Becoming a Mother: Sarah's Story - Podcast Episode #126
Kristin talks with Sarah Baker, a current client and student in our BECOMING a Mother course, about her concerns with her second pregnancy/delivery and why she chose to hire a birth doula as well as invest the time in a 6-week online course.
Welcome. You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting. Let’s chat!
Kristin: Hello, hello! This is Kristin, co-host of Ask the Doulas, and I’ve got Sarah Baker with me today. Welcome, Sarah!
Sarah: Hello. Thank you!
Kristin: So happy to have you here! And Sarah, you are currently in our six-week online course, Becoming a Mother, so I have you here today to discuss, you know, how that series worked for you during your pregnancy, why you decided to join, and so on. And for those of you who don’t know what becoming a mother is, we just launched our beta version this spring of the course, and our next series comes out on August 2nd. It is six weeks of preparation for having a confident pregnancy, birth, and also newborn phase. So, Sarah, why did you join the class? I remember seeing you on our webinars that were promoting the class initially.
Sarah: Yeah, so I have actually had a child already, and during that first delivery, everything was wonderful, but I was always interested in having a doula or interested in learning more about doulas. And so when I talked to my sister, who had a doula for her third child, she had recommended Gold Coast Doulas and I had reached out and heard that there was this upcoming course. And I thought, wow, what a great way to learn about so many things all at one time and just kind of get all of my information to kind of make my decision whether, you know, how I wanted to build my team, how I wanted my labor and delivery to look, and then even assessing the postpartum care, as well, which I learned that there are postpartum doulas and got to learn that, and that was super exciting because you’re not in it alone, so you can definitely get all the different resources. So it was just really interesting to learn about the different themed weeks that you guys have for sessions.
Kristin: And it is so interesting that I feel like the interaction component, with COVID, is so important, even in a virtual format, like the online private Facebook group. That has been really the reason that we launched Becoming a Mother, because our clients were feeling isolated and our students in our classes that went from in person to virtual. So Alyssa and I figured, you know, this is the perfect time to better support women, not only in West Michigan, but throughout the country, who are feeling isolated and anxious due to COVID and really needing to get some resources since a lot of things that used to be in person changed to virtual, including fitness classes and even some provider appointments at different points in COVID were virtual.
Sarah: Right, and you bring up a great point with building the community. You know, it has been isolating and it has been nerve-wracking, and you don’t know what to do, where to go, or you don’t want to socialize too much. But having that Facebook group has been a huge connector with the option to reach out to other moms and other soon-to-be moms and just ask candid questions. It was just really fun, and that was kind of before everything started and the Facebook group had launched, that was kind of – I don’t know, because I had time, sort of like before classes start, everyone’s kind of getting to know each other and throwing out questions and just those ice breakers. It was just a really cool way to see who else in my area, and I think it is just really great to have some kind of online connection to then stay connected, because even after the six weeks are over, I can still pop on and say, okay, question about this; now I’m experiencing this. What are you guys doing – it’s so hot, what are you guys – I’m seven months or, you know, you’re eight months pregnant in summer, and how are you guys dealing with the heat?
Kristin: Yeah, exactly, or your baby’s teething or going through a growth spurt, and this group, the women in the course, can come and go from it but have lifetime access to all of the videos and the Facebook group. So, yeah, to have those, not only experts like Alyssa and myself as birth and postpartum doulas but also, you know, learning from each other. And you’ve been able to guide a lot of the first-time moms based on your experiences and other seasoned moms who are in the group, so that connection has been lovely to learn from each other and get advice about different wellness practitioners that you’ve all seen in your own communities. So that is a lovely bonus out of all of it.
Kristin: So what would you say overall as far as what you – the official six weeks have ended, but we’re still connecting and asking questions to each other in the group. What would you say were the highlights of what you got out of Becoming a Mother overall?
Sarah: That is a great question. I think for sure the Facebook group and just the fact that I can post a question. I mean, like we had mentioned, I have a toddler at home, and so even just asking the question of what are you guys doing – like, how can I make sure that my older child still feels special, or what can I do when we bring baby home, and so it’s just been nice to have other moms who also have other children who have given their recommendations or have given what they’re planning on doing, as well as the live Q&A calls were really helpful, even just to listen what other mothers or expectant mothers are experiencing as well. So it’s just been nice, again, not feeling alone in such a kind of isolating time that we’re having, and even when things kind of settle back to normal, it’s just another cool opportunity to have access. I live close enough to Grand Rapids, but I may not be able to make the commute, you know, if it is an in-person class, if it were a six-week course or something, so it’s just cool to have a virtual option, as well. But I just think that the course really reminded me of a lot of things that I wanted to have top of mind, like the self-care aspect of things, and the biggest things for me were understanding the doula-client relationship and what we can expect or what a doula does, and then I also laughed about the sleep training information. So I think that was – like, what was that, week two and three for assembling your team, and then week six, so I was very excited about those courses because that’s definitely what I had struggled with the most with my first, with sleep training, and again, it’s the situation of asking for help and knowing that there are plenty of resources, and it’s not an insurmountable task. There are local resources and very wonderful people who are out there to help.
Kristin: Yeah, and it’s been great because we have a student from New York and one in Detroit area and one out in Seattle, so I’ve been able to connect them with resources in their communities, as well, but of course, we have a lot of West Michigan trusted providers. So as far as – you know, you had joined at a good point in pregnancy, but if you were to give advice to any friends who are interested in potentially taking this course, at what stage in pregnancy would you say would be ideal to join a course like this?
Sarah: So probably – I mean, I did it early. What was it, like 10 or 11 weeks or something? It was pretty early. And I thought, oh, is this too early? Like, should I not have done this? Definitely, the second trimester and when you’re thinking about, do you want a doula – and even if you don’t, I think there’s so much information – or if you decide that that’s not the route you want to take, there’s so much information and so many tools to use throughout the pregnancy, and like you said, during pregnancy, then labor and delivery, and postpartum care. I think there’s just so much information that whether you’re on the fence about having a doula or not, that it’s just such a great tool or such a great workshop or course, you know, to take. And I think probably, yeah, in the 20 weeks and beyond – I don’t know if there’s too late of a time, because if you do want to get a doula, it’s probably – I can’t remember what weeks you recommend having someone like that picked out, but that –
Kristin: Ideally, first or second trimester because we booked up. If you want a particular doula, we tend to get booked up, but our agency is big enough at Gold Coast where we can find – we’ve had clients hire us at 40 weeks in the past. So it can certainly work out, and as you mentioned, not everyone who is in the course plans to have a doula, but it’s also other, you know, related professionals and understanding with some of the expert videos and what we go through in week two of assembling your dream team, both personally with family and friends and also professionally, so getting into physical therapists and having videos from Webster-certified chiropractors, for example, and fitness videos and some nutrition-focused content, so figuring out in that – and I know you worked through that planning and budgeting workshop of what your insurance might cover. Do you need a referral from your provider for, say, a physical therapist, or after having baby, pelvic floor therapy, and what might be covered if you have a health savings or flex spending. What are your priorities and what is your budget? Like planning a wedding, you have a budget you work with, and what are the key things? Is sleep key or is breastfeeding support with a international board-certified lactation consultant, or is having a doula that you’re using a health savings or paying out of pocket for? And all of those things, and if you prefer to have a homebirth midwife that you’re paying out of pocket for versus having a certified nurse midwife or an OB and delivering at the hospital. And so factoring all of those things in has seemed to be helpful for a lot of our students to just figure out what resources are available in their own communities and then just prioritizing based on needs. Some people want a birth photographer and pictures are very important, or newborn photos. And so figuring that into the budget.
Hey, Alyssa here. I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming. Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between. You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood. You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more. You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most. And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls. If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at email@example.com, or check it out at www.thebecomingcourse.com. We’d love to see you there.
Kristin: So what are your thoughts on getting through some of that planning? What did you learn through the expert videos or even the course content in week 2 that you hadn’t known before with your first child?
Sarah: So definitely the variety of doulas. I mean, I think I knew of them, but I didn’t really think about it, that there’s the bedrest doula. There’s a birthing doula, and then a postpartum doula, and it just kind of clicks, like a lightbulb went off, where it’s like, wow, yeah, if I had to be on bedrest and here my husband still has to work and there’s a toddler, how do you figure that out? So it just gives you more to think about, as well, just to kind of overall think, okay, if something should happen, yeah, what would that dream team look like? Would it be family, or could I have someone come in, or even just having someone, if it’s hiring someone to do some housecleaning or housekeeping while you’re expecting or after? So it just really gave me a good opportunity to sit down and say, okay, so what do I think I need, or what do I want – kind of needs versus wants, and what do I want it to look like, and for me, the hospital room, my hospital has changed to where now any doctor – which probably could happen anyway, but any doctor could be delivering my baby, and I was thinking, okay, so you establish this relationship with a doctor for all these prenatal visits, and then Dr. Smith is going to walk in and deliver the baby, which Dr. Smith is absolutely capable and wonderful, but I don’t know Dr. Smith, and so that really is what drove me to look at having a doula who could be there, you know, throughout the pregnancy, having questions and texting and just building that relationship where it’s not so scary to go into this hospital room.
Kristin: Right, because you don’t know your nurse, or your nurse might have a shift change and then you need to establish a new connection. But you know your doula, so it is lovely just to have that reassurance and connection and know that they understand what your birth wishes are and regardless of who’s in the room, that you will be fully supported emotionally and physically.
Sarah: Right. And then when I was interviewing the doulas, it was also great to hear just the support for the partner or whoever’s going to be in the room for the delivery, so it is kind of like, yeah, you could have a really long or a really short delivery, and if it’s a really long one, you know, your partner will need a rest, too, or may need to step out for something. So it’s just nice to have additional support that they can kind of trade off or take turns on different things.
Kristin: Yeah, exactly. So earlier in our conversation, you had mentioned the self-care component, so that’s part of week one, when you’re processing your feelings about your pregnancy. And women in the course joined at all stages, like we had some women that had their baby shortly after the course began, so we’re already hearing birth stories, and some women are newly pregnant. So just regardless of the stage, thinking about what you’re doing for self-care and what you’re doing to connect with baby and, you know, how you are taking time, especially during a pandemic, to truly care for yourself and help prepare for the upcoming birth. So what did you get out of that first week?
Sarah: I definitely got out of the first week that, again, you know, self-care is important, and being a mom already, you’re kind of wanting – you know, you want to make sure that your child or children are taken care of and all set, but then making sure that you know to take the time to go to bed early if that’s what you need, or take a bath if that’s what you want. And so I definitely took some more time to go on walks and really kind of re-engage in my yoga practice, and wanting to – kind of doing sort of like the – I will do, like, a good morning baby belly rub, and if I’m putting on any kind of lotion or vitamin E oil or something, just to kind of be like, okay, good morning, baby. And I did that a lot for my first, but as we talked about, the first, you know, it seems like, oh, there’s so much time, and then with the second, it’s like, okay, you’re running. You’ve got all these different things. So not wanting to let so many things slip away, and my husband and I have made an effort to take bump pictures and make sure that it doesn’t just slip by, you know, all of a sudden. I’m like, oh, you know, when I start showing, and then it’s like, oh, wow, I’m showing already. Like, I am showing faster than I did for my first. So it’s like, so we’ll have more pictures, but maybe we won’t. So a lot of that, and I think just giving myself the space and the time, that I don’t have to get it all done, either. I think that a lot of times, you’re trying to nest or you’re trying to make sure that all of this is taken care of, and I’m like, okay, that laundry can wait until tomorrow. So that’s been a little bit of self-care for me, as well, where I’m just like, okay. I’ll run – you know, I’ll have my husband run the dishwasher while I tag team something else.
Kristin: And we chatted more about assembling the team, but in the final week with me in the pregnancy and birth portion of Becoming a Mother, we talk about your actual birth prep. So that covers everything from positions to the environment in your birthing space to, you know, a bit about your birth preference sheet or birth plan and having discussions about who will be in the room, whether it’s a doula, or depending on visitor restrictions, if you plan to have family and so on. So, again, being a second-time mom, what did you learn from that segment that you didn’t think of with your first birth?
Sarah: A lot of it was the environment piece, because I think so much or so often, I go places, and I think, I am the client or the guest, and they know – they do this all the time. They deliver babies all the time in the hospital. So I’m not going to put them out, if that makes sense. So if the lights were too bright, I didn’t think to say, hey, can we turn the lights down. Or if the environment wasn’t a certain – it just gave me more of an empowerment to say, okay, this is my experience, and I’m going to deliver a baby, and so I want – it needs to be good for me. So I think that was probably the biggest thing, my biggest takeaway. And I don’t think that – well, it’s been a few years now, but I’m trying to look back with my first delivery and how all of that went down. But, again, I didn’t ask for a lot because, oh, they’ll let me know or they’ll tell me this. And I’m thinking, oh, you know, I brought different things. Like, I think I even had a diffuser or something that I brought along with me, or there were things that, you know, trying to make it more of my own space. But again, coming into the environment, I didn’t realize how that would directly impact. Like, if I’m having solid contractions on the way to the hospital and then I get there and now they’re ceasing, and it’s because, okay, now I’m in a weird space and my body is stopping and slowing down, and no one really – like, I didn’t think about it as, oh, your environment’s changed. Your body’s now going into a weird, like, I don’t know where I am. And the nurses, you know, would help as they could, but, again, I had shift change after shift change for my nurses. So that’s been my long answer of, it was definitely kind of an empowering thing to say that this is your experience, and however you want it to be. So I’m very much looking forward to having my doula come, and she mentioned that she brings LED candles. And I think that it just – and to have music. You know, we had kind of the generic hospital room experience where the TV turned on, and I was on an exercise ball, and there were just different things. And I tried to move around, but I realized I didn’t move nearly as much as I should have been, just kind of waiting for it to happen to me instead of working with it. So that was eye-opening and, like I said, an exciting thing. So now I can feel more active in the event.
Kristin: I love it. And then getting into the overall investment in your time with the weekly – we have the live calls, which are recorded for those who miss them. There are video lessons that are short, but there’s usually two or three videos per week, and then worksheets. So what was that, as far as your weekly commitment, and how did you budget that time, knowing that you didn’t need to stay on track each week, although it certainly is helpful if you want to get on the live calls to have those questions answered.
Sarah: For sure. So the videos, I feel like, posted pretty early on, too, in the week, so it was for sure every Monday – at least by Monday, they were posted. So I would try to jump on either Monday to download the worksheets and then take a look at the worksheets or watch the videos. I definitely would watch the videos no later than Thursday, and a lot of times, in the evening, and I would kind of get a notepad out and jot a few questions down or take some notes. And then I would print out the worksheets, and sometimes I would be really diligent in doing all of those worksheets, and then other times I would just kind of look over them and be like, okay, here are questions I have for it, or these are my thoughts, because I did want to join the live calls and make sure if I had questions that I was able to get them answered. Another thing I wish that I had kind of done was, like, submitted my questions earlier, too. That wasn’t something that I really had thought of, if I had questions, to send them in case I missed the call, so then they still would have been asked.
Kristin: That’s a great tip, and some people who knew that they weren’t able to make the call would ask questions in advance and we’d answer them in the recorded call or within the Facebook group, if they thought of them after the fact. So that is also helpful. So would you say you spent maybe 30 minutes to an hour a week prepping for the calls, or what would you say your time was?
Sarah: Yeah, probably 30, 45 minutes or so to watch the videos and do the worksheets to, yeah, prep for that live Q&A call then later at the end of the week.
Kristin: Great. And then the calls, depending on how many questions and how many people are on, they’re about an hour in length, just so our listeners and clients understand that. And then getting into the final three weeks, Alyssa leads everything about baby and postpartum planning and feeding options, as well as sleep. So what did you get out of that, again, being a seasoned mom, not a first-time mom? What did you learn through those last three weeks that you hadn’t considered before, or what tips were helpful to you?
Sarah: My biggest takeaway was definitely about sleep – and I hope I get it right. I should have looked it up to make sure that I have the routine down. But with sleep, you know, baby wakes up, feed baby, play with baby, and then put baby down again. For my first, I definitely got into the habit of feeding to sleep, and you kind of have this close bond, and it’s sweet and it’s lovely, and it worked for a while, but then we laughed in the Q&A call where it’s like, it works until it doesn’t. And then all of a sudden, you’re going back to work, and you have to wake up all the time, or you’re the only one who can do the bedtime routine or whatever. That kind of starts to put a strain on things, and so for me, that is kind of an uplifting or an exciting – the ah-ha. Like the ah-hah moment, the awakening of, oh my goodness, that just makes sense, that you wouldn’t – you know, if you want to disassociate it or not have your baby always associate it – again, I didn’t mind it, but come down the road, it’s one of those things. So for me, the sleep was probably the most educational and just important one for me because, again, with my first, it was a totally different experience. However, with different kids, you could have a totally different experience. The other thing that I really liked was when Alyssa kind of did some debunking of, you know – I think there were, like, three common misconceptions or three common myths, like never wake a sleeping baby, kind of thing. And so it’s just, again, great tools and just good information to kind of give yourself that – the approval in, like, saying that no, there are times when you will have to wake a sleeping baby. You’re not going to let your baby sleep for all this time, and your baby needs to eat. So that was good to hear, as well.
Kristin: And then as far as the expert bonus videos, you all helped us create some of that content based on feedback, which was great because all of the future students are able to benefit from it, but we had noticed that a lot of the course participants had wanted more resources and support for dads, so we had an author come in and talk from the dad perspective about how to engage the father and some helpful tips, so that was one. And also car seat installation; we added that one later in. So as far as expert videos, give us your thoughts on some of that coming from the professional perspective versus us relaying information directly to you.
Sarah: Again, I just think so many great tools and resources, and to be able to jump on the website and watch them and get the tidbits and get the information that you need. And then go back and rewatch them. There were quite a few that I watched, and I was like, these are excellent, but I don’t necessarily retain everything, so the fact that you have access to them throughout – forever, and now I can go back, and I can have my husband watch the dad author…
Kristin: Welcome to Fatherhood.
Sarah: Thank you, yes. It was the WTF, that’s right. So, yeah, I can have my husband watch the author of WTF, Welcome to Fatherhood, and same with sleep training. Again, if there’s anything that I find helpful, it’s just a great resource that I can keep going back to, as well. Or if I think, oh, I don’t need this right now, and then all of a sudden, oh, wait, I do actually need this now. I need to know how to pump before going back to work or those kinds of things.
Kristin: Exactly. And then our HypnoBirthing instructor, Ashley, has one on breathing, and that was based on feedback that we received after the birth prep group of just, how do we get more resources in planning, especially for first-time moms, but some moms, you know, didn’t really know what to do with the pushing stage for breathing or even in the early labor. So did you watch that one, and did that affect how you plan to focus on your breath during labor? Especially with COVID, where until you get admitted, you’re wearing a mask through part of your labor.
Sarah: Right. Well, and I think – and it may have been more in conversations with you. I may have watched the video, but again, I’m trying to remember all the different ones that I watched. But even just not having it be – like, to breathe with it, or again, you know, kind of working with it. I think a lot of times when you’re experiencing a contraction, it’s, again, happening to you, or you’re feeling like it’s no, ride it, or breathe with it. I’m trying to think of the words that you may have used before, but it’s just sort of like, take it on and don’t tense up. Just kind of – so, yeah, definitely helpful and something that I’ll be watching, even if I have rewatched it, rewatching.
Kristin: Oh, yeah, as it gets closer, for sure.
Sarah: Right, because again, just those reminders. And, again, excited to have a doula on my team to then also remind me and to help me through that, as well. Because, again, in the heat of the moment or when things are happening, sometimes things get kind of lost in the shuffle.
Kristin: Right. Exactly. So, Sarah, thank you for filling us in your experience with the Becoming a Mother course, and we’re so thankful that you joined us in the early beta stage so we’re able to use your feedback as we create the next version of the course that comes out in August. Our goal is to have them quarterly so women will have options to at least take one class during their phase of pregnancy throughout the year. As far as what you would tell someone who’s interested, I know you had mentioned to me before we got on this podcast that you had some friends that you were planning to tell about the course. What have you explained to them, and why should they invest not only their time but also their money into an online program?
Sarah: Again, the community is just so incredible. You mentioned it yourself, you know, having the experts, as well as just fellow moms-to-be, has just been an awesome resource. And like I said, now you have this virtual community. I really think that whether you are looking at having a doula or not, there are so many resources and, again, those expert videos are fantastic. It’s just gaining so much information that you have access to throughout your pregnancy and then after, and any future pregnancies. And so I think it’s just such an awesome way to go through learning – you know, I do love learning, and I love getting as much information as I can, so it’s just really helpful to have it kind of all in one place, as well. You know, you can buy a ton of books, which you also recommend, but you can buy a ton of books and read as many books, but again, having those live Q&A calls and having someone on the other end if you’re sending an email or posting something on Facebook. It’s just that real time connection that’s been huge for me. And then, again, just having the experts that can give answers or provide you resources and connect you with the people who can help. So it’s just been awesome.
Kristin: Thank you so much for sharing, and I look forward to continuing to connect in our Facebook group. I can’t wait to hear your birth story down the road.
Sarah: Yeah! Well, thank you so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure.
Kristin: Thanks, Sarah. Take care!
Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas. Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review. Thank you! Remember, these moments are golden.