July 2024

Preparing for the Postpartum Phase with Mariela De Santiago: Podcast Episode #247

Kristin Revere and Mariela De Santiago discuss how preparation during pregnancy can impact your postnatal recovery phase.  Mariela hosts the New Mom Podcast and is the founder of the Carlsbad Mom Crew.

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with Mariela De Santiago today.  Mariela is the host of the New Mom Talk Podcast, and she is also the founder of the Carlsbad Mom Crew.  Welcome, Mariela!

Hello!  Thank you so much for having me!  I’m excited to be here!

I can’t wait to dive into our topic, which is the importance of preparing for postpartum during pregnancy versus waiting until after you have your baby.

I love this topic.

Before we get into it, I would love to hear more about your journey as a mom and how you got into podcasting and supporting moms with your Carlsbad Mom Crew.

Yes, so it all started with me being a first time mom, which I think many of us can relate to.  I realized I had a ton of questions and found myself on Google when I should have been napping.  You know how they tell you to nap when the baby naps.  I could not do that.  I was on Google, everything from why do my boobs hurt; oh, my gosh, that’s a clogged duct.  How many diapers should my baby be going through?  What’s the difference between cloth and disposable diapers?  You name it, anything and everything.  And I thought to myself, why isn’t there a podcast that just brings experts on to answer these commonly Googled topics?  So I created it, and then out of that, I took over what was originally Carlsbad Moms and I’ve had that for just over a year.  I’ve since then rebranded, built it up to what it is today, expanded to now have Sandiego Mom Crew, and that came out of that desire of wanting to connect with other moms that were also in the same place as I was, being a first time mom, being new to the area, not knowing other moms, wanting to just connect and have meet-ups at, like, a park.  Just being able to invite a friend and say, hey, do you want to go do tummy time underneath a tree in the shade?  It’s just so hard when you’re a first time mom, and if you’re the first one out of your mom friends, things change and you need to build new relationships.

Exactly.  I had kids later in life, so most of my circle of friends had advice that wasn’t relevant.  So many changes, as far as feeding and baby gear and even safe sleep has some changes.  So their advice was helpful, but I learned that hiring experts is the way to go.

Yes.  Well, I feel like also just the science has evolved.  What’s accessible to us, things that you hear – I mean, I will say that I did not know the difference between a doula and a midwife until I started my podcast.  I also did not know what pelvic floor physical therapy was until I started my podcast.  That was eight months after I had a baby.  Isn’t that crazy?

It’s so common.  That is the biggest misconception is that we are actually midwives and catch babies, and people are so confused about the non-medical doula role and the role of a homebirth midwife.

Yes.  So I just wanted to be able to educate moms and provide the answers in short little snippets.  With that came my love and passion for the whole postpartum stage, which again, I didn’t realize until I was in it.

And with the Mom Crew, again, you’re getting women who may feel very isolated, whether it’s baby one or baby four, and it becomes this overwhelming time where people may bring you a meal, and it’s all about the baby after birth, but then the mother feels left out of it and has emotions they want to process.  Being with other moms who are going through the same thing at the same time – and you talked about going to classes together or meeting in a park – can be so beneficial.

Yes.  Yeah.  I mean, you’re discovering who you are as a new person.  You’re all a sudden in charge of another human.  You’re sleep deprived.  Your body is so different.  Being able to find the connections or the support that you need for yourself is so important.

Exactly.  And I know that your podcast is all about interviewing experts in the birth and baby space, similar to mine, but you learned a bit about doulas; again, the role for a doula versus a midwife.  You mentioned pelvic floor therapists.  What other experts do you feel are important to know about during pregnancy to plan for the postnatal phase?

The differences between the doulas, so being able to research or determine, do you want both a birth doula or a postpartum doula?  You can have both.  What would serve you best?  Meeting with pelvic floor physical therapists to help you during that prenatal phase.  Obviously, check with your doctor before, but finding a workout to help you during this stage.  For me, that was yoga.  So there are plenty of prenatal yoga classes that really help you with the stretching and relieving some of the discomforts.  I think that’s so important because you’re moving slower, but you probably still want to move and get stretched out and do some sort of a workout.  So for me, prenatal yoga was very important.  I already had been working out prior.  I know that some of the recommendations change depending on whether you have worked out prior to being pregnant or not.  That’s very personal.

Find a sleep consultant if you think you might need one.  I know that this is kind of a hot topic.  I am all for, you do what’s best for you.  If you think that a sleep consultant is going to serve you, then do that.  If you don’t need one or don’t think you’re going to need one, then maybe just hold onto a contact for later on and you can start to interview.

And sleep consulting gets a bit of a bad rap.  We have four sleep consultants on our team.  I think there’s a difference between sleep training and, say, the cry it out method, and a customized plan that is based on your family’s needs and goals that a sleep consultant would walk you through and support you by text and phone and sometimes in person to implement even very gentle strategies.  It doesn’t have to be letting your baby cry, closing the door to the nursery, and feeling like you’re abandoning your baby.

Yeah.  And we did sleep training.  We did the Ferber method when my son was probably five months old or so, and it worked.  That was fine for us.  We didn’t need anything too crazy or too intense.  We didn’t just let him cry uncontrollably.  But after two days, it was great.  Now, that doesn’t work for everyone, and that’s okay.

Exactly.  And you waited.  Some people want to start sleep consulting or training very early, and we don’t recommend doing it until at least 12 weeks, so you waiting until that five month point in time is very helpful.

Yeah, and I felt like I knew him pretty well.  He had already been sleeping through the night.  We just went through a pretty intense four month sleep regression.  Those are rough.  And also, if you plan on breastfeeding or nursing, reach out to lactation consultants.  Have one that you can connect with if it is a support that you need later on.

Exactly.  Such great advice.  Taking a breastfeeding class or a pumping class, if the goal is to exclusively pump or understand your options when going back to work are fantastic and involving your partner or support person is even better so they can then support your feeding journey.

Yes, because it is a lot of work.  I nursed for nineteen months, and it was tough.

Yeah, that’s a commitment.  Good job!

Thanks!  He stopped taking a bottle at nine months, so at that point, I was home with him.  It was easier for me to just put him on the boob than having to pump and then do a bottle, so it was fine for us in our situation, but I know that can’t always be the case, especially if I was working, that wasn’t going to be realistic or possible.

Exactly.  And one thing I’m sure that you face, not only with your podcast guests but also in your mom crew, is childcare.  I mean, we’re in a childcare crisis.  Figuring out your plan on whether you use a center or an in-home licensed daycare or have a parent – many grandparents are taking on the childcare role.  So figuring that out as early in the pregnancy as possible is my recommendation there.

Yes, and determining the differences.  If you have a spare room in your house, maybe looking into an au pair might be a great alternative that ends up being a little bit more affordable.  But now that means that you have a room that’s occupied by an au pair.  So there’s a lot of options.  There’s now services that are more where moms support one another.  If you are needing more of just part-time or maybe a few times a week versus a full time childcare placement.  So there’s lots of options.  Also, it’s pretty pricy, right?

It is, certainly.  And it can essentially end up being most of your salary.  So again, if you’re looking at a center or an in-home daycare, it can be quite pricy.  Looking at the transportation and time involved.  Sometimes, as you mentioned, a nanny or an au pair is a good solution.  If you’re not interested in live-in, there are overnight postpartum doulas or newborn care specialists that can come in seven nights a week or just for a few nights or, as you mentioned earlier, helping during a sleep regression.

Yes.  And I would say definitely if you can, use those services because I can only imagine that transition going from you had a baby.  Let’s say you only get three months off.  Now all of a sudden, you’re going back to work, which is a different change of routine, and then you have a sleep regression, so now you’re even more sleep deprived.  Get those supports so that you can really do your best; it’s so essential.  And it shows strength, right?  Sometimes I feel like we tend to feel a little bit weak when we ask for help or support, but it really does show a lot more strength for you to be able to admit what your capacity is and what you can take on and what you need to give to others to help you.

100%.  And it can be uncomfortable communicating your needs to others and having those conversations.  Certain personality types want to help others and it’s hard for them to ask for help, so again, in prepping for that postpartum phase, having some conversations with family members or your partner about how they can best support you.

That’s super important.  Another thing that I didn’t mention was therapists.  Maybe have one in hand in case you do end up suffering from – whether it’s postpartum anxiety or postpartum depression.  You just want to have a contact, somebody that you either have referred to or that you met and you just had a great connection.  But I think it’s so much easier to have a list of contacts to reach out to than it is to search for that when you’re in the moment and you’re overwhelmed.

Exactly.  And if you have a doula, part of our role is to give trusted resources in the areas that we work, whether it’s a birth doula or a postpartum doula, so we certainly have trusted mental health therapists that specialize in perinatal mood disorders or sometimes there is a traumatic birth or other issues that could certainly use either a support group or one on one therapy.

Yeah, and I always tell my husband, if we have another one, I am 1000% getting a postpartum doula if we can.  Just the difference between having a doula that has those connections that can recommend different services to you, that knows proper care, somebody that – I mean, I always say this, and I know it probably doesn’t sound that great, but paid help versus having your mom or your in-law – somebody that is helping you with the baby, there’s a big difference.  I personally would feel a lot more comfortable telling a postpartum doula what I needed help with because I know I’m paying for that support, and I can always ask questions, such as, hey, can you take a look at my scar?  I’m feeling a little uncomfortable on this side of the C-section.  Those types of things were – you know that they see it all the time.  This is their specialty.  They’re constantly being educated in the newest and latest versus somebody that maybe had a baby five years ago or even three years ago.  There’s a big difference, right?

Yes.  Such a big difference, and if it’s a family member, sometimes there’s a bit of judgment, or they may want you to focus on sleep in a way that worked for them or even one of your other siblings, and having an expert that has the evidence-based information and is not there with any judgment, no agenda, can be very helpful.

Yes.  And also, they can advice you on the best meals or types of things to eat to help with the recovery process.  They can also just help you out with telling you what you need for recovery as far as, let’s say, the mesh underwear, or maybe more pads, whatever it is.  A lot easier to talk to an expert or a friend about that than it is to, I don’t know, let’s say, talk with your mom about that.

And if there’s anything that needs a referral, we can suggest calling your OB, calling the pediatrician.  We know what’s in the realm of normal and can encourage our clients to get additional support.

I love this topic, just because it’s something that I feel like we tend to not think about very much.  It’s more that we prepare for the baby.  We prepare for the nursery.  We prepare the registry.  And then all of a sudden, you have a baby, and your visits with your care provider really diminish.  You might have hair loss.  You are crying all the time.  All of a sudden, your body is swollen and different.  So we aren’t thinking about what is it that we might need during this stage, to just feel as close to human and the best person that you could be for yourself at this time while also caring for a new human.

It’s beautiful.  And certainly, I’ve seen a big trend in friends and family members gifting postpartum support or a housekeeper or a diaper service.  Different services that can make life easier versus buying that stroller or things that you might not even use until your baby is a year old and just sit around and clutter up your house.

Yes.  And we spend so much money on baby items that they’re going to use for a few short months.  One perfect example is a very expensive bassinet, like the one that rocks and is over $1000.

The Snoo, yes.

Yes.  And I had some people mention that.  I personally did not want to go that route because my thought was, that’s really expensive.  If I need it, then I’ll buy it, but I’d rather just go with the one that the Uppa Baby came with.  We did that.  My son was in the bassinet for two months because he did not like the bassinet, and I did not have to spend over $1000.  I could have used $1000 to go towards, let’s say, a postpartum doula or, yes, a housecleaner or some meal prepping service that would just drop off fully cooked meals and not just Door Dash.  There’s just a lot more that I could do with $1000 to actually help me out versus a bassinet.

Yes.  And then again as you’re setting up a baby registry, you don’t know what’s going to work.  Some babies don’t like a certain swaddle, and you think – you know, your friend had a great experience with it, or with a bassinet, as you mentioned.  And there are rental services with the Snoo and some higher end bassinets, but that’s still expensive.  Some babies don’t take to them.

I always say, keep that registry as minimal as possible, and then if you need it, get it, but don’t spend so much on something that you’re not sure if you’re going to need.  A stroller?  Yeah.  Highly recommend that you spend on a stroller that you love.  You’re going to need it.

Right.  A car seat, a crib.  I mean, there’s some basic things, whether you purchase them yourself or register for at a baby shower or a sprinkle.  That can be helpful.  But until you get into it, you don’t really know what your baby is going to need.  And some bottles might be great for your sister, but may not work for your own baby.

Yes, I’ve heard so many stories about that, and that’s tough.

Yes, because they can be pricy, and if you buy all the different nipple sizes and inserts and then it doesn’t work, then you either are cluttering up your house and you get frustrated and then you have to try something else, which may or may not work.

Yeah.  And another option, too – there’s a lot of milk freezer freeze dry services now, so that’s another great option for postpartum support.  You could have people give you money to go towards that, especially if you’re wanting to give your little one breast milk for a longer period and you have to go back to work.  Well, just get your milk freeze dried.  It’s expensive, but now that’s so much easier for you because you don’t have to worry about all of these milk bags potentially going bad, depending on who’s feeding your baby.  It’s a small powder form like formula.  That’s a great alternative.  I plan on doing that.

Great tip!  So what else are you thinking would be essential during pregnancy as far as preparing for a new baby?

Have a list of items that you want people to do when they come visit the baby.  So yes, people always want to come and visit and hold the baby, but you still can’t host, and you shouldn’t.  So I tell myself this: I will have a list of things, whether it’s like, hey, thank you so much for coming to meet my baby.  Can you just switch the laundry load for me and then you can hold my baby?  Can you unload the dishwasher?  Just have them do something for you because any little thing like that helps you so much when you’re recovering.  Like, you’re moving slow.  You really need as much support as you can get, and I don’t think anyone is going to say, oh, yeah, I’m not going to load your dishwasher.

Right.  And some people want to help, but they don’t know how to help.  Having a list of tasks helps so much.

Yeah.  And they can just pick out of that.

Some of my clients will put a little sheet on their fridge with a checklist of options that would be a great help, and then a family member or friend can check off the tasks that they completed.  Folding a load of laundry, for example, of newborn clothes or towels, or unloading the dishwasher or cutting up some snacks and refilling water.  Things that a postpartum doula would do.

Yeah, and they’re very simple tasks.  It doesn’t take very long.  That help goes so far.

Yes.  Or running a vacuum.  We’re not supposed to vacuum after giving birth.

Oh, wow.  I don’t think I knew that.  But I didn’t vacuum!

That’s good!  It’s just about lifting.  You’re supposed to reduce the number of times you go up and down stairs.  Again, a friend or family member could run downstairs if you’re in your room and bring something that you needed, so you’re reducing that.  And part of it is, if you’re too active, then that can cause more bleeding in recovery.  Your body will tell you, you need to slow down.

Other things that you can also add into this registry, which are all of these that we’ve already mentioned – I know some people want to have a birth photographer at their birth.  Maybe that’s something that you can have people give towards instead of that onesie, or a newborn photo shoot where you have a newborn photographer come to your home and catch those moments with your little one as opposed to you going to a studio and doing all of the little newborn things.  The newborn photo shoots are super cute, but we opted for doing the ones where they’re in our home, and it was so special because we didn’t have to go anywhere.  They catered to the baby’s schedule.  If you’re feeding, they take pictures of you just in the moment catching what your reality is at that point.

We did the same thing, and it’s documentary style, very lifestyle focused.  I love those.  I did some in studio, as well, but the ones at home are my favorites, for sure.

They are, and you can turn those into a book.  We did that.  That way, you have all of the pictures somewhere that you can actually see them instead of in a computer.

Excellent.  Yes, we have so much with digital photography.  It’s great, but to actually take the time to print doesn’t always happen.  For me, I need to catch up.  My kids, with all of their activities – to put a book together is something that is always low on my to-do list.

It takes a long time!

Yes!  Any other tips, Mariela?

Yeah, I think the biggest takeaway is, your body is really going to change.  It’s not going to come back right away.  You’re bloated for months.  So invest in quality clothes that are going to make you feel good and comfortable with where you are.  And accept that it’s going to change later on, but just really get things that make you feel good with the place that you’re in because I didn’t want to do that, and I always felt frumpy.  If I had just done that one thing, I feel like I would have felt a lot more put together.

I love it.  And you never know if someone’s going to pop over, so having some cute tops that are easy to breastfeed in or a nice PJ set – it does make a difference, and that soft material is a game changer for sure because you don’t want anything starchy or rough, especially with feeding.  You’re so tender during that time.

Yeah.  When you’re building this registry, really think about what you’re going to need after you have the baby, and ask for it.  I think we’re in a place now where we are so willing to support each other and say, oh, I love that this person is asking for these nursing bras, or that beautiful shirt for themselves; I will get that!

Yes.  And there are some great postpartum subscription boxes that have items that are geared not only toward baby, but also for the mother and self-care and some clothing and nursing bras.  I love that trend.

Yes.  I just really hope that all moms out there think about themselves.  It’s so hard to do, especially with your first one, but make sure that you don’t leaver yourself out, because this is your time, your moment of transitioning, discovering who you are.  So make it what you want it to be.

We don’t get a do-over of this postpartum phase or birth, so I agree, preparation makes a huge difference!  So how can our listeners connect with you, Mariela?

The easiest way is to go to my website, newmomtalk.com.  On there, you can find my podcast and Instagram page.  If you’re in the San Diego area, you can find me on Instagram @carlsbadmomcrew or @sandiegomomcrew.  I would love to connect.  Please be sure to tune in and sign up for my newsletter.  If you have a topic in mind, please reach out.  I love hearing from moms and supporting moms.  It’s something that I’m very passionate about, after having one!

I can tell!  Thank you for all of your work in supporting moms in the San Diego area.  Your podcast has such an incredible reach and is certainly educating moms everywhere.  I appreciate the work you’re doing, and I would love to talk to you again, Mariela!

Thank you for having me!

IMPORTANT LINKS

New Mom Talk

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Buy our book, Supported

 

Preparing for the Postpartum Phase with Mariela De Santiago: Podcast Episode #247 Read More »

Healing Childhood Trauma in Early Parenting: Podcast Episode #246

Emily Cleghorn shares her personal story of overcoming trauma and discusses the importance of support during motherhood on the latest episode of Ask the Doulas.  She also discusses navigating triggers and tantrums as you heal your childhood trauma in the midst of early parenting.  Emily is the founder of Mindful Soul Wellness.

Hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with Emily Cleghorn today.  Emily is an award-winning trauma recovery coach, author, podcaster, and inspirational speaker on a mission to support trauma surviving mamas to navigate triggers and tantrums as they heal their childhood trauma in the midst of parenting.  Passionate about creating positive ripples for generations to come, Emily shares her powerful story of overcoming the veil of her own trauma placed over her life to inspire audiences and readers that they too can achieve peace and healing.

Emily owns Mended Soul Wellness.  She is, again, a holistic trauma recovery coach. 

Welcome, Emily!

Thank you for having me!  I’m excited to be here.

Yes, I’m excited to get into a very sensitive topic of addressing past trauma and going into parenting, whether it’s baby number one or baby number four.  We’d love to have you share not only your personal story and how it led you to this particular career choice, but also tips that you might have for our listeners.

Yes!  I became a mama in 2018, and leading up to that, I struggled with infertility for a bit.  It wasn’t until I took my health journey into my own hands that I learned that infertility was being caused by my stress response, which was a result of my trauma.  So trauma can impact your life deeply.

When I was able to successfully carry a child to term and became a mama, I was completely unaware of how my childhood would impact my life as a mother.  And I wasn’t very far postpartum – I wasn’t very far into the journey when it was like what I call the trauma freight train side railed me, and it was all of my repressed emotions, everything that I had pushed down over the years of my childhood growing up demanding to be dealt with, demanding to have some attention given to them.  So my daughter was born.  She was the spitting image of me as an infant, which is really cute, in my biased opinion, but also really triggering.

I struggled at the beginning of my motherhood journey to discern where the boundaries were with regards to where I started and stopped and where my biological mom stopped and I started and then where I stopped and my daughter started.  And my stress response was on high alert.  Get the heck out of here, because it’s not safe.  It took me a really long time to understand that my mother of a mother wound was the obstacle that was preventing me from enjoying the transition.  It’s a huge life change.

It sure is, yes.

And if you’ve got a mother wound, it can play a huge part into your transition into motherhood.  So it took me a long time to come to terms with that.  That’s a bit of my journey.

It’s hard to even realize that we’re repeating patterns from our own childhood when you’re really trying to focus on conscious parenting and being mindful, but some things just show up as patterns, and we don’t even know that it’s happening until, say, a partner or a husband brings it up.

Yeah.  What I learned very quickly is that I needed to work on my nervous system because if my nervous system, my stress response, was preventing me from establishing a healthy pregnancy, then it showed up again in postpartum with my stress response being on high alert and my flight or fight response kicking in.  Then any stimulus from a baby crying, a busy household, which happens when you have two kids and they enter the toddler phase – they’re busy all of the time, and kids scream and cry.  That’s just how they communicate, right?  But my nervous system couldn’t handle it because I was on the edge so far for so long.

That makes sense.  So you saw that you needed to get help?  Obviously, your adrenals and the hormone changes after giving birth – there’s so much fluctuation as it is, and a lot of people don’t even recognize that they need certain minerals, they need to focus on their diet, and seeking help if the cortisol levels are elevated, as you mentioned.

Yes.  I developed a lot of mindfulness strategies, but one of the biggest tools that I utilized during that time was community because so often as a new mama, whether it’s baby number one or baby number four or baby number seven – however many babies you have, those early weeks and months of motherhood can feel so lonely, especially if you are a trauma-surviving mama and you are dealing with the trauma and maybe you don’t have your mom in your life anymore.  Maybe there’s estrangement or something like that going on.  That can amplify the feelings of isolation.  So finding a community for me was huge, of other mamas, mature mamas who have been there and done that.  They know what is going on, and they have space for compassion and to sit and listen and just hold space.

So important, and as doulas, yes, just being there and open to allow conversation to begin rather than forcing conversation is so important.

Yeah.  It’s huge.

So what was the community that you found?  Was it, say, a mom group that you connected with virtually that had in-person meet-ups, or did you intentionally reach out to friends who were also mothers?  I’m curious about what worked for you.  This may help our listeners and doula clients find their own community.

I sought out a community of like-minded mamas.  For me, I am very holistic minded, natural remedies and stuff.  I was looking for mamas who were older than I was.  They had kids that were older than my daughter, so they had a bit more experience than me.  I was looking for that mother-type figure that I was missing.  I sought out a community of more mature – maybe they were a little bit older than me – mamas who were like-minded, who were healing focused, because when you are healing trauma, it’s so easy to find a community that is willing to commiserate with you, but that’s not helpful in healing.  So I was looking for people who were like-minded, healing focused, that could help me out, give me the support that I needed when I couldn’t support myself.

Beautiful.  I love it.  Very helpful to, again, focus on finding common ground, like-minded moms, not just any mom who had a baby within the last two months.  I know at support groups, you might connect with one or two and then maybe include them in a separate meet-up, but I found before I became a doula with my first and second children, from my childbirth class, I had meet-ups with fellow students in my class after we had our babies and we went on adventures together with our kids.  That gave me a sense of community and people in the same stage of life.  I had kids later in life, but what you’re talking about a whole different level beyond that, of really creating a community where kids can grow up together, if you have the same values and focus, and as you mentioned, your lifestyle is very similar. 

So how did you get into coaching?  I see how intentional you were about focusing on mindfulness and parenting, but what led you to want to help other moms, other than the community you created of moms?

So when I was a little girl, I remember – I think I was, like, six or seven years old, and I remember walking across a parking lot.  I was going to a child psychologist appointment, and I remember thinking, someday I want to help kids like me.  And in the midst of growing up and all of that, that dream was still there, but I didn’t know what it was going to look like.

So when I was in my postpartum days with my daughter – those days were quite dark for me, very heavy.  And I knew that I am not special enough to be the only one dealing with the heavy emotions of childhood trauma while also trying to raise a child and be the mama that she deserves.  And so I started searching for ways that I could help kids like me, now mamas, and I embarked on a dual certification process to become a health and life coach.  My passion is in helping mama who are navigating their triggers because nobody tells us that mamahood can be triggering if you’ve got junk in your past.  So that is my passion because I firmly believe that our children are gifts, and they were not given to us to inherit our junk.  Healing is a huge part of not giving them our junk.

Exactly.  What would be the difference in seeing a therapist, as you had mentioned you had, and having coaching?  Would that be something that would be done in tandem, or maybe after therapy sessions have ended and it’s time to move forward, if someone doesn’t have the continuous therapy throughout their life?

It can be done in tandem.  It can be done side by side.  However, the difference is, your therapist is interested in digging down deep into the roots and helping you work through the trauma.  Okay?  My role is not to dig down to the roots.  My job is to focus on the now, and I do a process of compassionate inquiry to see how the events of the past are affecting your now.  I’m focused on helping you improve now.  So a therapist digs down to the roots, and I focus on the right now, how it’s impacting your life right now.

Very helpful.  And when you mentioned trauma, for our listeners, there are obviously different levels and types of trauma.  As a birth doula, I support clients who may have had a traumatic birth or a prior loss or a loss during the pregnancy while I’ve been supporting them.  Those are things related to motherhood, but there could be past trauma if, say, a sibling had died.  Would you consider parents divorcing in childhood a trauma?  What would be a typical client that you would work with as a trauma recovery coach?

First of all, trauma is not the event.  It’s what you make it mean about you.  So I could be working with a mama who had their parents divorce and it was messy and there’s some trauma around that with regards to relationships.  It could be a mama like me who has been abandoned by her mother or is estranged from her mother and is worried about how that is impacting her ability to be a mother to her children.  With all of these events, we internalize them to mean different things about us, how we interpret them into our story and what we perceive that they mean about us.

And certainly I would think that medical traumas – again, as a birth doula, like past histories of surgery or fear of the hospital – there can be some of those concerns going into another pregnancy or again, having loss.  So it sounds like as long as someone is continuously navigating something – if someone had PTSD from a traumatic birth, a therapist would be the first step, and then if it was lingering, then working with a recovery coach in tandem to help through the day to day and address the issue and try to come up with some action steps to, again, focus on being the best parent that they can while healing themselves, which is challenging, because you’re caregiving for one or multiple kids and then trying to take care of yourself postnatal.

Oh, yeah.  Because so often, we feel like because we have our children, that we no longer matter or that we come last.  Sometimes we do need to come last because babies need us for every need to stay alive.  But sometimes, we need to come first because we can’t give from an empty cup, and I know that sounds so cliché, but it’s true.  If you have nothing left, if you’re tapped out emotionally, then how are you going to co-regulate with your child when they’re having a fit?

Right.  Yes.  So what are some of the strategies that you work through with your clients, if you have any tips for our listeners in that early parenting phase that can be so stressful?

Yes.  First and foremost, if you are able to find a community, make that a priority, to have at least one or two people that you can count on and are like-minded and will hold space for you to feel the feelings that you’re working through because it’s such a huge life change.  Another tip that I would give is to develop a plan with your spouse or your significant other about how you’re going to communicate that you need a minute to breathe because so often as moms, we feel like we have to do it all.  Our husband or our significant other is just waiting for you to tell them what to do or to allow them to help.  So communicate beforehand how you are going to communicate that in the moment, because so often, it can come out as being snippy or short with someone when really, you just need a minute to take a walk, get a breath of fresh air, and maybe a shower, and then you’re good to go again.

Yeah, that’s very helpful advice.  And we all just do need that minute, even if it’s meditating, focusing on our breath, having a sip of water – just a way to calm down the adrenals.

Yes!

So as far as working with you, Emily, what would that look like, and how do our listeners connect?

So if you are looking for a holistic trauma recovery coach, I currently have five one-to-one spaces available in my Mended Mama Academy.  It is a three-month program, and right now, I have promotional pricing so that it does not break the bank.  If you are interested in learning more about that, you can go to my website.  There’s a button on the homepage that says Work With Me, and you can learn more there.

Excellent.  And you’re also on social media, so how can we find you on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube?

If you just search my name on YouTube, you should be able to find me that way.  On Instagram, I am @emily.cleghorn.coach.  And on Facebook, you can find me through my podcast, which is the Mamahood After Trauma podcast.

Beautiful.  Well, thank you so much for sharing your tips and your personal story and for helping so many moms during an isolating and life-changing time.  We all do need support and community, so I love that you are encouraging in-person community and also creating a virtual community for your students and your coaching clients.

Yes!  Thanks so much for having me!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Mamahood After Trauma

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Buy our book, Supported

 

Healing Childhood Trauma in Early Parenting: Podcast Episode #246 Read More »

A Postpartum Doula’s Role in Nourishing the Mother: Podcast Episode #245

Kristin Revere and Jodi Graves of Michigan Family Doulas discuss the importance of postnatal and prenatal nutrition.  They also talk about the role of the postpartum doula and how they can support families after baby arrives on the latest episode of Ask the Doulas. 

Hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am excited to chat with Jodi Graves.  Jodi is the CEO of Michigan Family Doulas.  She’s an accomplished professional with a profound commitment to modernizing birth and postpartum care in the United States.  With her extensive nutrition, functional medicine, nursing (LPN), and psychology education, Jodi leads Michigan Family Doulas and serves as an elite certified doula trainer.  Her personal experience has fueled her passion for empowering birthing individuals and their partners, advocating for informed consent and fostering a sense of agency and education in the birthing process.  Jodi’s dedication extends beyond her family in Brighton, Michigan, including the love of her life, her two daughters, and dogs, to her love for Hawaii and her lifelong dream of saving the whales.

Welcome, Jodi!

I love hearing that – the saving the whales part.

Yes, that is awesome!  It’s so amazing to have you join us.  I know our topic today is focused on postnatal nutrition, and with your background, you’re the perfect guest to address that topic.

Yes, it’s one of my favorites.  One of my favorite topics.

I would love to have you tell a bit of your personal story about how you got into not only doula work, but also all of the other related modalities focusing on women’s health.

Yeah.  Well, so I started out in nursing school back in the ‘90s and completed nursing school and did a little bit of time being on an oncology floor in a local hospital.  And I said, this is just not for me.  I was absolutely miserable.  And so I went running and screaming away from it and kind of did a 180 and started really thinking about, what am I passionate about, and what am I already knowledgeable about?  And the answer for me was women’s health related issues and food and nutrition.  And so then I went down the path of exploring a nutrition degree and doing something in the nutrition field, and I ended up getting a bachelor’s and a master’s, both in naturopathy and nutrition.  And then I guess just for fun, I ended up with a psychology degree in there.  I started taking some psychology classes and was just so hooked it ended up being a degree.  It’s actually relevant for the work I do, honestly.

Absolutely.  So relevant.

For sure.  But then it kind of evolved, and from the naturopathic degrees, I ended up becoming a clinical nutritionist.  And I’m certainly very passionate about women’s health in the reproductive cycle, but my people are now perimenopausal and menopausal, so I also work with women when we come out of that childbearing cycle.  It’s all about women’s health.

That is the overlying theme that I see with your work.  I know you also do a lot within the advocacy space, if you’d like to touch on that.

Well, birth and postpartum in this country has, to put it mildly, is severely lacking.  When you compare us to the rest of the world and all other industrialized countries, we consistently get much lower scores than everyone else.  The March of Dimes the last couple years gave us a D+.  I mean, we’re just – we’re failing women.  So I am passionate about change.  I’m passionate about, honestly, an entire overhaul of the system as my goal because what we’re doing isn’t working, and women are continuing to die post birth, certainly.  During birth, absolutely.  At just embarrassing rates, right?  And it just keeps climbing.  So it’s time for an overhaul.

100%.  And where does nutrition fall into that advocacy work?

I think it’s a largely overlooked piece of health in general across the board for everyone, but certainly in pregnancy and postpartum recovery, it’s not something that is talked about with physicians.  And to defend them, I guess, physicians don’t have any training in nutrition services.  So they are not somebody that should be relied on for information or guidance as far as nutrition is concerned.  So if it’s not talked about at the doctor’s office, it’s really not being considered.  I think part of our problem in this country is nutrition related.  You can be obese and still be malnourished.  We are one of the countries across the world that has that as a real, legitimate problem.

Yes.  And certainly postnatal, that is a big focus of yours.  That depletion is a real issue, and that can be dehydration, lack of the nutrients and minerals needed, especially for breastfeeding mothers.  They get even more depleted.  But recovering from birth, there are so many things where nutrition is important, and if you don’t have, say, a postpartum doula in your home helping to make snacks and make sure that you’re drinking water and keeping up with meals, mothers often forget to eat.  They’re so focused on trying to rest and feed baby.  They may have other children at home to feed, and they don’t care for themselves.

And we’ve gotten so far away from community where mom and aunts and cousins and sisters would all come and help make sure that you’re nourished.  That’s not really so much a think anymore.  In pockets across the country, people are still doing this, but as a majority, we’re not part of communities anymore.  And so you’re right.  It’s hard to focus on yourself when you’re caring for a newborn.  And we have so many postpartum complications in the US, and I think some of them could be solved completely with good nutrition.

Yes.  And there are so many jokes about just satisfying whatever pregnancy cravings you have, or those first meals after you have a baby and not being nutrient dense and kind of the fast food cravings people may have, and so really understanding some important books related to postnatal nutrition.  I love The First Forty Days and anything by – Lily has a lot of gestational diabetes.  Lily Nichols is an amazing resource.  She also has some pregnancy- related nutrition books.

Yeah, and I encourage folks to pick up anything that you can while you’re pregnant, right, so you can plan for your postpartum recovery.  Because it’s hard to then catch up.

Yes, exactly.  What are your tips for our listeners who are looking at planning for their postpartum phase and how to get some good nutrition in those meals, whether they’re asking for food from friends and families from meal trains and how to ask for the right things rather than, say, a casserole?

Right.  Well, and a casserole is not a bad idea, as well, if it is nutritionally balanced.  If it’s mostly cheese and bread, it’s probably not going to give you the desired outcome.  But we do like to tell our clients that work with my agency, Michigan Family Doulas – try to focus on warm foods.  Soups are amazing, especially if they’re packing with vegetables and beans and other things.  You can even put chicken and that kind of thing in soups and get a really good nutrient profile in something that’s fairly easy.  Casseroles are great, too, if we’re talking about including some phytonutrients, which is going to be plant-based nutrition.  Keeping it simple, keeping it easy is important.  Things that you can put away and freeze and pull them out and reheat them easily are tips that I have.  If you’re having cravings for things, think about why that might be.  Usually, the human body has cravings because it’s lacking in some sort of nutrient.  So really focusing on phytonutrients, which are plant-based, warm foods, of course, and getting enough fats, enough carbs, enough protein during that postpartum recovery time.  And it’s tricky to know what that means, right?  Like, you go to Google and ask how much do I need, and you might get six different answers.  So that’s a tricky piece.

It is.  And as doulas, of course, we have our finger on the pulse for all of the experts that we can refer our clients to, and that could be functional medicine doctors or nutritionists, dieticians.  We try to look at even some healthy meal delivery services.  I know there are some in your area in southeast Michigan.  I’ve ordered for friends who had babies and had some healthy meals delivered to them. 

And that’s a wonderful thing.  We definitely have more options here than we ever have.  I think that’s the case across the country, which I love.  I think that a lot of Americans have realized that there’s a problem with the way we eat and the food that’s available to us, and a lot of us are making changes already, which is awesome.  It can only help with postpartum recovery, the more people that start realizing, hey, our food supply isn’t that great.  What we normally eat really isn’t healthy.  Maybe I’ll get some different options and change my diet a little, and I think that can only help this whole process, right?  And it can only help with our statistics about postpartum complications.

Right.  And what are your tips for listeners who are breastfeeding or pumping?

When you are breastfeeding, your body requires an extra 300 to 500 calories a day.  That can be something as simple as a half a sandwich and a handful of grapes.  Simple things, right?  So we encourage our clients and I encourage those we work with to, again, even if you are eating extra calories, be mindful of what those calories are.  I think mindful eating is really important.  Ask for help, right?  If it’s the middle of recovery, I’m two weeks in, there’s nothing in my house to eat and I can’t cook for myself – the typical conversation we have in postpartum.  Where’s my extra pair of hands?  I encourage folks to investigate what’s in your area.  Investigate some of those meal delivery services in the area.  Or postpartum doulas will come and help do some of that for you.  Make snacks while they’re there.  If you have a soup recipe or something you want us to put together, your doula can do that for you.  So there’s a lot more options now than ever before for getting these needs met, whether you’re breastfeeding or you’re not.

Exactly.  Yeah, and even with grocery delivery service.  I wish that was a thing when I had my kids.

Oh, my gosh, yes, for sure.  I think about that now, and I’m like, how did we make it work in the middle of postpartum recovery?  I’ve got to the grocery store with my brand new newborn.  Times have changed, so we have more options available to us now, which I’m so grateful for.

Exactly.  In my early days as a postpartum doula, I used to run errands for my clients.  Go grocery shopping, the butcher, and that way they could stay home and focus on healing and feeding their baby.

For sure.

Now, it’s not really even a needed service, as you can get your groceries delivered.

That’s right.  Now, they don’t always do a perfect job in getting the things that you ask for, but I tell you what, it’s a heck of a lot better than what it used to be.

Totally.  Jodi, you mentioned warming foods and teas and so on.  That really, again, is focused on those traditional, especially Malaysian, cultures’ focus on pregnancy being a warm state and the shock after you deliver and your body being in a cold state and needing to be warmed and eating and drinking warming foods and teas and so on.  Again, in our culture, it isn’t something that is so focused on, and in so many traditional cultures, families are focusing on caring for the baby and mothering the mother and making sure she is getting rest and proper nutrition so she can then be the best parent for the rest of the family, as well as baby.  And I feel like, again, not only nutrition, but also making sure that you’re drinking water or healthy teas and so on.  So where does hydration play into postnatal recovery and certainly breastfeeding or pumping?

This is a vital piece of recovery.  You know, you are going to be getting rid of all the extra fluids that your body kind of packed on the end of your pregnancy, and just the normal fluid accumulation that we get when we’re gestating.  So that’s all going to be happening.  I encourage people to keep drinking, even though they feel like maybe they have some swelling going on or they have some extra water weight.  We still encourage fluids all day, every day.  In fact, I’ll never forget this.  My first daughter was born 25 years ago, and I was so thirsty, it was the only thing I could think of, those first few weeks.  I was so thirsty.  And we forget that, right?  That’s an important piece.  So I always recommend that you not just sip on water, but electrolytes.

Exactly.  Coconut water or electrolyte drinks.  I’m a fan of electrolytes for labor, but as you mentioned, also the postnatal recovery phase.

Yeah, for sure.  And I like electrolytes that don’t have sugar in them because it can be a lot of extra sugar in some of those premade mixes.  I like to stick to the ones that are salt-based only with no sugar in them.  And then eat some fruit or other healthy things that give you the sugar.

Great tips.  So what else are you seeing with your postpartum doulas and how they’re able to help their families adapt to this change, whether it’s baby one or baby five?

Well, I think that some of the biggest things that we are doing as doulas here, really, are obviously supporting folks, no matter what their parenting styles are, no matter what their choices are, no matter whether it’s one baby or five, like you mentioned.  Just helping everybody to get rest, to get nourishment, to have somebody there to help with basic things in the early days.  And then as folks transition to getting into parenting and getting into their groove, we’re just there to support their choices, make sure that they stay rested, be a sounding board for these families or a place that they can ask questions and get referrals to other services.  You know, we really want to be the go-to person for these families when they have an issue or they’re feeling stressed, or God forbit, they’re showing signs of postpartum mood and anxiety disorders.  We want to be there on the front lines.  That’s really our focus here.

Exactly.  And you mentioned rest multiple times.  Your agency, similar to mine, does offer overnight postpartum doula support and newborn care specialists, so let’s touch on that for our listeners who haven’t really known that was an option for them.

Yeah.  So we do provide overnight care.  I would say that we – I wouldn’t say it’s exclusive, that we just provide overnight care, but it’s definitely more than 75% of the care that we provide is overnight because everyone is exhausted.  And I don’t know what we’re doing right now outside of growing babies and giving birth and all of that.  As a society, we must be doing something, that we’re coming into birth already exhausted.  So people have an infant, and then we’re playing catch-up.  So it’s not just the normal fatigue.  It’s more of an extreme, everybody’s stressed.  Everyone is exhausted.  And so we’re really trying to focus on helping people overcome that because you can’t be a good parent if you’re so fatigued you can’t keep your eyes open.  So we really focus on that quite heavily.  And I’m going to say about 90 to 93% of the time – I’m a numbers person – so 90 to 93% of the time, our families will have a few overnight visits or plan for maybe just a short-term care plan with us, and then they almost always ask us to stay on.  So I think when folks get a taste of what it’s like to have a newborn but also sleep, they’re like, oh, my goodness, you can’t leave.

Yeah, it’s priceless.  And for partners who need to return to work right away, then it is helpful for them to be at the capacity they were.  Say they’re a physician and need to return two days after the baby’s born, and they’re working long shifts, so they can’t help with diaper changes and need to get a full night’s sleep.  So we work with a lot of families where the partner is back at work or traveling for work.  Or, say, an athlete, for example, and may not even be around.  It’s hard to plan with certain schedules, whether it’s military or with athletes. 

We find the exact same thing, as well, here in southeast Michigan.  We do work with a couple of the sports teams in the area, and lots and lots of physicians.  We’re finding the exact same thing.  It’s hard when you’re a team, right?  It’s hard when you just gave birth, but you and your partner both can stay home for a little while.  That’s hard.  And then you take one of the partners away and say, okay, now you got to go back to work, and everything is as normal.  It’s almost debilitating for some families, and so I’m really grateful to be doing the work that I’m doing, that my agency is doing.  I’m grateful to be able to have even just a little impact on communities.  And if I’m being honest, it stems from the fact that I didn’t have any of this when I had my children.

Right.  Yeah, I mean, postpartum doulas and newborn care specialists were not a thing, and if there were postpartum doulas, they mainly did daytime support.  Short daytime shifts, helping with household tasks.  So it’s definitely changed quite a bit since we both got into this field, and with insurance and employer benefit plans covering more and more, and health savings and flex spending going from only birth doulas to also identifying postpartum doulas as a need.  That’s been very helpful.

It’s wonderful.  We get a lot of clients now that are using employer provided benefits, which is amazing.  It’s a step in the right direction.  It’s not a cure all.  It’s not even a band aid, if I’m being honest.  Maybe this is a backward analogy, but we’re using a firehose to put out a match with some things.  This is the opposite.  We have a forest fire.  We’re trying to use a little bucket that we might have on the beach.  So yes, it’s helpful.  It’s a step.  It’s something.  And I still feel like we have so much work to do.

Yes.  And in your area, especially, people are moving to southeast Michigan, to Detroit area, without the family ties and potentially friends around.  So they don’t have any support.  They move for work or to get into a more affordable city, whatever their reason, and they’re feeling very isolated, and the postnatal time is isolating, as it is.  If you don’t have family to help, especially when we’re in a childcare crisis, a postpartum doula or a newborn care specialist can help fill in some of the gaps.

Absolutely.  I think one little thing that is concerning to me is a lot of families here recently have said that they’re feeling pressure from family – mothers, mothers-in-law, extended family – they’ll make comments about, why would you have a doula?  Why on earth would you have doula support?  That’s just silly.  You should take care of your own baby.  I mean, we did.  And that kind of pressure and those kinds of comments are really hurtful for some of these people who really genuinely need somebody.  They really need help.  And then they’re feeling guilty for asking for help.  We’re hearing that quite a bit lately, and I’m not quite sure what to do about it.

That is so true.  It’s like, just don’t complain and focus on being a mom, but there’s just so much more in today’s society.  I feel like it’s hard to turn off work.  I mean, technology can be amazing, but I think that is a big part of the depletion and the tired feeling that families have even before pregnancy and the early newborn phase.  We’re just so locked in, and it’s hard to turn off work.  I see clients at a birth, and they’re checking their work emails and they’re getting texts.  There used to be, pre all of this cell phones and technology and emails, you would go to work and do your work, and you could turn it off.  There’s not a way to really fully do that now in most fields.

For sure.  Which is funny for me to think of.  It just makes me want to laugh, if I think about myself in labor, giving birth to my children – if I had given even one thought to my employer, I would have been upset.  I feel bad for families that have to do that now.  It has changed, you’re right.  It’s been another factor, I think, that’s added stress.

Exactly.  Especially if you deliver early and you had planned everything for maternity leave and tried to go as long as possible to optimize your leave, and then all of a sudden, there are all of these unfinished tasks.  That’s what I would see.  It’s like, oh, no, I need to email, and this needs to be done.  You really need to focus on your birth and early parenting, but again, some things are out of our control.

And I think people feel a lot of pressure at work or just a lot of pressure to make enough money to make ends meet.  You know, it’s extra stressors all the way around.

Right.  And with the rising costs of everything, for childcare and food, gas, all of the things – it is stressful for families.  Luckily, as we mentioned, there are different ways to pay for support.  Also, certainly with healthy meals and nutrition, registering for services instead of things, like all of those onesies and the fancy stroller – you could register for a doula and ask for a healthy meal delivery service or gift cards to your favorite restaurants, a housekeeper – things that will make your life easier.

Yeah, and it’s hard to know where to direct your money, but you’re right, all the things is not the place to spend because they won’t help you when you’re exhausted.  They won’t help you unplug and have a nap or have a shower or do the things that you need to, to make yourself feel normal, to feel like, okay, yes, there’s some semblance of my old life here.  And so it’s just, I think, ultimately, it’s all about all this extra stress.  It’s hard to know what direction to look, you know, and how to narrow down the options.  Hopefully folks hear us both say, your options are here.  We have teams full of them, and by that I mean doulas that can come and help and take care of all of these different facets of your early parenting.  And I know for us, we sometimes stay with clients throughout the first year.  Not just a two week thing and then you’re on your own; we do provide a lot more care than that.  It sounds like you guys do, as well.

We do work through the first year, as well, and I know some doulas, depending on the training organization, focus more on the first six to eight weeks and that recovery phase.  It just depends on which professional you’re choosing, what their philosophy is.  So look into that.  At Gold Coast, we have some families that have a lot of support initially, and they hire us during times that the partner is traveling or they’re transitioning back to work and want to optimize their rest.  There are so many different scenarios.

Absolutely.  I’m just thrilled by the progress that we’ve made as doulas.  Back in 1999 when I started this work, I spent more time telling people what a doula was than I did actually doing doula work.

You’re definitely one of the OGs!

That’s right!  We’ve come a long way because now most people do know what doulas are.  Not so much on the postpartum side, so we’ve got some work to do there, but every now and again, I still run into people who don’t have any clue what a doula even is.  So now it’s fun for me to be like, oh, this is something that you must know about.  I’m just really glad that we have come as far as we have.  I also, in the same breath, feel like we have so much farther to go.

We do, yes.  I agree.  I could talk to you forever, and our conversation has gone into many different directions, but I would love your top snacks for our postnatal listeners who are trying to avoid that depletion and nourish themselves.  What are you giving postpartum clients or what are you suggesting with your team of doulas, other than the fruits you mentioned earlier?

Yeah, I mean, anything like that, like fruit that you can cut up and put in the fridge so you can quickly grab them and snack on them.  If you can tolerate gluten, making sandwiches.  Of course, there’s lots of different options to make sandwiches with.  You can certainly do wraps and that kind of thing.  Stuff that’s easy to reach in the fridge and grab is essential, so even cut vegetables.  Maybe you could make those soups, a couple of soups, and put individual bowls in the fridge so that you can then pull them out, pop them in the microwave quickly, and then you have a warm, nourishing meal that you can sit and sip on or have little bites of while you’re rocking baby.  But easy, quick, convenient things are essential.

I like to encourage protein, so Greek yogurt is a really great thing to have on hand if you can tolerate that.  There are nondairy versions of Greek yogurt out there now that don’t taste too bad.  Hard boiled eggs are a great go-to.  Cut fruit and vegetables.  Cheese sticks or cut pieces of cheese if you can tolerate dairy.  There are a lot of options, but some of this does require some forethought and/or hiring a doula.

Excellent tips, Jodi!  Thank you so much!  How can our listeners find Michigan Family Doulas?

We are on social @michiganfamilydoulas.  We’d love to see you on Instagram or Facebook.  You can also find me.  I am the host of a podcast called Tea with Jodi.  We talk a little bit more in-depth about some of these political issues and things going on in the birth world.  And of course, you can find us at michiganfamilydouals.com.

Excellent.  Thank you so much!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Michigan Family Doulas

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Buy our book, Supported

A Postpartum Doula’s Role in Nourishing the Mother: Podcast Episode #245 Read More »