Gold Coast Doulas


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Ask The Doulas Podcast

How to Tell the Difference Between a Tight and Weak Pelvic Floor with Emma Bromley: Podcast Episode #205

Kristin Revere chats with Emma Bromley of the Bromley Method about how to tell the difference between a tight and weak pelvic floor.  Emma is also the author of The Pelvic Floor: Everything You Needed To Know Sooner.

I’m so excited to chat with Emma Bromley.  She is the owner and creator of the Bromley Method.  Emma is a single mom, Pilates studio owner, diastasis expert, and co-author of The Pelvic Floor.  She helps busy moms heal from things like diastasis and leaking with simple but highly effective, strategic, core-healing workouts, both in person and with her online courses.  Welcome, Emma!  I’m so happy to have you here!

Thank you, and thank you for that great introduction!

I am very excited to chat about the pelvic floor.

It’s one of my favorite subjects!

Doula clients and listeners are often confused about the difference between Kegels and preparing in pregnancy and recovery in the postnatal time about what they can and cannot do with the pelvic floor, and what is normal and what is something to chat with your provider about and seek a pelvic floor therapist or physical therapist.  Let’s get into it!

So the first thing to note is that I’m not a huge fan of traditional Kegels in the traditional sense of the word, and the reason for that is – well, I don’t know if it’s a case of broken telephone that’s happened over time.  I don’t know how they were initially intended to be taught.  But what’s happened over time is that many women thinks it’s squeezing of their pelvic floor.  And what happens when you, over time, squeeze and squeeze with the pelvic floor is it can become very tight.  Tightness and weakness, first of all, go hand in hand.  They’re like best buds.  But secondly, tightness brings on a whole other set of symptoms and issue than a weak pelvic floor.  So what you’ve essentially done is you’ve got your weak pelvic floor, and you’ve done your Kegels and you’ve done squeeze squeeze, and now you’ve got a tight pelvic floor and you’ve got a whole other set of issues on top of that.

A common misconception is that a tight pelvic floor is a strong one, that tightness equals strength, and it doesn’t.  It’s actually completely the opposite.  A tight pelvic floor is actually a weak pelvic floor.  It’s not tightness we’re looking for with the pelvic floor; it’s strength.  So basically, in a nutshell, a tight muscle equals a weak muscle, and a weak muscle can’t do its job properly.  What we’re actually looking for is a strong muscle that can both fully contract and fully release, and that is essentially what many people’s idea of Kegels are.  We aren’t getting that full release as well as the full contraction.

That makes perfect sense.  As a birth doula, it’s all about relaxing.  If my client is tight and tense in any way – and sometimes athletes tend to have a hard time relaxing and releasing, so they might have a really tight pelvic floor.  To get them to open up in labor can be challenging.

I feel like I should say that I’m not a physical therapist.  I’m not a licensed physical therapist.  I never claim to be.  This kind of conversation is well known in the physical therapy community.  It’s not well known in the fitness community or the general public.  And my passion is to help to change that in the fitness community for that understanding that squeezing and tightening actually isn’t what we’re looking for.  There are telltale signs.  When I work with somebody in a private capacity, I usually ask them a bunch of questions in the beginning.  There are certain symptoms that go along with a weak pelvic floor and there are other symptoms that go along with a tight pelvic floor.  It’s very difficult to strengthen a muscle that is in a constant state of tension.  So it’s important for me to know if somebody’s got a tight pelvic floor before I start helping them try to strengthen their pelvic floor because if they’re very tight, we need to work on releasing before we can start to strengthen.  Probably the most common telltale sign is urge incontinence, and I’ll talk about the difference between urge incontinence and stress incontinence.  But urge incontinence is when you’re absolutely all of a sudden desperate for a pee and you’re kind of hopping up and down and you don’t know if you’re going to make it on time.  That is a very, very common sign of a tight pelvic floor.  If somebody is experiencing that, then I know we need to start working on release techniques first before we can strengthen.

The other really common one is painful penetration.  Penetration is not supposed to be painful, and sometimes people think, oh, well, I’ve had a baby, so that’s why it’s painful.  No.  It’s usually painful because the pelvic floor is too tight.  So I’ll use various different techniques to help them try to release their pelvic floor, and if I’m working with someone in a private capacity, I usually do that at the beginning of our first session.  I’ll do it at the beginning of maybe our first few sessions to try to help them get that release first before we can start to strengthen.

A weak pelvic floor often goes hand in hand with stress incontinence, which is more like if you’re jumping on a trampoline or you sneeze and you leak a little bit.  They’re two very different types of incontinence, both very related to the pelvic floor, but for slightly different reasons.

That makes sense.  Typically, the second is what women assume they’re going to have to live with after having a child or children.  It’s the idea that you can’t dance without leaking or sneeze, whatever it might be.

The crazy thing about that is that a weak pelvic floor actually has a very easy fix, and so many of us have just been led to believe, because it happens to all of our friends, we just think, oh, well, I’m a mom now.  It’s normal.  And it’s not.  It’s common, but it’s not normal, and it’s not supposed to be that way.

Exactly.  There’s so much education that’s needed.  But I feel like a lot has changed in the ten years that I’ve been a doula.  Providers are now talking in that postnatal visit, the six week appointment, about pelvic floor physical therapy and what is normal and what isn’t.  I feel like we’ve come a long way.  But there are still a lot of misconceptions out there related to, as you said, intimacy in the postpartum phase.  It’s not supposed to hurt.  You don’t have to leak.  You don’t have to be uncomfortable.  That urge is also not normal.

Right.  I think typically in the fitness industry, we’re told to go to our six week postpartum check, and the doctor says, right, you’re cleared for working out.  And what happens is, not knowing any better, we all go back to our regular routine of whatever workouts we were doing pre-birth, not realizing that actually the pelvic floor needs a bit of a rehab period before we can start doing those things again.  I’m a Pilates instructor, so particularly in the Pilates world, what happens is people are desperate to get back to their Pilates Reformers classes, and they go into their Pilates Reformer class.  They’re cleared at six weeks.  They go straight back into all of the things they were doing before.  They’re doing the 100s and the crunches and the sit-ups and their series of five, and they’re like, yes.  But what happens is those exercises – a lot of people don’t realize this, but those exercises are actually quite advanced core exercises.  And when you go straight back into doing advanced core exercises with a weak pelvic floor – I usually use the analogy of building a house on sand.  You’re basically asking for trouble.

That makes perfect sense.  I know that you work with women not only throughout pregnancy, but in the recovery time and have specific programs and exercises just for them during the recovery so they’re not going straight back to their old workouts, whether it’s Pilates or any sort of workout; whether they want to get back to running or swimming, whatever their sport is.

Right.  Here’s the other thing that happens with running.  When you go right back into running with a weak pelvic floor, it bounces.  It really bounces up and down.  And when there’s not much stability in the pelvic floor and it’s really bouncing, what can happen is – a lot of people will say, oh, I went back to running, but it feels like my vagina might fall out.  That’s actually a sign of a prolapse.  A prolapse can happen when the pelvic floor is not strong enough to hold up the internal organs and it all starts to kind of collapse a little bit inside.  And that’s another thing that – then people get disheartened and they say, oh, do you know what, I’m just not going to run anymore.  It just doesn’t feel good.  Not realizing that actually, if you strengthen your pelvic floor, it doesn’t feel like that anymore.

Right.  So starting out with a program to ready your body for physical activity is the first step versus going right back into your exercise program from pre-pregnancy.

Exactly.  And to be honest with you, I work with women who maybe they’re 20 years postpartum.  Maybe we’ve been working together for several years.  And I still don’t teach them the 100s.  I still don’t teach them the series of five.  I’ve got all the Pilates equipment, but I essentially now – because I believe that these low pressure essentially physical therapy ab exercises are so much more effective for anyone who’s ever had any kind of pelvic floor dysfunction, I continue teaching those exercises.  So I’m basically the Pilates instructor who teaches anti-Pilates because I’ve tossed out all of the traditional Pilates core exercises from my repertoire and essentially replaced it with variations of physical therapy core exercises because I find it to be so much more effective.  You can have great abs with those ab exercises.  Here’s the other misconception: a lot of people think, oh, if it’s not burning, if it doesn’t feel really hard, then it’s not doing anything, which actually isn’t true.

That makes sense.  And so you don’t feel like you’re getting a good workout unless you’re really hurting.

Right.  I was explaining this to someone the other day, and here’s the difference.  Any time you lift your head up from the ground – let’s say you’re doing the 100.  You’re doing the series of five.  You’re doing crunches or you’re doing sit-ups.  You’re using your rectus abdominals, your six pack abs.  What I teach with what I call low pressure abdominal exercises is we use more of the transverse abdominals.  And the transverse abdominals, those are the ones that wrap around your waist like a corset.  And I always use this analogy of tying your shoelaces tight.  If you want to tighten your waist, get rid of your bulging tummy, all of those things, the best way to do it is to work your transverse abdominals because it pulls your shoelaces tight.  It tightens your waist.  Whereas your six pack abs, your rectus abdominals, they don’t tighten your waist.

That makes sense.  So tell us about the Bromley method specifically.

Specifically, the Bromley method is essentially Pilates but with all of the core exercises taken out.  That’s essentially what the method is.  And I’m super passionate about it because when you take out all of those super advanced core exercises – those are the ones that tend to give people low back issues.  You’ll hear people say, oh, my doctor told me to go and do Pilates, so I’ve been doing Pilates classes, but then they keep throwing their back out.  And they keep throwing their back out because the core exercise are too advanced for their core in particular.  And what’s more effective is strengthening the pelvic floor, learning how to activate the transverse abdominals, strengthening the obliques.  So essentially I toss out all of those exercises and really, like, I could have been working with somebody for seven years, and I’m still not doing the 100s with them because – why?  What’s the purpose of it if you can get results elsewhere without them throwing their back out?

And you work with your clients in studio.  You of course have an online program.

I have a studio, as you can see in the back here.  I teach one to one only in the studio.  I don’t teach any group classes, and the reason for that is because people call me nitpicky, which I’m actually very proud of.  When somebody says, wow, you’re so nitpicky, I take it as a compliment.   To pull the exercises apart and pull it back together – we slow it down.  We’re not using momentum.  We’re not doing things really quickly.  Partly, it’s mind body connection as well.  A lot of people are so disconnected, their mind from their body, and a lot of times, what we feel like we’re doing in our body is not how it looks like to an onlooker.  And that’s what I look to change when I teach somebody privately.  Let’s reconnect those mind-body connections, and let’s actually really connect with your body because it translates into life.  It translates into – let’s say you’re on a plane, and you’re lifting a suitcase down.  Being aware of how you’re moving your body so that you’re not throwing your back out all the time.  So yeah, I teach privately in here, but I also teach privates on Zoom and on Facetime.  I have a six-week program, essentially, where they can go through and learn all of my techniques.  Some of those people have been doing it for several years.  They just keep going around the six-week program.  Some of them will occasionally check in with me and do a one-off private with me.  Maybe they’ve got a bunch of questions.  Maybe they want to do a trouble shooting session or whatever.  I also have a live program where I teach twice a week, and I just basically open up my Zoom room, and if they’re enrolled in the live program, they can come and join my own workout in the studio.

So many options.  And you can have clients all over the world that way, so it’s lovely.

Yeah, it’s great.  I love it.

You’re a co-author, as well, so tell us about your book.

Yes, I co-authored.  There were ten of us.  It was released in May of 2022.  It’s called The Pelvic Floor, and we basically are a bunch of pelvic floor experts from different fields.  So we’ve got a birthing coach.  We’ve got a doula.  We’ve got a physical therapist.  We’ve got myself, a Pilates instructor.  So we’ve got people from all different walks of life who consider it their specialty to be in the pelvic floor.  It’s super, super interesting because everybody’s written essentially a main chapter, and then we’ve all kind of chimed in on different topics.  It’s essentially a pelvic floor 101.  It’s a pelvic floor Bible, essentially.

I love it.  Where can our listeners find the book, outside of Amazon?

Yeah, they can find it on Amazon by searching for The Pelvic Floor Emma Bromley.

And you do have an excellent, comprehensive website with all of your different programs.  I know you’re also very active on social media.

Instagram is my happy place.  That’s where I like to essentially disrupt the Pilates community.  I like to think of myself as a disruptor.

We need more disruptors, for sure.  What other tips do you have for our listeners, Emma?

I think honestly my main tip is listen to your body.  Listen to your body because I think so many of us have become disconnected.  Listen to your body.  Listen to the symptoms.  Those symptoms are essentially warning signs from your body.  Your body is telling you something.  None of these are things that we just have to tolerate as moms.  Whether it’s diastasis, whether it’s prolapse, whether it’s leaking, whether it’s urge incontinence – whatever it is, those things are warning signs.  And it’s super important to address those warning signs.  I said this the other day on Instagram: if you want different for yourself, you have to move different.  And I think so many of us just follow along with what all our friends are doing or what we were doing pre-pregnancy.  And if it’s not working for you, do something different.

Yes.  Any advice for listeners who have had tearing and they’re trying to heal from that as far as wanting to work out and how to really deal with some issues with painful tearing and trying to even prep their body for baby number two or three after experiencing some tearing?

Yeah.  I think with tearing, I’m not a huge expert on tearing, but I think go easy on your body.  I think so many of us want to rush back into the workouts.  I was messaging with somebody the other day who was feeling frustrated with her body because she was four months postpartum and she wasn’t happy with the way her belly looked.  And I was like, four months postpartum is really early.

It is.

It’s really early to be feeling frustrated with your body.

There’s so much pressure.

Yeah.  Obviously, there’s tons of things that you could be doing, but don’t rush it.  There’s no rush.

And for prepping your body for future babies?

A question I get asked a lot is: I’m planning on having another baby.  Shouldn’t I just wait until after I’m done having babies to begin working on my pelvic floor?  And my answer is always definitely not because a stitch in time saves nine.  It’s wild to me that people would think, oh, I’ll just wait until afterwards because these issues get worse with each pregnancy, right?  And we can do so much work on fixing these symptoms before we go into another pregnancy, and then you’re essentially starting with a fresh slate again.  It’s a no brainer.  Definitely work on your pelvic floor; rehab your core.  That’s not to say put off having another baby.  I’m just saying, don’t put off your pelvic floor rehab until after you’re done having kids.  Do it now.

Exactly, and that can impact your length of labor, your labor experience. 

The other great thing is that a strong pelvic floor actually typically makes for a smoother and less complicated delivery.  It’s very often particularly a tight pelvic floor that can make delivery more complicated.  Again, I’m not an expert in delivery.  That’s a conversation for somebody else.  But like I said at the beginning, a strong pelvic floor, a strong muscle, is one that can both fully contract and fully release.  Right?  So a strong pelvic floor has that ability to get a really good release.

That’s very helpful.  As far as pregnancy, any tips in preparation during pregnancy that would be helpful?

Strengthen your pelvic floor.  Strengthen your pelvic floor during pregnancy.

Obviously, join your program.

Strengthen your pelvic floor.  So my program is a specific postpartum program.  It’s not tailored towards specifically people who are pregnant.  However, I’ve had so many women go through the program and then get pregnant with another child and say which of these sequences can I do during pregnancy that I ended up pulling out all of the sequences that can be safely done during pregnancy and that are also super helpful to do during pregnancy, and I’ve put a prenatal workout library together.  Basically, if you go through the program and get pregnant again, here are all the workouts that you can do during pregnancy and are super helpful.  So yeah, I’ve had this conversation a lot with people who are pregnant who literally think that because we don’t do crunches during pregnancy, they take that to mean don’t train your core during pregnancy.  Your rectus abdominals are just one part of your core, and so that’s the important thing to note during pregnancy.  We don’t train the rectus abdominals during pregnancy because the rectus abdominals are the abdominals that get affected when we have diastasis because they move apart during pregnancy.  It’s a natural part of pregnancy that they should move apart to make space for baby.  What we do want to be doing during pregnancy, however, number one, strengthening the pelvic floor.  Number two, strengthening the transverse abdominals, which are your corset abs and give a huge amount of support for baby.  And number three, strengthening the obliques, your side abs.  So four different parts of your core, but a lot of people have this misconception that if they’re not doing crunches, that they shouldn’t be doing any core work at all, which is not true.

Excellent advice.  Well, thank you for sharing all of your wisdom and resources!  I will definitely chat with you in the future.  We have so many topics we could discuss.

Definitely, yeah.  I could talk all day about the pelvic floor.  I eat, sleep, and dream it.

We definitely need more education, so thanks for the important work you’re doing, Emma!


Emma Bromley and the Bromley Method

The Pelvic Floor book

Becoming A Mother – a course from Gold Coast Doulas for all things pregnancy

Comfort Measures Tools for Labor with Katie Bertsch of Gold Coast Doulas: Podcast Episode #204

Katie Bertsch and Kristin Revere chat about the tools we use as birth doulas during labor and delivery.  Some of these include hands-on support, birthing balls, birth stools, and more.

This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas.  I’m here today with our own advanced doula, Katie Bertsch.  Welcome, Katie!

Hi.  Thank you!

So happy to have you here!  Our topic of the day is comfort measures and how we use them as birth doulas.  Katie, what are some of your favorite tools with clients, whether they’re looking for an unmedicated birth, a home birth, a hospital birth, or the support of an epidural?

I realized quickly that my list was not tools so much as how to support a physiological birth by using positions and movement within the body to help the baby rotate and descend and help labor progress.  I love physiology, anatomy, and how the body works.  I love knowing that their bodies were created to do this, to birth babies.  It was really fun to make this list, thinking about all the ways we can help that mama and baby get to meet each other.

As you speak about your passion for birth, can you share about why you became a birth doula and some of your related trainings over the years that have led you to that elite or advanced status that we have within Gold Coast.

Absolutely.  I became a doula about six years ago.  It was after I had my first son.  My husband and I took all the classes.  We both love to learn.  He has an engineering brain and he wanted all the research.  We took a lot of classes and practiced a lot of things, but it still felt like birth just took us by storm.  His birth was pretty hard; we had to be induced, and nothing went by the birth plan.  We quickly learned that it’s more of birth preferences and how to achieve the birth that you want, even when things need to change.  But I didn’t know any of those things yet, so I just held so tightly to my plan.  Nothing was going the way I wanted, and it was so hard.

Thankfully, we had an amazing nurse, and she helped bring us back down to our center.  She gave us some options, and the birth was great after that.  I got this bug in me – I want to know more.  I want to be able to help.  A lot of my friends were having babies at the same time, and I just kept hearing this theme that it felt like birth happened to them.  It was like they didn’t have a voice.  Things just kept happening really fast.  There weren’t choices.  They and their partners were just overwhelmed.  And I’m just thinking: I love babies.  I love birth.  And that’s not the feeling that you should walk away with.

I got my training through DONA International, thankfully pre-COVID.  I got to have this awesome four-day in-person training, hands on, really intensive.  Since then, I’ve done a Spinning Babies training, which I will talk a lot about because it has just changed the way that I see birth.

Yes, we took it together, and it’s life changing!

Yes!  So that I’ve loved and I definitely use it for every single birth.  It almost changes the philosophy of how I walk into it.  After having a few clients who needed Cesareans for medical reasons and then wanted a VBAC afterwards, I wanted to know how that was different for them and how to support them best.  So I did a VBAC training to give them the specific care that they needed.  I love to learn, so I’m still trying to build my toolbox to give clients what they need.  After seeing a lot of different types of birth, I’ve seen the beauty in all the different ways, whether it’s a fully natural homebirth, whether it’s a planned Cesarean, and absolutely everything in between.  There is beauty in all of it, and there are ways to get what you want and use your voice and feel empowered and calm and comfortable as you get to meet your kiddo.  I’m very passionate about it.  I just love talking about it.  I’m excited to talk about comfort measures.

I can tell you are!  I love it.  What’s the first tool that you utilize as a doula?

I feel like I can’t not talk about the birth ball and the peanut ball.  Those are definitely easy go-tos, especially because hospitals stock them, so it will be in every room that you birth in.  I do think it’s helpful to buy a birth ball for your home.  It’s important to get the right one for your height so that your hips and knees are at a 90-degree angle.  It’s just so versatile; you can sit on it and do hip circles, figure 8s, side to side, back and forth – all great ways to open and loosen the pelvis, help baby rotate and descend.  You can do these leading up to birth; you can do it while you’re still working, and swap it out for your office chair.  You can do it as early labor begins to relax and find comfort.  It’s great for during surges.  It’s great for in between them.  Really, it can be used whenever, and that’s just sitting on it.  You can also be on all fours and lean over it to give your upper body a rest when you want to relax and melt over the ball, but you still want to be in a really positive position.  And you can sit on it and have that open pelvis while you’re leaning back or leaning forward on your partner for a great moment of connection.  The birthing ball is just so great.

I think the peanut ball can be more versatile just because of its size.  You can do a little bit more movement with your lower half.  You can put it between your knees and feet and extend it behind you for a flying cowgirl, which is a Spinning Babies move.  It’s just really great for helping baby through the inlet if they’re kind of stuck up high.  You can put it under one knee that’s drawn up high if you’re doing exaggerated sidelying release.  That can help them through the mid pelvis.  You can kind of rest in the butterfly position with your feet together and your knees out, and you can put a peanut ball under each leg.  You can put it under your left leg; you can drape it over.  So many things.

It is great for rest.  If you have a hospital bed, you can move it up and down and change into so many different positions.  But if you’re at home in early labor or birthing at home and don’t have a peanut ball, you can just take your pillows and fold them and stick two of them in between your legs to give you that open outlet.

Yes.  It creates some space in your pelvis by moving your knees apart.

Exactly.  Great tips!  What are your other favorite tools?

I also love the forward leaning inversion as a position that’s just really helpful.  Babies get into the best position available with the space available, but that’s not always the most optimal position with the head down, facing the back, chin tucked.  That’s ideal, but that’s not always what happens.  Maybe that’s just based on where we hold tension on one side or what’s going on with the umbilical cord inside.  We don’t always know.  But we know that babies get in the best position they can.  But we can help them to get into that more optimal position, and that forward leaning inversion is great for that because you lean forward and put your head down, and that gives you a reset to the uterine, sacral, and round ligaments.  They stretch while you’re down in the inversion, and then as you come up, they reset.  That gives baby room to float off the pelvis and then hopefully rotate, tuck their chin, and reengage into that best optimal position.  And if baby is head down, you can do this daily at home after 24 weeks.  You can do it during early labor or if there’s a stall in labor progression, if malposition is indicated.  If any intervention is suggested, you can do this to give baby a chance to reset before you talk about doing the next thing.

For our listeners who are not familiar with the forward leaning inversion, you can check out the Spinning Babies website for those videos and tutorials.  I know there are plenty of doulas who are Spinning Babies trained who have also created YouTube videos that you can search.

Yes.  I am not super into the social media world, but I’ve already seen TikTok videos of it and all those good things.  So it’s out there, and I love that.

For sure.  What’s next?

The sidelying release is also great.  This addresses 30-plus muscles that go to the pelvis, which is just incredible that one move that is very relaxing is also so productive and so great for your pelvis.  This one is great to use if mom has been at it for a long time and she’s exhausted and wants to be laying down in the bed.  She’s got her bottom leg straight, her hips kind of rotated so that she’s more on her belly, and her top leg is just thrown way over to the side.  That’s why it’s called exaggerated.  That is making amazing opening and movement to the pelvis, which gives baby a chance to rotate if they are in that nonoptimal position.  And then mom can just breathe and rest while we’re supporting.  It does feel a little tippy, like you might be falling off, but you’re supported.  And it stretches the pelvis and the spine muscles.  It opens that sacroiliac joint, frees up the sacrum, and softens the pelvic floor to help that open cervix for the uterus and baby to turn.

And if you have a doula, your doula will likely know how to do the sidelying release.  But I’ve been impressed over the years at how many nurses not only were in our Spinning Babies training, but just hearing more and more from the hospitals that we work with about how their nurses are getting trained in some of these techniques.  It’s very exciting.

It is.  I was at the hospital this weekend, and as we were doing laps, walking around, I saw the nurses’ board.  They had posters of different positions on there.  They’re doing a position of the week.  It’s just so encouraging that they are committed to learning these things, to help their clients.  Not everyone does have a support person.  If they’ve got a nurse in the room who understands this, then it’s just great for their team.

Exactly.  What’s next, Katie?

Another great one is a posterior pelvic tilt, or an abdominal lift and tuck.  If I can kind of describe this one, it would be flattening your back, tucking your hips and tailbone in, and then with your hands, lifting your belly during a surge.  This gives baby more room and can help them reposition, especially if they’re posterior.  It’s most helpful if baby is still up high, and sometimes it’s a good one to do when the nurse is in the room because then they can be doing heart tones on baby.  Sometimes if there is an umbilical cord issue, this can kind of change baby’s heart rate.  For the nurse to already be in there and to know, okay, it’s just the position.  Baby’s doing fine.  And then hopefully as they reengage, they’re going to be more optimal, and so there’s not going to be any heart issues after that.

Next is massage.  Just kind of doing a light touch on their jaws, shoulders, forehead.  This can really relaxing, and it can also be a good, quiet reminder.  Sometimes if you’re feeling that tension of a surge, you’re lifting your shoulders up to your ears and your face is tensing and you’ve got a furrowed brow.  And if you’re tensing up there, you’re probably tensing down low, too.  What you want is to open and relax and allow baby to move.  So a light touch on the forehead, jaw, cheeks, shoulders to help relax and bring that down can be really helpful.  It can be a great way for the partner to engage with soft touch to bump up oxytocin.  Lower back massage can relieve tension after surges.  There’s also the light touch and jiggle.  Jiggle is such a funny word, but it’s exactly what you’re doing.  With soft hands, you’re just shaking the back, hips, thighs, hamstrings, bottom.  And this helps release the fascia in that area, which in turn releases the tendons and ligaments and just provides more room for baby to shift and descend.  And it’s incredibly relaxing.  It can help mama move more into that parasympathetic nervous system.  We want her to feel slow, steady, restful; not in the sympathetic where she’s in fight or flight.  So it’s very relaxing.

Excellent.  One of my favorite tools is coming up – Rebozo.

The Rebozo is long and kind of like a scarf.  You can even use a hospital sheet, and that’s usually what I do.  With the mama on hands and knees, you can wrap it around their tummy.  You’re standing behind them and just lifting and holding their belly during a surge.  You’re acting as the broad ligament, instead of their broad ligament pulling in their tummy and working really hard.  You’re doing it for them, and that adds comfort and relieves pressure.  It takes the load off for them, literally.  And then in between the surge, you can slowly let belly back down and then sift it, which is just small movements, bringing your hands back and forth, which is kind of jiggling that tummy.  Shake the apple tree is my favorite one, and I love that this one is becoming more common in the hospitals.  The nurses talk about it, midwives, OBs, everyone, because it’s magical.

Yes!  I learned it from Gina Kirby herself.  When I had my Sacred Pregnancy instructor training, she was there.  I learned about so many different techniques, including relaxation and partner bonding.  Shake the apple tree is one of my favorites.

It’s a funny name, but as mom is on hands and knees or on knees with her hands up on the top of the bed, it is taking the Rebozo or sheet and fully covering from lower back to midthigh and then creating almost handles on the side.  With those handles in a firm grip, you’re going to shimmy back and forth, making the whole low back, bottom, legs, jiggle.  And this again is just great for helping baby out of mid-pelvis.  It is that myofascial release.  It’s good for repositioning baby, for relaxing mom.  It feels amazing.  It usually brings on some laughter for both mom and partner, which is a great sensation to have during labor.  It’s a fun one.

And the doula or partner can do it alone.  In some births, I’ve done it with a nurse, or with the partner on one side.  So two people can be involved.  It just depends on how many resources you have and how often you’re doing it, because it can be tiring if you’re doing it for every contraction for a baby who needs to turn. 

Yes, we definitely get our upper body workout during these births!

For sure!

With that Rebozo or sheet, you can also just tie a knot in one end, toss it over the door, and shut the door and that gives you some support to do a deep squat.  You’re holding onto that while you’re squatting really low.  It’s great for pelvic positioning.  And I don’t think we’d be doulas without the hip squeeze or the counterpressure, so I’ll talk about those ones next.  Again, that upper body – really good workout.

It is a great workout!

I was at a birth this weekend, and the husband and I kept taking turns because it was 17 hours of hip squeezes.  So the two of us did some together; he’d take a few, I’d take a few.  And it was great.  She was supported.  He was connected.  We were sore, but it was good.  That double hip squeeze is really effective when they’re sitting, they’re kneeling, they’re standing, they’re dancing.  You can do it at any time, so it doesn’t matter what position she feels the most comfortable in; you can still get access if you can reach the hips.  And it brings relief as you squeeze in and rotate up during the entire duration of the surge, and that opens the pelvis to give the baby more room.  It takes the pressure off a ton.

It does.  I even utilize the hip squeeze with an epidural, so it can be effective if they’re still in any discomfort in the hips.

Especially if they’re still feeling it on one hip.  And then the counterpressure – and sometimes mamas want the hip squeeze, and then as baby gets lower, they want the counterpressure.  Sometimes they want them intermittently.  But that counterpressure is just that steady, firm press on the lower back with your palm for the entire duration of the surge.  And that brings relief, especially if they’re having back labor.

That’s the main time that I use that.  In my Comfort Measures for Labor class, when I do some of those demonstrations, I explain to partners that they’re most likely going to be using the hip squeeze, unless there’s an issue with back labor and position and nothing feels good but that solid, firm counterpressure.

Yeah, and I like to show them that one during their prenatal, too, because that can be really helpful at home if right away when the onset of surges start, they feel like they need support, but they’re not ready to go in and they’re not ready for me to come.  Then their partner can do all of those hip squeezes or counterpressure.  It’s a good teamwork between the two of them.

One other simple one is just walking or dancing.  Think about how you can use your body, how you can use gravity to help baby descend and progress labor, whether that’s because it hasn’t started yet and you’re past your due date and you’re just really hoping to bring it on.  Going for a nice, long walk keeps everything loose, and it can help bring on labor if your body is ready.  It’s great for early labor, during labor if there’s a stall to just help things move along.  And it keeps your body really fluid.  You want to avoid freezing into one position because that can just build up tension.  So it’s a great way to keep moving.  Dancing together can bring the oxytocin, which you just want to keep flowing through the whole labor.

Yes, and as you mentioned, walking the halls.  There’s railings you can hold on to during contractions or surges.  Movement is so helpful.  

Another thing to work on is the breath.  Hopefully, they’ve done a lot of work to control their breath and hone in to their breath during pregnancy, but sometimes in the heat of labor, they kind of forget, and you’ll hear their breath change.  Maybe they get a little panicky.  As the doula, I can emphasize my breath to help her refocus.  You don’t even need to say or do anything; just loudly next to her – and then you see her like, oh, right, and then she starts breathing and she gets that control back.  You can even do that same thing during transition or during the pushing stage.  If the breath or vocalization has started to become really high and screamy – and it is perfectly okay and really positive to make a lot of noise during labor, but that high noise usually means that you are tensing.  And if you are tensing up top, you are probably tensing your pelvic floor, as well, and that is not what you want.  Just kind of moaning or groaning or even mooing next to her to remind her to bring it down and low.  You don’t have to break her rhythm or say anything; you can just do it and watch her follow suit, or have the partner do it.

Also, practicing that destressor breath – in for four, out for six.  That’s a great one to be doing while warming up for labor at home just to practice.  It can be great to recenter yourself during your labor.  Your breath is so, so important.

It is; it’s everything.  It’s the number one tool.  We don’t want our clients or students to hyperventilate.  Talking about that with a partner is key.

What’s next, Katie?

The birth stool – not all places have this, but it is helpful for physiological upright birth.  Your position during labor helps provide balance and support.  Similarly, you can using the toilet, instead, just because your body knows exactly what to do on the toilet.  It knows to open, relax, release.  And then with the birth stool position or the toilet position, you can be sitting on it and then putting one foot up on a stool for a few surges and then switch.  This is just shifting your pelvis and helping baby rotate and turn.

Exactly.  I’ve seen the traditional birth stool used more at home births, but now hospitals have a new tool, which is very exciting.

They do; the CUB, which stands for Comfortable Upright Birth.  I know that Gold Coast was instrumental in getting one of those in a hospital nearby.

We actually donated three to Trinity Health.

That’s awesome.  It looks like an inflated C, and it’s quite large.  You can sit on it with one leg on each of the arms, basically, or you can kneel and lean over it, resting your body.  It can help with posterior pelvic pain or coccyx pain.  Their website has some amazing stats I want to share.  They’re truly amazing.  It says that it increases the available space in the pelvis by 30%.  It can make surges more effective.  You’re 23% less likely to need medical assistance.  Baby is 54% less likely to become distressed.  It can decrease the length of labor, so shorter labors.  There’s also a 29% reduced rate in emergency Cesareans and a 21% reduced rate in episiotomies and reduced rate for epidural.  So you’re thinking that you’re just sitting on this; you’re leaning over it; you’re using it.  But it’s doing so much for your pelvis and your positioning; it can do all of those amazing things to progress your labor.

And it’s not just for sitting.  As you mentioned, you can do the kneeling and the leaning into it.  You can rotate your hips and do hands and knees supported on the CUB.  There’s so many ways you can use it.  I’m a huge fan of the CUB.

Yes, it’s definitely one to look up and look at pictures for it because it’s a really cool tool.

And I’m happy to see even some of the smaller hospitals have recently gotten them.  It’s very exciting.

It is.  We’re seeing a lot of movement towards that more physiological birth and letting her body do what it’s supposed to do.

What’s next?

A few simple things, but using stairs or doing lunges or curb walking.  These are great things to shift the pelvis, to assist with an asymmetric or an OP baby.   We’re just trying to really move the pelvis and shift it and jiggle it up so that baby can get out of maybe a stuck position or just get into a more optimal position.

Another one is the bath.  The bath is amazing.  That water – it does give you some buoyancy.  It can relieve pressure and feel great.  A lot of my clients say that it feels like a natural epidural.  We see a huge shift in their presence, their calmness, their control, their ability to handle the next surge.  It’s so great.  You go in there, and it’s warm.  You keep the lights down or off.  Maybe it’s just you and your partner.  It’s calming; it resets; it allows connection.  And you can go in as much as you want.  You can stay in as long as you want, as long as you’re not overheating.  In the last birth, she used it four times.  That was her tool; it’s what she wanted, to breathe and float.  And just watching her move her body and use her own instincts for what felt right – it was amazing.  The water is awesome.

It is.  A lot of hospitals have jets, and I like to take the showerhead and use that.  Clients can get in different positions in the tub.  Of course, not all hospitals have tubs.  Some have waterfall showers or a standard shower as an option.  Water in general can be calming, as you said, and just a great reset and can keep any discomfort off your back by having the flow of water.

Yes, and the sensation and the noise, if you just have the bath running the whole time, that white noise.  Like you said, bringing the showerhead down and having that hot water either hitting one spot or kind of a fluid motion up the entire length of the back can sometimes feel really nice.

For those of you who plan to have a home birth or who have given birth at home before, there are the inflatable tubs.  I’ve also attended home births where my clients had a bigger tub of their own, and they just delivered in their own tub versus an inflatable.  There are lots of options.

Yeah, and it can be great in early labor just to relax when you don’t want to be focusing on the labor too much.  It can be great for during transition.  It has many uses throughout the entire duration.  If you’re doing a homebirth, maybe being able to push baby and catch baby while you’re in the water.

Yes.  The water births are an option for many individuals, depending on the state requirements for midwives, but certainly in Michigan, you can.  In our hospitals, you can labor in water, and you can even have a walking monitor and be monitored while you’re in the water.  But you are not able to deliver your baby in water, so then you move to land to have your baby.  But again, movement is helpful.

Yeah, and that is a point you talked about, wireless monitoring.  Just asking for that, to be able to keep moving.  You can use wireless, and they can put the bands on.  Or they’ve got intermittent Doppler monitoring, if you and baby are doing well.  It gives you that freedom to move and get in the water and to not feel stuck.

What other tools do you have?

The last one on my list is just using the squat bar.  This is a metal bar that attaches to the hospital bed.  Most hospitals have them in every room.  It allows for a supported squat so that if you’re feeling a little shaky and your legs don’t feel like they can hold you, then just being able to be in bed and pull yourself up on this, to have that supported squat, which increases the pelvic opening and helps with the descent of baby.  You can do that during the pushing stage.  You can tie a towel or sheet to the squat bar and kind of do this tug of war motion, which can really help with pushing, because you’re giving this push-pull motivation in your brain.  You can have your partner or a nurse or a doula hold it and go back and forth; as you’re pushing down low, you’re also pulling, and it’s just a great counteraction in your body.  You can also rest your feet on it.  If you don’t want to rest your feet in the stirrups, you can rest your feet on it.  I’ve had a few clients who’ve had trigger things with the stirrups, but they loved the squat bar, so they were very happy to put their feet on the squat bar, but they wanted nothing to do with the stirrups.  Just having lots of options to move the bed, use different things, just creating space and creating movement.

Depending on the strength of the epidural, I’ve had clients use the squat bar even with the support of an epidural, if they have some movement in their legs.  It’s a great tool.

Well, thank you for sharing all of our amazing tips with our listeners.  Any final suggestions or comments?

I think just believing in your body’s capability to do this.  I’ve been fascinated to learn just what the body does on its own, the physiological aspect of it and how your anatomy works with you to help birth this baby.  So just believe in the power that you have, the support that you have, and just trusting in that and reminding yourself of that.  I am safe; I can do this.  I am supported.  Our bodies are amazing.  As a doula, it’s a privilege to get to be in that room and help you know that, help you feel that so deeply.  You’re doing this, girl.

It is a privilege.  It never gets old.  Every birth and every person is so unique, so it’s not like anything is routine for us as doulas, which I love.

I do, too.  No births are the same.  It helps us to hone our skills because we’re on our toes the whole time.  It shows the beauty of it.

It’s so beautiful!  Well, I appreciate you so much, Katie.  We’re very lucky to have you on the Gold Coast team.   

If you aren’t planning to hire a doula, then check out our Comfort Measures for Labor class.  That’s part of our Saturday series.  We also offer HypnoBirthing, which is a five-week comprehensive childbirth class.  It is very partner-involved, and it involves a lot of visualization and focuses on breathwork and understanding the physiology of what your body is doing at each stage in labor. 

Thanks so much, Katie!

Thanks for having me!


Katie’s bio

Comfort Measures for Labor class from Gold Coast Doulas

Birth doula support from Gold Coast Doulas

HypnoBirthing class from Gold Coast Doulas

Spinning Babies

CUB Stool

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VBAC Tips from VBAC Academy with Jenni Froment: Podcast Episode #203

Kristin Revere chats with Jenni Froment of VBAC Academy on the latest episode of Ask the Doulas.  Jenni offers VBAC tips and information.  VBAC is defined as Vaginal Birth After Cesarean Section.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, this is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with my friend Jenni Froment.  Jenni is the founder of VBAC Academy, a labor and delivery doula, and a VBAC pro.  Welcome, Jenni!

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

Kristin:  Yeah, I’m so excited to chat with you today.  Now, you have had two VBACs after two Cesarean births, so known as VBA2C.

Jenni:  It’s funny that there’s kind of slang for it.  They usually say VBAC after 2 is, like, the shorthand for it.  VBAC after 2.

Kristin:  Love it.  So your personal journey led you to advocacy, and I know you trained me through VBAC Academy and many of the doulas at Gold Coast Doulas.  I’m so thankful for you and the information that you provide doulas in order to better support our clients.  But many of our listeners may not even know what a VBAC is, especially if they’re a first-time mom.  So let’s start by defining what a VBAC is and then getting into a bit about your stories, if you don’t mind, Jenni.

Jenni:  Yeah, absolutely.  So VBAC is an acronym, and it stands for vaginal birth after Cesarean.  And as you were mentioning earlier, there’s some other variations of that, like VBAC after 2 indicates someone that had two C-sections and then wanted to have a vaginal birth after that.  There’s also a term called HVAC, which is homebirth after C-section, and then there’s actually a term for having a C-section after a C-section, which they call CBAC, and that’s typically reserved for people that were planning a vaginal birth but for whatever reason ended up with a C-section.  They usually refer to those as CBAC.  So yes, that’s a VBAC, and then a little bit about why I got started – you nailed it.  I had two C-section births up front, and for very real reasons for the first time.  I had preeclampsia and had to be induced at 37 weeks and truly very amateur level birther at that point; very first time birther.  Didn’t really take any birthing classes.  So it’s hard to say if it could have gone differently, but I definitely had preeclampsia, and the induction resulted in her heartrate going down.  So necessary C-section.  My second baby was kind of the catalyst before I knew it would be the catalyst.  So I like to share that when I first got pregnant with him and I went to have my first OB appointment, I remember asking – so how does this work?  Do I push this baby out?  Do I have to schedule a C-section?  I truly didn’t know what the next steps were.  And the provider at the time said something along the lines of, it’s safer for you to have a vaginal birth, and it’s safer for baby to have a C-section, and, “Most moms do what’s best for their baby.”  Which is not true.  That’s actually a really weird twisting of the facts, and I wouldn’t even call it a factual statement, anyway.  So I didn’t know better to push back, but it was a really crappy informed consent at that time.  So I actually scheduled that C-section thinking I was doing the right thing for my baby, and the entire pregnancy, they said that my baby was big.  They ended up moving up my due date by almost three weeks.  And when he was scheduled for a C-section, they gave me the option to have him at 38 and 5 days.  So long story short, when he was born via C-section, he presented similar to, like, a 35 or 36 weeks fetus, and he was having trouble oxygenating and had to be in NICU.  And it was really the first moment I was like, wait a minute.  How did we get here?  I was trying to do what was best, and now the NICU pediatrician is saying he was born too early.  It was just really the first time that I understood that doctors didn’t know everything and that I needed to have a little bit more of a front row or driver’s seat, even in what the decisions were about my care and about my pregnancies going forward.  It just kind of lit that flame in me.

Kristin:  Makes sense.

Jenni:  So that was a little bit long, but important.  Then I moved into – I stopped having babies for a little bit, and about five years later, I got pregnant again.  And first I didn’t know the word VBAC.  I was still very much that person that had gotten talked into a C-section.  I just knew I wasn’t ever going to schedule a C-section again.  So I was Googling things like “unscheduled C-section,” “show up at the hospital in labor,” and things that – I thought those were my only choices.  And then that word VBAC started popping up.  So once I learned the word VBAC, I got – it was just one of those things where as soon as I heard it, I knew I wanted it.  And I became very driven and ambitious to get it.  I see that in a lot of VBAC moms, actually.  I don’t know if we’re naturally type A, like go-getters, but a lot of times, very focused, just eyes on the prize.  So I really wanted that VBAC.  And there’s a lot – I feel like this was the first time that I learned what it was; it was the first time I realized how shrouded in challenges it was and how there was a lot of misinformation out there.  When I first started to talk about it with my doctor, the one that I had had before, it was very pooh-poohed, and like, this is not what we talked about, especially as a VBAC after 2.  So I would say just that first – those first moments of knowing what it was and then seeing how hard it was to achieve only made me want it more.  So I guess I’m just that personality type.  So once I really got my teeth in it, I pursued it.  I ended up going through about four or five providers to let me try.  I landed on someone that I would describe as compliant.  Like, just would let me do whatever I wanted, kind of hands off.  So long stories here, so I won’t go into all of it, but I’ll just say I ended up having my VBAC after 2 successfully for my third birth.  In that, I learned a lot about all the rules.  I would use to joke that I could teach classes back then just as a pregnant person learning everything she could about VBAC.  But what was difficult about it was I had put all of my time and energy into fighting for my rights to VBAC and learning everything I needed to know about VBAC because I felt like I couldn’t get it in one space.  And when it came to the emotional bigness of labor, which we all know as doulas or birth professionals or anyone that’s had a baby, it’s a really big transformative person thing that happens to us.  And I felt really unprepared for that for my first VBAC.  So – and this is bringing us home here.  I know I’ve got four babies, so my intro takes a minute.  But with the fourth baby, I had had my VBAC after 2.  I’d had two C-sections, one scheduled, one emergency.  With my VBAC after two, I ended up getting an epidural at one point, so I’d had a medicated vaginal birth.  And with this fourth birth, I really wanted an unmedicated vaginal birth after two C-sections.  I knew all the rules from the last birth.  I felt like I’d had a lot more experience at that time.  I was starting to do birth work with what could happen.  So I really put all of those planning pieces aside and just focused on how to enjoy my birth and how I wanted to feel before, during, and after my birth, knowing what kind of birth baggage I was coming in with.  And I did a lot of inner work and a lot of practice emotionally and mentally and spiritually to kind of get to that.  But when I had that last birth – I call her my opus birth, which is, like, a musical term for the best event ever of your life.  But she – it was about six hours.  I would say there was no suffering, barely anything that I would call pain, just kind of a big feeling.  A really easy pushing; she started coming on her own.  I went to the hospital at, like, 7:20, and she was born by 8:08.  And that really cemented for me that VBACs are important and they’re difficult to plan, and I have a big passion for not just only giving people the information they need to feel safe planning a VBAC but helping them get to the point where they’re not feeling like they just survived their VBAC but that they actually enjoyed their birth.  So that is how my birth story ties into what I’m trying to get done here.

Kristin:  I love it.  And so when did you then take the leap to becoming a doula to support VBAC and other birthing clients?  And then take us to starting VBAC Academy.

Jenni:  All right.  It does get very busy during that time of VBAC after 2-ing that I was doing.  So I got pregnant.  I had my first VBAC after 2.  I was really on fire for the cause after the first one, even though I had some conflicted feelings about my own birth and it felt scary and big and like I wasn’t prepared.  I was still absolutely proud of myself and feeling on fire for helping other people.  So I actually joined and led an organization called ICAN, International Cesarean Awareness Network.  It’s an organization that’s international, and they open up chapters locally in many places.  I encourage everyone to look it up.  And they offer women support on how to avoid unnecessary C-sections and how to get resources for planning VBACs.  So that’s kind of their core.  Once I started leading that, I was hosting meetings monthly for anywhere from 5 women to 50 women.  And there was, like, a 1000-person Facebook group.  And it was just all the questions suddenly about VBAC and then really getting to know the different kinds of experiences that people can have.  I was lucky that I didn’t have a traumatizing C-section experience.  It was more scary after his birth.  But there are some really sad, scary, traumatizing C-sections out there, and learning how to sit with those women and hear how they feel and try to figure out how I can help other people not feel that way after was a really big piece.  And so I led the nonprofit for a while.  And then naturally the kind of – that led to birth work.  I wanted to get out of the group space and start helping people on an individual level.  So I was a labor doula that really specialized in VBAC in Phoenix here for a few years.  Maybe from 2014 to 2018, but it all blurs together.  Lots of VBAC births during that time.  And again, it just kind of broadened my scope and broadened my horizon because I knew what it was like to plan for a VBAC myself.  I knew what it was like to have a C-section for myself.  Then I got to learn from all these great women in the nonprofit all the different ways they could feel and experience.  And also people that were going for VBACs, sometimes they were going for VBACs and it was going great.  Sometimes they were going for VBACs and they had a C-section.  Sometimes when they had a C-section, they still felt okay about it.  Sometimes when they had a C-section, they would still feel bad about it.  So just really observing what helps people feel good, no matter what way the baby ends up coming out, because that’s sometimes out of our control.  I really tried to pay attention to, how can I help people process whatever happens and go into birth with an attitude of, whatever happens, I’m going to be okay and I’m going to try to enjoy this process as the once in a lifetime event that it is.  Then I was doula-ing, enjoying that.  There’s just about nothing that I can think of that’s more humbling and more of an honor than being with people in that space, so I really liked that.  But I will say that it was really emotionally uniquely difficult to be a VBAC doula because every client has so much at stake in it, so much expectations for it to go well.  So did that for a few years, learned a lot.  And then just like when I went from the nonprofit to the doula space, I wanted to go bigger.  So I had been in this space where I was helping one on one.  Now I wanted to help professionals.  I wanted to be able to train other birth providers and parents that weren’t just my clients how to have – I call it joyful VBACs.  How to enjoy it, but educated, too.  So there’s a lot of words I used.  Educated, empowered, joyful, ready.  All of that.  So that’s when VBAC Academy started.  That was around 2020, so it was my pandemic project.  At that time, I had already been teaching parents outside of my client scope and teaching professionals, holding classes at chiropractic offices and OB-GYN offices.  And in 2020, I pulled it all together to make it an online format so that I could not just only reach my local network of professionals but start to reach out to great agencies and movers and shakers like Gold Coast out there and get more people in my tribe and out there hopefully moving and shaking and pushing the VBAC movement forward.  There’s definitely a strong layer of what I do that’s still trying to make VBAC more accessible and less shrouded in all that conflict and should you, should you not, like all the rumors.  Trying to clear up what VBAC is and that it’s safe and hopefully create an army of people out there that also know how to support this unique group of women and parents having babies in this condition.  So that was a lot.

Kristin:  That was a lot!  You are amazing.

Jenni:  Thank you!  It really fuels me.  I call it my labor of love, but it means a lot to me to help women and even when I have someone call me or reach out to me through Instagram or Facebook or my website and just have a question, I never talk to them – it’s satisfying to me to know that I can be there for them in that moment to give them that piece of information that will hopefully help them go on to even bigger, better things.  But yeah, it’s definitely a soft space for me.  I love it.

Kristin:  Yeah, and I find as an agency owner and practicing doula myself that I had considered myself a VBAC doula having had experience over so many years with VBAC clients and finding that clients were requesting doulas with experience and having a large agency and some brand new doulas, it is just as helpful for the seasoned doulas like myself to go through your certification program as it is for a brand new doula.  And certainly the newer doulas on our team, taking that fresh out of training and never have attended a VBAC birth – it gives them more selling ability for clients to know that they have the education.  They’ve gone through the program versus just having gone through a general doula training certification program.

Jenni:  Yes, I totally agree.  And not just as – obviously, it’s mine, and so I like to think so, but also as a woman that has had a VBAC and a woman that has tried to support VBACs after gathering all of her own information – like, I felt like I’ve really had to trailblaze what I’ve built here because there was similar stuff but nothing quite like it.  And by the way, shout out to some of the early foundational stuff like VBAC Link and VBAC Facts because those spaces really helped to get me access to information to start that process for me.  What I do a little bit differently is I have a big push on not only the safety and the facts of it and a pursuit to make sure that I am having the most up to date information year over year that people can come and access without having to go and do their own research to catch up on what’s been the latest studies.  That is so important to me that when I train people, there’s a lifetime open door policy and a lifetime uptraining process where anytime I have new information that comes out, doulas or birth professionals that were trained before are able to come and join these new trainings so that they can stay up to date because it does change, and there are so many different places to get the information.  It’s hard to stay an “expert” unless you’re focused on gathering all that information all the time.  And by the way, you all are one of two agencies that are trained in the US, which I think is really cool.

Kristin:  That is cool!

Jenni:  Yeah, having an agency that can say that we prioritize this – I know as a parent would have been a standout thing for me as a vaginal birth after C-section.  It shows a level of commitment to a society problem that we have right now where we really need to be educating people on how to VBAC, but it also shows that you have the emotional awareness of how this VBAC birth hits different.  We plan it different.  During childbirth, it’s different.  Postpartum, it’s different.  It really is a different track for support, and I think it shows good emotional awareness to have all of your people ready for that space.  So kudos to you for prioritizing that.

Kristin:  Well, thank you.  And as you mentioned with the lifetime access, I have found even taking it early pandemic, with your updated handouts and resources, I’m able to add more value to my clients and my students who are again wanting to work through their self-education along with having an experienced VBAC doula by their side.  So those worksheets are so helpful in getting discussions going with clients during prenatals.  So thank you for again always doing the research so we don’t have to on our end.

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

Jenni:  Absolutely.  And I know we love – pregnant mamas love those handouts.  It’s good to just sometimes get it in your hands and be able to look at it.  There is so much information that it can be hard to kind of sift through and know where to start.  Understanding the safety of VBAC is always number one in all of my classes for both parents and professionals because if you don’t have that bottom foundation of truly understanding that it is the “safe and appropriate reasonable choice,” per ACOG and many worldwide health organizations, knowing that it is safe and reasonable helps you to put that piece aside and just focus on enjoying the birth and planning for a joyful birth that you can experience with joy instead of feeling like you’re trying to fight through something.  So it’s a balance for me, and preparing people and making them feel like, yeah, of course VBAC is safe, because it is, and then focusing on – so with all of the kind of birth baggage that you have and these expectations and things that have happened to you that have shaped these beliefs about birth and your body and how things work, how can we work on those things so that you not only know that VBAC is safe, but you can really come at this in a fresh space with all of the good tips and tricks of someone that’s been through birth personally and with hundreds of people giving them everything that they wished they would have had the first time, which is what all doulas do.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So Jenni, I know we’re talking about safety and the benefits of VBAC.  When would a VBAC not be safe?

Jenni:  Great question.  So there’s only a few things that contraindicate going for a VBAC, and I’m going to start with the very easy – I would like to start with what makes VBAC different than a regular birth, and then we can kind of segue to your answer.  The only thing that makes VBAC, a vaginal birth after C-section, unique in planning or risks is that there is a higher risk of what we call uterine rupture with a VBAC.  So that aside, everything else is the same.  A regular first time birth and a VBAC birth – all the other planning and risks are the same except for this one thing, which is a uterine rupture.  Now, uterine rupture is when the previous scar or incision site on your uterus where your previous C-section was opens either partially or completely due to the power of the contractions during labor, usually.  So uterine ruptures can happen outside of labor, but it’s, like, astronomically rare.  Like, .000000 stuff.  But it is true that women that have had a previous C-section are at a higher risk for having this uterine rupture than what we call non-scarred or non-previous C-section birthers.  So with this risk, though, even though it’s definitely more statistically likely to happen if you’ve had that previous incision, it doesn’t mean that it’s statistically likely to happen.  So the risk is really relatively low compared to other risks that we make all the time.  So the risk of uterine rupture ranges from 0.4 to around 1%.  It wobbles a little.  There’s a range there because of how we study rates has a bunch of different variables.  Did they use Pitocin?  Did they not use Pitocin?  Did labor start on its own?  Did it not start on its own?  Did they have an epidural?  So we’re pretty confident that spontaneous labor without any use of anything to make contractions stronger, like Pitocin and things like that, that’s closer to the 0.4% range.  So really relatively low.  When it starts to raise or go up higher getting closer to the 1% range, that’s when you do things to artificially increase the intensity of contractions.  Again, if the uterine rupture is the one risk and what makes it happen is the intensity of contractions, it’s clear to say that if you do things to increase contractions, you’re going to do things to increase your risk of uterine rupture.  But even with induction and Pitocin and things like that, it’s still a relatively low risk, which is why the American College of Gynecology and like I said, the World Health Organization, the French College, the UK College of OB and GYN – everyone says that VBAC is the safe and reasonable choice for women that have had up to two previous C-sections.  So the reason they say it like that is because there hasn’t been a lot of studies on more than three C-sections yet.  But the studies that they have had do suggest that it’s similar risk.  So it goes up slightly, but nothing significant after the second.  So in all of these different organizations that recommend VBAC as the safe and appropriate choice, there are a couple areas – back to your first question – that they say, these things increase the risk to a place where you might want to consider what’s the option that’s best for you, scheduling a C-section or proceeding with a vaginal birth after C-section with this increased risk.  I do want to say that ACOG is very clear that no one should ever be forced into C-section and that all of these “rules” should be discussion points to say, like, do you understand that this increased risk could do this.  But some of those things that can risk someone out is a previous T incision or a classical scar.  So anything other than that low bikini cut on our uterus.  So sometimes they have to open us up in a T on the outside, but it’s still a bikini on the inside.  What matters is that low transverse bikini incision on the uterus.  Anything besides that can increase risks.  If you have multiples, sometimes that can increase the risk of uterine rupture just because that uterus is stretched more.  Again, not contraindicating, but just something to be discussed.  There is a slight increase in uterine rupture in pregnancies that happen less than six months.  So if the rate between the delivery and getting pregnant again is less than six months – there’s been a correlated increase in uterine rupture that gets into, like, the 1 to 2% range.  After the six months range, nothing – no changes.  So as long as you wait six months, you should be safe there.  And then – this is all from the top of my head, so I want to make sure I don’t forget anything big – I think those are the big ones that are popping out.  Those are the ones where you might get serious pushback from a provider if you don’t – if you want a VBAC.  Now, there’s always – one of the things that I do in the consultation that I do – I do offer a free consultation for people who just want to talk about their options – is I talk about what their past birth history was like.  I’ll say the ones that make my eyebrow go up just a little bit, and I wonder what else is going on, is when people get to pushing and they say things like, I pushed for four hours and I couldn’t make any progress.  Even then, there’s some things that I would have asked, like, did you do this?  Did you do that?  But most of the time, the former reason for birth, it’s very related to the mom and the baby during that pregnancy and doesn’t impact the future deliveries.  So those are a few that I just, like, threw out at you.  Are there any others that you’ve heard of, Kristin, that I can clear up?

Kristin:  Those were the ones that were on my mind, as well.  And my other question is circling back to home birth after Cesarean and risk there.  Now, whether you choose to birth at home or in the hospital, and a lot of that varies on other risk factors.  So do you want to get into what would make someone a good candidate for a home birth versus a hospital birth as a VBAC?

Jenni:  Yeah.  I’ll start by saying if you’re a candidate for vaginal birth, you really are a candidate typically for home birth or hospital birth or birth center birth, depending on where you’re most comfortable.  So it really has to do with where you feel safe and where you feel like your body will be most comfortable getting into that really primal labor land.  So obviously, the first one is where do they feel safe.  And if you can vaginally birth, then typically you can do it either in a home birth, birth center, or hospital.  The risks that you have to consider when planning a home birth – we know from studies that home births have less interventions and have higher vaginal birth rates by far.  So we know that just by choosing home birth, vaginal birth after C-section parents are not going to be faced with as many things – as many interventions that could cause a C-section as they would if they were in a hospital space.  What we have to evaluate and know is that if there were signs or signals that there was a uterine rupture happening – which, again, only risk of VBAC that’s different from a normal home birth – you would want to understand how close is the local hospital, and what would that process look like to get there.  That said, most of the time these things are not, like, a sudden emergency.  Most of the time for transverse for midwives, it’s things like, oh, this doesn’t look or feel quite right, or we’re starting to have this little thing that doesn’t feel safe anymore for this situation.  So most of the time, it’s not, like, an emergency transfer.  But there is the opportunity for that, so just making sure that people understand, there is this added layer of uterine rupture risk, and what is your plan if that happens, and how quickly can you get to the hospital, or is it a better situation to call 911.  Like, you just have to be able to think through that plan and have it put aside so you don’t have to worry about it.  But in general, I highly recommend home births, HVACs.  They’re delightful to have.  It’s really just beautiful to see people go from a situation where they didn’t get the birth they wanted in a hospital and then watch them push a baby out at home is just really beautiful.  I chose to have a hospital birth, so there’s also not a right or wrong way to do it.  It really matters on what the situation is.  But they should feel free to explore those options because home births, birth centers are options and available for VBACs in most states.

Kristin:  Yes, like you said, it’s dependent on the state and what their policies are, if midwives are licensed in a particular state and what the licensing rules are.  So I know in Michigan, we have licensure, and so part of it would be dependent, at least what I’m seeing in Michigan, on other medical areas that might put them in a high risk category, not necessarily that they are attempting a VBAC.  But it might be some other medical conditions that would make them a better candidate for a hospital birth than to birth at home, which most midwives tend to be in the low risk as far as medically.

Jenni:  Good call, exactly.  So if a VBAC is a low risk, they should have basically all the same options as a regular non-scarred, we call them, birther.  But anyone that goes into that high risk category usually does have some decisions to make and some extra care that they have to be under.

Kristin:  Exactly, yeah.  But certainly calling midwives in your state would be a way to find that information out or doing some research yourself.

Jenni:  One of the things that’s hard in the VBAC space is finding supportive providers.  So that is one of the reasons I like to have VBAC pros in as many places as I can.  So a VBAC pro is the term I coined for birth professionals that have gone through my VBAC training.  Right now, I think I have – I’ve got them in most states at this point, but not all.  So there’s a good list.  I have one person in Canada.  They’re having to hold down all of Canada right now.  But the goal is that there would be VBAC pros in each state, as well.  For the listeners, if they’re like, dang, how do I find my closest VBAC pro, or how do I find people who are supportive in my area, and I’m hoping that they can go and find someone – like in Arizona.  Phoenix is our big metro area, but if they were to reach out to someone, a VBAC pro in Phoenix, and say, hey, I live in Tucson or Sierra Vista or Yuma, some of these smaller areas outside of Phoenix – my hope is that even a VBAC pro in Phoenix would be able to say, I know some people that I can get you in connection with.  So I really encourage people to check out the VBAC pros on the site, and if you don’t have anyone in your area, you can always reach out to me, and I am a great sleuth for finding VBAC pros in areas.  And unfortunately, there’s also a conversation of what to do if you don’t have a VBAC expert in your area; there’s not a provider that provides VBAC or there’s not a midwife.  Things like that can happen and do happen, unfortunately, more than they should.  So I can help people do that, as well, and get them connected to resources or just give them options.

Kristin:   It’s all about having options.

Jenni:  Yeah, just being able to choose for yourself.  Absolutely.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And I do love your directory, so if I am getting a friend who’s reaching out, asking me for support – it happens so often where it’s like, I need to find a doula or can you do some research on a VBAC friendly provider in my area.  Like, I can look at your directory and also some other resources, but certainly in those Facebook mom groups in my area, the question of VBAC friendly providers comes up quite frequently.

Jenni:  All the time.  And it’s ever changing.  I notice that especially having been out of the live birth space and not being on call with births – I still take usually two to three clients a year just to stay fresh locally.  Yeah, and it’s honestly because I miss it.  I love it.  But even my – I notice in our landscape here – and there was a time when I knew everybody here and could tell you exactly who was and wasn’t, but it changes so much.  So it’s good to have access to the people who are still out there taking births, especially doulas.  They’re experts on knowing who are the VBAC friendly ones.

Kristin:  We’re all about knowing the resources.  That’s one of our primary roles, and giving evidence-based information.  So you certainly help us with both of those.

Jenni:  Great.  I love to hear that.

Kristin:  So any final tips for our listeners who are curious about exploring a VBAC for themselves?

Jenni:  Yeah, I would say if you feel like VBAC is still unsafe or you’re unsure if it’s safe, please come to my page.  I’m a self-described research scientist.  It really mattered to me to get to a place where I really understood VBAC to be safe, or I wouldn’t be able to tell everyone else to do it.  So if my page on its own – you know, either the website,, or I have a whole library of content just on my Instagram available for free and you can just peruse through it.  But if you’re still feeling like VBAC is scary or you’re not sure if it’s safe, please talk to me.  I’m happy to talk to people over DMs or phone calls for the free consult.  It really is a safe choice and we really do have a problem, at least in America and many other countries, with too many unnecessary C-sections happening, and there is a cost to that.  It’s scarier for moms.  We have a higher morbidity rate with C-sections.  We’re at more risk for morbidity afterward with these major surgeries.  It’s not just another way to birth.  So if people are having questions, they should definitely check out my website and my Insta just for some really good core foundational info.  Also, I offer classes.  I have a VBAC 101 class for parents who are looking to plan a VBAC.  Then I have a VBAC 201 class, which is my VBAC Pro Certification.  That’s for any birth professionals that are looking to specialize in VBAC.  I also have a VBAC 301, which is coming soon.  It’s a VBAC advocate class.  Sometimes people aren’t pregnant and they’re not doulas, but they want to be out there making a difference for VBAC.  So I have a space for them and getting them connected to how they can help in their community.  And then there’s the VBAC 401 for people who are interested in doing what I do with me and potentially becoming a trainer and working in their own communities to train VBAC Academy stuff.  So lots of options to get connected and mobilized in your local area, and I’m really grateful for you, Kristin, and agencies like yours that help to carry this message forward.  It’s such an important cause to me.  Thank you for what you do.

Kristin:  Well, thank you.  I wouldn’t be in this space to support so many VBAC clients without your continued research and support and mentoring, so I appreciate you very much, Jenni.

Jenni:  You’re welcome.

Kristin:   And thank you for taking the time.  We’ll have to chat again soon.

Jenni:  Yes, definitely.  Thank you for the time.  It was fun to talk VBAC with you.

Kristin:  For sure.  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.

The Importance of Giving Back with Dr. Annie Bishop: Podcast Episode #202

Kristin Revere chats with Dr. Annie Bishop of Rise Wellness Chiropractic about the importance of giving back.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat today with Dr. Annie Bishop of Rise Wellness Chiropractic.  Welcome, Annie!

Dr. Annie:  Hey, Kristin.  Thanks for having me on here.  Super excited to be here again.

Kristin:  Yeah, it’s been a while!

Dr. Annie:  It has.

Kristin:  So for our listeners, if you’d tell us a bit about your chiropractic practice and how they can connect with you if they are local to the greater Grand Rapids area.

Dr. Annie:  Sure.  So Rise Wellness Chiropractic is myself and then Dr. Rachel Babbitt.  And we have a pediatric and perinatal focused chiropractic practice right here in GR, and we’re located on the corner of Diamond and Lake.  We always say we’re where Marie Catrib’s used to be.

Kristin:  Yes, the center of the universe, as it was always called.

Dr. Annie:  Center of the universe was such a highlight in our community.  And so we’re happy to, like, create more community in that area and be just like in the heart of Grand Rapids, which is so fun and so – like, we love our space and we love being a part of that community.  So like I said, we’re pediatric.  I’m fully pediatric certified through the International Chiropractic Pediatrics Association.  Both Dr. Rachel and I have Webster certification, and we’ve done advanced perinatal training.  So we pretty much see women through their entire pregnancy journey and then beyond that, too, with their kiddos and their whole families.

Kristin:  So for our listeners who haven’t heard you on past episodes, could you define what a Webster certified chiro is and how that is a bit different from other chiropractors?

Dr. Annie:  I would love to.  So Webster certification was started by Larry Webster, who was a chiropractor who focused on pregnancy and really saw all the benefits, and it’s really expanded.  So that was, like, in the 70s, and it’s expanded from there.  So now all over the world there’s Webster certified chiropractors, and it’s really in the analysis and adjustment technique that focuses on the mom’s pelvis and getting that in good alignment or neurological coordination, like most chiropractors do, but also to create optimal positioning so that baby can get into the right position so mom’s labor is super easy so recovery is easier.  Just all of those great things that we want with a birth.

Kristin:  Love it.  So now that we’ve learned a bit about your practice, let’s jump to our topic today which is all about giving back.  So you have participated in Gold Coast’s annual diaper drive even before you started Rise and when you were in a different practice.

Dr. Annie:  Yes, a whole lifetime ago!

Kristin:  Totally, a whole lifetime ago.  You have really focused your business, when you and Dr. Rachel started Rise, all about giving back to the community and making a difference which, again, like with Gold Coast being a certified B Corp, it is everything we live and breathe is giving back and making a difference and being a for profit versus a nonprofit company and also creating change and I’ve always been impressed not only by how you have been all in on our diaper drive since day one but also in all of the other give backs that you do throughout the year.  So let’s chat a bit about that.

Dr. Annie:  Sure, yeah.   I would love to.  So this is what – is this your sixth that we’ve done diaper drive with you?

Kristin:  Yeah, you’ve done six of the eight with us, yes.

Dr. Annie:  That’s wild.  How time flies.  Yeah, so diaper drive is one of our favorite give backs.  You guys really started us on this path with the diaper drive and stuff, and we just jumped all in because it’s such a great organization and it’s such a fun drive to do, and it’s something that’s so easy for our community, too, because we have parents who are transitioning out of different diaper sizes.

Kristin:  Exactly, and we take open packages, and so if you have a handful left and don’t have anyone with that right size, they’re getting put to good use.

Dr. Annie:  Yeah.  We end up just collecting them year round, honestly.

Kristin:  So do we.  We keep them, yeah.  I just brought them into my office.

Dr. Annie:  Yep, we do the same thing.  We just, like, as kids are growing out of their diapers, we just, like, hold on to them and then we have, like, a diaper change station in our office, too, so it always – like, it benefits us and our patients that come in on a day to day basis, like if they don’t have a diaper bag with them, we have supplies for them.  But then we donate all the rest of them to the diaper drive in September, which is one of our favorite ones that we do.  But I guess to kind of backtrack a little bit, this whole idea of being – I don’t know, just being a good business.  You know, giving back to the community that nourishes us, like, one of our – I mean, one of our major, like, our moral tenets, I guess, like, we – both Rachel and I have always wanted to give back and wanted to serve the community.  That’s why we became chiropractors because we wanted to do good.  And our whole structure of our practice is based around a really pivotal transition point in people’s lives.  And so we do home visits for those moms at no extra cost.  We want to be a part of their lives and their family’s growing, but we also want to be a part of the bigger community, too.  So we try to focus on give backs that are focused on kids, so we try to do a back to school drive every year.  We used to do with DA Blodgett and we transitioned it to GRPS.  And then this year we actually instead of the back to school drive, we did a food fundraiser in the middle of summer because what was happening was we were just doing two drives back to back with the diaper drive, and this has been such a solid one for us over the years, so we decided to do a food pantry drive this summer, and that was super successful because we know food pantries are always – they got a lot of donations, like around the holidays, but they’re usually running pretty empty in the summer, so we tried to get a bunch of food together and donate this summer to feeding America, West Michigan.  Other ones: we sponsor a kiddo in Honduras, too, through Children’s Home Project.  One of our friends, Abby, is a photographer with them and raises money with Children’s Home Project, so we sponsor a kiddo through our office.  And we just try to do things that are – we talked about how hard it is because so many organizations are asking for money, and we try to really focus on ones that are going to make the biggest impact in our community, especially in the lives of kids as they’re growing and developing.  So that’s kind of our focus there.

Kristin:  Yeah, and it’s one thing to obviously volunteer yourselves as business owners or give money directly to charity, but I love the fact that you are very similar to Gold Coast in that we involve our clients.  You involve your patients and give back and how life changing that can be because they’re also invested and feel like when they see the numbers and the social media posts, like, that they made a difference, as well as your practice, versus you just saying, I gave $1000 to this charity, you know?

Dr. Annie:  It’s fun being able to talk about it, but like, we don’t – I mean, we’re just the hub.  We organize it, I guess.  And we end up doing the donation, but it’s all of our – it’s our community.  It’s our patients that are the ones who are doing the donations and stuff, too.  We have families that year over year, you know, are like, when is the diaper drive?  We’re already collecting diapers or we’re going to go out and buy some huge packs to donate every year, and they’re the ones who are really – like, we do – we also buy some diapers to throw in.

Kristin:  Same, yeah.

Dr. Annie:  We have such awesome patients.  It’s been such an awesome community that also cares about this.

Kristin:  Exactly, and I will never forget the social posts that I’ve reshared so many times where you’ve got the mountain of diapers and you’re pointing at it.  Your clients – your patients can just be like, hey, you know, that stack right there, that was me.  And yeah, even the little, the smallest donation makes a huge difference and as a way to recycle cloth diapers and cloth supplies and be good for the environment and help families in need.  Diaper drives in the area, like Nestlings Diaper Bank works with some schools and churches in Ottawa County, and they partner with Great Start in Kent County for our drives since many of the businesses, like your own, participate and are located in Kent County.  So we’re able to make an impact, and then they directly distribute the diapers to families in need.  So, yeah, it’s such a wonderful program that has so much impact because social service organizations do not give diapers.  It’s not part of the program with WIC and related organizations.

Dr. Annie:  Blows my mind every time we talk about that.

Kristin:  Yeah, and the fact that the need is, like, one in two families now this year.

Dr. Annie:  Diapers are expensive, yeah.

Kristin:  Exactly.  They’re so expensive and with inflation and prices raising on everything from diapers to food, with your food drive being so relevant, people just can’t afford the basics and if social service programs aren’t covering it, then what do you do?  Then your baby is unhappy, crying, will get diaper rash and not sleep.  You’re not sleeping.  And so it’s this cascading effect, and so the fact that both of our businesses are able to give back to the community and involve our clients and patients and they can see that impact and then the social service organizations distribute to the people who need it most versus us just guessing and trying to find families in need.  But yes, I mean, food prices really targeting your giving based on what’s important in the area.  Again, back to school drives when that’s needed, and pivoting, I think, is so essential.  We’ve focused some of our foundation giving to some rural hospitals through Trinity Health St. Mary’s Foundation and everything from blood pressure cuffs to giving to Clinica Santa Maria and to the Hispanic population and directing dollars to the programs even with the foundation giving.  Like Spectrum Foundation; we focused on breastfeeding moms and educating nursing staff.

Dr. Annie:  That’s so cool.  I didn’t realize you guys did all that, too.

Kristin:  Yeah.  So a lot of our Pine Rest Mother Baby program.  Again, that’s giving dollars but really directing – Pine Rest is such a big organization – to programs that serve low income women and children in our target demographic as a B Corp.

Dr. Annie:  So cool, yeah.

Kristin:  As far as making impact and being passionate about your work, what other tips do you have for listeners who want to make a difference?  They might not live in West Michigan and be able to directly contribute to our diaper drive or other drives like you do, like the food drive, for example.  But how can our listeners make an impact in their own community, or if they happen to own a business, what are your tips for really making that important choice to not only give dollars but time and take, as you know, the time to set up a drive and promote the drive?

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

Dr. Annie:  Yeah, I mean, it’s a lot of work, but not really.  I think you just need to get into your community.  Like, just be passionate and just be embedded in your community because that’s – you will find need, and need will find you.  And I think the biggest thing is just like, we as business owners get too concerned about, like – I don’t know, we get concerned about numbers and stuff.  That’s part of business.  But it’s not just about you.  Our businesses especially, Kristin, we’re of service.  And so it just kind of expands from there.  So I think if you come at it from an aspect of, like, I am doing this business to, like, serve my greater community, to serve these families, to serve these people, you see where there’s pockets of non-service, basically.  So we see where there’s pockets of families who can’t afford food or families who can’t afford diapers, who can’t afford back to school supplies, and so we see those things, and it just becomes more clear of like, oh, this is a great way for us to better serve our community again.  The initial drive comes from there, from just being of good fellowship, good humanitarian, and that’s kind of – you will find that in any community that you look at.  Anyone who’s not in West Michigan, just look at your own community.  There’s always pockets of need there.  And then find ways that you can best fill those.  I mean, out of abundance of love and service and caring, you will find room to give, and then that will also come back to you.  There’s no – for me, there is no ask that’s not going to also come back into our community, so it’s really – it sounds like a little karma, but it’s like you give and you receive, and that’s just kind of the way that the world works.  So why not give as much as you can?

Kristin:  Exactly.  And some businesses choose to give a certain portion of their proceeds to a cause.  There’s so many ways to engage.  At Gold Coast, we focus directly giving to the areas in need versus just attending a gala or a fundraiser, which I do and I pay for those on my own and don’t include that in our annual giving for the sense of community and the networking possibilities, but again, just really –

Dr. Annie:  Yeah, that stuff’s all super important because networking is – you need to know people in the community and that’s how you – that’s a lot of the ways that you meet people.

Kristin:  You do.  But rather than give $500 to attend an event, I would rather give it directly to families in need.  So if I attend a ticketed event, it’s like a different focus.  But my biggest tip for our listeners that want to give back is don’t create a nonprofit arm or start something that is so time intensive and would take away from your work.  Partner with someone.  I have so many partners in this annual diaper drive, including Rise.  Mindful Counseling, Mind Body Baby Yoga.  So many different businesses.

Dr. Annie:  Those are good people, yeah.

Kristin:  Yeah, and they are working to promote the event and be involved because I couldn’t do it on my own.  So creating community and something larger than yourself and not having to, again, do all the work that takes you away from your clients and patients.

Dr. Annie:  And it’s so easy to get people amped up on giving back.  Like, it’s really easy.

Kristin:  Yes, and you’ve been involved in your community as well.  So you and I served on the East Town Board together, and then once you moved, you are very involved in Uptown and your neighborhood business district.  So for me, it’s not only getting involved in the passion areas for Gold Coast but also in our neighborhood, in our community, and getting to know other business owners.  We’ve got four of our business partners who reside in Uptown business district and different areas.  So how cool is that?

Dr. Annie:  It’s so cool.  I love it.  We have such a cool community.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Yeah.  Again, just focusing on what is important and making a difference in the world.  For our diaper drive – again, this is the eight year.  It’s September 1st to October 1st-ish.  Some years, depending on national diaper needs awareness, it might be off a couple days.  But we’re able to again make that impact for a whole month versus just doing a drive for a week or a couple of days to really get the energy up, get people who may not have access to drop off diapers.  I always offer to pick them up from people if they’re not able to drive to the locations, and we have strategically partnered with businesses that have locations all over the community in West Michigan so you don’t need to drive an hour to drop off diapers.

Dr. Annie:  So smart.  Love it.  We do a special benefit, too, for donations.  I think that’s why we collect so many every year.  I mean, also because we have great patients, too, but we offer a no charge initial exam at our office if you donate diapers.  So basically, any size pack – I mean, we definitely like you to bring as many as you can for a diaper mountain.  But that’s usually what it is; family members want to get in and get scanned, but anyone who’s been kind of eyeing our office and wondering – like, wanting to check it out and stuff, our initial exam process is a couple of scans.  No radiation.  And you get all of that for no charge with the donation of diapers during this month, during the month of September.

Kristin:  That is huge.  Well, thank you for all the good you’re doing in the world and for your patients.  We just appreciate partnering with you so much.

Dr. Annie:  We love it.  We look forward to this every year.

Kristin:  Yeah, and we will be sharing updates.  Once this episode comes out, we’ll have show notes with links on all of the locations, all of the information if you happen to be tuning in during the time of the diaper drive.  But no worries if you catch this later; there’s always next year.

Dr. Annie:  Yeah, we hold on to them every year.  Like we said.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Well, thanks so much, Dr. Annie, and we’ll be chatting soon!

Dr. Annie:  I’ll see you soon, Kristin.

Kristin:  Before we end this, why don’t you give your social media handles and website.  I know we talked about your physical location, but share your social and contact info with our listeners.

Dr. Annie:  Sure.  We’re on Facebook and Instagram.  Both of them are @risewellnesschiro.  We’re way more active on Instagram, but I think we share it all to Facebook, too.  We’re available on pretty much – if you message us on either of them, we will get it.  And then our email address is  And our website is, so pretty consistent across the board.

Kristin:  Awesome.  Love it.  Thanks again, Annie!  Talk to you soon!

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.

How to Prep for Infant Feeding with Victoria Facelli: Podcast Episode #201

Kristin Revere chats with Victoria Facelli IBCLC, author of Feed the Baby: An Inclusive Guide to Nursing, Bottle-Feeding and Everything in Between about the best ways to prep for infant feeding.  Victoria has so many resources to help you!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Victoria Facelli today.  Victoria is an international board certified lactation consultant and a postpartum doula and a new author of the book called Feed the Baby: An Inclusive Guide to Nursing, Bottle Feeding, and Everything in Between.  Welcome, Victoria!

Victoria:  Hi!  Thank you so much for having me.  I’m so happy to be here.

Kristin:  I am so excited to chat with you, and I love your book.  It is so needed.  So let’s get into a bit about your personal story that, of course, you share in your book, leading you to the journey of becoming a postpartum doula and IBCLC and then of course now an author.

Victoria:  Yeah, it’s been quite a journey, let me tell.  So I had been a nanny forever, and I did a lot of theater, so that sort of complimented what I was doing.  And I just found that I loved that space right after a baby was born.  There was just something so magical about that time in the early postpartum.  And so I decided to become a postpartum doula and started that work and loved it.  And then we happened to have a fabulous IBCLC program at the university up the road from me up at UNC, and so I decided, okay, let’s go for it.  That was really the piece of my work that was fascinating to me and really driving me because it’s such a puzzle, and I like complex puzzles.  So I found myself really drawn to that work and ended up getting my IBCLC and really diving into all of that and found that I was a little bit of a black sheep at times because I asked a lot of uncomfortable questions and was always looking to push the envelope.  But in general, even though when I started my practice, I started a practice that was formula positive, when I had my own kid, I found that I was still carrying a lot of that kind of, like, best health misinformation with me.

Kristin:  Yes.

Victoria:  And so I had a really uncomplicated pregnancy.  I was literally working at a doula agency, surrounded by birth doulas and postpartum doulas all day every day.  I had two incredible birth doulas at my birth, this amazing midwifery team.  And those outcomes happen, and we had one of those bad outcomes.  And so my daughter was born not breathing and spent three weeks in the NICU.  And as a result of that, has cerebral palsy.  And so learning the motor planning of how to eat was our biggest barrier in leaving the NICU.  So we left the NICU with me pumping and her bottle feeding, and then I pursued nursing directly for a good while, and we had her tongue tie revised and I was working with really phenomenal lactation consultants and finally came to a place where I was like, this is actually not helping.  Like, I – we had so many appointments.  We had so much going on.  I really needed sleep due to the PTSD that I was navigating at the time.  I was really physically ill.  And so I just – so I took that off the table, and I’m really proud of that.  And one of the things I talk about in the book is that it is good parenting to change your mind with the circumstance in front of you.

Kristin:  Absolutely.

Victoria:  And so I was so proud of that and then continued to pump for nine months which, to some degree, I regret.  It was really negative for my health.  And – but it was the one place where I had control, and it was so symbolic of who I was as a professional.  So walking away from all that and with this much broader understanding of ableism and bodies and the way – like, the sheer – I think I say in the book, the sheer breadth of human experience that was just blown wide open for me in having my daughter, and so when the pandemic started and we locked down, my therapist told me that I needed something that was just about me.  I had spent coming up on three years with total focus on my kid’s therapies and her needs and solving the complex problem that was having a disabled kid, and she really encouraged me to walk away from motherhood as a problem to solve and find something that was just for me.  And so I started writing.  And so the book came out a little bit memoir, both mine and that of other families.  I really wanted to tell the stories of the complexity of our families and not sort of these – you often see in parenting books these little snippets of, like, Janet’s baby slept through the night at three months, and it was wonderful.

Kristin:  Right, but the real story is the hardships are not shared as often.

Victoria:  Yeah, you don’t hear about the fight she was having with her mother-in-law and, like, the depth of the pain of the miscarriage that she was still carrying with her and all of those pieces.  And so it was really important to me to share really diverse stories with a lot of depth throughout the book.  And then also I was writing a book that we need, that I had always had in my head, that I was forging a new path where I think the part of it that is most important to me is the everything in between, that for so many people, the journey into exclusive breastfeeding actually involves a lot of bottles and formula and pumping, or the road through weaning involves those things, or the transition back to work revolves around those tools.  And so one of the things that was a beautiful gain of having a disabled child and being welcomed into this world of understanding disability was understanding that all tools are neutral, that a wheelchair isn’t bad.  It’s a tool.  And a communication device is a tool, and medication can be a tool.  And tools are all neutral.  A flathead screwdriver and a Phillips head screwdriver are morally neutral.  And so can we move into a place where we can say, like, okay, all things being equal, like, human milk that a parent makes for their baby is species-specific, and that’s pretty groovy.  And we have made this other incredible biomedical tool that we can use, and we can use those tools in a way that really honors those individual experiences.

Kristin:  Exactly.  I mean, you are speaking to me 100%.  My doula agency is focused on unbiased, judgment-free support, so no matter how you birth, parent, feed your baby, we just want to support families, so this book is so needed.  I feel like there are people in the camp of formula is more convenient and better, or pumping is the way to go, and then there’s of course breast is best as long as you can, and there’s so much judgment in feeding and also how we parent.

Victoria:  And then the other part of it with feeding in particular is even if we step outside of that judgment piece, we’re the tools.  You know, like people – we actually, in my opinion, are number of ways of feeding babies, the number of variables we’re managing, be that, like, brand new pumps hitting the market every 45 minutes, the one true upside of the formula shortage being an influx of different kinds of formula.  We’re starting to see a little more diversity in our formulas across the board, as well as, like, a really wide range of how we navigate work, right?

Kristin:  Yeah, and I love that you cover those different types of formula in the book.  The goat’s milk and European formula versus – yeah.

Victoria:  Because unless you really know where to find those people on the internet, you’re not going to find that info, and the Facebook groups are so overwhelming that I wanted people to be able to get – like, I just really wanted to get all the way out of the why you should feed your baby one way or another and get way into the how.  And I sort of – for me, I likened it back to birth where I had the incredible experience of my best friend is a trained midwife, an infant massage therapist, a tattoo artist, and an illustrator, so she actually illustrated the book.

Kristin:  I love the illustrations!  That is so wonderful.

Victoria:  Aren’t they stunning?  Yeah, in love.  So talented.  And she also taught my childbirth ed class.

Kristin:  Love it!  So talented.

Victoria:  So unbelievably talented.  And taught the class from this perspective of, instead of not learning about birth tools because you’re scared that someone will foist them upon you, learn about them so that if you need them, you can make those tools.  And I happened to have a birth – I was in active labor for around 72 hours.  Quite active.  And so I needed all the tools.  There was not a tool – I guess we didn’t use a vacuum.

Kristin:  Yeah, that’s a long labor.

Victoria:  It was a long labor!  I used every tool that that hospital had to offer, and knowing what they were and what they did was enormously helpful in making those decisions because it’s not that those tools are good or bad.  It’s that they have different impacts depending on when and how we use them.

Kristin:  Exactly.  100%.

Victoria:  And that’s also the case with formula, right?  If we indiscriminately use formula on day two after having a baby because we have a perception of low milk supply, even though low volumes are physiologically normal at that point, it’s going to disturb production in a really different way than at six or eight months, which is not to say it’s wrong to do that at day two, but we need to understand the how of that tool.  And so I really wanted to get into, like, really concrete stuff for folks at two in the morning, and that’s such a funny thing in 2023 to, like, not be an Instagram star, not be all over my Facebook group, but rather to make a book, which is so old school, but it’s so concrete.  It’s just like this is one thing.  It is, like, one voice that covers all of the things.  And so it just cuts through a little bit of the chaos.  And then the other piece of it that I love, my favorite part of the book, is that there are QR codes to videos because I can tell you that nursing a baby is like eating a taco, not drinking a Slurpee, and I can show you an illustration, but to see a video of a real newborn actually latching is just a different thing.

Kristin:  Totally, and the paced bottle feeding video – all of it is so needed.  Like, the different holds that you illustrate.  It’s excellent.  It’s a way to modernize a book.

Victoria:  Exactly.  And it allows me to show different bodies and it – if you’re like, I’m confused.  I’m overwhelmed.  It’s just right there.  You don’t have to search for anything.  You’re already holding your phone, and it’s just right there.

Kristin:  Instead of scrolling the moms’ groups, you have actionable videos at 2:00 in the morning.  I love it.

Victoria:  Yeah, and there’s so much – because of the privacy stuff and, like, the nature of bodies, a lot of that stuff will get filtered and so you end up with things like dolls or not really showing people’s chests.  And so it also gives me a way to not have to worry about any of those filters and instead just, like, actually really show what people need.

Kristin:  So excellent.  I can’t wait to share this with the students in my Becoming a Mother course and our clients.  So thank you for taking the time to make such an impactful book!

Victoria:  I really hope it is impactful.  I hope it brings in a new generation.  Some of the formula companies are starting to catch on to this messaging of neutrality, but there’s still an ulterior motive there.

Kristin:  Of course, to make money.  Their brand.

Victoria:  Yes, and it’s still not neutral to lots of pads and everybody in, and I just really – like, I wanted a book that dads could read.  I wanted a book that grandparents could read that was really going to open that up for everybody.

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

Kristin:  Exactly, and I love that it’s so inclusive.  Adoptive families, LGBTQ+, and also even getting into the plus size category that is not often covered, and we – my doula team recently had a training on supporting plus size families both in birth and postpartum, and it was eye opening to really learn some of the biases that are faced, not only in birth, but also with feeding.

Victoria:  Absolutely.  I mean, the medical bias around large and fat bodies is really something you need to take a hard look at, and bodies are different.  Like, that is one of my things is that the different shapes and sizes of our bodies actually impacts the ergonomics of how we feed babies.  And so we have to be direct about that.  You actually need different holds.  They’re going to be different depending on the size of your body.  And the function and recovery, depending on the kind of birth you’ve had.  There’s all of these pieces to it, and I will say that is one regret in the book.  While I do have beautiful illustrations of holds of larger bodies, I was not able to find the right dyad for the videos, and I really wanted to do that well and not just sort of grab whomever to do that.  And so one of the things that is great about QRs, though, is that the QRs are basically just an address to a door, so I can change what’s behind that door.  So once I find the perfect team to include in there, to include those larger bodies and those other positions, I will update the video and change that on the back end because that is so important to me, and I was really grateful to the folks who were gracious in allowing my illustrator to illustrate those different holds and those larger bodies in feeding and really honor fat pregnancy and fat postpartum, and I feel really grateful for that and I look forward to continuing to push that envelope because it’s not my experience.  I am straight sized.  But it’s something that I think about a lot.  And on the other end, we don’t see a lot of images of how to nurse with a really small chest, and people with pretty flat chests, as well, so that is another thing that I want to find just the right person and include more of that.  But I do, in the topography of chests, have those smaller chests represented because I think it’s important for people to be able to see the difference between small chests that make enough milk and chest shapes that tend to indicate physiological low production, because it’s a really subtle difference that I find that many practitioners don’t know, let alone parents.

Kristin:  Right, so true.

Victoria:  So one of the things that I really want to get across in this book and in this work is how are we preparing for feeding?  We do so much preparation for birth, and then we sort of assume that feeding will fall into place.  And so how are we preparing?  And the classes are phenomenal.  What is missing from a class is you don’t, generally speaking, take your shirt off in breastfeeding class.  So having that information of, like, how do you take stock of your own anatomy before you have a baby, as well as really taking a medical history of your chest and having a conversation about that medical history with your provider if it’s relevant.  So if you have had surgery on your chest or armpits, if you have had augmentation or reduction, if you have flat nipples, if you have very wide spaced chest tissue, all of those things are things that it would be helpful to talk through with your practitioner before you have a baby.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  And you’re right, that’s not discussed oftentimes.

Victoria:  No, and it’s really hard to process that information when you have a tiny baby in front of you.

Kristin:  Yes, and you’re exhausted.  Again, even talking about your own labor being multiple days and just learning as a new parent, or if you have other kids at home, every baby and every birth is different.  And so I found that with my own kids and their feeding journeys.  I had different struggles and still had to seek lactation consultant help.  My son had a tongue tie, and my daughter was in the NICU.  I had preeclampsia and had an induction, and she needed about four days for glucose issues.  So I was pumping and she had formula and an IV, and then had to get help to transition to breastfeeding.

Victoria:  Well, and the postpartum care for preeclampsia is also often very intense, which we don’t talk about very much.

Kristin:  No.

Victoria:  We don’t talk about the impact of hemorrhage, both psychologically and physiologically, and we don’t talk about the impact of preeclampsia physiologically and emotionally because it’s really something for those of you who have never had the experience of being on magnesium, which I have not personally, but having worked with clients who are on a magnesium IV, it’s like watching someone try to swim through concrete.  And so being in a state where, as a human, as a mammal, you just want to get to your baby and your instincts are all to care and feed, and your body feels like you’re swimming through concrete.  That really is traumatizing.

Kristin:  Absolutely.

Victoria:  Not to mention, either someone is going to have to help you express milk in that state, or it’s going to impact production, and that’s also really challenging.

Kristin:  Yes.  And then getting all of the judgment on how you should feed your baby from family and friends.  Oh, just stick with formula, or I breastfed, so you need to.  I was hearing so many different opinions as a new mom.

Victoria:  Yeah, and it’s actually just more complicated, right?  Maybe your family is very well meaning and saying, oh, just take care of yourself.  You need to recover.  But maybe your instinct is that part of your recovery is that reconnection through nursing.  So it just actually is always more complicated than that, and how do we honor both?  How do we sit in that in our discomfort with that middle, and that’s what attracted me to that phase of life anyway is that it’s messy and it’s problematic, and there’s not simple answers.

Kristin:  Yeah.  And like you said, Victoria, I mean, preparation with a breastfeeding class, having conversations with your provider, reading a book like Feed The Baby and getting as prepared as possible, and again, I felt like I needed to prepare both times and still even with being someone who plans, there were so many unexpected twists.  Like, again, the tongue tie with my second child that was causing pain that I hadn’t experienced before, and I was tandem nursing, and so I had the supply, but you just never know.

Victoria:  Yep.  The tongue tie piece is so complex for people.  I work in a tongue tie clinic that I started with a dentist because I was looking for a dentist with really strong ethics, and she was like, oh, that’s interesting.  I did a PhD in infant suck physiology.  I was like, okay.  Great.  You want to come take this tongue tie course together?  She’s amazing.  And then my illustrator and body worker also was in collaboration of starting that clinic, so our patients get to see a body worker, a dentist, and an IBCLC all in one visit, which is really helpful to people because one of the things that is so difficult with tongue ties is that you really need a functional assessment.  It’s not just about how it looks.  It’s really much more about how a baby is able to move their mouth, and the appearance really changes a good bit in those early weeks.  And so depending on when a provider looks at it and who looks at it and their level of training, you’re going to get really different answers.  And that is really confusing for folks.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  It is, because you don’t know which individual to listen to.  I have that with my birth doula clients.  They get different advice from the lactation consultant at the pediatrician’s office than they got in the hospital.  So it’s like, who do I listen to?  And then of course if they have a postpartum doula in their home who’s trying to support feeding and give referrals, you just – it’s overwhelming.

Victoria:  It’s very overwhelming.

Kristin:  The information doesn’t align.

Victoria:  Yeah.  Once your son’s tongue tie was resolved, did nursing get better?

Kristin:  Absolutely.  It was a breeze after that.  It was just identifying, and it got a misdiagnosis at first, and my pediatrician caught it, but it wasn’t caught in the hospital.  Yes, so it – I had no issues after that.

Victoria:  That’s great.  And that’s another thing I remind parents, that pain is your body communicating with you.  So while pain is common, it is always a sign that you need more help.  So any time you’re in pain, even if one provider brushes you off and says that looks normal, if you’re still in pain, to continue to pursue the people who are trying to find the answer for why you’re in pain.

Kristin:   Absolutely, Victoria.

Victoria:  Parents are tough.  Like, I have seen parents tough out all manner of things.  And as long as their baby’s gaining weight, they’re fine.

Kristin:  Right, because that’s the goal is to gain.

Victoria:  But you can do real damage.  You can do real nerve damage to yourself, pushing through that.  And so I always want people to listen to their own pain.

Kristin:  Great advice.  So what are your tips for partners and family members in supporting feeding?

Victoria:  Well, unfortunately, it’s the advice that’s hardest for me to listen to myself, which is to try not to fix and to listen and respond and to really ask people, like, are you wanting to vent right now?  Do you want help solving this?  Do you want help finding someone to help solve this problem?  Because sometimes you’re just in it, and you just need to be upset about it.  And our inclination to problem solve sometimes from the outside can feel undermining.  And so to just sit in that question with somebody and be like, okay, let’s go find a provider to give us advice to lead to where you want to be going instead of, like, you’re in pain, this is too hard, you should switch to formula.  Really sitting in that with your partner, I think, is really important, or as a grandparent or a support person, to really try to get out of our own desire to solve the problem and instead sit in it, which is probably the hardest thing for me, which is why I’ve positioned myself to be the person people go to for the solving.

Kristin:  I love it, yes.  That makes sense.

Victoria:  And then the other thing I want folks to learn about is protected sleep.  This is my big soap box is that difficulty with feeding causes or exacerbates postpartum mood disorders.

Kristin:  It does, yes.

Victoria:  And we have a tendency to focus only on postpartum depression.  Like, we actually use the word postpartum often too stand in for depression.  And that is a tiny slice of what is a much bigger picture of often anxiety, postpartum PTSD, intrusive thoughts, which is sometimes part of obsessive compulsive disorder, which we think about as, like, cleanliness or light switches going on and off, but is actually intrusive thoughts, and those intrusive thoughts are often because of the nature of that mood disorder, the scariest thing we could possibly say out loud.  And so then we don’t tell anyone that it’s happening because often those thoughts are something like, what if I leave my baby in the car?  What if I roll over my baby, and it makes it sound like you want to harm your baby, and you don’t.  You’re having intrusive thoughts that you might.  Right?  And those are really hard to spot.  And so if you notice that your partner or your child, if you’re a grandparent, or your bestie is off, is just, like, generally pretty off, the first line of defense is to say, hey, if they’re nursing, like, nurse and pump, and then I want you to go to bed.  One bottle of formula today is not going to rock the world, or if there’s some feeding stash, and put that person to bed for ideally six hours but at least four.  White noise, no phone, you are not getting that person.  Like, you can take care of that baby for six hours.  Nothing catastrophic is going to happen in six hours.  And if they wake up from that nap and feel better, then we can make a plan involving that person getting more rest or if they’re not able to sleep or wake up and are still feeling badly, it’s time to seek help.  So your first easiest place to get help is the 24 hour line that you use for your birth practitioner.  It’s the same line we’re going to use if you have mastitis.  And you’re going to go ahead and call them and say that you need a referral for postpartum mental health for that individual.  And then start working on a plan from there.  But that protected sleep can be both therapeutic and diagnostic, and I feel like people don’t know enough about that tool.

Kristin:  I’m so glad you brought up sleep, Victoria.  It’s essential.

Victoria:  It’s so essential.  I mean, as postpartum doulas, we are the facilitators of that sleep, and so we know a lot about protected sleep, but you really don’t hear about it much in the common consciousness.

Kristin:  Right, exactly.  And with feedings, the rest is interrupted, and so to get a solid block can make a huge difference.

Victoria:  Exactly, and if it doesn’t, then we know there’s something happening chemically that we really do need to take a hard look at.  And I myself was pretty aggressively, I would say, medicated for my postpartum mood disorder and needed to be.  I had very severe postpartum anxiety and depression and suicidality, and my word to folks in that experience is that there is treatment.  It’s safe and well-tested, and you deserve to feel better.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Thank you so much for sharing!  I feel like we could have ten different podcasts on all of your knowledge.  But I would love to have you share more info on Feed the Baby, how our listeners can purchase your book, and all of the sites that you’re on as far as purchasing options and bookstores that you’re in and so on.

Victoria:  Yeah, so I’m probably at your local bookstore.  Feed The Baby is on Bookshop and Amazon and your Target app and all of those things.  You can have the book right now digitally or overnight it from Amazon if you’re in that situation right now, or you can go ahead and get it from your local bookstore if you’re anticipating a baby.  And you can find me – I’m mostly on Instagram, @victoria.facelli.ibclc.  I’m attempting to be on TikTok, but it’s a stretch for me.

Kristin:  I have an issue with TikTok as well.  I feel like I’m just too old for it.

Victoria:  I know, yeah, exactly.  I’m trying to get into it, but it’s not my comfort zone.  My comfort zone is definitely Instagram, like the millennial I am.  But yeah, that’s where you can find me.  My website,, where you can find some of my videos, as well as on YouTube.  Paced bottle feeding bodies, SNS, some info about poop transitions and kind of what to look for in baby poop, all that stuff, is up on YouTube.  So those are all the spots where you can find me.

Kristin:  Excellent!  And any final thoughts to share or tips for our listeners?

Victoria:  My big final statement in the book and in my heart is that I hope you feel like enough, because you are enough just as you are, and you are enough as a parent beyond how you feed your baby.

Kristin:  Love it.  So true.  Thank you, Victoria!  It was so amazing to chat with you today.

Victoria:  So great to talk to you!  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.

It’s Our 200th Podcast Episode!

It’s the 200th episode!  Alyssa Veneklase and Kristin Revere answer questions from listeners and share fun stories about how Ask the Doulas came to be.  You won’t want to miss this one!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello!  This is Kristin Revere, and I am joined today by Alyssa Veneklase.  We are chatting about our 200th episode.  Hey, Alyssa!

Alyssa:  Hey!  That’s wild.  200.

Kristin:  I know.  I can’t even believe it.  So just thinking back, you know, we launched the podcast in November of 2017, and Ask the Doulas originally started on a radio show, Radio for Divas, and then we shifted to the podcasting platform.  So, yeah, a lot has changed, and it feels like just yesterday that we had our 100th episode and celebrated that.

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s so weird.  It seems like a lifetime ago that we were – I’m having flashbacks of sitting in that radio booth, and I don’t remember what made us change our minds and say hey, we can just do this ourselves.  I wonder if podcasts were kind of, like, really becoming – I don’t know, more well known at that time.  What was it, like six years ago?

Kristin:  Yeah, so podcasting was coming up, and Monica Sparks, who runs Radio for Divas, actually suggested in when we just couldn’t schedule the live shows due to my full time job at GROW.  And so we were trying to work around all of that and decided with her advice to start the podcast.  And I remember ordering our microphone and speakers, and you did all of the editing back then.  We now have an editor, but it was a lot.  And we started by wanting to, again, like, show our clients and listeners some experts.  So we chatted with each other in many of the original episodes but also brought in local experts, everything having to do with pregnancy, birth, and early parenting.  So I know you had some awesome interviews related to mental health and pediatric dentistry, and I had some of our students come on and talk about HypnoBirthing and some of our birthing postpartum clients came on and shared their birth and postpartum stories.  And then again we brought in different experts.

Alyssa:  I think it’s great to have them as a resource.  I just used a podcast the other day – I had a call with a student in my newborn survival class, and they asked me specifically about how to get their dog prepared for this new baby, and I am by no means a dog expert, so I just referred them to the podcast and said that’s all the information you need.  It’s so much great info.  It took me two seconds to search it on Google and give them the episode number.  So it’s just really nice to have all this backlog of so much information and so many resources to share with people.

Kristin:  Right, and now 200 episodes of information and expert interviews.  We transcribe our podcast into a blog, so we’re able to share it, and I often share what to pack in your hospital bag and quite a few specific to my birth doula clients.  And then with our Becoming A Mother course, we share episodes that are specific to what our students are looking for resource-wise, everything from safe sleep to having now the opportunity to interview national experts.  With the pandemic, we weren’t able to have our local experts come in to our office for interviews, so we started reaching out to experts across the country.  So it’s really opened things up for us.  Many authors have been on and national, well-known experts in the birth and parenting space.  Like Dr. Berlin was one of my favorites, and getting into a lot of the maternal health crisis and interviewing experts in that space.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  Well, I know we’ve got several questions that we can go over, but do you have any quick stats you want to share from where we started to where we are now?

Kristin:   Yeah.  So one thing that really stood out to me is when we started, we basically just set up interviews whenever we were able to bring in experts.  So some months, we would have two episodes in a month, and now we’re on a weekly basis.  So we release our episodes every Wednesday and have interviews with each other or experts in the birth and baby space every week.  But as far as interesting stats, we recently ranked on Goodpods as Number 12 in the top 100 in the indie kids and family chart, and then 52 in the top 100 overall kids and family.   That’s pretty amazing.  And then Feedspot has consistently ranked Ask The Doulas over the years, but we are currently, for their 2023 stats, at Number 6 in the Top 15 best doula podcasts, and we are ranked from thousands of doula-based podcasts based on traffic, social media follows, freshness, content, and more.  So pretty exciting!

Alyssa:  Yeah, way to go!

Kristin:   I know, go us, and cheers virtually as we’re recording this.  Many podcasts don’t make it to – this is a huge milestone.  And many record a few episodes and then pause and get back into it, so –

Alyssa:  Well, as we know, it’s a lot of work.  I think just because you have some good stuff to say, you may not understand on the back end how much work it takes, so I think that’s why a lot of people might try it and just give up.  It’s really hard.

Kristin:  Yeah.  I mean, you know because you did all the editing.  So it’s one thing to set up the interviews and record and get fresh content and get excited about podcasting in general, but then there’s promoting the podcast and getting ours up onto a blog, and like you said, there’s so much work, and I think especially because podcasting is trending right now, that everyone sort of glamorizes it.  But that’s very similar to our profession as doulas.  People get into it and think that it’s easy and exciting and want to change the world, and then you get into it, and you’re on call, and you miss birthdays and holidays, and you really have to commit to it.  So we asked our listeners some questions about what they wanted to ask the doulas because it’s rare that we get on a podcast together anymore.

Alyssa:  Right.

Kristin:  So why don’t you pick out a question to answer, and then I’ll do the same.

Alyssa:  I’m going to combine two sleep ones.  So, as usual, there’s a ton of sleep questions because people love sleep.  So I’m going to combine this one that says: What are some signs that indicate my baby may have a sleep problem, and when should I seek professional help?  I’m going to combine that with: What are some common misconceptions about baby sleep?  So in this question, you know, my – how do I know if my baby has a sleep problem, I think that in and of itself is a misconception because a problem to one parent might not be a problem to another.  So one family could choose to co-sleep or have their baby in their room for a really long time and feed throughout the night and feed their baby to sleep, and that same scenario to another family might be a problem because family A chooses to do it – maybe one of the parents stays at home, but family B, let’s say both parents work, and they need to have a little bit more structure and they need to sleep at night.  So for family A, what is their choice and is not a problem could be a problem for family B.  So it’s really hard to – it almost gets to that point where we feel like we’re judging other people, and I don’t like that because there is no right or wrong way.  It’s whatever works for you.  So I always tell parents, if it’s not a problem for you, don’t fix it.  Just because someone else says, oh, my gosh, your baby doesn’t sleep through the night yet – well, if you’re getting enough sleep and you’re happy and your mental health is okay and your baby is getting enough sleep and they’re thriving, then I don’t see a problem.  Where I see problems is usually mother’s mental health is suffering.  She’s exhausted.  If mom does have to go back to work, her work is suffering.  Oftentimes I see a partner who is sleeping in another room.  Maybe they’re three children in and they haven’t shared the same bed in years, and mom hasn’t slept a full night of sleep in years.  So when you really start to feel that exhaustion, that mental exhaustion, the physical exhaustion, I think that’s a problem because sleep is critical to our mental health and for our little babies who are growing exponentially, sleep does wonders for them to grow, to build their immune system, to help regulate their emotions.  It’s like the number one wonder drug that’s free.  So I think sleep is just the most important thing.  So, you know, if you do think that you’re – as a parent, you’re struggling, you don’t think your baby’s getting enough sleep – let’s just say they’re fussy all the time.  Maybe they’re so fussy that they won’t even eat.  Then you try to put them down to sleep, and you know they’re tired, and they just won’t fall asleep, either.  Those are typical signs of an overtired baby.  The more overtired they get, the harder it is for them to fall asleep.  Seems really counterintuitive, but that’s just the way it goes.  So calling a sleep consultant right away – the longer you wait, the harder it is.  So typically, three to four months, depending on your baby, is a really good age to start.  If you’re seeing those signs and also feeling the fatigue yourself as a new parent, three to four months is a really, really good place to start.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And you have an amazing class based on different age groups called Tired As A Mother.  Love the title.  And you do some sleep consulting in that recorded class content with live Q&A calls.  And then we also cover a lot of sleep in our Becoming A Mother course.

Alyssa:  Yeah, we’ve got a whole module on that, which – I think it’s the last module, Number 6.

Kristin:   Yeah, it is.

Alyssa:  And then my Tired As A Mother class, I’ve got broken down into three different age groups because like I said, every baby is different, but based on their age, they’re going to have different sleep needs.  And I know that some families just aren’t ready for a sleep consult yet, or maybe they don’t have the resources, so this is a $50 class with a ton of good information, and then a quick phone call with me to ask specific questions.  So it’s a really good place to start, and I think if you took all three classes from pregnancy – while you’re pregnant, take the first one, up through toddler – that’s only three classes, and if those things I tell you, those tips, those tricks, you actually follow them and figure out how to use those for your baby, I think you’d be in pretty good shape without actually having a full sleep consult.  Some parents need both.

Kristin:  Exactly.  It just depends.  If you want your hand held, then reach out to one of our sleep consultants at Gold Coast Doulas.  Or if you feel like you’ve tried some of the books or listening to other podcasts on sleep and really want something a bit more customized for ages and stages, and knowing that they can have a call to get their individual questions answered, just like our Becoming students get monthly calls with us and have the ability in our private group to ask questions if they’re struggling with sleep issues, newborn concerns, feeding, birth prep, whatever it might be.

Alyssa:  Well, that’s the thing about sleep deprivation is even if you think you have the wherewithal, I’ve done sleep consultations for pediatricians who are like, I know all this stuff.  I am just so exhausted, I cannot put this into practice.

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

Kristin:  All right, well, thank you for covering those sleep questions from our listeners.  I feel like, again, whether it’s a course, for our clients sleep is really the most mystifying aspect of the work that we do.  Yeah, you can’t just follow a manual.  Every baby is so unique in their needs, and a lot of it has to be customized.

Alyssa:  And parents put so much pressure on themselves and other people around sleep when it’s really not that hard when you know the basic rules, and that’s what I try to teach, just the basics, so that parents can just get on with their lives and be rested and not worry so much about the minute little details.  I definitely try not to make it harder than it needs to be.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So on to some birth-related questions.  I’ll tie two of our listener questions in together.  The first one is, what are some common misconceptions about childbirth that new parents should be aware of?  And the second part of that is what are the benefits of having a birth plan and how flexible should it be?  So great questions!  First of all, misconceptions – I’d say the biggest thing is that you can just wing it for your birth.  And some of our clients do, as far as not taking childbirth prep or breastfeeding classes or the newborn survival class that you teach, Alyssa, but it is something that requires conversation between a couple and some discussion with your provider to make sure everyone’s on the same page and just some basic understanding of what your body is going through during labor, regardless of how you choose to give birth, whether it’s an unmedicated home birth or unmedicated hospital birth or wanting an epidural as soon as you arrive at the hospital, or even a planned surgical birth.  I tell my clients so often that birth is as mental as it is physical.  It’s like a marathon in that you train for it, so focusing on nourishing your body, hydration.  You need to drink water during labor.  Focus on your breath.  Stay calm.  And at times, where you get tired if the labor is lengthy, or even those quick births that can be very intense and tiring, really focusing on your goal of meeting your baby or in the case of twins and triplets, babies.  And so yeah, just understanding that there is a correlation between the mental preparation and the understanding of what your body is physically doing during labor.  And so on to the second part of the birth plan.  And so again, you don’t need a birth plan, but I do tell my clients that it’s helpful in many cases at those prenatal appointments with your midwife or your doctor to have that discussion of what your wishes are.  Everything from your actual birth preferences, any interventions that you may want discussion on, if it’s not an emergency, newborn procedures, feeding preferences.  All of it is very helpful.  I’m not a fan of a four-page birth plan, and I do agree that they should be flexible because birth is unpredictable.  Even if you took every childbirth class, watched every documentary on birth, and read every book, you still can’t guarantee that you’re going to have your birth plan 100% go the way you want it to.  And so understanding that some flexibility is needed, but also just having that discussion point between your provider, helping your partner, or anyone else who’s in the room, like whether it’s a doula or a family member, on what your wishes are.  Some of our HypnoBirthing students don’t want a lot of chatter in their room, for example, so really wanting the space to be peaceful and quiet.  So those side conversations that sometimes happen during labor may be something that you want to avoid.  A lot of hospitals, at least in our area in West Michigan, have these really easy checklist templates.  Again, having that conversation with your provider, making two copies, giving them to nurses, and having your partner be on board with your wishes, as well.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I think with birth plans, it’s kind of the same as sleep.  Like, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves and say, oh, my gosh, this is my plan, and it didn’t go as planned.  Well, welcome to parenthood.  I love structure and I love knowing what’s happening.  I love planning.  I’m a spreadsheet girl.  But parenting is one of those things that made me realize, I have very little control over this, and you just kind of have to roll with it.  Like you said, plans are great.  Keep it simple, and know that you didn’t fail if it doesn’t go 100% as planned.

Kristin:  Yeah.  And then as far as other misconceptions around childbirth, focusing on those conversations, if you have a partner, with your partner, that they’re just going to know what to do magically.  Well, partners don’t, so having – in my Comfort Measures class, there’s a lot of couple conversations, and we talk about fears related to birth or what their individual goals are, and couples are often surprised at the others’ feedback, whether birth is gross or it’s a natural event or it’s a religious experience, like I have them just check of boxes and go around the room, and there’s often some surprises.  And it really starts that conversation between the couple going, so they’re on the same page and the partner understands how to support their loved one because if you don’t talk about it and just expect them to know what to do, especially if it’s the first baby, it’s not really going to happen.  So doulas love to do those whispers in the ear and give partners ideas of, like, hey, suggest some different positions or have her drink some water and different things, so they end up being the rock star in the birth.  And otherwise, partners – men want to be helpful, and if they don’t know what to do, they end up just standing around, and then there can be some resentment from that, like, oh, he’s not helping me.

Alyssa:  Right.

Kristin:  So yeah, so I would say those are the biggest things is really having those relationship discussions, getting on the same page, and then having some sort of plan, even if it’s just checking a few boxes, and nurses love to understand how to better support their patients, as well, because they never met you in many cases, and there’s a relationship with your doula or team of doulas, and many conversations throughout pregnancy.  But, you know, from my labor and delivery nurse friends, I’ve found that they appreciate some basic information on how to best connect with and support their patient.

Alyssa:  Yeah, totally.  You don’t know it.  That’s what our whole everything is about.  We want families to feel like they know what they want and what to expect, feel empowered.

Kristin:  Yeah, that’s what it’s all about.

Alyssa:  Like the experiences we both had – I mean, that’s the whole point of it.  We want families to know they have resources.  There’s so many resources available, and not all of them cost money.

Kristin:  Yeah, not all of them cost money, and if you don’t know your options, then you don’t have any.  So that’s why we do so much education.  I think we can expand – there are some relationship based questions.  We could take, you know, the birth question and just get into overall maintaining that strong relationship with a partner while navigating a new baby and the change in the family dynamic, whether it’s baby number one or adding baby number four.  What are your thoughts on that, Alyssa?

Alyssa:  I mean, we kind of already touched on the communication piece.  You know, in my newborn survival class, I talk about communicating from the beginning, because it gets really hard to do once you have a newborn, and then if you have a newborn and a toddler, your relationship can suffer because it seems like last on the list.  So communication is always key.  And I know some people aren’t communicators, so that may take some extra work.  It may take seeing a therapist to figure out how do I talk to my partner.  Whatever you need to do to make that happen because if you’re expecting something of your partner but you haven’t told them that – we as women especially can be really good at that – well, why didn’t he read my mind?

Kristin:  Exactly.

Alyssa:  Well, they can’t, as much as we want them to.  They can’t.  So communication is really key, and some – I feel like some – again, women especially, we are afraid to ask for help.  We want to ask for help.  I’m not personally afraid to ask for help.  I just never do.  I have this mindset of I can do it myself.  Then after a baby, I just got so tired and so worn down, and I remember saying something to my husband, and he was just like, well, why didn’t you ask me?  Like, all you have to do is ask.  And part of us just expects that they notice and fill in, but he’s like, all you had to do was ask.

Kristin:  Right.  Again, they’re not mind readers, and having some helpful things that family members can do when they visit are also – especially with things opening up more, and there aren’t visitor restrictions currently in hospitals, so setting some boundaries and having the partner be involved with their family members about how many visitors you want in your labor space or to come visit you in the hospital or how frequently – again, as you mentioned, Alyssa, the focus on sleep and bonding with baby and healing and feeding, like all those things.  So it can be helpful to have that discussion early on about what you want as far as visitors and if you are accepting visitors on a regular basis, like how they can be helpful.  Unloading the dishwasher, for example, or running some laundry or picking up some things from the drugstore can be helpful versus just feeling like you need to entertain and have your house be spotless and be dressed for company.  All of the things that we worry about as mothers when having people in the home, especially certain personality types that want to entertain and please other people.  It can be really hard for them.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I think for families who – say they don’t have the resources to hire a doula, because this is the type of stuff we go over with them, right?  Birth and postpartum.  Gold Coast offers so many classes that if that’s a better option – you know, we still educate you on all this stuff, like how to best communicate with your partner and your family and your friends and with hospital staff.  We go through all this at a pace that you can just go through on your own, and it’s a cheaper option with still a ton of great information and a ton of great resources.

Kristin:  Exactly.

Alyssa:  So maybe – you want to just give the website information and tell people where to find us?  Because between our website and all of our classes and all of these podcasts, if people could just find those alone, there’s so much information there in the Gold Coast Doulas website.

Kristin:  Yeah, and we have a YouTube page.  You have some awesome swaddling techniques and paced feeding.  Our website is, and you can find a link to our Becoming A Mother course there or your Tired As A Mother sleep class, our virtual sleep consultants, and all of our services and classes, whether it’s virtual or in person.  So yes, and then our podcast can be found on our blog page at the Gold Coast website, but we’re on every podcast player, and we certainly appreciate all of our listeners for sticking with us.  200 episodes is huge, and it’s all thanks to you.

Alyssa:  Yeah, thanks everyone for listening.  Subscribe; forward this to all your friends and family who are pregnant or thinking of getting pregnant.  We would love to have them listen, as well.

Kristin:  Thanks for your support!  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.

Reducing Toxins with Amanda Koch of My Well Balanced Life: Podcast Episode #199

Kristin Revere chats with Amanda Koch of My Well Balanced Life about how to reduce the toxins in your life!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, this is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am excited to chat with Amanda Koch today.  Amanda is a wellness expert who’s been sharing her extensive knowledge of healthy living for 20 years as a Pilates master trainer and nutritional therapy practitioner.  Amanda has been taking inspiration from her own health struggles and transformed them into amazing opportunities to help thousands of people live healthier lives through the use of real food, healthy movement, and safer products.  After crawling through the trenches of infertility, multiple miscarriages, anxiety, depression, and chronic pain, Amanda created My Well Balanced Life as a way to help women find their way back to optimal health and develop flourishing businesses of their own.  She works her magic by using honesty, vulnerability, and humor to show that while challenges are inevitable, we must take charge of our own health to ultimately rediscover joy.  She somehow makes you want to drink green smoothies, clean up your bathroom products, and exercise just for fun.  When Amanda’s not wearing the many hats of her wellness biz, you’ll find her loving her Texas roots, laughing hysterically with her retired fighter pilot husband, and watching all the sports with her two boys, and probably dancing in the kitchen.  Welcome, Amanda!

Amanda:  Thank you so much for having me today!

Kristin:  So happy to have you here!  And with your background, we could have so many different conversations for this podcast, but today, we are focused on reducing toxins for optimal health.  So let’s get into it, Amanda!

Amanda:  Let’s do it.

Kristin:  So what – you know, as many of our listeners are pregnant or newly postpartum, let’s dive into the importance of having safe cleaning products and even safe and healthy products to apply to their skin.

Amanda:  Yes, I think it’s one of those things that we know so many basics about wellness and health that we hear about a lot that are typically related to food and exercise and things like that, and I think that the whole idea of safer products or just paying attention to really the large amount of things that we expose ourselves to daily is not as front of mind, even though I think it’s getting a lot better, and whether you’re in the stage of trying to conceive or during pregnancy or you’ve just had babies and you’re in that phase of life, it really is such a significant thing to pay attention to, and to be honest, it’s one of the easier things to tackle once you make the decision to dive in.

Kristin:  So what are your tips for just going through cabinets and replacing items, whether it’s, again, anything from a moisturizer to makeup to cleaning products?  What can you keep, and what do you absolutely need to get rid of?

Amanda:  Well, you know, everybody kind of has their things, like I refuse to part with this one thing, and I usually tell people, okay, if you’re not willing to get rid of that, then we need to get rid of the other things, just to minimize toxin exposure, and that’s really what it comes down to.  You’re never going to be able to completely avoid all toxins, and that would just drive you crazy, and you’d run out of money.  But really the point is to reduce because when you reduce your exposure to all these things, your body is just freed up to function optimally the way it’s supposed to.  And so instead of throwing things in our path with all these toxins and just slowing it down and causing things to not work properly, this is a really good way to just minimize.  And so I usually tell people, everybody’s different, whether you’re working on it just for yourself or if you have a family.  There’s different ways to really recognize, whether you want to go room by room; that’s how some people like to tackle it.  I personally like to tackle it by determining which things are going to stay on my skin or I’m going to be exposed to the most, and as well as I have a family of four, so which things affect everybody.  So that’s kind of one of those ones where I think, okay, what are the things that affect everybody in our household, because if you change those first, it’s going to make the biggest impact.  So that’s going to be – maybe it’s your laundry products.  Maybe it’s deodorant.  Maybe it’s your cleaning products that you’re using in your house.  That’s a really good way to tackle it.

Kristin:  And pregnancy is a good time to do that because the sense of smell is so much more intense.  So you don’t want to have things that have a lot of perfume or extra fragrance, and so not only are you helping your own body and baby, but it’s also good for others in the family, as well.

Amanda:  Correct.  And gosh, there’s nothing like that intense – the intensity of your ability to smell when you’re pregnant, right?  It’s like, oh, my goodness, you didn’t realize – I remember I used to just walk into my pantry, and I don’t even know what I would smell, but it was enough to send me running out of there.  But yes, so everything from – whether it’s just sensitivity, just that the smells are really strong, and I know once you start to cut down on that, you really – like, if you walk into a place that has a really strong smell or fragrance or that kind of thing, it just seems so overwhelming once you’ve started to reduce it, or I know I can just pick out if somebody has – if my son leaves his hoodie at somebody’s house and they wash it in a traditional detergent and then it comes back, I’m like, oh, my goodness, it’s so strong.  So it’s really nice to kind of minimize in that way.  You start to realize how strong some of these chemicals are.  But from more of a serious standpoint as well, when babies are born, it’s been known that there’s over 200 chemicals in the umbilical cord that the mom has been exposed to and then the baby has been exposed to.  And I don’t say that to be scary or anything like that, just to realize that there is a significant impact.  You just want to set – obviously, yourself, but then your newborn up for success and not have them having to fight off some of these things.  Everything from – they can be linked to eczema, skin issues, anything like that.  And so being able to minimize that just makes you feel as if you are doing something very proactive in those days.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And I know we certainly talked to our birth and postpartum doula clients about products for their newborn and when they’re registering for baby showers, just hospitals tend to give those products like, say, Johnson & Johnson that have chemicals in them that you would often want to avoid.  So we talk to our clients about different options and bringing some of their own products or just wiping off their baby versus having a full bath at the hospital and so on.

Amanda:  Right, exactly.  And I think we’re fortunate.  We’re now getting into a day and age where it is becoming more common for people to pay attention to it, as well as companies stepping into that space and wanting to provide safer solutions and safer options.  It’s a lot easier to find it.  I know my kids are a little bit older.  I have an 18-year-old and a 10-year-old.  But really, when I was in the midst of this, when I was in between, when I was really struggling to have my second baby, and it wasn’t as common to be able to do that.  You really had to struggle to find it or even make your own.  And so it’s just nice that it’s becoming more popular.

Kristin:  Right, and even making your own baby food, like many of our clients do that.  I did it with my kids.  And there is such a focus – I know as a nutritionist and talking to your clients about their health and pregnancy and certainly in the postpartum phase, you having a clean diet and avoiding processed foods, avoiding fruits and vegetables with chemicals and buying organic if at all possible in the budget.  So let’s get into a bit about food and choices that can be made, even in that pre-conception stage.  I know you mentioned fertility earlier.

Amanda:  Right, yes.  And when I was struggling with my fertility, it was secondary infertility.  I did have my first child without any issues, and then kind of spiraled out of control.  And I think the beauty in it was that I knew my body was capable of having a healthy baby because it had done it, and so it really gave me that encouragement and motivation to figure out why my body was not doing what it was supposed to do.  And so again, like I was saying, this was over a decade ago, so a little bit of the information was harder to find.  You know, I really wasn’t given any real reason for why I kept having miscarriage after miscarriage.  The doctors just basically told me that I was too old.  My eggs were bad.  And at that point, I was, like, 32 when it started, and I was kind of like…

Kristin:  That’s young.

Amanda:  I know.  At least, I thought it was young.  I really think it was young now that I’m much older, when I look back on that.  But I just kind of remember thinking, like, that’s not a good enough answer, and I don’t feel as if you’re basing that on any real concrete reason.  You’re just kind of guessing.  And I had some lovely doctors back then, but I really felt as if they just didn’t know what to tell me.  And so that’s when I just kind of thought, you know what, I’m going to make some changes, and of course, back then, everybody thought I was a bit crazy, but you know, that’s okay.  I have embraced the crazy right now.  But I just really started to change my diet and change the products that we were using, and it wasn’t anything major, and I always like to really encourage people with that.  It’s not about perfection.  Your body doesn’t need a perfect state to function optimally.  But it does need a healthy state.  If it’s being inundated with a bad diet, lots of processed foods, toxic chemicals, it’s just going to struggle.  It’s just going to prioritize things that maybe you don’t want it to, or just to stay in a good enough state.  And so I really started to just focus on eating whole foods, on trying to eliminate any processed junk, anything that I didn’t need, and I stopped eating gluten at that time and just trying to see, will this make a difference.  And I eventually was able to have my second son with no medical intervention or no medical drugs to help that.  Just a few years of just being committed to restoring my body back to an optimal state of health to be able to carry another baby.

Kristin:  Yes, exactly.  And it’s so easy to make these changes, but it can be expensive.  I mean, even looking at maternity clothing and it’s a temporary time.  I know I was able to use some of my regular pre-pregnancy clothing during the earlier stages of pregnancy and got hand-me-downs, but that fast fashion and the chemicals in clothing and, again, focusing on our skin, it’s like how do you prioritize what should be organic and toxin-free?  There’s just so many things to factor in.

Amanda:  There are.  And that’s one of the things that I think can be really overwhelming and sometimes can be a deterrent, and people just decide not to do anything because it feels so overwhelming.  And I try to encourage people, like it really does make a difference.  There is a study that was done on some younger girls when they were eliminating some of these toxic chemicals from their personal care products, and I’m going to misquote it, but I want to say it was something that maybe they eliminating parabens and phthalates, and their levels of some of these toxic chemicals dropped over 60% in their body in just three days.  And it’s just a reminder that the little baby steps that you take actually do make a significant difference.  Your body just gets to almost take a deep breath and not have to keep functioning to push all those toxins out of your body.  And like I said before, you can’t do everything, and you can’t afford everything, and you can’t live a perfect lifestyle.  And I think that if you get caught up in trying to be at that level of perfection, it’s just an added stressor to your body that is unhealthy.  You can be just as unhealthy just because of the levels of stress that you have.  And so I always just try to encourage people, like, you know, pick your thing that you want to focus on, and try to make some steps with that, whether it’s just eating things that are – or choosing your shopping when you’re using the dirty dozen and the clean fifteen when it comes to produce.  Just try to eliminate some of those pesticides because you don’t have to buy everything organic.  Try to get those good meats that are grass fed and that kind of thing.  It’s really, really helpful.  Choosing a few products that are affecting your family the most, and minimizing it.  And we all know, especially even when it comes to the world of having babies and kids, like, everything is such a big marketing thing, right?  If you talk to those older moms, and then when you have your first baby, how much stuff do you buy?  How many things do you feel like you need?  And then, you know, by the time you have another one or your last child, you realize, oh, my gosh, I don’t need any of that stuff.  You just need some of these basics.

Kristin:  Yeah, many of the baby registry items could hold off a year on many of them until it’s crawling stage, and things sit around, and many of the items have issues with off gassing and there’s so many things I learned in my baby registry training about everything from a stroller and how to avoid toxins in your home when you’re setting up a nursery.  Yes.  There’s just an overwhelming amount of information out there.

Amanda:  And usually, the less you are using is the better for your body and the exposure and all those things.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So as far as your business, it sounds like again you were motivated by your own personal journey and wanting to help other women get back to optimal health and focus on fitness and nutrition and better care for their own families.  So how can our listeners connect with you and your business in the many facets of Well Balanced Life?

Amanda:  I spent the last 20 years as a military spouse.  My husband was active duty air force.  And so we moved around a lot.  I was on my own a lot.  And after I did have my second son, that was really what motivated me.  I kind of felt like a calling, that I really needed to speak up, once I had him and kind of told people, because I kept my infertility, for the most part, a secret, which I do not advice, but it was just – I don’t know.  I was just in self-preservation mode.  On his first birthday is when I really kind of spoke out and said, this is what we went through.  And after that is when – when you struggle with whatever and you come out on the other side of it seemingly successful, people want to know what you did, how you did it.  And I always felt like, you know, I’m not really sure what I did, and I don’t feel really confident to advise people, and that’s kind of when I really dove into my nutritional therapy certification and getting more educated about those things and started my online business because I wanted people to be able to understand that you could take control of your health and make such a positive difference and not only get healthier by taking these smaller steps, but also just really experience joy with it.  You know, I got to a place of having some pretty incredible happiness and joy before I had my second baby.  I was just really able to get to a spot by doing these things.  And so I started – my business is called My Well Balanced Life, and that is the website where you can find me, as well as – probably my Instagram is the most active, and my handle is @mywellbalancedlife.

Kristin:  I love it, and the fact that you’re able to work with clients anywhere in the world.  The many benefits to an online business.

Amanda:  So true.  I kind of went into it kicking and screaming.  I had always had physical locations.  I used to have Pilates studies.  So I really was not willing to do the online thing until I got moved to Alaska.  We were kind of in this place where all my opportunities were taken away from me in that physical space, and so I thought, okay.  I guess this is what I’m going to do now.

Kristin:  Makes perfect sense.

Amanda:  Yes.

Kristin:  And then the pandemic, of course, created a lot more of the online business opportunities, but certainly traveling as a military spouse would make it hard to have physical roots when you’re moving pretty frequently.

Amanda:  Yes, very much so.  I grew up kind of in the same spot until I went to college, and so that was a big change for me, but has definitely made me a better person, and as much of a struggle as 2020 was, I think some of the positives that came from it were these abilities for people to have these online opportunities and in that sense, it allowed for my business to grow even more, and I am grateful for that.

Kristin:  Yes, for sure.  So what are your top tips for our listeners who are looking to reduce toxins?

Amanda:  I would say – a little bit like I said before, of picking how you want to tackle it.  If you like the idea of going room to room because maybe that’s a little bit more of an organized fashion for you to do it, or to go around and look at the things that affect multiple members of your family or stay on your skin the longest.  So just for example, when I say that, like a deodorant.  You’re going to put deodorant on, and it’s going to stay on your body, as opposed to a facewash which is going to still get on your skin, but you’re going to wash some of it off.  So paying attention to those things and prioritizing some swaps like that.  When you run out of something, switch it to something new.  And there are various ways and various priorities for different people in terms of what they look for.  Some people are going to look for sustainability.  Some people are going to look for product ingredients.  Some people are going to pay very much attention to vegan or animal cruelty, that kind of thing.  But a very good resource to use, and it’s a good starting point.  It’s not perfect by any means, but nothing is.  It’s going to the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Database.  They have it – whether you use it on a computer or they have an app, as well, where you can scan things, that you can scan a product and see what its rating is.  You want as low of a rating as you can.  One is the best, and ten is the worst.  And it ranks it based on different ingredients and different reports that come in.  It doesn’t look at sourcing, so you’re not quite sure where the ingredients are coming from, but it’s such a great starting point.  Another way that you can use it, too, that’s really nice is you can go in and just look at a category, and it will give you recommendations of products to try, ones that get high ratings or are verified through their system.  It’s just a great way to get started.  And then if you want to dig even deeper, you can do deep dive research on your own.

Kristin:  That is an amazing resource.  And then as far as nutrition, do you have any favorite sites to look into some of the food products?

Amanda: Well, you can look at some of the food products through Environmental Working Group, as well, and it’s just very educational.  And when I really started using some of those, my boys were younger, and they could take my phone – say you’re in a Target or in a grocery store, and you can scan products and see what their ratings are, and I really like to involve them in it.  First of all, they just thought it was fun, but – and they would also look for products and food things that had the highest ratings, because they knew that was a big red flag.  But just to get them involved in it and get them to understand it more was such a fun way to kind of get them to see and for all of us to learn more about, you know, just minimal exposure to all this junk.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Well, thank you, Amanda.  I know you mentioned your social media links.  Instagram is @mywellbalancedlife, and then your website is  Our listeners can connect with you in those ways.  And are you currently accepting new clients, and how do our listeners and doula clients reach out to work with you individually?

Amanda:  Yes, I do, and I love working with clients one on one because I just feel like we can just really tailor a program to you, no matter kind of what phase you’re in.  I always feel like now that I am much older, I just feel like I now have the experience of dealing with hormones and health from a preconception to when you’re struggling with fertility and then postpartum and even once your kids get older and you’re starting to worry about your kids and how all that stuff affects them.  So if you go to my website, I do have a link there that says Work with Me where there are different options, and we just really get to know each other and deep dive on what’s the best plan of action to restore your body to optimal health and help make you feel happy and healthy.  And then I also have a Resources page where some of the stuff we talked about earlier with the safer products and things like that.  We’ve got some free downloads and things like that with ingredients to avoid and top priorities for swaps and things like that, as well as some simple recipes.  I do have some recipes on my website, even though I would not call myself a food blogger, but they are ones that just – I would not want to take on that identity.  I’m not nearly as talented to call myself that, but there are some very – I like simple recipes that you can make quickly that don’t make a total mess of the kitchen but are whole food recipes, so they’re there as well.

Kristin:  Love it.  Well, thank you so much Amanda, and we’ll have to have you back.

Amanda:  Thank you so much.  You guys have a great day.

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

The Rising Popularity of Push Presents: Podcast Episode #198

Kristin Revere chats with Melissa Mor of Mrs. Push about the rising popularity of push presents.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, this is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am here to chat with Melissa Mor.  Melissa is the founder of Mrs. Push.  Her passion for fine metals and gems began at an early age.  Her loving family celebrates every milestone with a gift of fine jewelry.  Melissa still treasures her first bracelets, earrings, and necklaces, each of which carry a special memory.  Melissa is on a mission to make push present gifting simple.  Mrs. Push was born following Melissa’s husband’s frantic, unsuccessful search for a personalized push present that he found overwhelming.  Melissa recognized an opportunity to streamline the gifting process.  She stocked Mrs. Push with endless customization options featuring signature birthstones, sculpted initials, and engraving services.  Melissa also pays tribute to the unique mother daughter bond with a showcase of related upscale jewelry for moms and their babies.  Not everyone who has a baby is a Mrs.  Melissa believes that all women should be honored for their labor.  Melissa curates jewelry that pays tribute to the diverse families of today.  As a former fashion buyer, she selects on trend jewelry with the mindset that it can become a unique family heirloom.  Mrs. Push is Melissa’s labor of love.  Welcome, Melissa!

Melissa:  Thank you.

Kristin:  I love the story of your business and how you had an unmet need and created exactly what you needed for your family.  I would love to hear more about your journey as an entrepreneur and also a mother.

Melissa:  Sure.  Back in 2020, my family and I had moved from New York to Atlanta during COVID, and I knew that I wanted to start a business, and I was just kind of playing around with different ideas and what would work, and I kind of had that ah-ha moment.  I was sitting on the couch with my husband, and I was pregnant with my third.  And it became this running joke – and I’ll get into the story, I guess, later about my push present saga, how I never really got one, and I told him, well, what am I getting for my push present for the third one?  Like, we need to do it big.  I haven’t gotten anything for the other two kids.  And he was like – we kind of looked at each other and it was like – we were like, wait.  This is the business.  There is no one stop shop of somewhere that you can send me that I know I’m going to get something a little more meaningful than what you would get at a traditional jeweler’s.  You know, everything we have a birthstone added or an initial or a name.  Or it can even be a regular diamond with an inscription of a name.  We can really customize everything.  So that’s where the idea was born, and since then, I kind of went with it and have kept going.

Kristin:  I would love to hear what is the latest as far as trends.  What are you seeing more orders of?

Melissa:  I’m definitely seeing a lot of stackables, like things that you can add on as you have kids, which was also one of my issues when I – with my first because I knew I wanted to have more kids.  I was like, do I get one beautiful piece that has his name when I know that I plan to have more kids?  So I think stackable, like rings with initials, are great.  Also, I have these birthstone hearts that are great because you can just layer on and you can add initials, so you don’t have to feel like you’re investing and then you’re going to have to buy the same exact thing, or you’re not going to have one for your next child or have to wait until you’re done having kids.  I feel like those are all great options.  As well, we’re seeing client-owned stones, like revamping family stones, which is something that I didn’t expect.

Kristin:  Oh, I love that!

Melissa:  Someone will say like, oh, this was my mom’s stone.  I’d love to create it into a ring for a push present or something that has a little more meaning, and then we can engrave the kid’s initials on the bottom of the ring.  So I’ve definitely been doing a lot of that.

Kristin:  And then with again the fact that it can be a family heirloom – I had never really – you know, when talking to clients who’d received push presents or with baby registry consultation clients, it’d never really come up to have it be something you can pass down one day to your children and their children.  That’s such a beautiful sentiment.

Melissa:  Thank you.  Yeah, my five year old daughter is waiting – because I have all their initials – is waiting until the day she can have hers.  Every day she asks me, can I have it now?  When I turn six?  I said no, not yet.  Maybe when you turn 16.

Kristin:  Yeah.  And I love we got connected through Hey Mama, and I had been interviewed in an article about push presents, so we had a chat.  But really, the average price point that I was seeing was around $200.  I know that you work with a variety of budgets, certainly especially with the engraving or custom gems, and that would be pricier.  But what are you seeing with your clientele and their average budget?

Melissa:  I would say we’re around $600 to $700 for a traditional initial necklace or if you got a few stackable bands.  But we’re able to work with any budget.  If someone loves a necklace and they want to do it a little smaller, the gold will weigh less, so the cost will come down.  So we’re really open to making your push present dreams come true, and I just love to chat with other moms about this story because I think about push presents because I think it’s just so – everybody has a funny story.  No matter what it is, it’s like I didn’t get one, or I got one and my husband totally messed it up and bought something so ugly, you know, or wow, they did such an amazing job, and they bought the most special piece.  Everyone has a story, and I feel like it’s just so interesting to hear everyone’s stories.

Kristin:  Yes.  And I would love to hear your personal story of when you received your push present.  Was it immediately after the birth?  I’ve seen different scenarios or heard them if I wasn’t in the room when my client received it.  So I would love to hear what you are hearing from not only your clients but your own personal story of when you received it.  Was it immediately after baby was born?  Was it quite some time later?

Melissa:  My story is a little different because I didn’t end up getting really a push present, and then I started the business.  So I ended up ordering everything in my kids’ birthstones in samples for the site.  So I went from having zero push presents – I couldn’t decide on anything, and for me, it became this obsession of it needed to be perfect because let’s say you get married and you get an anniversary band or something like that.  There’s always another anniversary that you can make up for it.  But this felt like such a big decision.  My friends for years were sending me Instagram links.  Could this be it?  Could that be it?  And I just didn’t find the piece.  And then when I started curating for the site, I really got everything in my kids’ initials and their birthstones, so now I went from zero push presents to 100 push presents.

Kristin:  I love it.  Yeah, I never had a push present.  I don’t think it was a thing when I had kids.  I didn’t really even have many friends – I had some friends who received jewelry and so on, but my kids are coming up on 11 and 13 soon.  It is definitely more of a recent trend that I am seeing and hearing about, and I love your take on it again about having it be an heirloom and not just a reward for pushing a baby out or having a surgical birth; just a really beautiful way to remember that special moment and cherish your child that you worked so hard to bring into the world.

Melissa:  Right.  Some people will say, well, isn’t my baby the push present?  Or sometimes the husband will say that, or sometimes a dad will say that.  Sometimes the mom will say that.  But for me, it’s not really about, like, what am I getting.  It’s not about receiving something.  It’s about just having something to have that memory and being able to hold onto, wow, I remember when I got this, and everything that I went through and the experience that I had.

Kristin:  Yeah.  And Melissa, I would love to hear more about your mother daughter sets and how that came about and when you’re seeing that gifting done.  Is it for a birthday or special holiday or – yeah, I’d love to hear more about this trend.

Melissa:  Yeah, so that I’ve seen mainly for birthdays.  We’re fairly new.  I only really launched around last holiday season, so I hadn’t seen any orders of those yet at the holiday time.  But I have been seeing it for birthdays, and that really just came about knowing my daughter, who – by the time I started working on the business, she was probably three and a half, and by the time I launched, she was four.  And she’s just into everything.  I mean, she could spend hours, even as a baby, in my jewelry box just going through everything, taking it out, putting it back, nonstop.  So when I found some pieces that were for kids – I have one style that’s like a kid’s bracelet and another that’s a mommy and me.  I knew that would just be a hit because what daughter doesn’t want to match their mom?  At least when they’re little; not when they’re older.

Kristin:  Yes, and I see so many matching outfits, especially – even for 4th of July recently, there were so many cute mother-daughter outfits out there, or entire family matching outfits.  It’s not just the annual family portrait anymore.

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

Kristin:  So any advice for dads who may be listening on how to curate – I know your husband really tried to find you the perfect gift and wasn’t able to match your needs, so of course, again, you created this business.  But how can we help dads out or partners in this process?

Melissa:  Well, first of all, that’s where I come in.  So if a dad is interested in buying a push present and they’re not sure what direction to go, first of all, they should reach out to me.  We can go through pictures of the mom-to-be, and we can – like, I can help with their style and see what they look like they would gravitate towards, and we can go from there.  They may know that she wants a name plate.  They may know that she wants something with a birthstone or that she wants a ring.  And then we can kind of curate from there.  But that’s what I’m here for, and I’m happy to help all dads to kind of hone in on what the perfect gift it.

Kristin:  And it sounds like it doesn’t need to be selected and given immediately after the birth, like at the hospital, or if it’s a homebirth, immediately upon delivery.  It can be given at any time near that postpartum healing phase?

Melissa:  Yeah, I think so.  I mean, a lot of times, the women will be involved.  It’s not like the dad is going out to surprise the mom.  That would be great, but it’s not often the case.  I do also have a feature on my site for drop a hint.  So if you’re a mom or a mom-to-be and you’re browsing on the site and you see something you like, you can drop a hint and sent it.

Kristin:  That’s incredible.  Yes, I noticed that on your site.  It’s great.

Melissa:  Yeah, so you may be in between three or four styles, and you can send it to them, and they can come to me and tell me, okay, this is what she likes.  How can we – you know, maybe we want to custom something.  How can we combine all the elements of all these and create something?  Or which one do you think is the best if she’s a new mom, doesn’t have any other kids, and she’s really going to be a stay at home mom?  What’s great for wearing around with kids that might be tugged on, that will last, all of that.

Kristin:  Yes.  So any other things that you’re seeing or hearing about or that you did for your own children beyond the typical push present to commemorate the birth of a child?  Are you hearing of any other ideas or as you’re doing research, coming across anything beyond – you know, planting a tree or a flowering plant?  Are you hearing of anything else?

Melissa:  Yeah.  I personally didn’t really do anything else.  With my oldest, I did encapsulate my placenta, so I had them, like – they made a little memento from that.  With my others, I didn’t.  But what I am seeing is different types of mementos that eventually I would like to bring on the site.  I didn’t currently have that.  Right now, we’re strictly jewelry, but as we grow and expand, it’s something that I’m interested in doing.  I’ve seen some gorgeous – almost like a treasure box, like a memento box, and you can put in the first onesie, a clean diaper, some pictures, just things to have that – like a time capsule almost.

Kristin:  Yes.  And they have the clay footprints and handprints and different mementos and gifts.  Some people make lockets with their breastmilk, or again, there are different placenta prints and things that can be included in a box like that.  That’s great.

Melissa:  Yeah.

Kristin:  I know that my mom had lockets for each of us – like, my siblings and myself with our newborn picture in the locket.

Melissa:  That’s so special.

Kristin:  Yeah, and I have mine, and it is so special.  Of course, I did not think to do that for my own children.  Let’s get into a bit more about your own story, since you are willing to share a little bit about your individual births.

Melissa:  Sure.

Kristin:  With your first birth, how did everything go compared to how you imagined and planned for your birth?

Melissa:  I guess you really can’t plan for birth.  I think that’s the common theme.  I had hired a doula, and I planned for an unmedicated hospital birth, since it was my first.  I didn’t really know what to expect.  And in the end, I apparently – and this will be the theme through the other births – I have terrible prodromal labor.

Kristin:  So you were exhausted, obviously, with the starting and stopping and contractions spacing out.  I like to call it a little bit of warm-up labor, so your body’s taking a bit longer to get going.

Melissa:  Yeah, so I had a very long labor with my first.  I was planning an unmedicated birth, but I hadn’t slept in, like, three days.  I had a doula.  She would come with me to the hospital.  We would go back home, the whole thing.  Finally, by the time – one night, I was just so frustrated, I was like climbing up and down my bed, and I guess my bed was a little bit higher, that all of a sudden, when I got down from the bed, my water broke, and I said finally, that’s it, they’ll accept me in the hospital.

Kristin:  Yes!

Melissa:  That was with my first.  So we went, and I ended up not even – like, I went, and we checked in and everything like that, and they told me, like, okay, you can call the doula now, and I was like, no, because they had given me the epidural, and I said, okay, no, I want to sleep.  So by the time I woke up, I was ready to push, and I was like, oh, I don’t even know if I need her now.  I’m fine.  So I think I called her, and I was like, if you want to come, you can.  If you don’t want to come, I got this.  And that was that.  Then with my second, I had a very interesting situation.  I had vasa previa, which is – you probably know how to describe it better than I do, but if my water was to break on its own, the baby wouldn’t survive.  So I had to have a C-section at 36 weeks.  And I was not so happy about that because I didn’t want a C-section, but not only because of that, I just didn’t – you know, I thought 36 weeks was too early.  Risks of having to be in the NICU and all of that.  But in the end, I had to get a steroid shot for her lungs.

Kristin:  That makes sense, yep.

Melissa:  I mean, I don’t know if that was it, but I got that, and then she was born and totally fine and we were able to avoid the NICU and all of that stuff, also.

Kristin:  That’s wonderful that you avoided a NICU stay with her and were able to bond and connect and feed right away.

Melissa:  Yeah.  And then with my third, I was planning a home birth, but because I had a – it would be a VBAC.  I had dual care at a regular OB and a midwife, and we had the pool set up and everything, and I was in active labor.  My midwife came, and I didn’t have such a great experience with her when she showed up.  She was kind of like making demands and making me a little bit nervous and saying that certain things weren’t set up properly to my husband and all that kind of stuff.  And that’s it.  My body shut down.  Labor stopped.

Kristin:  Yeah, you need to feel safe in your space to labor, yeah.

Melissa:  Yeah.  I started to get red flags from her towards the end.  She was just, like, very abrupt and blunt, and I guess it was fine while I was going through my appointments and everything like that.  I thought it was funny.  But when it came time to me being in labor, it wasn’t funny.  So she ended up sleeping at the house.  Like, we thought, okay, we’d wake up in the morning – we thought I was almost ready to push, but everything stopped.  So at that point, she was trying to encourage me to go on a walk and everything like that, and I know ultimately – oh, I forgot this part: my water had broke.  So because it’s a VBAC and all of that, we had to pay attention to the time frame.  And she said I was still good, but I was a bit nervous that we were cutting it close, that I would get to the hospital and I was going to need a C-section just on the fact that my water had already broke.  So after we gave it a little while and we started walking and doing some things and nothing really changed, I said, you know what, I’m just going to the hospital.  And that’s what happened.  They had to give me pitocin, which was insane.  For any mom who has had that – it was like out of a movie, one of the craziest experiences.

Kristin:  Yeah, it can intensify and make the contractions closer together and stronger, certainly, than your own body.

Melissa:  Yeah, it went from zero to a hundred.  It was like everything had stopped, and then all of a sudden – I mean, I think it was about, like, 40 minutes and she was out, from giving me the pitocin.  They said they’d never seen anything like it.

Kristin:  Your body just needed that.

Melissa:  Yeah.  We didn’t know the gender, but it was so, like, crazy that when the baby comes out and they’re cleaning her off and everything like that, and I’m like, guys, is it a boy or a girl?  Totally forgot because it was just so crazy.

Kristin:  Yeah, that is quick!  So you had three totally different stories, and yeah, different experiences from working with a midwife with the hospital, transfer by choice, to birthing in the hospital to a surgical birth for medical reasons.  Yeah, that is – it definitely shows how unpredictable, and as much as we plan, sometimes we just have to release some control.  But one key point is trust your instinct as moms, and I’m sure you again mentioned you had some warning signs that the connection wasn’t there, and you need to feel trust and really feel like your provider has your best interests and you feel safe birthing with them.  You can always obviously switch providers, even at the last minute.  It may be difficult, but you don’t need to accept that if you’re feeling like it isn’t a good match.

Melissa:  Yeah, I would just say use your intuition because it’s usually never wrong.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Yes, so true.  So, circling back to push presents and your business, Mrs. Push.  Any advice for our listeners, again related to communicating what you want for a push present or really trying to look at how to have something beautiful to pass down to your children one day?

Melissa:  Yeah, well, first of all, I wouldn’t be shy to communicate what you want, if you know what you want and you know the style you want, even if it’s something you may not be able to get right away or you can’t necessarily afford at the moment.  As long as you know what you want, not to give up on the style and idea of what you have.  It can always be done.  But a lot of times, what I’ve seen moms do is settle on something and then – or they don’t really like it, and then they don’t voice their opinion.  This also goes for engagement rings.  I’ve seen that happen, also.  And then you say, okay, for my one year anniversary, I’m going to upgrade, or with my next baby, I’m going to get something that’s exactly what I wanted, and then life happens and you don’t.  So I think the most important thing is to really – if you know what you want, vocalize it.

Kristin:  Yes.  Totally agree.  And the engagement ring is a great example of that.

Melissa:  Yeah.

Kristin:  So Melissa, how can our listeners find you?

Melissa:  So on Instagram and TikTok, we are @shopmrspush.  You can go to our website, which is  And if you’re interested in customizing anything, there’s a customize form.  You can email me, ask any questions.  And we’re also offering a coupon code for all Gold Coast Doulas clients or podcast listeners, which is GOLDCOAST15.

Kristin:  Yes, thank you so much for offering such a wonderful discount to our listeners and doula clients!  That is very generous!  Will that expire in time, since this podcast will be continuing on for many years?

Melissa:  It’s for a little while.  I believe as of now, we had set it for six months.

Kristin:  Okay.  So basically, it will still be good through 2023, but if you’re listening beyond 2023, then just go directly to the site and see what kind of sales there are then.

Melissa:  Yeah, or they can always reach out to me if it’s a one-off situation and we can honor it.

Kristin:  Yeah.  Well, thank you so much.  I really enjoyed our chat, Melissa, and appreciate all of the work that you’re doing in curating such beautiful items.

Melissa:  Thank you for having me.

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

The Benefits of Taking a Childbirth Class: Podcast Episode #197

Kristin Revere chats with Lisa Newhouse of Gold Coast Doulas about the benefits of taking a childbirth class.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am here today to chat with Lisa Newhouse.  Lisa is one of our advanced birth doulas, and she’s also a certified HypnoBirthing educator.  Our topic of the day is all about the importance, even in today’s modern times, of still taking an in-person childbirth class or a live virtual childbirth class.  Welcome, Lisa!

Lisa:  Thank you!  Thank you for having me!

Kristin:  So I’m excited to dive into this!  I feel like I hear from some of our Becoming A Mother students and just clients in general as they’re talking about their birth prep, and some people, especially 20-somethings, they are tending to utilize a lot of social media for some of their preparation, YouTube channels, for example, TikTok, and podcasts, of course, like Ask the Doulas, and books as a replacement for childbirth ed.  But as doulas, we certainly see the difference in our clients and how they understand the physiology of labor if they choose to take an in-person childbirth class, whether it’s our HypnoBirthing class or even my short Comfort Measures class or a class like Lamaze, for example.

Lisa:  Yes, yeah.  I think all education, knowledge, is so helpful as you’re going into your birthing space.  So books and podcasts are great.  But sometimes there’s just so much more to be gained from that in person meeting, right?  It’s that exchange of dialogue.  It’s that clarification of questions that come up or special things like, how does that relate to me, that you can get in an in-person class.  In an in-person class, the instructor can take the time to really focus on, what is it you are searching for and trying to gain from this experience.

Kristin:  Yes, exactly.  And there’s also that component for the in person and even the live virtual classes that we teach through HypnoBirthing that couples make connections with each other and find similarities and learn from the sharing in class.

Lisa:  Right.  And that is nice that we have this option in our world now, right, that we can do something virtual.  Where we are still visually seeing each other and individuals can see each other and make those connections and so on, and I’m grateful to have that opportunity to meet with someone that way, if that is the option that we need to do.  But again, I always have a preference for in person.  I am a communicator that loves to – I talk a lot with my hands.  I do a lot of visual, really making sure that everyone’s understanding.  And sometimes that can be lost in virtual a little bit.  But we do our best, for sure.

Kristin:  Yeah, for sure.  And during the pandemic, there were two years where we had to teach virtually, and in my very hands-on comfort measures class, that was a challenge.  But I made it work.  Everyone just got out their yoga mats in their living room, and I had hip squeeze videos and demonstrations.  And it worked, but it’s so much better to have it in person.  But it’s nice with your virtual HypnoBirthing classes that students can take it anywhere in the world, or sometimes we’ve had partners that are traveling for work, and they’re able to pop onto a virtual class with their wife or partner and be able to still be engaged and not miss a beat during the travel times.

Lisa:  Exactly.  And of course, I mean, if that is your option – if the option is not to take a class or take it virtually, absolutely go with virtual, right?  Instructors who are doing virtual classes – we are trying to make it engaging.  We are trying to have that interactive component.  Like I always tell people, do not – there is no formality here.  You do not have to wait for me to stop speaking or raise your hand.  If you have a question, please jump in.

Kristin:  So how are the partners enjoying the in-person class?  I’d love to hear – it’s been a bit since I’ve been in the HypnoBirthing class.  Are you seeing some apprehension on those first days, and then some warm up from the partner who may be wondering, especially with HypnoBirthing, it seems a little woo at times until people really understand that it is so based on science.

Lisa:  Yeah.  That is so interesting and funny because you see this progression from typically the first session to the fifth session, right, because HypnoBirthing class is five sessions.  And absolutely, in that first session, in particular, at the beginning, I think everyone’s thinking, especially the partners, HypnoBirthing?  What are we going to do here?  Are you going to hypnotize us?  But right from the beginning of that first session, I focus on what it actually is, and what it actually is, it’s this learning about these tools that you can fill your toolbox up with on how to deeply relax and how the mom’s body works and how we’re made for this and how we can just get into this deeply relaxed state to calm our muscles, calm our body, calm our mind, to be able to focus on doing this instinctually.  And I can just see the interest in like, oh, okay, and then when we start in some of the sessions later on, starting some of those relaxation techniques – wow, by the last one, the partners are, like, totally relaxed.  Totally like, oh, I was so out of it.  It’s funny to see that full progression.

Kristin:  Yes, they’re definitely on board by the end.  So it is very beneficial.  Partners are not required to attend any of our classes from Breastfeeding to Newborn to Comfort Measures to HypnoBirthing, but it certainly is beneficial, especially with HypnoBirthing and the relaxation component and really the affirmations and some of the cues with that.  Let’s dive in to other childbirth prep options outside of HypnoBirthing, and explain some of the differences between, say, a hospital class and HypnoBirthing and Lamaze and even some of the newer ones that are very similar to HypnoBirthing.  Gentle birth or HypnoBabies.  That is a self-based virtual course.  So, yeah, I’d love to hear your thoughts, and I can share some of mine, as well.

Lisa:  Yeah.  Well, it’s interesting when I think of my own birthing experiences compared to now.  When I was having my babies, I felt like there was only really two options available, which was either a hospital-based education course or a Lamaze course, right?  And some of the hospital-based courses, they tried bringing in some of the Lamaze work in regards to the breathwork, and although – you know, they were typically – especially the hospital-based courses, they might have been like a one-session type thing for a few hours, and they showed you a video of birth and went over a few breathing things and instructed partners, like this is how you can support and possibly hold the partner during this process.  But it was really surface, right?  And I don’t remember coming away from those courses feeling more educated in regards to how my body would work.  I don’t remember feeling like all the anxiety was taken care of.  I know my partner did not feel like they were really – could do a whole lot more besides like, well, I’ll be there for you.  I’ll be offering you encouragement.  I’ll hold your hand.  I think possibly in Lamaze, which I never took, maybe you had a little bit more, but it was a lot of breathwork that seemed to be busy work, right?  Whereas now I think we’ve had this wonderful crossover where with HypnoBirthing, gentle birth or HypnoBabies, we’re kind of all focusing on the physiological birth that can be calm, people, more gentle, and it’s not a one-class session, right?  We do five classes.  Each class is two and a half hours long.  So we’re really digging in and doing all that prep work, making sure that mom and partner are educated in regards to how the body works, fully educated in regards to how to get into those deeply relaxed states, which is through self-hypnosis.  It’s nothing I’m doing.  It’s nothing magical.  It’s you teaching yourself how to bring your body down to those relaxed states and then how to bring your baby into this world in a calmer setting.  So I think there’s just been this nice bridge to where we are now that, gosh, I look back at my experience, and I’m so envious of mothers being able to have these options now.  It’s like, oh, I would have loved that option.

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

Kristin:  Sure.  I took Lamaze with both of my kids.  There was a HypnoBirthing class, but it was out in the Lakeshore, and I worked in Lansing and had to jet back home to Grand Rapids.  So that was the best option for me.  My mom happened to take Lamaze as well, so that was a factor, and I took the whole class twice.  And so Lamaze is geared more toward the natural birther.  I know that instructors have the ability to change their curriculum a bit.  So again, my kids are 10 and 12.  Things may have changed since then, but there is a focus on breathing and using positions and partner support to accomplish an unmedicated birth.  And so the students that were in my classes – you know, it’s very hands on.  We were trying different positions and understanding a lot of the physiology.  There’s a breastfeeding component, six weeks.  And so I felt like I had a good education, but once I became a doula for part of my doula certification, I audited a HypnoBirthing class in full, and then of course, when Gold Coast started, we had Michigan’s first HypnoBirthing educator as my former business partner and our HypnoBirthing instructor.  So we really started Gold Coast with a focus on HypnoBirthing and that mind-body connection.  And the thing that I love about HypnoBirthing, that difference, is we have students who have planned surgical births that take HypnoBirthing to prepare for some of the fear that they may be experiencing or just wanting a different birth, even if they’ve had prior surgical births.  And we have clients who birth in home, who birth with doulas, who want an epidural right away, and still find benefit from HypnoBirthing.  So it’s not just one of those childbirth classes where you’re only preparing for an unmedicated birth.  Bradley is a very comprehensive 12-week class that is partner-focused.  The partner is the primary support person, although I’ve worked as a doula with Bradley student couples.  And so that is another option that is very naturally focused.  And as you mentioned about your own experience taking hospital classes, and of course, it varies by the hospital on the focus, but those are more geared toward the average patient experience, not really for the natural birther.  It’s just trying to give an overview.  It sometimes includes as tour of the hospitals, more generalized.  And some can be a short session, or some hospitals have longer, more involved sessions.  So it definitely varies.  And then certainly HypnoBabies was an offshoot of HypnoBirthing and is self-paced, so for people who want to go at their own speed and still have that visualization, mind-body connection, that is an option.  And then Gentle Birth again uses some of that HypnoBirthing approach and sports labor physiology.  It has some differences, but also has their own download tracks.  So it’s a matter of really finding out what works for your schedule, what works for your location, the type of class that you and your partner are looking for and what your goals are in spending that time and that money in childbirth education.  Now, many classes are covered by a health savings or flex spending.  Many hospital classes, depending on your insurance, are covered by all of your insurance or part of your insurance.  So looking into budget is also a factor.  I talk to my Becoming a Mother students about it when they’re planning for birth and baby.  What are your goals?  Is education part of it?  Is a breastfeeding class going to work for you and taking it through Gold Coast or trying to take it through a hospital and have insurance pay?  Really mapping things out the way you do for building a home or planning a wedding is key, and I know, again, time and resources can be tight, and so finding the thing that works best for you is a tip that I have for our listeners.

Lisa:  Yes, absolutely.  Yeah.  And I do – I think that is sometimes a misnomer, that individuals think, regarding HypnoBirthing, that it has to be natural.  But natural is different.  It has different definitions for many people, right?  Natural could be, well, I want it to be a vaginal birth.  Or natural could be, I want it to be a birth with that plus no pain medications.  But really what I try to instruct and really emphasize to individuals in the class is that HypnoBirthing can be used wherever your birth path leads.  There’s going to be many turns on that birth path, and at the end of the class, I just want you to feel like you have been educated and feel empowered to use your voice and make the decision that’s right for you and your baby in that moment.  There is no right and wrong.  It’s what’s right for you.  Use those HypnoBirthing tools throughout that whole process, whether it’s a surgical birth, whether it’s a birth that you decided, when I get to this point, I want an epidural, or whether you decided I want to try to take this the full route without any pain medications.  All the techniques can be used in all of those scenarios.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  I remember one of my birth doula client’s partners telling me that he had to have a procedure done and utilized some of the HypnoBirthing breathing and relaxation techniques for that procedure.

Lisa:  Absolutely, yes, yes.  I did that just recently with a child of mine who had her wisdom teeth out and was having a lot of anxiety, and I started the calm breathing with her.  I was like, okay, we’re going to start some breathing.  And that type of breathing works for everyone in stressful situations.  Something about focusing on your breath and inhaling and exhaling slowly – it just automatically brings you to a different level.

Kristin:  Yeah, exactly.  I use it in heavy traffic, like stressful situations and the dentist, as you mentioned.  It is something that you can really carry with you for a lifetime.

Lisa:  Yes, practical use.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And with me and my over-preparing personality, I wanted to take full childbirth classes with each of my births, but we do have options at Gold Coast for our HypnoBirthing students who have already taken a full HypnoBirthing series and are pregnant again.  They can do a refresher and do a private session with you to cover just some of the basics of what they want to re-learn and use again in that birth, so that can also be very helpful.

Lisa:  Yes, it can be very helpful.  I’ve had a number of clients reach out for that service, and when you do a refresher course, it’s a conversation between the two of us to begin with.  Like, what do you feel like we need to focus on again?  Because I want to set this refresher up to hit all the points that you feel you need a refresher on.  Quite often, I find that involves breath work again.  Can we review the breath work and maybe one of the deepenings or maybe a fear release.  But honestly, I do it – I formulate this class based on individual needs.

Kristin:  Yes, which is so beautiful and needed.  One thing, as we’re talking about again the importance of taking a childbirth class if that works for you, and we support clients who do nothing and just want a birth doula to be there, in whatever is better for your life situation, budget, and time capacity.  But if you are considering a childbirth class, again, that connection in these virtual times – it’s nice to have Zoom student connection or in-person classroom connection with other couples who are going through the same thing as you and even using some of those same tools.  I know for my second Lamaze class, I see a family quite frequently at track meets and cross country meets.  Our kids go to different schools, but it’s so fun to run into them and with the first class that I took, our educator has us all come back after the final baby was born, and we would tell birth stories and line up the babies for a photo, and then I got together with those couples for many years.  I think until our kids were 4, we did an annual reunion.  During maternity leave, many of the women from my class, we met at Meijer Gardens and parks, and our kids got to know each other, and I’m still close friends with a lot of them.  So I carried that tradition on when I taught Sacred Pregnancy for a handful of years and had reunions with all of my students.  Everyone brought their babies, and it was so fun to hear birth stories and to get together.  So there is that community connection that can be made and is so helpful.

Lisa:  Yes.  We’re going to start out with Gold Coast the HypnoBirthing Mothers, as well.  In fact, it’s on my agenda to possibly plan in summer or early fall, just whoever can show up.  If you can come, we’ll meet, gather, share experiences, share stories.  I love anything like that.  It encourages community.

Kristin:  Yes, definitely.  Well, I’m glad you’re starting that up.  What a nice surprise to hear.  I know we had talked about it in the past, so looking forward to hearing about the gatherings, and I know you have the private Facebook community for current and former students, and they share birth stories and resources and encourage each other.  It’s quite a lovely community that you’ve build.  Thank you so much, Lisa.  Any final tips for our listeners when they’re thinking about childbirth class preparation?

Lisa:  I would say if you have any questions regarding – there’s so many options, right?  Feel free to reach out and review some of the options and see which one will be a right fit for you.   Know also that sometimes you see a schedule out there and you think, oh, how am I going to make this work.  But I know myself, and I think there’s a lot of instructors out there – we are in this because we want to help you through this time.  So there’s a lot of flexibility.  I know I offer for anyone who is like, I just can’t make that time work; can we try and come up with another time?  And I always try to make that happen because I don’t want – I feel so closely when we can’t do it for someone, and I feel like they really wanted it.  So I try to make that happen, and I think other instructors do as well.

Kristin:  Yeah, I agree.  Well, thank you so much, Lisa, and for any of our listeners who are interested in learning more about any of our childbirth preparation classes at Gold Coast Doulas, you can find Lisa’s HypnoBirthing class and others at  Thanks again, Lisa, and have a great day.

Lisa:  You’re welcome.  Thank you.

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

Using Visualizations and Affirmations in Labor with Lisa Newhouse: Podcast Episode #196

Kristin Revere chats with Lisa Newhouse of Gold Coast Doulas about the benefits of using affirmations in labor.  Lisa is a birth doula and HypnoBirthing educator with Gold Coast Doulas.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am here today with Lisa Newhouse.  Lisa is one of our advanced certified birth doulas, and she’s also a HypnoBirthing educator.  Welcome, Lisa!

Lisa:  Hi!  How are you today?

Kristin:  Doing well.  So excited to chat with you.  Our topic today is all about affirmations and using positive language for labor and delivery.  So let’s get into it!

Lisa:  Yeah!

Kristin:  So as a HypnoBirthing educator, language is such an important part of your curriculum, correct?

Lisa:  Right.  For sure.

Kristin:  Yeah, taking away fear, which part of the fear of labor and childbirth is around some of the language we use.  Even in the hospital, there’s always that bulletin board rating your pain.  The nurse will come in after delivery and ask how much pain you’re in.  And it’s more we use the term discomfort and a contraction, which you think of contracting being tight and tense, is “surge.” And what are some of the other language changes that HypnoBirthing uses, Lisa?

Lisa:  Yeah.  Well, I think one of the most important ones, and probably the first one I do teach, is that whole pain scale and saying maybe if we rephrase that – because when someone says what is your pain, that invokes an image and a feeling, right?  Like, oh, I should be in pain, and let me think about that.  What is my pain?  And the first thing I instruct individuals that I work with is, like, what if we rephrase that and said, what is your comfort level?  And that – so your mind is not automatically going to that pain.  As you mentioned, switching out the term contraction with surge is also a very positive flip on that feeling that we have in our body because who wants to have a contraction?  It doesn’t sound pleasant.  When I think of a contraction, I’m thinking something that’s tight and hurting.  So thinking about it as a wave or a surge, which is really more accurately described, right?  I mean, it’s coming – it builds like a wave, and it comes down like a wave or like a surge, right?

Kristin:  Exactly.  And partners can see that on the monitor.  You see the contraction start to ramp up.  It peaks, and then it decels.  So those surges are like waves.  And I know you not only use affirmations, but also visualization.

Lisa:  Oh yeah, for sure.

Kristin:  Your students and doula clients can utilize whatever works for them.  I know you have that thermometer scale and a lot of different ways to cope with some of the perceived discomfort.

Lisa:  Yeah.  So when we think about other terms – I mean, I usually start out with just kind of going through a list of things and have people think about it for a minute.  So a simple one is like, who’s going to deliver the baby?  Well, no one is delivering this baby.  That’s like a pizza being delivered, right?

Kristin:  Exactly.

Lisa:  It’s like, no, there is a lot of effort involved with this, and it’s having agency.  No, I birthed this baby.  No one delivered it for me.  I like that one because I think it switches the agency and it gives the empowerment back to the woman where it rightly belongs.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And women can even receive their baby if they want to, or the partner can.

Lisa:  Exactly.  Exactly, and that’s another term is that instead of “catch the baby,” we replace that with “receive” for either the partner or the mother.  Because again, no one should be catching a baby.  That kind of sounds dangerous to me.  We’re receiving this baby.  We’re receiving it with love and saying hello to it.  So it’s just changing that language from something that maybe invokes an image that is not very pleasant to a more positive image, as well as changing it from a medicalized language term to something that describes it more accurately.  Not our waters breaking, but our waters releasing; our membranes releasing, because that’s what they do it.  It doesn’t break.  It doesn’t break down on it.  They just release.

Kristin:  Exactly, yeah.  It’s so beautiful when you change and shift the thought process around labor and certainly for me and my labors, I liked to again use that wave image for visualization and think of myself, like, riding the waves.  Body surfing.  And it really got me through.  Combining that language with some visualization and affirmations can be so powerful.  So what are your tips for our listeners as far as some visualization cues that they can use?

Lisa:  Well, I think the one that does come to mind the most is the wave.  And I know when I’m working as a birth doula, as well, I use language that supports that.  If they have a visualization they have shared with me that works with them.  Surges do build, right?  So I will use language with them: okay, it’s building.  We’ve reached the top.  It’s going to start coming down now.  It’s coming down.  So them having that visualization in their mind with me giving the positive reinforcement through verbal language, I think helps with working through those surges as well.  And I’ve noticed the partners pick up on that pretty quickly, too, and if they start stepping in and doing that, that’s obviously a direction I want to go in, too, like yes, go with that lead.  That’s working.  You go with that, and I’m going to focus on something else to help our birth moms out there.  I also like the image – when you learn how the muscles and the uterus work and how they work together during the surges, our uterus expands and we work on breathing to let that expansion occur optimally.  A good visualization to do with that is thinking of it like there’s a balloon inside your uterus.  And as that surge builds and you’re inhaling air, the balloon is enlarging, right?  It’s getting bigger and it’s rising up.  And as you exhale and the surge comes down, that balloon is going down.  So that’s a helpful visualization.  Or maybe even visualizing the baby in our uterus like in a bowl during the surges, and the baby is rising up during the surge and the inhale, and the baby is coming down during the exhale with the surge coming down.

Kristin:  Love it.  So helpful.

Lisa:  It can be very helpful.

Kristin:  And as you mentioned, the partner’s role is so vital in this, and of course, not everyone has a partner, so if you don’t, a doula or other support person, but really in encouraging and noticing if the birthing person is carrying tension or pain or looks even the breathing, which breath is everything in HypnoBirthing, is more fast based and the moans are high pitched.  It’s all about opening up and relaxing and releasing any tension or fear.

Lisa:  Yes, absolutely.  Fear, anxiety, which caused our adrenaline hormones to activate.  That’s not something we want in the birth space.  Obviously, there’s times in life where we want those hormones to be activated if we are concerned regarding, do we need to fight; do we need to run.  That type of thing, we want those type of hormones then.  But during our birth space, at a birthing time, we want those dampened completely and we want to be able to relax and go with that because our bodies just work so much more efficiently when that happens, right, and we have so much more of a comfortable birth.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And HypnoBirthing also utilizes download tracks that clients can use as part of their tools for labor and birth.

Lisa:  Absolutely.

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

Kristin:  So let’s talk a bit about how some of those can be helpful in creating that calm birthing space.

Lisa:  Well, the two primary tracks that HypnoBirthing utilizes, the auditory recordings, one is called the rainbow track, and the other one is the positive affirmation track.  And when you’re in the HypnoBirthing course, you receive those, and I encourage the students that I work with to start listening to that on a daily basis because embedded within those tracks, particularly the rainbow track, is all the pillars of the HypnoBirthing platform.  It’s the breathing techniques.  It’s the progressive relaxation, the positive imagery and the visualization.  All that’s embedded within there.  And when you’re utilizing these tracks, I’ve also taught the individuals how to start some calm breathing.  The calm breathing is the breathing that you’re going to come back to time and time again throughout your pregnancy as well as during your birthing time.  Whenever you’re feeling a little stress or anxiety, start some calm breathing.  And then particularly during your birthing time when you start feeling surges.  Maybe when it’s time to take the trip to the hospital or when you’re in triage, or even if it’s just during a special appointment that you have for – maybe it’s non stress testing.  Okay, do your calm breathing.  But utilizing that calm breathing during these tracks helps your body start to learn how to relax effectively.  And the more you keep practicing that, the quicker and more efficiently you can get into those relaxed states.  So it’s so important to start that practice, to learn that muscle memory in regards to, how do I get myself relaxed when I’m feeling stress, anxiety, or maybe fear?

Kristin:  Love it, yeah.  So helpful.  So Lisa, what are your favorite affirmations to use as a doula or HypnoBirthing educator?

Lisa:  I like – the one I tend to come to time and time again is that I trust in my body to birth my baby naturally, calmly.  That is one I love because to trust your body is the first thing, I think, you need to do in order to work through this, right?  So often when I ask students, what is it you fear, the first thing they say is the pain and the second thing they say that follows right into that is, will my body do this?  Can I do this?  So I think saying the affirmation, that positive affirmation, put it somewhere where you see it.  On the bathroom mirror when you brush your teeth, and you have to verbally say it each day: I trust my body to birth my baby naturally, calmly.  Next would be probably, I trust that I’m going to have a positive birth with positive feelings, positive feelings regarding this birth.

Kristin:  Love it.  Some of my clients write out affirmations that they want to be read by their doula or partner during labor so they know what appeals to them, and I’ve seen them done beautifully on banners that are hanging in the hospital room or just on a simple notecard.  And then of course, there are affirmation card decks that can be purchased.  Mama Natural is one that I use quite a bit.  But there are so many options.

Lisa:  Yeah, and the birth affirmation track that HypnoBirthing provides – I mean, it’s a recording of all these positive affirmations.  And initially, you just start listening to those, but eventually, some of those might start resonating with you.  It feels like that is the one that really speaks to you, and when that occurs, that’s the one you want to grab onto, right?  Let’s grab onto those that resonate with you that make you feel calmer, more positive, more empowered.  And those are the ones I would suggest to moms.  Write those ones out.  Put them up, again, so you can visually see them, but also, it’s so important to not just see them and say it in your mind but to actually verbally say it out loud.  I think that just cements it to just another level.

Kristin:  Right.  It sticks when you hear it.

Lisa:  It really sticks, yeah.

Kristin:   So any final tips for our listeners, Lisa?

Lisa:  Probably number one tip is to really focus on positive language and positive imagery.  So it can be so hard, right, when we’re expecting – everyone you meet kind of wants to share their birth stories as well.  And that’s a wonderful thing.  It’s a community sharing, right?  We want to share.  But I would suggest to moms to maybe just pause real quickly when someone starts and just say, I really only want to hear positive and empowering birth stories.  If yours is not positive, I just really can’t hear that right now.  And don’t watch – don’t get sucked into those medical shows.  They’re always going to go too drama, right?  And how do we create drama?  We bring in all these situations that are these special circumstances that are not easy to watch.  You know, birth is not drama unless there is a special circumstance, and it can be a very positive experience that we really want to start cementing within ourselves.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Thank you so much, Lisa, and I can’t wait for our next chat soon.

Lisa:  Oh, yes.  Thank you so much.  This was great.

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.

Holistic Fertility with Dr. Burns: Podcast Episode #195

Kristin Revere chats about holistic fertility with Dr. Christina Burns of Naturna Institute.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Dr. Christina Burns today.  Dr. Burns is a doctor of Eastern medicine, an herbalist with specialization in women’s health and fertility.  She began her career at the age of 19 when she began studying nutrition and herbal medicine.  Her studies included a year spent in China, India, and Nepal, where she learned mindfulness and Eastern medicine from monks in remote areas.  Dr. Burns collaborated with physicians in underserved regions and women’s hospitals.  Over the next nine years, she achieved degrees in acupuncture, herbal medicine, nutrition, and spiritual coaching.  Since returning to North America, she’s founded a wellness institute in New York City that is focused on helping women achieve their optimal health goals through natural medicine practices.  So happy to have you hear, Dr. Burns, and I am excited to get into so many topics related to holistic fertility.  I’m also thrilled to hear more about your book, The Ultimate Fertility Guidebook.

Dr. Burns:  Oh, thank you so much.  I’m so excited to be here.

Kristin:  So let’s get into a bit about challenges related to fertility and the modern woman.

Dr. Burns:  All right, let’s do it.  My favorite topic.

Kristin:  So what are your tips and findings?  I feel like more and more of my doula clients are struggling with fertility, whether it’s secondary infertility and they had no issues with their first child, or they have been trying and planning, maybe delayed having children.  And so I would love to hear your thoughts on this.

Dr. Burns:  You know, it’s multifaceted because we have this modern lifestyle where we’re exposed to more toxins.  We’re rushing around all the time, which is affecting our hormones.  We definitely are delaying childbearing, so we can’t deny that age is a factor.  In fact, if I talk to my fertility doctor colleague, they will say that it’s the sort of major underlying factor of the rates of infertility going up.  And I don’t believe that most people are infertile, by the way.  I think it’s a horrible word, and I think that there are very few people that are actually infertile.  I think there’s a sort of subfertility situation going on where women’s hormones are underperforming.  Maybe their stress levels are too high.  Maybe they’re eating too much processed food.  Maybe the hormone went to sleep after a traumatic birth or something.  There’s so many factors.  But I think that in general, the major things that I see and that I’ve outlined in my book are age, toxic exposure, overly busy lifestyle, a diet laden with kind of processed foods and toxic foods and exposure to toxins in our environment, and a general issue with the quality of our food.

Kristin:  Makes sense.  So it’s a mixture, it sounds like, of age, stress, and diet, and also, again, all of the pesticides and chemicals in the foods that we eat?

Dr. Burns:  Yeah, and you know, our exposure in our environment, too, right?  Depending on – I live in New York City, so there’s a lot of exposure there.  I notice a big difference when I’m in the countryside versus when I’m in New York City just in terms of the way that I feel.  And then there’s stuff that we’re using in our homes.  Cleaning products and such.  People are spending maybe too much time in a hair salon or a nail salon.  So it’s coming at us from different angles, but I would say by and large, most of it is coming through our food, and that is something that we can control.  Like, if you live in a city, you can’t control the air quality, but you can control what you’re putting in your mouth.

Kristin:  Yes, makes sense.  And so I noticed when I was looking into your website, Dr. Burns, that you also have some food based products.  Junk juice and some different customized plans, whether it’s fertility focused or just different individualized needs.

Dr. Burns:  Absolutely.  I try to take a very multidisciplinary approach.  So diet and lifestyle.  What kind of exercise is good for you?  What’s not so good for fertility?  And it will differ from person to person.  What kind of foods are good or not as good for different profiles?  Like, somebody with endometriosis may be different from somebody with PCOS, may be different from somebody with advanced maternal age or anemia.  So everybody’s case and situation is a little bit different in terms of what their lifestyle protocol would be.  And then there’s the natural medicine.  Like, acupuncture has been amazing to improve fertility.  Though I can’t treat people around the world with acupuncture; I can do so with the recommendations that I just mentioned and with herbal medicine, and that’s what Junk Juice is.  Junk Juice is Eastern medicine kind of modernized.  And the reason why it’s called Junk Juice is because traditionally, Chinese or Eastern medicine herbal tea looks very murky.  It’s this brown, gross liquid.  Yeah.  And it’s so amazing for fertility, for hormones, for postpartum, to prevent miscarriage during pregnancy.  But it’s gross most of the time.  Most people are like, oh, my God, what is this stuff?  So I called it Junk Juice to make light of it.  And I also produce it in capsules just in case somebody can’t handle the flavor.  But Junk Juice is, I would say, one of the most magical gifts for women’s health and I think generally health for all things, because I treat everything with it.  I treat kids’ stuff.  I treat problems during pregnancy.  I treat fertility.  I treat immune disorders.  And you notice a difference so quickly, and it’s just incredible.  So this is something that I can prescribe and send around the country or the world, and that’s something that I’ve focused a lot of my energy on in the last few years.

Kristin:  I love it.  So as far as the institute, Naturna Institute, do you – you do in person in New York as far as acupuncture services for our listeners who live local to your area, but then it seems like you can work with anyone anywhere in the world virtually?

Dr. Burns:  Yes, and that was actually – COVID was a dark era for us, but something that was birthed out of COVID was that people got a lot more comfortable doing consultations and things over Zoom.  And so during that era when a lot of my international patients were no longer coming to New York, I started doing more consultations via Zoom.  And it’s been going well.  And with the herbal medicine, for the most part, unless the country has some crazy customs policy, we’re able to send it to most places.  And so it’s been great to maintain that connection more beyond New York with my patients and with anybody who needs help.

Kristin:  Beautiful.  So what are your top tips for our listeners who are preparing for their first pregnancy and really want to get their diet in line, reduce any toxins, and set themselves up for success before going through any fertility challenges?

Dr. Burns:  So I would say the first tip I would give is to have white space in your day.  And white space is time that’s just not filled with doing something.  And that could be five minutes between appointments or between meetings at work or what have you where you just allow yourself five minutes to, like, regroup, or maybe 10 or 15 minutes, and you’re not just spending that time plugged into your phone, answering a bunch of texts, answering emails.  So I believe that one of the issues with fertility is that we are in fight or flight response all the time, and that’s usually, I would say, in modern day, from being too plugged in and from rushing around.  We just don’t allow ourselves any downtime.  And so I’m a fan of white space to basically down regulate the nervous system and put your hormones back in check.  If you’re in fight or flight response, meaning, like, you’re pumping out cortisol because you’re rushing from here to there, you’re kind of always on, then your ovaries can go to sleep.  They can just be underfunctioning.  And so to kind of get those ovaries and get that uterus getting more circulation, we want to be able to switch from our sympathetic go-go-go fight or flight mode to our parasympathetic rest and digest, feed and breed mode.  So that would be a number one.  You need some space in your day.  Every day, and some time to wind down at night.  It doesn’t have to be that much time.  If you don’t have a lot of that, then I would definitely integrate some meditation, even five minutes, just to kind of help your body down regulate the nervous response.  So that’s the nervous system.

Kristin:  Okay.  We teach HypnoBirthing, and it’s so mind-body focused and really touches on a lot of those – the time to have affirmations and repetition with the soundtrack that they listen to.  And so I’m a big fan of taking that time and getting into some sort of pregnancy practice.

Dr. Burns:  Oh, totally.  I love that you call it pregnancy practice.  And it’s interesting.  Like, when I’m helping people prepare for their birth, I’m often telling them to do the same thing.  Like, unplug.  It’s kind of – I’ve noticed that there’s a difference in labor and delivery whether you’re kind of wound up going into your birth or whether you’ve been able to kind of chill out.  And I even notice this with my – for the birth of my first child.  I was really tense going into the birth and my contractions were really close together and horrible and not productive, and then when I was having my second and third and I allowed myself a little bit of space to kind of wind down a little bit more and I really made that a priority, my births were easy peasy.  And I’m not saying that it applies to everyone, but it sounds like this is part of what you do with the HypnoBirthing and other things.

Kristin:  Yes, and as a doula, I agree.  When you’re tense and have the flight or fight, it’s fear, tension, pain.  And so it’s all about relaxing and opening up to the process and focusing on your breaths.  So I love that even preconception, beginning some positive habits to carry along during pregnancy, and certainly early parenting, it’s also very beneficial.

Dr. Burns:  Oh, definitely.  I mean, I look at the fertility journey as an opportunity to make the changes that you’ve been resisting making.  You know that things are out of balance in your life.  You’re not making the changes.  You’re just kind of plugging away.  And then you get hit with a fertility challenge, or you’re preparing for baby.  Most of the time, it’s you get hit with a fertility challenge, and it’s a huge slap in the face, and you’re like, oh, my God, I’ll do anything to get this baby.  And that’s when it’s an opportune time to make the changes that you haven’t made space to make.  And I think in modern day lifestyle, a lot of type A personalities and being plugged in so much of the time, the thing that we resist most is slowing down a little bit.

Kristin:  Yes.  So true.  So I would love to hear your thoughts on the partner’s role in fertility and some positive steps the partner can make.

Dr. Burns:  Oh, interesting.  I laugh because the partners are so resistant to playing a role a lot of the time.  And it actually is a source of a lot of fighting among couples because the female in the relationship will be changing her diet and adjusting everything and turning her life upside down to get the baby, and the man is like, la, la, la, drinking his beer, and kind of going on, life as usual.  So for the men, I mean, I would like it if they would participate somewhat in just reducing the amount of inflammatory and acidic things they’re taking in.  So if they’re drinking a whole bunch of coffee in a day, a few cups of coffee – reduce that to one.  If you’re having five drinks a day, reduce that, too.  You know, avoiding BPA in cans and containers and excess exposure to toxins.  It’s easy enough to kind of get the men taking a vitamin once in a while.  Like, even getting men on, like, a multivitamin.  They’re not going to do as many as women would do.  Getting them on maybe a basic one or some minerals, depending on if they have a sperm issue or not.  And with men, it’s also keeping your testicles cool.  So not wearing super tight underwear, not going on bike rides, in saunas, in hot tubs, taking hot baths, not having your cell phone in your pocket, not having your laptop on your lap.  So basically, don’t cook your testicles, on the male side.  And you know, with them, I’ll usually prescribe the female a fertility-friendly diet, one that’s rich in iron and folate and things that are really important for conception.  Reducing packaged foods so we’re not having spikes in insulin.  Reducing refined carbohydrates, inflammatory foods to kind of calm down the system, calm the waters.  Now, I wish that men would participate more in that, but they often don’t.  So if you are a female listening to this and your man is not really being proactive, that is extremely typical, and if you can at least get him on a multivitamin and maybe boozing a bit less and drinking less coffee and keeping his testicles cool, that is a win.

Kristin:  Okay, very helpful.  Thank you for sharing.  So I’d love to hear more about The Ultimate Fertility Guidebook and your process in creating this because it sounds like you are so busy.  I mean, you’re a mom of three and have a thriving business.  So what led you to create this guidebook?

Dr. Burns:  I wanted to have a resource that went beyond the sort of walls of my clinic or Zoom.  There’s only so many people that I can see one on one and help, so The Ultimate Fertility Guidebook was – I wanted it to be like a gift to a larger audience to get some answers for things that they’re not getting answers to.  I have so many women come to see me that are struggling with fertility.  Their fertility clinic doesn’t teach them about nutrition, doesn’t tell them what exercise to do or not do, doesn’t tell them what supplements to take, and doesn’t tell them anything about natural medicine, and they kind of feel, like, lost and without direction.  And there’s so much you can do to take the reins with your fertility.  And so I basically just listened to my patients over the last 20 years and took note of common questions and created a book to be an answer to all of that.  I outline how your hormones work at the beginning, so those basics.  The common causes of fertility challenges.  And then I go into what I call the culprit.  So inflammation, stress hormone, toxins, and spikes in blood sugar that I believe underlie a lot of fertility challenges.  And then I go into a full kind of lifestyle program.  So a preconception cleansing program where I tell you what to take out of the diet to kind of clean your body and what supplements to take, what natural medicine to integrate, how to eat according to the phases of your cycle to optimize your hormones.  What exercise to do and not do; how to integrate mindfulness and all of that.  So I kind of just tried to put everything, my entire brain and all my experience over the years, into a resource that you can buy inexpensively online and be able to refer to it.

Kristin:  That’s amazing.  Love it.  So how can our listeners find your book?

Dr. Burns:  Well, my book is pretty much in all the places where you usually buy books, so Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Walmart, Target.  And you can go and get it in a bookstore, too, if you happen to be near one.  It’s also available through my clinic,  Yeah, that’s pretty much it.  It’s found, you know, online or in bookstores, and it’s a hefty book.  So, you know, be ready for 300 pages of goodness.  But I tried to make it very user-friendly and very readable.  I’m told that it’s very approachable and it’s not a boring, clinical book.  So I tried to make it even a little bit laugh-worthy for a very sensitive topic.

Kristin:  Excellent.  And I know you’re on social, so you have various ways that our listeners can find Naturna Institute, as well, and Junk Juice?

Dr. Burns:  Yes, so I have my professional one, which is @naturna_life.  There’s me personally that I post a lot of videos and tips about random things, @drchristinaburns.  And then there’s @junkjuicemagic.  So I can be found there.  I also have a fertility podcast is somebody wanted to kind of dive in deeper into topics about how to optimize your fertility.  It’s called Fertility in Focus on Apple and Spotify.

Kristin:  Excellent.  So any final tips for our listeners, Dr. Burns?

Dr. Burns:  Sure.  Yeah.  I feel bad because I didn’t get to all my tips.  So I would say there’s the integrate the white space, honor your diet.  There’s try to trust the process because a lot of the time, we want this now, and there’s nothing wrong with your fertility; it just doesn’t happen exactly when we want it.  Sometimes it’s just like your body needs to get to a certain level of balance or nutrition before it will conceive.  And just trust that you’re on the right track, that you’re taking action, and that it will come.  And don’t over-exercise, I would say, but don’t under-exercise, either.  You want to move your body.  You just don’t want to try to become, like, the fittest person during your fertility process.  We don’t want to lose too much body fat; otherwise, we don’t produce hormones.  So we don’t want to become too lean or be doing really hardcore workouts when we’re trying to get pregnant.  Mindfulness is very helpful.  Supplements; some of my favorite ones are omega 3, magnesium, vitamin D, methylfolate, CoQ10, and Junk Juice, which, you know, you can do through my service or consult a knowledgeable Eastern medicine practitioner through the association called ABORM, the American Board of Oriental Reproductive Medicine.  You can find it at, and it will list qualified practitioners in your area.

Kristin:  Oh, what a helpful resource.  Thank you very much.

Dr. Burns:  It’s a pleasure.

Kristin:  And as far as the final takeaway, I know you covered a lot about minerals, but any tips for new parents?  We touched a bit on pregnancy, but really to focus on the depletion and imbalance after having a baby?

Dr. Burns:  Yes, I love that you asked this because one of the questions that I often ask when somebody is struggling with secondary infertility was how was your last pregnancy and birth, right?  And so my answer to that is to honor a postpartum program of sorts, and I assume that you would be able to be very helpful in this area.  But postpartum, I don’t like somebody having a bunch of cold smoothies and salads and things.  In Eastern medicine, you’re supposed to have a lot of cooked, nourishing foods.  You’re not supposed to go out with wet hair in the cold or in general, not go out much in the first 40 days.  To be cooking really nourishing, slow-cooked foods and broth in that first part, and this is one that you won’t find in books like The First 40 Days, but to not overschedule yourself when you’ve just had a baby.  Like, I see these women struggling with postpartum depression, and it’s generally ones that were really plugged in right after they had a baby, especially – like, I’ve had a lot of patients with postpartum psychosis, oddly, in the last couple years where you have a more severe mentally, and the common thread that I’ve found amongst a lot of them was that they were planning somebody’s party right after they had a baby or, you know, they were traveling right after they had baby.  They were just doing a lot.  They were still working; they just had a baby.  So please honor that time postpartum going into the birth, after the birth.  Honor it with food; honor it with rest; honor it with mental space.  And that generally will lead to an easier time conceiving your next and your next after that because you will have sort of brought back the nourishment and strength in your body needed to conceive again.

Kristin:  Excellent.  Thank you so much for sharing all of your wisdom!  I could chat with you forever.  We’ll have to have you back on in the future.

Dr. Burns:  It was so fun.  Thank you for having this amazing podcast and for helping women along this journey.

Kristin:  Thanks:  Take care, Dr. Burns.

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

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.

Fair Play with Rachel Meakins: Podcast Episode #194

Kristin chats with Rachel Meakins from Zenbari about navigating household responsibilities using fair play.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Rachel Meakins today.  Rachel is a perinatal specialist.  She is also a doula and a women’s rights activist, and she is a fair play method facilitator.  So I am really excited to get into understanding fair play and how we can all utilize a balance in sharing the workload at home.  Welcome, Rachel!

Rachel:  Thank you, Kristin!  I’m really happy to be here with you and talk about all these important things.

Kristin:  Let’s get into a bit more about your background.  Again, you have so many different certifications.  You’re a certified health coach; you’re CPR certified; a newborn care specialist.  And then your business, Zenbari.  Let’s chat a bit about what led you to working with women in the perinatal phase.

Rachel:  Sure.  So I was raised in North Dakota on a farm, and my family was comprised of myself and my two younger siblings who were five and ten years younger.  So my mom needed a lot of help with them, and I just happened to be of the age where I could help.  So I grew up just being around babies, helping my mother, and then when I moved to New York City at the age of 18, I just kind of naturally fell into the role of a mother’s helper with families that I would meet because their kids would just come up to me, and I was kind of natural with them, and I loved being in the home.  So I really missed being on the farm and the familial life, and I started working as a nanny.  And really, it was more of a hobby, and I really just wanted to be with mothers.  So I would go on trips with families or I would help out on the weekends or something, really just to play with kids and be around them.  So it was kind of this sweet gig that I found.  After years of working just full time around the clock in New York City, which is how it works there, I really wanted to be more intentional with my time and the people that I was spending time with and I really wanted to focus on something that I knew could translate into my future because I knew I wanted to have a family of my own.  So I found doula work, and it was like a lightbulb went off.  I just started researching, and at the time, I think the only thing that was out was Rikki Lake’s The Business of Being Born.  And I watched it the night that I learned what a doula was for the first time and was just completely enthralled and signed up for a DONA International training with Debra Pascali-Bonaro.  I trained with her.  It was amazing.  It just kind of catapulted from there, or snowballed, I guess you could say.  I just continued to add certifications, and mothers kind of would tell me in their own private time or just spending time with them – they would tell me what they needed.  And as an ambassador for Every Mother Counts, I have learned so much from them, also, about the gaps in healthcare in the United States and the rising numbers of maternal mortality, which is just so astonishing in the worst way.

Kristin:  Definitely.

Rachel:  I’ve been really lucky to have met a lot of amazing people and birth workers along the way, and that’s really how I got into this work.  And so now I have my company, Zenbari.  I’m living in Los Angeles.  I do work virtually, though.  I’m also a new mom, so I’m using all these skills that I have neglected over the past, like, seven years now.

Kristin:  Beautiful.  So Rachel, I would love to chat about the division of labor in the household and how you got to become a fair play method facilitator.  Obviously, there’s a fantastic book called Fair Play, and then that led to a film on the same topic.  So I would love to hear your journey and share tips and information with our listeners around, again, the division of labor and the fair play method in general.

Rachel:  Absolutely.  So I actually found fair play first personally when my husband and I had moved from New York to Toronto.  And, you know, when we were living in New York, we were dating and it was all fun and games, right?  Before you get married and before things become really real.  Every day tasks are just kind of always there and looming.  So when we moved from New York to Toronto, my husband took on a role as a CEO, and he was much busier than he had been before, and it was a much more stressful time for him.  He was learning, and the company was growing.  And I had, after living in New York for 15 years, I was living in a completely new city and had much more time on my hands.  So the domestic, like, landscape for us changed greatly, and it was really confusing.  And it was a struggle for us.  And we had done a lot of – during that time, we did a lot of communication work and stuff.  We would take seminars whenever we did have the time and really worked on how we were going to carry out our lives in the future.  And fair play was one of the books that really helped.  It came into my world – I think when Reese’s Book Club originally talked about it.  I think that was, like, I want to say late 2019.  So we had maybe been there for about a year, and the pandemic started.  So I read this just before the pandemic started.  And also recognized that it was a book that kind of – it was infuriating.  It was sad to me, but it was also – it gave me a sense of relief because it really put words to the feelings that I had been having.  And then not only for myself, but I think really broadened my view of, like, what everyone was going through or what a large number of people are going through on a daily basis.  And then I started thinking about how this could possibly help my clients in the postpartum phase because, you know, a lot of times people will set themselves up for their birth, and they’ll put together a birth preference plan, and you’ll go into parenthood thinking, okay, I’m going to do this.  This seems like the really hard part.  But now, luckily, I think more people are talking about postpartum life because that’s when it’s really – it’s an endurance game.  And labor is absolutely an endurance sport, but then you start right away after your child is born and things really start to change in the domestic sphere at the point in time because mom inevitably is the default parent, if you will, and inevitably takes on a little bit more, unless these conversations are had beforehand, or if you can bring in a communication tool and you’re both committed to really kind of making things feel better for everyone.  And I think that’s where I really saw fair play as something that I wanted to utilize for myself and for my clients.  So my husband and I brought it into our lives, like, very slowly.  And very truthfully, it’s usually a very slow introduction for people.  Usually, one partner will bring it into the conversation, and it kind of – it’s a little bit – it can be a little bit off putting.  I’ll be really frank.  And we all know this, have talked about this amongst the facilitators.  Eve has talked about this.  The book is written to women, and the book is really like it’s a love letter to women.  And it’s saying, I know how you feel.  This is what’s probably happening for you, and here is a solution if you’d like to try it.  And we have some support in the form of facilitators if you need to talk to anyone about it.  So fair play started as a book talking about the inequities in the domestic life.  So from there, Eve created a deck of cards.  It’s 100 cards.  Each card represents a different domestic task, and some of them are daily grinds, so things like doing the dishes or doing the laundry.  Some of them are things like taking the kids to school or setting up adult social time.  So being sure that you’re getting your time with your friends; that’s very important.  These are things that can kind of get lost along the way, especially when you become parents and you start bringing kids into the mix.  So typically, we say a couple without children with use approximately 60 of the cards in the deck, and everyone can go through the deck and create the deck that’s perfect for their household.  Or not perfect; it’s never perfect, but the deck that is going to be useful for their household.  You can take out cards, for example, if you don’t want to use them.  Like, let’s say thank you cards.  Some people might think thank you cards are obsolete at this point in time, and some people really value sending a thank you card and telling the people that have done something for them that they really enjoyed it and this is why, and they place a high value on that.  That’s another conversation that we like to have in fair play.  It’s really values-based also.  So if you have 60 cards that you’re using as a couple without children, and then you add children to the deck, then you will probably utilize all 100 of the cards.

Kristin:  That makes sense.

Rachel:  Yeah.  So we as facilitators will go through what your lifestyle is in your household, who’s coming to the table, really envisioning using fair play.  And if you need help talking to a partner, that’s oftentimes something that people come to us and say, I really feel like this could be helpful, but I’m not really sure my partner is going to be into this yet.  And we really help you kind of get there and help you invite your partner to the conversation.  And it really is – it can take a while.  I’ll just share from my personal experience.  It took probably three or four years for us to really, I think, both see the value in using fair play.  We started with three cards out of a hundred.  We started by really just – I think I added three cards for my husband out of the things, and we pretty much – we went over our deck, and we were actually pretty equal.  And there were three things that I thought, like, if you do these three things, I think my life would be so much easier, and it actually was.  The first week, I remember thinking, I can’t believe it was only these three cards.  It doesn’t seem like a lot for him to be doing this, and it’s taking so much weight off of me.  And from there, we’ve really expanded upon that.  But in terms of setting up for postpartum, it can be incredibly helpful because during that time, there are certain cards or certain tasks in the house that are going to be more heavily weighted, right?  So thinks like doing the dishes, you can include and add on washing bottles and washing the pump parts, and things like social activities are probably not going to be as important to you and your partner during those first three months of bringing a child into your life.  So we really like to talk about all of those things, and that’s really been how I’ve utilized it again, personally and then with my clients.  The facilitators – we have about 75 facilitators now, I believe, and we have a range of backgrounds.  A lot of people are certified therapists.  We have a few doulas on the team.  I’m not a certified therapist, but I’m a doula and have a few other certifications as well, all really under the perinatal umbrella.  And yeah, that’s really – I could go on about fair play forever.  There’s so many little intricate pieces to how we use it, also, but that’s really kind of the gist of it.

Kristin:  I love it.  And so this conversation is so important to have during pregnancy because in that postnatal phase, everything is overwhelming.  To have these serious conversations about roles and responsibilities and what a couple is willing to hire out and who’s going to take over other chores and – I mean, it’s fortunate that we have grocery delivery.  I know when I had my kids, that was not really a thing, and so even figuring out having my husband go to the grocery store where I normally did the grocery shopping.  And in the recovery phase, women are not supposed to vacuum, and so – or reduce going up and down the stairs.  Whether you end up hiring a postpartum doula or a housekeeper, again, figuring out what the priorities are and deciding in advance who’s going to take over some of the workload, I think is key versus seeing how it goes and then coming up with a plan after.

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

Rachel:  And I will say, Kristin, we also kind of solve for – if you can afford to hire people, that is wonderful, and that is so helpful, and I wish that everyone could do that.  But not everyone can, either.  Sometimes it’s just like the two of you.  Or what if you don’t have family that can come and help you?  So really, like, figuring out – I feel like that would be the hardest part of this, right?  Really figuring out and looking at your deck and you figure out what needs to be done every single day and what can we let go of right now.  I’ll be honest; my husband took over so much for me, and I was so thankful that we had this tool to use and we had been talking about it for a while before our baby came because we were on the same page.  So he was – I decided that I wanted to try breastfeeding, which was not super easy for me.  I’m a lactation counselor, and I still was – not that that means you’re going to have an easy time breastfeeding, but it was a huge learning curve for me.  And I had to have people come and help, meaning I had to have a lactation counselor come and help me figure out, like – I feel like looking at all of the angles when you’re learning to breastfeed is really important.  So we had that.  But I think because I was also learning to breastfeed, which takes all of your time, and you’re doing it every two hours in a 24-hour period nonstop, it was really important for him to be, like, feeding me and providing the nutrition that I needed, and also, he was taking care of all of the cleaning and everything in the house, all the laundry.  It was so incredibly helpful, and I cannot imagine how it would have been if we hadn’t talked about this before.  So I have almost, I think, changed my priority in, I think, helping people to – birth is one thing that I think is just so incredibly amazing and magical and beautiful and just awe-inspiring, but I also feel like there are a ton of people helping with that now, and I think I’m kind of leaning my focus more into postpartum because I think if we set it up a little bit differently and we have more time to discuss these things ahead of time, hopefully women will start having an easier time with their recovery and getting the support that they need.  And that’s just why I love fair play so much because I feel like it explicitly defines all of the roles.  And another thing that we do is we talk about minimum standard of care.  So we call it MSC.  The minimum standard of care for each of these tasks.  So this can oftentimes be a point of contention, actually, for couples.  You might have this one thing that you always fight about or this one thing that you’re always resentful about.  Where does that actually come from?  So we’ve kind of taken a dive into figuring out where these ongoing conversations, if you will, or discussions or disagreements come from, and oftentimes, it’s because you have a difference in values.  And I was talking about values a little bit earlier, but I’ll expand upon it now.  Let’s say one partner is always really annoyed that the countertops are not wiped off, and the other partner is like, I’m so busy.  I don’t have time to do this right now.  Why is it such a big deal?  I do it at the end of the day or something, you know.  So we like to play a game called Cards for Humanity where you can sit down – this is actually a great starting point if you’re looking for a way to bring your partner into the fair play conversation.  So instead of saying, you know, I really want you to dive into this extra work with me.  It can feel very overwhelming to start fair play from scratch.  You can set aside, like, a date time.  Date morning, 30 minutes over coffee or something.  I know it’s really hard to find that time, but if you can create that and put it on your schedule once every two weeks or something just to get these conversations started, it can be really helpful.  It can be a really great opening.  So Cards for Humanity is a card game.  You sit down with your deck of cards, which you can download off of the fair play website if you don’t have them physically.  And you just choose one card out of the deck, and say you chose the laundry card.  The partner that chooses the card is going to ask the other partner, what has your experience been with laundry in your life?  Who did it in your household growing up?  Did you have any experiences with roommates or dormmates in college or in your 20s where something was, like, really helpful, something felt supportive?  What do you like about it?  What do you not like about it?  Was there ever an instance that made you just completely dislike this chore?  And you can actually learn so much about the other person.  And this is where the values come in, and you can – you hear what the dynamic was in the person’s childhood.  So that might frame the way that they look at their life now and the way they might think things should be done when they really just maybe haven’t thought – and none of us do this, right?  Like, you really have to ask yourself to think outside the box and outside of what is kind of already ingrained in you.  You can really learn so much.  My husband and I did this a couple weeks ago for the first time.  I am astounded by the things that I found out about him.  I can’t believe I’ve known him for this long, and I learned so much, and we only did five cards.

Kristin:  I bet.  I need to try this.

Rachel:  Yeah, it’s actually kind of just a fun date game, too, honestly.  I know it doesn’t sound like it.  You’re talking about laundry.  But it’s actually kind of amazing.  So that is where you can kind of start the conversations and where you can learn more about a person and really – you bring empathy into the relationship again.  So you have these nagging points if you will about these random things all day as you’re walking through the house.  Oh, my gosh, he left his underwear on the floor.  Oh, my gosh, this and this and this.  And it just carries on and it becomes – it can be really overwhelming.  But if you take a step back, you actually learn more about the person.  You set aside time to understand why someone is doing what they’re doing and why they don’t think it’s an issue, and then you can create room for empathy again, and you can kind of connect on these things versus really creating more space.  And then that’s where MSC comes through, and you talk about a minimum standard of care for everything in your deck.  And again, it sounds overwhelming, but you can quickly go over it and just say, this is why I want the countertops wiped off.  Because when I was living with so-and-so, they were never and we had a bug problem or something, right?  And it’s like, okay, no one wants that.  I don’t want that for my family.  Our value system is different than whatever was happening when you lived with that person, so let’s change this.  And that’s kind of where you start the conversation about your minimum standard of care for your household.

Kristin:  That is beautiful.  So love your tips.  How can our listeners work with you and begin the process of ordering the book or watching the film and starting this planning journey to, again, create some division of labor in the household, especially bringing on a new child, whether it’s baby number one or baby number four?

Rachel:  Yeah, so you can first go to – if you don’t know anything about fair play, if you have the time, feel free to read the book.  Again, the book is a love letter to women.  I would suggest watching the documentary, which you can find if you go to the fair play website.  And you can find the book, the documentary.  You can download the deck of cards on the website.  You can also find all of the facilitators on the website if you’re looking for someone with a specific background.  They’re all up there and ready to work with you.  I myself am on Zenbari, and I’m on Instagram.  And I work essentially with people who are planning for parenthood.  So if you are pregnant for the first time, if you’re pregnant for the second time and you would like to see how I might be able to help you, I’d be happy to help.

Kristin:  I love it.  Thank you so much for sharing all of your tips, and I’m going to download those cards myself.

Rachel:  Awesome.  I can send you some, too.  Make it easier for you.

Kristin:  Love it.  Well, appreciate everything that you have taught us about the fair play method, and I look forward to chatting with you again in the future, Rachel.

Rachel:  Thank you, Kristin!

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.

Supporting the Father: Podcast Episode #193

Kristin Revere chats with Joel Austin of Daddy University Inc and Doulos4Dads about the importance of supporting the father during the transition of becoming a father.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas.  I am so excited to chat with Joel Austin today.  Joel is a certified postpartum doula or doulo, as he says.  He’s also the founder of Doulos4Dads and is the president and CEO of Daddy University Inc.  Welcome, Joel!

Joel:  Thank you, Kristin!  It is wonderful.  You have such a great personality.

Kristin:  Oh, well, thank you!  I feel the same way about you.  So for our listeners, I first heard Joel speak at a newborn care specialist conference in Arizona about the topic of supporting partners and the father’s role, and I had to ask Joel to be on the podcast.  So I’m glad you could make it, and I love everything you’re doing in the space of supporting fathers.  I feel like fathers get left behind and forgotten, especially in the early pregnancy phase.  It’s all about the mother.  Then the father is almost an afterthought.  But there’s so much responsibility that dads have and so much impact they can make.  I’m excited to hear your thoughts.  Your quote on your website is just perfect.  I’ll read it, if you don’t mind.  You said none of us are raising children or kids or babies.  Instead, all of us are raising someone’s father, someone’s mother, someone’s wife, and someone’s husband.  That is huge to think about, the responsibility we have.  You can change the world with our impact.  So how did you get started in this journey?  I mean, it’s been quite some time with Daddy University.  You’re the first of its type to really focus on supporting the father with education and so many resources.

Joel:  I got started after we had my first son.  I had my first son, and it was, of course, a miracle.  I’ve never witnessed anything like that before.  And I was into it.  I wanted to be better.  And I wanted to kind of be that generational shift, what we used to not do.  So I went to all the appointments, and I was learning kind of on the go.  And then I had my second son somewhere around four years later, and then my first son got invited to a Big Brothers Big Sisters class at the hospital, and I realized while he was in this class, they were teaching him how to be a good big brother, and they were teaching them about bottles and what you can do to help your parents.  And I found myself taking notes.  I found myself driving home saying, I’m the only one that has not had a class.  My four or five year old is now educated in taking care of an infant, and I’m not.  That’s how Daddy University got started, which is, this is wrong.  I need to know more.  And we do work with fathers and we do work with partners, but it really is surrounding maternal health and to be more supportive and for everybody to have this amazing birth.  Not that the pain goes away, but just to have the better story and for the whole family to have a great outcome and story.  So eventually I started attending maternal health workshops and understanding maternal health and then understanding some of the really negative numbers.  But when I heard about some of the causes of the numbers, I started to feel responsible because I realized that when she wanted fast food, when she wanted a hamburger and fries and I got it for her, and I got what she craved and what she wanted, and now I got into maternal health and started to understand, and now I understand that’s associated with preeclampsia.  I didn’t know these words.  That high sodium diet is unhealthy.  And I realized – I wonder if more guys knew this, then maybe we could balance out a hamburger and then also have some sliced apples.  I wonder if we could do more to help.  And I became a doula, and I started Doulos4Dads, and we specifically work with couples.  We explain to mom, we are qualified to work with mom, and then we also let dad do a majority of the work.  The majority of the work.  And it’s been a great ride, and I love my job.

Kristin:  I know you had talked about even expanding your presence over time at the conference, so that’s exciting to know that there will be more doulos out there.  I’ve been to some doula conferences in the past, and I met some male doulas.  There are very few of them out there, and they happen to be birth doulas, not postpartum.  And some of them call themselves dude-ala.  I much prefer doulo, and your origin story of that.  So you are basically hired by the couple early in pregnancy; is that correct?  I know postpartum is part of that process, but how do they begin getting support from you?

Joel:  We come in somewhere around the third trimester to form a relationship, to form a bond.  We have certain criterias.  We do birth plan, and we kind of write dad into the birth plan.  When I say write him in, I mean – Kristin, if I had it my way, if I had this magic wand, if I was able to make a dream come true, I would actually have my mothers pretty much focus on birthing a child.  Not groceries, not laundry, not the sale of the week, not the car, not driving.  It would be wonderful if we could surround her with so much support that a lot of her attention was on birth and what she and only she can do.  I know that’s far off, but that’s pretty much what we’re working towards.  So we start working with the couple, and we literally put dad in charge of the birth.  It sounds a little crazy because people are like, dad in charge of the birth?  But no, he’s in charge of water, making sure there’s water.  He’s in charge of nutrition.  He’s in charge of OB-GYN visits or any other type of visits.  He’s in charge of trying to make sure she can rest.  I don’t care which way or which pillow is best for her.  He’s in charge of making sure that her mother doesn’t call her 22 times a day.  Or her mother-in-law.  He’s the security for the aunt that still wants to hang around and cough.  He has these tasks.  He has the ability to come home, and then he has the ability to relax for a little bit, and then he is involved in what we call the housework.  And some of that is meal planning.  Some of that is making sure he knows how to do some of the things that can relieve pain from her; back rubs, a bath.  Wonderful gift, and a bath is a wonderful gift.  It doesn’t cost much.  It always fits.  There’s never a time.  And then there’s also rest and checking up.  Checking up is a really good way of supporting and letting other people know that you care.  And all I can say is putting him in charge as much as we can of the surrounding, what surrounds her in this 24-hour day.  And that has to be more beneficial than, unfortunately, some of the numbers in some of the issues that we get right now.

Kristin:  Yeah, it is definitely important for dads to be engaged and understand what’s going on and understand their role to help advocate because I know with my own birth, even having doulas the second time around, there were points in my labor where I couldn’t really make decisions and follow my birth plan, which is so – my husband was there to speak for me, and because of the education he had, attending childbirth classes and being engaged, he was able to take that role and then knew that the doulas had his back.  But I still wanted him as my primary support.

Joel:  I spoke to one of my dads one time, and I said there are probably a hundred or more people probably working in this hospital, but there’s only one person in this hospital that knows her well, and that’s you.  The difference, whether she likes red ice or blue ice or which food; she will not sleep on that side, she sleeps on that side.  You’re allowed to bring things in the hospital.  You can have – you’re allowed to bring in a blanket from home.  You’re allowed to bring in those old pajamas that she really loves so much.  You may hate them, but you at least know where they are and how much she likes them and how much it makes her comfortable.  I also, from the beginning, fully explain to my new dads and partners and people who are together and say that whatever she’s going through, your new child is going through, and that’s a really strong statement that – and it helps them through arguments.  It helps them through disagreements.  It helps them to communicate better because he starts to remember if she’s feeling this stressful way, your new baby is feeling that stressful way.  And it brings them to a more comfortable comfort level, and he understands more.  And we have to do a better job as doulas in helping them understand the effects, what mom eats and does and says has on our new infants.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And whether an induction may happy, like how healthy the end of the pregnancy is going to be, so I love that you do get involved in that final trimester versus like many postpartum doulas, you may have an interview, but then you begin once baby’s born.  But you’re establishing this connection and a plan, again engaging the partner in the birth and having a very active role and really getting the confidence up.  I find not only as a doula but also as a childbirth educator, the dads often have fears of their own that they need to address.  I teach a comfort measures class, and there’s a communication component right at the start of class to make sure that they’re on the same page and see how the partner feels about birth, if they have any fears, what they think their ideal role is and support, whether it’s the handholding or physical or all of it.  Like, how comfortable they are.  So a discussion can be had, and I often find that couples never talked about it until it was brought up in class.

Joel:  We also teach them to be empathetic and sympathetic and compassionate to each other, which means that you should complement the person you’re with at least three times a day.  And trust me, there’s something – I don’t know if it’s taking out the trash or brushing your teeth, but during this time, and everyone knows babies are miracles and angels and joys, but they can be very – well, let’s just say they can be a little disruptive.

Kristin:  Especially with the lack of sleep.  In pregnancy, you know, it’s hard for the mother to sleep during that final trimester.  It’s just uncomfortable, and then after baby’s born, then you’re dealing with constant feedings and wakings and the partner can certainly have an active role in helping with that.  I know that’s a big focus for you is getting them involved and engaged and confident about their role as a father.

Joel:  I’m so glad you brought me on the show because their role is not to overtake anything.  Their role is not to specifically take charge and overthrow anything.  Their role is understand, and us as doulas and even newborn care specialists, it’s our job to let them know what’s going to happen, what could happen, and how you can be a benefit to it.  I teach the – there’s something that we do called a hip press, a hip squeeze.  I am there sometimes three to four hours in a day making sure the house is kind of back to settled and normality, but that’s four hours out of day, and kind of like I said at the conference, there’s 20 hours left.   So once he comes in, we have a chat.  We talk about if – we talk about signs.  If she starts to move on the couch a certain way and starts to rub the bottom of her stomach a certain way, those are signs.  And this is something – this is brand new for me.  I call it the dance.  And I teach my moms to say to dad, I want to dance.  And then I teach my dads some of these signs so that he can say to her, do you want to dance.  So the dance, you put on some music.  You put on a nice, slow song.  She stands up, of course, and you wrap your hands around her from the back, and then you cup the lower pelvis of her stomach.  You lift it up and relieve some of the pressure, but then you kind of sway back and forth.  And you do this dance, and it’s a little bit more intimate.  It’s a little more cortisone.  It’s a little bit more oxytocin.

Kristin:  Yeah, all about the oxytocin, for sure.

Joel:  Oh, that oxytocin is beautiful.  And it’s better than the uncomfortable feeling and the negative conversations, and sometimes even if you’re fussing at each other, you should say, do you want to dance, because some of my moms are not – and you know this – are not best communicators during that time.  You just need to dance, and after you relieve a lot of pressure for maybe 20 minutes or 30 minutes, whatever it takes, you’ll find a totally different person.  And kind of read these signs.  Tell him you want to dance, and for him to be taught how to read the signs of when she needs to dance.  And that’s just one thing.

Kristin:  I love it, yes.  And certainly – I mean, even just like you said, like the hip squeezes and some of that physical support, I find that partners are –

Joel:  He goes to the gym, and why are we squeezing all day?  He’s –

Kristin:  Right, I take turns and teach partners how to do the hip squeezes, and they love to – I find that most of the time, dads and partners like to have a role.  So they like to be given tasks, again, like giving water, having them get up and move around, trying different positions.  It makes them feel less nervous about all of the uncertainties of labor, and even in early parenting, having some tasks, like dads tend to be really good swaddlers.  They can get a tight swaddle.

Joel:  It’s a football.  It’s a football in a blanket.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Changing diapers.  Knowing, okay, this is my role.  I’m making sure the water is filled, getting the snack station set, knowing that you’ve got some solid ways to make a difference.

Joel:  And we also teach chest feeding, which is – of course, we try to promote breastfeeding, and if there is milk left over, you can take turns.  You know, of course, with mom, if she’s not nursing at the moment, you can take turns.  You can go in for snacks, and you can – we teach, of course, skin on skin.  The other thing about dads is that they are on a blind date.  They’ve been set up on a blind date by the moms.  The moms know this guy.  The moms have been talking to this guy.  They know all this stuff.  And the first time we actually get to see them and relate to them is at delivery.  So we’re kind of catching up, and we’ve heard about you.  You’re a friend of hers, but I’ve never met you before.  So we try to get them to do a lot of these skin to skin and rocking and listen to some music, definitely getting the child out of the bassinet and bringing it to mom if they can.  These little tidbits that make you feel super important, that you’re really involved and doing something.  And we don’t forget as couples.

Kristin:  Yeah, women, we don’t forget things.  So just remembering all the help in the middle of the nights, the snacks, the support.  And feeling connected as a couple, and even having, again, your trainings in teaching the father or partner how to identify signs of perinatal mood disorders and what is normal with the baby blues and what isn’t normal, and any other postpartum conditions to look out for.  Eclampsia and headaches and blood pressure issues, like signs that things are not right with mom or baby, and it’s time to call the doctor.

Joel:  Yes, and again, we talked about the hours, 24 hours in a day.  There are some things that he knows that we really need to try to do our best to befriend him so that he can let us know some of these inside secrets.  I’ll say it, that all of our mothers don’t tell us everything that’s going on because there’s a certain fear that they have, as well.  So if there is – if her side has been hurting sometimes for two or three days, sometimes she may not have told us that.  But she has been telling him, so we need all of the information possible to better care for her so that by the time we see her, we say, hey, I’ve heard this, and I heard there was blood in the toilet.  I mean, we need to know – we need to know.  Have your partner educated on what these possible things could be; it keeps them from freaking out.  We’ve also learned that dads that don’t know a lot freak out, and then the person that they freak out the most is the person closest to them.

Kristin:  Absolutely, yeah.  That doesn’t help the situation.  Then the baby can sense that.  The baby is upset and doesn’t sleep, cries more.  It just keeps getting more intense.  I love your tips and the trainings you provide, both in Daddy University and also with getting more male doulas on your team.  So I think one thing that’s important to address is the dad’s mental health.  Of course, we’re looking out for the mother and how she’s doing mentally, but dads can also get postpartum depression or anxiety in their new role, and PTSD, if they’ve experienced a traumatic birth as the partner and don’t have anyone to talk to, whether it’s a therapist or their doula.  That can end up building up and cause problems in parenting and their marriage.

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

Joel:  You’re absolutely correct.  It’s one in four.  Right now, they say one in four of our mothers can get what we call postpartum depression or baby blues, and it’s one in ten in our partners and our dads.  So it has to be something we look out for.  It is a change in attitude, and it’s not always something hidden behind it.  A lot of times, we need to ask the same questions of what’s been going on, how come you don’t want to hold the baby, as we do sometimes our moms.  And dads also go through nesting.  They go through chemical changes and hormonal changes once they find out they’re a dad, and they go through nesting.  And it’s so weird.

Kristin:  Much different than our nesting.

Joel:  Well, yeah.  Moms do a lot of internal nesting, which is they’ll make sure that the inside of the house is perfect for the new visitor, and then dads do a lot of outside of the house, which could result in finances or new car or getting a roof put on.  It can be weird stuff.  Like, I finally got the steps fixed.  They may want to move; they think about safety.  And we joked at the conference, like, there’s a Ring alarm on everything, just to make sure some of these outside things –

Kristin:  And like you said, the mom is just like, well, I need all of these meals prepped.  I need help getting groceries and you’re fixing the step.  But really, in the thought process, it could avoid tripping.  It’s helping the baby to stay safe.  So I totally get the difference in the need to clean and organize.

Joel:  You have to do the balance.

Kristin:  Yeah, like fixing things that the dad is focused on.

Joel:  And we have to balance.  We have to tell mom, this is your weekend.  Whatever nesting you need done, put together, or situated or moved, this is your weekend, and next weekend, we’re going to have to let him pour concrete and make sure no one will trip because the concrete is now flat.  You have to balance that, knowing that he has to nest, and you can’t keep him from nesting.  So one week or this day has to be his, and this day has to be yours, and we’ll get through this together.

Kristin:  Great plan.  What is your number one online recommendation for dads in Daddy University?  If they were to only be able to do one thing in preparation, where would you send them?

Joel:  One thing preparation wise.  I would sent them to our website.  It has a slough of information.  I also love telling them that they got this, that they have this, because there’s a lot of nervousness, that the child is 50% already just like you.  50% of your chromosomes and stuff.  So don’t think you have to remake the world.  They already kind of giggle the same way you giggle, you know?  And then remember – you know, you got this.  Calm down, because I said this before.  Poop and pee does not care which way the diaper is on.  It’s going to come out anyway.  So calm down.  You’ll get it right.  And don’t take it so seriously.  Have fun with this.  This baby is a beautiful thing.  Have fun.  Giggle as much as you can.

Kristin:  That’s great advice because sometimes dads don’t bond until baby is more active where they feel like a personality has developed, but those early moments are so important.  I really love all of the encouragement you give.

Joel:  We’ve also found out that if you talk to – this looks weird and sounds weird, but if you actually talk to the stomach, the baby can pick up your voice vibrations, and then once the baby actually comes out, that newborn comes out, it can recognize the vibrations in your voice.

Kristin:  Yes, whether it’s singing, reading, talking.  Yeah, connecting with the belly.  Yes, I love all of that, and even doing some kick counts and just making sure that you can feel movement and help identify in that final trimester that baby is moving around enough.  There’s so much that the dad can do to be really actively involved.  Certain childbirth classes have some evening practices so the dad is very involved in HypnoBirthing and relaxion exercises and tracks you listen to.  So it’s a great way to connect with baby and just, again, be supportive and understand how she wants to birth her baby.

Joel:  And hopefully we also will have a much better birthing story.  We’ll sit back by the fire and talk about, remember when – and it will be a joyous story.

Kristin:  Yeah, that’s what it’s all about, and I find that dads resist doulas initially.  They often don’t want to be replaced.  They may be concerned about budgets during this time when so many expenses come up.  Are you finding as a male doula that dads get on board earlier or easier than, say, female doulas experience with that replacement fear?

Joel:  That is an interesting question because with my mothers, my new mothers, I am a doulo.  For my dads, I am a coach.  And they really like sports.  I’m only here to coach, and I absolutely work for them.  So I do find that initially, they are the ones – because, again, their body changes too.  There’s cortisone and testosterone and hormone changes, too.  So they start to become very protective of mom and the new baby, just like a lion in the jungle.  So our job is to come in and say how much we are of aid, how much we are of help, how much – you know, I start asking him what are his goals.  What kind of birth does he want to have and see?  And the usual answer is, I want her to not have any pain.  And I’m like, well, okay, I can’t promise that one.  But we can make sure that we can do some other things, that she’s comforted as much as possible.  And when they start to find out that you’re maybe on their side and that you pull them in – and pulling somebody in and saying, I want you to do it now, it’s an act of trust.  Also as doulas, we’re very nonjudgmental.  We never say, oh, that hip squeeze is such and such.  Mom, is that feeling better; mom says no, and then we say, dad, you’re going to have to – mom will tell you.

Kristin:  If you need to move a little lower or – yes.  Find the right spot and the firmness.

Joel:  Exactly.  And then again, yeah, you have that almost exhilaration of when you have your son or daughter or whoever does something right for the right time, and they run to you and say, mom, I got it right.  And they are the same way.  Once they get that one thing right, they catch fire, and they’re really supportive for us.  Very supportive.  They’re looking for us when we walk in the door.

Kristin:  That’s great.  Any final words of advice for dads?

Joel:  For my dads, contact us any time for any reason.  We’re easy to find.  Daddy University.  Have fun with this.  Understand that she needs you, and understand that this baby needs you, and that without your support and nurturing, you may not have the best story you want.  So you are extremely needed in this.  And for my moms, please be compassionate.  If you’re not sure how to say it, then write it.  And then compliment each other.  If you – even if something happens, just say, I’m glad you breastfed.  Just compliment each other.  I’m glad you chose these diapers instead of the other ones.  Find a reason to compliment each other throughout the process.

Kristin:  Yes, that’s excellent advice.  And so as far as finding you, you mentioned your website.  I know you’re pretty active on social media, as well.  So how else can our listeners connect with you?

Joel:  They can find us on Facebook at Daddy University Incorporated.  They can find us on Instagram at Daddy University Incorporated.  And even Twitter at Daddy Univ.  We often have events.  We also have information.  We also share videos.  And now we’re going to be part of Gold Coast, which is exciting.  And we’re easy to contact.  We’re at

Kristin:  Excellent.  And certainly as far as in person doulo support, where can our listeners connect with you regionally?

Joel:  They can find us on our website.  As soon as you hit the contact page, we get an email, and we reach right back out.  You let us know what you’re looking for and what you want, and we will be there.  I’m available to speak.  Love it.  I love talking.  And we’re coming out with a brand new training, and I think I’m going to sent it to your first.

Kristin:  I’d love to see it!

Joel:  Yes, our paternal health training for newborn care specialists and nannies and doulas; understanding how paternal health assists maternal health.

Kristin:  Beautiful.  I am all about that, so definitely send it our way.  Thank you very much for sharing all of your wisdom and tips for dads.  You are the best, Joel.

Joel:  Thank you so much.  I appreciate you.  You are an avenger.

Kristin:  I try!  Thank you, and take care!

Joel:  Have a great day!

Kristin:  You too!

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

The Impact of the Infant Microbiome on Health: Podcast Episode #192

Kristin Revere chats with Dr. Payal Adhikari of Infinant Health and the impact of infant microbiome on health.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, this is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am here to chat with Dr. Payal Adhikari.  She is the director of clinical implementation at Infinant Health.  Her background is a pediatrician, mom of two, and of course, recently joining the biotech company Infinant Health after learning how important the microbiome is to developing bodies.  Welcome, Dr. Adhikari!

Dr. Adhikari:  Thank you so much for having me!

Kristin:  So let’s get into – I have so many questions related to the microbiome and newborns.  So I would love to get a definition for our listeners and doula clients about really understanding gut health with the newborn.

Dr. Adhikari:  Awesome.  First, I’ll talk about the microbiome itself, which I think is a word we use so frequently but is not often understood completely.  And the microbiome is really all the organisms that are in and on our body.  So this includes bacteria, fungi, viruses, all of those little live things that are on our skin, in our guts, in our mouths, all over our body.  And it really plays a vital role in our overall health.  So I know we think about washing our hands to get the bugs off; we have to wash in the shower to get everything off of our body.  But really, those bugs are truly important to our health in a good way, as well as sometimes in a bad way, but generally, in a good way.

Kristin:  That makes sense.  I mean, again, we have – we don’t wash the newborn immediately.  Let’s get into a bit more about their gut bacteria and understanding their internal health.

Dr. Adhikari:  Totally.  So the gut health, which also I think is a very topical term, is very impacted by what bacteria live in our gut.  So when a baby is born, their guts are virtually sterile.  So there’s generally no bacteria in there yet, and it’s a clean canvas for our society to sort of say, hey, what bugs are we going to put into this baby’s gut which will inevitably impact short term health but also long term health.  So when baby is born, their guts are exposed to bacteria, and it depends on how they’re born.  If they’re born vaginally, then that vaginal flora in the canal is generally the first opportunity for bacteria to seed the baby.  The vaginal canal is obviously very canal to the other tube of fecal matter, and a lot of that bacteria is good bacteria for the baby as well.  Those are the things that kind of get into the baby to start.  And then after that, it depends on how baby is feeding.  Are they on mom’s breast and getting some of that flora that’s on mom’s skin?  Are they being held by another grown-up whose skin flora is getting into the baby?  So it depends on kind of what is around the baby that will determine what colonizes their gut.

Kristin:  I know with some of the gentle Cesarean births, there is interest in getting some of that bacteria, like seeding after the birth with skin to skin time and, again, trying to have as similar to a vaginal birth as possible for the baby.

Dr. Adhikari:  Absolutely, and it’s so important, thinking about these things and planning ahead of time because along with C-sections usually comes antibiotics.  The antibiotics are antibacterial, so they are obviously necessary for a lot of procedures, but in addition to killing the bad bacteria that they’re intended to, one of the unintended consequences is that they may kill off some of the good bacteria that baby was meant to be exposed to.

Kristin:  Yes.  So as far as that initial skin to skin time and differences between breastfeeding and exclusive pumpers and formula feeding clients, what would be the suggestions to get the optimal gut health established for a newborn, with the three different types of feeding?

Dr. Adhikari:  Great question.  So to clarify, we’re talking about nursing, pumping, and then formula?  Yeah.  So thankfully, those are all three great options for babies’ health.  Babies’ health comes first, but the way flora gets into the baby when you’re nursing is through mom’s skin flora and through the breast milk itself, so you get both of those.  When you’re exclusively pumping you will get both as well because when you’re pumping, some of that skin flora is going to get into the milk as you pump, as well, so those are very similar ways of introducing bacteria into the baby.  Formula is a little bit different in that formula companies will try to put good bacteria.  You’ve probably seen a lot of formula that now says “with probiotics” which are good bacteria, and they’ll say that on there.  It’s a little different than when you get it truly from human to human because they’re different sorts of bacteria and cost prohibitive.  It’s really not a good spend of money for formula companies to put a ton of probiotics into their formula.

Kristin:  That makes sense.  So would you explain what a probiotic is for our listeners, Dr. Adhikari?

Dr. Adhikari:  Yeah, so probiotics are really the good bacteria that get into our bodies.  Many cultures include probiotics in their normal daily diet.  So we hear of kimchi and kefir and sauerkraut, and those are really those fermented foods that give us good bacteria naturally through the gut.  The US diet tends to use probiotics more as a supplement than through our actual food.  But that’s fine; you know, it’s another way to do it.  And the role of probiotics is really to take the food we’re getting – so probiotics are that good bacteria that line the gut, and their job is to take the food that we’re getting and convert it into other really good things for the body.  So I always say there’s the prebiotic, which is the food that we’re eating; the probiotic, which is the good bacteria, and then the postbiotic, which is whatever is coming out of that process.  So it’s really that postbiotic that helps with health.  For adults, it’s usually butyrate is the postbiotic that helps with gut health, and for infants, it’s more lactate acetate.  And what they do is very scientific and I won’t get into the whole biochemical processes behind it, but essentially what they do is they decrease the pH of the gut.  So they make the gut more acidic, and by making it acidic, they allow less pathogens to grow.  So a lot of that icky, gas producing inflammatory bacteria, E. coli and staph and klebsiella, kind of these words we hear about more in a hospital setting, but these bugs tend to like growing in a higher pH.  So by lowering the pH of the gut, it makes that environment much less hospitable for those kind of pathogenic bugs to grow.

Kristin:  Makes sense.  And so how do you know that it’s working?  So if you are again focused on food and supplements and getting good gut bacteria for your newborn, how do you know that it’s effective?

Dr. Adhikari:  That’s a great question.  It really depends on why you’re taking it.  So for adults, you have symptoms, right?  You have gut symptoms, whether it’s more IBS symptoms or just general discomfort.  You would know it’s working because those symptoms would get better.  For babies, it’s a little different, right, because with babies, when we talk about using probiotics, some of the value is in the short term, and that comes with less gas, less fussiness, better formed stools, better weight gain.  Those are sort of the things we see in the infant population.  But really what we want to see is long term benefits.  So there are studies that show when you take probiotics from a young age, it changes your kind of immune – the ability of your body as an immune fighter.  So things like becoming less susceptible to inflammatory diseases, autoimmune disease, atopic diseases, things like asthma and food allergies, long term obesity, diabetes.  So there’s a lot of studies that show there’s a correlation between gut health of infants and sort of that longer term disease process.  So the better your health is as a baby, the less chance you have of developing some of these diseases later on.

Kristin:  Okay.  So outside of fussiness, gas, what are other signs that an infant would need a probiotic?

Dr. Adhikari:   Yeah.  So every baby – in my opinion, every baby should be on a probiotic for that preventative health piece, which I know is a hard sell for our society, right?  Our society isn’t as preventative as they are reactive when it comes to health.  But for prevention, I think every baby should be on a probiotic.  But a lot of the parents who come in with these fussy babies who are gassy, not sleeping well – when I start a probiotic, they will say, hey, my baby is just happier.  They’re, like, less whiny and fussy and kind of – you know those babies who are just squirming all the time?  It’s that.  My baby just seems more relaxed.  That’s how we kind of know they’re working in the short term because what these probiotics are doing is they’re taking over the gut and they’re really pushing out a lot of that pathogenic gas-producing inflammatory bacteria, and they’re creating a home for more of the good bacteria.

Kristin:  Love it.  So are you finding that with the use of probiotics, there would be less need for the mother to do some elimination in the diet related to dairy or other things that may cause gassiness or irritability with an infant?

Dr. Adhikari:  That is such a good question, and I will speak anecdotally on this.  As a pediatrician – if you asked me a year ago, Kristin, I would have said, sure, try a probiotic.  Any one is fine.  You know, whatever’s on sale.  I had no idea because they’re very complicated, and I’m sure as parents, we look at the kid aisle, and we’re just overwhelmed by the amount of diapers and wipes and baby foods.  There’s just so many, and it’s the same with probiotics.  There’s so many types and strains and claims.  I work for Infinant Health, and we make a product called Evivo.  And what’s really cool about Evivo is that is a natural bacteria that we realized babies in the US and a lot of developed countries are missing, that babies in less developed countries still have in their guts.  So what they found – and I’ll kind of do some background on this because I find it to be so fascinating, but there were some researchers at UC Davis who were examining breastfed infant stool.  Like, that was their job was to look at the stool of breastfed infants and figure out what is in it.  And what they found was that the HMOs or the human milk oligosaccharides in breastmilk, which is about 15% of the solid component of breastmilk, so a big percentage of breastmilk, were coming out in the stool completely undigested.  So they were just – exactly, they were like, wow, why is that?  You would think, mom is working so hard.  Her body is working so hard to create breastmilk.  Why would baby just waste it?  So they started to look at stool all over the world, and they found certain populations that HMOs were getting digested and they were coming out as metabolites, right?  So they were – something was happening in the body where the baby was using it, and then they were coming out in portions or parts.  So they then looked at those babies’ microbiomes and said, what is different about those babies’ guts that we don’t have here?  And they found that there’s a specific bug called B Infantis EVC001 or Evivo that was missing in these babies who were not digesting HMOs.  So they thought, this must be important, right, if this is the job of this bug, it must be important.  So they looked to see what it does, and they found that it takes the HMOs in breastmilk and produces lactate and acetate and decreases the pH of the gut.  And the really cool thing about Evivo versus other probiotics is it colonizes the gut.  So when you take it – and the recent study shows if you take it for about a month, if an infant early on takes it for about a month, it takes over about 80% of that gut.  So it pushes out all that bad bacteria.  About 20% of the room is left for any of those bad bugs to live in, and it sticks around, which is so different from other probiotics where when you take them, they work, but when you stop, they tend to shed.  With Evivo, they gave babies Evivo for three weeks at the beginning of life, and then they stopped, and they continued to monitor their microbiomes up to a year.  And at a year, they still found that there was a lot of this bacteria in their guts.  So this bug wants to be there.  It really wants to live there, and it was meant to.  So it’s different from other probiotics that companies create, and they do a good job when you take them, but when you stop taking them, they don’t work anymore.

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

Kristin:  So how can our listeners find Evivo?

Dr. Adhikari:  Well, you can go on our website or on Amazon, where I feel like a lot of new parents shop.  It’s definitely a place to find it.  And it is a powder packet.  You keep it on your counter next to your vitamin D or whatever else you’re giving baby every day, and you give it to them once a day.  You can mix it with a little bit of breastmilk.  You can make it into a little paste with some breastmilk and put it on your nipple if you’re exclusively nursing.  You can put it in a bottle.  Either way is fine.  But what I see with my patients really early on is that the babies are more relaxed, they’re sleeping better, they’re pooping better, and what I mean by that is babies – you know, when I was in medical school, we were taught breastfed babies poop 10 to 12 times per day, and it’s liquidy because liquid in, liquid out.  That was what I was taught.  And what we’ve found is that the reason babies are having so many liquidy stools is because they aren’t digesting some of the breastmilk.  Because it’s a solid, they’re pulling more water in, and so their stools become more watery.  And when you give them this probiotic that helps digest more of the breastmilk, they’re able to absorb not only more of the breastmilk, but also absorb more water along with it.  And this is one of the things parents will always comment.  My kid’s stool changed!  And I’m like, that’s a good thing, right?  We think, oh, they should be pooping 10 to 12 times a day, and that’s really not the case.  So these babies often will poop once every few days, and their poop will be a little more formed, more peanut butter consistency, not that watery consistency.  And because they’re absorbing more water along with the breastmilk, they tend to not need to eat as frequently.  And this is just something that I see with my patients.  They’re like, oh, they’re on a better schedule because they’re not just trying to eat for hydration sake.  They’re trying to eat just for nutrition.

Kristin:  Wow, how fascinating.  And how does that impact formula fed babies and their stools and eating patterns?

Dr. Adhikari:  Yeah, so it should do the same thing with formula fed babies.  You’re not going to get that robust colonization with formula fed babies because you’re not getting as many HMOs.  So even if formulas will say comes with HMOs, it’s also cost prohibitive for them to put in not only the amount, but also the variety.  So breastmilk has somewhere between 200 and 300 types of HMOs in it.  And formula tends to have just a handful.  So Evivo will absolutely work with formula fed babies, and it can feed off of those N-Glycans of formula, but it’s not going to get that robust colonization that you see with babies who are even getting a little bit of breastmilk.  You know, parents can be giving 95% formula and 5% breastmilk, and you’ll still see that colonization.

Kristin:  Okay, so supplementation will make a difference.  Interesting.  So any other tips for our listeners related to the microbiome, gut health, probiotics?

Dr. Adhikari:  Oh, my gosh.  I could go on forever.  You know, I think it’s really important for us to realize that the gut is not just the gut.  The gut is really a way of connecting what our bodies are taking in, what our bodies are creating.  So it’s really important for us to treat it well.  80% of our immune system is in our gut, and we know that as gut health does affect our ability to not only get diseases but to fight diseases.  I saw a really cool article, and I’m just going to repeat the headline because that’s all I really looked into, about how there was a case of melanoma where the standard treatments weren’t working in an adult, and they did a fecal transplant, which is basically taking the microbiome from a different adult and putting it in that adult, and his melanoma just stopped growing, which is so fascinating, right, that the gut can impact cancer.  So we’re learning more about it every day, but for babies when they’re in that first 100 days of life and they’re developing so rapidly; their guts are developing; their brains are developing; their immune systems, it’s all developing so rapidly, and it really can determine what happens long term in their health.  It’s important for us to treat that early on.  So that’s when I say, tell parents to give Evivo at least that first month of life, and as a pediatrician, I feel really good about what you’re doing for your baby’s long term health.

Kristin:  Excellent.  So you as a pediatrician – do you offer Evivo in your office and other pediatricians that partner with you, or is it exclusively from the website and Amazon at this point?

Dr. Adhikari:  Some pediatricians do offer and sell Evivo through their offices.  We offer samples in our office.  I usually give them three or four days because that’s when parents will start to see the benefit of it, and then I just send them to the website to order.

Kristin:  Great.  And the website is  I know you’re also on social media, so how can our listeners find you on social?

Dr. Adhikari:  Yeah, so on most social, we are just Evivo or Evivo Health.  So they can find us on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn.  Our Instagram is @evivohealth.

Kristin:  Excellent.  Well, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with our listeners and doula clients.  It’s been fantastic to learn so much about infant gut health and probiotics.  Thank you for the important work you’re doing!

Dr. Adhikari:  Thank you so much, Kristin, for having me.  Thank you for all that you do!

Kristin:  Thank you, and we’ll plan to connect again soon on a related topic!  I would love that!

Dr. Adhikari:  Sounds great!

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.

Sleep Training Misconceptions: Podcast Episode #191

Kristin chats with Jackie Viscusi of Gold Coast Doulas about sleep training misconceptions.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Jackie Viscusi today.  She is one of our new sleep consultants at Gold Coast Doulas.  Welcome, Jackie!

Jackie:  Hi, Kristin!  Thank you so much.  I’m excited to be here.

Kristin:  Yes!  So this whole concept for the podcast came about when we were chatting about misconceptions surrounding sleep consulting and not wanting the cry it out method.  There are so many different methods, as you know as a certified sleep consultant.  So let’s chat a bit about what you hear from clients as far as resistance to implementing a customized sleep plan.

Jackie:  Yeah, well, I think first and foremost, I like to clarify that sleep training does not have to be aligned with cry it out.  I think people just associate them as being one and the same, and sleep training – I am not even a huge fan of the phrase because it kind of sounds like training a dog, you know?

Kristin:  Exactly.

Jackie:  It’s behavior modification, and we do that with dogs and animals, smart ones.  But, you know, I think with our babies, it’s like we definitely want to have more of a gentler approach with them.  We don’t want to frame it like they’re robots.  I do this, then you do this.  And cry it out, while it can be very effective, it’s definitely a more aggressive approach.  It’s definitely something that I would kind of lean towards being more of a last resort.  And I just think getting the family on board with practicing healthy sleep hygiene as early as you can after the kind of – you know, you’re in survival mode for the first few months.  We all just have to, like – we’re kind of all in it together at that point.  We’ve all been there.  But, you know, around four, five, six months, you start seeing patterns and you start kind of realizing, okay, this sleep deprivation is really getting to me.  I need to start taking care of myself again.  While bonding with your child is totally natural and all of that is what I promote in my practice, you know, you might want to start kind of weaning them into more an independent sleep pattern and possibly sleeping in their own room, their own crib, and just fostering those sleep habits early will take you a long way and possibly prevent you from having to do cry it out in the first place.

Kristin:  Yes.  So as a mom of two, I’m guessing your own journey to becoming a sleep consultant started with sleep habits and wanting to really make a change in your own household, correct?

Jackie:  Yes.  I kind of struggled with postpartum depression and anxiety, and I found with my first one that she was really, really strong willed and kind of – I don’t like to call it a bad sleeper because they’re babies and there’s no good and bad, but she definitely wanted my help and she wanted the attachment with me and was waking up multiple times a night.  We started around eight, nine months because we kind of got to a breaking point and we were like, I can’t function during the day.  I’m definitely getting more depressed.  My husband was a really supportive partner, but even he was cracking.  And I just felt like I wasn’t able to be a very present mom.  Like, I was just kind of a walking zombie, and I wasn’t even really able to enjoy her the way that I had hoped I would be able to at that point.  So for me, sleep was vital, and I didn’t realize how much the sleep deprivation was exacerbating my anxiety and depression until I got help for it.  And then when I got help for it, I really, really was kind of like night and day for us.  We did a modified Ferber approach, which I’m happy to go into the different methods, but that was the one that we went with.  And it’s kind of a gentler Ferber.  But we saw such great results from that.  I was forever grateful to our sleep consultant.  And then by the time my second one came around, I was fascinated by sleep, and I’ve always kind of been fascinated by sleep.  My mom has narcolepsy, so there has always kind of been a level of importance for sleep in our family that I feel like is sometimes underappreciated in our society, how much we need rest to restore and recharge and be able to do all the amazing things we’re able to do as parents.  So by the time my second one came along, I was able to become certified and did it in tandem with sleep training or modifying the sleep behavior that I needed to.  And I was able to do a much gentler approach on her based off my learnings, based off of age, based off of sleep associations and just being mindful of kind of what I was doing along the way.  So that’s kind of my story.

Kristin:  So I would love for you to get into some of the other methods for sleep consulting, other than cry it out or Ferber.

Jackie:  Right.  So I’m a big fan of fading.  There’s a fading method where you essentially – you know, you kind of start slow, so you don’t expect any huge changes to happen.  It is a little bit more of a gradual approach whereas the other cry it out or Ferber, you may see improvements in two to three days.  And this could be more of two weeks, three weeks.  But you’ll see improvements earlier than that.  But for it to really take effect, it does take a little bit longer, so I just like to tell parents, you know, some people are really kind of coming to me and it’s like SOS, I need help right away.  But the fading method is great because you’re just gradually transitioning them into their own space and you’re peeling back kind of like layer by layer their dependence on you as a caregiver.  So what does that mean?  That means maybe you’re spending 20 minutes rocking them to sleep.  Well, slowly, you just cut back that time.  And then slowly you try to separate time between feeding and sleeping because a lot of babies like to nuzzle up with a nice warm glass of milk, breast or bottle.  So you want to just start unlatching them a little bit and see if they can fall asleep just on your arms.  And maybe as you’re rocking, you go from 20 minutes to 10 minutes to maybe just 5 minutes a night.  And you don’t rock, like, as intensely.  So they kind of almost don’t even realize that they’re transitioning or you’re fading your associating with them, their dependence on you, over time.  And that worked really well with my second one, to the point where I was able to just put her down and really had very, very minimal fussing.  So that’s one method.  There’s a lot to that.  I like to give people a full plan, a full – just a sleep schedule to abide by, being mindful of wake windows and age, but that’s one main approach that I like to use as a technique, and I also like the chair method a lot.

Kristin:  What is that?

Jackie:  That is staying close to your baby.  It’s really good when you’re trying to get them to sleep in their own crib but maybe they just recently came out of your room and they’re not quite – you know, they just have not adapted yet to their own space.  Obviously, before all this, you want to start seeing if they can nap in that new space and just getting them familiar with the space and area so it’s not too new to them.  And then at night, you basically lay them in the crib awake.  People say drowsy, but awake.  That is a good rule of thumb, but sometimes you don’t even really need to wait until they’re all that drowsy because you also don’t want them to be too overtired.  So you kind of find a nice sweet spot, and I like to guide parents towards that by looking at a sleep log, identifying any issues, identifying, oh, okay, I think they’re overtired here or oh, actually, they’re kind of growing out of this wake window and we need to start looking more at the clock and timing and their natural rhythms.  And so you lay them in the crib, and you – there’s different kind of techniques or approaches.  I like to continue having the hand on the baby.  So through the crib, you take a chair.  You sit right down next to the crib, and you put your hand on them and you pat them.  You pat their bum if they can be on their tummies, or you pat their tummy nicely and shush.  Obviously, blackout curtains, sound machine, all the goods, will set them up for success.  And then slowly after a couple days, you move the chair further and further away from the crib until you’re back into the door, and then you open the door, sit in the hallway.  After a few days of that, then you kind of just gradually see yourself out, and they will just slowly start to adapt to that new environment.

Kristin:  So it’s very customized, from what you’re saying, based on families’ unique parenting styles and needs and even the household environment.

Jackie:  Yes.  Yes, exactly.  And, I mean, you know, for some families, they have another small kid or toddler or baby that’s sleeping in the hallway across, so they don’t want to hear a lot of fussing.  So I try to do minimal tears.  But if they fuss a little bit, there are things you can do, like have a sound machine out in the hallway so it doesn’t wake up the other little one that you have sleeping.  And sometimes with fussing, that can be a way that they are soothing themselves.  So you kind of do have to be careful not to go in right away or if like, let’s say you’re doing the chair.  You know, they might protest a little bit once you get out of sight.  You know, that’s kind of a bigger step for them.  So you do want to let them kind of try to work it out just a little bit for a few minutes.  And a lot of the times, they’ll surprise you, and that sound that kind of sounded like baby crying turns into more of a humming or sometimes they sing to themselves.  You’ll start to recognize, oh, okay, they’re starting to put themselves to sleep now.  You’ll see that change, and you’re like, yes, it’s happening!

Kristin:  And some clients we work with as postpartum doulas will respond to the tiniest of cues or want us to, and so that’s really good information to share that making different noises is not necessarily a bad thing, and self-soothing can be very beneficial.

Jackie:  Absolutely, and I kind of liken it to a bit of safety boundaries, if you will.  There are times I actually – just this morning with my one-year-old, she wanted to – she’s learning how to walk, and the past few weeks, she’s just been zipping all around.  And it’s new and fun and exciting for her.  And she gets kind of mad when she has to go back in the car seat.  She’s like, excuse me, I would like to keep practicing this new cool thing.  I don’t know about you, but I’m learning a lot by doing this, and I don’t want to be confined in the car seat.  So when I put her in there, sometimes she fusses and kind of fights me on it.  But it’s one of those things where if I gave in to every little time she fussed – hey, you know, you’re the parent.  You know what’s best for them, and I’m going to buckle you in because that’s the safest thing, right?  And so if your family is really, really struggling with sleep deprivation and you’re not able to drive safely; you’re not able to function very well; you’re forgetting everything; you’ve got that fog times ten because your body is not allowing itself to replenish and restore – I mean, you lose memory, focus, cognitive functioning.  There’s just so much that goes on with sleep deprivation.  So at a certain point, sometimes it does become a safety issue for families.  So I like to just kind of reinforce the notion of, this is a bit of a safety boundary.  You know that if they’re in their crib and you have safety proofed it, which I always do with all my clients and go through all the – you know, what not to have in the crib, which is basically nothing.  You know, and if they’re in there in a safe environment, they’re going to be okay.  And they’re safer in there oftentimes than in other places where, no shaming, but parents will fall asleep with them sometimes.

Kristin:  Or have them in the car seat still sleeping because they don’t want to wake them.

Jackie:  Exactly.  Exactly.  For some people, it’s really hard to hear – actually, for all people, it’s hard to hear babies fuss.  But I think starting to learn that some protesting – you know, that’s different than extreme crying where they’re in a lot of distress.  Some protesting is them not crying even.  It’s just the only way they know how to express themselves.  It’s like a dog barking.  There’s different types of barks, right?  And sometimes you’re like, oh, that’s an excited bark.  And for babies, I think – oh, gosh.  Now I’m comparing them to dogs again and training.

Kristin:  But it is similar, yes.  You get to know your pet as well as your infant.

Jackie:  And your baby’s cries and protests.  And a lot of the times, they’re just doing that because they’re mad.  You’re changing things up on them.  They want you to be there because the way that they’re put down is the way that they want to stay asleep.  So if you put them to sleep on you all the time and they fall right asleep nuzzled into your chest, that’s how they’re going to want to stay asleep.  And when they wake up and you’re not there, it can be really disorienting for them.  So that’s why they cry and they want you back in there or they protest.  But I really like to remind parents that sometimes it is not this heart wrenching cry that we think of.  Again, this is four months and up.  I would not ever leave a baby to even fuss, really, before then because they have all these needs that we need to meet, right?  But if you set them up and you’re meeting their needs in every other way except for maybe a few minutes of fussing, because you know that that’s what’s best for them to learn how to put themselves to sleep and sleep independently, then I kind of think that’s where your parenting style starts to be shaped, to be honest.  You start to say, like, okay, I think – I know now better.  I know more than my baby, and I know right now that for our family, we need our baby to sleep in their own crib in their own room, and that’s for the safety and wellbeing of the entire family.

Kristin:  Yes, good point.  So Jackie, what’s the difference between hiring a certified sleep consultant and taking a sleep course or following a method through a book or YouTube video, whatever it might be?  What is the benefit to investing in an expert like yourself?

Jackie:  That’s such a good question, and I can honestly answer this – like, not trying to really sell anything.  I would have first of all paid so much more money to have the one on one service than I even paid.  The gift of sleep is – like, you can’t even put a monetary value on it.  It is so different to be able to talk with somebody.  I think nowadays, everything is automatic and automated and online, and you just take yourself through these rabbit holes.  And then one book says this and another book says never do this, and it’s that same thing.  And you’re like, well, what am I supposed to do?  And it’s so stressful, and parents are going through so much as it is in that first year, especially.  For me, I saw all those courses and stuff that you could take, and it was so overwhelming to me.  I didn’t want to watch another video of someone that I couldn’t talk to.  I had questions, and I wanted answers, and I wanted them specifically tailored to my family.  I wanted to be able to say, but my husband works West Coast hours, and if I put them down this early, maybe he won’t even see them.  How can we make this work for our family?  Those things, you just – I mean, you can’t find online or in a book.  It’s not as customized.  And for me, it is worth every ounce of money and energy to just be able to troubleshoot with somebody, have them make up a plan for you.  I mean, all the what-ifs – well, what if they wake up at this time, or what if they fall asleep in the car?  Like, now what?  And you’re Googling again.  I mean, it’s just – it is so much more efficient in my opinion, both time and money wise, and I think that you get a much more specific, holistic, customized approach to your specific needs and your family’s needs.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Yeah, and every child is so different.  I know my kids had completely different needs as far as sleep and feeding and temperaments and so, yeah, it is great to have that customization and support.  Not only do you have individualized plans, but you also offer text support and other communication and check-ins to see how the plan implementation is actually going.

Jackie:  Yeah, exactly.  We do follow up calls.  I monitor the sleep log.  And I really try to encourage parents to be really active on the sleep log because I was not one of those parents that jotted down every little note and – you don’t want to drive yourself crazy with this, you know, the hours and the numbers and the wake window.  But I think in the beginning, just like anything – if your stomach has been upset, your doctor is going to tell you that you’ve got to start to just track what you eat because there’s something going on here.  And you’ll probably find that, oh, when I eat this, I feel this way.  So if you have something to go back to, you can troubleshoot so much easier.  So the sleep log will tell us, oh, you know what?  I didn’t even realize it, but they were awake way longer than I thought.  And so it’s something we can go back to and track.  And that’s not something you have to do forever.  That’s just for a week or two that we’re working together.  And so then we do follow up calls.  I love to check in on my families.  A lot of times, no news is good news.  I’ll be like, hey, you guys, everything okay over there?  And they’re like, oh, yeah, they’ve been sleeping really well, actually.  Do we need a follow up?  And I’m like, yeah, let’s do a follow up call.  We should – hey, it’s a service.  It’s part of the package, right?  But I find that having that, oftentimes parents will realize, oh, okay, I do have a lot of notes.  Oh, okay, I do have what-ifs.  And then we go over all of that on our follow up call.

Kristin:  Love it.  So what is your ideal age range?  I know the sleep consultants at Gold Coast, we all have different niches for the team.  And so what is your starting point and as far as getting into toddlers, what’s your cutoff point?

Jackie:  I feel – I would say I have the most experience in about five months, four or five month old, to, I would say, the first year.  But I have found a lot of success lately with toddlers, and I’ve just been learning a lot more, studying up on it, taking workshops with child behavioral specialists.  And it’s been very interesting and very kind of fun to nerd out on two year olds, three year olds, and four year olds.  And their little brains are working so much differently and faster and independently than the little littles.  So I would say I feel comfortable with all of it, but I’m expanding my practice more to toddlers.

Kristin:  Yes.  And we certainly get just as many requests for toddler sleep as we do for infants.  Part of it is either just parents beyond exhaustion and need to make a change in their household and – or they’re getting ready for another baby, and they want to get sleep set for the toddler in order to prepare for the newborn.

Jackie:  Exactly.  We see that a lot.  The mom or the dad knows that there’s another one coming down the pipeline.  They’re like, oh, my gosh, how are going to – we’ve got to get this – nip this in the bud or get this under control.  And I’ve been there, you know?  But I’m just so glad that my first one – we got her sleep controlled, you know, under control so that – and she’s such a good sleeper.  Both my girls are, but she has such a strong personality, my firstborn, and she – I love that about her.  She’s really spicy, really strong willed.  But man, she can sleep.  And I think she has the personality type to potentially – like if we hadn’t gotten a hold on that, I think we would have been in a much different headspace for our second one.  But knowing that you can count on, from when I put her in there in her room, now in her toddler bed, until when we are ready to go get her, knowing that I can count on that eight to ten hours – ten hours, really – it just changes the ballgame up.  Because that frees you up for this other sweet little being that you’re preparing for or that you want to prepare for in the future so you can really focus on that newborn because that will be so vital to your bonding there.  But you’ll kind of keep a good head on your shoulders, I think, in doing so because you’re getting sleep.

Kristin:  Yes.  So important.  So any final tips for our listeners, Jackie?

Jackie:  I would say to trust your gut and stay consistent.  So I think trusting your gut, meaning you do know your kids the best.  You will be very insightful to whether something is going on with them.  The other reason I really, really love sleep training is because if your baby is a good – well, if behaviorally your baby is doing what you think is healthiest for your family, then you know when something is wrong with them.  If they’re just crying and waking up all the time, you don’t really know.  You think maybe they’re teething or they’re going through a cold or a milestone.  And while those things do disrupt sleep a little bit, if they’re sleep trained, they’ll sleep through it.  It will be much less intrusive.  So trusting your gut meaning if something is off and doesn’t feel right or your baby feels sick or something is going on, at no point you intervening is that going to – one time or whatever is going to throw everything off.  So trust your gut on that.  If you feel something deeply, do it.  You and I will talk through it, and we’ll kind of deal with that hurdle when we get to it.  And then the other one is to stay consistent, which that kind of goes back and forth a little bit, but meaning when you’re actually implementing the sleep training process, when you’re starting to see the improvements, just be careful not to slip back again.  If they have a runny nose, if you see teeth coming through, that stuff aside, just stick with the plan.  And trust the plan, and I think consistency – little babies and toddlers and children love routines.  They love boundaries.  That’s where they feel the safest.  So if you’re consistent with them, they will come to expect it and trust you.  If you’re not and you’re all over the place, they’ll read that, as well.  So yeah, I would say those are the two main tips.

Kristin:  And that can be challenging if there are other caregivers, like grandparents involved who may not want to necessarily follow the plan.

Jackie:  Yep, yep.  Exactly.

Kristin:  Vacations can also be challenging.

Jackie:  For sure, and one thing I like to ask of everybody in the beginning is to print out the sleep plan and put it on the fridge.  Give it to your caretakers and really just try to hammer home that you’re really trying to do a thing here.  That’s for everyone’s health and wellbeing, so if they can follow it the best they can, that would be the most helpful.  But some things are out of your control.  Daycare, or you’re going to be traveling.  Don’t be too hard on yourself.  Explaining the bigger reason why you’re doing it – it’s not just like, oh, you know, I don’t want to hear my baby cry – you know what I’m saying?  It’s a bigger thing.  It’s a bigger issue.  It’s actually part of health and wellness and so I think if you can get other caregivers or family members on board with that, I think that you’ll see them kind of following suit a lot better.

Kristin:  Wonderful advice.  So our listeners and clients can work with you wherever they live in the world.  You happen to be in South Florida.  Of course, Gold Coast is in Michigan, but we see sleep clients all over the world.  So, of course, your bio is on the Gold Coast website, and we’re so thankful to have you on the team and sharing your wisdom on the Gold Coast Instagram page and Facebook.  So thanks for sharing all of your amazing tips with our listeners today, Jackie.

Jackie:  Thank you so much, and I’m so, so excited to be a part of the team and helping families.  It’s my main passion.  Looking forward to it.

Kristin:  I can tell!  Well, thank you so much, and 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.

Balancing Life and Fertility Treatments: Podcast Episode #190

Kristin chats with Laura Fletcher, Author of The Grace in Grief: Healing and Hope After Miscarriage about tips for balancing life and fertility treatments.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat today with Laura Fletcher.  Laura is the author of The Grace in Grief, and she detailed her journey through four earth-shattering miscarriages after the birth of her first daughter, Jolene, in 2012.  Laura authentically shares the process of pulling herself out of years of grief to shine light on an experience that, to her dismay, happens to one in four pregnancies.  After years of research, consultations, and inaccurate diagnoses from ten different specialists, Laura took control of her own infertility journey.  It was a meeting with Dr. Jeffrey Braverman, a New York City based hero doctor, recommended via a fertility support group, that changed things forever for Laura.  Within minutes of her first visit with Dr. Braverman, she had an accurate diagnosis, and her eight-month transformation journey began.  Laura gave birth to her second daughter, Ella, in 2020.  Welcome, Laura!

Laura:  Thank you so much for having me!  It’s such an honor to be here.

Kristin:  I’m so thrilled to really have your vulnerability in sharing your story.  So many women are struggling with miscarriages, infertility, and I feel like they don’t talk about it enough.  So the fact that you have this book out there in the world as a resource for our clients is amazing.

Laura:  Thank you.  I agree.  I think that people really struggle to talk about miscarriage.  I think that they struggle to ask for the help and support that they need and deserve around miscarriage.  I think that is a systemic problem that originates in our society and in our doctors’ offices, and then it carries into our day to day lives, which is so unfortunate.  So that’s a big part of why I did write The Grace in Grief was to kind of challenge this stigma around miscarriage.

Kristin:  Exactly, yes.  So I know you obviously took control of your own fertility journey, found the doctor who really was there to believe in you and support your unique journey.  So I would love to hear a bit more about how you found the right support after obviously meeting with so many different specialists.

Laura:  Yes, it was a journey.  Oh, my goodness.  I saw, over the course of the decade, I think – I don’t remember the exact count, but I think it was somewhere to the tune of 12 different specialists.  And all of them, same messaging.  You’re perfectly healthy.  You’re perfectly normal.  This is a common occurrence.  You are young.  Continue trying.  Everything will be fine.  At one point, I even had a doctor say to me while I was having a mild mental breakdown in his office – he said to me, “Don’t worry.  We’ll make the next one stick.”  So just really, really horrific.  But I will say that had those experiences not occurred, it would not have pushed me to align with the correct support team.  It really, really pushed me and challenged me to find the right people.

Kristin:  Yes, exactly.  And so as far as your balancing – I know part of our goal today is to talk about balancing life and fertility treatments.  So motherhood with your first daughter and going through the journey with conception all over again.  So how did you balance things?

Laura:  It was extremely hard, and I can tell you right now, it would not have been possible for me had I not had support within my family, within my immediate close friends, from my workplace.  I think that it’s something that has to come from all angles, right?  Because we have to balance so many things, even just the logistics of the doctors’ appointments.  It takes so much time, and we can often find ourselves in a position where we don’t have a supportive workplace, or we don’t have a supportive partner, or we don’t have an understanding family member.  Or maybe our friends can’t relate or empathize fully with what we’re experiencing, and it can feel really, really alienating.  I think that the first step is obviously in our home.  So aligning that support in our home and really expressing what we need and outlining exactly who’s responsible for what.  So because I experienced secondary infertility, we had a living child that we were still responsible for raising and taking care of and giving a beautiful life to.  So working with my husband to really say, okay, these are the areas in which you shine.  These are the areas in which I shine.  While I’m going through trauma and grief – and also him, right?  He was also going through trauma and grief.  How do we come together and still have a safe, honest, vulnerable environment that teaches our daughter about the realities of life that are age-appropriate?

Kristin:  Yes.  And how much did you share with your daughter?  How was she involved in this process?

Laura:  So the first few miscarriages that I had, Jolene was really young.  So she was aware that I was sick.  She was aware – I had hyperemesis with each of my first five pregnancies.  All had hyperemesis, which for those of you listening, if you’re not familiar, it’s debilitating morning sickness.  I was throwing up somewhere to the level of 20, 30 times a day.  I was in and out of the hospital for intravenous drips to treat the dehydration.  It was really, really horrific.  So in addition to the anxiety of pregnancy after miscarriage, I was also really struggling with severe, debilitating morning sickness.  And it wasn’t morning sickness; it was literally all day, all night.  So she was very, very aware that Mommy wasn’t well.  We did not go into the details in the first – when she was young, we really didn’t go into the details of what was actually happening, other than explaining that Mommy was not feeling well and that Daddy was going to kind of have to step up to the plate, for lack of a better term.  Like I said, my mom, my brother, at the time my dad, was also very involved and very, very supportive, which was such a blessing.  When we progressed into, you know, kind of the third and fourth miscarriages, Jolene was older, so we were sharing with her what was happening.

Kristin:  Yeah, that makes sense.  And then you had your daughter, obviously, during – you know, quite recently, so during pandemic times?

Laura:  Yes, just to add to the trauma of my experience, my daughter was born as COVID was kind of just hitting its initial peak here in Florida, and I kind of look back now and laugh a little bit because my mom had been telling me, like, oh, have you heard of this COVID thing, and I kept saying to her, oh, it’s nothing.  Don’t oversensationalize.  It’s not a big deal.  It’s just similar to the flu.  And the next thing I know – we may get into this later in the show, but I was – because of my recurrent pregnancy losses, part of my treatment included suppression of my immune system, so that obviously can be really scary during a worldwide pandemic that nobody fully understands.

Kristin:  Oh, absolutely.  Yes.

Laura:  So it went from this conversation with my mom where I’m saying, oh, don’t worry about it.  It’s not a big deal.  To the next day, my immunologist out of New York, Dr. Andrea Vedali, calling me and saying, hey, I don’t mean to worry you.  You know, I know you’re about – I think at the time, I was around 36 weeks pregnant.  And she said, I need you to self-quarantine immediately.  And I thought – you know, I was kind of like, what?  How do I do that?  You know, I have a job.  I have maternity leave coming up that I have planned for, and I have a daughter who goes to school and all of these things.  But I did; I had to self-quarantine with the exception, obviously, of emergency medical appointments until I gave birth.

Kristin:  What a journey.  Yeah, I led fertility support groups virtually across the US during early COVID, and a lot of the women had to halt some of their – if they were early in the journey, had to halt treatments, so I’m glad that you were able to continue, and you were already expecting by that point.  So it was a struggle for a lot of women.

Laura:  It was.  It was a really terrifying time for so many reasons, and I have so many close friends who had to completely cancel, whether it was egg retrievals or transfers or reproductive immunological protocols.  They had to put them on hold indefinitely, and it was really terrifying because a lot of women, after they’ve had multiple miscarriages, they are kind of feeling like they’re up against the clock, right?  Because a miscarriage, that takes a quarter of a year out of your reproductive window because you obviously are pregnant and then you are miscarrying and then you have to recover from the miscarriage.  So it can take a hefty chunk out of a year in which you feel like you’re already up against the clock.  So to then additionally have people saying, oh, well, we’re canceling all non-emergency surgeries, whether that’s egg retrievals or egg frozen transfers or whatever it may be, it was really, really traumatizing for a lot of people.

Kristin:  Yes, for sure.  So how did you navigate your emotions with prior losses and obviously navigating the pandemic?  How were you taking good care of yourself emotionally?

Laura:  That’s a really beautiful question.  Thank you for asking that.  I’d say that I had to do a tremendous amount of healing before I committed to getting pregnant again.  So after my fourth miscarriage, I took a long break in which I really committed to my overall wellness.  I focused on healing in every aspect, so whether that was mentally, emotionally, spiritually, physically, and I really went all in.  And I prioritized myself for probably the first time – possibly ever.  And it was very empowering.  First, it was really scary.  It was hard.  As the woman who is used to taking care of everybody and everything else, it was hard to say, hey, no, I am going to prioritize myself.  It felt in the beginning very selfish and unnatural.  But as I leaned into it, I recognized that I was able to be a much better partner, a much better mother.  It was really enlightening for me.

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

Kristin:  That’s beautiful.  As mothers, there is a lot of guilt, but we have to take care of ourselves first before we can take care of anyone else.  So I’m glad that you took the time and focus.  So when did you begin the book writing process?

Laura:  I began the book writing process when I had my first miscarriage.  And at the time, I didn’t think of it as writing a book.  At the time, I thought of it as kind of jotting down my visceral reactions to what was happening in my life.  As I continued to have miscarriages and as I continued to meet people that were experiencing similar tragedies, I felt more compelled to build out the support piece within the book.  And as I continued to learn and I educated myself, I became certified as a fertility doula and then a birth and labor doula, and I felt like there were a lot of things that I didn’t know that could behoove individuals that are trying to get pregnant, regardless of whether or not they have had a miscarriage or experienced infertility.  There were so many gaps in my care that I identified kind of retroactively.  So that was really a driver for me, as well as the cathartic process, obviously, of writing what I was experiencing.  But also to educate people that have not experienced miscarriage because I was on the wrong side of a lot of well-intended but brutal commentary and advice.  And I thought, these people do mean well.  Their intention is in the right place.  But often, they don’t know how to support people going through something so visceral and so overwhelming as a miscarriage.

Kristin:  Yes.  So as a fertility doula, then, you – do you accompany your clients to appointments, or is it more focused on resources?  How do you walk with your clients through their fertility journey?

Laura:  It depends on where they are.  If they are local to me, I absolutely would love to attend appointments with them and help them advocate for themselves, help them ask the right questions, and really just have a hand to hold.  It can be really scary to kind of go toe to toe with your doctor.  But if they are not local to me, I do a lot of my support virtually.  I would say, you know, 95% of what I do is virtual, and that looks like resources.  It looks like a lot of education, a lot of preparation in advance of their appointments, around what their lab work should be, what their results what should be, what supplements they should be taking or considering or talking to their doctor about, and what their next steps could potentially be.  A lot of women are ushered directly into IVF when that’s not necessarily always the right path.  So we talk a lot about what are the correct next steps for you based on your history, based on where you’re at currently in your life, based on what your goals are.  And yeah, it’s a lot of them texting me when they’re at Whole Foods saying, hey, should I buy this or this?  Is this going to be supportive to me?  So it’s really beautiful.  I’ve developed some really phenomenal, supportive relationships.  And to be honest, friendship within this community, which has been a blessing.

Kristin:  That’s beautiful.  And then as a birth doula, to continue that relationship.  So that’s how we feel at Gold Coast with birth and postpartum support.  We do become friends, and having that journey from conception through the first year is so lovely.

Laura:  You know, I honestly can’t think of a greater honor than somebody allowing myself or any of us to be part of their conception, part of their pregnancy, part of their birth.  I mean, those moments are some of the most sacred moments that we will ever experience, so to be even a very small piece of that is so humbling and so beautiful and truly the biggest honor of my life.

Kristin:  I feel the same way.  It’s so beautiful.

Laura:  It is.

Kristin:  So as far as top resources that you’re sharing with your fertility clients virtually or in person, are there any support groups or resources that our listeners who are either talking about conception or have struggled with miscarriages and are ready to try again?

Laura:  Sure.  I mean, they’re welcome of course to join me in the communities that I have cultivated through my website.  But also, I do want to say, there are communities that exist in the world, whether on Facebook or any other platforms.  I just want to caution people because I’m part of a lot of those groups, and they can be rampant with the wrong advice.

Kristin:  Yes.

Laura:  Every now and then, I see a golden nugget, and I think bravo, fabulous, wonderful.  But I would say, very often I see things that I’m like, oh, my gosh.  You know, no.  Please don’t do that.  I really wish that there was – not, obviously, my place to jump in and pooh-pooh other people’s advice, but I would just say be very cautious where you’re getting your information from.

Kristin:  Exactly.  100% agree.  Those mom groups – I mean, people may be well-meaning, but they’re not experts.

Laura:  Sure.  And a very small example is often when clients come to me, they are often on, like, 15, 20 supplements, and they’ll say to me, oh, well, I saw in this mom group that this worked to improve egg quality, and I saw also that this helped this random thing that I’m experiencing.  And I’ll say, okay, that’s fantastic.  I’m super glad that worked for that individual.  But let’s make sure that we’re supplementing based on your actual physical body, your actual lab results.  Let’s make sure that we’re not just throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping that something sticks because really what we’re doing when we’re taking 15, 20 supplements, aside from the financial load of that, which obviously, supplements are very expensive – we’re also really overloading our bodies.  We’re potentially creating gut dysbiosis.  We’re not allowing for our bodies to properly absorb the nutrients that we’re spending a tremendous amount of money to put into our bodies.  It just ends up becoming a vicious cycle, and then we start to almost feel resentful, right, because taking 15 supplements a day takes a toll.

Kristin:  It does, no doubt.

Laura:  So that’s something I always like to try to squeeze in.  Let’s make sure that we’re doing things that are appropriate for us as individuals, not just what has worked for the masses, potentially.

Kristin:  Perfect.  Thank you, Laura.  So as far as the journey to work with you virtually, since many of our listeners are all over the US and the world, how would they begin the process?  I mean, you mentioned your website.  And you’re also on social media.

Laura:  I am.  Yeah, I’m on social media.  I’m very accessible via social media.  But also I offer a free 15-minute consultation call.  So if you’re wondering if you are the right fit or if I’m the right fit for you or if you’re wondering if this type of support is sensible in your case, then you can schedule on my calendar a 15-minute consultation.  We can kind of get to know each other a little bit, kind of talk a little bit about your history, and see whether or not it makes sense and potentially identify some next steps for you.

Kristin:  Great.  And then as far as your book, The Grace in Grief, how can our listeners find the book?

Laura:  Thank you.  The book is available via my website, but also via national book retailers, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, things of that nature.  Amazon is probably the easiest.

Kristin:  Yes.  Excellent.  So any final tips for our listeners, Laura?

Laura:  I’d love to close with the concept that we are all very capable of healing.  I think that fertility, whether it’s a beautiful experience or a challenging experience, it still can involve trauma.  So I think that acknowledging that the trauma exists and not sugarcoating the experience of preconception, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum allows us to heal whatever those wounds are for us.  So talking about it and acknowledging it and taking away the stigma, but also acknowledging that we as individuals are so incredibly powerful and so incredibly capable, and with the right support, we can really move mountains.

Kristin:  Yes, so true.  So one thing I forgot to ask is we had talked a bit about partners also having trauma.  Are there any good resources for partners to seek support in their own healing journey?

Laura:  Often, I recommend for couples to truly engage in couples therapy with a therapist that both individuals connect with.  I think it’s really important to acknowledge that a lot of this work cannot be done on our own.  It does require a level of professional support, and that’s absolutely okay.  If you don’t feel like that level of support is necessary, there are great books out there.  You know, my book, of course, has a lot of resources around grief, a lot of resources.  I do talk very candidly about the impact of miscarriages and grief on my marriage.  Yeah, I would say really do consider getting that professional support because often it is extremely helpful and absolutely warranted.

Kristin:   Thank you.  Well, I appreciate the time today, Laura, and thank you for the important work that you’re doing.

Laura:  Thank you so much.  It’s been an honor talking with you.  Thank you for the work that you’re doing, as well.  It’s incredible.

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.

Processing Birth Trauma: Podcast Episode #189

Kristin chats about processing birth trauma with Angela Mancini of La Luna Counseling and Wellness.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am here today with Angela Mancini.  Angela owns La Luna Counseling and Wellness.  She’s a mental health therapist, a birth doula, a yoga therapist, placenta encapsulator, and childbirth educator.  So happy to chat with you today, Angela!

Angela:  Hi!  I’m so happy to be here.  Thank you for inviting me.

Kristin:  Of course!  So I know, obviously, you have so much that we can chat about, whether it’s parenting experiences, work as a doula.  But our main focus today is going to be talking about birth trauma and how to process some of the experiences in a positive way after delivering.

Angela:  And I feel like it’s a lot more common now.  I’m getting a lot more women coming out and talking about it.  I feel like a lot of that has to do with the news right now, and we’ll get more into that, but with what’s going on in Massachusetts.  There’s a lot going on.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  That story is – yeah, with perinatal mood disorders and even if you’re getting help – I mean, obviously, with that story in Massachusetts, she’s a nurse and was in therapy.  It seemed like a day program, outpatient, and she still struggled.  So we need more support.  PTSD after a birth is real.  Perinatal mood disorders are seeming to be more and more common.  So I would love, yeah, your insight, not only witnessing trauma as a birth doula, but also in your work in counseling and wellness.

Angela:  Yeah.  So I’m very transparent on social media about my struggles.  I have three kids; 5, almost 3, and 1.  So after my first was born, I had pretty significant postpartum anxiety and rage, which I also think is something that’s not really spoken about a lot, the postpartum rage component.  He was a very colicky baby, so I just assumed – who would be a happy person, having to deal with a baby that’s crying 24/7?  They’re not a happy baby.  So I have vivid memories of me, crying, screaming, cursing at this little newborn, and it’s – in the time, it felt justifiable.  Now I look back, and I’m like, what the heck?  And I didn’t get help.  I was like, oh, this is normal.  Totally fine.  I got pregnant with my second.  I gave birth April 2020, which was crazy COVID time, so I had that stress.  And then he was born, and he was perfect.  Literally perfect.  Never cried.  Never did anything.  And I was like, wow, this is what everybody deals with.  And I was just not okay.  I was crying.  I felt like a failure.  I had textbook depression and anxiety.  And then it got to a point where I was having suicidal thoughts, and I’m like, okay, wait.  This is not okay.  No one should be feeling like this as a new mom.

Kristin:  Exactly.

Angela:  So I sought help, but, you know, we were in COVID times, and there wasn’t much help out there for new moms, especially in that time.  So I got the help, but it wasn’t exactly what I needed.  But I really rallied my tribe, and I got better.  And I said, okay, I’m going to make what I couldn’t find at the time.  So I opened La Luna Counseling and Wellness in September of 2020.  I thought I would just work one day a week, see clients here and there, kind of just do it as a hobby.  And it just took off, and there were so many women that really are looking for this help.  So I love it.  I got pregnant with my third, and I’m like, oh, I’m going to do all the things.  I’m going to eat my placenta.  I’m going to do all the things.  And I got diagnosed with preeclampsia, and that came completely out of left field because statistically, you really are only supposed to – textbook “supposed to” – get preeclampsia with your first.  And I got it with my third.  So I was so taken off guard.  I was induced at 38 weeks because my blood pressure was skyrocketing.  I had protein in my urine.  I couldn’t really see.  So I got induced, and I don’t think they classified it as a precipitous labor, but it was a three-hour induction.  He came out extremely fast.  So he inhaled his amniotic fluid on the way out.  He had to go to the NICU.  They took my placenta away, so I didn’t get to do anything.  And I just felt like they whisked him out of the room and I was just left there on the bed and everybody left.  And I’m like, what the eff is going on?  No one explained anything to me.  It was so traumatic to me to have this little, little baby in the NICU with all these tubes and everything.  So it was just – it goes to show you, which I know you’ve probably experienced, but you have a plan for this beautiful birth, and it’s just going to go the way it goes, and that’s it.

Kristin:  Exactly.  I mean, so much is out of our control.  It’s up to baby, how baby responds, how our body – I had preeclampsia with my first.  She ended up in the NICU.  I was induced as well at 39 weeks and bed rest before that.  So yeah, just processing not only what’s happening to you, the risks to baby, but then also dealing with an unexpected NICU stay, especially with your third.  I mean, for me, again, I was right on statistically with my first and then not having it with my second.

Angela:  Right.  And I really think that preeclampsia is not – I feel like a lot of things are not really spoken about, but especially that – it’s relatively common.  Like, it’s not an absurd diagnosis, but it’s a very scary diagnosis for you and baby.  Like, it is life threatening, and I don’t think people realize that.

Kristin:  Definitely.  And then with any experience, I mean, whether it’s an intervention that wasn’t planned, like a vacuum delivery or an emergency surgical birth or even clients who have a breach baby and are processing that.  There’s a lot that a therapist can help you process, and I feel like as a birth doula, I witness clients who may not have fully journaled or went through their emotions with their first, and then you see that carry over to that birth, if they haven’t dealt with the trauma the first time around.

Angela:  100%.  And I think that’s what really pushed me to get my birth doula cert.  I wanted it – first, I was like, okay, I can use this education to help my therapy clients, and then I was like, oh, wait, this would be kind of cool to have a pregnant client and follow them all the way through, be at the delivery, and then go through postpartum with them.  It has been amazing because it’s beautiful.  We all know that.  But it’s nice to be able to have the therapeutic skills in the delivery room because it can get really crazy really fast.  I’m that middle man of trying to deescalate situations and really kind of give that validation and power back to the mom and dad.

Kristin:  Exactly, yes.  And so again if they’re comfortable, they can continue that care and see you as their therapist after, if they need to process trauma.  And I know as birth doulas, even those of us that aren’t trained as therapists, we do a lot of processing in that follow up postnatal visit and really encouraging them to write out their birth story, talk about it with others, because women – you know, even if you have this picture perfect ideal birth, you still feel isolated after delivering.  Our culture – it’s like your pregnancy is celebrated.  You get a baby shower.  Everyone is talking about your belly and excited for you.  And then you deliver your baby, and it’s all about the baby.  And then what happens to the mother?

Angela:  Right, right.  That’s exactly it.  And it is very isolating.  In the first two weeks, everyone wants to come over, give you food, and really kind of be present.  And then it’s three weeks, four weeks, when you desperately need that help and everybody’s kind of on to the next new shiny thing.

Kristin:  Or they celebrate you with the first baby and really want to help, but then what happens with baby three?  They think you’ve got it.  It’s like, okay, you’re a seasoned mom.  You don’t need my help.

Angela:  Yeah, and I feel like nothing taking away from the first time mom, but second and third babies, they’re rough.  Like, you’re almost outnumbered at that point.  Like, you need help.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  If your partner is going back to work and you have children to feed, so their meals are even more needed.  And for clients who are recovering from a surgical birth, if they don’t have a postpartum doula or family helping, then it’s even more of a struggle.  And so reaching out – and I’m so thankful for, again, like, virtual therapy as an option for clients who aren’t able to leave other kids and still be able to get some support.

Angela:  Right, exactly.  I think it’s so, so crucial, and it’s – I feel like everybody needs that support.  And I like what you said, too, where it’s like even if you had a picture perfect birth, I feel like everybody needs therapy.  I have a therapist.  Like, I think everybody needs one.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  And even as doulas, you know, we need to process things with our therapists.  I have a therapist.

Angela:  Yeah.  Even going back to, like, processing things as doulas, the way I run my doula practice is I have a doula partner, and I couldn’t imagine doing it without her.  Like, I give all the credit to the solo doula practitioners because I feel like at every birth, we’re calling each other, processing it, asking questions during.  And everybody should have that person.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  Yeah, we have a shared call model and work in partners.  Some doulas in our agency prefer to work solo, but they do rely on the team, again, for resources, processing, support, backup.  But I personally prefer a shared calling partner model, for many reasons.

Angela:  Yeah.  I actually never heard it worded like that, a shared calling – how did you say it?

Kristin:  A shared call partner model.  So two doulas work with a client throughout pregnancy, and ideally, one doula attends the birth for Gold Coast.  Obviously, with inductions that may be multi-days, we can trade out.  But it’s the benefit of two different doulas with different skill sets and personalities, having that support throughout pregnancy and also resources after delivery.

Angela:  Yeah, I love that.  That’s why I work with my partner for that same exact reason.  And even with – we just – we were able to attend a birth together at a birth center, which was really nice, to be able to doula together.

Kristin:  Yes, it’s beautiful!

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

Kristin:  So what are your tips, Angela, as a therapist and doula, if any of our listeners are still struggling with processing their birth trauma and obviously, any resources, since our listeners are all over the country.  What would be your suggestion in finding support groups, a therapist, resources, as well as, again, how they can personally seek out support to process?

Angela:  Yeah, so I – I mean, first and foremost, I would definitely recommend finding a therapist; finding a therapist that would be trained specifically for any sort of birth trauma, any sort of perinatal mood disorders.  Having that training and experience is really key.  So I would definitely, if you’re able to find someone who specializes in that, find that.  You can find that through Google, is a good resource.  It sounds funny but social media; that’s where a majority of my clients find me.  And with birth doula therapy, you could be – especially like out where you are, like the Midwest, the states are huge, so you could be seeing somebody six hours away from you and still be in the same state.  There’s also PSI, the Postpartum Support Initiative.  They have a big list of therapists that are trained in their program for perinatal mood disorders.  They also have online support groups, online programs, and a lot of information.  I always direct people there if they are just looking for –

Kristin:  Totally.  Yeah, PSI has groups for partners, as well.  Husbands can experience perinatal mood disorders, as well, or partners.  Or can be trying to process trauma that they witnessed and supporting their loved one through an experience like an emergency surgical birth or a NICU stay.

Angela:  And it’s funny because I always say this in the consults, but the moms are typically the ones who reach out.  They find me, book a consult, schedule, whatever.  But I spend so much time with the dads because they’re the ones that are really, like, worried.  They don’t know what’s going on, and rightfully so.  They’re seeing their partner in what appears to be a lot of pain, or things are just happening to their partner that they’re like, wait, is this okay?  Should we be doing this?  And I think they’re the ones that really need that support, as well.  And yes, they can get perinatal mood disorders postpartum; anxiety and depression.  It’s really not talked about, but everybody’s life changes after baby comes.  So it’s understandable as to – I mean, no one’s sleeping.  No one’s eating regularly.  There’s so many factors that are happening all at once in the blink of an eye.  So it’s just an unspoken thing, as well.

Kristin:  And you mentioned your personal experience with colic and the lack of sleep, and that just escalates and increases the chances of getting perinatal mood disorders.

Angela:  Right.  It’s just this perfect storm of situations that are going on all at the same time.  In my experience, I see more people with some sort of postpartum diagnosis than without.

Kristin:  Yes.  And you had mentioned there are so many other forms of a PMAD outside of depression or anxiety, so it could be OCD or rage or psychosis.  So, yeah.  And there’s often confusion with the hormone fluctuations and what would be considered baby blues versus other PMADs.

Angela:  Yeah.  So the first two weeks, pretty standard; everyone kind of goes through the baby blues.  Your hormones are all wonky, all over the place, trying to figure out what the heck happened.  So by day 15, 16, 17, if you’re still crying, you’re still having these anxious thoughts, irrational thoughts, intrusive thoughts, anything like that, say, 15, 16, 17, 18 days later, that’s when there’s a little bit more cause for concern.  I think that’s where it’s shifting.  And even in that first year of life, you could be like, okay, I definitely feel like I have some sort of anxiety or depression, but there’s waves of it.  It’s usually around the three-month mark, the six-month mark.  That’s where your hormones are shifting again.  People start losing their hair.  Your milk production is changing.  There’s all these factors.  People go back to work.  There’s all these factors that are going on in the first year and then some.  The second year, all of that.  I think people are just really focused on that first month, and then after that, it’s like, oh, you got it, and then they step back.  No, she needs help.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And even introducing solids can change hormone levels.  Weaning is often not talked about, but that’s another indicator.

Angela:  Yeah, it’s all – and even the introduction of solids is a really big trigger for many women with choking and allergies.  It’s just a lot.  It’s a lot.

Kristin:  Yes, for sure.  So obviously, if our listeners are working with a doula, doulas are there to provide resources, whether it’s a virtual support group, an in-person support group, or certainly offering therapist options that are trained to support trauma and/or PMADs.

Angela:  Yes.  Most doulas have a resource list of everything.  I have my little list of pelvic floor therapists, lactation consultants, postpartum doulas, everything.  Doulas are such a huge part of the community and they’re such a good resource.

Kristin:  Yes.  Any tips, Angela, for partners who may be listening on how they can best support or identify anything that would be beyond the basic baby blues?

Angela:  Yes.  So again, going back to PSI because they have so much information, they have – I’m not sure where I found it on their website specifically, but they have almost like a worksheet PDF, some things to look out for, specifically for PMADs.  And when I go to prenatal appointments, I print it out and I give it to the dads and I tell them to hang it up in their house just so that they have it to reference.  I think that finding a local group, whether it be an actual support group or just like a Facebook group for dads, which I feel like is a growing thing.  In New Jersey, at least, I’m noticing a lot more Facebook groups or meetups for dads.  Finding that and just maybe even talking to people at your work who maybe have a new baby, as well.  Like, you need that person to be able to bounce things off of.  Hey, my wife’s doing XYZ.  Is your wife doing XYZ?  And having that camaraderie I think is huge.  And going back to – I know I’m jumping a bit, but going back to finding a person, I always encourage new moms to find a pregnancy buddy.  Find a new mom that’s going to be up in the middle of the night as well so you guys can text, so you guys can just go back and forth, so you have that person.  We actually started, me and my doula partner, a Facebook group of our past and current clients so that they have those people to talk to who get it.

Kristin:  I love it.  Yeah, I have an online course called Becoming A Mother, so past students who’ve already had their babies interact with students who are currently pregnant, and it’s such a wonderful community, and they live all over.  I love that you have that as a local resource for your clients.  So any other tips on talking with providers, whether it’s their OB, their pediatrician, since they’re not seeing the OB or midwife typically until six weeks?  I feel like the pediatrician can be a good resource since their visits are much more frequent.

Angela:  Yeah.  I mean, I think just being open with your pediatrician and telling them how you’re feeling.  I know specifically with my pediatrician, every visit, I have to fill out a really shortened version of the Edinburgh Scale for postpartum.  I don’t know if that’s a universal thing or not, but anyone who doesn’t know that, it’s the quick little assessment that will indicate if you have any postpartum depression or anxiety symptoms.  But just be really open with them.  They are members of the community.  They have resources.  A huge trigger for women – I hear this a lot – is “I didn’t want to say anything because I don’t want them to take my kids away.  If I tell them I have these thoughts, they’re going to take my kids away.”  And I promise you, they’re not going to take your kids away.  That’s just this embedded fear in us for all of these child protective services.  It’s funny because I used to work for New Jersey Child Protective Services, so I know how hard it is to take a kid away.  They don’t want to.  They don’t want to take your kid away.  They know that the child – as long as it’s a safe situation, the best place for them to be is with their mom.  So they’re not going to take your kid away.  If you are having these thoughts, they want to help you.  They might become involved, possibly, if it’s something where it’s an unsafe situation, but they are a good source of resources, as well.

Kristin:  That’s such a good point.  Yeah, I didn’t even think about that fear cropping up and delaying getting help or even hiding it from a partner.

Angela:  Yeah, it’s a real thing, and it’s a scary thing.  But moms need to look out for themselves, and are you being the best mom you could be, if you’re having these feelings and symptoms?  There’s ways for you to get the help that you need, even if you don’t want to be as upfront as saying what these intrusive thoughts are.

Kristin:   Exactly.  So what are your thoughts on talking with friends about your birth story or journaling, writing out your experience with pregnancy, birth, and even early parenting?

Angela:  I love journaling.  I am always pushing people to journal, even though I don’t take my own advice.  I should be journaling more.  But I think it’s such a beautiful thing to first of all, get these thoughts out, especially kind of going back to what we said, it’s scary to say these thoughts, and it just might be easier for you to write them, just to get them out of your head and onto paper.  And I think it is a really beautiful way for people to share their birth stories, as well.  I always encourage moms, within the first week or two, write your birth story down, because the longer you go without writing it down, the fuzzier it’s going to be.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  I love that advice.  We do, as well, and I think there’s also – since you are trained in so many different areas, I would think as a yoga therapist and using meditation and affirmations, there can be some resources, even in breath work.  So I’m curious to hear your thoughts on that as far as processing trauma.

Angela:  Yes.  So I feel like breathwork is a very big buzzword, right?

Kristin:   Yes.  It is.

Angela:  And some people will say, like, oh, you know, I got to use this breath, or I have to use this breath.  And for all the different things and experiences I’ve had, I don’t care what breathwork you use; just breathe.  I just want to make sure you’re breathing.  You know?  And I think that’s the biggest thing, and just becoming aware of your breath brings you back into yourself.  And if that’s the only thing that the moms can do, then that’s all you need to.  Even with meditation, I hear this a lot.  “Oh, I don’t have time to meditate.  I can’t meditate.  I’ll think about a hundred other things.”  I think when you say, again, the buzzword of meditation, when you think of meditation, you think of this person sitting in criss-cross applesauce and just ohm-ing to themselves, and that’s not only what meditation is.  It’s being mindful, being in the moment, not thinking about a hundred other things that are going on in your life; just really feeling your feet in your socks and being aware of your breath and really being in the moment.  That’s meditation in and of itself.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Beautiful.  So let us know how our listeners can find you, Angela.  I know, obviously, you’ve got a great website for La Luna Counseling and Wellness.  What are your social media channels?

Angela:  So I am on Instagram @lalunacounseling.  I’m on Facebook, La Luna Counseling and Wellness.  I’m on TikTok @lalunacounselingandwellness.  And yeah, those are the best ways to find me.  I’m really active on most of them.  TikTok, I wish I was more active on.

Kristin:  Same.  Well, thank you so much for sharing all of your wisdom and resources, and I appreciate the work that you’re doing in this space so much.

Angela:  Yes, thank you so much!  You as well!

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.

Why You Should Use A Baby Registry Consultant: Podcast Episode #188

Kristin chats with Audra Geyer of Gold Coast Doulas about why you should work with a baby registry consultant.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with one of our own birth and postpartum doulas, Audra Geyer.  Welcome, Audra!

Audra:  Hi!  Thanks for having me!

Kristin:  So our main topic today is all about baby registries, but I would love to start out a bit with your background as a doula and also your professional background that is very related to baby registry services.

Audra:  Yes, so I have been a birth and postpartum doula for almost three years now.  I did my training through Pro Doula and immediately began supporting families through their pregnancy, birth, and then during that postpartum phase, as well, doing day support, overnight support.  And then my background is in speech language pathology, and I’m actually a pediatric SLP.  I work with kids with a variety of different diagnoses, but one of the areas I work on is feeding.

Kristin:  Yes.  So again, feeding is one of the biggest registry concerns.  So I thought having you on our registry team would be ideal.  We started – I remember meeting you for the first time at a baby expo that Gold Coast had a booth at, and you became a client and then got into birth and postpartum work.  So it’s been quite a beautiful journey.

Audra:  Yes, I had no idea, really, about what a doula was until I met with you at the birth expo when I was pregnant.  And I was first time pregnant.  I had so many questions.  I wanted to make sure I was doing everything the right way, even though there’s not really one right way.  But I just wanted all this information and was feeling so overwhelmed by all the information coming at me, and it was so good to have a team of doulas to help support me throughout my pregnancy, my birth, during my postpartum phase, as well.  Just having other support from people on my journey who knew kind of what I needed in that moment, and knowing that what I was doing was okay and I was doing a good job, and then just being that resource there for me when I had questions and things I was not sure of.

Kristin:  Beautiful.  Now, do you remember your own experience with your baby showers and setting up your own registry, since your pregnancy was much more recent than my own?

Audra:  I do remember it, and I remember being so stressed out about it.  I think every day, I went and either added something new, deleted something off my registry.  I was so concerned about, well, how many of this do I need?  How many washcloths do I need?  And I actually remember my sister-in-law texting me like, well, make sure you have baby washcloths.  There’s a difference?  And do I really need those?  I actually remember going to a baby shower for someone who was due a few months before me, and they had three different kinds of baby pillows that they had gotten.  And I was like, wait, I need all this stuff?  What is this one for?  What is this one for?  Like, how do I use all of these?  I was feeling totally overwhelmed.  And I am a researcher; I’m a planner.  I like to have lists.  So I used Amazon for my registry, and like I said, I think every day I would go and change things.  I would add something new.  I would think, oh, I have to have this because that’s what a friend told me or what I saw on Instagram or Facebook.  And so I don’t really think I need this, but everyone is saying I do, so I’ll get it.  And I’ll admit, I did end up with a lot of things that either I never used or they’re still sitting in my storage to this day.  So I just remember being very overwhelmed with the whole process.

Kristin:  Yes.  I have a similar memory.  Now, my daughter’s 12, and I remember having three different baby showers.  You know, one family, a couple friends groups.  So that registry process was overwhelming because, again, you hear from friends and family members and go into mom groups and try to get all the best options.  Breastfeeding pillows, bottles, pumps, all of that.  And really trying to figure out the best swaddle, and you don’t want too many clothing items, but you want to register for some cute baby things.  With my son, I didn’t have any showers.  I had a blessing wave with him and his birth a couple years later.  So, yeah, I didn’t have that stress, but I do remember feeling like I had too many things, as well.  A lot of things that I registered for, I didn’t even need until Abby was one.  So yeah, it’s like – you know, a lot of the toys, and obviously, you can read books, but some of the things were just taking up space until they’re a bit older.  So I do remember trying to be very intentional about supporting local businesses, so I set up registries at baby stores, and having some eco-friendly options was also very important to me, outside of, again, listening to friends and family members and looking at the recommendations for the car seat and swings and all of the things.  Again, I had a lot of very generous friends who gave me hand me downs like their own baby outfits and some baby carriers and things like that.

Audra:  Yeah, I definitely did some of that, too.  I have a niece and a nephew who are a little bit older than my daughter and some friends with kids, and when I got pregnant, they kind of offered some things, and that helped me to decide, okay, are some of these things objects that I can reuse, or do I need to buy my own, and that definitely did help me narrow down, hey, like, I don’t need to get a baby jumper because my friend has one I can use.  That helped a little bit with that process.  But yeah, it’s so hard to keep track of all these different tools and different ages and what I need for newborn versus three to six months and as my baby is growing.  When do I need certain tools, and why would I need them?  I remember a big one for me was a thermometer and not knowing the right one to get because someone had told me that it is best for a newborn to only use a rectal thermometer.  That’s how you’re going to get the best answer, and I was all about safety, doing whatever’s best.  And had my daughter, and then COVID hit shortly after, so fevers were a big thing to be on the lookout for.  But then I had other people telling me, well, no, just get the forehead scanner because that’s the easiest and you’re never going to use the other ones.  And so I was like, okay, what is right for me, though, and what is going to make me feel the most comfortable, because it was different for some of my family members and friends, what their comfort level was.  So really, having to do my own research and figure out what works for me right now.

Kristin:  Right, yeah.  Totally, because we have unique needs.  I’m really excited to again start this baby registry service at Gold Coast because it is so different for each individual based on their living situation.  Do they live in a condo or a downtown apartment, or are they in the country?  Do they have grandparents caring for their child or children, and will they be transporting the baby or babies in their own vehicle.  What are the needs with the stroller?  Does the stroller need to be more urban, or do they want a jogger or a double stroller if there are other kids?  Figuring out exactly what they need, and hopefully, our goal is to avoid a lot of the headache and hassle of setting up a registry and also do some research on product recommendations based on what their goals are.

Audra:  Yeah, I think it will be such a great tool.  You know, I wish I could have had someone to just sit me down and go through a list of, okay, here are the things I would recommend you getting.  Here are some things that it’s up to you, your preference, if you want them; it’s not a necessity.  Or based on your lifestyle, here are some even, like, brands or specific products you would recommend because there’s so many different products out there.  So many different reviews, and what is the safest for my baby?  What is going to be the product that will be the most beneficial for me and my lifestyle?

Kristin:  Exactly.  And then again, as postpartum doulas, we’re in clients’ homes, and we’re seeing the products that they’re using and giving suggestions on anything from swaddles to baby carriers to sleep sacks to, again, things like the feeding options and pumps and making sure that the nipple size is correct for bottles.  So many options.

Audra:  Yeah, and especially with the feeding component, and sometimes when we’re pregnant, we’re not really sure what feeding is going to look like as part of our journey, or we might have one idea set in our head and it looks totally different than what we expected.  Or, hey, I’ve heard these bottles are the best, but my baby won’t take these bottles, and how we can really help set up a registry for your situation that you at least have something and you can try something and then know what works, what doesn’t work, versus maybe spending or registering for lots of one specific kind of thing and learning down the road that that’s not the best for your baby at that time.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So getting into some of the background and training that we have as far as the registry consultations go, I did go through an eight-week certification program through Be Her Village, a brand new program.  So I am a certified gift registry expert, and I wasn’t sure that there would be eight weeks’ worth of content, and I was amazed.  Every session, I learned more and more and with the homework and certification process, it was very eye-opening because I felt like ten years as a birth doula and childbirth educator, coming on eight years as a postpartum doula, I thought I had a good handle on things, until we really got into it.  Kristin Morter is also joining us as a baby registry consultant, and she is a birth and postpartum doula with us.  The three of us took a course on baby registries, as well, and I felt like even with all of my experience through the certification process, I still learned more through that course.  So putting our experience and some of this training together will certainly benefit our clients.  So getting into the offerings: so we are going to be offering standard baby registry consultations with a one hour virtual consult, baby gear and product recommendations based on lifestyle and needs, and then assistance with community resources.  And this service is virtual, so it doesn’t need to be limited to West Michigan clients only.  We’re able to work with anyone anywhere in the world.  And so that consultation is $125, and then we have a more intensive program where we would actually help with your set up.  And so, again, taking the work out of creating a registry, we get into what your unique goals are and have an extensive intake form on your lifestyle and then also include that one hour virtual consultation and really help set up the registry, not only with the products that we talked about, everything from feeding to sleep to toys, but also getting into services that could be beneficial to set up on a registry.  And that set up is $350.  And then we offer in-store shopping for our clients who are local to West Michigan only, and that is up to three hours of time in a store, helping to select baby gear and registry items based on goals and lifestyle.  Again, that would include an intake form to really specify what your goals are and help set up that registry and also help you shop for everything from strollers to high chairs and all of the baby gear.

Audra:  I’m so excited.  I think this will just be such a great tool for families who are expecting a baby, just helping to reduce some of that time and stress that goes into all of this.  And at the end of the day, knowing that you’ll have a registry that will fit your lifestyle.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And then we do certainly look into the quality, performance, and safety recommendations.  We’re looking into recalls.  And then also showing our clients how they can monitor recalls for items that are purchased and how to handle returns and so on.  So what are your top tips for our listeners, whether it’s first time baby or whether they’re having a sprinkle if it’s baby number two or three, for setting up that registry on their own if they’re not interested in working with a baby registry consultant?

Audra:  My top tips would be, there are so many great online tools, like using Amazon to help build a registry.  I know Bed Bath & Beyond or Buy Buy Baby that’s going out of business?

Kristin:  They’re all under one ownership.

Audra:  Yes.  That won’t be there anymore.  But having a location, one spot where you can make a registry to help keep track of where things are, because it can get really challenging have multiple different places that you’re looking and adding things.  Okay, added the crib to this store, and now I’m adding this one to another store.  So having one place to keep track of everything.  And I also think it’s really beneficial to keep track of what you get as your pregnancy goes on.  I know I got a lot of things that maybe I didn’t register for where people were just sending me gifts.  So having a place that you can store, whether it be a file on your computer or a file at your house that keeps track of what you have and when you got it so that you don’t end up having too many of one object or not enough of another.  And then also just knowing that when baby arrives, baby just needs a place to sleep, food to eat, and clothes to keep them warm, and knowing that if you have those things, you’ll be okay and that there are services out there to help you and as you go along, you will figure out what you need.  But we are always here to help, as well.

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

Kristin:  Exactly.  Great tips, Audra.  And certainly using some of the online registries, like baby lists you can add services.  Many of our clients add postpartum doula support, birth doula support, to their online registries.  And we are also partnered with Be Her Village, which is all about registering for services versus products.  So everything from, again, newborn care specialists and postpartum doulas to birth support to classes to other services related to pregnancy and the postnatal phase.  So we’re happy to help with that.  And then we’re also partnered locally with EcoBuns Baby + Co. in Holland, and they have a registry and really help with shopping and specific goals, whether it’s eco friendly or cloth diapering, for example, selecting the right baby carrier.  Marissa is a certified baby carrier specialist, and so she can help with some of that selection process.  I know for my two kids, they needed different carriers.  So certainly giving options outside of the big brands.  You know, you can get into local stores, and then also some of the national retailers for family and friends who are out of town.

Audra:  Yeah, and one thing I know with wedding registries that’s becoming popular is people are adding a honeymoon fund or ways to contribute for this honeymoon that they take; buy them an experience or give them money towards it, and what a great resource to say, hey, I would like, instead of baby clothes, money going towards postpartum services or birth services or lactation to help set me up for my birth and postpartum journey.  It’s just such a great tool to have and a great way for people to help support you.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And again, it’s not that hassle of registering for everything.  Just because I remember even for my wedding registry, it’s like I was overwhelmed at what I needed to add to that.  So baby registries are very similar, and sometimes you end up with things you never use or that don’t work.  So it’s all about really saving that hassle and avoiding things sitting in your house and creating clutter that, depending on your personality, may end up stressing you out.

Audra:  Definitely.

Kristin:  So with your professional background, what tips are you seeing for working with infants and with feeding and palate issues?  Any tips for parents who are trying to figure out the best feeding options and work on speech?

Audra:  Yeah, definitely.  There’s so many different types of bottles out there, and so many that claim to be breast-friendly and this bottle and nipple shape is just like a mother’s nipple.  There’s just so much information, and same with pacifiers.  So really looking at some of the research out there, and there are some specific bottles that are more friendly for if you are planning to nurse, but then also bottle feed, and there are different nipples for a pacifier with the same thing so that your baby doesn’t get nipple confusion.  So there’s lots of different tools out there, but I think my number one tip for feeding is if you are having any concerns or any difficulties, to reach out for help.  Reach out to a lactation consultant.  Reach out to a speech language pathologist, and really see what is going on to make sure that baby’s oral motor muscles are moving the proper way, that there’s no tongue tie, lip tie, anything that might be affecting the latch.  You know, they look at positioning and support and how you’re holding baby.  So really just reaching out for help and seeing, okay, what could be going on, and always being curious and investigating.

Kristin:  Love it.  Very helpful, Audra.  So as far as working with Gold Coast, you can reach out to us at our website.  We do have a page on our website all about the baby registry services.  You can also email us at  And if you are interested in working with a baby registry consultant in your area, I recommend you search Google or look at Be Her Village.  Again, they are starting up this certification process, so there will be certified baby registry experts all over.  But again, we can work with you no matter where you live.  So thanks for sharing all of your tips, and it was lovely to chat about baby registry support with you, Audra.

Audra:  Yes, thanks for having me, and I’m excited to start offering this service.

Kristin:  Same!  Have a great day.

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.

Nutrition for Breastfeeding: Podcast Episode #187

Kristin chats with Katie Timbrook of Athena’s Bump about the importance of nutrition for breastfeeding and pumping moms.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Katie Timbrook today.  Katie is the chief nutrition officer at Athena’s Bump.  She’s a registered dietician, and as I mentioned, the chief nutrition officer.  Athena’s Bump allows Katie to share her passion and knowledge working to make a difference in the health of pregnant people and their families.  Welcome, Katie!

Katie:  Thank you so much.  It’s so exciting to be here.

Kristin:  So our topic today is focused on nutrition for breastfeeding and/or pumping individuals.  So I would love to start there and see where our conversation takes us.  So as our clients are either during pregnancy and wanting to prepare for breastfeeding and/or plan to exclusively pump or rely on pumping while at work – what are your tips, first of all, during pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding and pumping goals?  And then we can talk about the postnatal phase and how nutrition would vary between pregnancy and the postnatal phase.

Katie:  Yeah, great.  That’s a great place to start.  So this is kind of why I really like what you guys do.  So we often – we’re in this pregnancy phase, and then once postpartum comes, there’s a baby, and you have to take care of it, and sleepless nights and things like that.  And there’s not really that preparation or kind of planning that goes into that postpartum phase.  So I kind of take it from the approach of, just as much as you were preparing for the baby when you are pregnant, kind of continue on that postpartum, making sure you’re having the nutritious foods and trying not to skip meals and staying hydrated and getting as much movement as you can.  Obviously, too, while you’re pregnant, preparing for that breastfeeding.  It’s not necessarily innate.  And I’m sure you guys teach this.  There is that learning curve, so trying to prepare yourself realistically really helps, obviously.  So then like I said, moving postpartum, setting yourself up for success.  And sometimes, too, you plan on breastfeeding, and sometimes that doesn’t work out.  Or you get into it, and you’re like, well, maybe this isn’t for me.  But learning as much as you can and preparing and setting yourself up for success, I think, is really kind of that third trimester mindset.  And whether that’s asking someone to help you prepare meals for afterwards or preparing those nutrient-dense meals and freezing them, or having those snacks on hand, or making a plan.  Hey, I’m going to have this water bottle with my electrolytes or make sure I have those fruits and vegetables there with me in my breastfeeding station or in my wherever you are with baby.  I think making sure you set yourself up for success, I think, is the biggest thing.

Kristin:  Exactly.  We talk about that quite a bit as postpartum doulas.  Even our birth doulas, about having that station to snack, because we often forget to eat when we’re feeding baby and we’re running on low sleep.  So it’s so important for success in breastfeeding to not only be hydrated, as you mentioned, but also well-nourished.  I think your program sounds like it would be a fantastic baby shower gift.  Are you working in that market quite a bit?  What are you seeing as far as preparation and asking for support from family and friends besides your typical meal train, which may not be nutritionally dense?  It might just be comfort food that isn’t really going to help you succeed with breastfeeding.

Katie:  Yeah, so I guess I’ll start with the helping – you know, having family members help.  I think take the approach of realistic nutrition counseling.  So yes, as a dietician, I kind of preach that – so kind of starting from the point of, if you did ask your family members to help give you food and it wasn’t quite nutrient dense, sometimes some food is better than no food.  As a dietician, I’m very realistic with my coaching.  Obviously, I want everyone to eat as many fruits and vegetables and protein at every meal, and mostly plant based, but a little bit of mix of animal in there.  But really, I kind of have to bring myself down to reality.  You know, when I’m preaching about, you know, eat these foods with these B vitamins or vitamin D or whatever – people don’t eat nutrients.  They eat food.  And from day to day, you want to enjoy your meals.  You want to enjoy the taste of it.  And sometimes, just asking someone to eat one vegetable each meal, not necessarily – the ultimate, I say, you know, half your plate, non-starchy fruits and vegetables; a good source of protein at each meal.  Stay hydrated throughout.  But sometimes that’s not reality.  So it’s getting those nutrient dense foods where you can, where it makes sense.  So if you have someone that brings over maybe just like macaroni and cheese casserole, maybe it’s adding a little bit of broccoli and mixing that in.  Something like that to where you’re still not – I hate food waste.

Kristin:  Same here, yes.

Katie:  So maybe trying to make those foods that someone brings over a little bit more nutrient-dense, kind of taking it from that standpoint.

Kristin:  Great tip.

Katie:  We could talk all day about nutrients that help breastfeeding.  Definitely want to have vitamin D.  Sometimes that’s supplementation.  You know, vitamin D is not very common in our foods.  Fatty fish, salmon, mushrooms if they’re exposed to UV light.  But it’s not much.  There’s vitamin D added milk, but sometimes there’s that need for supplementation just to make sure that you’re getting enough vitamin D so the baby gets enough vitamin D.  There’s B vitamins that you want to have enough of.  That will actually – some of them have been proven to help with mood.  So preventing risks of postpartum depression, things like that.  And really, when it comes to that, your body is so depleted in pregnancy.  So, so, so depleted.  So remembering that you have to not only replenish from that pregnancy, building an entire human, but your body is still taking nutrients from you to make that breastmilk.  So it’s having that same mindset that the baby is still – you know, you’re still providing nutrients for that baby.  So continuing on your prenatal or continuing that same kind of mindset of, like I said, nutrient-dense foods.  That’s how I counsel there.

Kristin:  So as far as – you know, you had mentioned pumping as well as breastfeeding.  Are there any tips for our listeners and clients who are returning to work and how to make sure that they’re getting nutrition throughout the day, something that’s easy to snack on?  They do have, obviously, dedicated pumping rooms by law, but what are your tips when time is short in the office to ensure that you’re able to, again, have less depletion?

Katie:  Yeah, that’s a really good question because regardless of pumping and breastfeeding in the workplace, it gets tough, right?  Sometimes you just get so busy throughout the day and you forget to drink water or whatever fluids you’re drinking.  You forget to eat.  You forget to take lunch.  I feel like in America we’re very work-centric.

Kristin:  We are.  There’s no doubt.

Katie:  So yeah, so I would say – it’s funny.  I was just talking to a dietician friend of mine, and she was telling me what she did when she was breastfeeding and working and things like that.  And she was like, I was so thirsty, and I was drinking all of this water and then I felt like I was drinking too much water, like flushing out electrolytes.  So it’s remembering, hydration is important, but electrolytes are super important, and there’s, like, a million products for electrolyte packets.  Or you could get it from food.  I think whatever makes sense to you.  Sometimes those electrolyte packets – you know, they’re a tool to use.  They have the calcium, sodium, magnesium.  Also, those foods.  So it’s coconut milk; very high in potassium.  Berry food, if you can tolerate berry, is full of tons of electrolytes.  There’s potassium-rich foods.  Juices, I’m a little hesitant about.  Juices can be okay, but I feel like they’re just extreme concentrated version of sugar.  So instead of orange juice, thing an orange; things like that.  Even avocados, snacks like that.  So if it’s a quick snack, red peppers and avocado, or even an avocado toast or those little energy balls that are made with nut butters and oats.  Add some chocolate chips in there; who cares.  If it tastes good.  But just remembering, you want the protein.  That will help keep you full.  That will help keep you alert.  If you do have just a snack of a 100-calorie granola bar, it’s probably not going to last you very long.  Just remembering that your body does need those calories, and it needs a lot of them.  And some nutrients are needed in an even higher amount than even in the third trimester of pregnancy.  So like I said, it’s keeping that mindset of, I am still providing for my child.  I need to also make sure I have enough for myself to make it through that workday, to make it through the whole night, right?

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

Kristin:  I know, again, your plans are very customized.  We happen to work with a lot of twin and triplet families, so I’m sure their needs are much different when you’re coming up with meal plans.

Katie:  Yes.  So to talk a little bit about what we have going on in Athena’s Bump, just because we haven’t done that yet – so it is a startup.  It is basically the founder, Claudia, she knew that she wanted to provide education around nutrition, around pregnancy.  She had two children a little bit earlier in life, and then recently – I think her little girl is three or four.  I don’t know.  She’s going to say I should know this.  But basically, there was a huge gap in between, and when she went to the doctor, what they were telling her nutritionally was about the same.  So she’s like, wait a minute.  You know, nutrition research has advanced.  Why are we still saying just take a prenatal and make sure it has folic acid?  So she knew that there was a gap, and when she started going into it, she’s like, wait a minute.  I need an expert.  So she reached out to me, and we’re kind of – you know, we’re still in the startup phase of where do we fit; where can we truly make a difference.  So we created our website.  Right now, you go onto our website, Athena’s Bump.  You can take a quiz.  Right now, it’s all free just because we’re in the beta version, but we basically take a quiz.  I tried to gear the questions on what I ask my clients and how I kind of customize meals for them.  So we kind of created this intelligent system of, based on your answers, we provide you specific recipes that your body needs.  So hopefully that can develop and improve.  We did talk about having it be, like you said, a gift, like a postpartum gift or pregnancy gift, so we are in the workings of that.  But we’re also in the process of creating a training program for birth professionals for nutrition specifically.

Kristin:  I heard that.  That’s so needed in this space.

Katie:  Yeah.  So we heard from doulas.  We heard from midwives.  And they were like, you know, actually, there’s not a lot of scientific based nutrition education around this time for us.  So we’re trying to give you guys practical information that you can then pass on to your clients.  And then on the back end, you’ll be able to use our recipe database and all that.

Kristin:  And you do have a community as part of the service, and it sounds like people can hire you directly versus through Athena’s Bump if they want customized consultation then, correct?

Katie:  Yeah, I do limited.  Yeah, so I do have a full time job, a day job, and this is my side job.  So I have limited availability, but I think one day, we will expand on that, once we kind of grow our network, maybe get some counseling.  Because that’s kind of truly my heart is it’s counseling.  It’s working with someone specifically.  It’s finding out their needs and how to kind of help them on their journey, meet them where they are.  And that’s kind of what we’re trying to do with Athena’s Bump.  But person to person is the best.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  So I know we talked quite a bit about, again, nutrition postnatally, but as far as some of these customized recipes and so on for anyone who has some medical concerns, like signs of preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, what are your tips for them, or how does working with your resources look different for individuals who have different medical conditions?

Katie:  Good question.  So we do have some questions in our quiz about that.  Are you at risk for gestational diabetes?  Have you been told you have that?  Same with preeclampsia.  So we try – my biggest thing is don’t restrict further than you have to, so that’s kind of like my goal.  So as far as gestational diabetes, we make sure that the recipes, the meals, are nutrient dense, but a little bit less carbohydrates.  A person with gestational diabetes shouldn’t be afraid of carbohydrates, but it’s really just about that food pairing.  You know, you can have carbohydrates.  You can have pasta.  You can have white bread.  All of that is fine.  You can have a dessert.  But you just don’t want to have too much at one time, and you want to make sure there’s enough fat and protein with those carbohydrates to kind of slow down that rise in blood sugar.  The biggest thing about gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia, too, it’s learning your body.  It’s being that detective of what can my body handle.  So whether it’s checking your blood sugar after different types of meals or really recognizing how you feel, checking your blood sugar, making sure you’re following that medication protocol if you are on that, talking with your doctor.  But every single person is different, and everybody’s body handles food differently.  So it’s really just making sure you are that detective for yourself.  Don’t rely on the doctor to know your body.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Yeah, I had preeclampsia late in pregnancy with my first, and my kids are 21 months apart, so I worked with a naturopathic doctor to really help me get the nutrients I needed and focus on minerals and so on.

Katie:  Definitely minerals, yep.

Kristin:   Yes, and I avoided preeclampsia the second time.

Katie:  That’s awesome.

Kristin:  I did have signs though, but I did not develop preeclampsia.

Katie:  Yeah, I mean, it can be a scary thing, and if you’ve never been through it before, and if you read anything about it, it’s very scary.  It can be pretty serious.  So yeah, I mean, I’ve heard – so I always – like, there’s the science, right, but then there’s anecdotal, like what works for everyone.  So, you know, it is making – it’s those electrolytes, making sure that you do have enough sodium, hydration, things like that.  It’s weird; it’s counterintuitive, but I’ve read some studies that say, you know, because of the increased blood volume, because of the more fluid in your body, your body does need those electrolytes.  It does need sodium.  We’ve always been told to cut back, cut back on sodium.  But during pregnancy, it’s really about that balance.  You know, I don’t say go eat a ton of processed food, a ton of chips, because that doesn’t make any sense.  But if you’re staying hydrated, if you’re eating those nutrient-rich foods, with a little bit of sea salt, I think that’s fine, if you’re having the potassium to balance out the sodium.  It’s really about that balance.

Kristin:  Yeah, and there’s been so much that has come out since I had kids, and you mentioned vitamin B3 and that is certainly a great preventative for preeclampsia.

Katie:  Yes, there’s tons of research about that, for sure.

Kristin:  So any final tips for our listeners, Katie?

Katie:  Really, just be kind.  Be patient with yourself.  You plan to eat all these meals, and I’m going to be great and I’m going to do this; I’m going to drink this much water.  And if it doesn’t work out, it’s okay.  Your next change is only one meal away, so it’s trying to meet yourself where you are, like I try to meet my clients.   Just be patient.  We’re all learning.  We’re all trying to do our best.  It’s tough.

Kristin:  Beautiful advice.  Thank you.  So how do our listeners find you?  I know you’ve got a website, and you’re on social media.

Katie:  Yeah, really, you can start at Athena’s Bump.  We have all of our links there.  We have TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook.  So, yeah.  We’re putting out tons of information.  Interact with us.  We love talking with our followers.

Kristin:  And they can sign up for your newsletter if they check out your website.  I know you’re also on LinkedIn for those listeners who don’t use social media.

Katie:  Yes, yes.  We try to hit all avenues.

Kristin:  That’s perfect.  Well, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, and it was lovely to chat with you today, Katie.

Katie:  Thank you so much.

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.

Grandparents as Caregivers: Podcast Episode #186

Kristin chats with Kristin Morter of Gold Coast Doulas about the important role grandparents play as caregivers and how they should prepare themselves for taking care of a new little one.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, this is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am here today to chat with one of our own doulas, Kristin Morter.  Welcome, Kristin!

Kristin Morter:  Thank you!  Thanks so much for having me.

Kristin:  Happy to have you on.  So our topic today is all about supporting grandparents in today’s modern world with so many changes from when they were parents themselves.  Everything from safe sleep standards to feeding to car seat safety – all of it is much different.  So let’s get into it!

Kristin Morter:  That sounds great.  I’d love to.

Kristin:  Let’s start with a bit about your background, Kristin.  I know obviously you teach our Modern Grandparents class, but tell us a bit about your work as a doula and what led you to want to teach grandparents.

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, so I actually have a background also in early childhood education and development, and I’ve loved kids my whole life.  In become a doula, I just really found a passion in helping people just really get educated on what the best practices are and just making sure that they feel capable and knowledgeable about moving forward as parents.  And then the wonderful world of becoming a grandparent is just such an exciting time, and people want to be involved.  I think it’s amazing that our grandparents have the capabilities to be even more involved now than ever before and just making sure that there’s no conflicts between children and grandparents and making sure it’s a smooth transition into grandparenthood and just giving them all the tools they need.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So obviously, your course is available virtually to any grandparents who are out of state.  We are located in West Michigan.  And you also offer in person options, correct?

Kristin Morter:  Yes, that’s correct.

Kristin:  So it’s been great to introduce grandparents and especially during the pandemic times, we’ve had so much gifting of day and overnight postpartum support, even if they are able to come in to help in the first couple of weeks or are able to help out in the daytime.  They’re also realizing that they want sleep overnight to be able to help care for grandkids during the day, so that’s where gifting postpartum doula support comes in.

Kristin Morter:  Absolutely.  I don’t think that staying up overnight gets easier as we get older, so I definitely think that there is a huge benefit of hiring a postpartum doula so everybody can be energized and ready for the daytime because you never know what’s going to happen in those hours.  So I definitely agree that gifting postpartum doula hours overnight is an extra special way to bless your kids.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And certainly with your skill sets, since Gold Coast is launching our baby registry program, you’re one of our registry experts, and so you’re also able to walk them along any presents they want to gift, again outside of services, but baby gear products, really walking through baby carriers, understanding safe baby wearing, safe sleep, and so on.

Kristin Morter:  Yeah.  It’s incredible how fast things change, too, with all the baby stuff.  Even since I’ve had my kids, there’s so many cool new gadgets out there, and it’s impossible to try to keep up to date on all of it if you’re not living in it every day.  So I think it’s definitely a great way for me to be able to support grandparents and parents in keeping up to date on what’s been recalled, what is the best product for each individual lifestyle.  Yeah, it’s really been an awesome thing.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And certainly for grandparents who are caregiving in their own homes versus their children’s homes, understanding baby proofing and really how to set their house up for caregiving is also an important individualized concept that you cover in the class.

Kristin Morter:  Absolutely, yeah.  We don’t want people to be pulling out their pack and plays from the 1990s and bringing them back out for baby, so just making sure that everything is up to date and ready for baby to use and super safe.

Kristin:  Yes.   Let’s talk car seats, since so much has changed with car seat safety.  Give me your top tips as far as choosing the correct car seat and making sure it’s installed properly in every vehicle that is using a car seat and what you’ve learned not only as a postpartum doula but also as an educator.

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, so there’s really two different types of car seats that you can get for newborn infants and then growing up into early childhood stage.  There’s the baby carrier, like the bucket car seat that has the base that can be snapped in and out of the car.  So the base gets put in the back seat, and then you can clip the car seat in and out.  Also, you can just use the seat belt to put those bucket seats into the back seat.  Those are really convenient because you can remove baby.  You don’t have to worry if baby is sleeping.  You can just take the whole car seat out without waking them.  A lot of times now, there are strollers that can adapt to the individual’s car seats, so you can easily take the kiddos into the store with you or to a playground or a park.  The other kind is one of the transitional type of car seats that grows with the baby from infant all the way up to toddlerhood stage.  These are great because you don’t have to get multiple car seats, but the one downside of it is you’re not going to be able to remove it from your car for easy transport.  But I think depending on your lifestyle and where you’re going and what you’re wanting to do, you really have to take that into consideration when you’re picking out a car seat.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  And as you mentioned, there are many of the multiuse where you can clip it into a stroller, and my suggestion for clients is always to, if you’re going to be utilizing the same car seat that has a base, to make sure that each car that is going to be transporting baby will have a properly installed base versus trying to reinstall every time you’re transporting the baby.  Again, safety is so important.

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, and it’s really great to get it checked out, too, by a certified person who does car seat checks, whether it’s somebody from the police department or somebody in your local community.  There’s tons of resources out there and ways for you to be able to find who can check your car seat for you.

Kristin:  Yeah, usually no matter where you live, there are certain fire stations that have certified car seat safety technicians, but not every fire station does.  You need to look online.  And then locally, we have Secure Quest that can be found on a national registry for certified car seat safety technicians.  So you can certainly Google those options, but it is a good recommendation to have it properly installed.  Even the most modern ones that have the buttons that show, you can find that you didn’t exactly install it correctly once you have a tech look at it.

Kristin Morter:  Yes.  I remember when we were first putting in one of our car seats, we had a friend who was a car seat safety technician, and he came in, and we did not have it installed properly.  I’m so glad that he was able to catch that.  So it’s very important to get it checked out.

Kristin:  Yes.  And certainly feeding has changed so much, and there are obviously very modern pumping options.  Milk storage and formula feeding is much different now than it was.  What are your top feeding tips for grandparents who want to be involved in caregiving?

Kristin Morter:  My top feeding tips are just to make sure that you’re as supportive as possible with whatever feeding style your kids choose for their baby.  Absolutely, I love the whole method of pace feeding with babies.  It reduces gas, reduces colic.  It helps really mimic breastfeeding for breastfed babies but also reduces all of the air intake, too, for bottlefed babies.  I love the Haaka.  That’s one of the best feeding friends that you can have.  It’s like a breast pump that you can attach while you’re nursing and it catches the milk from the other side, too.  So it’s a great way to keep your breast milk from leaking out just into a breast pad or something else.  So it’s definitely a gift that a grandparent could buy for their daughter or daughter-in-law or for anybody breastfeeding.  Another thing is just to make sure that your kids aren’t having to transport bottle things back and forth.  Try to have a bottle brush and soap at your house available for bottle cleanings so you can send home clean bottles with your grandbabies, just so that parents aren’t having to pack up their entire kitchen to bring to your house.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And then certainly formula feeding for grandparents who are involved in formula feeding, following directions on the package because it is, again, much different.  As doulas, we follow the directions to a T.

Kristin Morter:  Absolutely.  And I’ve been noticing that there have been a lot more European brands of formula out there.  A lot of American brands are one scoop for every two ounces of water, and the European brands are one scoop to one ounce of water, so it’s very important to make sure that we’re following all those rules, making sure that the bottles are clean and sterilized before we use them.  And sterilize – normal dish soap can usually get the job done.  You don’t need to have a sterilizer in your house.  You can use a steam or UV light sterilizer, but it’s not needed.  But yeah, just making sure that you’re also using purified water to make those bottles and make sure everything is just really clean and neat.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So let’s move along to safe sleep.  Again, things have changed so much from when our parents raised us, so what are your top tips for grandparents to make sure that any sleep surface that baby is in is safe?

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, so oh my goodness, it definitely has changed.  I remember my mom talking about sleeping on our bellies and kind of being shocked.  Like, what, I was a tummy sleeper?  Then you had the side sleeping for a while, and then you had all these baby positioners in the cribs.

Kristin:  And bumpers and blankets and toys.  Everything was in the crib back then.  Not so much anymore.

Kristin Morter:  Right, we’re not even suggesting mobiles really just because it can be a distraction during sleep and you never know if it’s going to fall in.  So just making sure that you have a nice, firm mattress so that babies aren’t rolling over and getting their face plowed into the mattress that’s too soft.  Really tight fitting crib sheets are excellent.  You don’t want to have a lot of give in the material.  And then no bumper pads.  We don’t do that anymore.  We know that it’s not safe inside of the crib.  And back to sleep is best, so do everything that we can to put baby back to sleep.  Obviously, when they start rolling over that’s a different story, but just wanting to make sure that we’re trying to provide the safest area for them to sleep in.  Another great thing that’s been coming out has been the nests and the baby sleeper thing that you can put on the couch or the floor.  They’re not really safe for sleeping in.

Kristin:  You’re talking like a Dock A Tot?

Kristin Morter:  Yes, the Dock A Tot.  I couldn’t remember it for a second.  They’re not great for sleeping in for long periods of time.  It’s okay for short periods of time when the baby is being very supervised, but not for them to sleep in.  I know they get really cozy and sleep better in those sometimes, but it’s just not as safe as a nice firm mattress in a crib.

Kristin:  Yes.  They’re a station that you can set baby down in to be hands free for a moment with supervision, but just as you mentioned, they’re not safe sleep at all.

Kristin Morter:  Right.

Kristin:  So let’s move along to other topics that you cover in the modern grandparents class.

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

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, so one of the things that we’ve been going over, too, is the generational differences of how we got our information.  So ways that they received their information when they were raising their kids was usually their doctor or a book that they had read, and nowadays, we really are a Google people.  If we need to know anything, we are researching it, and we are trying to figure out what the best practice is right away.  That can get overwhelming for people, too, so I think one of the nice things especially that we offer is those classes.  I think in-person classes have become a big thing probably since I’ve become a parent, at least.  I know classes were a big deal in the early 2000s, as well.  I think it’s been a huge asset to parenting just because you get to see other people’s opinions and their expertise and just really figure out for yourself how your family should move forward as far as parenting styles, breastfeeding, anything that you want to learn about.

Kristin:  Yes.  And any tips – you mentioned parenting styles – again, to be supportive when you’re talking with grandparents about how to support their children’s unique parenting style?  And again, we’re making sure that the advice you’re giving and the advice that our postpartum doula teams is obviously safe, but we support all parenting styles and utilize judgment-free support, so how does that apply to your class and really getting some acceptance with different parenting styles?

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, so I think a lot of times, there is a generational difference between how our parents raised us and how we’re raising our kids.  So that can cause a lot of tension in relationships and cause unnecessary conflict.  So I just really encourage all the grandparents coming through my class to be judgment free, to really take their kids’ perspective into consideration.  The grandkids aren’t their kids, and things have changed a lot since when they parented.  So I do think that while their advice is very needed and necessary at times and probably wanted, sometimes we just have to really pull back and think, okay, is this good advice?  Is this true today?  Is this something that’s going to help or hinder our relationship?  So just taking all those things into consideration is very important.

Kristin:  Yes, so true.  And I know like with my own personal family, I have a big family, many siblings, and many of them are parents.  And they all parent much different than, say, I do.  So my parents have learned to, as far as their role as grandparents, really support the individual styles.

Kristin Morter:  Yes.  I always say that these children were born to you, and so it’s your job to be able to do with them the best that you possible can, and whatever that looks like is so different varying from family to family.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So what else can we take away from the modern grandparents class?

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, one other thing that we’ve been talking about is introducing pets to babies.  That’s been actually a bigger topic of conversation than I thought, and people are getting really excited about it.  A lot of grandparents have gotten puppies since their kids have moved out of the house, and just making sure that those puppies and animals are ready for a baby to come into their home is really great.  So a lot of times I suggest bringing something that the baby has worn into the home before you bring baby into the house, just for the animal to smell.  I suggest putting it into a calm space, so like the dog’s bed or somewhere that they like to relax and be peaceful.  Once they get to know that scent, they’re less likely to be as excitable when the baby comes into the house for the first time.  And then there’s also a lot of great dog training tips that you can get from your local dog hospitals or even training centers.  You can ask your local vet, as well, just for different tips and pointers on what you should do to get your dog ready.  Dogs are kind of like kid people.  They each have a different personality, so that’s why it kind of varies a little bit from animal to animal.  But just having a great new introduction is a great way to start.

Kristin:  Yes, and many dog training centers have that adjusting to baby class, not only for puppies, but also full grown dogs.

Kristin Morter:  Yes.  It’s a great way to get our fur babies involved.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So any other items that are important to cover?  There’s even such a difference in toys and green items and looking into just, again, keeping up with recalls and knowing where to look for those.  Certainly even registering items that are purchased in case there is a recall so you can get a full refund.

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, there are a lot of sites that you can actually get a recall notice from.  I believe that is one of them.  It will give you recall notices.  But also making sure that the toys that you’re providing at your house kind of go along with the parenting style of the parents of the kids.  So if your kids are going more natural and wanting to stay away from chemical things, trying to get those hardwood, natural, Montessori type toys more in your home.  Another thing that’s important that I don’t think we ever thought about in the past is offgassing.  All the toxins that are in our toys, our bouncy seats, different clothes that we have.  Making sure that you put it in a well-ventilated area before baby uses it.  And then just making sure that we’re washing everything properly.  I know I’ve seen a handful of grandparents that just open it from the package and give it to the kid right away.  Let’s clean it first.  Let’s give it a little wash.  Making sure that we’re aware of the chemicals being used in products.  We are a generation, too, that is very – a lot more knowledgeable about what’s coming into our bodies and aware of what we’re exposing our children to, so I think being aware of what we’re doing and helping our kids out with that is great.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Thank you for sharing so many wonderful tips and insights into the modern grandparents class.  The class can be found at the Gold Coast Doulas website.  We also have information on social media.  Kristin is our instructor and can teach virtually as well as in person.  The virtual class is $85.  The in-person class is $125, and the class is private, so you’re able to, again, ask questions and work around your own busy schedule.  I know this is a relaunch of the class for us, but when we held the class pre-COVID years back, it didn’t work to have group classes because everyone has different availability.  Some grandparents are still working, so the daytime classes didn’t work, and weekends tend to be busy, so it was difficult to get everyone to match up on times, so we decided to make it a private class.

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, and it’s been great having the private class, just getting to know the grandparents, getting to see how excited they are and just share in that joy with them.  It’s just been a huge blessing to me, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

Kristin:  And it has been interesting as grandparents, of course, have been gifting postpartum doula support and some of our other classes for their children, but we’ve also had our clients gift their parents a grandparents course, so it’s been sort of a full circle moment.

Kristin Morter:  Yep.  It’s so great.

Kristin:  Yes.  Well, thank you so much, Kristin.  Any last words of advice for grandparents who are listening to the podcast?

Kristin Morter:  Just enjoy every moment of that grandbaby.  They grow up so fast, and you get to spoil them as much as you can and just really enjoy it.

Kristin:  Love it.  Thank you.

Kristin Morter:  Thank you so much.

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.

Finding the Perfect Childcare Option: Podcast Episode #185

Kristin and Jaynie Fawley of Michigan Nanny Solutions chat about childcare options and finding the perfect nanny.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Jaynie Fawley today.  Jaynie is the owner and founder of Michigan Nanny Solutions, which started in 2013.  Jaynie is a professional nanny herself, and she saw a need in the Kalamazoo area for someone who could establish realistic expectations and standards for what the nanny job and the nanny-parent relationship should look like.  Jaynie wanted to be able to provide education, advocacy, and empowerment to the local nanny industry.  Michigan Nanny Solutions exists today to be that resource for nannies and families.  Jaynie is a professional career nanny and certified newborn care specialist with 16 years of experience supporting families in Kalamazoo.  She has spent the last eleven years working as a nanny with the same amazing family, now doing before and after school support for them.  So she knows the relationship that nannies have with their families and families have, so she craftfully pairs families with the perfect nanny for them.  Welcome, Jaynie.  So happy to have you here!

Jaynie:  Me, too!

Kristin:  So we are going to talk about everything from childcare options for a family with a new baby or expanding their family to hiring the perfect nanny.  So let’s get into it.

Jaynie:  Awesome, yeah.  So we as an agency specialist in placing long-term, professional nannies who are really well educated, highly qualified, and they’re looking for long-term placements where they can stay with a family for a long time.  Yes, ten years is a lot, but the average, you know, a family is hoping to have a nanny until they no longer need them, and nannies are hoping to have multi-year placement.  But part of our intake process with new families is helping them determine if that’s even the right choice for the family.  With so many options out there for childcare, for everything from having a family member watching the child so using an in-home daycare, daycare centers, all the way up to having a nanny, there’s a lot to consider.  I would say the first thing is the affordability of each option.  So if we’re looking at a relative caring for a childcare, that might be free or very reduced cost because it’s a grandma or an aunt or something like that, where there isn’t any legal requirement for the family to be paying a certain amount.  And then if we don’t have a family member that’s available, then maybe a family starts looking at daycares.  And an in-home daycare is an awesome option for a lot of families.  There’s a lot of pros and cons for that, but it tends to be the most affordable.  It tends to be $30, $40, $50 tops per day per child.  And then if they’re using a daycare center where there’s more children, more caregivers, more overhead, and also more qualified individuals working there, it’s going to be a little bit more expensive, averaging $75 per day per child.  And then a nanny with the current average hourly rate being $25 an hour, that could be $200 a day.  That’s going from $30 a day to $200 a day.  It’s a pretty big range.  So families will then decide, can I pay $500 a week or can I pay $55,000 per year.  That is a huge difference.

Kristin:  Right, exactly.  And certainly, I mean, there are au pair options and other choices within that range, but I’ve found from an agency owner perspective that many of my clients in the last couple of years during COVID have really wanted a nanny versus a center to avoid getting any kind of illness for their child or their entire family.

Jaynie:  Absolutely.  That’s kind of the second consideration is what is the availability of this childcare option, and through the pandemic, we saw a lot of daycare centers having to fully shut down.  And it could be days.  It could be weeks.  But that is potentially hundreds of children who are not getting care that week, and families are scrambling for backup care while also being considered about, does that mean my child was exposed last week?

Kristin:  Exactly.  And then you need to stay home because your child, you know, may not have COVID but was exposed.  Yes, and then teacher ratios.  It just – it does create a lot of difficulty for professional families.

Jaynie:  Right.  And of course, that exposure to kids – you know, honestly, back in pre-COVID, we used to say that one of the pros of using a daycare was that your child was going to be exposed to more germs, which is hard in those first years where it seems like your baby always has a runny nose and a wheezy little cough, but they just showed that they had increased immunity over time and would get less sick less often as they got older, where children coming out of nanny care, once they start kindergarten and first grade, that’s when they start getting all of those sicknesses, those runny noses, and those wheezy coughs.  So it used to be something that we would say is a selling point.  Like, oh, your kid’s going to have increased immunity.  Yes, that means that they’re sick more often, and then of course, the downside of that is a daycare will not provide sick care for your children, so you have to have a backup option.  And nannies do provide care for sick children, so that is one of the big checks in a pros column, which we saw a lot during the pandemic.  Families are like, my child has a sniffle.  They can’t go to daycare.  But as long as they don’t have COVID, the nanny will come, right?  Like, yes.  As long as there’s no COVID, your nanny is going to be there if your kids are sick.  If you’re sick and you’re not going to work, your nanny is still going to come, and most nannies are going to work when they have minor illnesses and injuries, so they’re less than that childcare.  You don’t need to be taking time off or scrambling to find backup care as often for those sick situations.

Kristin:  Yes.  And then as far as nannies, especially because you are picking, you know, the best of the best nannies for your families, but what would a typical nanny background and training be compared to an in-home daycare?

Jaynie:  It’s a great topic.  So when daycares that are in-home daycares – it’s generally somebody who obviously owns a home and is opening their home to provide daily, full-time childcare.  So they have to get licensed through the state.  They have to get their home licensed.  Everybody who lives in the home is background checked.  But there’s no requirements for any early childhood education or really any formal education for the person providing daycare.  And in daycare centers, the lead teacher in every single room has to have a degree in early childhood education.  The assistant teachers don’t have to have a degree, but they often have what’s called a CDA or a child development associate’s, which is a certification program.  But every staff person in a daycare center has to do continuing education.  So that’s one of the big wins of an early childcare center or a daycare center versus having just a licensed daycare.  But then nannies, most of the nannies that we represent do have degrees.  Some come from completely unrelated fields, but we see a lot of early childhood education individuals, lot of elementary educators who are leaving the classroom setting to start working in early childhood.  But at minimum, we work with candidates who have at least three years of professional childcare experience and are prioritizing the individuals who have stayed in positions kind of long term.  That’s who we tend to find the most success with.  But whether or not a nanny is educated, their job description, at the most basic level, is to fully invest in the personalized care for each child that they’re watching.  So for any nanny that’s working with a child, they are going to be intentionally contributing to that child’s physical development.  So for an infant, it’s making sure tummy time is happening.  Working on sitting up, working on crawling, working on walking.  They’re also working on that verbal and language development, which sometimes starts with, like, baby sign and goes on from there.  They’re also intentionally working on educational development.  So for infants, it’s a lot of sensory activities.  Toddlers and bigger, there’s more challenging fine motor skills, gross motor skills.  Letter, number, shape recognition; that kind of thing.  They’re also going to be intentionally working on social development.  So where socialization is a big mark in the pros column for both daycare centers and in-home daycares, nannies have to kind of go out of their way to provide socialization, but they’re really good at it.  So that’s doing music classes, story times at the library, meeting other nannies at the children’s museums, seeking out opportunities to get those children socialized.  And one of the benefits of a nanny is that the child that they’re watching is not just socializing with their age group like they do in the toddler room at a daycare.  They might be hanging out with infants, preschoolers, and elementary aged kids, depending on what time of year it is.  So they kind of get a broader range of socialization with more children in different environments.  And then, of course, emotional development is a big part of what nannies do.  Nannies tend to use, like, a connection-centered or gentle, positive discipline approach, which is working on a lot of emotional resilience from when they start with those children.  So whether they’re doing, like, a planned curriculum every day or just making sure that all of their interactions with that child are meeting some kind of a developmental goal, that’s their job.  That’s what they’re there for, and they can personalize that attention per child, where in a daycare center, every child is kind of learning the same thing, and they’re not able to adjust activities to make them more challenging for one child or less challenging for another.

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

Kristin:  So what is the difference – I guess my main question is, between, like, finding an agency, like Michigan Nanny Solutions for your nanny, versus going to or Facebook groups?  What do you offer that would be different than a parent doing a search on their own?

Jaynie:  That is a great question.  One of the things I say all the time is that I’m not doing anything through the agency that a family cannot do themselves.  But the agency provides a more streamlined process where we’re able to attract and identify and screen and train and orient the best of the best of the nannies who are currently available.  So that means that when a family hires us, they’re not spending those hours and hours on screening, going through those messages, trying to get resumes.  It can be a lot of time investment just wading through people they don’t want to meet.  Where as the agency, that’s kind of my time wasted, not theirs.  So they’re going to pay the agency, tell us what they want, what their budget is, what they’re looking for, what kind of goals they want to have met, what their own family culture is like.  And then our job is to identify two or three individuals we think are going to be a really good fit.  So the parents have just these three – we’ll say three individuals presented to them with letters of recommendations, with references checked, with letters of interest written, professional resumes, and they just get to pick the one they like the most, which is pretty incredible.  That’s very empowering to be able to say, here’s three people who are excited about the opportunity, who are qualified to do it, and I just get to pick the one that I viscerally think is the best fit for myself, my children, my home, and our future together.  So that’s the biggest benefit of using the agency is less time wasted and better quality candidates that are fully vetted.

Kristin:  That makes sense.  So Jaynie, if someone wanted to, as far as their goals, if they wanted to include household tasks or school pickups, if a family has older children, or specific newborn care goals or even a nanny share, you would go through all of the options with them and then help them work out part-time nanny versus full time and what they’re looking for exactly and then screen that again versus going on any of the online sites, including

Jaynie:  Exactly, yes.  We take in applications and they fill out their applications with us.  We ask all of those questions up front from the candidates, too.  So if a family comes to us and says, “We’re really looking for somebody who has experiencing teaching in a Montessori classroom, and we would prefer for them to be this, that, and the other thing,” it’s very easy for us to go into our database and kind of narrow down who we already have available who meets those metrics.  And then we also offer the parents that option of, like, would you hire somebody amazing and then pay for them to get a Montessori training because as an agency, we have those resources to share.  And lo and behold, there’s actually a Montessori for nannies training course.  So we help facilitate so that needs are met no matter what.  And we have to be careful about certain demographic or things that can be discriminated against.  We try to make really good matches based on culture and preferences that way, but of course, we can’t discriminate.  So there’s certain things that we are able to be like, you want a Mandarin speaking nanny?  I will do everything I can to find you a Mandarin speaking nanny.  But if there’s certain other categories that I don’t even have the option to discuss with nannies, then families have to be more willing to say, okay, let’s focus on the Mandarin speaking nanny and not worry as much about those other things.  But that’s one of the benefits, too, of using a nanny agency.  We can prepare the person that you hire to meet your needs, even if they’re not ready to do so within their current training.  So families that have newborns, we often recommend, since nannies don’t always have newborn care experience, since they’re usually starting after maternity leave, we’ll say, why don’t you pay for this newborn care training, and that will better prepare them to take care of your children or when your baby comes home.”  This is usually like the nanny’s been there with the 2-year-old since maternity leave, and now they’re having a new baby, and they’re like, oh, we actually need our nanny.  So what can we do to get her ready for this newborn to come home and be really effective?  So we’re kind of here for that journey for families even after they hire their nanny to make sure that the nanny stays current with their professional development to continue to meet those needs.  The needs of a family with a newborn and the needs of a family with a preschooler as far as that kind of day to day stuff changes.  But things that are commonly a part of every nanny’s job – we’re prepared to do transportation, driving kids to and from school, driving kids to and from summer camps, driving kids to and from music classes and swim class, it’s just a part of our job.  So generally the nannies are going to use their own vehicle.  The family will provide car seats for each of their children.  And then the nanny’s responsibility is to keep track of their mileage and get mileage reimbursement from the family.  That is part of the cost of having an employee.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And then of course there are live-in nannies.  Do you do a lot of placements for live-in?

Jaynie:  We do not have a huge demand for live-in in West Michigan.  Live-in nannies tend to be most popular in the major metro areas where the nanny can’t afford to live within a reasonable commute from where her employers live.

Kristin:  Makes sense.  So Detroit would see that more often than West Michigan.

Jaynie:  Exactly.  But if the nanny can get there reasonably within not having to use public transportation, then they will – most nannies prefer not to live in, but in certain major metro areas, there’s no choice.  If you want to be a nanny, you’re going to end up living with the family.

Kristin:  Sure.  So as far as hours, say a family did have a live-in nanny.  Then they would have time off and ability to leave the home.  I’ve worked with our overnight postpartum doulas and newborn care specialists.  We’ve had families have nannies during the day or live-ins who were not working overnight because they needed to be rested for the family during the day.  So I would love for you to get into families with other professional services working within the home, whether it’s a household manager, a doula, newborn care specialist, and how the nannies can work seamlessly with other caregivers in the household.  A cleaning service or a housekeeping service.

Jaynie:  We see that a lot.  Families that can afford to hire nannies can tend to afford to hire these other services, as well.  And we’ve done placements for families where they have a nanny there for childcare.  They have a private educator there to do virtual schooling, and then they might have a household manager there packing lunches and making dinner.  So it can be a working household.  I think the best thing is that mom and dad have to know how to maintain that communication and how to hold those scopes of practice for each person.  If each person knows very clearly what their job responsibilities are and what expectations they’re needing to meet, there shouldn’t be a lot of confusion or overlap or somebody getting upset, that kind of thing.  When you have somebody who’s highly specialized coming in, like a newborn specialist or postpartum doula, who’s there to do stuff like overnight sleep conditioning, I would say that kind of trumps what the nanny does during the day.  For that consistency’s sake, then the family needs to help the nanny understand this postpartum doula, this newborn care specialist is going to come in and help us teach our newborn to sleep, so this is the plan that they would like you to follow during the day.  It needs to come from the parents.  So as long as the parents are able and willing to maintain their employer status, which each of those employees are contractors, the rest of that situation is going to go really well.  And the consistency is really important, so it’s nice when the family, the parents themselves, are able to say, all right, look, here’s what I need you to do, and here’s when you get to kind of take back over.  That helps everybody kind of not have any feelings hurt or make any big mistakes or missteps that would cause any kind of tension.

Kristin:  Yes.  And Jaynie, you also do placements for newborn care specialists.  Can you let our audience know a bit about what that specialty includes and why it is so different than the role of a nanny or even a postpartum doula?

Jaynie:  So newborn care specialists are highly trained.  Many are certified.  And their job is to come into the family’s home when they have a newborn, and most either are working a strictly overnight shift of 10 to 12 hours, or they’re doing a 24/7 shift with a couple of days off per week.  But they’re specifically there to kind of take over the sleep and routine for that infant.  They’re going to come in and help create routines, a daytime routine, a nighttime routine, a response plan for when that baby wakes and what they eat and all of that.  But their overarching goal is to focus on creating a very safe and sleep-conducive environment for the baby to sleep in, creating those daytime and nighttime routines, and then their goal is that by the time the babies are three to four months old, they should be sleeping through the night.  I’m doing quotes on “through the night” because it’s only, like, a six to eight hour stretch sometimes.  If your baby is sleeping six to eight hours in that first stretch of sleep, that is what we would consider sleeping through the night.  Ideally, eventually, they’ll get to, like, a 12-hour stretch of sleep.  But by three or four months old, if you can get your baby to that point, mom and dad are going to get so much better sleep after that newborn care specialist time there is done.  I also like to – because people understand very well what sleep training is, but what newborn care specialists do is not sleep training.  They are sleep conditioning.  So where sleep training, the goal is to alter your response to a child’s needs so that they need you less.  A newborn care specialist is being so intentional in responding to a baby’s needs every time they need them that they just naturally end up needing them less.  So you are never letting the baby cry.  You are always responding to needs, but with that foundation that you’re doing intentionally with each wake up, they will eventually start waking up less, and it’s depending on their size and nutrition and all of that, too.  We are not expecting a three-week old to be sleeping six to eight hour stretches.  But just kind of setting those really good foundations.  I find that many people will hire for the first time they have a baby.  They don’t really know – they want the support.  They would rather kind of give an expert, professional, the responsibility to help them learn how to teach their baby to sleep.  And then on the second side of that, we have a lot of calls from families who say, I have a two-year-old at home, and when I had that two-year-old, I was sleeping when that baby slept.  That’s what everyone told me.  Sleep when the baby sleeps.  She goes, when do I sleep now, if I have a two-year-old and a newborn?

Kristin:  That is the challenge, for sure.

Jaynie:  It is.  So then they’ll hire the newborn care specialist to come for that fourth trimester, that three or four month period, just so that mom and dad are getting that full night of sleep.  They’re better able to be parents to both children during the day, and then by the time that newborn care specialist contract is up after that three- or four-month period, they’re only waking up once or twice a night, which is sustainable.  It feels sustainable for a parent rather than only getting an hour of sleep here or there.  And then I would say the other people that call us are the multiple parents, the parents with twins and triplets.  They just need help.

Kristin:  Exactly.

Jaynie:  They need help, and a newborn care specialist can be so effective, especially with multiple and especially with preemie multiple where a first-time parent of newborns is going to get super overwhelmed and not know what to do.  Having that newborn care specialist as your professional support is going to just make everything so much easier.

Kristin:  Yes.  And sometimes with multiple, one baby is in the NICU, and another is home, so there’s that stress and strain and back and forth.  A newborn care specialist or postpartum care doula can be a huge asset.  And, you know, again, they can be different developmentally and different needs with sleep and feeding and so on.  I agree, it is a big demand to have that expert help.

Jaynie:  And in our culture, we don’t always have family members.  Back in previous generations, it was moms were mostly stay at home moms.  And their mom and mother-in-law would be retired or stay-at-home grandmas and so you kind of had that built-in support network of people who are not working during the day and who can come and help you.  And with the current generation, even our grandmas are often still working.  So these moms just really don’t have as much even familial support that’s available.  Somebody might be able to come for two or three hours, but that’s not enough to make a big difference, to give that parent enough reprieve.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And then of course, you know, if grandparents are involved in caregiving, they may not be up to date on the latest safe sleep standards or understanding car seat rules and regulations and so on.  There’s a big difference in feeding and so many things compared to when they were parents themselves.

Jaynie:  And they are tired.  They’ve raised their babies, so they don’t want to stay up all night with a baby.  They may not know how to sooth effectively.  So it’s helpful – it’s awesome when you can have that help, but if you don’t have that help, you can hire it.  There’s just about a service for everything nowadays, and helping people take care of their babies and children is no different.

Kristin:  So true.  So any final tips for our listeners, Jaynie?

Jaynie:  I think of the childcare industry, and I am personally and professionally invested.  I have been working with the same family for almost 11 years.  The children that I nanny are 11 and 9.  The 9-year-old, I held the day she was born, hours after her birth.  So I am so invested in the beauty of the industry.  But I also know that there are not great options out there, so I would just encourage parents to find the best of the best option and to find something that makes you feel in your heart of hearts and your soul of souls that my child is safe here, my child is loved here, these people or this person are going to be communicative, they are going to support me, and I can feel supportive of them.  And whether that’s an in-home daycare or a daycare center or a nanny – the only way a parent is going to go to work and stop worrying is if they have full trust and respect in their caregiver.  So going on that foundation is going to be the best place to start, and finding a place that you can count on long term is going to be a benefit, as well.

Kristin:  Love it.  Excellent advice.  So Jaynie, let’s get into how our listeners can find you.  You have a website; you’re active on Facebook, which is Michigan Nanny Solutions on Facebook.  They can find you on LinkedIn also as Michigan Nanny Solutions.  So we look forward to continuing our conversations, and thanks so much for all of your time and work you do with families and nannies alike.

Jaynie:  Thank you so much.  It was such a pleasure.

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.

Adrenal Fatigue and Gut Issues Postpartum: Podcast Episode #182

We talk about addressing adrenal fatigue and gut issues postpartum with Maja Miller of Maja Miller Wellness.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Maja Miller today of Maja Miller Wellness.  She is a metabolic health coach and clinical functional nutritionist.  Welcome, Maja!

Maja:  Hi!  I’m so excited to be here.

Kristin:  So I know our main focus is all about adrenal fatigue and gut issues in the postnatal phase.  So there’s so many buzzwords around adrenal fatigue and gut issues, and our listeners may not even really understand what that’s all about.  So fill us in!

Maja:  Well, adrenal issues and gut issues are often present also prenatally.  And I often see those kind of things get worse after the delivery of the baby.  So a lot of my clients are actually moms that are either stay at home moms or they are working moms, and they’ve had one, two, three plus pregnancies.  And I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that there is that – a pregnancy is one of three kinds of stressors you can put on your body.  Let’s kind of separate adrenal and gut issues.  I’ll first kind of talk a little bit about adrenal issues, but some people, some of your listeners may have heard of this as adrenal fatigue.  Clinicians essentially call it HPA axis dysfunction.  So the HPA stands for the hypothalamus, the pituitary, and the adrenals.  And the hypothalamus and the pituitary live in your brain, and your adrenals are these two kind of sugar cube sized organs.  You have two of them.  One sits kind of right above each kidney.  And the adrenals get turned on when your fight or flight portion of your nervous system, your sympathetic nervous system, gets turned on.  So back in the day, we would be out hunting or gathering food.  We would see a tiger.  That would be perceived as a stressor, and our adrenals would kick on.  The autonomic nervous system, specifically the sympathetic nervous system, would kick on, and there would be a cortisol surge in your body.  And cortisol is really great in small amounts, and it is a catabolic steroid.  Anabolic steroids build you up, and catabolic steroids build you down.  And the difference and kind of the problem between back in the hunter gatherer days where we would have an occasional saber tooth tiger sighting, right now our stress is off the charts, and stress is the number sixth leading cause of death.  Most people don’t understand that stress isn’t just a stressful day at work.  There are three different categories of stress.  One is a physical stressor, and labor, delivery, and growing the baby prenatal and postnatal, that is a massive physical stressor on a woman.  And then the baby comes, and then there’s a lot of biochemical stressors, so things like not getting enough sleep.  Maybe you’re not eating appropriately.  Antibiotic use, alcohol use, over the counter medicines, inflammatory foods, exposure to pesticides and insecticides, these are all biochemical stressors.  And then you’ve got that third stress category that I think a lot of people are familiar with, which are perceived or emotional stressors, which postpartum – it definitely fits into that.  Am I being a good mom?  Should I breastfeed or bottle feed?  There’s so many decisions that we make in that postnatal period that can be incredibly stressful.  So once you take a step back and take a broader definition or a broader view of what is a stressor, now all of a sudden you realize that the occasional saber tooth tiger sighting has turned into constant, chronic, acute stress all day, every day, which results in flooding your system with cortisol, which means that you’re being – literally, it breaks you down at a cellular level.  So that’s kind of one of the things that I think a lot of moms are kind of dealing with in the postpartum phase, and a lot of what you deal with in the postpartum phase is linked with what you do leading up to your pregnancy, as well.   So that’s the adrenal fatigue, the HPA axis side of things.  And gut issues is a physical – can be a physical stressor or a biochemical stressor.  There may be parasites.  There may be pathogens.  You can have a bacterial overgrowth.  You can have structural damage in the gut, which leads to a very low grade sepsis.  Essentially, that’s what leaky gut is.  And that is one of those stressors that can lead to cortisol being pumped through the body.  So all of these things are very closely related, even though they’re two separate topics.

Kristin:   That makes complete sense.  So someone may have adrenal fatigue, but no gut issues?  Or do they usually go hand in hand?  Or what if someone only has gut issues and no fatigue?

Maja:  I like to take a look at symptoms.  So what are you feeling like?  And I’ll describe a very typical client of mine.  Little to no energy, problems either falling asleep or staying asleep; bloating, gas, sort of GI upsets.  That could be constipation or diarrhea or a combination of the two.  Often, no or low libido, so not interested in sex.  That’s typical in the postpartum phase for other reasons, but we’re just assuming this person is not in the phase.  A lot of skin issues, and then a lot of neurological symptoms.  So brain fog, anxiety, depression, those kinds of things, like having a hard time remembering.  Like, you’re looking at your daughter, and you can’t remember her name.  You obviously know your daughter, but you’re having a hard time figuring out what is – remembering their name.  Oftentimes, when you see those types of symptoms, it’s rarely just one things that’s happening.  And I rarely see folks that gut is completely clear and hormones are on point.  Usually, it’s a combination of things, and gut and adrenals are very closely tied together because every time that cortisol stimulates mast cells in the gut – essentially, there’s a histamine response that happens.  So stress and gut are very closely related.  It’s rare for me – these days, when you have all of those symptoms, it’s almost always gut.  What most people don’t realize is that your gut is where 80% of your immune system lives.  You have more neurons in your gut than you do in your spinal column.  You’ve got five to ten pounds of bacteria in there.  The gut is where a lot of our metabolism is at.  So gut has a very incredible role in how you respond to stress.  It’s why a lot of doctors refer to the gut as your second brain.  A lot of the times if you have gut permeability, structural issues in the gut, there can be something called leaky brain, as well.  A lot of these GI symptoms are highly correlated and tied to neurological symptoms like anxiety, depression, brain fog, those kinds of things.

Kristin:  Interesting.  So I can definitely see why a lot of your clients are seeing you early in pregnancy versus waiting until they have their baby and they’re in the postpartum recovery phase.

Maja:  Yeah, I wish that more people kind of understood just how the body is connected and how stress especially impacts babies in utero.  It’s in utero where your child’s nervous system kind of maps to your nervous system, and you can kind of impact whether or not that child is going to be kind of prone to fight or flight, which is that sympathetic nervous system, or the rest and digest, which is the parasympathetic nervous system, and you want to have a good balance of the two.  I am seven weeks away from giving birth to my first son, so this is – I was so excited to talk to you, and I miscarried about a year and a half ago or so.  I realized that my body wasn’t ready to get and stay pregnant.  And so I really over the last year and a half, two years – I’d already been doing a lot of work with kind of taking a holistic approach to my body, and where are my minerals at?  Where are my hormones?  Where are my inflammatory markers?  Am I sleeping well?  How are my energy levels?  And I had an extreme period of stress.  I would say probably extreme – probably a two year extreme period of stress, but before that, I was burning the candle at both ends.  I was an entrepreneur.  I’d moved to a new state, started my own company.  And I just knew that I needed to kind of fix some things.  It took some time, but here I am at the end of my third trimester.  I had no morning system.  I had no energy issues.  I had no crazy cravings.  I craved healthy food, but didn’t have crazy cravings for sweet things or fast food.  I’ve had little to no swelling.  It’s been amazing, and my husband likes to remind me, because I’m like, this has been such an easy pregnancy.  He likes to remind me that it was a lot of work to get me to this particular point.  So I wish that I saw more clients a year in advance.

Kristin:  Pre-conception, like when they’re talking about having kids.  It makes a lot of sense.

Maja:  Yes, but oftentimes what ends up happening is I see them after they’ve given birth or after they’re kind of done having babies, and the having given birth triggered a lot of things in them.  Sometimes that physical stressor will have triggered an autoimmune disease in them.  I wish it was the other way around.  I’d say probably 90, 95% of the time, I’m seeing folks – I’m seeing mamas after they’ve given birth, and I wish it was the other way around.

Kristin:   Yeah, of course.  It’s all about education and awareness, so now our listeners know about options, for those who are not currently pregnant.  And even if they’re in late stages of pregnancy, I’m sure that you could help them make some progress.

Maja:  Totally.  It’s never too late to start, and there’s so many things that you can do just from a lifestyle perspective that will move the needle substantially.  What I do with my clients – I’m really allergic to kind of cookie cutter programs and cookie cutter coaches that say there’s one way to do things.

Kristin:  We’re all unique.  Yeah, cookie cutter doesn’t work.

Maja:  No, and bio individuality is a very real concept, and that simply means that your metabolism is as unique as your fingerprint.  There isn’t another metabolism or fingerprint out there just like yours.  And so I think it’s really important to get a baseline for what is happening in all of your systems.  What I do with my clients is I run – once I do a medical intake with them and kind of understand, what are their symptoms, what are their main complaints, what are their past diagnoses – just spend a couple of hours really getting to know them.  Then I say, okay, I feel like we need to run some baseline labs.  So I might do blood chemistry.  I might do a lab called the GI map, which is essentially a stool sample that maps your microbiome.  If you have a history of autoimmune disease, I might run the Cyrex Array 5 to see if there’s any other kind of autoimmune predictive antibodies that are popping up.  And with every single one of my clients, I run a mineral analysis.  It’s a hair tissue mineral analysis, because minerals are just as important as hormones.  So there’s a handful of labs that I’ll run, and then that paints a picture for me.  And oftentimes, I mean, on average, my clients have seen 12 doctors before they come to me, and all of those doctors tell them that everything is fine and that all of their labs are in range and normal.  And yet all of those symptoms that I described at the beginning of our conversation – their hair is falling out.  Like, all this crazy stuff is happening.  You’re like, that’s not normal.  So oftentimes I’m able to take a look.  Look at the labs through a functional lens versus a clinical lens, and I’m able to kind of connect the dots.  And I’m not just looking at one system.  I’m looking at what’s going on with hormones, what’s going on with gut, what’s going on with mineral levels.  There’s all sorts of labs that I can run that paint a picture that tell me, oh, okay, this is why you’re having the skin issues.  This is why you’re having some brain fog issues.  And then I’m able to use those labs to kind of create tailored protocols to reverse those symptoms.  And I think that’s really – that’s really the goal.  One of my clients that I’m kind of in the process of wrapping up with in the next month or so – she is one of the few where I’m working with her because having a baby is a goal, and when I first started working with her – this was probably in June – her main complaints were lack of energy and fatigue, often at a scale of 8.  So from a scale of 1 to 10, it was like an 8.  So pretty high, right?  Bloating and cramping on a scale of 1 to 10, a 7.  Periodic weight gain – she kind of ranked that as a 5.  Anxiety often at a 3.  Periodic stress was a 2.  And so one of the first things that I do – you take this test.  It’s a medical intake where I figure out what is your metabolic chaos scorecard.  And metabolic chaos is not good.  You want to have as low a score as possible.  When I first started working with her, her metabolic chaos score was 178, which is very high.  I just had her take it again, and she had a 60% improvement.  Her metabolic chaos score is now a 70.

Kristin:  That’s amazing!

Maja:  And there’s another kind of intake that I do.  It’s called an adrenal stress causes that tells me where is the majority of your stress.  Is it mental emotional?  Is it environmental?  Is it lifestyle?  Is there metabolism stress?  So she went from a 69 to a 41, so that’s about a 40% decrease in stress.  And the metabolic chaos score improved by about 60%.  So what I’m doing is decreasing stress and increasing vital reserve, which means that you’re more likely to be able to get pregnant and stay pregnant, which is kind of the goal that all moms have.

Kristin:   Absolutely.  That is impressive.  What a case study!

Maja:  Yeah, I’m super proud of her.  I just had a call with her today, so she’s very top of mind for me.  I’m super proud of her, and yeah, she wants to be a mom, and she wants – we as moms want to give our kids the best chance at having healthy productive lives, and if we take a look at the incidence of autoimmune disease in kids, allergies in kids, asthma in kids –

Kristin:  It’s so high right now, yes.

Maja:  It is, and a lot of this stuff is environment, right?  Like, genes take millions of years to change, and this is all changed very much within a generation or two.  Like, I am 44 years old, and I don’t remember any kids that have peanut allergies.  Maybe one kid in my class, grade school, may have had an inhaler and had asthma.  But now it’s rare if you don’t have some sort of gnarly food allergy.  A lot of that is environmental.  Nothing in our genes has changed to trigger that big of a difference within a generation or two, so a lot of this is, what can you do prenatally, but as you said, it’s never too late to start.  There are always things that you can do.

Kristin:  Yes, exactly.  And so what is a typical amount of time that you are seeing your clients?  I mean, I’m sure it varies because everyone’s unique.

Maja:  Yeah, I would say probably 70% of my clients, I work with for about eight months.  And there’s maybe 20, 30% of my clients, something like that, that I will work with for about a full year.  Very rarely, if ever, am I doing – I can’t even think of a client that I’ve worked with for really more than 14 months, I would say.  And so the way that I typically work with my clients is that we do a two-month engagement, and that engagement is all of the intake, getting to know you, figuring out what labs to run, running all of the labs, and then I kind of deliver an R&R, a results and recommendations.  It’s a couple hour call where I walk you through, here’s all of your results.  Here’s how these results impact to your symptoms.  And then this is how I would want to work with you, and that’s kind of, I say, okay, I think it will take another six months, or I think it will take another eight months.  And I kind of walk them through what the high level plan would be.  And so that’s typical, so I start with that two-month engagement, and then I work with folks in six-month chunks of time.  So yeah, that’s kind of how I work with people, and I always say, like, I always ask people, well, how long have you been kind of stressed out or burning the candle at both ends or maybe not working out or maybe not eating the best?  And people are like, three years; five years; ten years.  So I think it’s really important to set the expectation at the very beginning that this isn’t going to be like an overnight, 21-day challenge kind of thing because typically when you’re seeing those kinds of symptoms that I talked about today, they’re really impacting people’s lives.  I mean, one of my clients essentially said she didn’t remember the first year of her daughter’s life, which was devastating.  She was so stressed out, had so much brain fog.  She was just so unhealthy that she doesn’t even remember.  So she was getting ready to have another baby, and she was like, I just want to do it differently this time.  So there’s some very real consequences for some of this stuff, and it’s always nice to be able to do a lot of this work ahead of time.

Kristin:  Yes.

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Kristin:  So are most of your clients local?  I know you offer virtual services, so do you work with people all over?

Maja:  I have two clients – three clients that are local, and the rest of my clients are international.  Japan, the UK, and then in other – they’re also in other states.  I think COVID kind of changed the way that people like to work, and they like to be able to – you know, one of my clients lives in Austin, but she happens to be in Michigan with family for the holidays.  So it’s nice that I’m, for the most part, able to send lab kits out to wherever you are.  Sometimes if you’re in a weird international location, it may not be possible, but yeah, I have clients kind of all over the world.  I just wrapped up a few months ago with a client that’s in the armed forces in Japan.  So people are all over.  It’s pretty easy to connect.

Kristin:  Yes.  So Maja, as far as our clients who are newly postpartum, what would be the difference in your depletion and just that tired state versus having full on adrenal fatigue?  When should they reach out, at what point, if they’re seen their doctor and the doctor’s like, you’re fine; you’re healthy.  This is just normal postpartum recover.

Maja:  Yeah, I don’t think that a lot of the things that we are told is normal is actually normal.  And I think that a lot of the things that we experience as women – we are told that, oh, this is just part of being a woman.  This is just part of getting older.  This is just a part of being a mom.  I know lots of moms that have children that work that didn’t experience postpartum depression where their hair didn’t fall out, where they had fairly good energy.  But they had very different lead-up to pregnancy and very different recovery in pregnancy.  And so I would say that there is no such thing as, like, normal anxiety, normal diarrhea, normal depression.  None of it is normal.  That is not how our bodies are naturally wired to operate.  But I feel like a lot of this has been normalized.  I feel that if men gave birth, grew and gave birth to children, and they felt like so many of the moms I know feel postpartum, a lot of things would change.

Kristin:  Agreed.

Maja:  Family leave would change.  What we expect our moms to do would change.  How we feed ourselves and what we take on as women would change.  And so I always like to start there.  We are hard wired to have energy, to have mental clarity, to have solid, consistent bowel movements.  That is actually baseline.  And if you are feeling any of these other things, oftentimes I can point back to micronutrient deficiencies.  Those are your vitamins, your minerals, your amino acids, your essential fatty acids.  I can point to interruptions in sleep, which is just a part of the early phase of parenthood, I know, but I can point to lack of light exposure in the iris, so your circadian rhythm is off.  I can point to a lot of lifestyle things that we can tweak to make those symptoms either completely go away or never happen to begin with.  And so there are four stages of HPA axis dysfunction, so adrenal dysfunction.  And I’d like to say it – like, it’s important.  A lot of people call it adrenal fatigue, but because there’s that axis, there could be an issue with your hypothalamus signaling to your pituitary, or there could be an issue with your pituitary signaling to your adrenals.  And so that’s why I think a lot of clinicians will kind of talk about HPA axis dysfunction, but we can just call it adrenal dysfunction or adrenal fatigue.  But there are four stages of adrenal dysfunction in that HPA axis.  The first stage is you are thriving.  You’ve got lots of energy.  You’re able to go to sleep at night.  I’m not going to talk a lot about that because most of the clients that I work with aren’t there.  They’re not there.  But the first kind of stage of HPA axis dysfunction, it’s called the stress phase.  And you may feel edgy.  Other people may be, like, too slow, so that’s how others seem to you.  Like, man, they’re just not driving fast enough, or they’re not bagging my groceries fast enough.  It may be very difficult to fall asleep at night.  Your mental function can be kind of fast and scattered.  So that’s kind of the first phase.  We’ve got some acute stress that’s happening.  When that acute stress becomes prolonged, we move into the second and kind of third dysfunctional phase.  The next phase is called tired and wired, and it’s very much what it sounds like.  You’re exhausted, but you’re kind of wired, and you have a hard time staying asleep or falling asleep.  You may feel very overwhelmed.  Other people may seem kind of incompetent to you, and your mental function is just a little erratic.  You’re bouncing around from ideas.  You’re multitasking; where was I; what was I just doing.  You’re just kind of all over the place.  When the stressors still continue, you will end up in a crash phase, and in that, you feel complete, absolute exhaustion.  You can barely make it to the end of the day.  You’re crashing in the middle of the day.  You’re trying to make it to Friday so that you can sleep all day Saturday and Sunday.  You may be sleeping a lot, but you wake up and you’re like, did I – it’s very unrefreshing, and you’re completely unable to generate ideas.  There’s a lot of brain fog here.  Oftentimes can be associated with anxiety and depression, and you’re just in a completely exhausted state.  I think that it’s good to understand all three of these phases, and you have to know yourself.  Do you have a good balance?  There’s going to be times when we’re stressed out, as long as we know how to manage that.  But if you feel like you have had prolonged stress in your life, you’ve worked with a couple of doctors, everybody’s telling you you’re fine, or they refuse to run labs is a huge red flag for me, when doctors refuse to run labs that their patients ask of them.  It’s time to get a new doctor.  And then it’s time to reach out and it’s time to get some help, and the reality is, when we’re alone at night and the music has stopped, we know if we need help, when something becomes a little bit too much.  And I would say listen to that whisper because it doesn’t get better on your own.  It gets worse.  Stress just compounds and gets worse and worse.  So I would say – gosh, I mean, reach out if you’re having any of those symptoms that we talked about today.  Like, none of it is normal.  It’s preventing you from living a big, powerful life.  And that’s kind of the marker that I use.  Are you unable to do the things that you want to do in your life, whether that’s go back to work, whether that’s participate in nonprofit work, whether that’s fully participate in your child’s life, right, because you’re so dang tired.  It’s time to throw your hand up in the air and say, I need some help, and do something different about it.  Once you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s very difficult to make change.

Kristin:  It makes sense.  And if people are telling you that’s just normal – yeah, you hear all these other stories.  Yeah, I was tired; I was in a fog.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Maja:  One of the things that I love – I’ve been doing a lot of podcasts, and one of the things that I am constantly hearing, usually from the podcast host, which are usually entrepreneurs or business people – they’ve felt like crap.  They went to the doctor, and the doctor would, like, run some labs, right, and then they would often respond with, “Your labs came back normal.”  I hear this with thyroid labs all the time.  So what I like to talk about is the difference between functional ranges and clinical ranges.  And if you take a look at – there’s two main companies in the US that run labs.  I think it’s LabQuest and CPL are the two main ones.  And let’s just take thyroid labs, like a thyroid panel, to begin with, so that we can talk about something very specific.  So what they do is they will – well, first of all, when’s the last time you’ve asked your doctor to run a lab when you’ve been feeling great?  Probably never.  It’s usually when you feel like garbage that you’re like, oh my God, there must be something wrong.  Doctor, please take some blood.  Tell me if you see anything.

Kristin:  Exactly.  That’s the only time I have.

Maja:  It’s the only time, right?  And so what CPL and Quest Diagnostics, what these companies do is they take a statistical average of all the people that, let’s say, had their TSH, thyroid stimulating thyroid, run.  And then they give you a clinical range of what is considered normal.  But what I like to highlight is that it’s just telling you what the average is of an increasingly unhealthy population, right?

Kristin:  Yes.

Maja:  So it’s telling you what’s common.  It’s not telling you what’s normal.  So if you take a look at the TSH clinical range, it can go anywhere between 0.5 and 6 or 7 or something crazy for some of these.  The lab ranges vary with the different lab companies.  Now, when I look at TSH, my functional range, which tells you what is optimal versus what is common, is 0.52.  So if your TSH came in at a 4 or a 5, that is well within a clinical range.  That being said, you probably have some symptoms of hypothyroid, right?  And so I always like to educate folks on, okay, if your doctor is saying that everything is normal, everything is in range, they are probably using clinical ranges that tell you what’s common, and I do not want to be compared to the average American in the United States.  We have, what, 80% obese and overweight rates.  I mean, type one diabetes, type two diabetes.  I do not want to be compared to what’s common in the US.  I want to be compared to what is optimal.  So when it comes to – that’s the first issue, right, with TSH.  Or I’m sorry, with running labs and the doctors being like, oh, it’s normal.  Well, the other things that they often do is just run TSH.  But I want to know what’s going on with your total T4.  What’s going on with your free T4.  What’s going on with total T3, free T3, T3 uptake, reverse T3, antibodies, TPG antibodies.  I want to know the ratio between total T3 and reverse T3.  I want to know the ratio between free T3 and reverse T3.  All of those, in addition to TSH, which is typically the only thing that a doctor will run.  They will not run a full thyroid panel.  And so that’s kind of the second issue that I find a lot, which is my clients say, okay, there’s no issue with thyroid, and I’m like, okay, well, what labs did they run?  Oh, just a TSH.  Okay, well, how about we run a full thyroid panel, and yeah, TSH was in range, but all of these other markers were not in range.  So if you don’t dig past the very surface, sometimes you don’t uncover some of the things that are an issue.

Kristin:  It’s all about being your own advocate and going deeper, yes.

Maja:  Yes, you have to be your own advocate.  I’m finding that right now.  Especially being pregnant, making some birthing decisions around what I’m doing, where I feel safe, and you do have to advocate for yourself.  And it’s a red flag if the doctor refuses to run the lab, and then red flag if you have symptoms and they tell you that everything is normal.  Because what they’re essentially saying is that you’re lying.

Kristin:  Yeah, and that’s hard.  So what’s your final tip?  You’ve given so many wonderful tips to our listeners, but if you were to give one final tip to our listeners who are either newly pregnant or in the postnatal recovery phase, what would that be?

Maja:  So I would say newly pregnant or postnatal recovery phase, I think that understanding what your mineral balance is like is mission critical.  I think that people do not talk about minerals as much as – ever.  I’ve never had a doctor be like, oh, I wonder what’s going on with your minerals.  And doing a hair tissue mineral analysis, I think, is one of the most powerful things that you can do.  This lab looks at mineral deposits in your hair.  And what I love about it is unlike blood work, which is a moment in time, this lab gives you a three-month snapshot into kind of what’s happening.  And so when it comes to minerals, there are primary, secondary, and tertiary minerals.  You want to kind of think about them like a triangle.  And at base are these primary minerals, so magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium.  If those four primary minerals are off, typically, there are a combination of other minerals that are off, because remember, they’re kind of at the base of the mineral triangle.  And minerals make up the earth, and they also make up our bodies.  And what a lot of people don’t understand is they help hundreds, if not thousands, of metabolic processes in the body.  So, for example, we talked about thyroid a little bit in our session today.  There are nine minerals that help in the conversion of T4, which is the inactive form of thyroid hormone, into the active form of thyroid hormone, which is T3.  So we can test T3 and T4 levels, but why am I not converting T4 to T3?  What most doctors and a lot of practitioners don’t understand is that there are minerals – there are cofactors that actually help in that conversion process.  And so I think minerals, understanding minerals, is the most important thing that you can do, and both prenatal and postpartum, it’s safe.  It’s calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium.  Those are all things that are in a typical prenatal, so it’s easy to kind of see what’s going on.  Magnesium is responsible for, like, RNA and DNA development.  I mean, muscle repair, some really, really important things.  And what I find in a lot of moms is that they have been – especially if you’ve been under stress for a really long time, you’re completely bottomed out.  You don’t have enough calcium, magnesium, sodium, or potassium.  And we don’t have enough time to get into why all of those are important, but they are very, very important.

Kristin:  Fascinating.  I could talk to you all day.  So much knowledge that you’re dropping.

Maja:  So I would say that is such a safe thing that you can do.  I’m not going to mess with hormones in pregnancy or really in the – most people shouldn’t mess with hormones ever, because hormones are rarely a problem.  They’re typically a symptom of the problem.  But there’s some things that we aren’t going to do when you’re in this delicate phase of growing a human or having just delivered a human.  But minerals is something that is so easy to do and easy – not easy to fix, but kind of easy to address.  That’s the one thing.  I’ve been on a big minerals kick where I just want to scream from the top of the mountains, like, check your minerals.

Kristin:  So how can our listeners find you?  I know you’re all over social media.  You’ve got a website.

Maja:  Yeah, I’m not a huge social media person, but you can find me on Facebook.  You can message me on Facebook.  I have a lot of content on my Facebook page around the labs and the work that I do.  But honestly, if you’re like, I want to talk to you, you can go to, and you can just fill out a quick little questionnaire and then just schedule a call with me.  I like to be really accessible.  I’m not going to pretend I’m inaccessible and you can’t talk to me.  Like, email me.  Go to and fill out that quick little questionnaire and set up a call, or you can message me on Facebook.  Messenger pigeon, smoke signals, whatever.  I’m really easy to get a hold of if you want to reach out.  And I know how hopeless and overwhelming a lot of this can feel because I’ve been there myself, and I’ve felt the disappointment of losing a pregnancy and really not knowing where to start.  People teach what they need to learn, so I was my first client.

Kristin:  I love it.

Maja:  So yeah, those are all the ways that people can get a hold of me.

Kristin:  Well, I loved chatting with you today, Maja.  Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with our listeners.  I hope you have a great day.

Maja:  Thank you so much.  Same to you.

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

Prenatal Body Balancing with Heidi of Mind Body Baby: Podcast Episode #181

Kristin chats with Heidi McDowell of Mind Body Baby about the benefits of prenatal body balancing.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Heidi McDowell today from Mind Body Baby.  She is the owner of the business, as well as an instructor of multiple classes.  So welcome, Heidi!

Heidi:  Hi.  Thanks for having me.

Kristin:  So you have such a broad background in everything birth, pregnancy, and baby.  So you started out, of course, as a postpartum doulas with Gold Coast and then got certified as a birth doula.  I was so fortunate to be your partner.  And then you opened this amazing business, Mind Body Baby.  You have such a broad background in yoga and very specialized certifications, and you also recently of course have gotten trained in this Body Ready Method, so I’m really excited to learn more about body balancing from you today.

Heidi:  Yeah, absolutely.  My background is just this obsessiveness about all things on the journey to motherhood.  So anything fertility, prenatal, postpartum.  I just recently finished my training with Body Ready Method with Lindsay McCoy, and that was so amazing.  I always knew that there was a piece kind of missing to all of the teachings that I’ve done, all of the certifications, all the trainings.  The big piece was always this anatomy physiology.  Even going through my yoga training, we talk so much about yoga, but we talk about it in the anatomy context of yoga.

Kristin:  Right, so different.

Heidi:  It is so different.  So when thinking about somebody who is pregnant or expecting, that birthing anatomy, as you know as a doula, changes so significantly that I knew that there was more that we could be doing in that pregnancy phase to be able to not only make pregnancy more comfortable but also to help with a more efficient birth with less interventions and perhaps even making that birth a little bit shorter, right, which then creates a better healing and postpartum, too.  It was really exciting to be able to dive in and really just sink my teeth into a new training.  I loved it so much.

Kristin:  Yes, and as a doula, we love to have shorter labors.  Our clients, of course, appreciate that.

Heidi:  Right, absolutely.  There’s not any person that is sitting there going, yes, I would love that long pain for labor.  As a doula, we don’t want that for our clients, and we know that they don’t want that.  We know that birth can unfold any way that birth is going to unfold, so it’s not about trying to hack the birth and make it go faster.  A fast birth isn’t necessarily what we’re looking for.  Nobody wants that, because that can be traumatic as well.  But just making it to be more physiological where it isn’t needing the interventions that the medical model quickly tends to put on top of it.

Kristin:  Yes.  So Heidi, I know when we shared birth doula clients together, you were doing quite a bit of balancing, and they had beautiful, quick births.  So I was just wondering if you could explain a bit about the prenatal preparation, what it looks like, for our listeners who are interested in finding a body balancing practitioner.

Heidi:  Yeah, absolutely.  So for me, body balancing is about being proactive versus being reactive.  So as a doula, I can walk in and I can bring my magic bag of tricks, and I can jiggle and release and reposition.  I can use my birth detective skills.  I can do all the things in the birthing room.  With my background in yoga and Spinning Babies and Body Ready, I can help to prepare the body during pregnancy.  So again, with that comfortable – more comfortable pregnancy, and then also getting to know the body ahead of time.  So what you can do during pregnancy, what you have available to you in terms of positioning, breath work, coping skills – that is the same that’s going to be available to you in the birthing room.  And so being able to work with people before gives us that opportunity to practice and prepare.  The idea, really, for me is that everything that we’ve done in this world – so everything from our own birth, every trauma that we’ve had, every habit, every pattern, is held in our tissues.   We hold a baby on our hip; we put a purse on our shoulder.  Those tissues have to modify, and those habits over time create an imbalance in our body.  Our bodies were so beautifully constructed to be able to naturally birth, but we don’t live in a world that supports a balanced body.  So we are asymmetrical humans.  Every single person is.  But then you add on top of that the pregnancy changes that come, and we’re now pulling the body out of alignment.  And that alignment causes different pulls and tensions in the tissue, and our tissues are what are creating the shapes of the pelvis.  So the pelvis isn’t a fixed entity, as you know.  It has different joints in it.  It’s got, like, four different joints.  You can change the shape of the pelvis.  The only way to change the shape of the pelvis, though, is by moving the tissue and moving the extremities connected to it.  If there is asymmetry, it’s going to limit the space for baby to navigate.  So baby will only navigate the space that you have provided.  And all doulas probably know, head down is really great, but head down isn’t the only thing that matters.

Kristin:  Right.  Absolutely.

Heidi:  The way that we’re looking at it is, how can we assess the body so that we can decide, okay, what part of your tissue needs to be lengthened, strengthened, released, relaxed, so that we can create more space, more movement, more function, to give you more comfort, give your baby more space, but then also be able to free that pelvis up so that when it comes time for birth, you can change the shape of that pelvis.  We can get that sacrum released.  Typically, a session with me looks like a one on one, and we go in, and I do a history.  So we’re talking about, like, tell me about any traumas.  Tell me about any injuries.  Have you played sports?  You’re thinking about, like, a one-side dominant, like a soccer or tennis.  Those are going to change our tissues.  Do you have kiddoes at home, that maybe those are compensating things as well.  I can get an idea. And then we do a physical assessment.  Let me look at your body.  Let me see what I can see.  In addition to all of my trainings, I worked with chiropractic offices for almost a decade before, so I also am very body-aware about alignments and understanding the way that the spine is connected.  So I’m looking at all of those things and being able to assess the way you sit, the way you stand, the way that you walk.  And just in that observation, that helps me to understand the way that your tissues are lengthened, which tissues are shortened, what is the tilt of your pelvis.  The tilt of your pelvis changes with pregnancy, but that also means that you’re turning muscles off.  Oftentimes the big one that gets turned off is going to be your glutes.  In the body balance and the yoga world, I’d say that glutes are like the pelvic floor’s best friend because that’s going to be our big helper.  So when we turn the glutes off, think like duck feet.  It’s like they use it or lose it with the glutes, so people go duck feet, and then the pelvic shifts forward with the weight of the growing belly.  Now the glutes are turned off, and the pelvic floor is like, whoa, where’d my friend go?  I am taking this huge load, on top of the growing the baby, the growing the uterus, the placenta, the amniotic fluid.  So you’re causing a lot of stress and tension to the pelvic floor, and it’s super, super loaded.  And you want to think about it in terms of, if you were to do bicep curls all day, and then you’re like, hey, bicep, could you just relax a little bit now?  And your bicep is like, no way, absolutely not.  I’ve been working so hard, so tensed.  That’s the pelvic floor.  So we’re asking your pelvic floor to relax and yield and get out of the way for the baby’s head to pass through for a vaginal birth, and the pelvic floor is like, no way.  I can’t.  You have been putting so much force on me.  So when we think in terms of balancing, we want to turn back on the muscles that need to be turned on to take some of the load off of the ones that we need to relax.  And it doesn’t always just mean stretching.  I think people think yoga, and they’re like, okay, I need to stretch.  I need to relax.  There’s so much more than that.

Kristin:  Focus on your breath, yes.  There’s a lot.

Heidi:  Yeah, so much more than that.  I could go for days.  But that’s kind of it in a nutshell.  It’s which ones need length, strength, relaxation, and knowing how to combine that for your body specifically to make sure that you are then getting what you need.

Kristin:  I love that it’s customized to each individual’s needs versus – again, I mean, a yoga class is wonderful and is great for the movement and the breath work and things that you can utilize during your labor, but combining that with balancing is key.  I know with the clients we’ve worked with, you saw them multiple times, and ideally, early in pregnancy.  Would there be a benefit for a listener who was very close to their due date to get balancing done, or is it optimal earlier, like second trimester?

Heidi:  Yeah, so it is beneficial at any point.  We see the most benefit when it’s done consistently because for lasting change to happen in the tissue, it takes time.  That’s really the ultimate goal.  We don’t want just a quick fix.  There’s a lot of releases and things that doulas can do in the birthing room that create short term – like, sidelying release.  That’s like a short term release.  So we want to think like long term tissue change.  So if somebody were to come to me, say, like, maybe we meet, like, first trimester, second trimester, third trimester, and then again right before birth, that would be like the ultimate, the most beneficial in my opinion to see.  But if somebody is gearing up towards their due date, I do what I call induction due date body balancing, the idea being, let’s look at what’s going on and see if we can’t help baby get a little bit more space, get into that head down, chin tucked, most optimal position; help you feel more comfortable so that the odds of moving through a more comfortable, shorter, more functional birth are possible for you.

Kristin:  I love that.  So for clients who have pending induction, that would be a good point to again get their body ready in a more natural way before the induction.

Heidi:  Yeah, and it’s not even just induction.  Like, due date just in general, just to help to prepare the body just before that guess date is coming up.

Kristin:  Yeah.  But certainly I know many of my clients are asking for natural options to ready their body if they know all along through pregnancy that at 39 weeks they’re going to be induced due to various medical issues.  Also, you had mentioned head down.  So if a student of yours or client has a breech baby, then what is your success rate, or what can you do positioning wise besides a doula, you know, sending their client to an acupuncturist or a Webster certified chiropractor?

Heidi:  Those are really great, super beautiful.  Combining – so we know Spinning Babies.  That’s probably the most popular and the most easily accessible for doulas and also for clients to find.  And I do a lot of that, a lot of the forward leaning inversions, but I couple it with the Body Ready Method, the body balancing.  So if I have a client who has a baby that isn’t in a great or the most optimal position, I will do all of the tissue releasing first.  So we want to think, baby isn’t in a great position because perhaps baby doesn’t have enough room or enough space.  So we want to create the space first, and then I’ll end it usually with the forward leaning inversion where we take baby out of the pelvis, so we’re giving baby all that space to come, to flip around, to do what baby needs to do.  And then now that we’ve made space in the pelvis, we’re going to invite baby back into the pelvis by flipping back up from that forward leaning inversion, and now the hope is that baby came back into the pelvis, has a little bit more space to move about, and can decide to get head down.  We know that these methods work.  We know that they’re only popular because they work.  So being able to help, I know that’s a big fear of a lot of clients, a lot of practitioners.  Baby’s not in a great position, or baby’s breech.  That can cause a lot of fear into the mamas.  So being able to help and assist and just to calm; we add in a lot of the nurturing yogic side, a lot of affirmations of trust for the body, knowing that your body is doing everything beautifully, that we just have to trust the process, and we can get there.  It’s just going to take a little bit of time, but we’ll get there.

Kristin:  Yes.  So you mentioned Spinning Babies, and many of our doulas are Spinning Babies trained.  I’ve benefitted so much from the two-day workshop.  It is definitely a reference for doulas, even if they haven’t been trained.  They send resources to clients about different positions to try during pregnancy, and then of course we suggest different positions during labor.  So what – you obviously combine both methods, but could you explain a bit about the concept of Spinning Babies for our listeners who are not familiar?

Heidi:  Yeah, so the idea of Spinning Babies is that there is an optimal medical model of how the babies could or should be born with the most ease, and that means that they’re positioned in a specific way within the belly.  And Spinning Babies has a lot of beautiful tools.  So they have, like, daily exercises that you can do.  They have different movements that you can do to help take baby and flip baby if they’re breech or to get baby into the most optimal position, using a set of different positioning tools, and it kind of works off the same idea, that the tissue release plus the movement helps to get baby into the most optimal position for the birthing.

Kristin:  Yeah.  And as far as just general searches for our listeners who are not located in West Michigan, where Mind Body Baby is located, how do they find a Body Ready Method practitioner near them?

Heidi:  So if somebody is Body Ready Method trained through Lindsay McCoy, you can go onto their website, and you can look for a pro in your area.  So once you get trained, you then get certified.  You have the option to want to be come an active pro with their site, and they’ll list you on there.  If you go on there, you won’t see me yet because I haven’t completed my listing, but I am a pro on there.  But that is where you can access a pro.  You can also find them on Instagram and follow along.  She’s got a lot of beautiful tips and tricks.

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

Kristin:  Love it.  So do you have any stories to share about working with your students with this method, or any personal tips or tricks?

Heidi:  Yeah.  I mean, let’s think for a second here.  What’s a good one?  They’re all so good.  Some of my very favorite ones are still going to be some of my first ones because I think those are the ones that surprised me the most, going like, oh my goodness, it worked.  So I’ll give you, like, just a little quick backstory.  My own labor and birth, I needed to be induced.  I was 42 weeks, and my daughter was just not in the mood to come out of my body.  So we opted for an at-home induction with our midwife, and it ended up in a 52-hour labor where I then got a fever and needed to be – I needed to have a Cesarean section.  And it left me thinking and wondering, what else?  What could I have done to prepare my body more?  I was already a prenatal yoga teacher.  I thought I was doing all of the things.  But it left me wondering, what more could I have done?  What was going on in my body that wasn’t letting this baby drop, that wasn’t letting me dilate?  Was it just that it wasn’t – that was my birth that was meant to happen?  I don’t know.  Maybe.  But that’s where my deep dive came.  And so after that, I went deep, deep, deep into the hole of anatomy and physiology to try to figure out what else I could do to help other mamas so that they didn’t end up with a 52-hour labor.  So my first couple clients that I started integrating this with, my very first one, Logan, was amazing.  She worked with me.  We worked together biweekly, I think, for about four months.  We did yoga, body balancing, and really just helped her to get mentally and physically prepared, understanding that her birth goal was that she wanted an unmedicated, natural, vaginal birth with no interventions.  And she went into labor spontaneously with her first baby, and I think baby was born within maybe eight hours.  And for a first time mama, that was beautiful for me to see.

Kristin:  Yeah, that’s quick.

Heidi:  She knew exactly how to position her body, and I was able to be – I don’t want to say hands off, but because she knew what we were doing, and I didn’t have to use all my doula tricks.  I didn’t have to break out the big bag of stuff that sometimes I might need with somebody who hasn’t prepared their body during pregnancy.  So just like that proud mama moment for me where I’m, like, watching her be so strong and fierce because her body was just so ready.  She prepared.  She knew what she was doing.  And I was like, yeah, this is it.  It worked.  And I felt so happy for her to be able to get what she wanted.  It really just – I mean, that ultimately – as a doula, you can agree.  We just want to see them feel empowered and feel so strong and just transcendent birth.  That’s what they’re looking for.

Kristin:  Yes, for sure.  Even if it doesn’t go as they envisioned, knowing that they did so much to prepare and they understand the physiology of their body, and they’re working as a team with their baby.  It’s just – it is exactly what we want as doulas.

Heidi:  Yeah, so much.  It’s so amazing.  And that’s really the other part, too.  It’s not – this is not a guarantee, right?  Just doing the work isn’t going to say, like, yes, your baby will be born exactly how you want because you did the work.  We’re not setting expectations up for failure.  We don’t want anybody to think that this is, like, the end-all, be-all and it’s amazing and you have to do this or otherwise it won’t work for you.  But the idea is that you stack the deck in your favor.  So if you knew that you could do something that had a beautiful success rate in helping you to get that physiological birth with less interventions, and it would be more comfortable and less painful – like, would you want that?  If somebody would have said to me that this was available, if I would have known it was available, I would have been doing it.  I wish I would have known about it because then perhaps I wouldn’t have had a 52-hour long labor.

Kristin:  Right.  Well, thank you for bringing this method to West Michigan!  Tell us a bit more about your course.  Obviously, our listeners can work one on one with you, but you have a push prep course?

Heidi:  Yeah, we just started our third cohort of our course last night.  So my course is called Push Prep.  Push Prep – the idea behind it is that most if not all of the classes or courses that are recommended are childbirth ed.  They are more of an educational, mental preparation.  Even if somebody is doing something like a gentle birth or a HypnoBirth, those are beautiful.  This isn’t in place of that.  This is in addition to it.  Those are like, how do you mentally prepare the mind for what you’re going to come across, what to expect.  Push Prep is childbirth education meets physical preparation meets practice.  Thinking about the idea, again, that you have to find out what’s accessible within your own body before you hit the delivery space.  You have to understand your body.  We talk so much about alignment, posture, habits.  We go into comfort measures that you have within yourself.  Talk about breath work, different breath work that we’re now practicing pushing breath work.  We’re practicing labor breath work.  How you can create optimal birthing spaces.  It’s a lot of beautiful stuff.  And then we cover poses.  We talk about the different poses that are changing the shape of the pelvis and when those should be used.  So the inlet, the mid-pelvis, the outlet.  But then we’re actually practicing them and we’re kind of building atop that with yoga.  So each week, we have a different topic that we cover.  It’s a four-week series.  And we build each week using yoga as our base.  So it’s a little education to start.  We end with some yoga that ties into whatever the theme of the week was.  So we just started our third one last night, so I’m still on a big high from it.  I love it so much.  I think it’s so necessary.  It’s just been working so great, and I hear so much positive feedback from all of the students who have taken it so far, saying it’s just been their favorite, their best.  They felt so prepared and empowered no matter how it unfolded.  They knew they had those tools in their toolbox, and they definitely used them.

Kristin:  And I’m sure this is probably similar in prenatal yoga class, but your students are bonding.  They’re going through the journey together at the same time.  So that’s also a lovely experience now that things are back to in person.

Heidi:  Absolutely, yeah.  Community is such an important part.  That’s actually why Mind Body Baby exists is for community.  I went through my fertility journey feeling a little ashamed about it, not knowing anybody else who was going through that, and I was alone.  And then I became a mama in February 2020, right before the pandemic shut down in March, so I had a pregnancy that was all alone.  And then I gave birth in November 2020.  The world was still shut down.  I was all alone.  And I thought, oh my goodness, if there’s anybody going through this outside of the pandemic, if anybody feels isolated or alone, it’s completely unnecessary.  We need to have a space where people can come and they can feel supported and understood and seen and heard and they can just get all of their resources in one space, and it will grow with them.  And with a one-year-old and still halfway in the pandemic, I was like, you know what I should do?  I should open a business.  And it was a wild choice, but I knew that it was something that we needed so strongly in our community just for people to be able to come together and uplift each other and support each other and to just build those friendships.

Kristin:  And you have childcare, and many classes where baby’s involved.  So it is; you’ve built a lovely community there.  Thank you for everything you’re doing.  How can our listeners find you?  I know you have your website, and you’re on social.

Heidi:  Yeah, the website.  Social is Mind Body Baby Yoga.

Kristin:  I know you’re on Instagram, Facebook?

Heidi:  Yeah, Instagram and Facebook.  That’s where they can find us.  In addition to our in-person classes – so if somebody’s listening and they are not in the Grand Rapids area, we also offer virtual options.  So from anywhere in the world, you are able to join our virtual classes.  They are live, so time difference make a difference, probably, but you’re still able to join a class and be a part of the community and get what you need.

Kristin:  I love it.  So any final thoughts to share?

Heidi:  Oh, my goodness.  I mean, I’m just so happy to be able to do this work and to be able to be in this space and be in the company of other amazing birth professionals like you, Kristin.  And I just hope to be able to continue to educate and to learn and to help and to show up with the best bag of tricks that I can for everybody.

Kristin:  I love it.  Thank you so much for the work you’re doing.  It was lovely to catch up.  Have a great day!

Heidi:  Yeah, thanks, Kristin.  This was great.

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.

Black Maternal Health with Shaelina Holmes of the Hello Seven Foundation: Podcast Episode #180

Kristin chats with Shaelina Holmes of Hello Seven Foundation about Black Maternal Health and why it is so important.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

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

Kristin:  Hello, this is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Shaelina Holmes.  Shaelina is the executive director of Hello Seven Foundation, and she has a passion for birth work and human liberation with experience leading organizations for social change.  Welcome, Shaelina!

Shaelina:  Hello!  Thank you so, so much for having me.  I’m so excited to be here with you today.

Kristin:  Yes, and it’s just perfect timing in that it’s Black Maternal Health Week.  I love that we’re going to be chatting a bit about the important work within Hello Seven Foundation but also just the importance of doula support and other caregivers like night nurses, a newborn care specialist, overnight postpartum doulas, and how do you all support Black women especially during pregnancy and in the postnatal phase?

Shaelina:  Yes, it’s such an important mission, and like you mentioned, we do have a focus on Black women because the disparities are alarming and atrocious and disgusting.  A new report just came out – I believe it was last week – that the maternal death rates for Black women are even higher due to the pandemic.  And so I’m really excited to launch into this conversation today.  We’re going to talk a little bit about the sad parts of the story, but we have some great solutions that I’m excited to share with you.

Kristin:  Fantastic.  So I would love to get a bit about your background.  I know you’re a doula?

Shaelina:  Yes.

Kristin:  How did this opportunity to direct Hello Seven Foundation come your way?

Shaelina:  It was such divine alignment.  I’m so happy to be here.  I have a seven year old, and I gave birth to my son in Miami.  And throughout my pregnancy, I was trying to find an OB-GYN that I felt comfortable with, and I just kept running into barrier after barrier with doctors just not giving me the support that I was really needing and looking for.  So I had recently become vegetarian because of health experiences that I had, and I went to three different OB-GYNs, and they were all pushing me to eat meat again and eat dairy, even though it made me sick.  I had people from the beginning trying to tell me I was definitely going to need a C-section, so what date did I want to give birth.  And I was not interested in any of that.  I really wanted to do it as naturally as possible.  And I was a young mom, a single mom, and so I also received a lot of shame about the situation with my partner.  I was being pushed to get an abortion.  I was given pharmaceutical treatments that just made the symptoms I was experiencing that much worse.  And I had a lot of questions.  I had one doctor tell me that I would need to go to medical school to understand the things that I was asking about and that I had a question limit.  I had reached my question limit for the visit, and I would need to come back for another visit to get the rest of my questions answered.  It was awful, and that’s when I just knew that there had to be another option.  So I did my research, and I discovered the world of midwifery and the birth center experience.  So I had found a birth center, North Miami Birth Center, and as soon as I walked in those doors, I felt a complete shift in the energy.  I felt like family.  I felt like, first of all, a human being, not just another number, another patient.  And I was really able to build a relationship with the same people who were going to help me bring my baby earthside.  It was amazing, and they sat there and answered all my questions, and that’s when I learned what a doula was.  So I couldn’t afford a doula at the time, but right after I gave birth, it’s like you experience that – all this pain; I had a 30-hour labor, so it was excruciating pain for 30 hours, but the minute my son came, it was like I was flooded with all the oxytocin and the wonderful love hormones, and all that pain went out the door.  And I was like, this is an experience that I need to support other women with.  Like, everyone needs a doula.  Everyone needs a doula.  It should not be optional.  My mom had kind of served as my doula at the time, in addition to the other birth center workers, so I was like, there’s a science and a system to this, and I was so hungry to learn.  So I had jumped into doula training after the birth of my son, but I was working full time at the same time, so I couldn’t really switch from a full time job as a single mom with a salary to the entrepreneurial life of a birth worker.

Kristin:  Right, the on call time, you don’t know how long you’ll be at a birth, and there are so many unknowns, as a mother and having a full time job.

Shaelina:  Exactly.  So I had just decided to volunteer as a birth doula for my friends and family who I really wanted to serve.  I felt honored to serve.  And they couldn’t afford a birth doula, anyway.  So it was a win-win where I got to be a part of these beautiful experiences with my friends and family, and it was a lot more – a lot less controlled where I could do it on my time.  I could take off time of work as I needed to take on the clients that I could take on.  And it was wonderful.  I was working at a nonprofit, a human services nonprofit, before I came here to Hello Seven just last year.  And when I saw this opportunity, it was just a match made in heaven.  I’m like, oh, this is perfect.  I’m a doula on the side, a volunteer doula, and now I get to lead an organization that is believing in this mission wholeheartedly where we give.  So the Hello Seven Foundation provides vouches to Black birthing people for birth doulas, postpartum doulas, night nurses, midwives, and childcare, so kind of covering the range of the whole perinatal experience, including postpartum, because the whole thing is so important, and we need a whole team of support to help this mother and baby transition into the world and into motherhood with the red carpet that they deserve.

Kristin:  Exactly.  I know the website is very comprehensive in that you’re able to accept donations, of course, from individuals and organizations who want to support Black birthing persons, but also you do some – you have applications for women who do want that assistance?

Shaelina:  Yes, on the website, you can read all of the eligibility criteria for our voucher program.  But yes, that means that 100% of the donations that we raise go directly to the folks who apply for a voucher.  So right now, for example, we have 55 families on our waiting list asking for about $110,000 in funding, and our goal is to serve every single one of them.  So far, since the inception of this Hello Seven Foundation, we have funded over 40 families with $100,000 of funding, including birth doulas, midwives.  We’ve also funded scholarships for Black birth workers to become certified doulas because that is another barrier and contributor, really, to the Black maternal health crisis, that there’s not enough providers of color and Black birth workers to serve families.  We’re really trying to find creative solutions to this issue.  The issue is really – it goes deep.  Black women are three to five times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes, including up to one year after birth, than White women or really any other group.  And women of color at large have significantly higher rates, but when we isolate the race and we look at Black women specifically, it’s astronomical.  And about 60 to 80% of these deaths are estimated to be preventable.  Obviously, it’s due to systemic racism, but one of these ways that we can actively and immediately prevent negative outcomes, negative maternal health outcomes, is having a doula, and really any of the support people that we fund.  Doulas are statistically known to make a difference.  I’m sure you know this, but when mothers have a doula, they’re four to five times more likely to have a baby with low birth weight.  They’re less likely to experience any birth complication, less likely to have an unnecessary C-section, because sometimes they are necessary, and that’s our goal is to really to fill these gaps.  And doulas are out there.  There’s plenty of doulas to choose from, but the income disparity that we see when we break down the racial wealth gap, it makes it really, really difficult for Black mothers to afford these necessary, critical services.  So they need it the most, and they can access it the least.  So that’s why we’re really focusing on closing that gap, and I’m really proud of the work we’ve done so far, but we have so, so much more to go.

Kristin:  Well, we’re so proud to support.  I know when I received the initial email about the foundation from Rachel Rogers, I donated as quickly as I could, and we have made giving to your foundation part of our annual giving plan.

Shaelina:  Thank you!  Thank you so, so much.  We are so grateful for that.  Hello Seven is our parent company, so we operate kind of as the philanthropic arm of Hello Seven, and Hello Seven, which you mentioned Rachel Roger; she’s our CEO, and she is the author of the bestselling book, We Should All Be Millionaires.  And her company, Hello Seven, is dedicated to helping historically excluded entrepreneurs build wealth and teaching them; not just helping them build wealth, but teaching them the skills to be able to, like she says, make a million.  That’s why it’s called Hello Seven, because we can all see seven figures in our bank account.  When we do start to see five, six, seven figures in our bank account, we can actually make a difference in the world around us.  We can see the issues.  We’re victims of the systemic oppression that is pervasive here in the US and around the world, but once we have access to wealth and capital, we can put our money where our mouth is and we can make significant change pretty quickly and quickly easily.  So that’s why she started the Hello Seven Foundation.  She had her own adverse birth experiences with all three of her children, and she realized that because she had built wealth for herself and her family, she was able to access these resources that saved her life.  Changed her life and saved her life and gave her kids the best starting foundation that she possibly could give them.  And so she really felt the need to make this accessible to other women who just aren’t there in their wealth-building journey yet.  And then when you look at the data, it’s a no brainer.  This is a solution that is highly, highly necessary for funding.  And I will say that there are other organizations out there, like, for example, Medicaid reimburses for doulas in certain states, I believe.  But we see even with that, that there’s a gap in the funding in terms of – like, we’re considering helping to close this gap through a partnership, which we’ll talk more about that later, but we’re seeing that doulas are reimbursed at significantly lower rates through Medicaid than they would charge for their private pay clients, for example.  And Hello Seven is all about historically excluded entrepreneurs building wealth, and so we believe that they deserve a livable wage, right?  It’s extremely important, necessary work for half price, you know.  They need self-care and resources, too.  So we pay up to $2000 for a birth doula voucher, and you can see the other breakdown of the value of the vouchers on our website.  But that’s something that we really truly believe in is making sure that the resources are given and provided to everyone that’s part of this equation.

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

Kristin:  Yes, Medicaid just came to Michigan in January, so it’s been a big learning experience.  And just as you mentioned, for my agency, the doula subcontractors on my team were not interested in taking the lower wage, so we decided to work with a different group, Doulas Diversified, who does matchmaking with doulas who are Medicaid qualified.  And then of course, as a certified B-Corp, it’s all about giving back, and our focus is low income women and children.  And so I want our team to be well-compensated while still focusing on making a difference.

Shaelina:  Exactly, exactly.  That’s a beautiful system, and we’re hoping to kind of join in on that effort with you and make sure that we can fill those gaps wherever possible.  That’s why fundraising is so, so important, and it’s a wonderful cause, and it’s the greatest feeling in the world to call a mom who’s applied and let her know that she’s good to go; we’re paying for her doula.  I mean, the lives – you can see the whole energy shift in her eyes in that moment, and getting those pictures of the babies being born – it’s like, we’re doing this work one family at a time.  It feels really small sometimes, but when you see the results in front of you, you know how big it really is, even if it’s just one doula and one family at a time.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And as you mentioned with Medicaid – I mean, Medicaid covers birth doula support in certain states and then some postnatal visits, but you are also again providing vouchers for postpartum doulas, newborn care specialists, night nannies.  And I am so personally passionate about support in that postnatal phase.

Shaelina:  Yes, it’s so crucial.  I was just listening to a Good Morning America interview that came out this week for Black Maternal Health, and they were highlighting that a lot of the postpartum deaths are due to postpartum depression, and these are – if we have a community of support for the mom and the baby after they are earthside, we can prevent a lot of these really traumatic and unfortunate experiences.  And I feel like it’s our responsibility and our duty to do that.  Sometimes we focus on the mom when she’s pregnant; we throw the baby showers and give her all the support, and then the baby’s here, and it’s all about the baby.  Sometimes we forget about the mom needing to be mothered, as well.  So postpartum doulas, night nurses, and even the childcare support that we fund is really, really crucial to helping the mom fully recover from childbirth, which is – it’s a lot.

Kristin:  It is, definitely.  And the sleep deprivation adds up, so whether you get support during the day to take a nap or, again, overnight to try to get some good rest in between feedings, it’s so important.

Shaelina:  Yes, exactly.  And the folks who are serving as night nurses, postpartum doulas, nannies, as you mentioned, are also able to see the signs of postpartum depression.  I had PPD, and I didn’t realize that I was experiencing it until way after.  So it’s like – it seems subtle sometimes or you may not know how to classify it, and if no one’s there supporting you and knowing the signs of it, it can go undiagnosed, and it can get bad.  It’s really important to make sure we have the community wraparound support that a mommy needs.

Kristin:  Exactly.  I know you have an exciting fundraiser coming up that I am already registered to attend.  Fill us in about the Black Rodeo.

Shaelina:  Yes, the Hello Seven Foundation is hosting our first in-person fundraiser, which is so, so exciting.  Our CEO, Rachel Rogers, lives in Greensborough, North Carolina, and last year, she threw this amazing party for her 40th birthday called the Black Rodeo.  So we decided to kind of rinse and repeat and do it again this year, but make it all about a fundraiser for the foundation.  So I’m really, really excited.  It’s going to be an amazing time.  It’s going to be on Friday, May 12th, at Summerfield Farms in North Carolina, and we are going to have – there’s going to be a great VIP guest list, millionaire entrepreneurs in the room, Hello Seven clients who really care and are passionate about this mission, and we’re going to have a great time.  Dinner, drinks, dancing.  We have a dance instructor who is going to teach us how to do some line dancing.

Kristin:  So fun!

Shaelina:  It’s going to be so fun, and the fashion is going to be amazing.  And the best part about this is that Rachel and Hello Seven are covering the cost of the party expenses completely, so that means that for folks who buy a ticket, 100% of the ticket cost will go directly to a family in need.  And as I mentioned earlier on this call, we have 55 families who are waiting for funding right now, and we’re prioritizing families by their due date, so we do have a couple who are ready to give birth in the next couple of weeks, and so we’re really trying to raise as much money as we can so we can fund these birth services for these families who are waiting.  Every dollar that’s raised for the tickets and during the event – we’re going to have a silent auction.  We’re going to have some amazing raffle prizes.  Every dollar raised is going to go directly to a family, and so we’re really, really grateful for Rachel and Hello Seven’s support and all of our donors who are going to be there and have a great time.  We think we can have a really fun time while making a huge impact on the world.  That’s what entrepreneurship and philanthropy is about.

Kristin:  Well, I’m so thankful that Rachel’s covering the cost because having worked in the nonprofit sector, so much of the donations go to event costs.  And being a B-Corp, we directly give to organizations versus attending events.  So I get the best of both worlds, thanks to Rachel.

Shaelina:  Exactly.  It’s going to be a great time, and I think the networking piece is going to be a really attractive aspect of the event for our donors who will be in the room because it’s just a lot of wonderful minds and people who are really caring about – like I mentioned, people who really care about this mission and want to make an impact and a difference, and that – I just can’t wait to feel that energy in the room, especially after not being able to do in-person events for a while.  This is going to be such a great time.

Kristin:  Yes, I can’t wait to meet you in person.

Shaelina:  Likewise, likewise.

Kristin:  So let’s talk a bit about Black Maternal Health Week.  I know we have shared a lot of information as an agency, but how are you participating in this important awareness week?

Shaelina:  So we are – there is so much information and there are so many wonderful organizations that are doing such great work in honor of this week, and we’re here for the party.  It’s like if you go on social media and just look at the hashtag Black Maternal Health Week, you can get a wealth of information about the entire spectrum of Black maternal and infant health and awareness and solutions to these issues.  So we’re here for the party.  We are learning.  We are sharing information.  We are actively fundraising and excited to keep talking about this mission and keep the energy and the momentum going all year round.  There’s World Doula Week that’s coming up.  There’s Black Breastfeeding Week.  A lot of other holidays that we’re excited to keep riding the momentum of because this mission is really, really important, and we take, of course, advantage of every opportunity to join in on the trending hashtags on Twitter and get our word out and spread the word of our mission.  But it’s really an all year round issue, right, and we’re taking new applications for funding every single day.  Some of the stories that we hear on our applications are just heart-wrenching.  It’s horrible.  Women who have lost babies already because of just being dismissed; their pain and their symptoms being dismissed in the hospital setting.  And I do want to say that not all doctors and not all hospitals are bad.  We have great relationships with OB-GYNs and hospital care providers and midwives and doulas who work in hospitals.  It’s really, really important for our birth workers in all of the realms that they work in to work together cohesively to serve our populations wherever they choose to give birth, whether it’s at home, in a birth center, or a hospital.  So I just wanted to make sure that that point is made because sometimes it feels like there’s a bit of a war between the home birth centers and the hospitals, but there is a place for everyone, and we have to come together to solve this issue because it’s too pervasive.

Kristin:  I completely agree, Shaelina.  So what are your top tips for self-advocacy for women in pregnancy knowing that – I mean, time is so short with prenatal appointments, especially with OBs versus a homebirth midwife that may take much more time or even a certified nurse midwife within the hospital system.  If you have ten minutes, you know, what are the key points discussion-wise with your provider?

Shaelina:  This is a good question.  Let me think about this for a minute.  Intuitively, I want to say use your intuition, and I think what was really important for me when I was searching for different providers was feeling a sense of comfort and support and communicating my desires and my needs for my birth experience and my pregnancy experience and making sure that I was feeling heard and respected in the birth room or in the doctor’s office or with your midwife or with your doula, whoever it is.  And I would also say it’s important to speak up if you are feeling any kind of inconsistency, any pain, anything that doesn’t feel right.  Say something.  We don’t know – or a lot of moms, especially new moms, don’t know that not every single examination or test or procedure is necessary.  So as a doula, one of the biggest tools that I have still used, not just in the birth work space, but in almost every decision I have to make, is a tool called use your brain, and it’s an acronym, BRAIN.  Are you familiar?  I’m sure you are.

Kristin:  Oh, yes.  We use BRAIN all the time.  Amazing.  Please explain to our listeners.

Shaelina:  Sure.  So B is for benefits.  So any time you’re considering whether or not you should do something – for example, a test or a procedure related to your pregnancy – use your brain.  What are the benefits?  That’s the B.  What are the risks, R?  What are the alternatives, A?  What does your intuition tell you, which is one of my favorites.  What’s your I?  And what happens if you do nothing?  And I think that is one of the most powerful tools that I got from my doula training, and I love to empower other moms with because you’re going to use that not just in your pregnancy and birth experience but for every aspect of motherhood from here on out.  Especially for moms who’ve never had a baby before, you don’t know what to do.  And I don’t want to say you can’t trust everyone, but it really helps to be able to outline your informed consent.  It’s classic informed consent.  You have all the information that you need, and you can make a decision on how to move forward given all of those factors laid out on the table.  And so I would say always, always, always use your brain and make sure that you’re being listened to.

Kristin:  Right.  Because without informed decision making – of course, emergencies are a different situation, but birth just ends up happening to you, and that’s when my clients may feel some shock, some perinatal mood disorders may creep in.  They just felt like it wasn’t in their control, and even talking through things for any potential intervention make a huge difference.  And of course, that continuous support of a doula, regardless of outcome, also helps improve satisfaction with the birth experience.

Shaelina:  That’s so true, and you made me think of how important it is for the emotional state of the birthing person to be as calm as possible.  And that’s why I think having a doula in the room with you is so, so important because you immediately feel this sense of security.  It’s like a sister, if you will, in your birth experience, like a big sis or a mom, and having that informed decision-making process just calms the fear.  We’re so scared of the unknown, and it’s really hard to give birth to a baby if you’re in fear.  Your body is not able to open and allow the baby – allow your body to do what it does, allow your baby to pass through, because you’re tense and tight and scared.  So using these tools and having a doula in the room and having the support postpartum, just the ease that it gives you as a mother is – it’s underestimated, I think.  Undervalued.  It’s so important.

Kristin:  I agree completely.  So how can our listeners connect with you?  I know you mentioned you’re all over social media.  You’ve got an amazing website.

Shaelina:  Yes, please follow us.  We’re on Instagram and Facebook @hellosevenfoundation.  I would love to connect with you on LinkedIn, so please find me a, just my first name.  And please visit us on our website.  We have, like I mentioned, the Black Rodeo coming up, which is going to be a great opportunity to network and meet in person.  We’re in the process of planning a gorgeous gala in Atlanta later this year, so stay tuned for that.  On our website, you can sign up for our mailing list.  And we are cooking up some really fun and exciting ways to partner with doulas and other birth support providers with donors, with historically excluded entrepreneurs, with all of the populations that support our work and care about our mission.  So sign up for our mailing list so you can stay tuned and get alerted when those opportunities come through.

Kristin:  I’m here for it.  Thank you so much for all of the important work you’re doing.

Shaelina:  Amazing.  Thank you so, so much for having me, and I will see you in about a month.

Kristin:  Yes, can’t wait!

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