips?

My tips would be, if you’re comfortable talking about it, find people that you can share with.  It doesn’t, obviously, have to be Fertility Rally.  There are so many resources out there.  But find your people, whether it’s via Facebook or just friends, whatever.  I feel like talking about it and sharing makes it so much easier, and you realize you’re not alone, and these feelings that you’re having of devastation and jealousy and especially around the holidays, it’s so hard.  Everyone’s being like, when are you going to have a baby?  You know, asking questions like that.  So to just kind of have a place where you can vent and share and cry and laugh I think is really, really important.  People can always reach out to me.  I’m on Instagram @infertileafstories.  They can DM me.  My DMs are totally open.  I’ve been there.  I know how hard it is and how sad it is, and even if you have a partner, sometimes you’re not on the same page as the partner, and that can be really hard, too.  People are welcome to reach out to me at any time.

My other piece of advice would just be, be true to yourself.  One thing that really kind of bothers me, I guess I would say, is when people are like, don’t give up, don’t give up.  And I kind of feel like I don’t like that terminology because I’ve talked to a lot of women who have gone down the infertility path and then pivoted because it wasn’t happening.  They weren’t having babies, and they felt shamed, that they felt like they quit or they gave up, but it was like, their mental health was struggling.  Or they realized that they could have a really happy life without a baby.  So I always try to veer away from that language of don’t give up, and I think that if somebody has been doing this for a while and it’s not happening, it’s okay to walk away.  It’s okay to pivot.  It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to be happy.  And there’s really, really good resources out there.  Childless Collective – my friend Katie started this, and it’s for people that pivoted from infertility.  She did it for her mental health reasons.  She was like, I can’t keep doing this for years and years and years.  A lot of people have to walk away because of financial reasons.

Makes sense, yes.

It’s okay if it doesn’t go the way that you thought it was.  There’s a community waiting for you there, as well.  I just want to give people resources like that, as well, because you don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s the most frustrating thing about infertility.  It’s so out of your control.  You can only control so much, and some of it really just has to do with luck and science.  Even if everything’s lined up perfectly well, sometimes it doesn’t work out the way that you want it to, and that’s so devastating.  But just know that there’s people there, no matter what the outcome is, to catch you when you’re falling.

I love it.  So how can our listeners find your book?  You have the website, of course, infertileafgroup.com.

That’s right, yes.  They can go there.  There’s a bunch of different things on there.  That also links to Fertility Rally, if anybody wants to check it out, go to a support group.  Just DM me and be like, I want to see if it’s my jam, and if it’s not, no harm, no foul.  You’re welcome to come and check out a group for free.  We just want people to be exposed to stuff.  But people can also find me on Instagram @infertileafstories.  There’s links in that bio, as well, for the Rally and for the book.  And again, if people want to just DM me and connect, or if they have questions, I’m totally available.  I can put you in touch with doctors or experts or things like that.  It can be really overwhelming, but I’m there as a resource, so please, lean on me if you guys need to.

Love it!  Well, thank you so much for sharing your story, and all of the amazing resources.  It’s been a pleasure.  I’ll have to have you on when your next book comes out.

Thank you so much for having me!  This is really, really cool, and I love what you’re doing, as well.  Thank you to you for having this platform.

Well, thank you! 


Infertile AF

Work of ART

Fertility Rally

Pregnancy and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Infertility Support with Alison Prato: Podcast Episode #220 Read More »

Arielle Martone in tank top with man carrying baby in a front pouch in the background

Prioritizing Yourself Postpartum: Podcast Episode #219

Kristin Revere chats with Arielle Martone, founder of Find Your Way Mama, about why you need to prioritize yourself postpartum and how to do that even with little to no time.

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I’m here to chat with Arielle Martone.  Arielle is a doctor of physical therapy, yoga teacher, and postnatal coach turned postpartum wellness coach after having two kids and overcoming postpartum depression and pelvic pain.  Welcome, Arielle!

Hi!  Thank you for having me!  I’m really glad to be here.

So happy to chat with you today, and congrats on all of your achievements in so many related fields to pregnancy, childbirth, and early parenting.

Yeah, they work so well together.  It wasn’t the plan initially, but I’m glad that that’s where I ended up.

So lovely.  So I also saw that you’ve been published recently in a book where you shared your personal IVF journey and how that impacted your postpartum phase.

I feel like I’ve been pretty open about my IVF journey and the struggles with that, kind of throughout the process, but writing the chapter in that book – it was a little bit therapeutic for me to kind of just get it all out there in one go.  But it really – it highlights – the whole book highlights the struggles that happen postpartum after the success of IVF because that whole process of trying to have a baby through IVF and the sometimes years that it can take to have success – that success doesn’t negate all of that struggle and the trauma of all of that trying.  Again, it doesn’t go away, and it lives in our body to a certain extent, and it lives within our heart, as well.  So there’s a lot of processing in postpartum in general.  I feel like it brings up a lot.  Anything that you’ve gone through in the past; all your triggers kind of are heightened.  And so with the success of IVF, there’s sometimes this feeling of guilt or shame for having any type of postpartum struggle because we feel like we should just be so grateful, and I think to a certain extent, that holds true for many mothers regardless of how they got there.  There’s always this overwhelming shame of admitting that we’re having any type of struggle because we are told, and it’s true, that our babies are a blessing, and we think that we should just be overjoyed, and there is a lot of that.  But just because we’re feeling overjoyed and just because we’re feeling grateful, it doesn’t negate any of the struggle.  And with IVF in particular, a lot of that is very much brought up, and if you’ve gone through IVF, you’re at a greater risk of postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety.

Absolutely.  But I agree, you know, working with clients going through IVF or even clients who’ve had prior losses because they put so much energy, emotional energy, time, just stress into conceiving, and then they should be – I mean, they do have that guilty feeling of, oh, I should just be overjoyed, but it is normal to ask for help and struggle and share stories.  But I do feel like there’s so much pressure to be perfect and be grateful and to not seek help in this culture and not talk about our emotions.  I do feel like things are becoming more accepted.  Perinatal mood disorders are certainly publicized a lot more than they were in my early days as a doula ten years ago.

Yeah, and it’s almost like there’s this weird teeter totter.  There’s like these two extremes in motherhood that we are either, again, supposed to be that overjoyed, glowing, happy – yes, a little teary in that first two weeks, but mostly tears of joys.  All those positive emotions.  But then there’s also on the opposite end just the normalization of so many of the difficult moments.  I was just saying that that’s just a part of mom life, that things are just going to be hard, that you’re going to feel depleted, that you’re going to feel exhausted, that you’re going to feel overwhelmed.  And all of those things are so normalized that when people are feeling any of that, they don’t necessarily seek help for that.  They’re waiting for something to be bigger or for it to be worse or “a clinical diagnosis” when really they might have underlying symptoms of depression or symptoms of anxiety that they’re just kind of normalizing and bypassing.  And really, we can have both.  We can be overwhelmed and learn to fix it and to move through it and also have a lot of joy at the same time.  It doesn’t have to be one or the other.

I agree.  And again, needing to prioritize yourself while focusing on your new baby, if you have other children, relationships.  Let’s talk a bit about relationships can be affected in this postnatal phase.

Yeah, absolutely.  Once you have a baby, that’s a brand new relationship.  And it doesn’t matter, to your point, whether it’s your first or your second or your third.  Your roles and your relationships with all of the other relationships in your family unit are going to shift and change.  And the relationship with your partner drastically changes, at least initially, and it’s not something that is so openly talked about.  And it can be affected for several different reasons, and I feel that a big part of the reason that your relationship changes has a lot to do with what you’re internally processing or really not allowing yourself to process in the postpartum phase.  You know, we talked at the very beginning of how, when you’re postpartum, it really opens you up and all of your triggers come at you a little bit quicker.  You notice more.  You’re more in touch with your emotions, whether you want to be or not.  You just can’t help it in that postpartum period.  And so if you’re not dealing with that, that can then ripple out onto your relationship with your partner, especially if you’re not meeting your own needs.  There can build up a lot of resentment around that if you’re not clear on what you need and your partner may not know what you need at that time to kind of fill that gap, because you’re so focused on taking care of your baby.  We kind of just expect that our partner knows to take care of us in that time, and I think for most of us, they do, but they may not know exactly how.

Especially if we don’t ask or tell them how to support.  If they haven’t been through it before, if it’s baby one, then there are unknowns for both of the partners in the relationship.

Yeah, and I feel like as mothers, we’re told that we need to be able to do it all, and asking for help is really hard, even if it’s asking for help from our partner.  Being able to work through that, talking with your partner beforehand about having them be maybe a little bit more proactive.  You know, I think postpartum planning is a huge piece that we often overlook.

Absolutely, 100%.

There are so many other changes that are happening.  Often, our relationship with our body and with our own self-esteem postpartum can change, and that can then ripple out onto our relationship with our partner.  We’re not feeling good in our bodies or about our bodies.  It’s hard to believe that they can feel that way.  And then once that six week mark is cleared and you’re able to open up to more intimate relationships again, if you’re not allowing for your pelvic floor to heal and recover, a lot of women experience pain with intercourse after having a baby.  And it’s not just within the first three or six months.  It’s women into 18 months, 2 years, still complaining of pelvic pain with intercourse.  That can drastically affect your relationship as well.

And it’s often not talked about.  I’m thankful that there are more referrals from physicians to pelvic floor physical therapists and that physical therapy is talked about not only prenatally but also in the postpartum recovery phase.  So a lot, again, has changed in ten years, but there’s still so much change that’s needed and normalization of just talking about not only emotions but recovery and making a plan and spending as much time planning for the postpartum phase as you do in birth preparation.

Yes.  I was looking up recently the average cost of the nursery in the US, and it’s around $2000 for someone to set up their nursery and get all the things that they think that the baby needs and to make it look lovely.  And that’s great, and do that if you want to, but don’t do that and neglect your own personal recovery and your own personal needs postpartum.  I hear so often where new moms just feel guilty for spending any time, attention, money on themselves in those first few months after baby, when really, what your baby needs most is a mom who’s well cared for and who’s feeling well.

Absolutely.  You do some work in person, obviously, as a doctor of physical therapy, a yoga instructor.  It appears that our listeners could work with you virtually in the wellness space.  Do you do any other virtual services?  How can our listeners find you, Arielle?

If they’re local to my area – I’m north of Boston – I do work with people in person.  I do in-home concierge physical therapy because I know that making it out to appointments can be really challenging within that first year postpartum, especially if it’s not your first kid and you have a toddler or even older children at home.  So you can work with me that way.  And then I do offer postpartum wellness coaching in a small group setting virtually online, and you can find all that information at my website, findyourwaymama.com/postpartumsupport.  I have also a six-week survival guide, The Six Week Wait Survival Guide, which is a virtual program that takes you through gentle movement that you can do from day one postpartum, because we are told so often that you can’t do anything until that six week mark, and yes, you don’t want to be doing vigorous exercise.  You don’t want to be running or doing any type of plyometrics, jumping around, heavy lifting.  But you can and you should be moving, and you need to kind of balance that out with the rest.  That program is a really great way to get started.  There’s no coaching there because I feel like within those first six weeks, it’s just so much of an adjustment getting home that there’s not that face to face connection, but it gives you that guided program with a lot of education on what to expect as far as relationship changes and some talk about sleep and really just basic care information, like going to the bathroom, having your first bowel movement after baby; things that aren’t really talked about that we really should be getting in the hospital before we go home with baby, but we don’t.  So this is my way of offering that to new moms, and it’s a great way to get started.

So how do our listeners find your amazing six weeks survival guide?

They can get it a few ways.  They can get it on my website, which I mentioned before as findyourwaymama.com.  It’s underneath the postpartum support tab, so it’s right there.  You can also find it on my Instagram.  It’s in the link in my bio.  Again, another easy way to access it.  And if you’re kind of on the fence about it, which I honestly – I know people say this, but this is something that I think that every soon-to-be-mom or recently became a mother really should have because there’s just so much information in it that we don’t really get and we really do need.  But if you’re on the fence, I get that.  There’s a free guide that’s in my link in bio as well that is nine quick tips on pelvic floor recovery after childbirth.  That’s a good way to kind of ease into it if you’re thinking about it.

That’s so helpful, Arielle.  What are a couple of those tips, if you don’t mind sharing?

Yeah, absolutely.  So one of the tips is really focusing on allowing the pelvic floor to relax initially, so we’re not so focused on strength right away.  It’s not something that we want to ignore completely, and for some people, they’re going to need more strengthening than others.  But generally, after having given birth, whether it was a vaginal birth or a Cesarean birth, our pelvic floor tends to really tense up and tighten up because it was a traumatic event for our pelvic floor to experience.  Whether or not you actually pushed your baby out, if you’re having those contractions, there’s pressure down on the pelvic floor, not to mention the pressure of carrying the baby for the almost ten months of actually carrying the baby.  So it’s gone through a lot, and often, that tends to be an area where we hold tension, as well.  So if we’re trying to process our own birth stories or even just the challenges that come with being a new mother, a lot of that tension can be held in the pelvic floor.  So a tip is to start by relaxing the pelvic floor.  So I go into some breathing tips, breathing exercises in the guide, as well as positioning.

For the positioning, one of the tips I talk about is a yogi squat, that squatting position where your hips are lower than your knees.  And you can do it supported.  You don’t have to hang out there.  You can sit on some pillows, sit on a cushion, prop something underneath your heels if you’re not able to have your feet fully on the ground.  But that position is one that kind of allows the pelvic floor muscles to lengthen, and if you do support yourself in it so that you’re not straining in the position, it can allow for that pelvic floor to really start to relax and soften.  That way, when the time comes, you’ll be able to strengthen it in an effective way.

Very helpful.  So obviously, you know, tip number one would be to work with you directly or purchase your six week survival guide, but what are your other tips for busy moms who are in that postpartum phase to prioritize themselves?

Yeah.  It’s so hard because we are very much conditioned not to prioritize ourselves; I think as women in general, but especially as mothers.  So it’s going to feel really uncomfortable first.  I want people to know that.  If it feels uncomfortable, it’s not necessarily because you’re doing something wrong by prioritizing yourself, but it feels uncomfortable because you’re not used to it, and it’s different and it’s hard to do things that are different from our everyday and that forces you to change a little bit.  That can be tough.  My biggest tip would be to start prioritizing yourself while you’re with your baby.  I feel like for me, and I know for a lot of other women and mothers that I work with, it’s almost that we’re told one of two things: either we have to be completely selfless and we are 100% for our baby, or we’re told that we need to do self-care and that means putting your baby down and doing something on your own.  And I really do think that there can be a happy middle where you’re not forcing yourself to separate yourself from your baby early on because naturally, instinctually, we want to be with our baby.  So forcing ourselves to do that can feel really kind of alarming to our nervous system.  That can feel really uncomfortable and can lead to some anxious thoughts.  But if you’re able to start prioritizing yourself while you’re still with your baby, then in my opinion, it’s a win-win.  It’s while your baby is napping.  And this of course is very much dependent on how far postpartum you are.  What does that look like for you, in terms of are you home with your baby or are you back at work.  But if you’re withing that first six weeks, definitely, you hopefully are home with your baby.  So when your baby is napping, lay down with your baby as well, whether it’s on a firm mattress or you’re supported and you’re resting; you don’t have to be asleep, but if you’re resting with your baby on your chest.  If you are taking a nap with your baby, you do want it to be a firm mattress or even on the floor, making yourself comfortable there, having a little bit of floor time with your baby.  That is a really great way to start to allow yourself to get the rest because early on the sleep is really challenging.  And it’s something that I feel like we hear – at least, I heard often, and initially, I eye rolled at it.  “Sleep when baby sleeps.”  And there are so many great memes out there about it, like, yeah, sure, I’ll just vacuum when baby’s vacuuming and whatnot.  I think it’s important, and I think, again, it goes with that feeling of being a little uncomfortable because we are forcing ourselves to stop and to rest and that’s not something that we want to do because we have that running to-do list in our minds.  So if you need to, jot all of that down.  Do a bit of a brain dump beforehand.  That way you can see what you need to get done, look at it, circle one or two things that you’ll do later on in that day, but then allow yourself and give yourself permission to actually rest when you are able to.

Great advice.  So you mentioned Instagram and other social media sites that you are engaging with.  How do we find you?  Remind us of your website once again, Arielle, and your social media channels.

Yeah.  My website is findyourwaymama.com.  On social media, I am @ariellemartone.  And that is on Instagram and Facebook.

Excellent.  So any final thoughts to share with our listeners, Arielle?

So many things, but I think it’s really important that we start to value our postpartum period of time as opposed to rushing through it.  And again, I know that comes with some discomfort, because it’s hard to pause.  It’s hard to rest and to stop and to actually do it as opposed to saying that we’re doing it.  We’re saying that we’re resting, but we’re scrolling on our phone for three hours, and then all of a sudden, it’s midnight and the baby is up again.  It’s learning to lean into that, learning to lean into the discomfort, acknowledging that it’s hard, but not wallowing in it.  I think, again, with everything, there’s a balance, and with everything, it’s kind of an and-but or an and-or type of situation.  It’s not an all or none, and postpartum very much highlights that.  So it’s leaning into the hard.  It’s acknowledging where you are at.  And it’s looking to move through it as opposed to getting stuck in that.

Beautiful.  Thank you for sharing so much of your wisdom with our listeners!  I love chatting with you, Arielle!

Oh, thanks for having me, Kristin!  It was great!


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