June 2024

Surrogacy Simplified: Podcast Episode #244

Kristin Revere and Jessie Jaskulsky discuss the types of surrogacy and options for families in this informative Ask the Doulas episode.  Jessie also gives her top tips for families who are considering surrogacy.   Jessi owns Surrogacy Simplified.

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with Jessie Jaskulsky of Surrogacy Simplified today.  We are going to talk all things surrogacy.  I’d like to share a bit about her background.  After a devastating 22-week pregnancy loss that led to secondary infertility, Jessie spent years trying to complete her family and ultimately had both of her daughters through surrogacy.  Through Jessie’s journey to becoming a mom, she felt as if there was an obstacle at every turn.  Jessie founded Surrogacy Simplified, a boutique surrogacy consulting and white glove concierge that helps intended parents start or complete their family through the selfless gift of surrogacy.  Jessie takes care of all of the details, big and small, allowing her clients to truly enjoy this pathway to parenthood.

Welcome, Jessie!

Thanks for having me!

So happy to have you on!  I would love to begin with a bit about the definitions, the types of surrogacy, if you wouldn’t mind explaining that to our audience who may not be as familiar.

Absolutely.  It’s interesting because the way the terms are used has even changed from the birth of my oldest daughter to now.  I’ll get into that a little bit.  Gestational carrier is the most common surrogacy arrangement in the United States, and that is when the surrogate is using an embryo that does not have any biological connection to them.  So the egg would be from the intended mother or a donor egg, and the sperm from the intended father or donor sperm.  Traditional surrogacy is when the surrogate – it’s the surrogate’s biological egg and the intended father or donor’s sperm.  When I first was expecting my oldest through surrogacy, it was important for me that people used the term gestational carrier instead of surrogate because I wanted them to know that my daughter had the biological connection to me.  But now, over the past couple of years, surrogacy has become so much more talked about and widespread that people sort of use the terms gestational carrier and surrogate interchangeably, which is interesting.  It hasn’t been that much time, but it has been a shift over the past few years.

Yes, that is interesting, and I don’t think that it’s talked about enough.  I do feel like, whether it’s reality tv or the media, there is more information.  I mean, even thinking of some of the Kardashians and their journey and how they highlighted their own experiences and struggles with secondary infertility.

Right.  And interestingly, traditional surrogacy is not legal in a lot of states.  Gestational surrogacy is legal in 47 of the 50.

Interesting.  Yes, I know Michigan is working on legislation, but we’re not quite there yet.

Yes, I’m crossing my fingers that by the end of this year, we are having a different conversation.

Same!  As far as finding a surrogate, let’s talk about that process.  You know, sometimes it could be a family member or a friend who then carries.  I know a lot of doulas have a love for everything pregnancy, birth, and baby, and I have friends who have been surrogates, not for their own personal clients, but yes, have been matched with agencies and so on.

That’s so beautiful!  Yes, there’s different ways to find a surrogate.  One way would be asking a member of your community, whether that’s a family member or a friend or even going to social media.  Some people want to keep it more private, and then there are others who share their story.  I actually have a client right now where she’s shared a little bit of her story on her Facebook status, and a friend of a friend – people shared it, and then she was connected to somebody that way.  Believe it or not, that does happen.  That’s one way, and I would say the biggest pro of that would be saving the cost of using an agency to help you match.

If you do not have anybody that you think would come forward to carry for you, using an agency is a very common method, as well, and the agency would help recruit and find a surrogate that matches some of the things that you’re looking for.

More recently, there have been these sort of intermediaries that pop up.  One that comes to mind is Nodal.  You can think of it like a dating site, but it’s between gestational carriers and intended parents where they can kind of connect.  It’s not free, but compared to an agency fee, it’s less expensive.  So it’s a middle ground in terms of cost.

I love it.  That is an excellent idea!  So how did you get into this work?  Obviously, you have your personal experience, but to start a business and pivot in that way is a big move.  I’m interested to hear what led you to starting Surrogacy Simplified and how your business is unique and maybe even collaborates with agencies since you do so much of the concierge work for clients.

Yes.  I love that.  Thank you.  So really, when I went through the process twice, I felt like it was just very, very complicated.  And there should be lots of steps involved.  I mean, this is somebody else carrying your baby.  But with that being said, my first journey was with an agency, and my second one was totally independent, meaning I found somebody and I managed the process on my own.  Both times, I felt like the amount of hours my husband and I spent in the evenings kind of project managing the journey – we liked it, but I felt like for somebody else, I just wanted to make it less complicated for them.  I was previously a speech pathologist and just felt so driven to want to help other people that have gone through something similar to me.  Last year, I just did a complete career pivot and opened my doors and have never looked back.  It’s just been so incredibly fulfilling.

I love that!  As far as the process of working with you, what would that look like?

Yes, I have two buckets of independent parents that I support.  Those going on that independent journey that we discussed who might know somebody who’s willing to carry for them – I case manage the entire journey, meaning I connect them with their attorneys, their psychologists, the escrow, the health insurance, the fertility clinic.  In addition to all of those logistics, I also wanted to feel like this warm hug, a friend, somebody they can really trust who’s gone through it personally who they can text questions to who is really going to make the process smooth and enjoyable for them.

For those who need an agency, I’m going to work with them and find out their priorities, whether it’s cost, trying to match, all the different things, and help them find an agency that best suits their needs.  And then the agency is going to work on matching them and doing some of that case management I described, and I’m going to work on all of the little details to make sure that they have a really incredible journey and everything’s taken care of, big and small.

Excellent.  So Jessie, I’m sure that you’re much different than an agency with the concierge aspect if, say, the family is looking to have a birth doula supporting the labor journey for the surrogate or looking for day or overnight newborn care, for example.  You know the experts in each area and are able to match, correct?

Absolutely, yeah, and I love offering a doula to the carrier because it’s just another person for the delivery who’s really there to support them and make sure that the delivery is just exactly how they envisioned it.

And how do you work with budgets?  Are there any benefit packages that you’re able to draw from?

Yes, that’s one of the first questions that we’ll ask the families, and based on that, we will decide what’s the best path for them.  Sometimes it’s applying for grants or financing.  Insurance is getting a little bit better, but a lot of it doesn’t cover it, unfortunately.  But specific to using a doula, I do think that some of our surrogates might be eligible for that, as well, which is great.

Yes.  Again, depending on benefits or the state they’re in.  Medicaid covers doulas in many states.  Fascinating.  As far as your top tips for our listeners when they are looking into surrogacy as an option for their family, what are your favorites?

I have a few.  I would say being patient with the process.  I know it’s really hard.  I’m sure a lot of people listening might already have a child, but now they’re looking to complete their family.  I, too, struggled with secondary infertility.  And being patient is so hard when you just feel like your family’s not complete.  But I would say to anticipate the surrogacy process to be a little bit long.  That way, you know what you’re getting yourself into.  I’d say an average is probably 8 to 24 months, start to finish.  I also suggest thinking about the type of relationship you’d want to have with your surrogate, and the reason I think that’s important to consider in the beginning is that way when you go to match, you meet with someone who’s on the same page with you, and then you’re in alignment and you have this really incredible journey because you’ve clearly communicated what you were hoping to get out of it and you met somebody accordingly.

I can give an example.  For me, I had chosen surrogacy after a late pregnancy loss, and it was recommended – it caused me secondary infertility, and I had just been coming from this place of a little bit of trauma, and I knew I needed a surrogate that was wanting to have a friendship and open communication because I had gone through this loss, and I knew if I hadn’t talked to my surrogate for a week or two, it would just create anxiety.  So I shared that I was looking for a friendship, and both times – I think since I laid out my expectations so clearly in the beginning, my husband and I had these two really amazing relationships with the surrogate and her family.

I love that.   It definitely is such a unique situation.  I’m sure some of your families want no contact, and others, again, want that emotional connection that you would have with, say, a doula, for example.

Right.  Exactly.

So as far as understanding laws, how does one navigate it without an expert like yourself?  Each state is so different, and understanding how to follow guidelines is so important, I’m sure, in this process.

Absolutely.  I think it’s helpful to have a general understanding of the state you live in, but at the end of the day, you’re following the law where the baby is going to be born and where the surrogate lives.  So anyone listening that lives in Michigan, for example, where you’re based, even though it’s not currently surrogacy friendly, if you’re able to find a surrogate in a different state, it’s not like you’re not able to move forward with surrogacy.  And then you would speak to the attorneys to learn the details in whichever state that the surrogate’s living in.

Exactly.  So Jessie, what would you say the best explanation for – you know, I guess what I’m trying to get across is I feel like secondary infertility is not discussed enough, and it’s important to understand all of the family’s options.  So are you utilizing resources as you’re talking to families who are struggling?  Are there support groups?  How does one navigate this?

Absolutely.  I know for me with my secondary infertility, I was sort of in this gray area where the doctors were like, yeah, you can keep trying, or we can move to surrogacy.  And I had wanted that black and white answer and would have loved a support group to talk about this with.  There’s actually somebody that I’ve connected with that I would recommend people can check out.  Her Instagram handle is @holdingboth, and she does have support groups specific for secondary infertility.

And I would think families who’ve gone through a lengthy process of IVF, they’re exhausted physically, mentally, and they still want this baby, and so understanding that they have more options outside of, say, adoption is important.  Spreading the awareness is key.


As far as matching with a surrogate, there would obviously be some physical and mental aspects related to being a good candidate if someone’s interested in being a surrogate themselves.  How does that process work?

Yes.  So once you’ve identified a surrogate, the first step is that the surrogate collects her medical records, and if she’s working with someone like myself or an agency, they’re helped along the way with this part of the process.  The records are sent to the fertility clinic for an initial review of her prenatal and delivery records to make sure everything looks okay.  Beyond that, she’s also evaluated at the fertility clinic.  So there’s sort of this physical evaluation that takes place.  There is also a psychological component where, interestingly, the intended parents are evaluated.  The GC and her spouse are evaluated.  And then there’s, depending on the state, but I highly recommend, there is a group session that occurs where the psychologist leads a session where she talks about issues and how they would handle them to just put everything out there in the beginning and create this harmonious relationship.

And then there’s certainly a lot in the news about getting surrogates and families on the same page with, say, medical issues that may arise with the baby.  Can you speak a bit to that concern that families may have if the surrogate has different wishes than they do?

Yes.   There’s a few things that come to mind.  First is that in your legal contract, you would talk about some of these issues and how you handle them.  It would be written out in a legal contract.  Secondary to that, when you’re matching, I would encourage families to think about some of these topics and talk about them up front to make sure you match accordingly.  An example of that is vaccinations and worst case scenario is terminations if something were to be medically wrong or life altering for the baby.  Those are just two examples, but however you feel about whatever the topic is, you bring it up to your surrogate, even though it feels uncomfortable to have that discussion in the beginning.  I really recommend it because that way you don’t fall in love with somebody and have paid for their evaluation and their psychological evaluation, paid for the attorneys, and then found out you’re not going to agree because you won’t be able to get past the legal phase.

Yes.  And then of course every state has different laws on termination in pregnancy, so needing to follow those laws and make sure that you’ve had that open discussion.  As with anything related to pregnancy and early parenting, being on the same page, especially with surrogacy, I feel, is so important.

Absolutely.  I joke when I’m with my intended parents that anything you don’t want to talk about at Thanksgiving with your extended family, these are the topics to bring up when you’re matched because it’s going to come up on your legal contracts, so you have to just get it over with, and better to get it out in the beginning before any money’s been spent because I try to be really conscious of how expensive the process is and making sure you move forward with somebody that you’re really going to be on the same page with.

Exactly.  And then certainly if there are multiples, then there are totally different considerations with more than one baby.

Yes, absolutely.  Both singles and multiples would be great with a doula, but especially with twins, they would really benefit from using a doula.

Absolutely.  So Jessie, how long do you follow the families that hire you?  Are you working with them a couple of months after baby or babies are born?  Or when does that journey begin and end, essentially?

I like to call it end to end.  So in the beginning when they’re thinking about surrogacy all the way to when the baby is born.  My preference is to be with them through the fourth trimester, just so I can check in with them, if they need a doula, if they need a night nurse.  I can be coordinating that on their behalf because they’re going to be tired, and I want to take care of everything for them so they can just focus on baby.

And do families ever hire you in that fourth trimester, that postnatal recovery phase, in just wanting some extra support and knowing that you are the expert?  Or is it mainly in pregnancy?

I would say it’s typically in the way that my services work that they retain me for about 18 to 24 months, so best case scenario, the minute they decide they’re going to go through surrogacy, we can partner together.  I can also just educate them on all of the things to know and then stay with them through the fourth trimester because it’s such a special time, and I want to make sure they have everything that they need.

It is.  So you’re supporting the family after the surrogate delivers.  What kind of support do you offer with the family to potentially pay for add-ons to support the surrogate?

Yes, if there was anything that the surrogate needed, I would help them coordinate that, whether it’s food, whether they need doula care, anything that might make them recovery and help with their recovery, I’m happy to coordinate.  And I would just be setting it up on their behalf, and the intended parents would be paying for those expenses.

How fascinating.  So is there anything else that you would like to cover that we didn’t address, Jessie?

I think we covered so many important things.  I would let listeners know that I offer a complimentary consultation, whether they want to work with my directly or just learn about surrogacy.  I’m happy to help them out, and they can get to that directly on my website, which is surrogacysimplified.com.

And you’re also active on Instagram?

Yes, @surrogacysimplified.  I try to post a combination of informative, lightheartedness, so people can learn a lot that way, as well.

Excellent.  Well, thank you so much for being on Ask the Doulas!  We’ll have to have you back on when Michigan makes some changes here, hopefully very soon!



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Reimagining Care for New Moms with Alexandra Francis: Podcast Episode #243

Kristin Revere and Alexandra Francis discuss postpartum recovery traditions worldwide and the need for holistic postpartum support models like Mama Haven.  Alexandra also owns Our Hummingbird. 

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to bring you Alexandra Francis.  Alexandra is the owner and founder of Our Hummingbird, and she has so much information to share with us related to the postpartum revolution.  Welcome, Alexandra!

Thank you for having me!

So happy to have you here.  I’d love to have you fill our audience in about your personal motherhood journey, as well as why you decided to professionally work with women in the childbearing years.

I’ve given birth to seven children, and the first three children, I gave birth to in the hospital.  It was a bit of an antenatal, but I don’t feel that it really prepared me for the birth that was going to happen, and I felt very much at the mercy of the midwives and the whole system and how it runs and so on.  And after having an unfortunate experience with the first birth, I had a postpartum hemorrhage.  Then I was managed the second and third time.  It was really sad for me, because I really wanted a water birth, but I didn’t get one.  And with the fourth baby, I went to the hospital, and the thing was, I had such a terrible experience, actually, that I left the hospital in labor.  I came home, and a friend of mine said, look, I’ll get you a doula and I’ll pay for her, and then you’ll be all right.  You’ll be able to have the baby.  That was the first time I’d ever heard that word, doula.  And when I called the doula and told her about my experience, she said, oh, yeah, I would honor your birth plan.  That’s the first time anyone had ever spoken to me like that.  I was like, wow.  And she said, why aren’t you having a home birth?  And I was like, home birth?  What’s that?  I’d never been told about a home birth before.  And I told her that I was told that I would die.  I’m going to bleed to death.  And I’m going to die, and the baby’s going to die.  That’s why I can’t have this baby at home.  I have to be in the hospital.  She said, well, contact the community midwives.  And I was like, community midwives?  Who are they?

They’re the midwives who come out to homebirths.  I’d not heard of them at all.  And through this experience and finding a likeminded midwife – she honored my birth plan, and she really protected me, which meant that my rights were upheld and the way that I wanted birth, I got to do it.  It was so much more beautiful than the other three times.  I said, you know what, after this, I’ll never go back to hospital again.  I had my fifth baby at home, and it was a water birth.

Exactly as you wanted!  And I do agree, no matter where you live, if you don’t know your options, you’re so limited in your choices.  Learning about doulas and home birth and community midwives later on changed your path in the future and for that particular birth.

That’s right.  And I’m so glad that I did learn about this because it really did change the course of the future of the way that I birthed.  After the fifth time – on the fifth time, I’d even learned about HypnoBirthing this time, so I really had the birth down now.  At this point, I felt a bit like a pro, you know?  And yet all the things that went really beautiful in the birth, they went beautiful because of me and the way that I prepared, and the things that went wrong, they went wrong because of the interference of the midwife.  So after that I was like, you know what, I’m not going to have a midwife, if I ever get pregnant again, which I actually thought that I wouldn’t.  With my sixth baby, it was just me and the dad, so we had an unassisted birth.  I went to Ecuador and gave birth to my daughter there, and that was the first time I found out about the 40 days postpartum.  Have you heard about this before?

Yes.  Depending on the culture and the traditions – certainly Malaysian and Chinese culture – yes, they take it very seriously of that warming period, caring for the mother, and it’s all about bonding with baby and the village members and family members all help with the newborn care, household tasks, caring for the siblings, in some of the ways that a postpartum doula does.

Yes.  Yes!  All of that.  And with my other babies, I never had that experience.  And in actual fact, I remembered with the third child just being so focused on being able to fit into my jeans and get to the supermarket, and I remember pushing the baby in the trolley and he’s newborn and everyone’s looking at the baby like, oh, wow, he’s so small.  He’s newborn.  And I’m like, yeah.  And they were like, wow, you’re such a superwoman.  And that was almost the standard that I felt that I had to meet, this superwoman that’s back in her jeans and back to doing all the things that mums do.  And I really felt that.

Yes, there’s so much pressure certainly in the US, in the UK.  And in other countries, it’s all about mothering the mother and taking that time and family members will fly in and stay for 30 to 40 days and just care for the entire family, but especially the mother.

So yeah, this was just a different experience for me, being in Ecuador and being able to have that time, which I’d never, never had before.  It slows everything down.  I even got to do elimination communication with my baby, so literally from the time she was born, she was potty training.  And potty training, she didn’t really need diapers, and she never did a poo in a nappy ever.  It was just this whole brand new experience for me.  And I felt almost kind of robbed, you know, with the last babies and the other experiences.  I really felt it in my system, just how different that was, having the other children in that way and not getting that much-needed support and time to just really bond with my baby.

Right.  So it sounds like that is what led you to Mama Haven and your work there?

It was actually following the birth of the seventh child.  It was because I’d still never experienced a doula, but after the sixth baby, that’s when I really started to do the work.  I started to be with other women and be in birth and witnessing these babies being born and giving the support to the women and holding their rights, and really, what I feel that my role was is just saying, like, you can.  It was hearing the woman, her birth plan, her heart’s desire, the way that she wanted to birth and being like, yeah, you can do that.  And I feel that my work is more around helping the mother to really lean into her intuition, to be able to listen to her body and take the cues from her body, to listen to her baby, and to follow that and to trust that and to know that if she feels something, that she can ask for help if she feels that she needs support.  She can ask for it.  But not to intervene, rather, but more to hold that space and allow the birth to unfold in its own time, ever so gently and naturally.  So I got to witness birth in this very beautiful, peaceful, loving way.

Beautiful.  So tell us a bit more about Mama Haven.

Okay.  So the first time I got to experience a doula for myself was after the seventh baby.  When I gave birth to him, the girl came from California.  Basically, she did an exchange with me.  She came to learn how to be a postpartum doula by being my doula, and I was training her on the job, and that’s how it happened.  And with having her, it was like another level because I really got to fully immerse myself in the mother-baby relationship and being in the energy with the baby and just learning all the baby’s cues.  It’s similar to like before, you learn like a telepathy with the baby.  I got that through the elimination communication, but this time, it was just by being so present, by having all of my needs met.  She fed me.  I taught her how to massage my body, showed her where aches and pains were.  I had a slight labial graze, so I taught her how to treat that and to care for it and how to wrap me and do all these things.  It was just out of this world, really.  I just got to look at the baby, be with him.  I only had to think about breastfeeding.  I didn’t have to think about anything else.  She really had it covered.

And it was from this experience, having such a deep immersion with my own baby that actually when the end of the 40 days came, I really felt like, oh, my word, we’ve been in such a protective bubble that I felt almost like the world was such a harsh place for my son, and I wasn’t ready to break out of the 40 days.  I actually ended up having another month, not with a doula, but just me and the baby, and I lived in a house with another woman who’d also just had a baby, so we were both postpartum together.  I was a little bit ahead of her.  So we were able to support each other and be there for each other, eat together, and things like that, and it was just really beautiful.

And through having that experience, I felt like all moms should be able to have this if they so choose.  I mean, a lot of moms don’t even know.  They don’t even know that it’s an option, especially here in the UK.  Most of the girls who are going to the hospital even today, their focus is, when can I go home, and then going to the local shopping center.  And I find that so bizarre, that that was my experience in 2001, and it’s still the mentality in this country today.  Unless you’re, say, from a Muslim family or where the family members come around, like you said, and really get around the woman and support her and hold her in those 40 days, but the culture in Britain is just not there yet.  So there has to be some work done first and foremost to raise the awareness to allow moms to know what can be possible, to help them to see how beneficial it is for them just to slow it down.

And in England, there’s massive issues around breastfeeding, for example.  And women might try, and if they don’t get it as quick as they need to be able to leave hospital, they’re almost prompted to give formula.  It’s like, okay, if I give the child the bottle, then I can get out and tick that box off.  So it takes time sometimes, doesn’t it?  You’ve just got to almost like stop and be still and be relaxed and let it happen.  But if you feel stressed and you’re trying to think about forcing it to happen, or you think, oh, what’s wrong with me?  What’s wrong with my nipples?  What’s wrong with my baby?  It can kind of end up with a bit of a downward spiral, and that can be impacted a lot by the stress and whatnot.

So first and foremost, to just raise the awareness, to let moms know that they can slow down.  The Mama Haven, really what it’s doing is giving moms an opportunity to have a home.  In the Mama Haven home, the woman will have care that’s wraparound, so she’d have care 24/7, just the way that I did.  And the women want to train how to become postpartum doulas, so what better way to have the training than to be in the Mama Haven?  The students can be there, alongside the mamas, and they can then observe the mamas.  They can talk and get to know them and then see what their needs are and then understand to meet the needs when they emerge.  And then I can be there to offer that supervision and the guidance, but it’s more like it can happen quietly and organically through building those relationships and really, like I said, slowing everything down and observing.

So the plan is to be able to cook and give meals to these women, so the food is very nutrient-dense, what the mother may be calling for at that time, to build the good supply of breastmilk and keep the mom feeling well-fed and feeling good and energized.  Then she can also rest.  Then she can have her emotional needs met because we can be there to listen.  I found that instrumental, actually.  That was a huge part of it, just for myself, processing my birth and some of the things around being alone in a foreign country and having other family members around me at that time, I got to just cry about it.  She’d just hold the space and let that happen and I didn’t feel judged or anything.  And it was okay.  Feelings come up and they go, and we don’t necessarily have to make more about it.  It’s just, this is it.  This is natural.  It’s a process.  We just allow for that process to unfold.  So this is another big thing that would be on hand for those mothers.  Then the hands-on care, like the massages and the wrapping and things like that, as and where the mother needs.  There’ll be people on hand to do that right around the clock, to provide that care and give that nourishment.

So are you doing the Bengkung method, or what is your preferring wrapping method?

I do the belly binding with massage and the Rebozo, actually, the Mexican one.  I got to learn this ceremony called the closing of the bones.

Yes, I learned that as well.  I took a training, a Zulu doula training and learned that method, but I’ve also been trained in Bengkung belly binding, the Malaysian way.

Okay, I’ve not done the Malaysian one.  I did the other one, and it’s so good, isn’t it, to be able to hold the woman.  Have you had it done to yourself as well?

Yes, during the training.  It was amazing.  I was not postpartum, though.

Yeah, so when you are postpartum, in that area – I mean, I can speak for experience that it feels vulnerable, almost.  It almost feels like the top half of my body is going to fall off of the bottom half of my body.  It’s a really weird sensation.  And somehow, when you get wrapped, it’s like it keeps you together, you know?  It holds you up.

Agreed, because your organs are going back into place or shifting after you deliver.  It makes complete sense.  And again, going from that warm state to a cold state and the benefits of warming foods and nutrient dense foods, as you mentioned, and just slowing things down and that care.  It’s so important.

I even offer the closing bones ceremonies to women, not necessarily in their 40 days postpartum, and I’ve found that they’re instrumental for women literally at any time in their life.  I did one for mother and daughter.  They were side by side.  And the daughter was 30-something years old, and the mother received her first closing bones ceremony, and the daughter received one.  For her, it was closing the dependence that the mother had on her and closing that down, opening her up to be able to receive her own children.


It was so powerful.

It’s such important work.  You are definitely changing the community.  So you have one location in the UK; is that correct?

The plan is to get the location.  At the moment, the Mama Haven is in its seed stages.  The idea is there.  I’ve been doing a fundraiser because I identified a property that I want to buy that’s perfectly suitable, beautiful, in such a quiet space, quiet surroundings to honor the privacy of the woman.  It’s got seven bedrooms, beautiful surroundings.  I saw this place and I was like, this is perfect to have this Mama Haven here.  So I want to establish the first one, actually, in the UK, and I’ve been talking to a lot of people that I’ve been connected to because a lot of my work, it’s actually been in other places.  This will be the first thing that I actually will do in the UK, and most of my work has been across other continents.  But yes, once we’ve got this one here, there’s other women that would want to put them in their areas, so I see the bigger picture of this is that there’d be a Mama Haven literally all over the world, anywhere and everywhere.

Almost like a franchise, but a bit different.  Their own havens, that they would rely on your direction.  Beautiful!  I am so impressed with the work you’re doing and seeing, since you traveled the world, seeing that there’s more of a need in the UK, and so starting that first haven there makes complete sense.

There is a huge need here.

So fill us in on your funding campaign and how our listeners can connect with you.  I’m also curious about how you might handle travelers.  What if US citizens want to come during not their immediate postpartum, but later on to get care, for example, once they’re able to travel?

Yes.  So what I want to do initially is open the one in the UK and make it available so that actually people can come from anywhere.  If somebody’s birthing in the UK, for example, they can be there after the birth and get postpartum care, but the students can come from anywhere in the world.  So they can come from the US, and that’s why it’s great to have it as a residential so that the student can come.  They can be held in the space, as well.  Then they’ve got a skill.  They can take that back to where they’re from, and they can begin by giving that service to women, maybe in their own homes, but maybe there’s women there that also want to set up their own Mama Haven.  So then I would support them to be able to set up the Mama Haven at their place and just take the training there and be on hand to do the training, make sure it’s all set up and managed, and then I would move away and let that one run by itself.  That’s how I would do it.

Perfect.  I love the plan.  So are the donations directed through your primary website, Our Hummingbird?  Or how can our listeners or potential students get involved?

Yeah, they can get involved directly through the website.  The page is actually being created as we speak, so I hope by the end of this week, the weekend, it should be finished.  I have a giving page as well where people can make donations.  So what I’m looking at doing initially is raising, like, 5,000 because once you raise 5,000, you can open a charity.  And then I could become a charity, and that way, I can be open to other types of donations, like bigger donations, and I can apply for funding from places and things like that because then what I want to do is create sustainability.  So people that want to come but might not be able to afford to pay for something like this, they can still come.  Students that want to come, they really have a passion; they have a desire to learn – they could get a scholarship, for example.  Also, the mothers that run the Mama Havens, they would have to be residential, so they live on the site.  It gives that person security, and then they are able to run a business, so what they’re able to do is create wealth for themselves and their own families because that’s something that I’ve found because I’ve been in different parts of the world and I’ve got my kids and I take my kids to different countries and stuff like that.  It’s almost a bit all over the place, but being rooted and being in one place means that actually I can build that wealth, and then that’s something that I can pass on to my children.  If I do it for me, I can also do it for other people, whereas when I was doing the work that I was doing because it was just a service, like I just felt like women should have it regardless of whether they should pay or not, it was almost like a call to humanity, a basic human right.  I just did it.  I did it out of the goodness of my heart, so it was not something that I created a business out of or made anything from.  And then I’m like, oh, that was a bit silly, because really, what you want to be doing is if you set yourself up in a business way and you create wealth for yourself and your family, then you’re able to share that wealth so there’s an economy where other mothers can come in and you’re giving them a system where they can also create income and wealth for themselves and their families, as well, and that’s a far better system and a far better blueprint to be doing a business like this than the way that I was doing it before.

Right, giving  your work away for free and serving people because it’s in your heart.  But yes, we’re able to give back much more substantially if we are receiving income and our families are able to benefit when we’re away if we’re, again, getting paid for the work that we do.

That’s right.

So, Alexandra, you are also on social media.  I know Our Hummingbird is your primary.  It sounds like you might have another page coming up as well?

On the Our Hummingbird website, the page will go under there, so just by having the link, it will come onside.  And I do have an Instagram and things like that, but it’s something I’ve not been so strong on in the social media world because I’ve been doing the work face to face and hands on.  I really didn’t have time to build that type of following, and it didn’t feel – it almost didn’t feel right for me, if I’m doing the work and then all of a sudden I have to take out my phone to take pictures to post.  It just kind of didn’t work.  So I never got that bit down, but I’m learning right now, and I’m like, okay, I need to be a bit more active in there, as well.  So I’m going to do my best to also post and things like that and keep that going.  But the best way, I feel, that people can really keep in touch with me and get involved with Mama Haven and be a part of it – because I think it’s quite groundbreaking.  It will be a flagship project.  So for people to stay close to that, I’d use the www.ourhummingbird.com website.

Thank you!  Any final tips for our listeners, Alexandra?

Final tips: I would say arm yourself with as much information as you can because knowledge is power, and find yourself doulas and birth workers in your local community.  Meet them, get to know them, and the ones that you really gel with, have them help and support you because having help and support and advocacy and love and care during a very powerful but also very vulnerable time in your life is – well, there’s nothing that really compares to it.

Agreed!  Thank you so much!  It was lovely to chat with you. 


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Reimagining Care for New Moms with Alexandra Francis: Podcast Episode #243 Read More »

Postnatal nutrition with Genevieve Mena of Mamieli: Podcast Episode #242

The importance of postnatal nutrition with Genevieve Mena, Co-Founder and CEO of Mamieli.  Kristin Revere and Genevieve Mena discuss everything from traveling with kids to nourishing ourselves during the postpartum recovery phase on the latest episode of Ask the Doulas podcast.  Be sure to tune in until the end for the special discount code for our podcast listeners.

Hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with Genevieve Mena.  Genevieve is the co-founder and CEO of Mamieli, which is a platform supporting moms in postpartum and beyond.  Mamieli also launched a topic-based bundle for new moms, curated with top brands and expert service providers.  Just this spring, they launched the first marketplace to help moms find affordable, vetted home cooking support in postpartum and beyond.  In building Mamieli, Genevieve has been inspired by her personal experience becoming a mom while drawing on her prior professional experience supporting entrepreneurs through initiatives led by Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.  She has an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Norton and lives in New York City with her husband and two young girls.

Welcome, Genevieve!

Thanks so much, Kristin!  So excited to be here!

I am thrilled to chat with you about the importance of nourishing ourselves postpartum, and because not only do you have these amazing pregnancy and postpartum bundles, but you also now have this service where you can find the right type of cooking for even allergies or other concerns that you might have that may not work for some of the friends who want to be helpful and bring you a meal and those meal train services that are helpful, but again, if you have allergies or any dietary concerns, it can be challenging to accept friends’ food or even gift cards, if that restaurant doesn’t work for your needs.

Right, exactly.  That’s right.  Mamieli is a resource for moms in postpartum and beyond and really, our goal is to provide moms and families with really tangible, practical support.  As you said, last year we launched these really beautifully curated bundles for moms for after the baby comes for these key topics.  There’s so many little things you need, so many questions you have, and they’re constantly changing from one topic and stage to the next.  From postpartum recovery to breastfeeding, baby health questions, traveling with baby, introducing solids, et cetera.  We’ve curated these beautiful bundles with the top products from really great brands and we did that with expert service providers in each topic area.  Then to this platform that you’re speaking about: we actually just launched about a month ago, this new resource for moms, and we’re starting in New York.  It’s a resource for moms to find vetted, affordable, local home cooks to support with meals during postpartum especially, but really any time along the journey of being a busy mom transitioning back to work or just juggling everything.  We’re really excited about this.  We’re starting here in New York, but then expanding beyond.

It is so needed, and there may be some of those local or the national pre-made meals, but the fact that you can get home cooked meals customized to your needs and your stage from local cooks – that is a fantastic option, and certainly in New York, I’m sure it’s much needed.

Like many ideas and businesses in this space, it was kind of inspired initially from my own experience and my husband’s experience having our first daughter.  Postpartum was actually a pretty good experience overall for us.  We were excited with our baby.  I think the biggest day in and day out pain point that we had was around meals.  And I’m someone who loves to cook, but when you have a newborn, you barely have time to eat, let alone cook.

And you’re feeding your baby, no matter how you choose to feed.  That consumes so much time!

Exactly, so much time.  And so just kind of piecing it together with Door Dash or takeout.  We tried some of the meal kits that come in those little plastic containers.  Really, none of that is what we wanted to be eating for each meal.  What we really want is home cooked meals.  But like many new parents, especially in New York, many new parents don’t have family nearby to come cook for weeks on end, and especially when it’s your first, you don’t necessarily have a community to organize a meal train for you.  You’re kind of left piecing it together, and we just wanted home-cooked meals and couldn’t really accomplish that because we were focused on the baby and just learning to be new parents.  But it did dawn on me, especially when we were about to have our second daughter – now we’re not just feeding ourselves.  Now we’re feeding our toddler, too, so we really need to find a better solution for this.  And it dawned on me that there are incredible cooks all over the city, and probably someone right around the block from me who’s a phenomenal cook who would love to come and help you while earning a bit of extra income on the side.  So, long story short, we built this platform to bring them to one spot, to make it easier for moms and dads to find that kind of local support.  We vet them, and it’s a rigorous vetting process to make sure that it’s safe.  Everybody is a really incredible cook that can adapt to whatever needs your family has.  You mentioned allergies, for example.  Some of the families that are booking through our platform – one of their kids has allergies, or there are certain kinds of nutritional goals that the mom has or the dad has, or nutrition for postpartum recovery or breastfeeding or whatever it might be.  Since you’re hiring someone to come and cook just for your family, they can tailor it to whatever your needs are.  That’s one of the beauties of this.  It’s not only healthy and delicious, but also, it can be for whatever needs or goals your family has.

Yes.  And as postpartum doulas, we do some light meal preparation.  We certainly don’t make full meals for our clients, but we often find that clients will have a particular postpartum recipe book that they would like us to follow, say for the first 40 days.  Does that come into play, or is it more of what the chef would like to make for a family?

That absolutely comes into play, and actually, postpartum doulas were a big inspiration as we were kind of organizing how to build this.  We spoke with a number of doulas here in New York, and many of them love the idea because they see this as a big point with moms that they’re working with in those early days.  And they do light cooking support, and in some cases, the family needs even more cooking support beyond that.  But also, some doulas even realize that they like that aspect of the work so much that they wanted to lean into it even more, and in addition to their postpartum doula work, also take on some clients focusing specifically on cooking and postpartum nutrition and developing meal plans for families.

The way it works is, the family – and usually it is the mom – puts in a request for a local home chef.  You can browse through profiles of all the different chefs on the platform because every family is different and every taste is different, and your budgets are different.  Each home cook sets their own price point, and they have their own style or background.  Some are doulas, some are not.  Some are professionally trained, some are just really amazing self-taught cooks.

You can browse through these different profiles and then book whoever is the best fit for you or whoever you think resonates most with your family’s needs.  Maybe that is more of a focus on the first 40 days and somebody who has a really great repertoire of meals and experience around postpartum specifically, or maybe it’s somebody who has more of a Latin bent to their cooking because they’re from the Dominican Republic, and that’s what your family, especially in a diverse city like New York – to be able to find somebody with a cooking style that matches what you’re looking for.

And then you share your family.  Who’s in your household?  Who will be eating these meals?  What dietary restrictions you might have?  If you’re breastfeeding or recovering or if you’re pregnant, and what your family likes and doesn’t like.  From there, whoever you book will put together some meal options for you.  Typically, families book between three and four meals at a time.  Three or four dinners, for example, that then you can reheat over the next few busy days.   They’ll put together meal options that you can choose from, and you can tweak it as much as you like.  They share all the ingredients that go along with each of those meals so you know exactly what it’s in it, and then either you can do the shopping, or in many cases – most cases, actually, whoever is cooking, the home chef, does the shopping for you just to take the whole load off of you.

It outsources the mental load, which is a huge part of this, as well as the shopping and the cooking and the cleaning up afterwards because it’s that whole process.  It’s not just the cooking.  It’s everything around it, day in and day out, that is a lot of work for parents.  Finding somebody who can help you with this is a game changer is what we’ve been hearing from clients.  That term, it’s a game changer – for my mental health and for my family’s health.  So we’re really excited about this.

And it’s so important in recovery to have healthy meals, and for breastfeeding moms and pumping moms, to be able to nourish themselves properly.  And if you’re so focused on caregiving, if there are other kids that need to be fed, to have the healthy homecooked meals is going to make recovery so much better.  You’re going to sleep better.  I find as a postpartum doula that sometimes, unless we’re making snacks or telling our clients to drink water or eat, they’re forgetting to eat and nourish themselves.

Yeah, you do.  You forget.  You’re focused on a million and one things, and you can forget to eat.  It happened to me.  Then when you do remember, you’re so hungry that you just kind of grab whatever is there, and you’re probably holding your baby while you’re eating.  Maybe even nursing.  It is a struggle.  And now that you’re mentioning this, I’m grabbing my water.  You just reminded me to take a sip of my water.  It’s true, though.  You need to be reminded.

Exactly.  So Genevieve, how did the topic-based bundles come about?  It’s lovely because you can follow your clients across the journey, everything from the pregnancy bundles to feeding, as you had mentioned, and postpartum recovery.  I’m so curious about what led you to solve some of the problems of really understanding the curation and thoughtfulness you put not only into the chef matching platform that you have but also in making moms  and families’ lives easier with some of these customized bundles that you’ve created.

We actually started with the bundles, and then the resource of the home cooking kind of grew out of what we saw as one of the big pain points for moms in postpartum, among many, but one being an ongoing one around meals.  The inspiration for these bundles was, again, from my personal experience after having our first daughter.  I think what struck me was how scattered this whole kind of parenting world is.  I was somewhat surprised by it.  I knew there were so many things you need to buy and research for, for your registry ahead of times, and even that process is kind of overwhelming.  But then even after the baby comes, there are so many little things that you need, and all these questions that you have at the same time.  As I said before, these are constantly changing from one topic and stage to the next.  You’re focused on postpartum recovery in those early days and figuring out breastfeeding or formula feeding and questions around baby health and introducing solids.  Then the next thing you know, your baby is ready to start solids.  For each of these, you’re researching all these little things that you need that you didn’t maybe think about ahead of time or plan for when making your registry.  But then also all these questions that you have as you kind of encounter these different stages and topics.  So we decided to – and I say we.  I actually started this alongside my brother, who lives in New York as well, and we kind of launched this platform together.  We decided to curate these beautiful bundles for each of these different topics with only the essential items, from the best brands in each category, and we curated them based on what other moms are loving the most.  I can talk more about the curation if that’s interesting.

Yes, I’m fascinated by how you vet and decide who to include in the bundles.

First, we kind of curate what different items even go into each of these bundles.  So what are the items that most moms actually use for that topic area?  For postpartum recovery, there’s a vaginal and a C-section version.  What do moms actually use?  We vetted each of those bundles alongside experts in that topic.  For the recovery bundle, we worked with OB-GYNs.  For breastfeeding, lactation consultants.  Pediatricians for the baby health and feeding therapists for introducing solids, et cetera.  These different experts helped us to kind of say, yes, these are the types of items that we would recommend moms use and that moms actually do use.  We didn’t want to fill these bundles with things that are just going to clutter up your space and you’re never going to use.  From there, to determine which brand for each of those items or which specific type of – you know, postpartum underwear, just off the top of my head.  We wanted to triangulate it across several different platforms.  Most commonly registered for items and highest reviewed items across Baby List, Target, Buy Buy Baby at the time, Amazon, and brand-owned websites to see what are moms really loving the most.  And then we partnered with those brands to include them in the bundles.  We want to be the best of the best, not based on affiliate links or sponsorships or anything like that, so that you can really trust that what’s in in here is truly wonderful.  And then the last piece of it is each of those experts that I mentioned that helped us to vet the bundles also contribute a guidance book that comes in each bundle.  The recovery bundle has a guidance book that we created in partnership with OB-GYNs that goes through the most common questions they get asked around postpartum recovery.  There’s cheat sheets to answer each of those questions.  Same thing with all of the other bundles.  It’s really bringing together top products with content that kind of cuts to the chase without being alarmist.  There’s a lot of content out there that kind of makes you scared or even more uncertain about what you’re doing, and we really wanted to frame this content around reassuring you and kind of cutting to the chase on really actionable tips that are vetted by experts and really helpful for moms who are navigating all of this.

And what a wonderful shower gift or postpartum gift to give a friend or family member!

Absolutely.  That was part of our thinking, too.  Sometimes on registries, you’ll register for the big things, a lot of the big things like the crib and car seat.  But then there’s all these little things, like the ten-dollar nail clipper and the twelve-dollar thermometer and all these little things that, as a gift-giver getting these little things, it doesn’t feel like a really nice cohesive gift.  So these bundles really make nice gifts.  We see a lot of moms registering for them, and their friends are excited to give them.  A fun fact, actually, is that the most commonly gifted bundle from existing moms to new moms is the recovery bundle, which has the least appealing stuff – it’s the diapers and the pads and all those things.  But the moms who have been through it know that those things are so helpful.  It’s a really popular gift.  The baby health one is, as well, and the travel one.  They’re all really wonderful gifts.

I love that you have a travel one.  We’re getting into travel season, so if you want to touch on that for a minute, I would love to hear more about it.

Absolutely.  When we were curating these and kind of developing the topics that we were going to create bundles around, we surveyed a couple hundred moms and asked about biggest pain points and what you used and didn’t use, et cetera.  And traveling with babies, being on the go with babies was one of the biggest pain points, which is not surprising to me.  It’s hard.  It can be hard to travel with babies, especially the first couple of times when you’re just getting used to it.  And there are kind of a lot of little things that can make traveling a lot easier.  This on-the-go travel kit is one of my favorites, and it’s one of the most giftable ones, as well, I think.

Similar to the other bundles, we crowd-sourced travel tips from moms who have traveled a lot with their babies and toddlers to curate this bundle and create a guidance book that comes with it.  It goes through flying, and for example, with flying, questions like, should I bring my baby as a lap infant or book them a seat?  Do they need a boarding pass?  What do I do about security?  What do I do with my car seat?  How do I handle jet lag?  All these questions around travel.  We have lots of cheat sheets in the guidance book on plane travel, car rides, packing lists, et cetera.  And then the items in it are so handy.  My family travels a whole lot.  My husband is from Mexico, and so we travel to Mexico a lot, as well as a bunch of other places, and we use everything in here all the time.  It really comes in handy, and it just takes a lot off of that mental load of planning and packing and remembering to bring things.  We love it.  It really, really comes in handy on trips, but also, even just traveling on the go around the city on day trips and things like that.

Right.  It could be by car, train, plane, or boat.  It would work for all of the travel options.  But I know that it can be intimidating, especially for new parents to take that first big trip, whether it’s a long car ride or a plane ride and having their kids be content and all of the things that they might need in a new place.  It’s very helpful that you are inspired by your own travel experiences with two kids and that your brother is also so involved in this business as well with his own experiences.

Absolutely.  My brother is like the fun uncle.  I’m the third of four, and he’s the baby of the family.  And we have lots of nieces and nephews.  He’s the go-to babysitter for my kids here in New York.  We’re so lucky to have him nearby.  And yeah, it’s a lot of live and learn from traveling with babies and toddlers.  We’re very much in the thick of it still with – actually, both of my girls just had birthdays, so a three-year-old and a one-year-old now.  There are different challenges at different ages when traveling.  I think the hardest is probably one and a half to two and a half when they want to be mobile and move around, but they’re not old enough yet to sit through a show on the airplane so you’re just entertaining them the whole time.

It’s work, but I think that the two things that helped me the most: one is preparing, so not leaving everything to the last minute, which is hard to do, and I often leave things to the last minute.  There’s even some research around procrastination being good for efficiency, but I would say with preparing to travel, it’s the opposite.  You’re just creating more stress for yourself if you’re packing the morning of or doing things at the last minute.  It’s much less stressful to prepare ahead of time and start packing ahead of time.  And then you can be more thoughtful about what you’re bringing.  I find you end up weeding out what’s unnecessary and you pack lighter that way.

The second is just getting in the right mindset and letting go a little bit.  It’s probably not going to be perfect.  You’ll probably forget something.  It might be hard to settle the baby on the plane or you’ll have a hard time sleeping wherever you are.  You just do your best and you roll with it, and you try to get right back into things when you’re back home.  But I think it’s just a mindset shift that traveling with kids is different than before.  It can still be really fun.  Being in different environments is good for your baby and for you.  That’s kind of the mindset that I try to keep.

I love it.  And you mentioned the recovery bundles are very popular gifts that seasoned moms are giving friends.  What is your favorite bundle?

Oh, that’s a good question.  That’s tough.  Probably the baby health bundle.  The baby health bundle has a whole lot in it of things that you will actually use.  It all comes in this really neat, organized medicine box that also looks cute.  This covers all the major topics of baby health issues and even toddler issues that you might face.  Fever and pain, colds and congestion, rashes and skin issues that you might come across.  There’s all these little things.  The thermometer and Tylenol and saline drops and sprays for congestion and nasal aspirator and the nail clipper and file.  Vitamin D drops, which is something that a lot of moms just don’t even know exists or is something that you give your baby at the beginning.  When you’re at the hospital, maybe they tell you about the vitamin D drops, but there are so many things going on that maybe you forget about it.  We have all of these things in the bundles so that you have it when you get home, and you have everything in one spot.  Then you have this guidance book alongside of what everything is for and how you use it and all these cheat sheets that I mentioned.  It keeps everything organized.  In the middle of the night when your baby spikes a fever or you need something, you’re not running out to the store to get it or waiting a couple of days for an Amazon order to come.  You already have it all in one spot, and it’s all things that you will use.  It’s really meant to be practical and useful.  I think that’s probably my favorite one.

I love it.  And so many grandparents are now caregivers, so it would be great to have something at their place if they’re watching toddlers or babies over there so they have a full kit of everything they might need.

Yeah, that’s a great idea, actually.  And even with these cheat sheets, there’s quick references on how much Tylenol or acetaminophen to give your baby at different weights and sizes, which you forget.  You don’t necessarily know offhand.  You’re right that it’s great for caregivers or grandparents to have on hand, too.  Absolutely.

I love it.  I could talk to you forever, Genevieve, but we’re running out of time.  Any final tips for our listeners?

Yeah, I’ve loved this conversation!  For a final tip, similar to what I said before around traveling.  It applies to everything.  Let go a little and roll with it.  I think that there’s a lot to say around being prepared that can ease stress, but there’s a lot that you can’t prepare for or you don’t know until you go through it.  I do think that sometimes as new moms, our generation wants everything to be perfect.  Letting go a little bit is probably my tip.

Beautiful.  How can our listeners and the doulas in the Gold Coast team find you?

You can find our marketplace for home cooking on Mamieli.com.  Right now, it’s just New York, but if you’re not in New York, you can go to the website and put in your ZIP code.  We’re collecting ZIP codes from outside of New York, and once we get a critical mass, that’s how we’ll determine how we expand.  So even if you’re not in New York, feel free to put in your ZIP code and we’ll reach out to you when we’re where you are.

We’ll be putting in Grand Rapids ZIP codes then to try to get your service in Michigan!

Perfect!  And then our bundles, anybody can buy them from anywhere.  You can find those also on Mamieli.com, or you can go right to shopmamieli.com.  You’ll find all the bundles and cheat sheets and everything on there.  And I believe we have a special discount, too, for your listeners.  If you use the code GOLDCOAST24, you can save 20% of the entire order.

Thank you!  And you’re on social media, so our listeners can also connect with you there?

Yes.  On social, we are @lovemamieli.

Thank you for sharing all of your amazing platforms!  I’m all about the bundles.  What a wonderful gift!

Thank you so much!



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Postnatal nutrition with Genevieve Mena of Mamieli: Podcast Episode #242 Read More »

Changes in Michigan’s Surrogacy Laws: Podcast Episode #241

Kristin Revere and Jessie Jaskulsky of Surrogacy Simplified discuss the changes in Michigan’s Surrogacy laws on the latest episode of Ask the Doulas.  Jessie also provides helpful tips to our listeners considering surrogacy as an option to grow their families.

Hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am excited to chat with Jessie Jaskulsky.  Jessie has been on the podcast before, and she is the founder of Surrogacy Simplified.  She is a surrogacy consultant and concierge.  Welcome back, Jessie!

Thanks for having me again!  Great to be back!

Yes!  I didn’t think I’d have you back quite so soon, but in the prior episode, we were chatting a bit about legislation in Michigan and changes in surrogacy.  And luckily, those changes happened a lot quicker than both of us thought, and surrogacy is now legal in Michigan.  So I wanted to have you back on to chat a bit about the impact of this and help our listeners and our doula clients in Michigan understand the impact of this change.

Absolutely.  I would say so many great things are going to come as a result of this.  One of the biggest things is that it’s going to significantly reduce the cost for pursuing surrogacy in Michigan, for a variety of reasons, one of them being that prior to this, if they wanted to pursue surrogacy, they would have had to find somebody out of state and then also ship embryos, and when you start doing those things, it does end up, unfortunately – some people just can’t rise to all of those costs and they don’t pursue the process, so I think it’s going to make it a little more accessible to many intended parents.

Absolutely.  And it’s always been a dream of mine as a doula to support a surrogate and work with the family, and so hopefully, that will happen now that it’s legal in Michigan!  I’ve had doula friends fly to other states to support those as birth doulas and postpartum doulas.

I would say that’s another really great thing that we’re going to see happen as a result of this is more surrogates that reside in Michigan that previously were not able to come forward and pursue the surrogacy process.  So now it’s so empowering to them to be able to have this control over their body if that’s something that they want to do to help somebody complete their family.  And then it helps the intended parents because there might be more surrogates becoming available right now.  Generally speaking, it’s pretty difficult to find surrogates.

Exactly.  And certainly, there are more benefits surrounding fertility and adoption and surrogacy, so that’s also exciting to families in Michigan.

Yeah, absolutely.

So for those of our listeners who don’t understand the surrogacy process, can you walk us through what that looks like?  With your personal story, you had shared about having some secondary infertility and a lot of the challenges in navigating your options.  Feel free to elaborate!

Walking through the process – and I’m going to give the very high level overview just because it can get a little complicated, but I would say one of the first parts would be creation of your embryos, so going to the fertility clinic.  For some people, they may have already been trying on themselves for a while and now turned to surrogacy, or others may have had to go ahead and create embryos knowing that this was always going to be their path.  And then from there, deciding what type of journey do you want to have.  Do you want to use an agency to help you match with a surrogate?  Do you want to go a more independent route where you have a family member or a friend or maybe use social media to find a surrogate?  Or sort of a hybrid like myself where you might have somebody come forward to carry for you but then you have me guide you, or a consultant in general, to do all of that end coordination.

So once you kind of figure out the type of journey you want to have, after that, it’s really matching with the surrogate, through whatever method you’re going to use.

Excellent.  And so you mentioned working with an agency or the option of working with a consultant or a concierge like yourself.  What would you do as a concierge for families in Michigan who are looking for this support?

I think for them, especially because Michigan hasn’t really been doing much surrogacy before previously, you could do an altruistic or an uncompensated arrangement.  So maybe the fertility clinics have had some experience, but really, I think it’s going to be so much education for the intended parents because surrogacy hasn’t really happened before.  They may not have friends that have gone through the process.  And really breaking the process down for them and helping them feel less overwhelmed, whether that’s during an initial consult, just giving them a high level overview of all the different steps involved, helping them understand their choices in terms of the type of journey, the costs associated with different things, and just really helping the parents feel empowered to make these types of choices while they’re on their surrogacy journey and feel like they have somebody there that really understands it and can take them through the process as hopefully stress-free as possible.

And Jessie, how would you be working with doulas, or if other doulas outside of Gold Coast are interested in connecting clients who are, say, struggling with secondary infertility and interested in their options?  I would be curious about your role in relation to birth doulas or bed rest doulas or certainly the postpartum, the day and overnight newborn care that we offer.

Absolutely.  So there’s a couple different ways.  I would love – part of what I do is having this rich network to refer to my clients, and a lot of intended parents do want that doula support for their gestational carrier.  So I would say to absolutely reach out.  And thinking about making sure that the surrogate feels really supported during her journey.  Oftentimes, that is making sure that I have that coordinated for the delivery, that we have the doula ready to go.  And then following the delivery, whether the surrogate needs some care and needs that extra support with the help of a doula or the intended parents want somebody at the home to kind of support them in this transition to parenthood.

Yes.  And I know sometimes surrogates do end up on bedrest in those final days or weeks, and it can be helpful if they have other children at home to bring in an antepartum doula to help feed the kids, get them snacks, help make the couple who is supporting the surrogate feel like they are able to make a difference and an impact as well.

For us, on my first journey, having a doula would have been really amazing because our surrogate developed preeclampsia and she went on hospital bedrest.  And had we had that support at the hospital with a doula, I think that would have been really great.  My husband and I helped care for her so her husband could focus on the children, but I think that that additional layer of support would have been really, really incredible.  Our daughter came seven weeks early, so we sort of were scrambling to get all the resources together, but I think knowing what I know now, I would guide other intended parents to know about making sure that if they want to have a doula or the surrogate wants a doula, that they have all that perhaps lined up in the second trimester so that if something were to happen at the end – baby’s coming early, or the surrogate’s on hospital bedrest – all of the supports are already lined up and in place.

Exactly.  And that’s certainly something to factor in, and we do support bedrest clients, both in the hospital and the home bedrest option.  And then some doulas do not make themselves available until 38 weeks, but at Gold Coast we’re on call from the moment a contract is signed, so for those families in Michigan, as you begin to build your business here, we’re able to support if things happen, like preeclampsia, that are not expected, and deliveries earlier than anticipated.

Oh, that’s incredible.

I see so many ways that we can work together!  I love that these changes have happened early on.  I know you’ve kept up to date on a lot of pending legislation in other states.  Are you seeing with this change in Michigan that things may happen elsewhere?

It’s hard to say.  I’m hopeful, but I think we’re going to have to keep staying in tune yet in terms of the other two.  We have Nebraska and Louisiana still, and I’m just not sure yet what’s going to happen with them.  I think we have to keep hoping and praying.

Okay.  And what are some of the other states that surrogacy is legal in?  I know Colorado is a good example.

Going back to our first podcast together, we talked about traditional surrogacy versus gestational surrogacy, and traditional surrogacy is much less common.  And when you say surrogacy nowadays, it’s interchanged with gestational surrogacy, which is when the surrogate has no biological connection to the child.  So when I say this, I’m referring to gestational surrogacy.  It’s now legal in 48 of the 50 states.  Traditional surrogacy is not.  It’s much less states.  I don’t even know offhand because it’s just so rare nowadays.  But really, any state is okay to move forward in, I would say, with the exception of Louisiana and Nebraska.

Exciting!  So what are your tips for our listeners who are considering this option to begin moving forward?

I would say balancing becoming informed with going into a rabbit hole and spiraling because there’s so much to know.  So really trying to make it digestible.  I offer a free surrogacy e-book that anyone listening is welcome to download.  We can have it listed in the show notes for everybody, how to access it.  And then also learning about, like, the costs, thinking about the relationship you might want to have with your surrogate, just starting to think through some of these points is really valuable so that when you’re in the middle of the journey, it can go much more smoothly and efficiently.  And I think also just to end it with being patient with the process.  It’s not a quick one, but it’s definitely so beautiful and so worth it.

Yes, and as you mentioned it’s not a quick process – what is the average time that a family would work with you or that the whole planning process would take in getting matched with a surrogate, for example, and even in being able to afford it?  Like, if this is something that a couple is just in the early stages and want to begin planning with a consultant like yourself and saving – I feel like there are so many different categories it could go.  Once you have your match, how long does that take?  And then once you’re in the planning phase, how long is that stage?

I think with the planning phase, it’s really about how long it’s going to take until the intended parents feel comfortable moving forward in terms of affording it, whether they need to wait and apply to some grants and see what happens or look at financing.  I think that can definitely play a role.  Once you’re matched, the process tends to move on the quicker side.  I would say once you’re matched, an embryo transfer can tend to happen within three to six months.  So you’re looking at anywhere from a 13- to 16-month journey.

That’s quick.

Yes, and I would say surrogacy in general, from thinking about surrogacy to baby, would probably range from a year and a half to two years, depending upon how quickly it takes to match, how quick different parts of the journey go.  There’s always a range on how long it takes to get through the legal process or IVF creation or just the different steps that are involved, and that plays a role in the overall timeline.

Thank you for explaining all of this, Jessie!  I am excited to share your download with our listeners, as well.  I appreciate you offering that.  How can our listeners connect with you?

You can always send me an email at jessie@surrogacysimplified.com.  Also, my website has a landing page where you can book an initial complementary consultation if you’re getting started on your journey, whether it’s that you’re ready to move forward or you’re just deciding and feeling overwhelmed, I’m here for you.  And I also would suggest if you’re on social media, I post a lot of really valuable tips and reels, and that is also @surrogacysimplified, as well.  You can follow me there.

Yes, you’re on LinkedIn, Instagram.  Any other social spots?

I’m on the others, but I’m most active on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Same.  Agreed.  Well, thank you!  It was great to chat again, and I look forward to working with you in Michigan, Jessie!

Yes, likewise!


Free Beginner’s Guide to Surrogacy e-book

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Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Our book, Supported: Your Guide to Birth & Baby

Changes in Michigan’s Surrogacy Laws: Podcast Episode #241 Read More »

Elisabeth from Elle’s Corner

Embracing the Postpartum Journey: Easy Ways to Boost Your Mental Health with Positive Psychology – Guest Blog by Elisabeth from Elle’s Corner

Gold Coast Doulas asked Elisabeth to guest blog on the topic of mental health during the postpartum period. Elisabeth is a certified coach and expert in maternal mental e-health, and the founder of Elle’s Corner. Elle’s Corner, specializes in maternal mental health, providing transformative online courses specifically designed for new mothers.



Becoming a mom is a beautiful journey, but it can also be overwhelming. From sleepless nights to the endless needs of a newborn, the postpartum period can be a rollercoaster. I’m Elisabeth, the founder of Elle’s Corner, and I’ve been there. After experiencing a debilitating postpartum depression (PPD) myself, I discovered how powerful positive psychology can be in improving mental health. Let’s explore some simple, yet effective, ways to make your postpartum experience more positive and fulfilling.


Understanding the Postpartum Experience

The postpartum period can be a mix of joy and challenges. Many new moms experience a range of emotions, and it’s not uncommon to feel down or anxious. In fact, about 1 in 7 women go through PPD. It’s important to know you’re not alone and there are ways to help manage these feelings.


What is Positive Psychology?

Positive psychology focuses on what makes life worth living. Instead of just treating mental health issues, it looks at ways to enhance well-being and happiness. For new moms, incorporating these principles can make a big difference.


Easy Ways to Incorporate Positive Psychology

1. Practicing Gratitude
Gratitude is about appreciating the little things. Even on tough days, finding moments to be thankful for can boost your mood. Personally, I think the way social media has been pushing this “toxic positivity” movement gives a poor light on what positive psychology can truly offer. Practicing gratitude doesn’t mean we have to be positive about everything and only look on the bright side. No, not at all. Without lows, there can’t be highs. Practicing gratitude is about making small daily efforts to be grateful for the things in your life, which can help rewire your brain to see more than just the difficulties of life and the postpartum period.

Try This: Keep a gratitude journal. Each night, write down three things you’re thankful for. It could be as simple as a warm cup of tea or a smile from your baby.


2. Building Social Connections
Having a strong support system is crucial. Whether it’s family, friends, or other new moms, sharing your experiences can provide immense support. This one hits close to home for me, as a Type A personality, perfectionism always lurks in the background. I felt I had to do everything myself because I chose to have a baby. This made things incredibly hard because I saw reaching out for help as a sign of failure. But I really want to stress to expectant, new, and experienced moms that asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness. You and your baby will benefit from it. How great is it to teach your child that it’s okay to ask for help and to always be willing to offer help to those who need it?

Try This: Schedule regular chats with friends or join a support group for new moms, either locally or online.


3. Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness is about staying present and appreciating the moment. Meditation can help reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. I tried meditation and mindfulness several times over the years, but it never stuck. I knew the benefits, but prioritizing it always took a back seat. That was until 8 weeks into the postpartum period when my PPD hit me hard. I didn’t want to live anymore, but I knew I wanted to fight those feelings. As a last resort, I re-downloaded the Headspace app and started a 30-day course on coping with anxiety. It was just 10 minutes of mindfulness and meditation a day, but it saved my life. Those 10 minutes a day finally felt like I was able to get some rest and mentally recharge.

Try This: Start with short, guided meditations. Apps like Headspace or Calm can be very helpful.


4. Setting Realistic Goals
Setting small, achievable goals can help you feel more in control and accomplished. This was taught to me by my psychologist who helped me through my PPD. Your mind can play nasty tricks, especially by setting goals that are too big and looking too far ahead. The reality with a newborn is that life moves slowly. That doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish anything, but it does mean you can’t achieve tasks as quickly as before. I always advise moms to set very small and doable goals. Another important thing is to celebrate attaining those goals. This way, you train yourself and your brain to experience frequent small moments of happiness.

Try This: Break down your tasks into smaller steps. Celebrate each small victory, whether it’s taking a shower or going for a short walk.


Personal Insights and Tips from Elisabeth

As a mom who has navigated the ups and downs of the postpartum period, I understand how overwhelming it can be. Here are some things that helped me:

  • Routine: Establishing a daily routine helped me feel more grounded.
  • Self-Care: Prioritize a few minutes of self-care each day, whether it’s a quick bath or reading a book.
  • Professional Help: Don’t hesitate to seek professional help. Therapy and counseling can be incredibly supportive.


Resources for Postpartum Support

Finding the right support can make a world of difference. Here are some great resources:



The postpartum journey is unique for every mother. By incorporating positive psychology practices like gratitude, building social connections, mindfulness, and setting realistic goals, you can improve your mental health and enjoy this special time with your baby. Remember, support is always available, and you’re not alone.


Meet Elisabeth and Elle’s Corner

Hi there! I’m Elisabeth, a certified coach and expert in maternal mental e-health, and I’m the founder of Elle’s Corner. At Elle’s Corner, we specialize in maternal mental health, providing transformative online courses specifically designed for new mothers. Our mission is to support moms in navigating the mental and emotional challenges of motherhood with confidence and resilience.


Elle’s Corner offers a variety of courses that address the unique mental health needs of mothers. Our courses focus on essential topics such as coping strategies for postpartum anxiety, techniques for building confidence, and finding balance during the early stages of motherhood. We believe every mom deserves to be seen and heard, and our goal is to create a supportive and nurturing environment where moms can thrive.

Embracing the Postpartum Journey: Easy Ways to Boost Your Mental Health with Positive Psychology – Guest Blog by Elisabeth from Elle’s Corner Read More »