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Welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast! If you’re pregnant, adopting, have a newborn or toddler at home, this podcast is just for you!
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postpartum anxiety

Podcast Episode #20: Lisa’s Story about Postpartum Anxiety

On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Lisa shares about her postpartum experience of dealing with anxiety and how doula support helped her through that challenging time.  You can listen to the complete podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud.  Please also visit our postpartum depression and anxiety resource list

Alyssa:  Hi, welcome back to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I am Alyssa, co-owner and postpartum doula.  And we’re talking to a client of mine, Lisa, again.  We’ve talked to her so far about her fertility struggles, dealing with a five-week early C-section, having a baby in NICU for eight days, bringing him home, and then moving from Seattle to Grand Rapids when he was four months old.  Today we’re going to talk about how all that plays into your overall mental well-being as a first-time mom.  All this happens; you have a baby; you’re already – you have so many fears anyway.

Lisa:  And questions.

Alyssa:  Yeah, fears and questions.

Lisa:  And there’s a spectrum of answers to any one question that you have, and so then you have to muddle through.

Alyssa:  The answer is which one is right for you.  That’s what I tell my clients.  There are so many answers, but which one makes most sense to you and your family and your baby?  So you moved to Grand Rapids; your baby’s four months old; you find me; you have a doula.  When you first moved here, what kind of mindset were you in?

Lisa:  That’s a good question.  Well, I was still really postpartum.  You know, I was still basically in the fourth trimester, so I was very hormonal still, and I think that the month prior was so focused on, okay, what do we need to do to get ready to move?  Once I got here, it was kind of a little bit of an exhale or maybe a collapse.  You know, like you’re collapsing into this new environment.  And then two things I think came up for me during this time.  So right when we moved, our son was – for the week or two prior, and for the first five days that we got here, he was actually sleeping through the night, which was the only time in his life that he’s done that.  And then, I think, five days after we moved here, he started waking up every hour throughout the night, and he was also not a good sleeper during the day, and so I was just really not getting any sleep.  And then I think for whatever reason, maybe I was out of that fourth trimester or whatever, but I think all of the trauma of the fertility, the pregnancy, the emergency C-section, and then actually having a preemie baby, that started unraveling for me.

Alyssa:  You actually had the time and space to think about it?

Lisa:  Yeah, it kind of started – I think the whole time I was just like, what’s the next step I need to take?  You’re basically just focused on moving forward, vs. really processing anything that’s happening to you during that period because if you stop to actually absorb what’s happening, it’s just emotionally overwhelming because there’s just so much wrapped up into it, for me, at least, into what was happening.  And I think I just got – I was very anxious about the fact that I don’t know anybody.  I don’t know anybody here.  I don’t know who to trust.  I have found a postpartum doula, but I’ve never met you.  I literally have never met you in my life, and I also don’t have any friends.  And I’m 39, and so I feel like, oh, my gosh, I didn’t realize I kind of need to date for friends again in my life.

Alyssa:  That reminds me of one of our phone calls when you were still in Seattle before you moved here.  You had said, “I’m a 39-year-old mom.  I know West Michigan is a lot of young parents.  Am I going to be the only 39-year-old mom at the playground?!”  And I was like, no!

Lisa:  Because in Seattle, all of my friends were older moms.  They’re career women; they’re established.  Children did not come first in their chronological life events, and so I thought, oh, no.  I am going to be the oldie.  I am going to be the old, wrinkled mom.

Alyssa:  And I think I remember telling you that yes, there are a lot of young, young families, but there are also a growing number of families who are waiting, myself being one of them, and my business partner as well, so I think – hopefully I eased your mind.

Lisa:  And I for sure found that to be true.

Alyssa:  You find your village, you know.  You find the people you’re looking for, and the ones you’re not seeking out, they don’t even really cross your radar, I feel like.  So I also remember at one point when we were working together, you telling me – when you finally got to that point where you’re like, okay, I actually have time to process this whole journey.   And you had even talked about how through your pregnancy, not feeling like you were able to enjoy it because there was all this stuff going on.

Lisa:  No, it was like every day – it was like this might sound too graphic, but I was like, how do I keep the baby in?  What do I need to do today to keep the baby inside me and growing?  And that was the focus.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  So you didn’t ever have this time to just love being pregnant and enjoy.

Lisa:  No, I was on pelvic rest.  It was just different.  It was very different.

Alyssa:  I remember you almost mourning that, mourning the fact that you felt like you didn’t – you missed out on something.

Lisa:  Yeah, I’m so glad that you brought that up.  I did, you know.  It’s the idea of just being able to make love with your husband and then you’re pregnant.  That’s what, literally, I thought.  That’s what I expected, and then that whole process was so different.  I just wanted to have a homebirth in a tub.  That’s the route that I wanted to go, and then being in antepartum in a hospital for five weeks, and then going through an emergency C-section where I didn’t even get to experience what it is like to have a contraction – you know, I felt like that was robbed from me.  And then I had this kind of indescribable feeling where once my son was born, then it was like – I can describe it best by saying that I was trying to grab a baby through sand, and the sand was just coming through my fingers.  It was like my body felt like it had “lost the baby.”  And I think that’s because – there’s probably some internal knowledge that a woman’s body has that it knows that it should carry a child for X amount of time, and mine was cut short.  And the only thing that made me feel okay is I would just put Ethan, my son, in a carrier, and just have him close to me.  Literally, body to body.  And then I didn’t have that sense of loss.  I did not expect that.  Nobody mentioned that.  That wasn’t in any books.  I just didn’t expect that.  So I was dealing with that; I think that was one of the first emotions that kind of started coming out after I moved here.

Alyssa:  How long do you think you felt that feeling of, I have to have him close to me or I feel panic?

Lisa:  Oh, I would say at least for the first six months.  It was not a short period of time.

Alyssa:  So do you remember when I told you that the first probably three or four times I saw you, I didn’t even try to take him from you?  I could sense that feeling of panic in you.

Lisa:  You recently told me that again, and for the life of me, I cannot remember that.  That doesn’t even register.  I don’t remember that.  And that kind of gives you a clue as to mentally where I was at that time.

Alyssa:  Well, like you explained it, it’s like trudging through molasses every day.  Even throughout pregnancy, you were in the mindset of, what do I have to do today to keep this baby growing inside of me?  And then once you have this baby, it was okay, how do I get through this day, that I can breastfeed my baby and try to get an hour of sleep here and there?  And it doesn’t work.  An hour of sleep at a time just doesn’t work, so you were kind of in this fog, and then also mentally, finally, able to process everything your body’s been through the past year and really kind of mourn all these things.  And yeah, I could sense the panic in you with Ethan.  But if you look at from where you started when I first met you to when I left –

Lisa:  Yeah, I was like, wait, what day is Alyssa coming back?

Alyssa:  You would; you would text and say are you coming today or tomorrow?  It is 12 or 2?  You know, you were just in a place –

Lisa:  I could not remember details like that, either.  And you’re like, well, no.  Three days from now.  I’m like, oh, no!  I’m in trouble this week!  I do remember – I think the first thing I went and did by myself in Grand Rapids once I got here is I remember you taking Ethan and saying no, you actually have to get outside of the house.  And I think I went to Gaslight, which is less than a mile away from my house, and I think I got a pedicure or coffee, I don’t know.  Something like that, that took half an hour or something, and then I was back.  But I felt like, oh, gosh.  That was a breath of fresh air.  I didn’t have a crying baby in the back, because he didn’t particularly like the car seat.  Yeah, and I guess I just – I’m so thankful for you because I feel like you not only were looking out for my son, who was my number one priority, but you were also looking out for me, which I wasn’t really able to.  You know, and I’m home alone, all by myself all day, in a new place.  I was a stranger in a strange land, and I just needed help.  Moms need help in places that they don’t even necessarily know that they need help.

Alyssa:  Well, and that’s the thing, I think, with postpartum support.  We are there to help you care for the newborn, and it’s not that we won’t, but we’re there to really care for you because it’s just that we don’t think we need help or we maybe don’t know we need as much help as we really do.

Lisa:  I was just trying really hard to do it all and kind of get it right, whatever that meant.

Alyssa:  Right.  Do we ever get it right all the time?  No.

Lisa:  No.  On a brain that hasn’t seen more than an hour of sleep in weeks, you know, it just doesn’t work, or wasn’t working for me very well.  I was trying really hard, but it wasn’t working.

Alyssa:  Well, I think your family is lovely, and you’re doing a great job.  You always did a great job, even on lack of sleep.  You did the best you could, and Ethan is wonderful.  Is there anything else you want to tell people about dealing with anxiety and about postpartum support?

Lisa:  Yeah, there was this great documentary event a couple months back.  It was held – I think Gold Coast Doulas was one of the sponsors.

Alyssa:  When the Bough Breaks?

Lisa:  Yeah, and it’s a documentary about women with postpartum depression, and it wasn’t until I actually watched that movie that I understood what postpartum depression actually is and that it is a spectrum of an emotional state that can be anywhere from low anxiety to psychosis.  And I literally thought – because I think what you hear in the news about postpartum depression is more the psychosis stories, and I thought, well, I’m not having hallucinations, or I don’t want to harm my child or anything like that, so I’m “fine.”  But once I watched the documentary, I realized I was definitely on the spectrum of high anxiety with a newborn and even infant.  I would say for sure for the first eleven months.  And I would just say again, find somebody who knows that they’re talking about, who’s thought of as kind of best in their field.  A postpartum doulas would be a great example.   Talk to somebody and get support.  Don’t sit there in your living room and panic and worry.

Alyssa:  Don’t just try to deal with it yourself.

Lisa:  Yeah, don’t just try to deal with it yourself because I think I did, and if I would have reached out more, like if I would have been more forthcoming with you earlier about it, I think it would have helped me a lot.

Alyssa:  Maybe wouldn’t have lasted eleven months.

Lisa:  Yeah, because I think I waited until maybe month nine to really talk to you about it.  I was like, “Alyssa, I just – I’m kind of feeling these things.  Do you think I have postpartum depression?” And that’s a long time.

Alyssa:  Talking about it is hard, though.  And even with your partner or spouse, it’s sometimes hard.

Lisa:  Well, and it’s sometimes fleeting, too.  It’s not like every day you feel bad, but it’s sometimes in the morning you feel bad; sometimes in the afternoon you feel bad, or you feel particularly overwhelmed by this new developmental stage that your baby is going through.  You know, just get – just talk to other good women.  Get support.

Alyssa:  Talking about it is the first step.

Lisa:  For sure.

Alyssa:  I’ll list some resources for postpartum depression, anxiety, and psychosis on our website, and we have some on our Facebook page, as well.  Thank you so much for talking to us.

Lisa:  Thank you.

Podcast Episode #20: Lisa’s Story about Postpartum Anxiety Read More »

Postpartum depression

Podcast Episode #19: Lisa’s Postpartum Journey

On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa talks with Lisa about her postpartum doula and how having a doula helped with her recovery.  You can listen to the complete podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud.



Alyssa:  Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase.  I am co-owner and postpartum doula.  Today we are talking to a client, Lisa, again.  Hello, Lisa.

Lisa:  Hello.

Alyssa:  Last time we talked about her and her husband’s struggle with fertility and how that looked for her.  Just to kind of recap, it took them about two and a half years, and then she ended up with an emergency C-section five weeks early.  So we’re going to talk about what her life looked like once she got home.  So Ethan spent five days in NICU, and you said you were ready.   You were ready after that; five days was enough.  Is that because it was scary having a baby in the NICU, or you just wanted to go home?

Lisa:  Everything is very medical and monitored, and it feels – there’s definitely a separation between the natural kind of mother-and-child bonding, I think, that happens in those early hours, those early days.  So for example, when I had the C-section, they wouldn’t actually let me go visit him until I was able to get up out of bed by myself and go to the bathroom.  So I ended up not being able to see him for the first 17 hours.

Alyssa:  You were like, “I will get up and pee by myself!”

Lisa:  If this is the last thing that I do, I am going to get out of this bed and go pee!  Yeah, so, that made me anxious because I was literally sitting in this hospital bed by myself in a room by myself because my husband was with the baby doing skin-to-skin, and I was counting the minutes.  When do I get to go meet him?

Alyssa:  So five days later, you get to bring him home.

Lisa:  Actually, eight days later.   Yeah, we bring him home, and it was so funny because as much as I wanted to leave the NICU, the minute we got home, he wasn’t hooked up to a monitor so you don’t know his oxygen saturation levels; you don’t know his temperature; you don’t know all these things that the machines are telling you.  And I literally was fearful that he was going to die in the middle of the night.  I’m like, “Well, he’s just going to stop breathing, and I’m not going to know because the beeper isn’t going to go off.”  And so then I had this anxiety about not having all of the faculties that you have in the hospital.  But luckily, we knew right from the beginning that – we had a birth doula who played a very different role than what I expected her to play in the beginning.

Alyssa:  Yeah, absolutely.  How did your birth doula end up supporting you with an emergency C-section?

Lisa:  She didn’t make it to the hospital in time because it was – it happened basically in 45 minutes, and so just with the distance, she couldn’t get there, but she sat with me in the room after I recovered for several hours, when I was coming down off the gas and stuff that you get.  Not gas; it’s an injection, but anyway, you know, when you’re really coming out of the stuff that they give you, and that was really helpful.  I’m glad that I wasn’t alone then.  But we knew that we also wanted a postpartum doula.  Neither of us had been around babies very much in our adult life, and we wanted somebody who was an expert with infants that knew the research and the range of – what are the options, when I have a question?  You know, about sleeping or whatever; that would be a great one because we did struggle a lot with sleeping.  What are the different approaches and why, and what are the pros and cons to each?  I talked a lot to my postpartum doula about sleeping and how to encourage sleeping, creating the right environment and all of that.  But otherwise, I didn’t know what I was doing.  I was also recovering from an abdominal surgery, and I just plain needed help, you know?  I was struggling with getting up and down stairs because it was still quite painful.  And so we had a postpartum doula come in every morning from six to nine through the work week and then on the weekends, my husband and I were together, so then we were able to kind of tag-team, and that was obviously different.  And then we also did have several overnight stays.  But even simple things the postpartum doula helped me with was, how do you get up with a new, new baby, at least get yourself in the shower, and eating breakfast, before you’re kind of down on the couch nursing them for the first time or for the first nap during the day?  And I think that would have taken me weeks to figure out.

Alyssa:  To figure out, like if I get up a half an hour early and try to get in the shower…

Lisa:  Yes!  And just a shower and eating before you’re starting the whole rigmarole of the day, especially when you’re breastfeeding, because I was really hungry – that makes a huge difference.

Alyssa:  Well, and most women, especially in the beginning when you feel like you’re nursing all the time –

Lisa:  All the time!

Alyssa:  And you’re so hungry and so thirsty, and then they tell me, well, I don’t have time.  You need to make time.  If you’re not drinking, you’re not eating, your milk supply is just going to start to slowly diminish.

Lisa:  Yeah.  And then I couldn’t do things like go to the grocery store; that was a big challenge, or do any type of meal planning.  So then our postpartum doula – we said, this is the food that we like, and so she basically created some meals, went to the grocery store, brought them back, did some or all of the food prep for the different meals, and that was just life-saving as well.   But mostly I think for me it was a trusted partner.  Like, who can I just ask anything to and it be just fine?  And maybe it’s lack of knowledge for me or just that I don’t know who else to ask this question to.

Alyssa:  Well, it’s overwhelming your first time.  You literally know nothing.  I mean, very little.

Lisa:  I didn’t even know how to swaddle.  I mean, swaddling was a big learning curve for me.  I never really got it tight enough.  In the beginning; I eventually did, but –

Alyssa:  He’d just kind of ninja his way out?

Lisa:  Yes, he did!  Yeah.  This person, this woman, this angel of mine, her name was Kate, and she was wonderful.

Alyssa:  Now, we should mention – we didn’t mention that you lived in Seattle at this point.

Lisa:  Right.

Alyssa:  So you were not in Grand Rapids.  When did you find out you were moving?

Lisa:  When our son was three months old.  He had just turned three months.

Alyssa:  Yeah, because you had just gotten here when he was about four months, right?  So you had a month to prepare.  How was that?

Lisa:  I think I was in a little bit of denial about how much needed to be done.  We decided to spend more money to push the easy button, so we hired movers to actually pack us for the first time as well as do the cross-country move, and that was worth every dime that we spent, even though that is not cheap.  It was really worth it.  And I just focused on my recovery and my baby and the bonding and just let all that other stuff go.

Alyssa:  So then you got here, and you had Judd’s family here.  You have no family here, and your doula in Seattle found me.

Lisa:  Right, so then I was talking to her, and I said, “You know, I don’t know what I’m going to do.  I don’t know anybody there.  How am I going to unpack into a new house, meet anybody?”  And she’s like, “Oh, well, let me just do some research.  I’ll do some looking for you today,” and she came back the next day, and she was like, “I found somebody.”  And it was Alyssa.  And I was like, “Perfect!  Perfect!  At least I have a doula that I can totally lean on!”  And that was you, and…

Alyssa:  We met, and the rest is history, right?

Lisa:  The rest is history.  And my husband’s family helped us move into the house, and that was unbelievably healthy.  Healthy?  Helpful!  I still have mom-brain.

Alyssa:  It never goes away.

Lisa:  I transpose these words and then it doesn’t make sense.

Alyssa:  It doesn’t go away.  It’s not pregnancy-brain; it’s mom-brain, for sure.

Lisa:  So at the end of the day, I’m really glad that we moved.  I think it was a really, really hard time.  I think moving may be – if you can wait until your baby is closer to one or something, that might be easier, an easier transition for the mom just because you’re so exhausted in the beginning.  But Grand Rapids is really family-friendly, and I’m just so appreciative of that, and I feel like it’s a good place to raise kids.

Alyssa:  We’re glad you’re here.

Lisa:  I’m glad that we’re here.  And I’m glad to have met you!  Thank goodness for you!

Alyssa:  Yeah, we worked eight months, maybe, seven months?  Off and on; it was a lot in the beginning.

Lisa:  Yeah, until he was about a year, yeah.  At a year, I kind of felt like, oh, the weight of all of being a new mom kind of lifted a little bit for me, and I just felt more confident, I guess.

Alyssa:  Well, and he was gaining so much more independence that it was almost – I remember one day you saying “It’s so great.  He’s sitting up and he’s doing all these things, but he’s not my little baby anymore.”  It was like this – I’m so glad he’s doing this because now he can play by himself for a little bit on the floor and I can actually go sit down and eat or do dishes or something, but you struggled with this.  He’s my baby, but he’s not my little baby anymore, and he’s doing all these other things.  And I think we all struggle with that.  Me, I only have one child, so every phase, every developmental stage, I just – good and bad, I love it.

Lisa:  Because that’s the only one you get.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  So I guess that’s a piece of advice I give, especially if you’re only having one –and you may end up trying for more; who knows, but you just – it helps you get through the hard times.  Even the sleepless nights; it’s all temporary because soon he’s going to be eight, right?  He’s not going to want to sleep with you, and he’s not going to want to wake up.  You’re going to have to wake him up!

Lisa:  That’s right.  I can’t even imagine that!  He’s still waking up probably three times, religiously, every night.  But it’s a lot better than what he was.

Alyssa:  You’re getting sleep.

Lisa:  Yeah, I’m getting enough sleep now.  I’m not crazy like I was; sleepless-crazy.  You know, an hour or 45 minutes of continuous sleep, all during the day, if that’s all you get, that is not enough for a person to have their wits about them.  It’s just not.

Alyssa:  No.  I think we’ll talk next time with Lisa about the effects of sleep deprivation and how – you know, a pregnancy journey that doesn’t go as planned along with sleep deprivation and an emergency C-section; all these things; how does that play in your brain.  So stay tuned; we’ll talk next to Lisa about that.  Thank you for sharing today!

Lisa:  Thanks.

Podcast Episode #19: Lisa’s Postpartum Journey Read More »

Cindy's Suds

Podcast Episode #17: How to Find a Babysitter You Trust

On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa and Cindy talk about how to find a babysitter that you trust to watch your kids.  You can listen to this entire podcast epidode on iTunes and Soundclound. 

Alyssa: Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa, and I’m here with Cindy from Cindy’s Suds.

Cindy:  Hi.

Alyssa: I’m kind of throwing this topic at her because we had a question asked: how do you find babysitters?  So we have these moms who are having babies, and then let’s say they don’t have friends and family around.

Cindy:  We were fortunate in that my mom lives in the area, and my sister lived in the area when we had our kids, when they were younger.  So we were fortunate that we had family babysitters at the ready, but my parents started traveling a few years after we had kids, and so then I needed to get a babysitter, somebody that I had on standby instead of my dear mom and my sister.  So it was interesting because it’s very challenging trying to find a sitter who you trust with your most precious possession, which is your child or your children.  I think in an earlier episode, you and I had talked about interviewing preschools and schools.

Alyssa: Yeah, pediatricians and stuff.

Cindy:  It’s no different with babysitters, and so that’s the thing that I started doing when we needed to find a babysitter is I started interviewing, and I started asking friends for babysitter referrals.  If I had a babysitter that I liked, that I would use periodically, I would ask them if they had friends that also were sitters.  But I did my due diligence, just like we talked about for pediatricians or for schools.  I interviewed them, and I had them with me and my kids for a while so I could see them interact with my children, and that was a huge tell-tale for how they would interact with kids.  It’s surprising how some babysitters are naturally so great with kids, and others that claim to be babysitters would sit on the ground and have no idea how to interact with kids.  So it’s kind of interesting just the whole gamut of what kind of person you’re going to get when you really start looking for a sitter, and I would just really make sure that if you’re in that boat, you do some interviewing, just like you would do for pediatricians or schools or whatever.

Alyssa: Yeah, I think having – I see a lot of clients who don’t even want a babysitter because they’re so scared to leave them.  So I tell them a good middle ground; like, ease your way into it; have them come over while you’re home.  It’s almost like a mother’s helper role.  You pay them a little bit less just to say, hey, come over for two hours.  Will you watch my son or daughter while I cook or nap – not nap, probably, because you want to watch them, but maybe cook or clean or just get some errands done around the house.  Really start to feel comfortable with that person before you leave the house.

Cindy:  I agree 100%, and that’s what I did, too, for our sitters when we were looking for them.  You want them in your home with you there so that you can have that mom-ear to hear and to listen for interaction.  And also if they have questions; they can ask you while you’re there, and you can kind of guide them through what your son or daughter may like, not like, you know, different things like that.  Even changing diapers – this is a funny story.  My sister was in her 20s when she first started babysitting for us, and I guess I assumed that she would remember how to change diapers from when she had babysat 10 years prior, and the first time that we had left her with our daughter who was little, maybe four or five months at the time, when we came home from whatever event that my husband and I had to go to, her diapers was on backwards!  Which cracked me up because she’s like, 22, 23, and this must have been something that she couldn’t quite remember.

Alyssa: The Velcro goes in back!

Cindy:  Right, right.

Alyssa: At least you realized it before bedtime and woke up to a huge mess in the middle of the night.

Cindy:  Right.  And we actually were cloth diapering, but we left some disposables thinking that it would be easier than a cloth diaper, and even that must have thrown her.  So very funny because she’s my sister that has quadruplets, so she actually has really had to get it.

Alyssa: Now she knows how to change a diaper!

Cindy: Now she knows how to change diapers!  But yeah, I think it’s great if you’re able to be there with the babysitter, a couple of hours at a time here, a couple of hours at a time there.  You’ll really get an idea of how they interact with your children, and that is by far the best way to really weed out who you want to watch your children.

Alyssa: So our first-time moms do that, and then by the time you have kid number two or three, they’re like, we don’t even care.  Just give me somebody.

Cindy:  And references from friends, like if you have friends that have said, hey, so-and-so is great.  I think that’s a super valuable resource, too, because now you’ve got this person who’s kind of been vetted by a friend of yours already, so that’s a good option.

Alyssa: Neighbors, too.  You know, we have a couple girls in our neighborhood who can literally walk here, and that’s really convenient, especially if they’re not 16 yet, you know, if you trust a 14- or 15-year-old with your kid and they can just walk here.

Cindy:  And I think the nice thing about a 14- or 15-year-old, when you have an older child, that’s a great age compliment.

Alyssa: Yeah.  It’s almost like they’re not embarrassed to be silly; does that make sense?

Cindy:  Right, exactly.

Alyssa: But if you get an 18-year-old, and they’re like, hmm.

Cindy:  Exactly; that is so true.  And so if you just need somebody for the day, you know, if you’re running errands during the day, if you’ve got a daytime meeting, I think that age bracket is actually a more fun age bracket.  If your kids are between the ages of three, four to maybe eight or so, that’s a super fun age for that younger teen to babysit because they can be silly and they can be fun, and if they’re in your neighborhood, they can walk over, and how great is that?  So that’s super convenient, too.

Alyssa: Yeah, I think it gets easier as your kids get older.  When you have an infant, I’d say up until one, right, you really want somebody experienced.  I had one babysitter I trusted, and she was CPR-certified, and I knew her family.  So it’s different if you’re not hiring a nanny or a postpartum doula or you don’t have your mom, but even if you’re having a caregiver, like your grandparents as caregivers or baby’s grandparents, I got nervous about that when my parents watched her because they were 35 years out of the game, and they didn’t know all these things that have changed in 34 years.  Unplanned segue; we have The Modern Grandparent class that we teach.  So it just updates grandparents on all these things and how to be great babysitters.  Let’s talk about SIDS and crib safety, Back to Sleep, how to bottle-feed, how to support the mom if she’s a breastfeeding mom.

Cindy:  That’s a perfect thing to think about as well, because they haven’t been sitting; they haven’t watched kids in many, many years, and things have changed.

Alyssa: I mean, if your sister after 10 years forgot how to put a diaper on correctly, what do the grandparents forget in 35 years, sometimes 40?  We’ve got moms who are 40, so when you have grandparents as caregivers, it’s also a source of anxiety.  Babysitters in general, just especially for new parents; it’s stressful.

Cindy:  It’s so nerve-wracking.  The first time I left my daughter, I cried and cried and cried.  I had a miserable night out, and it’s because you feel as a mom like you’re the only person that can take care of your child.  And while you may feel that, that’s probably not true.  But you’ve got to really feel good about the sitter so that you can enjoy yourself because the whole purpose of having a babysitter is maybe to either reconnect with your husband, have a date night, go to meetings.  It’s so that you can really establish who you are again, whether that’s the work force or different groups or events that you were a part of before you had a baby.  You need to feel comfortable with that sitter so that you can get back to remembering who you are as a person before you were a mom, which I think is super easy for us as moms to forget about the person who we were before we became a mom.  I think we can kind of separate and draw a line: “Now I’m a mom; now I can’t do the things that I did beforehand.”  So finding that sitter, whether it’s a grandparent who has gone through the grandparenting class that you guys offer, or if it’s a sitter that actually has done some CPR certification training or is super involved with other kid groups or that’s she’s been around children a lot, so she is comfortable.  You just need to make sure that you’re finding a babysitter who you can completely trust so that you can enjoy whatever activity you’re doing to need the sitter in the first place.

Alyssa: Yeah, if it’s supposed to be an enjoyable night out, you want to enjoy it, and if you’re supposed to be at work, you need to be productive.  Crying at your desk all day is not productive.

Cindy:  Right, exactly.

Alyssa: Well, hopefully we gave everyone some good tips.  Babysitters can be tricky, but when you find a good one, don’t let them go.

Cindy:  Exactly, yeah.  They’re worth their weight in gold; they really are, so make sure that you find that one or two, and if you can have a couple, that’s nicer just because if you are – we had one that we loved when our kids were little, and when she wasn’t free, we didn’t go out.  And that’s also not really productive, either.  You really want to have a couple, a little group of sitters who you feel comfortable with and who your kids feel comfortable with.

Alyssa: We have several because some are high school students.  Some are college students.  Their schedules are all different, and I know that my high school girls are going to be graduating, and their schedules get different, and then the 14-year-olds are much more available than the 17- or 18-year-olds because now they’re getting into boyfriends and dating and all these events and maybe they have other jobs.  So I have to have a wide array because otherwise, yeah, if you have one sitter, you’re probably out of luck most of the time.  Because you’re not their only job; I bet they have other babysitting jobs.

Cindy:  Very true.

Alyssa: Well, thanks for sharing.  As always, you can find us at  Email us with ideas at  And then, Cindy, where can people find you?

Cindy:  You can find us on our website.  It’s, and you can also email me directly at  We’re carried locally in the Harvest Health stores, Kingma’s, Hopscotch, and several other local retailers.

Podcast Episode #17: How to Find a Babysitter You Trust Read More »

Cindy's Suds

Podcast Episode #14: Grief


On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa talks with Cindy of Cindy’s Suds about her experience dealing with grief and how she found her purpose and mission to help sustain her.  This podcast is available to listen to on iTunes and Soundcloud.  

Alyssa:            Hi, welcome back to another episode of Ask the Doulas. On this episode, we’re talking about grief.  I am Alyssa, co-owner and post-partum doula at Gold Coast, and today we are talking to Cindy again from Cindy’s Suds.

Cindy:             Hey, how are you?

Alyssa:            Welcome.

Cindy:             Thank you.

Alyssa:            So I read a blog – it’s probably been at least two or three weeks ago, of some really tough stuff that you went through about four weeks ago.  Can you tell our listeners a little bit about what happened and then what you went through emotionally and mentally after this stuff kind of hit you pretty hard?

Cindy:            Sure, yeah.  Well, one of my friends that I’ve been friends with for 20 years or so had a daughter who was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer almost three years ago, and her daughter was about 19, I believe, when she was diagnosed.  They didn’t quite exactly know what kind of cancer it was initially just because it was a rare form of Ewing’s sarcoma, which is a rare cancer to begin with, but it had a very rare presentation for her.

Alyssa:            And what does that mean?

Cindy:            So for Ewing’s sarcoma, it’s a childhood cancer that usually develops in the bones, and it’s usually the femur, like the leg bones, or sometimes the pelvis bones.  But for her, it started in soft tissue.  It started in her uterus, and so her presenting symptom was heavy periods.  So for a 19-year-old with heavy periods, that is fairly common, you know, so she was not really concerned at first because so many teenagers have heavy periods.  I mean, that’s just kind of part of your body trying to figure out what kind of cycles you’re going through; if you’re athletic, if you’re dieting, if you’re whatever, your periods are going to be a little bit off.  So her period started getting a little heavier and didn’t think much about it at first.  Then she went to the doctor, and the doctor was like, well, you know, maybe let’s try a birth control to try to cycle you better, control your cycle.  And after several months, it just wasn’t helping, so they tried a different pill, and they weren’t getting the results they expected, so then they thought just to do a quick ultrasound, a pelvic ultrasound, to see if there was a fibroid or something causing the extra bleeding.  And they found a mass, which they thought was a fibroid, which would be very clinically acceptable, and yet that would make sense, but when they saw the fibroid, I guess it looked a little bit different, enough for them to decide to biopsy it.  And the biopsy showed it was cancerous.  And then it took several other steps to figure out what kind of cancer it was because it just wasn’t like a typical uterine cancer or an ovarian cancer.  And so when they found out that it was this Ewing’s sarcoma, it had been a few months.  It was a rare cancer to begin with, and it just presented differently.

Alyssa:            So instead of bones, they found it in the uterus?

Cindy:            In the soft tissue, yeah.  So she battled cancer for about two and a half years, and her body just couldn’t fight anymore, and at age 22 years old, she succumbed to the cancer, which was devastating for her parents, for her friends, for her family.  It’s just such a sad, incredibly awful situation because as a mom, you can completely relate to how you could put yourself in the shoes – you would never, ever want to, but you can just imagine the complete grief and devastation that would cause.  So we kind of knew it was coming just because we would get little updates and stuff that she’s really not responding to this medicine or that medicine, and we’ve called in hospice.  We could kind of see their progression, but it didn’t really sink in until you get that final text that she had passed because you kept thinking, “She’s 22.  She’s young.  She’s vibrant.  She’s got all this life ahead of her.”  And it just didn’t seem like it was actually really going to take her life.  It was just very hard to wrap your head around.  So that was four weeks ago yesterday, and it has just really rocked our friend group, and you just don’t even know what you’re going to feel like until it’s actually there, on you.  We were kind of going through the motions; we were trying to figure out what little ways we could help support our friend or just being in the sidelines, just praying for their family.  So in the midst of that, that same week, one of my close friends that I’ve known for 25 years – we lived together when we were in our 20s.  We’ve known each other forever.  She had been diagnosed with leukemia about a year ago and had gone through the treatment, had gone through a stem cell transplant.  Things seemed to be going great.  She had great energy; she was really starting to look and feel completely normal.  And that same week that my friend’s daughter Kate had died, I got a text from my friend and she said, “I need to tell you my cancer’s back.  We’re leaving tomorrow for Texas.”  So, boom.  You just don’t know when something like that hits you how you’re going to react, and for me, it – besides being so sad for my friend and for her family, as a mom, you just aren’t thinking through all these things, you know, what if she has to leave her kids?  This is now my adult friend.  If she passes, she’s leaving behind teenagers and a nine-year-old.  What is her new normal going to be now?  What is this all – how is this new chapter, this new season, going to look?  So I just really felt like I shut down.  For about two to three weeks, I had a very, very hard time just with normal activities because nothing is normal anymore.  You know, my friend’s family is still struggling, obviously.  They’re in Texas getting treatment, and her kids have been kind of back and forth, and her kids are there right now with her.  Her husband and her nine-year-old are staying down there in Texas.  It was just one of those times, I guess, in life where you really realize that we’re not in control, and it was just – it kind of hit me in a way that I didn’t expect it to hit me.  Just a lot of sadness, and the realization that so much of our lives we have zero control over.  And I’ve never really been affected this personally by cancer before, and so you hear people talk about, “Cancer sucks,” this or that, but man, when it really affects close friends and their family members, it is just is so eye-opening how pervasive cancer is in our communities, and how it is so indiscriminate for who it’s going to attack.  You can lead a super, super healthy life, and it can get you.  You can lead a really unhealthy life, and it can get you.  You can be rich; you can be poor; you can live in a great community; you can live in a poor community.  It’s so indiscriminate, and it is so everywhere, and I think that realization of – there’s this uncertainty that just really kind of hit me hard when this news came about a month ago now.  So for me personally, I just went through a little mini-depression, and for me to do any work, for me to do anything that was housework, I couldn’t bring myself to do it because it felt so inconsequential, so miniscule to what my friends were going through, that it seemed completely pointless to do the normal routines because their lives were completely shattered.  And so it was very interesting, yet I think healthy in a way, because I think when you can empathize and sympathize with people, I think that is sometimes the only way that you can really reach out to someone who’s hurting is if you are there at least with them and you can help them.  Just so that – I think if you’re hurting with them, I think you don’t even have to say any words.  You’re there with them, and you – grief is such a weird thing.  It’s such an individual thing, and everybody grieves differently.  So it’s just been a very interesting, sad, heavy kind of a last month, and I just now feel like I’m kind of starting to come out of this little hole that I dug myself into.

Alyssa:            I don’t know if it was in your blog or if we were talking, and you told me that you had a friend – I think it was in your blog.  A friend actually said to you, “Well, what are you talking about?  Your business doesn’t have to stop.”  What you’re doing for people; you’re trying to eliminate some of – screw cancer, right?  But that’s why you’re doing what you’re doing, and that kind of brought you out of the funk a little bit.

Cindy:            Exactly, yeah.  And that was something that I had dug myself in so much to this hole that it took my friend to say, “Well, wait a minute.  Yeah, cancer does suck,” and she actually has a parent who has cancer and her in-laws have both passed away of cancer, so she is very uniquely tied into the grief of cancer, herself.  But she jumped on it, and she was like, “Well, yeah, cancer does suck, and this is exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing with your natural products.”  And it kind of gave me that, wow.  She’s absolutely right.  So I could sit here and wallow in sadness and grief, which is also a needed thing.  I’m not dismissing that at all because everyone needs to grieve differently.  But it also – when she said that, it kind of gave me this tool to be like, wait a minute.  Yeah, there’s choices and reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing, and it may not feel as inconsequential as it did, you know, right after I got such sad news, but it’s a tool for me to at least feel like I can move forward, and I can help in small ways.

Alyssa:            Whatever small way you can.

Cindy:            Right, and that’s not to say that – you could do every single thing right, and you could still get cancer.  I’m not trying to dismiss that and say “Oh, you must not be following all the rules and therefore you got cancer.”  That’s not what I’m saying at all.  But we do know that if we can make our bodies as cancer-hostile as possible, we’re at least going to hopefully prevent certain types of cancers.  Some cancers are going to be more genetically predisposed or they just don’t really know why you get certain types, but we also do know that other types of cancer will grow faster, quicker, if they’re in an environment that’s going to promote disease vs. promote health.  So by her saying that to me, it really gave me almost like the fire again to be like, “Well, wait a minute.  What I am doing is helping, and it is giving people options.”  If you’re trying to be as healthy as possible, you’re going to choose products that are chemical-free, that don’t contain a lot of these chemicals that are known carcinogenics that are just kind of pervasive throughout the bath and body realm out there because they’re cheap or they provide a cheaper quality that you could get vs. a more expensive plant that you’re using in your products.  So it did give me that fire to be like, yeah, amongst the sadness and grief and pain, there are little steps that we can do individually to promote wellness and to promote health, and I feel like I’ve got my little corner where I can use Cindy’s Suds to at least offer families a chemical-free option for bath and body needs.  And so I’ve kind of had to keep grasping back to that to remind myself, “This is why I’m doing what I’m doing.  This is why I’m doing it.”  So whereas the reason I started Cindy’s Suds was because one of my sons had really bad skin issues, bad eczema, super dry skin, I feel like ten years later, I’ve got this renewed fire to be like, well, wait a minute.  Yeah, this is what started me, the skin issues.  And now the cancer is this newfound fire in my soul, that I can use this sadness and this grief that I’ve experienced with my friends and use that more as a fire to move on and to continue offering products that are safe just so that we have alternative choices instead of this sea of chemical-laden products that are out there.  I’m not they saying will cause cancer, but I’m saying we do know that there are so many things that are bad for our bodies, and why not try to eliminate as much as possible so that you’re trying to at least start out on as best a footing as you can because cancer does not pick and choose its victims.  And so if you can create a healthier, cancer-hostile environment in your body, you’re better off starting there than you are two steps backwards where you do have those chemicals in your system.

Alyssa:            Right.

Cindy:            So kind of a big mind-shift, philosophy-shift, heart-shift has occurred over this last month, and it’s just – yeah.  It’s been a learning month for me, I feel like.

Alyssa:            Thank you for sharing, first of all.  But I’m glad that you’re finding that new fire and you can still be a great friend to your friends.  Thank you for sharing.  We’ll have Cindy on again soon.  If you have any questions for her, you can find her on her website.

Cindy:            Sure, you can reach me at my website,  There’s a link to get ahold of me directly from the website.  You can also email me directly at  And if you have any insight into what we’ve talked about today or if you want to share your story, I just feel like we can all be connected in the stories that we share and how we support each other through those.

Alyssa:            Absolutely.  Thank you so much.


Podcast Episode #14: Grief Read More »

Better Body Image Conference

Podcast Episode #13: Better Body Image Conference

In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa talks with Bri Luginbill and Connie Flachs about the Better Body Image Conference taking place in Grand Rapids, MI on March 11th.  This podcast is available to listen to on iTunes and Soundcloud. 

Alyssa:            Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa, co-owner and post-partum doula, and today we have Bri Luginbill and Connie Flachs from the Better Body Image Conference with us.

Bri:                 Hi, everybody.

Connie:           Hello.

Alyssa:            We’ll let you introduce yourselves in a minute, but Gold Coast is doing something with you guys that’s really cool.  It’s your first Better Body Image Conference that you’re holding March 11th at the Wealthy Street Theatre, and we are doing it with you because we are putting a panel together in regards to body image and mothers after pregnancy because your body goes through so many changes.  So we’re super excited to do that with you.  Can you kind of give us an overview of BBI?  When I say BBI, that’s Better Body Image Conference.  So can you tell me a little bit about how it got started?  Start from the beginning and then let’s explain some details.

Bri:                 I’m going to let Connie start because this is kind of yours.

Connie:           So this is a topic I’ve been really passionate about.  In my day job, I’m a dancer for Grand Rapids Ballet, and so I’m consistently looking at my body in the mirror and have gone through ups and downs in my relationship with that and have found a lot of support and resources online or maybe with professionals but have always had a hard time connecting within the community to find some solidarity there, so I wanted to create a space that allowed people to come together and talk about these issues just within a community.  So I was thinking about it and was like, it would be so cool.  There are documentaries out about this; we could show a documentary and have a panel discussion.  Just thinking about this idea, I stumbled across a Facebook page of an event that had happened in Grand Rapids called Go Boldly, Love Your Body.  I was like, this is really aligned.  I’m going to send a message to this woman who started this and see if she has any tips – and that woman was Bri.  So we met for coffee at Lantern and talked a bit, and I told Bri kind of what my idea was, and she was like, yes, that was so awesome.  I would love to be involved.  Let’s make it bigger.

Bri:                 Let’s make it an almost all-day thing.  And so we met back in November of 2017, so fast forward now, it’s February, and our conference is in March.  So we’ve been kind of going really, really –

Alyssa:            You’ve been working.

Bri:                 Yeah, really, really fast to do all the connections and get everything going, but when I had met with Connie, I just really felt that together we could make this something more than just a movie panel and showing.  We could have workshops so people are attending something and getting the tools there and actually having an experience during that, as well, and then also having a keynote come in and talk so people are getting inspired.  Connie really inspired me because my Go Boldly campaign was in 2014, and then I did little bits here and there, but when she messaged me, it kind of ignited the fire back in me about the issue that I was really passionate about as well, but just in a different way, to be able to bring it in a bigger way to the community than it has ever been before.  This will be the first inaugural Better Body Image Conference in Grand Rapids, and we’re so excited about it.  We actually have Spectrum as our major partner.  We have a bunch of other local businesses that are sponsoring us as well.  And obviously Gold Coast Doulas; we had reached out to you to do one of our very own workshops that does focus on the body post-partum for mothers.  But there are so many other ones, as well.

Alyssa:            So tell me.  I know it’s from 12:00 to 6:00 and Gold Coast has a workshop at 2:00.  What happens when somebody signs up – what does the day look like from 12:00 to 6:00?

Bri:                 So someone signs up and they decide, okay, I want to attend the whole day, which like Alyssa said, will be 12:00 to 6:00.  They can come in as early as 11:30.   We’ll have coffee; they can talk; they can just kind of relax into the day.  We register them, and we see their tickets and make sure that everything’s all there.  And so tickets for the keynote as well as the movie are completely free, so we try to make that really accessible to all, and so they come in, they go to the keynote from 12:00 to 1:00.  There’s a space from 1:00 to 2:00 before the workshops to just kind of, after the keynote, connect with people or if you want to go grab something to eat that’s a little bit more than the snacks that we will provide, there’s a lot of local places around that you can do that in.  Then people will come back for the workshops from 2:00 to 2:45.   There’s three workshops each time slot, so Gold Coast has one of those, and they’ll be in the micro-cinema, so it can house up to 60 people.  Then we’ll have one that’s a little more intimate in a conference room.  Rachel Steil, actually, from Running in Silence, who went through an eating disorder and published a book about it, will be talking during that one in the conference room, and then we’ll actually have a physical workshop.  The one from 2:00 to 2:45 is the one that’s physical.  I think that one’s Dana, and that will be in the annex.  You do have to walk outside for it, but it’s actually like a little dance studio, so you’ll get to do yoga, but also, it’s about mind and body as well as the physical movements.

Connie:           So as an attendee, you pick one of those three in that first time slot, and then you can pick one of the three in the second time slot as well, if you want.

Bri:                 Yep, and then in the 3:00 to 3:45 range, we have another physical workshop by Jennifer Feldman.  And she’ll be doing that in the annex as well, and then we also have another panel discussion by Partners for a Racism-Free Society led by May, and that is about the transgression of mainstream beauty.  So it is addressing issues and stigmas found in beauty in other cultures.  And then the third one – I’m actually surprised that I’m remembering every single one off the top of my head, but the third one will be in the conference room, and that one’s going to be real food wellness.

Connie:           Laura Burkett.

Bri:                 With Laura Burkett.

Connie:           A holistic nutritionist.

Alyssa:            That sounds really awesome.  Tell us a little bit more about the keynote.  Who is she?  What is she going to speak about?

Connie:           So Elena Rossini – I watched a couple of different body image documentaries, and I came across The Illusionists documentary, which really felt like it connected with what I was dreaming of for this conference, so I contacted the filmmaker, Elena Rossini.  And so we talked on the phone, and she said – she makes other movies for her day job, and she was interested in exploring body image, so she traveled to eight different countries and made this documentary about the singular idea of beauty that has kind of spread throughout the entire world and this very narrow, westernized ideal that a lot of people feel pressure to fit.  So she’s traveled.  She splits her time living between Italy and Paris, and then she’s traveled all over the world talking about this movie she’s made, so she’s spoken at a lot of different universities.  She’s given a presentation at Silicon Valley.  So we’re really honored that she was willing and interested in coming to Grand Rapids.

Alyssa:            Yeah, it’s amazing.

Connie:           And she is really passionate and excited, so to hear her story about investigating, making the movie, the process of that, and then also the process of speaking to so many different people about it.

Alyssa:            So she speaks from 12:00 to 1:00, and then there’s a time from 1:00 to 2:00.  Is she going to talk to people?  Will she be available?

Connie:           She should be around to network and connect, and I believe she’ll stay for the whole conference, but that hour after her keynote, she’ll be around to answer questions or give more information.

Alyssa:            So it’s going to be the keynote; you have an hour to network; you have workshops.  And then at 4:00, you screen the movie, correct?

Connie:           Yes.

Alyssa:            So that is free as well, so people can come see the keynote, and then if they want to come back at 4:00 to watch the documentary, they can.

Connie:           Yeah, so basically there are three parts to the day.  There’s the keynote, there’s the two workshop sessions, and then there’s the movie.  And the only paid thing are the two workshop sessions that are ticketed.

Alyssa:            Okay.

Bri:                 And if you buy just one workshop, it’s $15.00, but if you buy a bundle for two, it’s only $20.00.

Alyssa:            So for $20.00, you can come for the whole day and get everything.

Connie:           Yeah, and we encourage you to reserve your tickets in advance, even the tickets for the keynote and the movie.  They’re free, but that will help us with planning and make sure you have a spot.

Alyssa:            And space is still limited.  The Wealthy Street Theatre, the main theater, has a lot of room, but especially for the workshops, they’re going to be pretty limited in space.

Bri:                 Yeah, I think Wealthy Theatre can seat up to 400, so for the keynote and the movie, we can have up to 400, but the other ones, yeah, I think the max is 60 in one of the rooms.

Alyssa:            So for interested people, how do they find you and how do they register?

Connie:           So you can go to our website.  It’s  And then you actually can click Reserve Your Ticket.  It’s one of the pages, and there’s just three big buttons, and you can click either button to reserve whether you want to go to the keynote, the movie, or a workshop.  It will direct you to our Brown Paper Tickets link, and then you’ll reserve your space.  And for us, we’ll get to know that you’re coming.  It will show us your name, so we have you on the list.  So when you do come in, we’ll be like, yep, you have reserved a ticket.  Go ahead.

Alyssa:            So

Bri:                 Yep.  And we do have Instagram, too.

Connie:           You can go on our Facebook, as well, and that will get you to where you need to be, too, if that’s easier to navigate.

Alyssa:            And I know we had a link on our Facebook page, as well.  I think we had something we posted.

Bri:                 Yes, yes.

Alyssa:            So we’ll try to do that again, too, so people can find it.

Bri:                 But even just saying “Better Body Image Conference,” even without Grand Rapids, I have seen it pull up pretty well because our website is Better Body Image Conference, so it will be easy to find.

Alyssa:            Okay.  Anything else anyone needs to know about this conference?

Bri:                 Know that it’s a safe environment; we’re here to have fun, but also connect and provide people with resources for anyone dealing with body image issues or anyone that just is curious as to what’s going on and is passionate about this.  I know that I have had my own in the past, and I mean, my body’s going to always change because we’re always growing older and in different ways, so it’s a consistent thing that I’ll be going through throughout my life, and I feel like being able to be here and see what resources are in the community is just going to be so helpful to me and I feel like to everyone.

Connie:           Yeah, I think for me, too.  Bri and I are not experts, and I think it’s important to know that we’re not planning this conference because we are experts on this topic.  We are planning it because we want all the experts in one place to learn from, so yeah, we’re just the organizers and really excited to bring all these people together that are doing such great work in the community and try to strengthen the Grand Rapids community as a whole.

Alyssa:            It sounds like you’ve done an amazing job of gathering a really, really good pool of experts and resources.  I think it will be an amazing event.  We are really excited and thrilled to be joining you.

Bri:                 We’re excited to have you.

Connie:           Yeah, it’s going to be great.

Alyssa:            So yeah, find them online.  Check out our Facebook pages, and if you come up with any questions, do you have any email on your website?

Bri:                 Yes, we do, and if you want to email us directly, besides our Contact Us form, it’s  Things that we are looking for – volunteers.  We definitely need volunteers just to help throughout the day just with registration or set up and tear down or just being available if people want to know where a workshop is and they got here a little late or a little early, directing them.

Alyssa:            Volunteers are always good at events, right?

Connie:           Yeah, and we are also looking for people to share info about the conference, so if this is interesting to you, please pass it on.  Share on your social media.  And sponsorships are still available if you feel really passionately about this.

Bri:                 We still have sponsorships.  They are platinum through bronze.  It ranges anywhere from $150.00 to $1000.00, and we do have, I think, maybe one more platinum sponsorship available just because tables are limited in the Wealthy Theatre, so if you want a table, we only have five spots.

Connie:           And all donations are tax-deductible.  We’re not a non-profit yet, but we have a fiscal sponsor, Grand Rapids Ballet.

Alyssa:            Okay.  Well, that’s amazing.  We’re excited.  Check out their website.  Mark your calendars for March 11, and we hope to see you guys there.

Podcast Episode #13: Better Body Image Conference Read More »

breastfeeding class

Podcast Episode #12: Fertility Struggles

In this podcast episode, we talk with Lisa about her struggles with fertility and about the birth of her son, Ethan, who was conceived via IVF.  This podcast is available to listen to on iTunes and Soundcloud. 

Alyssa: Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas!  I am Alyssa, co-owner of Gold Coast and post-partum doula.  Today, we are talking to Lisa, who is a past client of ours.  She was actually a post-partum client of mine.  Hello, Lisa.

Lisa: Hi.

Alyssa: So we’ve talked a lot in the time that we’ve worked together, and you have kind of an interesting story about your fertility journey and how – you know, I think I thought the same thing.  You get off birth control, and you think you’re going to get pregnant right away, and when it doesn’t happen, our brains just go straight to worry.  So tell me – start from the beginning.  You got off the Pill, and then what?

Lisa:  Yeah.  So it was the second marriage for both my husband and I, and I was 35.  We went off the Pill, and I literally thought that same month, it would just be, boom.  You know, we’re pregnant.  And it didn’t happen.  And I think he was 37 at the time.  We were trying for seven or eight months, and nothing was happening, and we just didn’t – we were confused, like what could possibly be going wrong here?  And so I went to my ob-gyn, and she said, you know, you should just get the initial fertility screens done to see if everything is working for both you and him.

Alyssa: So you got screened, or you both got screened?

Lisa:  We both got screened.

Alyssa: And what does that entail?  For you and him?

Lisa:  Well, for my husband, he needed a sperm sample.  And then they look at things like morphology of the sperm and – like, you can have all different things happen with your sperm.  You can have two-headed sperm.  The tails of your sperm can be too long or too short or whatever.  I think the typical morphology is that four percent of the sperm is good.  That’s kind of the average.  But I think his was either one or two percent, so he was less than half of what a highly fertile man would be considered.  And for me, it involved a bunch of blood tests that test your hormone levels at the different parts of your cycle, and then also some x-rays.  I can’t remember – I think it was called an HCG where they pump ink through your uterus and your fallopian tubes to make sure that there’s nothing plugged, that basically the sperm can come up and the eggs can come down so there’s nothing blocking.  And so we did that, and I was kind of considered more of advanced maternal age, and then my husband was, as it turns out, not super highly fertile at that point.  And then we had a couple of miscarriages after that.  Two, but they were really early, so I wouldn’t even have been pregnant quite a month.  And then we thought, well, what’s going on with that?  Then I had some other health issues going, and one of my health providers suggested I go get some more tests that were autoimmune-related, because it turns out, if you have a bunch of autoimmune things going on, that can lead to early term miscarriages.  And then I tested positive for all of this autoimmune stuff, which led into a bunch of autoimmune suppressing therapies and two rounds of IVF.  The first round, we didn’t get any viable eggs, and the second round, we got one.  And I was just beside myself.  We had 28 eggs, and out of all those 28, we only had one viable one.  And my hopes were not high because of all this autoimmune stuff that was going on, and we just had one egg.  We did a frozen embryo transfer because we did get the chromosomal testing done, which is how we knew if the eggs were viable or not, and then with the one egg, we got pregnant.  But all said and done, it was a two-and-a-half-year process for us.  And then we ended up having our son when I was 39.

Alyssa: Wow.

Lisa:  Yeah, yeah.

Alyssa: I did not know that Ethan was IVF.

Lisa:  He was, yeah.  And then during the whole pregnancy, I was highly monitored because of all the autoimmune stuff going on, and that was just –

Alyssa: So what do you mean by autoimmune therapies and stuff you had to do?

Lisa:  Well, I had infusions every other week.  I was on steroids to keep my immune system down the whole time.  And a bunch of other smattering of things; drugs that I can’t really even pronounce at this point.  It just basically calms a woman’s immune system down enough to not reject a fetus, and so then you’re highly monitored; you’re getting blood tests all the time to see where your inflammation and stuff like that is, and so we did that.  And then it turns out I had placenta previa, which is where the placenta is covering the cervix, and so then I went on bedrest for five weeks in the hospital in the antepartum unit.  I was bleeding all the time, and then we had the fourth big bleeding incident, and they didn’t think it would stop.  So we went into an emergency C-section, and then he was born five weeks early.

Alyssa: Oh, my gosh.

Lisa:  Yeah.  It was a lot.

Alyssa: So how was your pregnancy up until the five-week bedrest point?

Lisa:  I had to take short-term disability from work because I was – I only know this because I had to do this for insurance, but I was doing 30 to 40 hours of medical care a week to do all the autoimmune stuff, and that lasted through week 20.  And so I had this kind of honeymoon period between week 20, which is when your body starts calming down as it’s getting through the second trimester.  So from an autoimmune perspective, if you get through to the second trimester, or into the second trimester, then you’re pretty much considered in the clear.

Alyssa: Your body is saying, “Okay, I get it.  You’re staying.  I’m not going to try to get you out anymore.”

Lisa:  Yeah.  And from a NICU perspective, if you get to – I think it’s week 23 or 24.  I can’t remember which of those two, but with all the technology that we have today, it’s pretty much considered that they can help along a 24-week old.  So once you get there, at least even if something should happen, then you can –

Alyssa: That would be tough.  That would be a lot of NICU time, a 24-week old baby.  So did Ethan have any NICU time at five weeks early?

Lisa:  He did.  We were in the NICU for eight days, and that was enough.

Alyssa: That’s not bad.   I’m glad you didn’t say five weeks.

Lisa:  No, we thought we were going to be in there for five weeks because they basically set your expectations that whatever would bring them to full term is typically considered what your NICU stay would be.

Alyssa: So even though he was born five weeks early, he was pretty healthy.  Was he big?

Lisa:  He was big.  He was 5 pounds, 9 ounces, at 35 weeks and a day, so that was good.  He just had some issues with keeping warm and then keeping his blood sugars up.  And then I didn’t – I was one of the lucky ones.  I didn’t really ever have any challenges with breastfeeding, and so that went really well, and I was just so grateful for that because there was so much that had been a challenge, you know, leading up to that.

Alyssa: Yeah, that on top would have sent you over the edge!

Lisa:  I think I just would have melted at that point.

Alyssa: Yeah.  So do you have any advice for parents who, like you, get off the Pill, think it’s going to happen right away, and now two and a half years later and two IVF treatments later – how do you deal with that?  How do you and your partner deal with that together?

Lisa:  Oh, that’s a hard one.

Alyssa: I mean, it’s probably very individual, right?  Based on personalities and how you handle stress and how you handle stress together, but do you think there’s one universal piece of advice?  Is it be patient?  Is it –

Lisa:  I would say if you’re older, and I would say maybe the 35 age range and plus, if things aren’t happening right away, I would just say, just go get the stuff tested.  Don’t wait a year or whatever.  Just go get stuff tested out because those years, from even 35 to 36 and from 36 to 37, those really start counting for the quality of your fertility.  Not that you couldn’t ever make a child; it’s the quality of the –

Alyssa: It’s going to get harder every year.

Lisa:  For the woman, it’s the quality of the eggs.  It gets harder every year.  And I think the other thing that, looking back, I would suggest for anybody who is doing fertility treatments, try to do one thing a day that is just for you that makes you feel cared for because during our fertility, and then pregnancy, and then delivery, I think that my husband and I – we were just out of juice by the time our son got here, and that’s when you really need it.  Right?  That’s when you have a baby then, in your arms who isn’t sleeping, and you just need help, and so I think if I just would have, I don’t know, maybe slept more –  I mean, that sounds ridiculous, but –

Alyssa: Like take a nap?

Lisa:  Take a nap!  Like, take a nap when you’re pregnant, you know?  Just try to nurture yourself in whatever way possible that is meaningful for you.  And I am not saying, like, go buy a new wardrobe.  I am literally saying, if you really like to read, go spend an hour a day and read.  Indulge yourself and rejuvenate yourself a little bit because you’re going to need it.

Alyssa: And you don’t have to read about fertility or read about baby stuff.  Read something that you enjoy.

Lisa:  Find the absolute best providers that you can, and ask good questions, and then trust.  Because otherwise, it’s just –

Alyssa: You can constantly question, right?  Everything and everybody because we can Google it.

Lisa:  Yes!  That’s another thing.  Don’t Google!  Limit yourself to five minutes of Googling a day or something, but don’t do that, yeah.  That’s a rabbit hole.

Alyssa: Well, next time we talk to you, Lisa, I think we’re going to get into your post-partum journey and how you got here; how you ended up here in good old Grand Rapids.  All right, thank you for sharing.

Podcast Episode #12: Fertility Struggles Read More »

Cindy's Suds

Podcast Episode #11: Trust Your Gut

In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa talks with Cindy about the importance of trusting your gut instincts as a mom.  You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes.

Alyssa:            Hi, welcome to Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa, co-owner and postpartum doula at Gold Coast Doulas.  Today’s show is sponsored by Cindy’s Suds, and we have Cindy here again with us today.  Hi, Cindy!

Cindy:            Hey, how are you?

Alyssa:            Good.  We are talking about trusting your gut instinct as a mom.

Cindy:            Yes!

Alyssa:            And you recently had an incident with your son that I wanted to ask you about and to share with everybody – you found out he had Lyme disease?

Cindy:             Yes.

Alyssa:            And so tell me how that started and how you as a mom figured that out before the medical professionals did.  Well, you are a medical professional.

Cindy:            I am, yes.  I’m a physician assistant by trade, but let’s take that off the table.  Completely take off the fact that I’m a PA.  So I’ve got three kids.  This is my middle son.  He is going to be 16 this month.  I’ve got a boy, girl, girl.  No, oh my gosh, I’ve got girl, boy, boy.  Holy cow!  Sorry, children!  My two boys are very active outdoors.  They hunt; they’re outside all the time; they camp.  So that’s just kind of our lifestyle.  We live on acreage, so they’re constantly outside.  So my almost-16-year-old this past summer was camping with some friends, and when he came back, he was like, “Oh yeah, I had a tick on me.”  I’m like, “Seriously?  That’s great.”

Alyssa:            At least he told you.

Cindy:            Right, right.  So that was April or May, I want to say, and didn’t think anything of it.  Nothing happened.  So then in June, he goes on another camping trip, and another situation where he’s with other families, other kids; has a blast, gone for the weekend.  He comes home, and about three days later, just very, very lethargic, very achy, full-body aches, high fever.  And so his fever was about 104, had gotten up to 104.5.  Really, really high, and just, you know, my joints ache, you know, I’m so exhausted, sleeping all the time.  And this is an almost 16-year-old; very out of character, obviously.  So I’m starting to think, “Well, gosh, what has changed?  What’s different?  He just got back from camping.  You know, I wonder if there’s anything – what if he got bit by something?”  Mosquito, tick, you know.  So I did a brief skin survey, just meaning that I’m kind of looking at his skin; is there anything out of place, anything weird?  And on his back, there was a little, teeny, tiny bite mark that I’m like – for whatever reason, it’s just that mom-reason where I’m like, “That.  I need to watch that.”  So I took a picture of it, and then throughout the next 24 hours, really, I was just kind of monitoring that little spot, and it was growing, and it was growing, and I’m like, “Holy cow, this looks like the bullseye mark that they are describing when somebody has Lyme disease.”

Alyssa:            So the tick wasn’t in there?

Cindy:             No.

Alyssa:            It was just his bite mark that you could see?

Cindy:            Right, right, but he had been camping for like, three days, and so, you know, I guess at some point during that time, he had gotten bit by a tick at that spot, but no tick; no physical tick there afterwards.  But granted, two months prior, he was like, “Oh yeah, I had a tick on me.”  So I think maybe I was even a little higher alert because of that.  But honestly, it was just this gut instinct as a mom that I knew something was wrong; I knew something – it wasn’t just minor.  I knew it was something bigger, and I just knew that I had to kind of do the skin survey and look.  It was just this feeling that I know there’s something going on, and then following up with that.  So I watched the spot on his back slowly grow, and I was taking pictures to document it just so that I knew that yes, it is growing, and just kind of watching him.  So his fever was still really high, 104.  It would come down to about 101, 102 with Tylenol or Advil, but he – this is like a kid who’s the size of an adult, you know?  At almost 16 and a boy, you’re big.  But I’m like, he still is my kid; he still is my baby, and no matter how old they are, I think a mom is still so in tune with their child whether they’re a newborn or almost 16.  So I brought him in to an urgent care facility, and was very, very frustrated because the provider that saw him said, “Oh, yeah, I don’t think it’s Lyme disease,” because I came in saying, “I think my son has Lyme disease.  He was exposed because he was camping.  He’s had a fever.  He’s had the body aches.”  I mean, I basically laid it out.  Here’s Lyme disease on a platter.  And she left the room, came back in and said, “Well, I just looked it up, and it doesn’t sound like he has Lyme disease.  I think it’s a virus.”

Alyssa:            “I just looked it up”?

Cindy:             “I just looked it up.”

Alyssa:            So basically, I just Googled Lyme disease for a minute.

Cindy:            Yeah, I basically just Googled Lyme.  And I was like, “What?”  And she’s like, “No, and also that rash on his back is supposed to be greater than 10 centimeters if it’s truly Lyme disease.  So you don’t have it.  So he’s just got a virus; go home.”  And I was like – I was just kind of dumbfounded, like, “Are you kidding?”  So I went home, and my gut is churning.  I’m like, there is no way.  So instead of going back to an urgent care, I went to the emergency room, and the first provider that I saw there, too: “I think it’s a virus.  I just don’t think that it’s Lyme disease, and I think you should send him home and give him fluids.”  I’m like, “This is day six of him having a fever this high.  No.  There is something going on.  He has Lyme disease.  I need to get this treated.”  So thankfully in the emergency room, before you can go, they have the attending physician come in and see you.  The person that had come in first was a resident physician, so then the attending came.  She walks in the door, and I actually knew her from when I worked in a local emergency room 20 years ago before I went to PA school, so I knew her.  I knew that she was a smart cookie, and she had all these years of experience.  So she walked in, looks at my son, looks at me, and says, “He has Lyme disease.  We’re treating him right now.”  And I burst into tears because – and I think she thought that I was crying because I’m just given this sentence, he has Lyme disease.  I’m like –

Alyssa:            Finally!

Cindy:            Finally!  Somebody understands that what I am presenting to you, this is the truth!  And discounting the fact that I’m a PA, I just feel like we as moms, you have to trust your gut because we were given this maternal instinct for a reason, and we were given this protection for our kids that is above and beyond anything that medicine can teach you or that anyone can teach you.  It is this primal instinct that, if you feel like something is going on with your child, whether it’s a food allergy, or I think my child may fall somewhere on the autism spectrum, or whatever, you as a mom, you need to pursue that, and you need to be the biggest advocate for your child because that is what – it’s this amazing gift that we’re given, and you have to pursue that because it’s real and it is 100%  just – it is so real.  I just can’t even describe it.

Alyssa:            I know.  It’s almost tangible, but not.  It’s like we know how this should feel, and when something feels wrong, our kid is not acting right, you just know.

Cindy:            Yeah.  And even when I was practicing as a PA, if a mom would come in and say there is something wrong, you throw out anything that you think the medical books are saying could be right or could be wrong because that mom knows her child.  And I think the older that I’ve gotten, I’ve gotten so much more pro-advocacy for your child because I feel like nowadays, there are so many people who think they know what is best, but they don’t.  I mean, you as a mom, you know what is best for your child hands-down, and so I really want to encourage moms that if they have a feeling, you have to believe in that feeling because that is very powerful.  It’s just such a powerful – I can’t even describe what it would be.

Alyssa:            Yeah, it’s almost like you were connected for so long that that doesn’t – just because there’s no umbilical cord there, there’s still this connection that’s kind of indescribable.

Cindy:            It is, yeah.  And whether they’re a newborn or 16, as a mom, you just know.  And so I feel like that part of us that is prone to doubt, I would just encourage moms: don’t doubt because that is something that you were given; it’s a gift to know if there is something that you should pursue further for your child and to really trust it because I feel like there are so many times where maybe, especially as a young mom or a new mom, you might think, “Well, you know, so-and-so says that it should look this way or should go that way.”  But if you’re feeling differently, I would really encourage that young mom to kind of internalize what she’s feeling and put it out there because she knows.  I mean, you’re given this feeling for a reason, and it’s complete protection for your child.

Alyssa:            Yeah.  And I think, like, with you, that doesn’t mean that you distrust all medical care providers, but you need to find one that you do trust, and if that means going to three, then you go to three, or five, or you find one that you trust to listen to you and work with you instead of just discounting how you feel.  And they are out there.

Cindy:             Exactly, that is perfectly said.  They are.

Alyssa:            They’re out there; you just have to find them.

Cindy:            Yeah.  And I said that to someone just the other day.  Someone said, you know, “I’m not sure if I’m going to like such-and-such provider.”  You may not, but you know what, you will find that person who you connect with and who you really trust for the care of your family.  And that’s with so many things in life, whether it’s a medical provider or whether it’s a school, even.  You know, you may say that this school – you really love the way that this school works with your child vs. this school, and I mean, it’s just got to be something that as a parent, you’re really connecting to and feeling like you can really give over your son or daughter’s little parts of their life to somebody that you trust that’s going to help shape them the way that you know is best.

Alyssa:            Well, I tell clients to interview.  Why wouldn’t you?  The doctors, schools, dentists.  This is a job for them.

Cindy:            And I said that, too.  I was just telling somebody.  You have to interview because there are so many people out there.  You’ve got to connect with your person and your group of people, your little tribe; you’ve got to connect with them, so you interview every little thing.  And it may seem silly, you know.  I did three or four interviews for preschool for my daughter, which seems so silly, but you know, it’s not, because you want to feel like who you’re entrusting your child to has the same values and beliefs and goals and good juju, whatever it is; you want that to mesh with yours.  And so interviewing is by far the best thing that you could so that you feel a connection.

Alyssa:            And you’ll know right away.

Cindy:             Absolutely.

Alyssa:            When I was pregnant, I was interviewing pediatricians, and I would just sit down and, you know, you can find online to ask them these questions.  I had my own questions, and I knew instantly who I felt comfortable with.  And I had no problem firing the other guys, even though those other guys were the ones everyone said is the best.  “We love so-and-so.  You have to go here; you have to go there.”  So I interviewed them all, but I also found a couple others.  And I chose who I felt comfortable with for me and my daughter.

Cindy:            Exactly.  And that is something that I love because like you just said, you can sit down with somebody.  You will know instantly if you have connection or not.  It’s not going to be like, oh, gee, I’m not sure.

Alyssa:            You can’t tell by reading Google reviews.

Cindy:            Uh-uh.  Yeah, it’s got to be a face to face interview, and so I love that suggestion, and I completely, 100% support that too, is you go out and you interview so you feel like you’ve made this connection because that’s what it’s all about.  You’ve got to really – you’re entrusting the care of your most precious person in your life, besides your spouse, to somebody.  You want to make sure that they’re on the same page as you.  And you also want to trust you gut because that is something that will not steer you wrong at all.

Alyssa:            I agree.  Awesome advice again.

Cindy:             Thanks.

Alyssa:            We’re going to have you on again soon.  If you have questions for Cindy, you can email her.  What’s your email?

Cindy:   , or check out our website,

Alyssa:            Awesome.  Be sure to subscribe to our podcast on iTunes, and give us a five-star review.  We will talk to you soon.

Podcast Episode #11: Trust Your Gut Read More »

Newborn Survival

Podcast Episode #10: Dealing with Modern Medicine and Your Mother-in-Law

On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa and Cindy talk about dealing with input from family members, including your mother-in-law, about parenting and about the role modern medicine plays in being a parent.   You can also  listen to the podcast on iTunes. 

Alyssa:            Hi, welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas!  This is Alyssa.  I am co-owner and postpartum doula at Gold Coast.  Today’s episode is sponsored by Cindy’s Suds, and we actually have Cindy with us again today.  We had a question from a client about dealing with in-laws in their home, and Cindy and I have had an interesting conversation with her background as a physician’s assistant and dealing with parents bringing their children in and then maybe the role of the in-laws in that situation.  And then I obviously deal with that in-home in postpartum support.  So let’s start by giving some background on you as a PA and then how your outlook changed after doing a lot of research and creating your natural product line.

Cindy:            Okay.  Well, I worked in family practice, and so that means that I saw everything from birth, pregnancy, all the way to, obviously, the elderly.  So I kind of saw the whole gamut, which I loved because I love that I could see somebody starting out in their 20s, then getting married, and then getting pregnant and starting a family.  I absolutely love that because I could grow with them and get a window into their world and see how they’re transitioning from being a single person to being married to being a mom.  So, super fun; I completely loved it.  I worked in family practice for about 14 years.  In that time period, when I started, I was a single person.  I hadn’t been married yet, and so it was interesting even for me professionally to grow from “this is what you do” to all of a sudden being married and being like, wow, there’s a whole dynamic here, being married.  And then wow, wait a minute, now as a mom, my whole “this is what you do” completely changed because no longer is it what the books say that you should advise a patient on.  Now it’s like, well, let me give you some background.

Alyssa:            I have some experience now.

Cindy:            I have experience in this now, so it’s really great, and I think that was just a really neat part of being a PA is being able to bring in my own experiences.  And that’s part of, I think, life anyway.  We’re all given so many different experiences; we can come along each other and say hey, this is what I’ve learned and if I can help you, then we can kind of help each other grow.

Alyssa:            In a supportive way.

Cindy:             In a supportive way.

Alyssa:            Because I can think it can end up being judgmental as well.  Here’s my experience –

Cindy:            Right, you do it my way or the highway.  And I actually saw that sometimes because sometimes a patient would come in with her brand new baby, and in tow would be either Mom or Mother-in-law, kind of this hovering presence, and instantly, as a provider, I would walk in and go, oh, I’m feeling the dynamic in the room; I’m feeling the tension in the room because you have Mom with her new baby, who is navigating the waters of what does it look like to be a new mom; what do I make of this; how do I do the best thing for my child?  And Grandma, who I know is well-intentioned, and Grandma has the biggest love and heart for Baby, too, but the way that it was done 40 years ago is not the way, even scientifically speaking, that we’ve learned may be the best way nowadays.  And so Grandma may come in with this preconceived idea of, “You do it my way, and if you’re not doing it my way, you’re going to ruin this kid’s life.”  And it’s really, really hard for the new mom to figure out how she can’t – you know, what do I do so I don’t offend my mom or mother-in-law, but also what do I do so that I’m being true to my own feelings and my own desires of how my husband and I want to raise our new baby?  And I feel like a lot of new moms are really pulled in different directions because they’re reading, and today’s mom is so informed, and they’re so much more educated in what it looks like to be a mom vs. when you had a baby 40 years ago.  Sometimes you were still knocked out; you woke up; baby’s in your arms.  This is what you do because this is what was always done.  It’s a very new world nowadays in parenting, and you have perhaps maybe a mother-in-law or mother that is coming into the situation with very different preconceived ideas than where you want to go parenting-wise.  So there’s a lot of – you’ve got to be kind of gentle on both sides because you need to do in your heart what is best for your new baby, but you also somehow need to teach Grandma that we really love your support, but this is the way that we’re choosing to do things.

Alyssa:            We actually created a class called The Modern Grandparent for that exact reason.

Cindy:             Love it!  Love it!

Alyssa:            We’ve had clients say these are really tricky waters to navigate.  “I want my mother or mother-in-law to be around.  They’re great caregivers, but they’ve been out of the game for 30-some years.”  And so the class actually, in a very gentle way, teaches them that this is your son or daughter’s family.  You have to let them parent the way they want to parent, and then update them on health and safety things.  You know, even talking about SIDS and that we keep the crib clean and we don’t lay them on their tummies anymore; it’s Back to Sleep, and just going over all these – you know, car seat safety, and really, really updating the grandparents so that Mom and Dad can feel comfortable with their parents as caregivers.  I think that’s huge.

Cindy:            Absolutely.  It’s huge because as a new mom, we all know how important it is to still keep that relationship strong with our husbands and still have a date night once in a while, but if your mom or mother-in-law is the babysitter that night, and you’re trying to have a nice dinner with your husband out, and you are terrified that Grandma is going to put baby to bed on their tummy or do things that you have specifically chosen to not do as a parent, it can really be upsetting, and you’re not going to be able to really let go.

Alyssa:            You don’t enjoy yourself.

Cindy:            No, you don’t.  Not at all.  So I think it’s great that you guys are offering this class because there’s a lot of education, I think, that needs to happen to grandmas, whether it’s your own mom or your mother-in-law, so that a grandma can now be a supportive person to you instead of more like a hovering “you do it my way” kind of personality, and that can just be so hard.

Alyssa:            How would you deal with that in the medical world?  Like this family comes in and you have the hovering grandmother?  Is she sometimes trying to tell you how to do things, or what’s best for baby?

Cindy:            A lot of times they can be fairly vocal and say, “Well, when my daughter was a baby…”  And then I kind of would gently say, “Well, gosh, you know, you’re absolutely right.  When you were parenting your daughter 35 years ago, that is exactly the standard that they said was the best.  But now there’s a new standard, and research has shown – etc.”  So I always try to validate that; “Oh, my gosh, you’re so right.  That’s exactly what was best protocol then” – because you don’t want Grandma to feel like, you know, what are you thinking by doing this or that?  Because she honestly is wanting what’s best for the baby.  So if you validate, “You’re right.  That’s exactly what was the right way to do things back then, but nowadays, they’ve really made some new headway in research, and they’ve discovered this, and they’ve discovered that.”  So kind of validating and then redirecting to the newer research and the updated research so that Grandma doesn’t feel like an idiot, number one, because she’s there to help and she loves the baby and she loves her own child.  So you really want to validate Grandma, but then steer them into the latest facts so that they know that there has been a change because they’ve been out of parenting little babies for that long.  So you really want to kind of gently segue into, “The latest research shows; the latest studies show–” so they don’t feel bad.  So that was my role as a provider.  Then the pressure’s taken off of the new mom.  So the new mom is no longer feeling like she’s battling with her mother or mother-in-law.  It’s kind of taken the weight off of the new mom, and I see that as a doula, that’s a perfect role too, because as a doula you can come in and say, “That’s so great that you want to help Baby.  That’s so great that you want to be a great caretaker.  Have you heard that some of the new research shows, blah blah blah.”  So that way, the new mom doesn’t feel like she’s trying to pick sides between baby and her parent.

Alyssa:            Yeah, and I think that’s so important.  You don’t want them to feel like they’re being attacked, and you don’t want them to feel silly.  Like, oh, I’m stupid because I’m looking at data from 40 years ago.  I think validating that is really important; saying, “You obviously did a really great job because look at your kids.  But now, you know, here’s what’s changed, and let me show you why.”  Yeah, that’s great advice.  So when you started your company, were you still a PA?

Cindy:            Yes, yeah.  So I was still working as a PA, and I had my company on the side, and so the very early years of my company, I very, very intentionally kept it small because my role was mom to young kids because my kids were all quite young at the time.  I was working as a PA, and I also homeschool, so that’s a factor, too; that was another job, right?  And so I very intentionally – I kept feeling like I had horse reins that I would pull back, pull back, because I knew how it could quickly snowball to growing so fast, and I didn’t want that because my kids were little.  I was working as a PA; I was homeschooling.  So yeah, I worked as a PA for several years as I had Cindy’s Suds, so I did the two things for a while.

Alyssa:            And so you’re researching, studying medicine, and very westernized medicine, and having this mindset, and then you start to research this more holistic, natural – these remedies for very common ailments.  How did that affect how you treated clients, and did that become hard?

Cindy:            It did.  It really, really did because so many people want the quick fix, and so they would come in and say, “I don’t feel good.  I need an antibiotic.”  And I tried to be gentle and sit down and educate and say, “Well, let’s first see if there’s anything bacterial going on because if there’s not, really, viruses take about five days to completely run their course, and you just need rest.  You need to give your body some time to heal.  You can symptomatically treat if you want to with Tylenol or Advil, but you don’t need an antibiotic.” And I actually had several, several patients get angry.  “Well, I want one.” And being very adamant with, “This is what I want.  I came in; I need to be fixed.” And so it was hard because I’m trying to educate them on the fact that there are natural options out there; there are other things that you can do to stay healthy, to be healthy, and not necessarily turn instantaneously to prescriptions.  But I think there still is a large part of the population that is resistant to that and they want the quick fix.  We live in such a quick-fix-me world that people want that.

Alyssa:            Yeah.  But do you think just like with the mother-in-law who had a baby 40 years ago and thinks things are this way – is it that same age group thinking that well, an antibiotic fixes everything?  And they don’t know that, okay, let’s get enough sleep; let’s eat healthy; let’s cut out processed foods; let’s drink a lot of water and exercise; probiotics; all this good stuff – they have no idea.

Cindy:            Yeah, for sure.  And I think that’s where a lot of the education was coming in, that I would sit down and I would try to educate them on these things, but a lot of it is generational.  And so generationally, if this makes no sense to you, if you sound like you’re talking voodoo to them, they just – sometimes they just don’t get it, or maybe their minds are a little bit more closed off.  They may be a younger person.  Sometimes they do try to learn and be like, “Oh, I had no idea.  I’ll try that.”  But there are also others that were generationally – they were kind of set in their ways and their thought patterns, so it really depended on the patient, but it did get hard because I really felt torn because I really felt like there are so many great things to try first, and I’ve not turned my back on western medicine.  There is certainly a time and a place to use prescriptions and all the great things that have been discovered and new medications that are out there.  But first do no harm.  First try things that are safe.  First try things that are natural, and if these aren’t getting you to a place of healing or wellness, then start looking around.  What else could be going on?  And obviously if it’s something that’s obviously needing to be treated, you go right to that treatment first.  I mean, you’re not going to turn your back on, oh, this person has pneumonia.  Go home and rest.  But obviously you’re using your head in those situations, but a lot of times for the smaller, easier things, it’s just –

Alyssa:            Well, I think that’s preventative, right?  A lot of it is just, let’s prevent this small stuff.  I mean, there’s obviously big things.  Like you said, they’re going to happen.  You can’t just rub coconut oil on it and have it go away.

Cindy:             Right, exactly.

Alyssa:            So then your transition from the medical world to just doing your business – and you had said in our last episode that a lot of it was friends.  You had this overabundance of supply.  Your friends were like, “Oh, you should just sell this.”  You got into craft shows.  How much of that, like leaving the medical world to do this, had to do with this pull from, “I can’t really do this western medicine anymore.”  Or was it just more purely business?

Cindy:            It was actually several factors.  So I wouldn’t say that, oh, I left being a PA to exclusively focus on Cindy’s Suds because that’s not entirely accurate.  There were many things changing within the whole physician assistant profession that was bothersome to me.  The insurance companies were dictating so much of what we could and couldn’t do.  So you would come in and see me, and I’d go, oh, you know, listen, this is what you have; you need to get, say, a cat scan of your shoulder, whatever.  I would first have to look at your insurance and go, oh, gee, you’ve got this insurance.  I can’t do that yet.  I have to go to step one first, and then if step one fails, I have to go to step two.  So there were so many legalities that had changed –

Alyssa:            Even though you knew what you needed to do.

Cindy:            Oh, my word.  And it was – you felt like your hands were tied.  So even though – when I started practicing in 1996, it was a very, very different world than when I left in the late 2000s because you had to really check into what the insurance company wants me to do first, and I really felt that I could not practice with my head and my heart knowledge anymore.  I had to go see what this third party said that I could do to you and for you.  That was very frustrating.  At the time, my boss wanted me to work more, and that was also a factor.  My husband and I had decided we weren’t going to allow that to happen to our family because we had set up an amount of hours that we felt comfortable with me working per week, and adding to it was just not in the equation.  So it was that, and it was growing my company, as well.  So it was multi-faceted.  It was not just one thing, but the frustration with the current state of practicing health care was very, very high on the list, just that frustration of “I want to treat you this way, but I just can’t.  My hands are tied.”  And so that became a big factor in it, as well.

Alyssa:            I feel like that probably hasn’t gotten any better since you left, right?

Cindy:            It hasn’t, no.  My friends that still practice – it’s a very frustrating aspect of trying to practice modern medicine nowadays.  Very frustrating.

Alyssa:            Well, I think you gave us some really, really good tips in many areas.  So thank you for sharing your wisdom.

Cindy:             Absolutely.

Alyssa:            We will have you on again soon.

Cindy:             That sounds great.

Alyssa:            And you can find Cindy at

Cindy:            Absolutely.  We’ve got our website there; you can look on the website.  There’s product descriptions.  You can also contact me via the website or at if you have specific questions that I can help you out with.

Alyssa:            Awesome.  And you can find us at  Email us at  And you can find us on Facebook and Instagram.  Don’t forget to subscribe to our iTunes podcast.  Thanks.


Podcast Episode #10: Dealing with Modern Medicine and Your Mother-in-Law Read More »

Tricia Buschert Doula

Podcast Episode #9: How to Handle a Six-Week NICU Stay

On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Tricia talks about her experience with her twins staying in the NICU for six weeks.  You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes.

Alyssa:            Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I am Alyssa, co-owner and postpartum doula, and today we’re talking to Tricia.

Tricia:             Hi.

Alyssa:            She is a post-partum and birth doula with us and also our multiples expert that teaches the multiples class.  Tell us about your multiples.

Tricia:             They are two.  I have identical twin girls, Keira and Rosalind.  They also have a big brother named Gideon.  He just turned four.

Alyssa:            Okay, so for a while there, you had three under three?

Tricia:             I had three under two.

Alyssa:            Three under two!

Tricia:             They are 23 months apart, so yeah.

Alyssa:            Wow, you are wonder woman.  So when the girls were born, they had a significant NICU stay?

Tricia:             They did.

Alyssa:            And I know parents get really nervous about NICU, and Kristen had talked about how her daughter had a three-week stay.  How long were your daughters in the NICU?

Tricia:             They were in just over six weeks.  Keira was in for 41 days, and Rosalind was in for 45.

Alyssa:            Okay.  So tell us a little bit about the birth story and how they ended up in NICU and what you and your husband felt.

Tricia:             My girls shared a placenta, so we had issues for a little while.  They were monitoring really closely.  One of their placentas was velamentous cord insertion, so it was palm-shaped, and it was attached to both the placenta and my cervix.  Keira started detaching off of the placenta.

Alyssa:            So there were two placentas?

Tricia:             No.  One together; they shared.  One had two cords.  So they had separate sacks.  There are three different types of twins.  We were the second-safest, I guess is the best way.  MoMo, they share a sack and they share everything.

Alyssa:            Okay.  One sack, one placenta?

Tricia:             Yeah, which runs risks because umbilical cords can twist around each other.  We had the safe kind of identical – well, safer.  Two sacks, but they shared one placenta.  So yes, they started to do a twin-to-twin blood transfusion back and forth, and so the placenta just kind of died, or was starting to.  So Keira came out pale and not breathing at 32 weeks, and sister came out 30 seconds later.  We had an emergency C-section because Keira was originally breech, so she was going to be a C-section regardless.  She was Baby A.  But it became more emergent when they realized that she was having issues with her placenta cord or her umbilical cord.  So they both were intubated within seconds.  Their scores were super low.  I want to say Keira’s was a one and Rosalind’s might have been a two or a three.  So super low at birth.  I think the scariest part was we had our son first, so we knew that they come out crying and happy.  And the doctors, when we came into our C-section, were talking about vacations, and by the end of it, the entire room of 30 people was, like, silent.  So yeah, my husband really had a hard time with that.  We both started crying.  Both girls were fine.  Keira was pretty much whisked straight down to NICU.  Rosalind was a little bit more stable, so they were able to have her lay next to me.  I have a photo of her little finger in my finger as they stitched me up, and her just kind of sitting there.  But then she was sent back down with sister.  Thankfully, I had a postpartum doula sitting there.  My husband left for about an hour.  It was very traumatic for him to have both of his girls and me and the whole – so he went and had his time.  I really still to this day, two years later, have no idea what he did.  I know he went through a drive through, and I know he sat in his car and cried, but I had my support for me, so we both were able to be where we needed, and my support was amazing.  Having that doula there was – I honestly could not imagine being in a room with no babies; no husband, because he needed his time, and yeah.  She was phenomenal.  And we had a NICU nurse come upstairs a couple hours; it was a good couple hours and brought pictures and had weights.  And both girls at that point were stable.  Both were intubated, great.  The NICU doctor was a little concerned.  Keira’s hemoglobin was at an 8, and Rosalind’s was at an 18.  They think it happened within the first, like those last couple hours when the umbilical cord started being funky and the placenta, because it can go so quickly.  And they really don’t think it had to have been a couple hours because I was having contractions for a good 48 hours before the girls were born.  They just weren’t consistent.  But we had steroid shots prior.  They weren’t going to start labor, because at that point they didn’t think that it was – when it was going to happen, it was going to happen.  But she felt that Keira would do a lot better if she had a blood transfusion because her hemoglobin was so low for even an adult, let alone a baby.  But blood transfusions for babies are really little.  You think “blood transfusion;” you think these huge – it’s like a little syringe amount of blood.  It’s super little because they were so little.

Alyssa:            So did they explain that to you?  Because I think if somebody told me, hey, your newborn baby needs a blood transfusion, I would just break down.  So they said this is literally what it looks like?  So they just pump new blood into their vein?

Tricia:             Yeah, they did it through her head because the head veins are so nice and with babies, they still move.  They’re little babies.  She might be three pounds, but they’re tough little things at three pounds.  And so they go through the head because it’s a really good opening; they don’t have to worry about trying to do it more than once.  And so it’s a really little amount; it’s a little syringe.  Thankfully, yeah, they did explain some of that.  By that time I was pumping.  I was able to thankfully talk to a NICU nurse prior to going into NICU, so I knew that without the girls, if I wanted my milk supply to go in, I needed to have a pump within three hours.  I had to kind of fight for my pump a little bit, but I was able to get a pump in those first three hours because I was determined to have that.  I was able to see the girls for the first time a little after midnight, and they were born at 6:52 and 6:53.  So it took about four hours for me to get down there.  I couldn’t hold them or anything like that.  They were little things.  But at that point, Keira had her blood transfusion and all of that.  They were, yes, very fragile little things.

Alyssa:            What goes through your mind?

Tricia:             At that point, I think I was just so happy to see them okay that I really – I don’t think that there was much else because I had experienced her coming out not breathing and her being whisked away and knowing that I almost didn’t go in that day.  They were going to send me home.  When I went into the hospital, I came in with contractions every eight minutes apart.  I was a centimeter and a half dilated.  They thought they’d give me some fluids and send me back home at 1:00.  I went to the hospital alone; drove a friend’s car; was in my nephew’s preschool class that morning.  Like, nobody had a clue that these girlies were coming, and then 3:30, doctor comes in and, “You’re dilated to a three.  We can’t send you home.  You’re an automatic C-section.  I can’t send you home.  Contractions haven’t stopped.  You probably should call your husband.”  Husband’s going, “Do I have time to go get my oil changed?”  I’m like, “No, honey, I don’t think you do.  They’re acting like we don’t have time for this.”

Alyssa:            Maybe that’s what he did for those two hours.  “I got a burger and my oil changed and cried.”

Tricia:             Right!  So the first few days, yeah, were really just – I overdid it a little bit because the anesthesia made me feel – it takes 24 hours for anesthesia from a spinal to fully leave your system, so I could walk, I could pee, I could do all that.  I felt invincible, but you’re not invincible.  It’s the pain meds talking to you that you’re invincible.  So the first three days I pretty much – we did not really have any visitors at the hospital when I was in there, which is way different than with my son.

Alyssa:            And was that by choice?  You didn’t want anybody to come?

Tricia:             Yeah, I really didn’t.  They can’t go into NICU, and I wanted to be down with the babies.  I was up in my room to get meds, to eat, and to sleep.  And everything else I did next to the girls.  Rosalind was in – she had bilirubin lights for a couple days.  They had bradys throughout the six weeks, which is when they periodically stop breathing.  It’s a really common preemie problem is the best way I know how to put it.  It’s just that in the uterus, if they don’t breathe a second, it’s fine.  They’ve got all the stuff, so it’s them learning how to breathe.  They still have to learn how to breathe.  Rosalind had a little bit more issues with her lungs, so they were given surfactant to coat their lungs to try to help them breathe at delivery and to help their lungs grow and mature.  Keira’s lungs took it; Rosalind’s did not.  It all still, 24 hours later, it was pretty much right on the surface of her lungs kind of a concept, so she had a lot more issues breathing.  She was off and on different various c-pap and nose canula and breathing.  They both had caffeine at some point, and I remember a NICU nurse telling me to drink more caffeine because it was better that they got it through my milk vs. the little –

Alyssa:            So what is the caffeine for?

Tricia:             It’s to help with them remembering that breathing on their own, to help them be a little bit more alert.  That was my understanding, anyway.  It’s a lot of trying to get them to remember to breathe on their own because if they sleep and they forget to breathe, there’s a lot of monitors.

Alyssa:            Interesting.  I would have never thought caffeine.

Tricia:             And once again, it’s a really tiny amount.

Alyssa:            Oh, of course.  “Let’s give them a cup of coffee in a syringe.”

Tricia:             Basically!  The medical aspect of – I never thought I would know all this medical stuff, and then you have twins who spend six weeks.  Food’s in milliliters, and everything’s ounces, and those ounces matter.  Like, you don’t think about it when you’ve got a full-term baby and they come home seven pounds and four ounces.  But then you have a 3.4 and a 3.7 and they go down to the three pounds, and it’s like, you gained an ounce today!  That ounce is huge!  I exclusively pumped.  We attempted latching, but they never really got the hang of it.  Even with bottles, they were still like – part of the reason we were in NICU so long is because it took them a while to understand that oh, I have to suck, swallow, breathe.  I have to eat.  After about two weeks in for the most part they were feeder/growers.  The first couple weeks were a little bit of one step forward, two steps back.  Because Keira was under 3.5, she had to do a routine eye exam, which is because there’s a disease that they can get in their eyes if they’re on oxygen for too long.  Their birth weight’s low because most of these babies who are that little are on oxygen for a while.  And they also have to do a head ultrasound because there’s risks of breathing.  And with her routine head ultrasound, they found a pseudocyst in the left ventricle of her brain, which looked more like a blood clot.  It didn’t seem to affect function; didn’t seem to be anything too different.  They ended up doing a head ultrasound of Rosalind because they’re identical, so they were curious if it was a thing.  Both of their left ventricles are bigger than normal, I guess.  I don’t really know what that means.  Everybody’s brains look funny.  The doctor made it out like, “They’re bigger than what the normal brain is, but if we were to do a head ultrasound on you, your brain would look funny too.”  Like, there’s a very vague, “this is how your brain is supposed to look” concept.  And so they both had bigger left ventricles, but sister did not have the pseudocyst.  So they think the pseudocyst was part of delivery.  Either that blood transfusion aspect where sister was getting her blood and she was giving it, or just with the placenta and delivery being a little bit more traumatic on her little body.

Alyssa:            So is that something that goes away?  You just watch it, or did you have to –

Tricia:             It did.  It did.  They weren’t 100% sure.  It’s not something that we studied much here.  The doctor had to get a study from Sweden because they have more availabilities to that.  If it did not go away, the doctor had said that it really wasn’t going to affect any function.  It doesn’t affect anything.  Hers did dissipate.  That might be the wrong word, but it did disappear about eight, nine months in.  She had an MRI.  She’s had a couple of them, and so we are officially – neuro is done.  She’s clear.  She had a little bit of – she had to do some PT for a little bit for her right side because of just making sure everything crossed, but otherwise you would not know that she had that at all.

Alyssa:            So you said after a couple of weeks, they became feeders/growers.  Is that like a common term for NICU parents?  Like, they’re feeding well and growing, and that’s their main goal is just to keep them feeding and growing?

Tricia:             It is.  In the NICU, you start in the back.  The littler you are, you start in the back.  That tends to be –

Alyssa:            So you kind of graduate towards the front?

Tricia:             You graduate towards the door.  So when we got there, we were in this little corner, and it was both girls’ beds, and you’re in the back.  And you can tell that you take a little bit more.  A little bit more nurses, a little bit more machines.  You’re back there.  Like I said, we were 32-weekers, so we were kind of surrounded.  There was some 26-weekers.  There were some 24-weekers.  So when you’re toward the back, it’s generally – in this NICU, you’re a little bit more of a – “We need to monitor you.  You’re not as stable.”

Alyssa:            A little higher risk.

Tricia:             You’re a little bit higher risk, yeah, which it’s not that you’re not stable.  It’s just that nurses need to be checking in a little bit more and a lot of times you’re in the kangaroo pods, which are the big isolettes, and you need the darker lights and you need to be a little bit more quiet.  So you get put back there so that you can really sleep and grow, and it’s more womb-like towards the back, as womb-like as you can be in a room filled with monitors.  They give these blankets.  Each baby gets to go home with this big, oversized blanket that they put over top of the isolettes so that it can stay dark.  My girls still sleep with them at night; they’re their little NICU blankies.  Then as they get a little bit bigger, because newer babies come in that are the younger and need the quiet and the more monitoring, you get moved to the front.  And so my girls had about two and a half, three weeks and then got moved to right next to a window and right across the nurse’s station.  So yeah, then they get put into little basinets because they start being able to control their body temperature, and they are starting to breathe better, and they don’t need the c-pap.  They just have the nose canula which is a huge – the nose canula looks really scary.  It’s actually a lot better than to be intubated, but it looks a lot scarier.  So it’s got all these bigger monitors and whereas with the nose canula it’s just these little things of oxygen and it can hide behind the bed.  So yes, as they get bigger, yes, they get closer to the door.

Alyssa:            Okay.  So for a good three, four weeks they were feeders/growers?

Tricia:             They were.

Alyssa:            When do they graduate?  At what point do they say, okay, they’re good to go?

Tricia:             They have to be breathing on their own.  They need to not have bradys within – I want to say it’s 48 or 72 hours.  It’s a decent amount of time.  It might be 72 because that’s part of the reason that Rosalind ended up staying longer than Keira did is that she had a couple episodes and they can’t send – they have to make sure that she can go home not breathing.  Now, there are babies that are sent home with breathing machines and with monitors and whatnot depending on where you are and what your baby needs.  Every morning, the doctors come and they give you updates on how they fed that day and what they’re thinking about food-wise; what they’re going to add; what they’re going to change; positives that baby did.  And then they also, if you’ve got questions, doctors will sit and answer your questions.  They go through rounds.  It’s the way that they can do the nurses from the morning to the night, keep everybody up to date per baby.  So they also have to pass a car seat test.  Mom and Dad have to sit and watch three different videos.  There’s a car seat safety test.  There’s a CPR class.  There’s another one.  I cannot remember off the top of my head.

Alyssa:            But they want to make sure you’re going home prepared?  As prepared as you can be.

Tricia:             Yep, yep.  They come home, and they’re really – the nurses are all trained.  They’re trained for feeding; they’re trained for various different – there was one that was a lactation consultant, so she sat and worked a lot on trying to get the girls to latch and have to figure out some of that.  They’re really knowledgeable.  They have also social workers upstairs that come down weekly and are like, “What can we do to help?”  My husband and I had a 45-minute drive.  Our NICU gave us gas cards weekly to help pay for driving there and back and there and back.  Because there is a house that’s like right next to it, but you have to be within an hour.  So we were just close enough that really – and we had a toddler at home, so we wouldn’t have been able to really use that much anyway, but it was nice that they were like, “What can we do to help your family make this less—”

Alyssa:            A little less stressful.

Tricia:             A little less stressful; a little less, yeah.  And then usually they do a room-in, so they send you upstairs, and you’re on your own with baby.  They’ll come in and do vitals every three hours.  It’s basically like you leaving the hospital –

Alyssa:            If you would have had a full-term baby?  So you get that night, maybe, day –

Tricia:             Yep, you get that night.

Alyssa:            It’s like, okay, I can do this alone before we go home.

Tricia:             Mm-hmm.  You go home; babies are off all the monitors.  It gets a little bit of normalcy to this.  They’ll wheel you down in the wheelchair, and the whole, like, this is what you do.  Like, I did not leave from the maternity floor when I was sent home because I could not leave from that floor empty-handed.  I was like, I’m leaving from the NICU floor.  You can put everything back down to the NICU floor, I’m just leaving the hospital and then coming back.  If I leave this floor, it’s –

Alyssa:            Something in your brain just won’t let you –

Tricia:             Something in my brain.  I was leaving my girls.  I was leaving my girls together.  It was that – I’m not leaving as a postpartum mom.  I’m leaving as a mom.  And I think that for whatever reason, that made a big difference.

Alyssa:            So last question I have is you finally get to take them home.  Well, one, and then the other, but you finally have both babies home.  How do you deal with the nerves of what if they stop breathing?  I mean, every parent has this fear of what if they stop breathing in the night.  There’s all these what-ifs, and you have like a hundred more.  How do you handle that?

Tricia:             I know some parents buy the little Owlet monitor thing.  There’s a bunch of different sleeping monitors.  My girls came home on a schedule, so we kind of kept their schedule.  I will be honest; I was over their crib just kind of watching them breathe for a while.  Because you don’t, and you can’t.  There’s really not – there was an oversized chair.  I pumped in their room a lot, so I could watch them breathe while I pumped.  You kind of just eventually get a little bit less – I don’t know if it ever really goes away.

Alyssa:            Does it ever go away?  I mean, I still check my almost-five-year-old daughter’s breathing at night before I go to bed, so that never really goes away, but you get to a point where you’re like, okay, these girls are healthy; they’re going to be able to sleep through the night, and now I can sleep through the night.

Tricia:             Yeah.  I mean, I had a post-partum doula that I talked to for a while because I did have a lot of anxiety.

Alyssa:            The same one that was with you in the hospital?

Tricia:             Yes.  Due to just – yeah, I had a lot of anxiety from NICU; a lot of fears.  So talking through a lot of it helped too.  I think being able to talk it out and being, you know, they’re okay.  They’re here now.  My big thing is they’re here; they’re healthy.  They’re happy.  They’re fierce little things.  But they’ve had a really long day.  They’ve had a long rough road.  Writing it out helped too.  They have a book they both will get that is their full NICU journey.

Alyssa:            So you would write every day?

Tricia:             Pretty close.  Regularly.  I wouldn’t say every day, but pretty close.  It has their updates; it has their weights.  It talks about when Keira came home.  Actually, that was probably the hardest day of NICU was taking just one of them home because it felt so foreign to me.  I needed – I was supposed to have two.  There’s two of you.  And they’d never been apart.  At least when I left, they were still together.  It was really weird to take just her home.  It was a very bittersweet day.  Our family’s all like, “But you get to get ready for one.”  I’m like, yeah, for two days, and now I get to take this infant in and out of the hospital.  It’s not as great as you think it is.”  I mean, it had to happen.  It was fine; it was great; it was four days, and they left her bed and they made it as comfortable as they could.  So their book talks about that a little bit.  And I was a little bit more open with them in their book than I was with, like, Facebook-updating my family.

Alyssa:            Oh, I’m sure.  It will be a beautiful thing for them to read when they get older, I’m sure.

Tricia:             Mm-hmm, for them to see how far they’ve come.

Alyssa:            Yeah, and for you to remember because I feel like, you know, even a year ago, you forget little stories, and I’m a huge proponent of writing things down especially during the newborn stage because you are in this fog, and if you don’t write it down, you probably will never remember.  And kids love to hear those stories about themselves, so I think that’s a beautiful way to track that.

Tricia:             Yes.

Alyssa:            Well, thank you so much.  I feel like we have a million different multiples topics we could talk about, like your pumping alone.  I think that could be – we will definitely talk about that again.

Tricia:             Yes, I could talk for days for that, and all the places I’ve pumped.

Alyssa:            We will talk about that for sure.  Well, thanks.  If you have any questions for Tricia, contact us at  And you can find us on our website,  Thanks for listening in today.  We will talk to you soon.

Podcast Episode #9: How to Handle a Six-Week NICU Stay Read More »

Postpartum Doula

Podcast Episode #8: Kristin’s Experience with the NICU

In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Kristin shares her experiences with the NICU when her daughter was born.  You can listen to this complete interview on iTunes.

Alyssa:            Hi, welcome back to another episode of Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I am Alyssa, and we are talking to my partner Kristin today.

Kristin:           Hello, I’m Kristen, and I’m a birth and postpartum doula at Gold Coast.

Alyssa:            When we talked to Kristin earlier, we found out about your birth story, and during that time, you had said your daughter Abby when she was born spent four days in the NICU.  So can you expand on what it felt like as a parent to have a baby – you know, after a kind of traumatic birth experience, and then you don’t get to bring that baby home right away.  How does that feel?

Kristin:           Yeah, and again, those of you that heard my birth story, it was traumatic in some ways, and then I had preeclampsia, but very redemptive in that I was able to have an unmedicated birth with very few interventions with the preeclampsia, which is pretty rare.  And after I had Abby, it was very standard.  I was able to do skin-to-skin and breastfeed, but they did some testing and found that she had glucose issues, and so then it led to her getting transferred to the NICU, and we were fortunate in that the DeVos Children’s Hospital had literally just opened.  And they had the really-preemie babies in there, and they had the regular ICU that we started out in, which was overcrowded and there were parents standing everywhere, and I was trying to nurse and hold my baby.  And they somehow ended up transferring us to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital where we had our own private room and more individualized nurse attention, and I had a rocker and I could hold Abby and nurse her there.  So we got to experience those amenities which now as a doula has served me very well.  And so that was really fabulous, but because of her glucose issues, our pediatrician had recommended that she start with an IV and then it led to, once she got off of that, she was on enhanced formula.  And I was pumping the entire time, so we would spend time with her, and then I would go back to my room to pump, and my husband would stay with her.  And I was pumping without a baby in my room, which obviously you never imagine that you have your child and then they aren’t actually in the room with you.  So that was overwhelming because I kept getting all of these people coming in to help me, like say, okay, you’ve got photographers that want to take your picture with your baby.  Well, my baby’s not there when I’m in there pumping.  The lactation consultants come in, and my baby’s not there, so they’re helping me with pumping, and that’s about it.  So I’m going back and forth, and even though again I had what’s considered a natural birth, I was in a wheelchair because it was one end of the hospital to the other.  So I was getting dizzy trying to walk all of that way myself, so I was overwhelmed by a lot of things.  And the pumping was overwhelming.  So again the heel pricks constantly were hard on me as a mom to see her get poked so many times and cry, and all of the cords and everything that’s involved in a NICU stay is overwhelming.  Everything beeps all of the time.  You can’t really fully hold your child.  And everything was timed when I was eventually able to attempt nursing with her.  So once she got off the formula, I was able to spend about ten minutes, because everything was very timed out in the NICU, trying to nurse.  So if I couldn’t get her to latch or if I couldn’t get my milk to come in – it was coming in at the time that she was in the NICU, so some of that was frustrating because she wasn’t getting a full feed, and then they had to supplement after.

Alyssa:            They’d take her away from you?

Kristin:           Yes, so I had my ten minutes to get that done, and that was really overwhelming.  So I wasn’t sleeping.  And my husband had experienced, with his daughter from a previous marriage, five weeks in the NICU, so he was very familiar with the NICU.  So for me, that made everything easier, so all of the protocols and the beeps and the wires, he was able to help me with, but for me, even four days was a lot, but for him, this was nothing in comparison to his daughter.  So we were able to navigate that, and again, I mean, there was a rocking chair there, and it was very comfortable.  My step-daughter could come in and visit, but it can be overwhelming.  So I have a heart for NICU and high-risk moms because of my own experience, and many of them experience longer stays and just so much more intensity as far as conditions with their babies.  Glucose is very minor in comparison, but it certainly made breastfeeding challenging because, again, with nipple confusion – and in the NICU my daughter had to have a pacifier, which all of my natural birth plans were like no pacifier; never going to introduce a bottle, at least until the first month or six weeks, according to what I learned in Lamaze class and everything.  So that really – a lot of my plans just went out the window, and I had to adapt.  And so I wasn’t sleeping well, and we ended up getting released a day before Abby, so luckily, the hospital allowed us to stay an extra day, but we went home without our daughter, so you can imagine the car seat behind you, and not having a baby, and all of these family members and friends – it’s my first baby, and wanting to come visit us in the hospital, and I was turning people away and saying “No, there’s no baby.  You can’t go to the NICU; there’s no visiting.”  And then to go home and spend the night in your home without your baby there is really tough.  So again, I have a heart for moms that experience that for so much longer than what I did.  But then the next morning, we got up very early and went to the hospital, and she got her glucose tested and she was fine to go, so we were able to go home.  But then when I got home with her, I didn’t know what to do.  I wanted to breastfeed, but she didn’t really want to breastfeed.  She wanted a bottle.  It’s so much less work; it’s quicker.  So, you know, I was pumping, so she had my pumped milk that she could use, and we stopped supplementing by that point, but I had to get a lot of help from lactation, so I went back to Spectrum Health multiple times and met with the lactation consultants, and that wasn’t really working.  So then I ended up having lactation consultants come into my home and help, and I finally got the latch that would really work for me comfort-wise, and I was able to make it work.  And then my daughter didn’t to wean.  She wanted to nurse forever.

Alyssa:            She never gave up.  So was there any fear that day you brought her home, like, she just spent four days in the NICU because there’s something wrong, and they said it’s manageable now, but now she’s home.  Did you have this fear of what if something happens while she’s home?

Kristin:           Yeah, I mean, I certainly wanted to go to the pediatrician’s office as much as I could for reassurance that everything was okay.  And I didn’t know that I could care for her as a new parent and having other people have their hands on her and telling me what to do, and so I was overwhelmed.  And my husband went back to work, and I was used to working, so I had my leave time, and that was a little challenging, especially having spent three weeks on bed rest right before having her.  So that isolation was a bit much, and I didn’t know what postpartum doulas were back then, but I did have the help from a local nonprofit called Moms Bloom, and a volunteer came into my home who was retired.  So she was a grandmother, essentially, and she would hold Abby so I could take a shower or do some things around the house, and that was nice.  And it gave me someone to talk to because again, I was overwhelmed and lonely.  And it reassured me that I was doing everything that I needed to, and that there were no concerns, that she was normal and healthy.  So yeah, there is some of that anxiety as a new parent coming back from the hospital and that’s something that I wouldn’t be able to catch, could be wrong again with her.  But we got through it, and again, she nursed into toddlerhood, so it all worked out.

Alyssa:            Go, Abby!

Kristin:           It’s all about, yeah, just getting resources and having a support system around you after getting home from the NICU because it can be overwhelming.

Alyssa:            It’s so easy to give up.  I think that’s key it just have enough support and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Kristin:           Yes, exactly.  Yeah, and so you’re not alone, NICU moms!  I understand, in a very small way, what you go through, but there are so many wonderful nurses and support groups within the hospital, and the breastfeeding support groups, so just know that you have resources and reach out to the community.  Postpartum and overnight doulas are here to help, so again, that’s something that I would have used had I know that that was an option, and for NICU moms especially, we can lighten your load a lot and give you reassurance and support with your new baby or babies.

Alyssa:            Well, thanks for sharing, and if you want to find out more our daytime and overnight postpartum doulas, you can check out our website,, and then if you want to email either of us, Kristin or I,  We would love to hear from you.  Thanks, Kristin.

Kristin:           Thanks.

Podcast Episode #8: Kristin’s Experience with the NICU Read More »

Cindy's Suds

Podcast Episode #7: Cold and Flu Season

In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Cindy talks about how to stay healthy during the cold and flu season.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes.

Alyssa:            Hi, welcome back to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I am Alyssa, co-owner and postpartum doula.  Today’s episode is sponsored by Cindy’s Suds, and we have Cindy with us today.

Cindy:             Hello.

Alyssa:            Hello.  We are going to be talking about cold and flu season because it is upon us.

Cindy:             It is, yeah.

Alyssa:            Give us some good tips and tricks for parents and kids to get through this season.

Cindy:            Okay.  It is hard because everywhere you look, people are sneezing, snotty; Kleenex are out; eye goobers.  I mean, you just look and you’re like, “Oh, I’m going to get the cooties.  It’s all over!”  But there are definitely some things that you can do proactively to try to keep your family healthy during this time of year.  The biggest – and we’ve all heard it over and over, but I cannot emphasize enough how important handwashing is.  It truly is the cornerstone of keeping you and your family healthy during this flu season.  As a mom, you should be washing your hands all the time because we’re constantly doing little – “Oh, let me wipe you nose.  Let me do this.  Let me do that.”  You’re constantly touching, and so you should be constantly washing your hands so that you’re not cross-contaminating.

Alyssa:            Which is crazy, because I do; I wash my hands all the time, and then I get super dry hands because it’s the middle of winter.

Cindy:             Right, right.  Well, I do have some options for that at!

Alyssa:            Segue!

Cindy:            Right, segue!  And that does tend to be a problem is just drying out your hands really bad.  But you know, segue, we do have great products that are 100% natural to keep your hands soft during this season.

Alyssa:            Just keep some lotion next to my handwashing at the sink.

Cindy:            Exactly, exactly.  But the best thing to do really is just you need to wash your hands.  The whole latest thing is the ease of hand sanitizers and Purell and things like that.  I obviously am not a proponent of those.  Your good old, basic, old-fashioned soap and water; that’s really all you need.  You really just need to have basic handwashing with soap and water.  You want to try to use warm water.  You want to try to wash your hands for about 30 seconds, which is singing Happy Birthday twice.  That’s really what you need to do.  You want to make sure that you’re getting between your fingers, the tops of your hands, you know, just really getting a good lather on, rinsing and drying.  But that should be your cornerstone across the board for this time of year, especially obviously after you blow your nose, wipe someone else’s nose, wipe someone else’s eyes.  Before you touch their eyes or nose; you should be doing it then, too.  Obviously, before you prepare food, before and after bathroom use; the typical things.  But I just can’t emphasize enough: handwashing is key.  And it’s also key to teach your kids now to do it so that it becomes a lifelong habit.  Even now, before we do anything, like before we sit down for dinner, I’m still – and my kids are all teenagers.  I’m still, “Wash your hands,” because I want to plant the seed over and over even though they’re all teens.  It’s so important to make sure that you’re washing your hands at certain times.  You just need to add to it, unfortunately, at this time of year.  You can help teach your kids for sneezing and coughing to do into your elbow because that is going to help prevent some of that splash, if you will, of a sneeze or a cough from going everything.

Alyssa:            I’ve seen those slo-mo videos.

Cindy:            Oh, man, they’re nasty.  They’re so bad.  So teach them to sneeze or cough into their elbow, kind of looking away, so that you’re trying to avoid some of that transfer of saliva as it goes out.  The more sleep that you can get, obviously, this time of year, is really going to help keep your body healthy.  In the wintertime, our bodies tend to need more sleep anyway just because we have less sun, and our internal timeclocks are geared more towards needing more sleep in the winter, so listen to your body.  When you feel tired, you should try to go to bed.  And this is blanketed for your kids, too, even more so, because our kids are – they obviously need more sleep than an adult does, and they’re stressed in their little worlds, too, with school and different play things and sports and whatever.  Water, water, water, water.  That needs to be something that you’re just really pushing as a mom for both yourself and also for your kids, to really make sure that they’re getting the fluid intake that they need because your bodies really need the fluids to flush out and to try to keep your body healthy.  And food should be your cornerstone of your medicine, if you will.  “Let food be your medicine,” so more leafy greens, more fruits that have the naturally-occurring vitamin C in it, so your citrus foods.  But really use food as a cornerstone of keeping your body healthy and kind of thinking – every bite that you’re taking in, think of it as something that you’re giving your body nutrition-wise and almost like a medicine-wise, because it truly is.  I mean, all the food that we eat is going to either be feeding our bodies or depleting our bodies, so let those food choices be feeding what you are trying to do, and basically, it’s trying to be healthy and have a healthy body.  So healthy food choices, lots and lots of water, teaching sneezing and coughing into your elbow, getting proper sleep, handwashing all the time.  So those are the biggest things.  I did mention the whole Purell, hand sanitizer thing.

Alyssa:            Yeah, you know, if it’s the only option, you know, you’re at the mall, and the kid wants to go in the play area, if there’s nothing else, I’m going to hand-sanitize.  But yeah, I really try to stay away because you hear how bad it is, and we’re killing all the germs, like the good bacteria, and we’re just kind of making ourselves sicker.

Cindy:            Exactly.  100%, I agree.  But there is a fine line because you also, if you’ve been at a petting zoo all day and you’re going to eat lunch and there’s no water, you’re kind of stuck.  And so your options are if you have towelettes with you – if you can think ahead, bring some paper towels and some soap and water in a little baggie, just like moistened paper towels, or handwipes, things like that; if you’re thinking ahead, great.  Unfortunately, too, I feel like a lot of schools now are mandating that kids carry Purell with them.  In fact, it was –

Alyssa:            Really?

Cindy:            I know.  I homeschool so I don’t have that experience, but I have friends that are given a list of things that your child needs to bring to school for the school year, and Purell is on that list.

Alyssa:            Well, at least – and maybe you can start making this.  I’ve seen some all-natural hand sanitizer alternative kinds of things.

Cindy:            And we have something called Germ Guard, and so it is different essential oils that we use with a witch hazel base.  And witch hazel has a natural 14% alcohol, so it still does have alcohol in it, but it’s in the natural form because it’s witch hazel, and that’s just what witch hazel is.  So we have our essential oil Germ Guard blend which is a spray, and I know a lot of moms use that as a natural hand sanitizer.  They keep it in their diaper bag.  I keep one in my purse for the same reason, like if I’m not around water.

Alyssa:            That’s awesome.  I wonder if that would count at schools.

Cindy:             I don’t know.  Schools tend to be kind of regimented, so I’m not sure.

Alyssa:            Well, I can tell you they are teaching in preschool – because my daughter will cough and sneeze in her elbow, and she does – I watch.  She doesn’t do it long enough, but I watch her hand-wash, and she knows.

Cindy:            It’s a start.  Yeah, it’s a start, and as a mom, we’re teaching these life habits and these life skills.  So if you’re teaching them now to do the washing of the hands, that’s perfect.  That’s what you want to do, and that’s great that they’re teaching the cough and sneeze in the elbow, because that’s really –

Alyssa:            I mean, at least if they’re doing it 50% of the time.

Cindy:            Right, exactly.  Anything that you can do to lessen the viral load that you’re picking up every day, great.  You know, it’s – being sick, unfortunately, is a fact of life.  We have bacteria and viruses as part of our world, but you can eliminate and decrease some of the viral load that you’re exposed to just by some basic lifestyle habits, you know, like we just mentioned.

Alyssa:            Yeah.  And I think talking, too – so my four-and-a-half-year-old, the second she comes home from preschool, it’s “Get in there and wash your hands,” because all I can picture – it’s like she might as well have poop on her hands.  I don’t want her to touch a thing, so I make her wash, but I tell her why.  I’m not just like, “Wash your hands.”  I’m like, “Hey, you’ve been at school all day.”  “Well, I washed my hands before we went outside.”  You know, she tries to give me all these excuses.  “But I did it before I went potty.”  I’m like, “Did you do it after you went potty?”  So just explaining, you know, germs all over your hands from the toys, from the playground, from the other kids; we’re going to get ready to eat, so I want you to wash your hands, and then she’s like, okay.

Cindy:            And it doesn’t change when they’re teenagers, either.  You’re still doing the same old song and dance.  You’re around people all day, and you touch things all day at the store, you know, you’ve got to wash your hands.  But yeah, very true, very good points.  So you basically teach that handwashing, and if you aren’t in a place where there is water running, the next best thing is if you can get your hands on a natural hand sanitizer; that’s great.

Alyssa:            Yeah.  I think I might have to get some of the Germ Guard next, then.  I like the idea of that.

Cindy:            Yeah, it’s great stuff.  And lots of people have used it as a hand sanitizer.  You can use it in other ways as well.  It’s a really great-smelling product, too, for just helping to kind of clean up the air this time of year, too.

Alyssa:            Yeah, instead of spraying Lysol.

Cindy:             Oh, gosh, no.

Alyssa:            It just kills me to see how many products on the market people buy, spray in the air, breathe them; light these candles that are toxic.  Like, we’re just breathing it non-stop.

Cindy:            Right.  You’ll have to have me back for another episode because that’s such a pet peeve of mine, all of these assaults to our bodies that we’re breathing in all the time that are full of chemical and fragrance.  You don’t realize it because it’s everywhere, but it really has such a negative effect for making your health deteriorate, so it’s just one of those things that – it’s a whole other topics.

Alyssa:            Put that on the list.  Put that on the list.

Cindy:             Exactly, right.

Alyssa:            Well, thanks again for joining us.

Cindy:             Absolutely

Alyssa:            If you have questions for Cindy, you can email her.

Cindy:    You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram under Cindy’s Suds, or you can look up our website, which is

Alyssa:            Thanks for listening.  And you know you can find us  Email us:  Find us on Instagram and Facebook, and be sure to subscribe to this podcast.  Talk to you next time.

Podcast Episode #7: Cold and Flu Season Read More »

Ashley Forton Doula

Podcast Episode #6: Dispelling The Goddess Myth

In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa and Ashley talk about The Goddess Myth and how it affects your birthing experience.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes. 

Alyssa:            Hi, welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I am Alyssa, co-owner and postpartum doula, and today we have Ashley Forton with us.

Ashley:           Good morning.

Alyssa:            She is also a birth doula and postpartum doula.  We both just recently read a Time Magazine article called The Goddess Myth, and it raised a lot of questions.  Ashley, what was your first – well, why don’t you give us a synopsis of this article?

Ashley:           Yeah, so the article kind of starts out talking about this “goddess myth” and how there’s this rise in natural birth, and how a lot of women are trying to achieve this image of being a goddess and having this perfect natural birth, and that they’re kind of blaming that on a lot of women feeling failure or feeling regret or feeling like they couldn’t live up to this perfect image that we’ve created.  And it kind of stood out to me that, that’s still possible.  If you want to have this beautiful, natural birth, bodies are capable of that, but it also brings up a lot of points that that’s not best for everybody.  And so I found it really interesting some of the things that they brought up about different women’s experiences and where their emotions went if it didn’t go according to that perfect plan they had in their head.

Alyssa:            Yeah, I’ve kind of thought that – you know, there’s all this knowledge at our fingertips.  You get pregnant, and you can just know so much.  And then you have this goddess myth, where you didn’t birth good enough if you didn’t do it naturally.  I’m glad that there’s an awareness about this and that women are asking questions and knowing that it’s a possibility to birth this way, but on the flip side, there’s so much feelings of guilt and shame and regret if you say, “This is the only way I can have my baby,” and then it doesn’t happen that way.  And then there’s all this mom-shaming of “Well, I did it naturally.”  Or, “Oh, you had an epidural?”  Or, “Oh, you’re not breastfeeding?”  There’s so many good things happening within the community and within the medical field with natural births, and I think it’s beautiful and amazing, but a Caesarean birth is also a birth.  If you had an epidural, it’s still a birth.

Ashley:           Absolutely.  And I think a lot of that – I don’t think the goddess myth or this desire for natural birth is the problem.  I think that part of it is us as moms, as women, who come into this new journey of parenthood; we try to compare.  I think comparison is the root of all this evil because what happens is when I compare my birth to yours, we’re not comparing apples to apples.  You bring a completely different emotional history; a completely different physical experience.  You have different genetics.  Our bodies are not identical.  So there’s no way for me to say what I think is best for me is also best for you because I don’t know the ins and outs of your life and your emotions and your physical experience and your relationship with your partner.  And all of that plays into birth, so when we have a baby, no matter how we have it, and we go sit down with our friends and we say, “Here’s how I had my baby,” we start to compare.  We start to say, “Well, this is how I did it.”  “This is how I did it.”  And none of those are greater or less than the other.  We all need to take a step back and go, “Do you feel good about that?  Do you regret anything about your birth?”

Alyssa:            Did you do what was best for you?

Ashley:           Yeah, and that’s a lot of why I became a doula because in the beginning, when I first got pregnant with my daughter, I thought natural birth was the only way and this is best for everyone.  And I started talking to my friends and talking to women who had different experiences, and going, oh my gosh.  My experience has nothing to do with your experience, and I can’t say what’s best for you.  And I wanted to start changing my own mentality to looking at it as, if you look back at your birth story and feel like you made great decisions and you love your birth, regardless of what those intricacies of that birth were, that’s what matters.  Because women carry their birth story with them forever, and you start motherhood with birth.  You start with pregnancy and your experiences that lead up to birth, and if you have regrets and you feel like a failure, that’s going to follow you the rest of your life.  But if you feel like you have made the best decision for you; not comparing it to anyone else, just the best decision for you in that moment: you can’t regret that.  You can’t look back and say someone else should have done it differently.  You made the best decision for you, and then you feel like you just conquered the world because you got – even if it was curveballs, you did the best for you throughout the whole thing.  And so you start off motherhood with this confidence rather than comparison and failure and feeling less than another mom.

Alyssa:            Yeah, it’s so important, because starting off that way just leads to continued problems, emotionally, physically.  And then the comparison starts, when, you know, “How is your baby sleeping?”  “Is your son potty-trained yet?”  It’s a non-stop battle.  You’re constantly comparing.  And you know what, stop.

Ashley:           Right, because every kid is different.  So I mean, having two kids myself, I can tell you there are so many differences just between my two children, who genetically – they share my genetics!  There should be something in common.  But so comparing to my friend, it’s like your kid’s way more different than my kid, so again, we should quit comparing.  We shouldn’t be comparing to each other, our kids to each other.  Yes, there’s a lot in common, but we need to start finding our own joys and successes on our own, not trying to get our success from being better than someone else.

Alyssa:            Right.  There was something else in this article, too, so after the article, looking at the magazine here, there was another little side article called The Well-Intentioned, Misinformed, Oversharing Pregnancy Experts.  And one line that I highlighted says, “When you’re pregnant in public, you learn quickly that everyone’s an expert.”  And this gal was talking about how she liked to enjoy her coffee still while she was pregnant, and the barista, this 20-something guy, would give her this look, and say, “Are you allowed to have this?”  And she’s like, it’s one shot of espresso in my coffee!  And everyone becomes this expert, and I think deep down, they’re well-intentioned statements.

Ashley:           Right.  They think they’re looking out for your health and safety, somehow.

Alyssa:            Yeah, but again, it becomes another form of mom-shaming.

Ashley:           Absolutely.  We talk about that a lot in hypnobirthing, where I tell my moms not to compare to others, like I already talked about, but I also tell them, when someone gives you advice, take it with a grain of salt because they do mean well.  When your mother-in-law says to you, “Oh, well, I did it this way,” she thinks that’s the best way, and she wants to help you.  It doesn’t necessarily come across that way, and you can kind of take it or leave it, but know that you get to make those decisions that are best for you.  If a cup of coffee is what you need, and you’ve cleared that with your ob., if you feel good about it, drink that coffee, girl!  You don’t need your barista’s opinion.  They’re not your ob.  They’re not your healthcare provider.  So yeah, it’s like, take everything with a grain of salt.  Know that it comes from a good place.  Instead of just getting super pissed off right away, which is easy to do, just know that, okay, they probably mean well, and you can still go do whatever the heck you want.

Alyssa:            So I think bottom line, we as mothers have to learn to build each other up and encourage each other and talk about our birth stories together because talking about it is imperative, but sometimes we don’t want to talk about it with our friends or neighbors or family because we know we’re going to be shamed.  So if we knew that we had a judgment-free person just to talk this birth story out with, it would be so beneficial for mothers and encouraging, and I think, bottom line, we just need to support each other.

Ashley:           Absolutely, and recognize that everybody is going to do things a little bit differently, and that’s okay.  And so recognizing that in others and in yourself, it takes practice to not initially come to a judgment.  It’s hard to look at something and not compare.  So it’s easier said than done for me to say, “Let’s quit comparing,” but I think we really do need to focus on that, and when a friend comes to you and opens up and says “Hey, there’s this thing that happened in my birth, and I do feel like a failure, or it didn’t go as planned,” give them the space to talk through that without reinforcing the judgment they’re already feeling.  Just be there for them and let them talk it out.  And if a friend comes to you loving their birth story and they did it completely different than you did, celebrate that joy with them instead of saying, “Well, I did it differently.”  Just let them share that joy with you.

Alyssa:            Yeah, I agree.  All right, if anyone has any questions, comments, anything about this episode or ideas for future episodes, email us at and remember, these moments are golden.  Thanks, Ashley.

Ashley:           You’re welcome.  Have a great day.

Podcast Episode #6: Dispelling The Goddess Myth Read More »

Cindy's Suds

Podcast Episode #5: Why Choose Natural Products for Your Baby’s Body?

In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Cindy and Alyssa talk about the benefits of choosing natural care products for your baby and your household.  You can listen to the complete podcast on iTunes.

Alyssa:            Hi, welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  Today we are talking to Cindy, creator and owner of Cindy’s Suds.  Can you give me your elevator speech of what is Cindy’s Suds?

Cindy:            Sure, sure.  So Cindy’s Suds is a 100% natural company that provides natural bath and body products and products for home, primarily to parents of younger families who are seeking to make the change from more conventional-type products to more natural-based products once they start realizing how much better that is for their bodies and for their families and homes and everything.

Alyssa:            I love it.  I recently got some of your stuff, and I’m obsessed with the body butter.  I love it.

Cindy:             Oh, good.  Which scent did I send you?

Alyssa:            I don’t even know.  Do you have an unscented?

Cindy:             I do, yeah.

Alyssa:            So tell me how you started Cindy’s Suds and why.

Cindy:            Okay.  So I have three kids.  Our middle child was born with very, very dry skin and severe eczema, and his skin is so much thinner than my other kids, if that even makes sense.  My other two kids, when they were born, they had darker skin and they just loved them, “Oh, they look like they have a tan.  They look darker.”  When he was born, I was like, “Whoa!”  Almost transparent, his skin was so thin.  So he had always had very sensitive skin, just really paper-thin, almost, and after he was probably maybe six to nine months, I really started noticing his skin was super, super dry.  He started developing eczema patches on his legs, on his butt cheeks, on his arms.  And he would scratch them at night or when he would take a nap, and he would wake up from his naps with bloody legs and bloody fingernails, and it was just heartbreaking as a mom to go in there.  He was trying to give me this little smile, and he’s got blood on his sheets and blood on his legs.  So that broke my heart, and in my mind, because I’m a physician assistant by trade, in my mind I thought, oh, well, it’s eczema.  You treat eczema with steroids.  But in my mom’s heart, I’m like, are you kidding me?  There’s no way.  This kid, his skin is way too thin.

Alyssa:            Yeah, what does cortisone cream do?

Cindy:            It thins out skin, yeah, so cortisone cream further thins out skin as it’s decreasing inflammation on the skin, so I’m like, there’s no way.  This kid already has super thin skin.  There’s no way I’m going to do that to him.  So that kind of got my mind rolling with, well, what else is out there?  What else could I do?  And this was almost – well, this was 16 years ago because he’ll be 16 this month.  So there were natural products out there, but there weren’t to the degree that there are now, and so I started going to the library and getting out books because this was also almost to the point where the internet was kind of still in the early phases, and just because I’m more old-school, you just didn’t think to go to the internet for things because it wasn’t really a resource that normal moms tapped into yet.  So I went to the library and got a bunch of different books, and there were not a lot.  There were a handful of books on making natural products for your skin and for your body and things, so I just started combing through those and writing down.  This sounds good, and this sounds good.  Kind of compiling little mini-recipes that I would try, and I did try the recipes, and it worked, and I ended up with so much of it that I started giving it away for gifts and for friends who had babies, and then here we are, ten-plus years later.  Well, I didn’t start the company until after I’d been doing it for several years.

Alyssa:            So you’ve been making this for 16 years?

Cindy:             I’ve been making it for 16 years, yeah.

Alyssa:            And the company?

Cindy:             And then we’ve had that for ten years.

Alyssa:            So for six year you made it but didn’t sell it.  What finally made you – was it a friend going, “You really need to sell this stuff”?

Cindy:            It was that.  It was friends; it was family; it was the fact that I had so much of it at home from making it for my own family that I got to the point where I’m like, okay, either this is just – it’s got to go to more people, gift-wise or birthday-wise or whatever, or I should start selling it.  And then I had a couple – the reason why I started, funny enough, was we had a garage sale, and I was getting rid of my baby stuff.  And so I had some of this, of my product, out for sale, and one of the ladies who ran a craft bizarre at a local church said, “Oh, you should be in our craft show,” and I was like, oh!  Perfect idea!

Alyssa:            So is that how you started, craft shows?

Cindy:             That’s how I started was craft shows, yeah.

Alyssa:            Okay.  And so 16 years later, what happened with your son’s skin?  Did it progressively get better?  Did you find out what caused it?

Cindy:             You know, in hindsight, I’m sure so much of it was diet-related.

Alyssa:            That’s what I was wondering.

Cindy:            Yeah.  And that’s kind of where we’re all going.  Looking at the skin as a whole, the skin is kind of a mirror or window into what’s going on inside your body.  And so when you see skin issues on the outside that you’re like, oh, something’s not quite right, you’ve got to look inside.  What’s not right on the inside?  And oftentimes more than not, it’s a dietary condition, but back up 16 years ago, we didn’t really think that way right off the bat.  It was more like, oh, there’s a skin condition.  You treat the skin condition.  And I think still there are maybe some people that still think that way.  It’s a skin condition; treat the skin.  But more often than not, if it’s a skin condition, let’s see what else is going on and let’s figure out if it’s dietary or if it’s autoimmune, which can also have a little bit of a factor, too, with eczema, psoriasis, things like that.  But typically there is some kind of a dietary component.  So in hindsight, yes, he probably had sensitivities, even back then, to dairy products and probably to gluten, as well.  For sure dairy because now he’s on a dairy free diet and much better.

Alyssa:            So you have figured out some dietary things now as a 16-year-old?

Cindy:             For sure, yeah.

Alyssa:            Yeah, because my daughter, who’s four and a half, we found out – it’s been about two years ago that we found out her eczema was due to several food allergies.  And it’s funny because the older generation, like you said, 16, 20, 30 years ago, they’re the ones who say, “Oh, this is just a bunch of bunk.  All these gluten free; that’s just ridiculous.  My kids had eczema for years.”  Well…

Cindy:             Hmm.  Exactly!

Alyssa:            “Yeah, you just put cortisone cream on it; you deal with it.”  And we have noticed a significant difference.  She still does get eczema and we have to put stuff on it occasionally, but it’s definitely internal.

Cindy:            Yes.  For sure, for sure.  And when I went to PA school, I graduated in 1996.  There was nothing in our schooling on anything holistic, anything alternative.  It was strictly western medicine because that’s what was taught.  And so it’s relatively a new concept still for those of us old-school people that went to school in the 80s or 90s.  It just wasn’t something that was even – something that you thought of or studied or were aware of.  So a lot of this stuff is self-taught, and then just learning from there, and then seeking out providers now that are natural-minded or alternative-minded.  Not to say that I’ve turned my back on western medicine, but you need to embrace both, I feel like, because there’s a huge component where both are useful.

Alyssa:            Right.  So what would you recommend?  Let’s say we have a new client; they have a baby.  I think thin skin or not, all babies have just such super-sensitive skin, and you have some really good baby products.

Cindy:            We do, yeah.  So whether you use my product or somebody else’s product or you make your own product, my overall encouragement for a new mom, especially, is seek out something that is as natural as possible.  The fewer ingredients the better, obviously.  Most things that you’re going to buy over the counter, store-bought brands, they contain chemicals.  Even if they say, “Oh, it’s the natural version of Johnson’s & Johnson’s,” or natural version of whatever –

Alyssa:            Many of them still have alcohol.

Cindy:             Tons of them do.

Alyssa:            As one of the first ingredients!

Cindy:            Right.  It’s like water and then alcohol.  So you’ve really, really got to turn into a label-reader.  That’s huge.  I know a lot of moms are like, oh, I’m going to make it myself.  Which I’m like, excellent.  That is so great.  Do it.  Dabble in it.  Learn about it.  But a lot of moms just don’t have the time to do that because parenting is so overwhelming at first, especially with your first.  There’s just so much to learn, so much to do, that if you don’t want to make it yourself, seek out a company or two that you trust, that you believe in, that has the same philosophy as you do with using minimalistic ingredients, and just be a label-reader.  You’ve just go to flip everything over that you’re buying and see what’s in it.  The fewer ingredients, the better.  And then everything just sparingly.  For a little baby, you don’t need to douse a baby.  Sparingly.  Another thing that I always tell new moms: new moms nowadays, they want to give their baby a bath every night.  And babies don’t need baths every night.  They just don’t.

Alyssa:            It really dries out their skin.

Cindy:            Once a week.  Oh, man, it does.  So once a week; twice a week, at the most, but this nightly bathing routine just strips the body of natural oils.

Alyssa:            I try to get my clients, post-partum clients or sleep clients, away from a bath being part of the bedtime routine for that reason.  And plus with some babies it actually kind of wakes them up and it’s a fun activity.

Cindy:             It stimulates them, yeah.

Alyssa:            So I tell them unless this is putting your baby to sleep, this does not need to happen at night.  So let’s pick a day, Sunday afternoon, you know, let’s give them a bath once a week.  And the nighttime routine is more like, let’s read a book, sing a song.  Let’s get that bath out of there because when my daughter had eczema or had it really bad, and I was bathing her sometimes every day, every other day, because you think you need to – it was making it worse.

Cindy:            Exactly, yeah.  And that’s what I think is so great about the fact that there are doulas now, and I so wish that I had one with my kids.  But you don’t know what you don’t know, and if you’re walking through parenthood for the first time, and your mom, most likely, was old school, and you give them a bath every night, and then you put on Johnson’s & Johnson’s baby lotion, and they smell like a baby.  You don’t have somebody who’s going to kind of walk with you and tell you what may or may not be beneficial, and so that’s what is so great about having a doula walk beside you when you are pregnant or delivering or after delivery, as just someone to kind of give you feedback and what does this look like, raising this little tiny baby?  There’s not an instruction manual.  So it’s great when you can come and share with a new mom and dad what you’ve learned.

Alyssa:            Yeah, we can be a trusted resource.  And it’s hard.  Every family is different, so, like you mentioned, like the moms or the grandma.  They know one way of raising children because that’s how she raised hers, so she has these ideas in her head of how this works, but a doula has worked with so many different types of families and all walks of life, and we can walk into that space and say okay, I see where you are at right now.  This is what’s going to work best for you, and then here’s trusted – again, be a trusted resource for this is how this looks.

Cindy:             Right, exactly.

Alyssa:            Well, thank you for sharing today.

Cindy:            Absolutely.

Alyssa:            We are going to have you on again later in the month, and we look forward to talking to you.

Cindy:             Sounds good.  Looking forward to it, too.

Alyssa:            If people have questions about your products, do you have an email, phone number, or website?

Cindy:            Absolutely.  You can go to  That’s our website, and on our website, you can check out our products.  There’s a little product description next to each product.  If you have specific questions, there’s a Contact page on our website that you can put your question in and it sends it right to me.  You can also email me directly at  Those are the two best ways to get ahold of me, and if you have specific questions, definitely shoot me an email.  I love the education part of talking to moms and dads, just helping them kind of navigate the waters of what it looks like to be a new parent or to add a second child or a third child, or what does it look like to go from conventional products to natural products.

Alyssa:            Because sometimes you have do that slowly.

Cindy:            You do, yeah.  You can’t sometimes just jump in.  You’ve got to make a slower transition.

Alyssa:            Baby steps.

Cindy:            For sure.  So yeah, I welcome any questions.  Any way that I can help, shoot me an email.

Alyssa:            Excellent.  Thank you.  And if you have questions about this podcast or Gold Coast, you can email us at

Podcast Episode #5: Why Choose Natural Products for Your Baby’s Body? Read More »

Ashley Forton Doula

Podcast Episode #4: When to Hire a Doula and Why A Team Works

In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa and Ashley talk about Gold Coast’s team model for doulas and about the right timing for hiring your doula.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes. 


Alyssa:            Hi, welcome to Ask the Doulas.  I’m Alyssa, co-owner and postpartum doula at Gold Coast Doulas, and we have Ashley Forton in today talking about the question of when should I hire a doula?  And Ashley is a birth doula, so we’re going to talk about births specifically.  What have you seen lately?  When does the average client hire?

Ashley:           Well, I can tell you that some clients will hire as soon as they find out they’re pregnant, which is awesome, because what happens when you hire us – the minute you hire us, we are at your fingertips 24/7.  So if you have a question, you get out of a prenatal appointment, you text us.  “Hey, this came up.  I’m not sure how I feel about this.”  You need somebody to talk through; that’s what we’re there for.  If you are on your way to a coffee shop and you’re like, “Hey, my girlfriend just mentioned this.  Have you heard of this type of birth before?”  We’re there for all those questions, and it really helps us get to know you throughout that nine-month period of time.  So we certainly have clients that hire that early, but we also have clients that hire us at 36 weeks, 38 weeks.

Alyssa:            They’re like, oh, shoot, I’m nervous.  Maybe I should hire a doula!

Ashley:           Yes, yeah!  And a lot of times, people are like, I’m 36 weeks.  Is it too late to hire a doula?

Alyssa:            And what do you say?

Ashley:           Absolutely not too late!  No.  It gives us a little bit of a time crunch, so it makes things a little bit more time-sensitive, just in case you go early, but one of the things we do is whenever you hire us, we try to get a prenatal visit on the books, so whether it’s one or two, depending on what package you choose, we want to come to your house and talk to you about any and all concerns that you have about your upcoming birth.  Do you have a birth plan or birth preferences?  Do you need help coming up with that?  Do you have any medical concerns that you have brewing in your mind that have caused some anxiety?  Do you have any sort of questions about birth or maybe even right after birth?  What happens when I bring this baby home?  Are there other resources that you need?  We cater that appointment totally to what the client needs in that moment.  So sometimes it’s that we create a birth preferences sheet right there on the spot.  Sometimes it turns into, “Hey, I’ve got questions about what does labor look like?  How am I going to know I’m in labor?”  So we really cater that to what they need to talk about, and that’s time for us to get to know each other.  So even if you hire us at 36 weeks, we’ll get that on the books right away, and we want to get to know you as best we can, so we know what type of comfort measures might be good for you.  How do you relax on a regular basis?  What is relaxing and comforting to you?  We want to know all those things.  Do you not like being touched?  Should we not try and massage you?  Are there certain things that you don’t want?  And all of that kind of goes into building our relationship so that when you do go into labor, it’s not the first time that we’ve met.  Now, granted, that has happened.  I have been to a birth where I had not even met the mom.  She hired us, had not even met me yet, and I went to her birth, and it was an amazing birth.  Part of doulas’ training is attuning to the needs of the client, so if you get into a room with somebody that you’ve never met, paying attention to their body mannerisms; how they’re acting; what they’re emotionally acting like; seeing what do we think that this person might need; relying on the partner.  “Hey, is there something that you think might be helpful?”  So you can still have a beautiful birth in that situation, but hopefully we’ve had plenty of time to get to know each other before we get into that labor room.

Alyssa:            Right.  And our birth doulas at Gold Coast work in teams.  Can you explain your take on the team approach and why that’s so important for a client?

Ashley:           Yeah.  So hiring a team of doulas, you get two doulas for the price of one.  So let’s say you’re about 20 weeks pregnant, and you decide to hire a team of doulas from Gold Coast.  You usually will meet with us, we’ll do a consultation, and you can decide if that’s a good fit personality-wise.  Once you’ve signed that contract and paid the deposit, you have access to both of these doulas.  So you get two brains to pick.  You get two sets of separate experiences.  Sometimes you’ve got one that was trained by DONA, one that was trained by ProDoula, so you’ve got different trainings that they’re pulling from.  They’ve all been to different births.  So you get twice the experience, which is pretty awesome.

Alyssa:            Maybe one of your doulas had home births, and one of your doulas had C-sections.  Or one of your doulas had hospital births with epidurals.  And then yeah, all the clients you’ve supported.  So you’ve probably supported every single type of birth possible.

Ashley:           Absolutely.  So it’s really great to have those varying sources of opinion and experience to draw from, and you’ve got twice the support.  You’ve got two people in your corner without an agenda, without any judgment.  There’s no comparison; there’s no, “Well, I would do it this way.”  We’re not giving you our opinion.  We’re not there to say, “This is how I would do it.”  We’re there to say, “What do you think?  How does that make you feel?  Tell me more about that,” so that you can kind of navigate the waters with someone in your corner, so it takes a little bit of the pressure off.  You’ve got extra information.  We can give you evidence-based resources.  We do that a ton.  “Hey, this came up at my appointment.  The doctor answered some of my questions, but I’d love some more statistics, more information, before I make a decision.” And we can send you some information so when you do make that decision, you feel like you’ve got everything you need.  You don’t feel like you’ve got questions still brewing, but you’ve been stuck in a spot where you have to make a quick decision.

Alyssa:            Yeah.  So you have a team throughout pregnancy, and then what happens when your client goes into labor?

Ashley:           So usually our teams have – everybody does it a little bit differently, but we’ve all got an on-call calendar, so it’s split up between the two doulas, and you call the person that’s on the calendar.  And we figure out who can get to you the fastest.  If one of your doulas is sick, we don’t want to send them to you.  We want you to get the healthy doula, and that’s the benefit, too.  If you hire a solo doula, you may not know their backup.  So you may have spent nine months getting to know this doula, and they have the stomach flu.  And they’ve got a call-in backup, and it may be somebody you’ve never met or never even heard of.  And that benefit of having two doulas that you know equally, and you’ve gotten to know them through prenatal visits and everything; you know them, and you trust them going into that birth experience regardless of which one shows up.  And so it’s really great to have that bond and that security because trust is really important when you’re in labor, and you need to trust every person that’s in that room.  It’s an intimate experience regardless of cesarean, hospital birth, home birth.  It’s an intimate experience, and you want to know that everyone in that room has your back and you know them and trust them.  And so when you call, we figure out who can get to you, and that person comes and supports you.  And sometimes it turns into a longer birth.  Maybe it’s been 16 hours.  And you need a refreshed doula.  We want you to have an energized, ready to go, encouraging doula at your service at all times.

Alyssa:            I think parents don’t think about that when hiring solo doulas.  “I’m going to have this baby and my doula’s going to come, and then we’re done.”  Well, what if it is long?   You don’t think about “Well, yeah, I as the mother am tired, but how is my doula doing?  And if my doula is tired, how well is she going to support me?”  So yeah, saying, “Okay, you know what?  I’m kind of done here.  I’ve hit my max.  I need to go sleep.  I need to rest, for your sake.  I’m going to call in the other team member, and they can come support.”  Relieve the doula, relieve the tired doula, and then you have refreshed doula to support the mother.

Ashley:           Which is especially important when you get to the end of labor.  If you’re laboring and having a vaginal birth, those last few hours is when you really need to rally and have the energy and the encouragement to get through that.  And so that’s when a refreshed doula really comes in handy.  And it’s also important, too, that you partner’s getting rest during this, too, so you always have a support person.  You’re not looking at your husband going, “Oh, I can’t believe that you’re sleeping right now.”  You’ve got a doula supporting you.  And then that husband can be refreshed to support you in the end stages, as well.  So I really think it benefits everybody.  The doulas working in a team; it makes it more sustainable for us so that we can have sick days and not be worried about who’s going to be with my client that I’ve developing this relationship with.  You know and trust that partner.  And so it’s easier for us to take care of our own kids when they’re sick.

Alyssa:            I’ve read a statistic somewhere that the average burnout rate for a solo doula is three or four years or something.

Ashley:           It’s two or three.

Alyssa:            Really?  I can see that.  You’re on call, and you have your own families, and to not share that call schedule with another team member, yeah, that’s definitely hard, and that’s why Gold Coast chose this model.  It’s much more sustainable, and we don’t want our doulas to burn out.  We want to keep you.

Ashley:           Right, right!  And I want to keep doing what I love!  And I’ve really loved it.  I am really glad that I’m part of Gold Coast and this team model, and it’s worked out really well.  We’ve had so many clients tell us how much they’ve loved it.  And the bonus, too, is if you have both of us come to your birth, then both of us are coming to your post-partum visit.  We’re both going to come check in on you and help you process your birth, see if you need any resources, how are you healing?  How are you feeling emotionally?  How’s Baby doing?  Do you have any baby care questions?  And yet again, you’ve got two brains to pick.  And our relationship doesn’t end when you have your baby.  If your baby’s six months old and oh, my gosh, what is happening?  This crazy thing, now he’s not sleeping, and drooling like crazy.  Maybe it’s some teething stuff and we can kind of help you work through that.  But we love to hear from clients down the road.  We don’t want to just “see you later” as soon as we’ve done your postpartum visit.  We want to maintain that relationship as well.

Alyssa:            Yeah.  Awesome.  Well, I think that answers a lot of questions for the listeners.  Thank you for sharing your information and expertise.  If anyone has questions, email us at and we’ll look forward to talking to Ashley again in the future.

Ashley:           All right, thanks!

Podcast Episode #4: When to Hire a Doula and Why A Team Works Read More »

Postpartum Doula

Podcast Episode #2: Having Kids Later in Life – Kristin’s Birth Journey

In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Kristin shares about her birth experiences and how she started the journey to become a birth doula.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes.


Alyssa:            Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I am Alyssa, co-owner and postpartum doula, and today we’re talking to Kristin, the co-owner and birth doula.

Kristin:           Yeah, birth and postpartum.

Alyssa:            She interviewed me last episode about my journey throughout pregnancy and what made me want to become a doula, and today we’re going to talk about her journey and what made her want to become a birth and postpartum doula.

Kristin:           Yeah, so I had kids later in life, so I got myself into that high-risk category by age.  I was 36 with my first pregnancy and had my daughter at 37.  And I had a really great pregnancy, despite a high-stress job in political fundraising, and my nurse midwife kept saying throughout the pregnancy that I was having the perfect pregnancy and there were no worries.  My health was great.  My diet was great.  And I planned myself the perfect, natural birth.  I took Lamaze classes; my husband and I practiced; I watched all the documentaries; read all the books.  I like to plan my way through life in general, and I thought that everything would just be the way I wanted it to be.  And at 37 weeks, I got diagnosed with preeclampsia.  My blood pressure was rising; that was the first of the signs.  And so I got put on modified bedrest, which was super stressful for someone who felt like I had to do a million things before baby arrived: getting all of the things ready, the car seat installed, and running all the errands and finishing up work and all of that.  And so I had to really take it easy, and every midwife appointment was beyond stressful because you get the blood pressure check.  And so I was nervous about that.

Alyssa:            Which made your blood pressure go up.

Kristin:           It made it worse.  So they kept watching me, and every week, there were more and more signs.  So I got put on full bedrest, which was really frustrating.  I was lucky enough to live above – for those of you that live in Grand Rapids, we had just moved back from Lansing, and I was living above The Electric Cheetah, and we had this place that was very modern, very open, the first tenants.  And all of a sudden, we get married and pregnant, and there wasn’t a whole lot of room for a baby and not the ideal place to be pregnant.  But the staff at The Electric Cheetah became like neighbors since we didn’t really have neighbors on Wealthy Street, and so they would bring up food to me when my husband was at work.  They’d serve it to me on their fine china.  He would call in different meals for me, and they would bring it up to my place.

Alyssa:            So nice!

Kristin:           Yeah, it was amazing.  So that’s how I handled bedrest.  I certainly could have used an antepartum doula for bedrest.  I didn’t know what one was back then.  My daughter’s almost seven, and so that wasn’t something that people really knew of.

Alyssa:            Yeah, most of our postpartum doulas do bedrest, too.

Kristin:           Yes, and our birth doulas do some of that as well with birth planning and some of the different aspects related to getting ready for birth.  So yeah, I didn’t have a bedrest doula or anything like that.

Alyssa:            I’m wondering, for those who don’t know much about preeclampsia, besides high blood pressure, why do you have be on bedrest?  And for someone who may be worried about it or someone who may have it?

Kristin:           Yeah, essentially, they don’t want you to be too active so the blood pressure keeps rising.

Alyssa:            And what causes it?

Kristin:           I’m not going to get into all of the different medical things, and women have it for different reasons, but of course, if they’re worried about a stroke, the providers are watching to make sure that mom doesn’t have a stroke.  They’re worried about baby as well as the mother.  Some women develop headaches.  I did not.  Some women develop swelling in their ankles.  I didn’t really develop that, but by the time I was on full bedrest, I had protein in my urine, which they worry about kidneys and different organs going.  So I was starting to have trouble with my kidneys, and I got an induction.  So I ended my bedrest with an induction in a hospital.  I remember being overwhelmed.  I didn’t have doulas; again, I didn’t really know what a doula was with my first.  So I called my Lamaze instructor; like, how do we do this?  I still don’t want any interventions.  Still working with the midwives.  And it was very scary because I felt like I was alone in my room with my husband, and inductions can be long and boring, and you don’t really feel a whole lot.  I had my membranes swept the day before and went in and had Cervidil, which can be taken out if there are any reactions with the baby.  So mine was inserted, and my daughter didn’t react that well, so I didn’t have it in as long as they’d intended.  And things ended up going quickly, but I had a lot of back labor, and again, I was alone.  I didn’t want my husband to touch me because he couldn’t provide enough pressure.  I felt like I wanted him to just, like, punch my back.  Nothing was firm enough.  And he didn’t know what to do; he was just in over his head, completely overwhelmed, kept referencing manuals.  We had to make all these decisions as far as interventions and what’s the best thing to do, because my daughter had decelerations in her heart beat, and they were worried about her, and there was the threat of a cesarean.  But I was very fortunate in my journey, other than back labor, which is an experience in itself.  I didn’t have any major interventions; I never had Pitocin.  I wasn’t on magnesium for my preeclampsia.  I did not have an epidural.  I was able to move around the room, and a nurse came in, who certainly had some doula qualities about her, and helped me move my baby, and we did hands and knees on a birthing ball on the bed, and all of a sudden, she turned, and I was able to push her out.  I could feel her turn, and all of a sudden, it was like, I feel like I’m pooping.  And Patrick’s like, you’re really not.

Alyssa:            That’s exactly how I knew.

Kristin:           And I said, “Can you just check, because I think I’m pooping!”  And my daughter was born four pushes later, and it was a crazy experience, an overwhelming experience, and I remember – we’ll get into some of my journey with my daughter after she was born in another episode, but I remember going into my midwife at the six-week checkup, and she was talking to me about family planning and what to do, and because I was 37 and had preeclampsia.  There were big decisions that needed to be made if we wanted to expand our family with another baby.  We had my stepdaughter and then my daughter, and we wanted to have a third child.  And so my midwife recommended that we give it some time for me to heal, but that I should probably start trying when she was about a year.  And so I got pregnant pretty easily and quickly, just like the first time.  I was very fortunate in that, but I was worried about getting preeclampsia the second time.  There was a lot of chance that I would have that recurrence, so I was watched throughout the entire pregnancy.  And so I hired doulas before I even told anyone else.  They were the first call I made, and I wanted that support through pregnancy even more so than at the birth.  I felt like if I could go through what I did without any sort of interventions the first time with preeclampsia and back labor, then I could rack out the birth, but the pregnancy scared me.  Preeclampsia, getting that again, scared me.  And so they supported me through the pregnancy; gave me a lot of resources.  I listened to my midwives, did a lot of swimming, kept the stress down.  I wasn’t working in politics like I was before.  I was doing consulting.  And I talked to lactation consultants because I was nursing my daughter through my pregnancy, and so –

Alyssa:            So that’s not a failsafe planning method.

Kristin:           No, it’s not.

Alyssa:            There are a lot of people who think it is.

Kristin:           No, it’s not failsafe.  So yeah, there were a lot of things that I felt like having doula support really helped me with during that pregnancy, and I had an amazing intervention-free birth, and my son was huge, but he had no issues.  He wasn’t in the NICU like my daughter.  I never had any elevated blood pressure; no headaches, no signs of anything.  But I was on that high watch, especially because I was getting closer to 40 by that time.  I had my son at 39, so I was definitely in that advanced maternal age category by then, so it was a journey.  So I started becoming more and more curious about doula support, but I don’t like blood.  And I don’t really like hospitals.  I didn’t; I do now.  I didn’t like hospitals.  I remember any time my dad had a procedure in a hospital, I was always just overwhelmed by it.  I didn’t like to visit friends in the hospital who had babies.  I didn’t want to be a patient myself.  I had never had anything, no surgeries, nothing done in the hospital.  And so for me to be a doula, where most doulas do the majority of their work in the hospital, didn’t really make sense, but I was still fascinated by birth and everything to do with it.  So after having my daughter I got really active in breastfeeding groups and brought a national nonprofit to Grand Rapids.  We had a big rally and speakers, and that was phenomenal.  And that started me getting to know other birth workers, and I kept in touch with my doulas, and I started teaching Sacred Pregnancy classes after my son was born because that book really helped me, again, to avoid preeclampsia with the mental and spiritual aspect of birth and really also to be intentional about my pregnancy, because with your first pregnancy, you can connect with that baby, and there’s so many special moments between you and your husband or partner.  But when you had a toddler running around or other children, it’s hard to connect to your baby.  So Sacred Pregnancy gave me that outlet in journaling and meditation and affirmations.  It did so much for me that I decided to become one of the first instructors in the US and went to a training with my whole family when my son was four months.  So I had signed up for everything during my pregnancy, and I started – I had promoted my classes, because I’m an overachiever like you, before I even went to the training, and so I had a class set up two weeks after I got back, and ran the first class for my training class, and I had this amazing experience in Virginia with Anni Daulter, who’s one of my dear friends and the author and creator of the Sacred Pregnancy book and the Sacred Living movement, and that started my journey.  I started teaching classes, and my students wanted me to be their doula.  I’m like, “No, I can’t be your doula.”  They’re like, “Yeah, you can.  Just be at my birth.  You know, we’ve spent all this time; you’ve been great.”  And so I started teaching my classes under a doula collectives umbrella and decided that I was getting enough inquiries that I might try it out.  Sacred Pregnancy started a doula training program, so again, I took my whole family to Florida this time so I could nurse my babies and go through this training program.  It was four days, very intense, and a lot of journeying for me in some of my fears that I had surrounding being a doula, especially with blood.  Like, it was pretty wild.  We wrote our fears on each other’s body parts, the other doulas, and mine was blood.  Everybody’s joking because they’re like, “There’s no way you can be a doula.  That’s all you see is bodily fluids.  There’s going to be fluid everywhere.”

Alyssa:            So how did you do it?  How did you get past that?

Kristin:           I feel like I just set the intention that I could do it.

Alyssa:            That there’s a purpose behind this.

Kristin:           And it’s not a big deal, and there was so much more to being a birth worker.  So my first birth, I feel like it was a sign, but my client had a lot of blood loss and hemorrhaging and so on, and I didn’t pass out.  So I was like, I can do this!

Alyssa:            Test completed.

Kristin:           This is a big test, and I rocked it.  And I have so many husbands or partners that have that fear, and I’m like, “I’ve been there, and I’m actually a doula.”  I never really liked to be around blood.  I would cut myself and freak out.  But it’s different because, yeah, it’s not a cut.  It’s not an injury.  It’s a natural, normal process.  So I became a birth doula and started doing some postpartum ceremonies through Sacred Pregnancy.  I had gone to another four-day training, this time in Georgia, and it was all about mother roasting and doing closing ceremonies and belly binding and herbal teas and herbalism, which I didn’t get into all that much, but I really loved the ceremonial aspects of the postpartum traditions and studying Malaysian culture.  But I kept focusing more on my love of birth and helping mothers through pregnancy and their transitions, especially specializing in high-risk moms because that was my background, as well as moms who were seeking a natural birth.  It was a year-plus into my birth journey before I supported a client with an epidural, and the first epidural client I had, I was like, this is amazing.  We had fun, music was going, like, wow.  This is totally different than anything else I had experienced because I was supporting very high-risk clients who were maybe even on bedrest their entire pregnancy; had medical conditions; they were getting cesareans that were scheduled and they wanted me to support them through that.  Or clients who were either having a homebirth or seeking an unmedicated birth.  And some had Pitocin and didn’t choose an epidural.  There were all of these factors, but I didn’t have an epidural for a year, and I was taking a couple clients a month, so that was a wild experience.  Now I have everything, but when I started out, it was kind of one or the other.  High-risk, or someone seeking an unmedicated birth, and a lot of my clients were my students in class, which I was able to have this amazing bond with them for eight weeks with women connecting with each other.  So yeah, I just fell in love with it, but I feel like the postpartum end of things is so needed, as well.  It’s not just the pregnancy; it’s after, and women feeling like they don’t have a village and that they’re alone.  And I, certainly, with two-under-two was overwhelmed and needed support, and it was hard to go places with two.  The store was a challenge and going to the pediatrician’s office if my husband couldn’t help in the winter, because I had babies during – well, a Halloween baby, and a mid-January.  So that’s not always that easy.  So I could have had a doula come along with me to the store or the pediatrician or whatever, bundling two young kids.  So I just love supporting everything to do with the journey to be a parent and to expanding the family and I feel like – you know, women in traditional cultures, they have this village to rely on; they have a sisterhood, and here, especially with people being so transient, we don’t necessarily have our families.  People oftentimes isolate you if you once you have a kid, it’s like, okay, I’m going to give you some time to just deal with your baby.  But really, we need help, and doulas do things that are different than what friends do or what parents do or other family members.  We’ll do whatever we can, but we’re not just focused on the baby; we’re focused on the mother and her emotional needs as well as the father and his needs, which can be very different in the processing of becoming a parent for the first time, or the second or third time.  So we focus on the family unit as a whole which is so unique and so needed, in my opinion.

Alyssa:            You can email us at  Check us out at our website,, and find us on Instagram and Facebook.  We hope to hear from you.

Podcast Episode #2: Having Kids Later in Life – Kristin’s Birth Journey Read More »

Postpartum Doula

Podcast Episode #1: One and Done! Alyssa’s Doula Journey

In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa shares about her birth experience and her decision to have only child, as well as her journey to becoming a postpartum doula.  You can listen to the complete podcast on iTunes.


Kristin:           Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I’m Kristin.

Alyssa:            And I’m Alyssa.

Kristin:           And our topic today is all about why we decided to become doulas, so we’ll begin with Alyssa’s journey.

Alyssa:            Yeah, so I used to work in a male-dominated field.  I worked in the construction industry, and then I got pregnant, had a baby, and I think as with most women, they would say it just completely rocked their world.  The way I saw things changed, and I wasn’t unhappy at my job, but I knew I needed to do something different.  So I started to wonder, who’s helping all these women who are having hard pregnancies and they don’t have any support once they come home?  And the term “doula” is something that I knew, but I didn’t know what a postpartum doula was, and I remember, Kristin, meeting you, and you were the first one who actually said the term “postpartum doula” to me, and I was like, “Oh, my gosh, that exists?”  And I started researching it, and I’m like, that’s it.  That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.  So I started looking into certification organizations, found one, and it fit well.  I took the course, and they give you 18 months to complete it, but I am a total bookwork and nerd, and I think it took me about six months.  I got all my bookwork, all my essays and reading and all the clients that I needed and everything that is supposed to take 18 months.  And then I just did it, and I just have always felt compelled to help women and children, and it was even stronger after having a baby.

Kristin:           We were in the same training together, which is pretty awesome.

Alyssa:            Yeah, so I’ve known you since the beginning of my journey.

Kristin:           Yeah, it’s so cool.  So it was during pregnancy that you sort of started feeling different about the woman’s journey and experience through motherhood.  What were your family planning options as far as future kids and how you handle your journey as a mother?

Alyssa:            It’s funny.  Family planning turned into a whole new concept because you spend so many years trying not to get pregnant, and then all of a sudden, you are trying to, and it’s more difficult than you expect.   And we ended up – I think I was 33 when I got pregnant and 34 when I had her, and that is by no means old, but something in me said that I don’t want to have kids past 35.  So I decided when we had her, when we had our daughter, we were going to give it a year, and then make that decision then.  But I kind of knew right away that we only wanted one, and it’s really strange because my husband and I both grew up with siblings.  And so as far as family planning, we didn’t really think about that during pregnancy, but knowing that we were kind of going into this being “one and done,” we had – yeah, that’s the first thing my midwife asked me at my six-week checkup is, “What’s your family planning?  How are you planning for your future family?”  And I don’t know yet.  I don’t know.  So yeah, we’re just good with one, and it’s been taken care of.

Kristin:           And do people, especially in West Michigan that’s so family-centered, ask you and your husband a lot of questions about whether you’re going to have another baby or have a sister or brother for your child?

Alyssa:            Of course they do.  You know, the second you get married, it’s – well, first you’re dating, and it’s, “When are you getting married?  When are you getting married?”  And it’s pry, pry, pry.  And then you get married, and it’s, “When are you having a baby?  When are you having a baby?”  And it’s all these prying questions with the best of intentions, and they just want to see you have a baby, but knowing what I know now and all the struggles people go through, it’s a really tough question to ask and an even tougher one to answer.  And I feel like when you have baby number one, trying for baby number two, it’s still the same.  Just because you had baby number one doesn’t mean it’s easy to have baby number two.  I have friends who are struggling and have struggled for years to have baby number two.  And it’s just not a question that should be asked, but I do.  I get it all the time.

Kristin:           It’s a very personal question.

Alyssa:            Yeah, when I say that I only want one, I get the, like, smack-across-the-face guilt.  “How can you only have one?  You’re doing your daughter a disservice.  She needs a sibling.”  You know, they know better than I do, apparently.  But we love our little family of three, and really, it just boils down to: it’s nobody else’s business.  It’s my family, not theirs.

Kristin:           Right, and you travel a lot, so it makes it so much easier with one child to have a very active life.

Alyssa:            Yeah, we love to travel, and she’s been on an airplane since she was nine weeks old, and she’s so easy and so good.  She’s our little world traveler.  Not that we couldn’t do it with two, but it would be a heck of a lot harder, especially when you’re paying for an extra plane ticket and then you need extra rooms when they get older.  So, I mean, part of it’s selfish reasons, right?  It’s easy for us; she’s great; she’s easy; we can travel.  We’re a little bit older.  Not too old; I mean, I have friends who are having babies right now that are 38, 40, 41.  It’s what’s too old for you?  How do you feel?  And for me, for some reason, it was 35.  Maybe because my mom was 35.  My dad was nine years older, so I saw that growing up, too, having parents who were older than the rest of my friends’ parents, and my father almost being their grandparents’ age.

Kristin:           Yeah, I’m one of the oldest moms on the playground, that’s for sure.

Alyssa:            I don’t mind it.  We’re older and wiser.

Kristin:           Yeah, for sure.  So do you love holding babies, since you’re not having any more babies of your own?

Alyssa:            I do.  I get my baby fix all the time.  I love it.  I absolutely love it.  And you know, honestly, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I had another kid.  It’s a lot of work.  One’s hard.  My clients who have toddlers and then a newborn are sometimes – they can’t even comprehend how much extra work that is.  And I wouldn’t be able to be helping and supporting clients the way I do now if I had more children.

Kristin:           You’d be supporting your own family.

Alyssa:            Right.  So there’s always a give and take.  I know my daughter would be an amazing big sister.  I know she would.  But there’s a give and take.  She gets 100% of my attention and all my love and gets to come everywhere with us, and she’s my little buddy.

Kristin:           And she has cousins, lots of cousins.

Alyssa:            Yeah, lots of cousins, lots of friends.  My husband and I going into this said we’re going to make a point to just socialize her.  She will go places with us; we will bring friends; we’ll be the family that says, “Pick a friend.  They’ll come to Disney with us.”  It’s still cheaper than having another kid to bring a friend places occasionally.  But there’s always a give and take, and ultimately, it’s each family’s personal decision, and it just kind of stinks that other people have to make you feel bad for what feels good for you.  We love our little family of three.

Kristin:           So what’s your best advice to a family or client who plans to only have one child and doesn’t know how to break the news to their family and circle of friends?

Alyssa:            It’s hard.  Based on personalities, I’ve heard people say flat-out, “It’s none of your business,” and I don’t go that route.  I don’t think there’s a need to be rude or brash with people, but you can say, “That’s a nice thought,” or “Maybe that works for your family, but this works for ours.”

Kristin:           Perfect.  I love it.  Well, thanks for listening, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts on this episode.  Remember, these moments are golden.

Alyssa:            And I will be interviewing Kristin next episode to talk about her journey and her story.  So stay tuned.

Podcast Episode #1: One and Done! Alyssa’s Doula Journey Read More »