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Ask The Doulas Podcast

Anna Downs shows a pregnant mom in black clothing how to do stretches

Cesarean Recovery with Anna of Move Well: Podcast Episode #214

Kristin Revere chats with Anna Downs of Move Well with Anna about cesarean recovery tips and guidelines. 

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Anna Downs today.  Anna is the founder and director of Move Well with Anna.  Welcome!

Hi!  It’s very nice to be here.  Thanks for having me.

Great to chat with you today!  I would love to hear not only a bit about your professional background, but also your story of deciding to work with women in pregnancy as well as the postnatal phase.

Yes.  I mean, I think like anybody who finds their vocation and the thing that gets them up in the morning and makes them keep on going to work, I very much came to doing this work through my own experience of trying to find what I was searching for to help me in my pregnancy and postpartum recovery and really struggling to find anything that kind of fit the brief.  And it kind of led me down a rabbit hole of doing more and more qualifications, getting more and more information and experience, and then kind of really thinking, oh my goodness, there needs to be more of this in the world.  I kind of found myself falling into it by happy accident.  I suddenly had people who wanted to work with me, and it’s just grown and grown over the past 12 years.  It’s been a real journey of self-discovery, which has turned into a very vocationally driven practice.

I love it.  And you’re a mom of two?

I am.  My youngest is now 15 and adorable, communicating with a series of grunts.  We are entering a new phase, which I’m not quite ready for, but yeah, that’s my 15-year-old, and I have a 12-year-old daughter, as well.  So we’re just navigating the teens and the tweens at the moment.

Love it.  I have a 12-year-old as well, a 10-year-old and a 21-year-old.

Wow, okay.  So you’ve got the full spectrum!

Exactly.  Love it.  So obviously, there’s a lot of personal passion as well as just focusing on continuing your education.  You have a very impressive background.

Yes, I just find the courses are so addictive.  Once you’ve done well, it’s like, well, it’s just not quite enough information.  I need to know more about that.  And I’m sure you’ll find from being in this field, as well, that things are just changing and evolving so quickly and I feel like we’ve got this massive wave of evidence based information coming in, and it’s just so exciting to be doing this at this moment because it’s changing so fast and so needed.

100% agree.  I’m 10 years into the field, and I feel the same way.  It’s changing, and I learn with every client or student.

Yeah, it’s powerful stuff.

So our topic today is Cesarean recovery.  I would love to start there and talk a bit about preparation in advance for a planned Cesarean, and then recovery, whether it’s a planned Cesarean or unplanned.

Yes, again a topic that we so need to keep having this conversation because I don’t know about you, but one thing I’m finding is that if you’re comparing things, like the guidelines for preparation and recovery for something like a C-section or, on the other hand, open abdominal surgery, the guidelines just don’t match on.  On one hand – I mean, I’m talking from kind of UK guidelines, but the Royal College of Surgeons in the UK advocates for a four to six week break from lifting pretty much anything heavier than two to three kilos, followed by no substantial lifting for definitely 12 weeks.  Yet our C-section mamas, the day after they give birth, they’re handed a three to four kilo baby who only gets heavier.  So there is this massive disparity between what we’re expecting optimum healing to look like for somebody who’s having open abdominal surgery, which is what a C-section is, and somebody who’s having a C-section.  And the narrative is very unhelpful, and it really does feed into so many issues with expectation and perinatal anxiety and depression.  And I think we just need to keep on having this conversation with our healthcare providers and find more allies and find more support because it’s really just not good enough at the moment.

Exactly.  And not everyone can afford to hire a postpartum doula or newborn care specialist or a nanny right away to help with that lifting, accompanying the parent to the pediatrician appointments, where you need to carry that car seat as well as baby, and avoiding vacuuming and stairs and other lifting.  It’s just – it’s a lot.

It really is.  And I was just speaking this weekend, actually, at a public health conference here in Bangkok where I’m working and practicing, and we were talking about how C-sections, how they’ve changed, how they’re being performed now in terms of – from the 1970s, we’ve had a 500% increase in C-sections being performed annually.  Yet the guidelines about prehab is nonexistent, and rehab has hardly changed since the 1970s.  But we’ve now got one in three births globally happening which are C-sections.  So there’s this – nothing’s caught up yet.  And I think as women, we’re relying very much on the knowledge of the village, of that woman to woman chat, you know, friends telling us things over a cup of coffee.  Or if you are going to, say, a feeding support group or an infant massage class, just having people talking and sharing their experiences in that very informal setting.  I’d really love there to be a much more directive set of advice coming down from our OB-GYNs so that their responsibility isn’t just stopping at the door, you know, at D-day when you’ve safely delivered a baby.  When you’re thrown into that postpartum hormonal depression, it is equivalent of being dumped into perimenopause overnight.  That makes it additionally really challenging to heal and to get the appropriate rest that you need.  The odds are stacked against us, so we need to find some way of changing the narrative, starting the conversations, supporting people more.

Exactly.  And so many of my clients want to get back to their passions pre-baby, whether it’s fitness, running, being active.  And they want that time to be released to exercise and lift and be more active.  That can be a struggle for a lot of personalities, that healing phase and lying-in.

Absolutely.  And especially – again, I refer to the UK – once you’ve had your postpartum check with your OB-GYN, which is usually four to six weeks for a vaginal delivery and then six to ten weeks, depending on how your scar is healing, for you C-section delivery – once you’ve been given the all clear, then the guidelines are that you can return back to exercise.  But there aren’t really many written-out clear guidelines about what that looks like and how you should address that and where you start.  The whole toxic body bounce back character narrative is so unhelpful with this because people just think, oh, I’ll just start again and then I’ll be fine.  The doctor said it’s fine.  Actually, a much more carefully considered approach needs to be taken in order to avoid injury and to repair nine months of your musculoskeletal system completely changing and shifting and your center of balance being in a different place.  So it’s very unhelpful to just be given that green light and then expect everything to work how you remember it working before.

Yes.  And I feel like recovery from other surgeries has stricter guidelines.  There’s more information, PT, and so on.  Say it’s a shoulder or a knee surgery.  But there are so many unknowns, and sometimes mothers are getting information from online communities, Facebook groups, and the information they’re given is not always accurate.

Yes, absolutely.  And the really challenging thing is that there isn’t actually a catch or solution for everybody.  It is an individualized process because our bodies have all responded differently to pregnancy, that have responded differently to our births, and we’ll have all had different births.  All of those little factors that come into play have an impact on your body is healing and how it’s responding.  It is giving out a blanket guideline of four weeks, you can start to do abdominal breathing and gentle Pilates-style exercises.  For one person, that means lying on their back with their hands on their belly and just breathing in and out, and for somebody else, that’s doing half-planks and bear walks.  So it’s very difficult to give a clear answer of sort of what is safe and what isn’t without there being some kind of personal contact with someone, whether that’s in a group setting or privately or just having somebody assess you in a bit more detail.  Again, that’s challenging because it can be completely out of someone’s budget, especially also if they don’t have a lot of time and they’re chronically sleep deprived.  That is a big challenge as well.

Exactly.  So as far as working with you, what does that look like?  I know you’ve got some videos and books, as well as different programs, both prenatally and in the postnatal phase.

Yeah.  I mean, at the moment, I’ve just started to create a few support items, digital products online, but I’ve been mainly working face to face with people.  I quickly realized that people wanted a little bit more support outside of our face to face sessions.  But working with me, we always start with a very detailed assessment because me personally, my own personal journey when I had my kids, I was trying to get back into fitness.  I was just thrown back into a group program, which wasn’t postpartum specific.  And it did me some terrible damage because I was trying to apply the knowledge I had about being fit and active pre-pregnancy to my postpartum body.  And I really valued somebody taking time, about three or four years after I had my second child, to just sit with me and explain how my body had changed and how I could nourish it with movement instead of punishing it for not behaving in the way that I wanted it to.  And so I apply that principle with everyone I work with.  We have a really detailed assessment; we’ll look at your posture, your pelvic floor.  I’m not a physiotherapist, so this is screening verbally and then looking for certain movements in the hips and the posture to see where you might be tight or carrying tension.  But it’s out of my scope of practice to deliver an internal assessment.  And so I would defer on for that.

We look at your day to day movements and your daily lifestyle and your preferences and your habits, and we really build a bespoke program around what you’re going to be able to fit into your day and into your world.  Also is solving the problems that you’re encountering with your healing and your body.

But I do have lots of free tips and free videos on my Instagram and Facebook feed.  I have a weekly newsletter where I send out juicy tips, and a few additional products on my website.  But it’s an ever-evolving feast, and there will be more things – small things coming in the new year, but I just need a little bit more downtime to make the magic happen.

I love it.  And you do have a virtual book that is focused on the postpartum back, neck, and shoulder pain, and I know especially for breastfeeding moms, I mean, the posture that you have can cause so much discomfort in the shoulders and neck with nursing one baby or two.

Yes, and it’s very similar in the way that it shows up in your body as something called office syndrome, which has become very trendy for everybody to talk about and a physiotherapist to be selling programs to try and help support.  I feel like no one’s really talking about this kind of nursing back and shoulders that so many new moms have, and yet it’s equally as crippling and painful and debilitating.  And it’s the same thing; it’s a real tightness in the muscles in the front of the chest and shoulders.  And when that’s really tight, it pulls the shoulders forward, which makes the upper trapezius, the muscle going from the shoulder up into the neck, super tight.  And that’s teemed together with a bit of weakness, a bit of muscular imbalance in the back of the shoulders and the midback.  So you’ve got this tightness pulling the shoulder forward, teemed with weakness around the upper back, which just exacerbates that forward curve.  A lot of people also find they end up thrusting their chin forward, which creates an enormous amount of tension up from around the back of the head and scalp and into the jaw.  All of these things can be massively – the intensity of the discomfort can be decreased massively by strengthening the upper back area and really stretching the front of the chest and just also paying attention to our postures.  I mean, I know as a doula, you’ll have spent a lot of time coaching moms when they’re feeding their babes to have the pillows supporting them, to be thinking about stacking their posture, not craning their neck.  It’s all the same principles, but just with a slightly more kind of movement focus.

That’s great.  And of course with surgical recovery on top of breastfeeding or pumping, you know, again, it’s just a lot to manage.

Yes.  And I think – I mean, over the past twelve years, I’ve worked with over 1300 women.  And the demographic of people I’ve worked with ties into the one in three births being C-sections before I moved to Thailand.  And now here in Thailand, about 80% of the women that I’m working with had C-sections.  So it’s really a big demographic of people.  Sorry, I digress, but the reason why I mention that is that every single one of them, regardless of whether they planned their C-section birth or not, is absolutely floored by that complete incapacitation for the first 24 to 48 hours.  It’s a real shock to the system.  And anything that we can do to prepare for that without – you know, while treading that fine balance between information and scaring somebody, it helps people to feel prepared so it’s not so much of a shock.

Yeah.  That makes sense.  I mean, preparation is everything.  As doulas, we talk about the importance of preparing your body physically for birth, no matter how you end up giving birth.  But also the mental aspects of it, and I love that you touch on the mental aspects in your pregnancy journal.  Tell us a bit about that.

So again, I created this book of pregnancy journaling prompts because I was really finding that lots of my mommas to be were struggling with a lot of anxiety about the unknowns, about knowing which conversations they should be having with their birth providers or with their support network.  And this book is just loads of different prompts.  I think there are about 120 pages, and there’s a different prompt on each, where you can either work through methodically or you can just pick the one that speaks to you.  The process of journaling has been well-documented in helping to allow us to make sense of something and to frame the narrative in a way that feels empowering and calming so we’ll just feel a little bit more prepared.  And so, yeah, I put all these prompts together, and it’s very much designed for the mama to be preparing for pregnancy and birth and those early few weeks in the postpartum period, just to help her frame a few conversations and make sense of something that feels overwhelming.

Love it.  And that journal, as well as your other virtual and in-person services, can be found on your website, Move Well with Anna.  I know you’re also, as you mentioned, on Instagram and Facebook.  What are the different ways that our audience can find you?

The best way to find me is probably on Instagram, and that’s just @movewellwithanna.  Or through my website, which is the same.  Those are the places where I’m showing up the most at the moment.

And then you mentioned that our listeners can sign up for your newsletter, and that has a lot of free information and tips?

Yes, absolutely.  There are loads of freebies on my website.  There’s a download about how to manage pelvic floor pain and dysfunction, another one about how to manage constipation during pregnancy and postpartum, and a list of gorgeous, lovely ideas and tips about how you can feel fit and strong and empowered after you’ve given birth.  So loads of freebies on my website, as well.

Beautiful.  So what are your final tips for our listeners who are in that recovery phase for their surgical birth and want to do some gentle movement and make a difference in the recovery without pushing themselves too hard?

So the first thing I would advise would be investing in a medical grade compression garment.  I say medical grade because you want something that’s been designed with this specific purpose in mind that’s comfortable, that’s breathable, that you can wear 24 hours a day initially, if you wanted to.  That just helps to support your scar area a little bit and take some of that pressure off.  I think the guidelines are recommending at the moment that after a C-section, the compression garment should be worn for multiple hours during your waking day for about six to eight weeks, just to give you a little bit of support and a helping hand during that initial healing phase.

So you mentioned the medical grade.  How do you feel about, like, the Bangkok belly binding and other binding methods?

I think they have their place.  They can be wonderful if they’re done by a skilled practitioner.  I mean, again, I can only really talk anecdotally here from my experience of working with people, but in some cases, if it’s done too tightly, then that can have an adverse effect on the pelvic floor by creating more intra-abdominal pressure than we want.  It has to be the right tightness to support but not restrict, and I love the cultural practices here and some ancient Chinese practices where women have a much more restful first 30 days after they deliver.  But that binding just – it needs to be done skillfully and with an understanding of the body and what it’s managing at the time.

Very helpful.  What’s your next tip?

My next tip would be to start gentle movement from your second and third day, and I’m not talking about doing like formal exercises, but this can be as simple as belly breathing.  So just being in a comfortable seated position, preferably stacking the ribs and pelvic bowl, and just allowing the belly to expand and contract gently with each breath and really focusing in on that.  And then also seeing what’s happening with the rib cage because quite often, by the end of the pregnancy with our ribs flaring to make space for the baby to grow in our abdomen, our ribs kind of get locks and stuck and flared, and that’s really not conducive to getting that lovely floor of coordination between your diaphragm and your pelvic floor back.  So focusing and just seeing, are my ribs moving when I’m breathing?  If they’re not, if I place my hands on them, can I expand against the pressure of just pushing them together a little bit?  And just really focusing on that breathing to start off with.

Then progress a little bit further on to doing gentle things like arm raises, so you’re stretching the skin and the fascia just a teeny bit because you want to be able to stimulate that blood flow to that healing area.  So gentle seated side bends or raising the arms one at a time or both together and teeming that with some breathing exercises is such a delicious way to start without it feeling scary and without putting too much pressure through that area of your body.

Love it.  So anything else to add?

Yes.  Scar tissue massage is unbelievably important, and I’ve found that most of the doctors who are advising massage for the scar, it’s purely on aesthetical reasons, just to make the outside look a bit better.  So having a silicon gel and just rubbing it on a few times.  We now know that there’s so much benefit to, after the scar is healed, so at least two weeks after the last part of the wound is healed, starting to do gentle nerve training exercises.  So rubbing the fingers gently above and below the scar, checking what the sensation is like, switching the object that you’re using to run across the scar to see if you can recognize the change in sensation.  Because we need to reconnect with that part of our body if we’re then going to strengthen our core and reconnect with our body.  And so often, I find that with my C-section mamas, there’s a real disconnect or reluctance to connect with that part of their body, with that scar, with how it feels, with how it looks.

And it could be traumatic for them, reminding them, if the birth was traumatic.

Absolutely, and that’s another thing to really know.  If the thought of touching your scar or touching your belly in that area is bringing back traumatic emotions or feelings or flashbacks, then to recognize that and be kind to yourself, but also to seek some form of counsel, whether that is a birth debrief with your doula or your OB-GYN or professional help.  And I know that there are lots of wonderful peer support groups for birth trauma, but also, it’s a real growing of practice in mental health and support as well.  Unfortunately, I don’t really have anyone I can recommend here in Bangkok.  It’s a struggle.  It’s something that the doulas here are working really hard to try and find good practitioners.  At the moment, we are referring out to the UK and the US.

It is helpful to have virtual therapy options, certainly.

Yeah.  But yes, the scar tissue massage, and a staged progression from just gentle touch to, after 12 weeks, doing much more targeted fascia release.  And again, I’ve got some videos on my YouTube which show you how to do that.  There are also many great practitioners out there if you just Google it.

Love it.  Well, thank you for sharing all of your wisdom with us, Anna, and we’ll have to have you back on when you get some of your future programs ready to go.

That would be fabulous.  It’s been really wonderful to talk with you.  Thank you.

Thank you!  Have a great day.

IMPORTANT LINKS

Move Well with Anna

Birth support from Gold Coast Doulas

Postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother course

Cesarean Recovery with Anna of Move Well: Podcast Episode #214 Read More »

Regina Lum wearing mauve and teal clothing smiles in front of a studio

Creative Movement: Podcast Episode #213

Kristin Revere chats about the importance of creative movement with Regina Lum of Little Feet Movement. 

Hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Regina Lum today.  Regina is a creative movement instructor, infant massage educator, and a self-proclaimed lay advocate.  She owns Little Feet Movement for developing minds, a parent child movement program that was voted as the top two toddler time in the 2023 GR Kids Best of Grandtastic Awards.

Welcome, Regina!  So happy to have you here!

Thank you!  I’m so excited to be here as well!  It means a lot to me, especially being a small business owner, to be given this opportunity and to be recognized by such an influential organization like yours who’s doing great work for the community.  So thank you!

Thanks!  We love partnering with you.  I’d love to have you tell a bit of your why story of why you started Little Feet and a bit more about what you do in the community of West Michigan.

Yeah, sure!  I’m happy to share that.  I was born and raised in Malaysia, and growing up, I danced ballet and played the piano for 15 years of my life and did cheerleading.  And I really believe that these opportunities positively impacted my life.  I’ve always dreamed of running a children’s music and movement program.  I moved to Michigan for college, which is where I met my husband, and then we moved to Seattle and lived there for over ten years.  We had two kids there, and then we moved back to Grand Rapids to be closer to family.  We now have three beautiful children, and they’re 9, 5, and 2.

Certainly some of your own personal experience and bringing play and movement to your children’s lives.  I love it!

Although I ended up getting a business degree, my dream of running a children’s program never wavered.  After I graduated college, I worked in different youth development organizations.  I coordinated trainings for adults who work in youth programs.  And I did marketing for various youth programs, as well.  But where that switch happens is when I became a mom myself.  I had my first daughter, and I didn’t know what to do with her.  I wanted to play and connect with her, but I didn’t know what to do.  And the experts tell you, oh, you need to put her in tummy time; this is important to them.  But I never was taught how to do it effectively and why it’s important.  And every time I put her in tummy time, she would cry.  So I just never did it.  That’s when I found the program in Seattle called Nurturing Pathways that not only showed me what to do with my daughter and how to connect with her, but it also taught me how and why movement and music supports the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development of the child.  It made me become a more confident parent.

I was really excited to share all that information with as many parents as possible, and I thought, this is it.  This is what’s going to be my path to my dream of running a movement program.  So I got certified to be a Nurturing Pathways instructor, and I’d been teaching with that program in Seattle since 2017.  And then when we moved to Grand Rapids, that was finally my chance of bringing my dream to life, and I brought that program to Grand Rapids and started Little Feet Movement.

Love it!  And then you’ve expanded, so not only are you a play advocate, but you are an infant massage educator.  Tell us a bit about that expansion to your business.

They all kind of work together because what’s the most important ingredient of a child’s development?  It’s really the relationship between the parent and child.  It’s that strong relationship that fuels development, especially that parent-child relationship.  That’s because our brain’s first job is to keep us safe.  So when our kiddos feel safe and secure in that relationship with their primary caregiver, their brains can then get out of that fight or freeze mode, and then they can be freed up for learning and attending, right?  They know that they have that secure base to always come back to so that they’ll feel more confident and willing to go out and explore the world.  It’s really the glue that holds everything together, effecting how kiddos relate to themselves, to others, and how they perceive the world around them.

For example, I think I have a pretty positive outlook in life, and I really have my parents to thank for that.  My relationship with them has really set a good foundation for how I relate to my friends and how I was able to develop friendships and how I have a positive outlook in life.

I love it.  I’ve taken a group infant massage class with my daughter years back and found it to be so beneficial.  I mean, touch, communication.  I just learned so much about my first baby and how to communicate and even asking before touching, that consent being a big part of it.

Yes, and it’s really giving you the opportunity to tune in to a kiddo’s needs and then be able to respond to their needs, and it’s that constant attuning, responding that kind of builds that trust and relationship with our kiddos.  Infant massage is really a good start.  And then we kind of go into the play part and the movement part, you know?

Yeah.  It definitely is a great extension, and with Little Feet, it is parent-child based, and you cover not only the babies, but also into the preschool years.  So tell us a bit more about what that looks like, to work with you.

Yeah.  We talked about the infant massage part, and then for the movement classes, we have our baby, our waddler, and toddler classes.  With the baby classes, we do a lot of dancing with kiddos in arms.  We’re really working on that bond and that playful connection with our kiddos.  Actually, that applies to all of our classes, you know, really working on that playful connection, because play is really like a little window to our kiddos’ world.  If we’re able to enter their world through play, we’re able to forge that relationship with them.

I love that.  So not only are you a big play advocate and focused on creative movement, but how does that help physical development for babies and/or toddlers?

A little brain fun fact here is that our brain is built from the bottom up, starting with our low brain, which consists of our brain stem and cerebellum, and I want to talk a little bit more about the cerebellum here in our low brain.  Then it goes up to our midbrain, which is our social and emotional brain, which we’ll talk more later, and then our high brain, which is our cortex and our thinking brain, which is responsible for cognitive functions and executive functions, language development, and things like that.

So how it supports our physical development is that our cerebellum is responsible for automated movements.  So things like riding a bike or driving or walking.  As adults, if you think about it, we don’t even think about how we move our bodies anymore.  We just do it, because thanks to our cerebellum, it’s automated now, right?  But for our kiddos, especially babies, they don’t even realize that they’re a separate entity from their caregiver until about 6 to 8 months.  That’s where the separation anxiety begins.  So let alone learning how to use their bodies, right?  That’s why through movement we are teaching them about their bodies and how to use their individual body parts and then how to coordinate all these different body parts together to do what we want our bodies to do.  That’s like motor planning.

And then we also teach our kiddos how to relate to the space that we’re in and the things and the people around us and how to navigate through the space.  For example, do we need small movements when we’re in a crowded room that’s pretty small?  Do we make big movements when we’re in a bigger space?  Moving in different directions and different tempos.  Just so many different things we can do with our bodies to explore the world.  And the more we move our bodies, the more automated movement becomes.  And once movement is automated, it will free up our brain for higher level learning and thinking.

An analogy I like to use to illustrate this point is that when we first learn to drive, we had to think about our every move.  We probably can’t even talk to the person next to us or listen to music.  We’re just focused on where our foot is, where our hands are, am I looking.  And the more we drive, the more automated it becomes.  So now we’re able to talk to the person next to us.  We can navigate directions on the GPS.  It’s because that movement and that process has already been automated.  That’s what we want for our kiddos.

Of course.  Love it.  And I’m also a big fan of the self-regulation that you work through, especially with toddlers when they start to get into tantrums.  Tell us a bit more about that work.

Sure.  That’s where our midbrain gets lit up, right?  Our midbrain is responsible for emotions, our memories and stimulation, and that’s where that body-mind connection comes into play.  When we know our bodies and we’re aware of those emotions and we’re able to connect those emotions and our feelings in our bodies, the sensations that we’re feeling in our bodies, we’ll be able to tell – for example, if our skin is starting to get prickly from maybe feeling overstimulated or like our shoulders are starting to tense up because we’re getting angry.  When we’re able to be aware of our body and the emotions, we’re possibly able to find the reason why we’re feeling that way.  And then learning skills to manage those feelings, whether it’s to remove ourselves from the situation or find a healthy outlet for those feelings or simply talking about naming those emotions.  That can help control them.  And that’s what self-regulation is, really.  It’s that ability to notice when we’re reaching the threshold and then figuring out steps to keep us in homeostasis before we explode.

That’s great, and very practical if they’re out in public and having some emotions that need to be managed or in a preschool classroom and so on.

Yes.  So, for example, in class, we do different activities that support self-regulation.  For example, we do heavy work and deep pressure activities, which can help regulate our nervous system.  We practice stop and go movements so that we can practice our self-control skills.  We do freezing and melting movements to learn to control our muscle tension.  And then we can use all of these tools, like you’re mentioning, as a way to manage our emotions, right?  If our kiddos are running wild and they’re feeling dysregulated, then we as adults can say, okay, let’s get down on the ground and do some heavy work.  We’ll roll around.  We’ll push the wall.  Different heavy activities that can help regulate our nervous system.  Or when we’re mad, muscles are tensed, right?  We can then take deep breaths and intentionally relax our muscles, our shoulders, and maybe we can even shake our bodies to relax those muscles.  How we feel physically can affect us psychologically.

Oh, absolutely.  And so you’re helping them to be very social and also with the cognitive development functions – take us through a bit about that as far as how your classes can help with sensory processing and language development.

For cognitive functions – I think we briefly mentioned memory, learning, attention, executive functions, language abilities.  In class, we do different things like play with speed to help develop attention span.  We problem solve using our bodies.  For example, okay, let’s go through this hoop, so they’ve got to figure out, oh, first I’ve got to duck my head and then take a step through and do that movement through the hoop.  That’s really problem solving with our bodies.  We do things like obstacle courses to develop motor sequencing.  All of these things that we do in class will translate into mental capacities because the same neurons for doing are the same neurons for thinking.  So if we can do with our bodies, we can also do with our minds.  And the more we do these functions, the stronger the neural connections are, allowing us to be able to perform these functions more quickly and automatically in the future.  Like a path in the grass, right?  It forms through walking that same path over and over again.  That’s what we want to do for our kiddos.  That’s for the attention and different functions that we can do in class.

The other part that supports our cognitive development is memory and learning.  Through dance, whether it’s dancing in our caregiver’s arms, playing with different sensory props and a variety of music, we’re giving our kiddos a rich visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic experience, which are the four learning sensory pathways.  When all four of these pathways are activated, the child is more engaged, and it provides more memory pathways to recall information.

For example, trying to recall somebody’s name, because I’m so bad at remembering people’s names.  When people just tell me their names, it just flies out of my brain.  But if you kind of hear it and then you write it down and reactivate the kinesthetic and tactile sense, and then we see it visually, we have more chances of remembering that person’s names, right?  Because we’re just giving more pathways to recall that information.  That’s what learning really is: the ability to recall information.

So a Chinese proverb that I’ve heard of is: I hear, and I forget.  I see, and I remember.  I do, and I understand.  So that’s why some people learn better through doing.

Yes.  Everyone’s got their way.  I learn best by writing things down.  Like you said, some people really need to experience it to remember.  It is great that you can focus on all of the different learning styles and communication styles.  And movement is so central, as you said.

For our listeners who live outside of West Michigan, what is the best way to find a similar program in their own community?

Oh, yeah.  Well, the program that I’m certified through is called Nurturing Pathways, and it’s based out of Seattle.  The founder of that program also trained different Creative Movement instructors, as well, and they’re all over the country.  I know that there’s a program out in Colorado and, I believe, in Kentucky and different states.  Good question, because I’m not really sure where we can find a whole list of all these programs.  I know there’s one in Idaho, too, I think.  Our founder retired last year and she used to have a whole list of all the providers on her website, but once she retired, she kind of removed the website, so now we are kind of figuring ways to house all the information that she had.

 That’s a challenge.  And if it’s not that specific program, I’m sure even doing a search or Googling “creative movement” or different terms could be helpful.  And you are located in Grand Rapids, Michigan and serve the West Michigan area.  What would be some of the different channels that our listeners can find you at, besides littlefeetmovement.com?  You’re also on social media, correct?

Yes, I’m on Facebook and Instagram, as well.  Right now, I don’t post as often as I should, but that’s where people can find me.

And before we wrap things up, Regina, how can parents support their child’s sensory and motor development at home?  Again, if our listeners are in a very rural area that doesn’t have these options, I would love to hear some tips from you.

Yeah, for sure.  You mentioned earlier sensory processing, right?  So 80% of our brain is dedicated to sensory processing, and that’s what really parents can do for kiddos at home: activating those different sensory pathways, like the visual, auditory, tactile, and kinesthetic, which is through movement.  They can do that at home with any sensory toys, ribbons, scarves and instruments.  Dance and sing with them at home.  But I think going back to the main ingredient of what supports development is that strong relationship.  I would say get on the floor and play with your kiddos.  Follow their gaze and their interest and really engage in the world of play.  That’s kind of what I would recommend that parents can do at home.

And you mentioned your own personal struggles with tummy time.  Any advice on that?  Because as you stressed, floor time is important.

Yes, exactly.  For those who know me, they know that I’m a huge advocate of floor time and less propping our kiddos up to sit or stand or putting them in seats.  There are so many development milestones that our kiddos go through as intended, and letting them get their themselves is so important.  When we think of tummy time, we always think, oh, putting them on the floor, right, on their tummies.  But there’s actually a variety of ways that we can do tummy time, like whether it’s on the parent’s chest or even if you’re sitting, they’re still on your chest and they’re still holding their head and their back up, right?  We can put them on yoga balls and roll them around.  That’s what we do for rhyme time in our baby class, as well.  So just different ways we can offer tummy time, and doing floor time with our kiddos.  It can also be instead of just being on their tummy, we can do sidelying positions with our kiddos, as well.  All of this is because getting them on the floor really helps them to learn about their bodies through that feedback from the ground when they kick the floor or push with their arms.  They can feel, oh, that’s my arm; that’s my legs.  It helps develop a sense of agency because they know when they see a toy, they’ve figured out how to move their body to get to that toy.  And then when they get the toy, can you imagine how they feel?  Woo-hoo, I did it myself!  Right?

And then we help them develop the strength to get to the next milestone.  For example, with sitting, when we prop our kiddos up when they’re not ready for it because they haven’t developed the back and core strength, they end up flopping forward, or even worse, they fall backwards.  And then when they fall, they won’t be able to catch themselves because they didn’t get to that sitting position on their own.  So that’s why we want to let them just develop that strength that’s required to get to that next milestone.

And then lastly, when we go through those different milestones, we develop different motor patterns that help stimulate the neural pathways in our brains, and the more we stimulate those neural pathways, the more organized they will be.  Then information can flow more quickly and automatically to all different parts of our brains.  That’s what an integrated brain means.

One final question, Regina.  How do you manage, say, parents who have multi-age children at home, so they’re not yet in school, with your classes?  Are they able to bring along, say, a three-year-old with a newborn, or how does that work with multiple ages?

That’s a really good question.  Right now, I do allow for – of course, if a parent is able to have another caregiver watch the other kid so that then you can have one on one time with that one kiddo coming to class, that’s wonderful.

That’s ideal, yeah.

Right, ideal, of course.  That’s what we want with our kiddos is that one on one time.  But I know, like you said, myself includes, we have multiple children.  So I do encourage parents to also bring the kiddos.  For example, if you have a three-year-old and a baby, you can bring the baby in the car seat or put them in the carrier, and you can move and dance together.  So you sign up for the toddler class, and then you bring the baby.  Everybody can dance and benefit from the music and the movement because if you strap on the carrier, the baby is also feeling all this kinesthetic sensory input.  Some of the things that the baby can involved in is with the instrument time and the rhymes.  We’re also really developing for the baby, even though they’re not actively signed up for class.

That’s ideal because often childcare is expensive.  If you’re paying for a program, then it’s like, okay, what do you do budget-wise?  So it’s wonderful that your program and likely many others offer that option.

And if the kiddo is older, like two siblings, I might offer a sibling discount when you sign both of them up for class, and then they get a 50% sibling discount.  It’s a pretty steep discount that I’m offering because I want people to come and benefit from the program.

Wonderful!  Well, thank you for sharing all of your wisdom.  It was a blast, Regina, and I look forward to chatting with you again soon.

Yes!  Likewise.  Thank you so much, Kristin!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Little Feet

Brain Fun Facts from Regina

Pregnancy and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother course

Creative Movement: Podcast Episode #213 Read More »

Jennifer White wearing a purple blouse, grey blazer, and black glasses with arms crossed with blue in the background

Surrogacy Options: Podcast Episode #212

Kristin Revere talks to Jennifer White of Bright Futures Families about different options related to surrogacy.   

Hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Jennifer White today.  Jennifer owns Bright Futures Families.  She is the owner and director, and she wears many hats in the fertility sphere: survivor, advocate, and professional.  Jennifer loves helping people realize their dream of becoming parents and is honored to play a role in their intimate and life-enhancing journeys, as well as advocating for access to care for all.  Welcome, Jennifer!

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

I’m so happy to have met you at DoulaCon in Colorado and to learn more about the important work that you’re doing in the surrogacy and fertility fields.

Absolutely.  I will say, start me off from your end on the doula perspective.  What are the burning questions that you want to know about surrogacy?

I have so many questions, since surrogacy is not an option for families in Michigan.  As a doula, I have yet to support a family working with a surrogate.  I have doula friends –

I will caveat, parents can have surrogates, but they just have to be outside of your state is what it comes down to.

Exactly, yes.  I was going to say, some of my doula friends have supported families with surrogates in other states and then flew out to those states for the birth and so on. 

There’s an amazing advocacy group that’s trying to get that law changed for you all, though.  They’re working on it.

Fingers crossed!  I remember you saying that at conference and that would be amazing to have as an option for families in Michigan.  As far as surrogacy, from a parent perspective, what is that process like?  Can you walk me through how you support families who are looking to get matched with a surrogate?

Sure.  Some of it really depends on what perspective people are coming from because everybody comes to the need for a surrogate from a slightly different place.  There’s many people who come to it from infertility.  Some people come from needing it for an LGBTQ family who just simply does not have a uterus, we’ll simply say, for lack of a better way to say that.  Sometimes it is because there may be a mental health need that they can’t possibly go off medications or things like that.  Sometimes people have had cancer, so they no longer have the ability.  Everyone has to come from it at a different place.  So that’s one of the things that we do.  We meet people where they are, to start.  From the parents perspective, they need to create embryos to transfer because we only do gestational surrogacy.  There are two kinds of surrogacy, and one is more common than the other.  Gestational surrogacy is where the person carrying the embryo is not genetically related to the child that they are carrying, which means that the parents created the embryo either with their own gametes, so their own egg and sperm, or they utilized a donor.

The other less commonly used is something called traditional or genetic surrogacy where the actual surrogate is actually donating her own egg.  So she is biologically related to the child she’s carrying.  It’s far less common now.  You rarely see it, but it does exist, and it is legal.  Legal in some case; not legal or recognized in other states is what it comes down to.  So as parents, they need to have created those embryos to transfer to their gestational surrogate.  When they come to us, we spend a lot of time talking through what it is that they desire and want in a surrogacy match because this is hard, right?  People are giving up control of carrying their own child, which can be emotionally very difficult.  We really want to make sure that we meet them where they are, and if there are things that are really important to them, that we are honoring those requests.  Obviously, in your state, for example, we can’t honor the request to find a local surrogate just because that’s not possible by the law.

But we also then can have conversations about reasonableness about their requests.  We’ve definitely had parents – I had a parent once who said, I want the surrogate to text me or call me every single time she leaves the house, arrives at her destination, et cetera.  And I understand their fear, right?  So I can come to them and I can see where their fear is coming from.  Their child is being carried, and so they’re very nervous about what’s happening.  But it’s also not a reasonable burden to put on the person who’s carrying your child.  And so we had to have a conversation in that situation about reasonableness of expectations.  And so we can help as an agency to guide people through, what is a completely normal request.  And a lot of times people get very fearful that things that actually are normal, they’re like, is it too much?  And like, no, it’s completely normal.  But then also we want to make sure that if they’re scared, let’s talk through, where is this coming from?  Why do you want this?  What else can we do to mitigate that instead?

There are three things that, when we’re matching, I consider completely, and I call them nonnegotiable.  What I mean by that is that everyone has the right to their own opinion, but we want to make sure that opinions match because, of course, by the time you’re pregnant, it’s too late to be having that conversation and be at a mismatch.

The first is the number of embryos to transfer per transfer attempt.  Most clinics will only transfer one, but sometimes parents ask to transfer two.  And gestational carriers, of course, have the right to say, hey, I don’t want to put two embryos in my body because that increases the chance of carrying twins, which increases my risk, right?  So we always want to make sure that everybody is on the meeting of the minds there.

The second is the stance on vaccines.  And I know COVID vaccine, of course, is something that is still at the top of people’s minds, even though we’re now at kind of endemic stage.  But some people chose not to be vaccinated, and that’s perfectly valid.  Or some people may have been vaccinated with one, and then chose not to vaccinate further.  Also completely valid.  Some people have all the vaccines.  Great.  But what we want to do is we want to make sure that both sides, the parents and the gestational carrier, are at agreement with each other on that.

And it goes further than just the COVID vaccine because routinely, OBs and midwives ask for the flu vaccine during pregnancy.  They also ask for the TDAP vaccine, as well as recently now asking people if they will get the RSV vaccine.  So we want to make sure before she’s pregnant, right, before a gestational carrier is pregnant – it would be catastrophic, right, if the parents were like, hey, I believe fully in TDAP, and the gestational carrier is like, no, I refuse to get it.  Well, she’s already pregnant, right?  It’s too late to have that meeting of the minds.  So we want to have that conversation beforehand.

Makes perfect sense, yes.

It’s one of those things that you’re like, oh, yeah, now that you think about.  And there’s not a right or wrong to it.  Everybody’s choices are valid.  We just want to make sure that we find people who match each other in their belief.

The third one, and this one can be a hard conversation and a very emotional conversation, is to talk about everybody’s stance on termination of a pregnancy.  Obviously, in surrogacy, these are very, very wanted pregnancies.  Surrogacy – I mean, the unfortunate thing is that surrogacy is very, very expensive.  So it’s not like people undertake this as, hey, I just decided to do it, and I’m going to change my mind.  That doesn’t happen.  The question, what it really comes down to, is what happens if a major medical decision needs to be made.  And same as with vaccines; all stances are valid.  Everybody has the right to their own personal belief.  We just want to make sure that people match each other so that if a major medical decision needs to be made, I wouldn’t want to have matched a gestational carrier who says, I would never terminate a pregnancy under any circumstances except in favor of my own life, with a parent who’s like, hey, I really need to be able to make that medical decision, and I don’t want any harm or any suffering or things like that.  We want to make sure everybody matches up with each other.  No right or wrong; no judgment in that question.

Also, of course, as we’re having to now in this day and age, we have to also have a conversation about is the gestational carrier willing to travel is a termination is necessary and requested and agreed upon to.  In some states, there is no access to that care, and so we really want to make sure that we’ve thought through – and I will say, I think that people get very overwhelmed and terrified by that conversation.  It’s very important to have it, but it is very, very rare to actually have to act upon the conversation.  It’s just that as an agency, it’s our due diligence to make sure that, hey, if you are that one in a million who’s in this worst case scenario, did we talk about it in advance, and everybody feels good about this conversation.

The first part of matching – I was going to say, I can keep going about it, but those are the big criteria for matching.

Yeah, and then obviously, you know, there are personal preferences and contracts that could be negotiated; say, if the family wanted the surrogate to have a doula, or if the surrogate wanted to have doula support.

Absolutely.  I can only speak to my agency and our policies.  We actually have a line item in our benefit package when a gestational carrier comes on board that actually says – she checkmarks, I would like a doula.  And so then that means that from the point of matching, the parents have agreed that, hey, yes, we understand you want a doula.  We are willing to pay for you to have a doula in this process.

There’s so many, many reasons to need a doula besides birth, as well, and so we’re oftentimes talking as things go further along about other things.  When you’re a doula, you support your specific client, right?  In that situation, where they check the box that I want a doula, they’re supporting the gestational carrier.  The parents are still there, too.  And it could be that the parents need a doula during the process, as well; somebody to take care of them and help them in their anxiety and their worries through the birth process.  Sibling doulas could be a possibility for that gestational carrier to take care of their children who are home because all gestational carriers already have children.  So they have to think through, who’s taking care of those children?

I love when there’s sibling doulas because instead of being like, hey, I’m just going to call my neighbor down the street – it gives me a lot of peace in that situation because then I know that there’s somebody who’s 100% dedicated to being on call for them no matter what.

Newborn doulas, of course, afterwards.  I think doulas are so valuable, especially in the LGBTQ sphere, because a lot of the newborn classes and birthing classes at hospital are geared to use very gendered language and to talk to the pregnant person.  So hey, mama.  Mama, this is what you’re going to do.  And you have a lot of same sex males couples who are very uncomfortable going to those classes because they’re not geared towards them and what their situation is going to look like.  So there’s so many opportunities and need for education for doulas to do pre-birth education.  Quite honestly, it’s limitless.  We need doulas out there!

With the newborn care specialists or postpartum doulas, then, the family would be hiring the doula versus the surrogate?

That’s correct generally.  I mean, every once in a while, I have seen a surrogate say, hey, I want somebody to come in and just be with me for the week afterwards while I’m recovering, but you’re absolutely correct.  Generally, it is the family of the new newborn who is asking for somebody to come in and say, hey, you know, especially sometimes they need overnight care to figure out how to get through that new rhythm of having a new child at home.  Or of course, like, hey, we’ve never had children.  Can you please help us through this in that first starting off point?  We see that quite a bit.

We also see it quite a bit, actually, with international families because surrogacy is not just limited, of course, to parents who are in the United States.  There are oftentimes families that come in from overseas, and so then they are lacking that family support around them that a lot of us can take for granted.  Like, when I had my child, my parents flew out, right?  Great; they were there; they helped me.  But when you’re international and you’re in the United States – one, you have a language barrier, and two, you don’t have that family safety net surrounding you.  So there is a huge opportunity and need for help there because that gives them that help and safety net, especially while they’re trying to deal with passports and paperwork and things like that with a brand new baby so they can get themselves home.

Right.  That makes so much sense.  And there could be delays. 

Especially during COVID, there were delays.  There were significant delays.

Right.  And certainly for the surrogate, having a postpartum doula in the hospital or, as you mentioned, with recovery and sibling care could be very beneficial for the first week or so.

Absolutely.

I love it.  So for our listeners who are interested in becoming a surrogate, what is that process like?

I think the biggest thing is a genuine love of being pregnant yourself.  I can absolutely admit with full heart that I really did not love being pregnant.

Same.

Some people do, and some people don’t.  And again, no judgment, right?  I just – that’s why I will admit it.  I did not love it.  But there are people out there who think that the greatest moments of their lives are always when they are pregnant.  It’s just that they’re done growing their own family.  So from my perspective, I feel like you really should be done growing your own family because as we all know, any pregnancy can lead to complications and could end your childbearing ability.  So we never want somebody to say, hey, I’m going to give this most selfless gift to somebody else, but I’ll just wait and have my own children later.  No, no.  You can’t do that.  We want you to have finished your own family so that there’s no hard feelings or guilt over this as things go forward.

So finish growing your own family.  Love being pregnant.  Have complication-free pregnancies.  Not be on any mental health related medications.  So I know in this day and age, we’re all cumbered with anxiety, but unfortunately, we can’t be on those medications to move forward in the surrogacy journey.  Can’t be on any government related aid.  Needs to have a reasonable current health history.  So, like, reasonable BMI, and I hate to – it’s not that there is – I don’t personally discriminate against people based on their size, but there is something with the medications that you are given during the IVF process that the body metabolizes better at lower BMIs, usually 32 or under.  That’s why we ask for that, and that’s why the clinic asks for that.

That’s the general, big overarching.  Can’t have more than three C-sections.  Can’t have had more than five pregnancies.   That kind of thing.

So as far as finding the surrogate and matching with a family, you talked about some of your criteria, and they can obviously be in different states, but what would be the – I mean, do you ever have family members go through the formal process, or people that a client has identified versus getting matched with a stranger?

Yeah, absolutely.  And I will say, I know that’s scary when you say the word stranger because that kind of makes it a little harder feeling, but we’re very methodical about matching.  People meet each other, and they make a conscious decision to match with each other.  So we actually introduce and walk through introductions; have full, long, detailed conversations about everybody’s expectations, about getting to know each other.  It’s not that you are – if you’re going through an agency, and I’m going to put in my little air quotes that nobody can see, a “stranger” – that you are a full stranger.  It’s that you actually have full free will on both sides.  You meet each other, and you make a decision as to whether you want to move forward together in this journey.  It’s not that scary, is what it really comes down to.

That makes sense.

It can seem really overwhelming, and I will say, there are some agencies out there that just say, yeah, no, you’re matched, and you just go.  And you go, oh, okay.  But most agencies actually are going to introduce the parents and the gestational surrogate together.  You’re going to make a conscious decision about matching with this person about whether you want them, whether you like them, whether you have the same aligned beliefs with them and things like that.  And that’s the way it should be.

Right.  And as you mentioned, the communication and everything would have to be agreed upon by both parties on the involvement or lack of involvement, depending on choices.

Correct.  Absolutely.

I love it.  So how did you get into this work?  I know you’re very involved in the fertility space and advocacy.  You have traveled and lived all over the country, so you do work in multiple states currently.

Yes.  I personally went through my own infertility journey.  We went through seven years of infertility.  My husband was active duty military until two months ago.  He just retired with 24 years of military service.  We went through our infertility journey while he was in the military.  And we now have an 18-year-old.  It’s amazing, and we’ve gotten this far, but the thing is, the military hasn’t changed in how they help people and use their healthcare system for infertility.  And access to care is extraordinarily difficult for military families because we move so much, because we don’t have the insurance that covers anything related to fertility or family building.  And so that’s part of what brought me into this, of course, is my own personal journey.  Then I actually started working in a law firm that does assistive reproductive technology law.  I was, of course, dealing with legal contracts and looking through things there.  Full disclosure, the law firm was owned by my sister, so I feel very strongly about family in all of these things, too.

And then after a number of years of us helping people who were independent matched – which is exactly what you alluded to, right?  A family member or a friend that you already knew.  They tend to independently match outside of an agency.  Well, as a law firm, we were helping a lot of those.  And what we found was that we couldn’t serve people very well there or very fully on the law firm side and give them what they all needed.  And honestly, I love logistics.  I feel like a party planner every day, and the most amazing party is having a baby.  So we actually broke out the agency separately from the law firm.  So my sister still has the law firm, and I now run the agency.

Beautiful.  And as far as you being involved heavily in the Colorado advocacy, as well as having the agency, how did that – was that just based on where your husband was stationed at the time, or how did that come about?

Yeah, so actually, my sister lives in Colorado.  So I was stationed in Colorado at one point, and at the same time we were stationed there, my sister moved there, and then we ended up moving away because we got stationed somewhere else.

You’re on the East Coast now?

I am now, but in the middle, I’ve been in a couple other places.  Since I was in Colorado, I went to London, then Alabama and California, and now I’m back out on the East Coast.  We’ve lived all over, but we were in Colorado originally, and so that’s where that started.  Since my sister is there and our original agency – well, we are Bright Futures Families.  We have DBAs in a lot of locations.  And Colorado Surrogacy was actually our original location.

What we saw there was a lack of access to insurance coverage, right?  This goes back to the access to care conversation.  And while it didn’t affect Tricare on a federal level, we wanted to see what we could do to help on a state by state basis.  So we founded Colorado Fertility Advocates, and in conjunction with Resolve, who is incredibly helpful to us, we actually had legislation introduced, and we had a big, huge advocacy day in Colorado.  We actually got the bill passed.  Ironically, on April 1st, which was not an April Fools’ Day, of 2020, right as the world shut down, the governor signed the bill giving fertility benefits.  It’s only to the large cap market.  It has a few issues, as all bills do, right?

Sure, but it’s a huge step!

It was absolutely amazing.

So going into working state by state and also dealing with benefits – as you mentioned, Tricare does not cover surrogacy.  Are you seeing changes in employer funded benefits to expand to cover surrogacy?  I know many are adding adoption.  Some are even adding birth and/or postpartum doulas to their coverage plans.  I have so many questions related to that.

I’m not seeing it on a health insurance basis.  The health insurance is more about fertility benefits like IVF and gamete freezing and things like that.  I will say, though, I am seeing a lot of trends towards employers having other benefits programs.  So, like, Carrot Fertility and Progeny where they either have discount programs or they have a pool of money and they’ll say, hey, you know what, you get $25,000 worth of benefits towards any of these fertility-related things.  I am seeing that as a big improvement that is happening out there.

The only state I know of that has made a really big difference – and insurance is such a – I love talking about insurance, and I can and will talk about it all day if you will let me.  The thing is that as an intended parent, you can never cover a surrogate on your own policy because she’s not your beneficiary.  So what they have to look at is the actual surrogate’s health insurance, and not all health insurance will cover a pregnancy when acting as a surrogate.   So that also then becomes a very important thing.  So then you have to talk about open enrollment exchange if it doesn’t cover and again, I could talk about it all day.  But there are a couple states that have moved and said that it is illegal to discriminate on that basis.  Nevada is notably one of them.  So all policies in Nevada must cover pregnancy when acting as a surrogate, which is amazing.  That’s kind of a goal.  All of us are trying to use that gold standard and see if we can get things moved towards that.  I know especially in New England, like Resolve New England is working very hard to try to get some policies in some states changed up here, as well.

Okay.  So you’d mentioned Carrot, and I’ve worked with Carrot for clients with both birth doula support as well as postpartum.  As you mentioned, they have a set amount of money, so they’re able to utilize that for surrogacy if that is their choice?  Is that correct?

So that would be actually a question for an expert from Carrot, quite honestly, because I imagine they have different employer policies for different places.  I know sometimes they negotiate discounts or sometimes they say, hey, you have this pot of money.  What Carrot is, it’s a benefits administrator.  So they administer out whatever it is that the company has agreed to provide to their employees and their beneficiaries.  So I couldn’t give a blanket as to what Carrot does.

That makes sense, and I’ve noticed it does depend on the employer.  It varies.   That’s so fascinating.  And hopefully things keep moving similar to the fashion that Nevada has, state by state, to be more encompassing.  Do families pay for insurance?  I know you mentioned that a surrogate cannot be on state aid, but do they add on to insurance policies for the carrier?

If her insurance will cover a pregnancy while acting as a surrogate, then she can use her existing health insurance at that point.  And then the parents would be paying for up to her maximum out of pocket amount.  If her insurance does not cover, then in that situation, then they would be taking out an additional policy on her, one that would cover a surrogacy.  And in 49 out of 50 states, there is a policy through the open enrollment exchange that covers pregnancy when acting as a surrogate.  I just always want to caveat the one.  There’s always one exception to every rule, right?  And because I’m licensed in New York, I would be very careful about this.  Under New York law, if you’re matched with a surrogate in New York, the parents still must pay the premiums for her policy, even if it is an existing surrogacy-friendly policy.

Oh, interesting.  How many states do you work with families out of, then?  You mentioned being licensed in New York.  You’re obviously working in Colorado.

We generally have about 17 to 18 states that we work in.  We will actually work with a surrogate in any state where surrogacy is legal.  We just don’t tend to have as many from certain states, not because we’re against those states.  We just have them in places that are much more.  My six d/b/a’s are Colorado Surrogacy, Montana Surrogacy, Texas Surrogacy.  Then we get a little more regionalized with Southwest Surrogacy, Pacific Cascade Surrogacy, and New England Surrogacy.  So obviously, that leaves out kind of the Midwest and the Southeast, not because we are against those places.  We absolutely would have surrogates from there.  It’s just that those are more where we’re concentrated and looking is those other locations.

That makes sense.  So how do our listeners connect with you, Jennifer?

Sure.  So they can head to my website, which is www.brightff.com.   Or they can send me an email at jwhite@coloradosurro.com.  Either way would be absolutely great.

Also, if I can throw a little plug in there – we have a great referral program if there are people who are listening who say, hey, I can’t be a surrogate myself, but I know somebody who might be a fantastic one.  Our referral program – if you just have the conversation and encourage them to fill out the intake form and put your name on it, you each get a $5 coffee gift card.  I know that seems silly and little, but just have a cup of coffee on us for having the conversation.  If they are qualified enough to fill out the application, each person gets $100 for the referral, and if they end up being matched, each person gets $500 for that referral.  So it’s worth having the conversation with people that you know who might be interested in surrogacy.

Are there any national resources that you would recommend in starting this process and doing more research on either becoming a surrogate or the process for families who are looking into it?

Yeah, that one’s a little harder.  I definitely think we try really hard to be open and transparent on our webpage.  If people head to our webpage – I know a lot of people go to Facebook.  There’s a lot of Facebook surrogacy groups out there.  You have to take some of that with a grain of salt.  They absolutely have some level of valuable information, but they also have some not always accurate information.  So you have to be a little bit of a cautious consumer in those groups, but they are really good sources of information, too.

Excellent.  Any final tips for our listeners?

The honest answer is, it’s not even a tip.  It’s a shoutout that I love doulas and everything you all do to support our families.  It makes me happy every day.  So I just want to say I appreciate you all.

Oh, thank you!  Well, I appreciate the work that you’re doing, especially in the advocacy space, and hopefully things change in Michigan in the future.

I hope so, too.

Maybe we’ll work together!  Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom and educating our listeners and our doula clients on this option.

Thank you for having me!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Bright Futures Families

Birth support from Gold Coast Doulas

Postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother course

Surrogacy Options: Podcast Episode #212 Read More »

Marya Eddaifi wearing a white tank top against a white background

Dysfunctional Labor Maneuvers with Marya Eddaifi: Podcast Episode #211

Kristin Revere chats with Marya Eddaifi of Marya Eddaifi Coaching on the latest episode of Ask the Doulas.  The discussion is centered around dysfunctional labor maneuvers and her work as a coach.    

Hello, this is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am excited to chat with Marya Eddaifi today.  Welcome, Marya!

Hi!  How are you?

Doing great!  So you and I have connected a couple of different times, and we saw each other recently at DoulaCon, where you were presenting, and I was, as well.  I’d love to have you start with a bit of your background.  I know you have a nursing background, as well as military.  So to get to this point of working in the pregnancy and postnatal space, I’d love to hear how you journeyed and chose labor and delivery as your specialty.

Oh, yes.  It was a long journey.  I started in the Air Force as a medic, and then halfway through, I was commissioned because I went to nursing school.  So that’s how that happened, and you have a choice.  You could do med surge, or OB.  And I originally was going to do med surge because I have an emergency room background, actually.  But it had been over a decade of me doing that, so I decided for something different, and I opted for OB.  And I had my very first labor and delivery assignment in England.  That, I think, was one of the pivotal things about the way I turned out to be because I didn’t start labor and delivery because I had this passion for it.  I started it because I just wanted to change from emergency medicine.

And they train us, and during that training, I’m a pretty big perfectionist, I guess you could say.  And I felt like they weren’t giving me enough training to help women with their pain, whether or not it was a natural unmedicated or just somebody dealing with an induction . If it wasn’t IV medication or pills, I wasn’t really getting any training.  So I actually – within the first of me being a nurse – I was also older, too.  I had a 15-year-old, and I was almost 40, I think.  Around 37, 38 years old.  So I started researching how to help women, and I came across doulas and what they are and do.  And I’d never really heard of them.  And I just saw all this comfort measures.  So I was like, well, they’re not teaching me how to do these comfort measures, and I remembered in my birth, nobody helped me.  I had a pretty – like, it wasn’t a good birth experience.  Let’s just say that.  So I remembered nobody helping me, and when I saw that that could have been an option, I said, well, I’m going to know how to do this.  I remembered just being left alone and not even a suggestion, like not even here’s a birth ball; nothing.  Stay in the bed.  It was in ’95.  I had my son in ’95.

And so when I looked up doulas, I was in Virginia because that’s where the training was.  So I was stationed in England, but doing my training in Virginia.  And I happened to find a lady named Kathy Stewart who is a DONA doula trainer in Richmond, which was about 60 miles from me.  So I called her up, and I said, hey, can I come to one of your workshops?  And she said, yeah, sure.  I really didn’t know what I was getting into.  But what she was teaching, they don’t teach nurses, and I thought, wow.  This is important.  They need to teach nurses this.  And so I kind of thought, oh, this is the answer to everything.

I went back to England, and of course, they threw every natural labor they could at me.

Because you had the training.  It’s like, okay, Marya’s got it.

She loves it.

Yeah, that’s how it goes with nurses in my area who are Spinning Babies trained.  They end up working with me more often than not.

Yeah.  So what happened, thought, it wasn’t always working, all these natural comfort measures, right?  We were still getting stuck at 8 centimeters.  We were still sometimes – she would opt for the epidural out of exhaustion, or it would end up in a C-section.  And I was still kind of frustrated.  And that’s how I found Spinning Babies.  That was back in, I don’t know, 2011 or something like that.  Long time.  And I took my first workshop, and I said, oh, this is a big missing piece of the puzzle.  That was the first time I’d ever heard the term myofascia.  I didn’t know what myofascia was.  And there wasn’t a lot of information.  There was Facebook, but it wasn’t the social media platform it is today.  There was no TikTok.  There was barely YouTube.  YouTube had a few things on there.  So I was very intrigued with myofascia.  And what I found for myself – like I said, I’m a perfectionist.  So when I really am connecting with something, I just got to know how to do it.  I’ve got to be the best at it, basically.  But I was also a new labor and delivery nurse.  I was also a new nurse.  I was also, with the doula background, that’s not common for nurses, especially in 2010, 2011.  And then I go to a Spinning Babies workshop.  So then it was like, what is that?  And I’m like, I don’t know how to explain it.

So in order to try to get it taken seriously, I studied myofascia because I felt like there was something in that, and I could maybe explain that to these doctors and nurses to make sense of it.

In a more medical way than just positions for labor?  Yes.

Yeah, because it was like, how do I get them to understand that this is not a comfort measure?  How do I get them to understand that it’s more scientific than they think?  They’d never heard of it.  The people I worked with in England had never heard of it.  And I was still trying to figure it out.

So a few years went by, and I had a couple of bases.  What happened would be, finally, they would start to kind of listen to me.  I mean, I even brought my own peanut ball.  That’s how long ago this was.  We didn’t have peanut balls.

So nice to have all those tools in the hospital.

Yeah.  So I went from England, then I actually went and got stationed at Langley.  And I ended up – because Carol Phillips is so close to Langley, I started taking her workshops for her Dynamic Body Balancing.  So I just really dove into the world of body work and fascia.  I mean, around 2015, I was with Gail and the Spinning Babies trainers when she first started that, and so for a couple of years, I was able to teach Spinning Babies.  But then I got stationed in Italy.  When I got to Italy, everything changed.  Everything was different.  My access to communities was cut off, so to speak, because of being in Italy.

Time zone changes.  There’s so much.  I mean, even virtually, your work would be limited.

Well, there was no virtual then.  There was no virtual, and then I’m in a country where they don’t speak English.

Right, so coaching is more established now than back then.

Oh, yeah.  What I ended up doing was, instead of staying with Spinning Babies, I started to study Anatomy Trains by Tom Myers.  And so while I was in Italy – so in 2016, I was in Italy.  And I was studying Anatomy Trains and blowing my mind.  Tom Myers just is so smart.  And his book, Anatomy Trains, opened me up to this new understanding of fascia.  Like, such a profound understanding of fascia.

Now, can you explain fascia for our listeners who don’t fully understand?  I’ve had fascia work so I get it, but yeah, if you can explain that.

Yeah.  So originally, like I said, when I was on that journey of myofascia – myofascia this and myofascia that – when I first started with Spinning Babies, I started to learn it was a connective tissue.  That’s all I could really get.  So I was – like, it’s a connective tissue.  It weaves through the other fibers of your body, like your muscles and your tendons and your ligaments.  And it kind of holds them.  It’s the scaffolding.  And it’s what keeps them together.  And so that was the limited knowledge I had, and if the fascia was dry or dehydrated or unhealthy, maybe from overuse, underuse, injury – it sort of traps your muscles from functioning the way they were meant to function, which was lengthen and shorten.  So during that time, I actually became a certified personal trainer, certified corrective exercise specialist, and started learning more about fascia and how it would create limited range of motion, or if you’re an athlete, you might not be able to – say you’re a marathon runner.  You won’t be able to run as well if your fascia starts to get overworked because then the body starts to lose the integration of being structurally aligned.  It starts getting pulled, and the bones start to follow that, and then you start getting pain in your hip, pain in your foot, pain in your shoulder.  And what I found while learning with fascia is when you do fascia work, the fascia is from head to toe.  It is weaved through every centimeter of your body.  So when you have a fascia restriction – say in your ankle – you may feel that in your shoulder.

That’s wild.

That’s what blew me away.  Listening to people complain about their pain and how we always kept focusing – it’s in my back, so that’s where we focus, in the back, and now I’m just not getting better – then I started to learn through Anatomy Trains that it’s the whole system.  So moving a bit, fast forward through 2016 through 2018, I started to take training classes with Tom Myers and going to Anatomy Trains workshops.  And I became a body worker.  And I originally thought I would use it for athletes because of me taking the certified personal training and stuff.  But as I was practicing – well, I’m a labor and delivery nurse, right?  So I’m practicing on my patients.

Right?  Might as well!

And I was just like – I was blown away by the difference that it was making.  There’s – like, I had so much better releases, just with labor, taking those – you know, the prodromal labor patterns or the dysfunctional labor pattern.

Yes, and for our listeners who don’t understand prodromal, can you define that?

Yeah.  Well, prodromal is this appearance of labor.  They’re very strong, and it’s confusing because when the cervix is examined, it’s maybe one or two centimeters.  So by definition, an active labor cervix is five or more centimeters.  So you have this mismatch going on.  You only have a two centimeter cervix, but a woman really pounding out painful, strong contractions, sometimes back to back.  They don’t get relief.  Sometimes you get one, two, three in a row and then a pause.  But they’re so strong that you’re just like, this has got to be labor.  And a dysfunctional labor pattern is just when the contractions are either too far spaced apart that there’s no momentum, or they’re what we call coupling, where you’ve got two in a row back to back and then it’s a pause.  And then maybe two or three, and then there’s a pause.  So the body is just struggling to just kind of chug away.  Like, a contraction, two or three minutes later another contraction; two or three minutes later, another contraction.  That is the most optimal contraction pattern to keep it relatively equal between contractions because then the body is just driving smoothly, having that labor pattern that will create the dilation and the descent.  And that’s what we’re looking for in the labor pattern.

Exactly, because it can be exhausting.  I mean, it can be days of that at home before getting admitted.

I think it can be also heartbreaking or even traumatizing for some when they don’t understand what’s happening, and they show up at the hospital because that’s where they’re planning to birth, and they’re sent home with nothing.

And what do you do?  And if you don’t have a doula, they’re home by themselves.

That was for me where – in my experience, we had all military, because I was a military nurse, and I was overseas for most of it.  And they didn’t have doulas.  There wasn’t a big doula community.  You know, there’s language barriers and things, and information is not out there.  They don’t have – I think doulas are a lot more popular now than they were ten years ago, and so these families were sent home to just be told, take Tylenol, Benadryl, or a bath.  And honestly, you would see one of two things happening.  They would come back frequently, and there would be some animosity building because they were told again, no, you’re not in labor, you’ve got to go back home.

They just want to stay, yeah.

Yeah.  And then even some women who were like, I planned a natural birth, but I’ve been like this for a week.  I can’t do this.  I’m so tired.  And I was like, this is so sad.  And what I ended up doing was taking my training, the things I learned from Spinning Babies, the things I learned from Carol Phillips, my bodywork, and I started to do things in triage.  And what I noticed was, I tell when it’s real labor.  Like, you just see it enough.  And I’m like, you know, this is probably kind of early labor for her, but I’m going to show them this – I call it my triage protocol or prodromal labor protocol.  It’s a protocol for me.  That might be my military stuff, but I have a certain – I do, like, five or six things, and they’ll either feel better, so they say, okay, I feel better.  I’m not in so much pain.  I’m going to go home, and we’ll come back later.  I also am teaching their partner, you can do this at home, too.  And then if they really were in labor, they would dilate.  Sometimes we even had a baby in triage because prodromal labor, to me, is real labor.

It is.  It’s effective.  It’s taking longer, but it’s still doing work.

The reason it’s taking longer – and this is my opinion.  Now, I’m going to talk to you as the body worker.  As soft tissue mobilization is – they are physically stuck.  When the fascia is not allowing the rest of the body to function, then everything gets stuck.  So when I’m doing my – like, you can release fascia through positioning, like those – like, a sidelying release is a fascia release.  That’s why you hold it for so long.  Fascia can be released through stretches if you give it at least three to five minutes.  It’s a very long type of stretch.  And yoga actually even tackles this through yin yoga.  If you’ve ever done a yin yoga session, you will sit in those positions to stretch for at least three minutes.  And so as it unwinds – so you’ve got some muscle unwinding; the fascia is letting it go, and now the body can open.  And this is a body work thing.  So you’re taking these nurses and these doctors and these midwives who do not understand this because it’s not what they were trained for.  And I feel like there’s a lack of communication between the body working world and the birth world because this – I am learning things outside.  I take fascia webinars.  I go to fascia workshops.  I do dissection labs.  I learn everything about the body and different ways to release it.  Positional releasing, muscle energy technique, craniosacral therapy.  All of that plays into how well the body functions during labor.  And so this is so important.  Now, you don’t have to become this body worker, but I’ve taken enough that in my training, I actually have like a 90-minute training of advance fascia work for those who feel ready for that because some people are just getting into birth, so you’ve got to learn these basic things.  I realized, like, I’m very advanced.  So I also took over a decade to get to this point, so I remember being very new.   Obviously, I remember not even knowing what myofascia was.  So I try to bring it down to a very digestible way to intake this very, very important information so nobody feels as though they have to become a body worker as well as a birth worker.  However, if you have the knowledge, then maybe you can refer people.  It’s so important to know who’s in your community, know the type of work they do so you send your client or patient to the right person.  We don’t have to do this alone.  I do this across the country.  I have looked for different types of soft tissue mobilization workers.  So you’ve got structural integrators, rolfers, osteopaths, and there’s another one.  I can’t think of the name of it.  There’s different names for these similar modalities, but it really is fascia work, and I’m going to have to say – it’s not massage.  Massages are nice.  They’re relaxing, but they’re not fascia work.  You really have to find fascia work.  And since it’s not so mainstream, so many people do not understand how to do this.  So, I know how to do it.  I will Google.  I’ve asked people I don’t even know.  Maybe they’ve reached out to me on social media.  I’m like, well, what city and state, or what city – I do my best because if you’re from a totally different country, I may not be able to find that person for you, but I can go onto Rolfing Institute or Structural Integration and find, like, they have find a therapist.  And I’ll find the country you’re in, and I’ll see if there’s something around where you live.  I’ve done this in Spain, and I’ve done this in the US.  I’ve done this in Canda.  It’s because I want people to get this work done so they have such an easier birth.  I know people don’t really agree with the word “easier” and “birth” at the same time, not everybody, but I do.

Yeah, I mean, who doesn’t want a smoother or easier birth?  Not necessarily faster, but yeah.

Just let the body do what it was designed to do.  But the way you as an individual live your life, that makes the difference.  If you are somebody who is too sedentary, the fascia network that is weaving through all your muscles and soft tissues, like your ligaments and stuff, actually gets very disorganized.  And I don’t have, obviously, a visual aid right now, but the disorganization of fascia creates restriction and then the muscles cannot lengthen and shorten.  And then think about how the muscles have to lengthen to allow the bones to move for the baby’s passage through the birth canal.

Of course, yes.

So if you’re not getting that, then it’s going to be tougher and longer.

Right.  Yeah, that is beautiful.  So you offer coaching.  You offer training for birth workers.  You have an app for birthing parents.  So let’s start with the app and then cover a little bit of the other ways that our listeners can touch base with you.

The things that I do – I’m very multifaceted because what I’ve learned along the way as a labor nurse, as a body worker, and I also studied with Bob Proctor for mindset work.  I believe there’s a holistic approach to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum.  And that’s something that found me, so it’s such a calling and feels like this is my purpose.  This is why I’m here.  So as I was learning, and now I get on social media and I’m talking; I’m trying to raise awareness about soft tissue body work.  That’s what I’m calling it, because I don’t want to box in, the only work you can get is this, because say for example if I say the only work is rolfing – if it’s not available in your area, then you’re going to be stuck.  So you’ve got to know, what is rolfing?  Rolfing is soft tissue mobilization.  So that’s how you would start opening the idea of like, okay, maybe we’ll start here.  If we can’t start there, I’m going to look for a certain type of therapist for my body.  And so I’m on social media, and TikTok is one of my bigger platforms, and I would get messages.  Like, I’m in prodromal labor.  I just started thinking, like, I’ve got to figure out a way to help these people faster, right?

And then one day I kind of just woke up and I was like, an app.  I’ve got to make an app.  Everything’s on an app.  Like, that’s the first question we start to ask now.  Is there an app for that?  Is there an app for that?  I saw this make-your-own-app, but the reviews were like, oh, when it glitches, nobody’s there to help me.  And I said, okay, we cannot have laboring mothers on a glitchy app.  So I found a wonderful developer, and we started creating the DLM app, which stands for Dysfunctional Labor Maneuvers.  And I also was thinking about the app because there’s limited access to getting some of the training, and I said, you know, sometimes you don’t need the training.  You’ve just to do exactly as I say, and it will work, right?  So I said, but I can do that on an app with videos.  That’s how I learn all the time.  If I have to learn how to do something, I get on YouTube, and I learn how to change a lightbulb in my car.  I get on YouTube.  So I was like, I’m going to make an app.

So originally, the app is meant to have a parent option and a professional option.  Right now, the professional option is still in the mix.  It’s almost done, though.  But I wanted to get the parents side done.  The parent side was a lot easier.  But it’s specifically for these moments of uncertainty.  If you’re feeling a prodromal labor pattern, or if you’re – early labor can be very confusing, too, because it’s irregular but you feel contractions.  If you’ve just never felt this before, you don’t know what to do.  So you go on the app and you basically are asked a few questions.  It’s like what you would do when you go to triage.  They would ask how long are your contractions; are they regular.  And so it’s a systematic questionnaire that brings you to the solution.  And very easy for parents; they don’t have to know anything except, I would say, maybe how to read.  I don’t have a voiceover for the questionnaires.  And it’s in English because as this app – it will grow, and I figure as the need starts, maybe there will be some translated versions of it.  I don’t know.  But it’s in English, and so you will have to know how to read English.

Beautiful.  I mean, as doulas, we’re always referring different apps to our clients, whether it’s a contraction timer or a registry app or to count the kicks; whatever it might be.

This is for just women who are more than 38 weeks because this work is so effective.  I do not want any woman who is not full term, at least 38 weeks, to be doing this.  If you feel contractions and you’re not term yet, you really should be going to the doctor, not hopping on an app to see if you can make the contractions feel better.

Good point.  Yes.

This app is for labor.  It isn’t for prenatal anything.  And it’s because there’s nothing to help these families who are in difficult, challenging labor, maybe turned away from the hospital because their cervix isn’t dilating, and they don’t have a doula, and they don’t have anybody who’s savvy with labor or birth.  Then this app – it’s like having me in your pocket.  And I tried to think of every scenario that I could, and it’s done by algorithm.  So as you plug in your answers, the videos that will help you should pop up.  That’s all you need to do.  Once you finish watching the videos, it gives you what to expect next so that you know, okay, well, now that I did that, what do I do?  And so that was my way of trying to be there for every family because that’s one of the things.  We can’t be there for every family.

No.  I mean, even if they could afford to hire you as a coach, you can only coach so many families at the same time.  And you can’t really turn people away if they’re at 38 weeks and they need you now.  So this is a great alternative. 

And the professional side is much more complex.  It is going to include triage scenarios.  It’s going to include epidurals, and even once you do the – we’re calling them exercises, so we’re not being complicated, because sometimes I’ll say body work and people are like, what is that?  So I’m just calling them exercises.  And then after, then there’s how to – a good way to use the peanut ball very strategically.  That’s in the professional side.  And I made the professional side, even though I have – Dysfunctional Labor Maneuvers is the course that I teach to professionals on the work that I have done over the last decade, in combining my body work and all the other things that I’ve learned about positioning and movement.  And I have that option online.  So you can take an online Dysfunctional Labor Maneuvers workshop, and I do have some in person, but these in person workshops, not everybody can get to.  Some people have to work or they have families, or they live too far.  And I said, like, we’ve got to make this accessible to every birth professional.  So I put mine online for anybody who can’t make an in-person workshop.  I love in person workshops.  There’s so many things that pop up that maybe wouldn’t have popped up in any other time.

Sure.  Especially with hands-on work, it’s so beneficial.  I couldn’t imagine doing Spinning Babies, the two day training I took, virtually. 

This is something – but learning it online, I think a lot of things changed during COVID.  A lot of online training came, and out of necessity.  So I was like, you know what?  Like, this might be second best to in person, but what if you didn’t get any of it?

Exactly.  I mean, I taught my comfort measures for labor class virtually for two years.  It still helped couples.  It’s just different.

Yes, exactly.  And then especially, I remember taking workshops, leaving, and going, I don’t remember anything.  So having it online, it’s online; it’s self-paced.  So if you can’t remember something, you can go back to your video lessons because you have access to the lessons.  But I realized how complimentary the app now is for the professionals because if you took the online course and you do have the videos, you’re not going to have time to pull them up in a labor.

Not at all.  An app is easy to look at quickly.

Yes.  And so what I realized, and I remember this with the doula training.  I said, being a nurse, taking doula training, I said there’s nothing for these doulas after they take their training.  They have no preceptor.  They’re going in by themselves.  And I was like, this is – that must be so hard for a doula to go through, her first client, right?  And so what I really felt like was like, it’s going to be a preceptor.  The app for professionals.  If you took any kind of training, even if it was a Spinning Babies training or even if it was my training, it doesn’t matter, right?  You’ve got the idea, but you can’t remember when to use what, and you’re trying to quickly think on your feet because some hospitals, they’ve got a little time clock ticking for some people.

Right, and you’ve tried everything, and you’re exhausted, and it’s like, what do I do now?  The nurse and I have strategized.  We’ve tried everything.  What’s next?

Yeah, and I’ve got these chat groups where people come in and say, I’ve got this, but, you know, not everybody’s on their phone or responsive to it.  So I was like, you know what, if you’ve never done this before and you’ve just maybe took an in-person class or you just took my online class, and now you’re at your first birth, download the app.  Use the app.  Everything that I teach, it’s in the app.  It’s just going to be – I don’t explain it.  There’s no, like, let’s talk about it.  It is like, what is your signs and symptoms?  Here’s the videos.  What do you got?  Here’s what you do.  This isn’t a place to learn theory.  This is a place to do the action.  And so that was what I felt like.  I said, this is like a preceptor for them.  That way when they finish up any kind of training, and they go in with their first client or even with nurses, you may be juggling two patients.  You don’t have time to jump on your computer or jump on your phone to go look something up and dig through all these videos of training when you can just go into the app and be like, I have this, this, this, and this.  What videos do I do?  What do I do?

Why don’t you give me your different social handles, your website, all of the different contact info that our listeners, whether they are a birth professional or a pregnant couple, so they can find you?

Yes.  My website is simple.  On Facebook, I do have a group called Dysfunctional Labor Maneuvers.  That is private for birth professionals.  You’re welcome to join.  And I do have a community chat, and that’s where some people get on to say, hey, I have this going on.  I’ve done this.  I’ve done this.  Can somebody help me?  So we come on, and we help each other out on that.  I’m on TikTok a lot as @empoweredbirthpregnancy.  Instagram, @empowered_birth_pregnancy.   Empowered Birth and Pregnancy is my company name.  And then my email is coachingintoresults@maryaeddaifi.com.

And Marya, if they’re searching to download your app, how do they find it in the app store?

In the app store, Android and iOS, DLM App.  It’s rose gold with DLM written on it.  It’s easy to see because of the icon being rose gold.  My team did a very beautiful job.  I said, make it beautiful.  That’s what I told them.

Love it!  Well, I can’t wait to check it out!  Any last minute tips for our listeners?

My biggest tip, I’m going to say, to birth professionals is learn your community.  Find your soft tissue body workers.  Raise awareness to these families that this is – it is an investment in yourself, in your pregnancy, in your birth outcome to really take the soft tissue work as part of your prenatal care.  And families, look for somebody in your area.  You only have to go once or twice a month.  It’s not a consistent thing where you’ve got to go every two or three days.  But you know chiropractic is good work, too, but imagine how well your chiropractic can work if your soft tissues are beautifully aligned and allowing that adjustment that a chiropractor would make.  I think that is such a synergistic way to take care of your body in pregnancy.

Love it.  Thank you so much, Marya.  We’ll have to have you on again.  You have so much valuable information.

Thank you for having me on!  I appreciate it.

IMPORTANT LINKS

Marya Eddaifi’s website

DLM App

Birth support from Gold Coast Doulas

Comfort Measure for Labor class from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother class from Gold Coast Doulas

Spinning Babies

Dysfunctional Labor Maneuvers with Marya Eddaifi: Podcast Episode #211 Read More »

Kay Vorce wearing a heather blue Gold Coast Doulas zip-up hoodie holding a swaddled baby with a dark green wall behind her

Overnight Postpartum Doula Support: Podcast Episode #210

Kristin Revere chats with Kay Vorce, postpartum and sleep consultant at Gold Coast Doulas about the benefits of overnight postpartum doula support!  They also discuss the difference between the terms night nurse, newborn care specialist, night nanny and postpartum doula.  

Hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am chatting with Kay Vorce, who is another Kristin.  We actually have three Kristins on the Gold Coast team, and Kay decided to give herself a nickname.  She’s actually Kristin!  Welcome!

Hey, thanks so much for having me on!

Happy to have you hear, Kay!  I would love to start by having you give our listeners a bit of insight into your professional background before you became a sleep consultant with Gold Coast Doulas and an overnight postpartum doula with us.

Yeah, absolutely.  Happy to share.  My journey with this field of mom and baby and with baby care started when I had my son who’s now almost five.  He was just a really difficult sleeper.  I was very sleep deprived.  I was basically miserable.  It was starting to affect my relationships and my family.  And I come from a rehab background.  I was trained in traumatic brain injury rehab.  So I’m really used to looking at goals and what it’s going to take to achieve those goals.  When someone told me about a sleep consultant, I was like, oh, my gosh, I need one of those ASAP!  And I hired one, and I worked with her.  I started to kind of see some parallels between what I would do in rehab and then when I was working with the sleep consultant, what she was doing with me.

And I thought, you know what?  I think that I could become a sleep consultant, and I think I would be good at it.  So I was certified, and the rest is basically history.  I started working with clients right off the bat.  I have a knack for it, I can humbly tell you.  And from there, I started to notice that by the time a client got to me, they were pretty much already at their wits’ end.  When I was asking them to start this sleep plan, and they basically had no reserves, I started to think, wow.  I see this need for someone to be in the home.  I see this need for someone to be there, helping parents build up some reserves in order to even get over the hump of what it will take to get their baby sleeping in healthier patterns.

With Gold Coast, you guys being so awesome and having this kind of full menu of services, I am now able to do both.  So I work with tired families doing consultations for sleep, and then I’m also helping out as a postpartum doula in the home, which honestly is just something that I really love to do, and it’s such a necessary field.

It is, and that’s our topic for today’s conversation: overnight postpartum doula support.  One thing to mention with our four sleep consultants that we have, including yourself: there is a pause period before you start consulting, and certainly the postpartum doulas can do some sleep shaping and the newborn care specialists on our team, but you don’t do sleep consulting with a newborn, where our postpartum doulas can start in the hospital or day one getting home. 

Yeah, exactly.  No, that’s a really good point.  Thanks for bringing that up.  There’s sleep shaping, and then there’s the “sleep training,” or what I would call sleep teaching, because that’s really what we’re doing is we’re teaching your baby a new way to sleep.  But the sleep teaching or the sleep training doesn’t really get the green light until about 16 weeks or after in terms of any kind of formal sleep training.  Prior to that, it is all sleep shaping: building healthy routines, healthy sleep habits.  And that is something that a postpartum doula is trained on to do.  It’s a really nice kind of seamless transition that we can make by helping parents in the home with sleep shaping, sleep routines.  And then if needed, moving into a little bit more of a formal sleep training when they’re old enough to actually learn the skills to sleep more independently.

Love it.  So walk us through a typical night as an overnight postpartum doula and infant care specialist.

Great question.  It really looks different for every single client because every single client has different needs.  A typical night might be – and I’ll just maybe think of a recent client that I’ve had in the last year.  A typical night might look like, night one, I come in.  Parents are overwhelmed.  Brand new baby at home.  Whether it’s their first baby or they have toddler or preschool siblings – either way, it’s just overwhelming.  And so when I show up at their home, it’s basically just give me the download on what’s been happening since you’ve been home.  Maybe they’ve had baby a couple nights on their own, and maybe it’s their first night home.  So there’s so many nuances to how it all starts, but basically what I do is I go in and I just say, what do you need from me?  Like, what do you need?  Do you need a couple of hours of sleep?  And maybe you’re working on breastfeeding, and I can bring baby to you in a couple of hours.  We can feed baby; you can feed baby, I can help with latching, basic latching.  Those kinds of things, and then you give baby back to me and I burp and resettle and get baby back to sleep.

Or maybe mom is formula feeding, and I can do all of the infant care overnight, and mom and dad can just sleep or tend to their other child, something like that.  It looks a little bit different for overnight care for every family.  Sometimes I have a lot of interaction with Mom and Dad overnight, and sometimes I have very little interaction.  It really does depend on the client need.

Yeah.  At Gold Coast, our minimum overnight shift is eight hours, but we certainly have clients who want ten or twelve hours of sleep, so we’re pretty flexible.  And you work sometimes with a family as the only doula in their home, and then because we have a large team, some of our clients want help seven days and seven nights a week.  We have a good portion of our team working seamlessly with a family.  So explain what that might look like.

Yeah, I really feel like this is what sets Gold Coast Doulas apart is that we are really good at continuity of care.  If you are a tired mom and you want support five, six, seven nights a week, like Kristin said, we have the capability to provide that with multiple doulas.  One, two, sometimes three overnight doulas, as well as different day doulas.  But we’re really good at communicating behind the scenes with each other, and we also have systems in place that allow us to share information.  In a client’s home, we keep a journal that we can keep notes in that is fully accessible to the client, as well as the doula coming in, to read what happened exactly the night before.  Maybe the feeds went up from 35 to 45 mLs overnight.  These are just really important things to know.  Let’s say that one doula has this great burping technique that’s specific for this particular baby that works really well.  That’s all being shared with each other.  So we’re able to really come in night by night, day by day, and pick up the ball seamlessly.  And that just provides a level of peace for these moms and dads and families who really just want trusted care, and that we are going to continually move your baby forward as they grow and change so much in those first couple of months.

Yeah.  And you love working with twins.  At Gold Coast, we work with twins and triplets.  What does it look like to support twins overnight?

Yeah, love twins.  Twins are just a whole other ballgame.  Obviously, you have two babies, but you really do need to have some tools in your toolbelt to just make sure that you have really good systems in place for how you’re going to provide care overnight.  So it might look like tandem feeding when babies are able to have a tandem feed.  Can we start working on getting babies eating overnight at the same time so that way when Mom and Dad have their first night alone, we can show them some tips to work on cutting these feeds down from 90 minutes to feed both babies back to back.  Here’s how we can start doing a tandem feed.  From there, we can kind of help guide parents.  You’ve got Baby A who can probably do six hours, and Baby B can only do three, so when is the right time to let Baby A keep sleeping, to only feed Baby B?  There’s just a lot of different nuances to twins.  It comes with experience of systems, how to care for them, how to quickly soothe them, how to burp one while the other one is still eating.  We’re great at that at Gold Coast, and we have a couple of twin experts on our team, too, which really sets us apart.

It does, for sure.  And some doulas prefer to work with one doula, and that’s totally okay.  I’m glad that we have quite a few twin experts and triplet experts on our team.

Absolutely.

Let’s talk about the average amount of nights per week a client would work with you for and how long of a stretch, and then we can get into some variations of that.

Absolutely.  Probably three to four times a week is a good amount, and it doesn’t have to be that many, but I find that three times a week is just a really nice rhythm starting out.  As we have just talked about, it can be up to seven nights a week.  These are clients who just might need that additional level of support for various reasons.  Maybe they have a demanding job they need to get back to sooner than later.  Maybe their husband is traveling, and they have no help overnight.  But by and large, three to four nights is a great starting point.  It gives some respite for additional sleep but it also allows mom and dad to just experience baby a little bit overnight, too.  It’s just a really nice balance.

And then in terms of duration of support, we do provide postpartum doula support up through the first year.  So we can help out with – and sometimes in the beginning, I’m there a lot, and then as time goes by, I can help with mom or dad’s back to work transition.  And then maybe after that, it is coming in and just providing some respite or some overnight support for a parent who’s traveling out of town.  It can really look like lots of different things, but I personally love to work with clients for the first three months, through typically if there’s a working mom, helping mom get back to work.  I find that’s a really good rhythm for what I do.

Yes, I would agree.  And it does vary based on need.  Again, your typical client, they either are planning for postpartum support in pregnancy and then want that help right away, or they’re so sleep deprived, and a friend tells them about newborn care specialists, overnight doulas, and then they call us, saying I wish I knew about you before, and I need you tonight.  We can fill that need because we have a big team.

Absolutely.  And yeah, you’re so right.  We do have – I mean, if I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard, “Oh, my gosh, I wish I would have known about you sooner!”  Because it’s true.  Sometimes it’s that moms are networking with each other, and someone has heard of a postpartum doula and overnight doula and tells their friend, hey, listen, I don’t know if you know that Gold Coast Doulas provides overnight support.  And then, yes, we come in and we’re right there, ready.  We can be there the day that you call.  We can have a qualified doula at your home, ready to provide much needed overnight care.

Yeah.  And certainly awareness is spreading about postpartum doulas in general.  I feel like birth doulas are finally becoming quite well known and popular, but there’s still a lot of education about what we do that would be different from, say, a night nanny or the former term “baby nurse” that is now newborn care specialist.  So let’s get into a bit about the differences in training and education and our specialty.

Yes, definitely.  Yeah, I am a certified postpartum and infant care doula.  So what that means is that I’m specifically trained outside of what your nanny can do.  I’m specifically trained in, first of all, like we already said, baby sleep shaping, baby routines, all things infant care.  We don’t dive in terms of infant care as much as a newborn care specialist.  They are aptly named.  They truly are a newborn care specialist, and I am an infant care doula.

Also, with the postpartum part of my title, basically, that means that I’m trained on how to mother the mother.  I am trained on how to give our clients the most satisfying postpartum period possible.  Whereas a newborn care specialist is going to have most of their focus on the baby, and a postpartum infant care doula, which is why I love what I do, is I do both.  I’m able to come in and mother the mother, and then I’m also able to provide that vital infant care support.

Yes, exactly.  And I happen to be both a postpartum doula and a newborn care specialist, a graduate from Newborn Care Solutions.  In our training, it’s not medical, but it covers a lot of conditions that babies have to be able to give referrals, and it is that training focused on caring for baby, and a lot of overnight work, a lot of travel work, a lot of live-in contracts.  So it’s nice that we have a mix of overnight postpartum doulas, as well as newborn care specialists who can give customized support based on what each client wants.  But as you mentioned, feeding support; recovery support; the emotional support and recognizing any sort of mood disorders and postpartum depression signs and being able to talk through that and give resources, as well.

Absolutely.  Most of our culture now is very aware of things like postpartum anxiety, postpartum depression.  And those are all things that I, when I come into your home, I am looking, and I want to make sure that mamas are okay and that mamas know that they have me, and I am not judgmental.  You know, you cannot shock me with everything that you’re going through and during your postpartum period.  And I think that’s a big relief for moms who, even their best friends, they sometimes don’t feel comfortable talking about the things that I get into with mamas, and especially that maybe they don’t feel comfortable talking with their mom or their mother-in-law because they might feel like they’re going to get judged.  Well, a postpartum doula, we are not going to judge you.  We are trained in screening.  We’re going to give you resources and referrals.  And again, we want you to have a satisfying postpartum period.  It does not need to be a sleep deprived, miserable stupor.  It really doesn’t.  I think that is our biggest challenge in this field, just continuing to get the word out on how vital this is.

Exactly.  There’s so much education that is needed, and the support is so important.  I know with inflation and prices increasing, you really have to be intentional with your budget, but many of our clients are being gifted postpartum support by friends and family members, or they’re using their health savings or flex spending.  I’m thrilled to see so many employers adding doulas to their benefits and programs like Carrot Fertility to make it easier to pay for the support that is so necessary.

Yeah, it’s about time, you know?  I mean, here in America, we don’t have the greatest maternity leave benefits for our moms, and then couples with sometimes just budgeting constraints, there can be some barriers to overcome in getting this care.  So yeah, I definitely agree.  And as we’ve said, it doesn’t need to be four times a week for three months.  There’s definitely – even coming in for a week or two right at the beginning and just helping some of the physical healing, to get by and get past that physical healing, and then maybe they have a little bit more reserves to tackle some of the more sleepless nights.  Really, any kind of care that you can get in those vital early days, it’s just not going to be wasted money.  It’s just not.  I’ve never, ever heard from a client that they felt like it was wasted money.  I totally agree with you; I’m so glad that we’re seeing insurance benefits taking this, and that more people are understanding what we do.

Yeah.  Unfortunately, general insurance does not cover it, but some of these add-on maternity benefits are, so I’m very thankful for that.  As you said with starting whenever that support is needed, or pausing and then calling us – I do find, and I’m thankful for this, as well, that paternity leaves have been extended for many of our clients, which is great.  For some of our clients who are on a budget, they will wait until the partner goes back to work and may have us for daytime support initially versus those longer stretches, and then once the partner goes back and needs to be at the top of the game to get back efficiency-wise at work, then we will come in for multiple overnights during weekdays, or some families, again, want us seven nights a week.  And then there are those clients where the mom is the one who wants to be refreshed and has a very demanding career.  We work with medical professionals and CEOs and management level executives who need to get back to peak performance, as well, so it’s not just their partner.

Yeah, absolutely, and it is really nice in the early days when mom and dad are both there and they’re tag teaming and they can help with keeping each other rested.  But as we know, that doesn’t go on forever, so yes, that’s a good strategy, and a strategy that a lot of parents do is like, okay, we’re feeling like we can tackle the first eight weeks with maybe my mom coming and then my husband is going to be here and we’re going to do this.  But then when that changes and we need to be a little bit more on, like you said, and we really just can’t be sleep deprived, or frankly, the emotional impact of sleep deprivation.  So sometimes we do come in later and we are able to provide that overnight support when both parents are already back to work.  There’s nothing that says that we need to be there right from the beginning after birth.  It really does look unique for everyone.  You know, that’s how we started this conversation.  I think it being unique for everyone – just give us a call.  We’ll talk through what’s going to be the best.  I mean, this is what we do.  We can help guide what’s going to be the most beneficial support.

Exactly.  And I have found since I’ve talked to all of our potential clients who call in or email to Gold Coast – I find very few grandparents willing to take those overnight shifts, and I honestly don’t blame them.  So they’re often able to help during the day, whether they’re traveling in for a week or two or live nearby, but it’s really hard on them to do overnights.  And also, so much has changed with feeding and safe sleep.  We keep up to date on all recalls and are able to do some education for grandparents who are caregiving during the day with our grandparents class.

Absolutely, and there’s really just no price on your peace of mind.  I know that sometimes if you have someone in your home, I think back to the early days.  I have a 15-year-old now, and I think back to my mom helping out overnight; bless her heart.  I couldn’t even sleep because I was nervous that my mom wasn’t going to be able to do it.  Even though she was there, like you said, just the peace of mind of knowing that you have a professional in your home and knowing that they know about babies and they know what baby is going to need and they know about safe sleep and they know about all those things – it is different, and our clients have that peace of mind where they can actually rest and know that their baby is in good hands.

And similar with daytime nannies, we’re able to communicate and talk about the napping schedule and try to get the whole family aligned if there are other caregivers in the house during the day that we’re not actually seeing.  We’re able to show them the logs, keep in touch, find out how napping is going, and have as seamless a transition as possible.

Absolutely.  That is the goal.

Any other tips or topics that we didn’t mention related to overnight postpartum and newborn care?

Yeah, I think the biggest takeaway to overnight care is that a lot of us moms, we’re pull up our bootstraps kind of gals.  We’re so used to kind of getting it done.  We’re going to do it, and we’re going to be okay.  It’s not going to last, and we’re going to do it, and we’re going to tough it out.  But I would just encourage all of us moms in solidarity to say that we really can’t do everything on our own, and it’s okay to not be okay, and it’s okay to ask for help.  And sleep deprivation does not make anything better.  It only makes things harder.  And so by preventing that from the get go, or by asking for help when it gets really bad, you just won’t regret it.  I think the key takeaway is that you’re worth it.  And it is a good thing to get help where you need it.

Absolutely.  My final takeaway is that, again, that term, postpartum doula, isn’t my favorite because so many people think that you only need a postpartum or infant care doula if you’re suffering from postpartum depression or perinatal mood disorders because that term, “I had postpartum,” instead of the range of time after having your baby, it’s used to refer to postpartum depression.  So I often have casual conversations in public about postpartum doulas, and I hear, “Oh, I had postpartum,” or, “I didn’t need one because I wasn’t struggling mentally,” so there’s some of that to overcome in our industry.

Yeah.  That term postpartum is now synonymous with, like you said, the different postpartum ailments that can happen with your emotions and hormones crashing after the postpartum period.  But yes, the term postpartum just simply means that period after you had a baby.  So there is a bit of terms and terminology and education to overcome with the term postpartum doula, but yes, the terms overnight doula, like you already said; baby nurse, things like that – those are all terms that people are already familiar with, and so whatever kind of helps people to understand the spectrum of what we do, I think, is helpful.

Exactly.  And I’ll often use postnatal support to clarify the difference.  Well, thank you for all of your information and insight.  We are so thankful to have you on Team Gold Coast, Kay.

Well, thanks, Kristin.  I appreciate being able to talk about what I do.  I love it, and yeah, if anybody would like to get in touch with me personally, I would love to chat.

Yes, and we are on so many social media channels.  You can find us at Gold Coast Doulas.  We’re on Instagram and Facebook.  We have a Pinterest page, and we’re on YouTube and trying to be more active on YouTube.  You’ve got some videos on there that are big hits.  Of course, people can hire you if they live in West Michigan.  We also have overnight support in northern Michigan and southwest Michigan, but you focus more on clients in Grand Rapids, as well as some of those lakeshore communities.

Yes.  We have a large team of doulas.  I think every single one of them is amazing.  Yes, get in touch with us if you live along the gold coast.  Visit us on our social channel or our website, and give us a call.

IMPORTANT LINKS

Overnight support from Gold Coast Doulas

Sleep consultations from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother course

Register for our services

Modern Grandparent class from Gold Coast Doulas

Overnight Postpartum Doula Support: Podcast Episode #210 Read More »

Marnie of Rumbly, a pregnancy subscription box company, sits surrounded by purple Rumbly boxes.

Identity shifts in Motherhood with Marnie Madras of Rumbly: Podcast Episode #209

Kristin Revere chats with Marnie Madras, founder of Rumbly, about the identity shift in motherhood and how to incorporate self-care into motherhood.

Hello, this is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Marnie Madras today.  Marnie is the founder and CEO of Rumbly.  Welcome, Marnie!  So happy to have you here!

Thank you!  I’ve been looking so forward to this.  It’s great to be here.

I would love for you to give us a bit of your background.  I know you worked in the corporate sector and also in the startup landscape, and then I’d love to hear how your journey took you into working with women in pregnancy and early postpartum and also starting a subscription box.

I’ll try to go through it a little quicker because my background is really diverse.  I’ve kind of dipped in and out of corporate and entrepreneurship, I would say, throughout most of my working career.  I was working for large, multinational organizations and for my entrepreneurial side, I had a tea shop at one point; very different from what I’m doing today with Rumbly.  I had a jewelry business.  Otherwise, in corporate, I was in food and beverage and toy.  So I’ve kind of been all over.

My journey to Rumbly really started with – I’m a mom of four right now.  I have four littles.  My oldest is almost eight, and my youngest is eight months.  My journey really started after I was pregnant with my second daughter.  With my first, I wanted nothing more than to be pregnant.  I had a bit of a struggle to get there, and then I got there.  It was in my eyes the most magical thing.  It really struck me that I was kind of alone in that thinking.  Most of the women I knew around me that I spoke to really disliked being pregnant.  And I get it.  Pregnancy is hard.  There’s a lot of challenge and physically, emotionally, spiritually, everywhere.  And that’s there, but personally for me at the end of the day, I still was so excited to be pregnant, and it really saddened me that other women around me didn’t feel the same.

So fast forward to my second pregnancy.  After I had my baby, I felt really off.  I loved my pregnancy.  I loved being a mom.  And something just didn’t feel right.  It wasn’t postpartum depression, and I really couldn’t understand what it was.  And after really spending a lot of time working through that, what I learned was that I lost Marnie in the process of becoming a mother, and that loss of identity was very, very hard on me.  Before going into pregnancy, I was confident, multipassionate, very career-driven.  And when I came out as a mom, I became just a mom, and Marnie was second.  And my whole universe around me identified me as mom first and Marnie second.  So going on a long story, that feeling of transformation and loss of identity and new identity, mixed with the fact that women didn’t love their pregnancies, and my background in entrepreneurship, I knew this is the place I have to be.  I have to do something.  I have to do something for these women, and we have to change the narrative, and we have to make pregnancy more focused on women and their experience and improving that experience.

Yes, 100% agree.  I feel like especially after the first baby, women do get lost in motherhood and our identity as moms.  With the baby shower the first time, it is more celebrating baby than the mother, so I love that your subscription box is focused on the mother, that unique journey, and quite a bit of self-care items and just ways to celebrate.  Whether it’s baby number one or baby five, you’re still going through that transition to motherhood every time.

Absolutely.  Absolutely.  I’ve personally been through it four times over, and you continue to evolve, but I believe so strongly that the way you start off this journey will impact your journey through motherhood, and that’s really why for Rumbly, I want to start connecting with women the moment they find out they’re pregnant and really being there for them.  And being there, it means supporting through the hard times, but also celebrating the good and the milestones.  Every time you hit a new month, a new week, that’s a milestone, and we should be celebrating it because the journey is so hard.  If we can work on improving that part of the motherhood experience, then I really think that in postpartum and those early years of motherhood, we’re really going to set ourselves up for a better experience.

Exactly.  And it certainly seems like the perfect gift from family members or friends to just have a lovely reminder to take some time for yourself and focus and just have the anticipation of the next box arriving.  Are you doing a lot with gifting or showers?

Yes.  Rumbly has really two main purposes, and one is to show up monthly for women on their pregnancy journey, and that’s gift them basically a box of stuff that’s really timed to where they are in their pregnancy journey with items that are for the woman they are and the mom they’re becoming.  And that’s consistent.  In every single Rumbly box, you will find half the items for where you are today, and half the items to remind you of who you are and where you came from.  So the subscription journey is a monthly experience, and it does end at the end of your pregnancy.  And then we also offer a line of themed gift boxes that are encouraged for women to purchase on their own.  If they want just one specific box and they don’t want to commit to an entire subscription with Rumbly, but it is also the best gifting solution.  And I mean that from the bottom of my heart because so often, everything is about the baby, and again, mom is going through a tremendous amount of transition and change, and she needs stuff, too.  Rumbly is really – we love babies, but we’re not here for baby.  We’re here totally for the woman.  And when you get a gift from Rumbly, you will find items in there that are all catered to her.  And yes, you’re right, it’s a combination of self-care items.  There’s apparel.  There’s tech.  There’s books.  Beauty, wellness.  We really cross every single product category that you will find sprinkled throughout every Rumbly box.

I noticed that from your website and love it.  It’s not solely focused on the typical subscription box that might have tea and very self-care focused items, like cozy socks.  There’s much more to it.

Yeah, it’s very, very thoughtfully curated.  I spent two years before I actually launched Rumbly, just on the curation.  And it was really interesting because first when I was working on it, I sat down – what am I going to put in these boxes?  And really thinking back to my own experience and speaking to women, whoever I could speak to and what they wished they had or what they did have and they loved, and then right before launching Rumbly, I found out I was pregnant with my fourth.  So as I launched Rumbly, I really got to live through the experience myself.  That was the best kind of way I could really test out, are these products that we’re putting in these boxes the best thing that we can give for women that are really going to support, uplift, celebrate, and really make the whole experience better?

Yes.  I love it.  Obviously, it’s ideal to subscribe very early in pregnancy, but there are options if our listeners or doula clients find you later in pregnancy.  As you said, there’s the one time box, or you can join later.

Yes.  Even with the monthly subscription, you select which month you want to start at, and we’ll start shipping you boxes then.  If you don’t find out about Rumbly until you’re in your fifth month, then you start on your month five box.  There’s a lot of flexibility, and I’m working on getting it on the website, too, but if there’s any items from past boxes that you wanted to add to a box if you were starting later, you’d be able to do that.  Our first box in the subscription, our first trimester box, there’s a lot of items in there that you’ll use throughout your entire pregnancy and even after.  Some of those items, if you start on month five, one of my favorite items that we created, and this was created in-house, is a countdown flip milestone calendar.  It’s in a wooden frame.  It’s really beautiful.  It can just sit on your desk, your bedside.  I’ve seen women put it in their bathrooms.  It’s a weekly tracker of milestones, but the prompts are all about the woman.  So it’s a little bit of a twist on your classic fruits and how big is baby because this is about the woman, and it’s about her experience and what’s happening.  Things like, this week, later in pregnancy, you might be experiencing lightning crotch.  Or they may be a tip of, hey, time to consider if you want to do any maternity photos.  So it’s all about her, but it’s a weekly calendar, and that’s one of the items that is in our first trimester box, but women would use that throughout their entire pregnancy.  So if you start later, it’s a product that’s also nice to add in to a later box.

Beautiful.  Let’s chat about identity and that shift in the transition to motherhood.  What are some of your tips in trying to reclaim your pre-pregnancy self and have a bit of time where it’s not as much of the focus on baby and more about your journey and celebrating motherhood?

Yeah, there’s a lot in there.  I mean, the first thing is acknowledging that it’s happening, and there’s not enough awareness in conversation that you are going to go in as one person and you’re going to come out another.  And that’s okay, but what’s important is keeping who you are in that process.  What I mean by that is for me, I went in Marnie, and I came out Mom, but I lost Marnie in a way.  And what I hope women do is they go in as one and they gain motherhood, but they don’t lose themselves in the process.  So in terms of identity, it’s that motherhood becomes one of your multi-identities, but it’s not your only identity.  The first step is really knowing and understanding that this will happen, and other things that I think women can really do is know that you can hold space for the “and” too.  It’s that I’m Marnie and I’m a mom.  I’m Marnie, and I love to do yoga.  I’m Marnie, and I love to cook.  So holding that space for the and, I think, is also something that women can practice doing as soon as they’re pregnant because there’s a lot in pregnancy that you can’t do, but then there’s a lot that you still can do.  And it’s really important where we kind of shift our focus.  I think, too, it’s finding within those cans and can’ts and making those modifications.  You know, with my first, I heard from everyone that I can’t lift things; I can’t work out; I can’t eat certain foods.  I can’t drink coffee.  And it’s navigating what feels right for you, but also understanding, there is a lot that you can do.  If you’re passing over that cocktail, reach for the mocktail.  In terms of exercise, absolutely, women should still be doing exercise.  You may just need to modify what your routines are.  And we actually put wrist and ankle weights in one of our subscription boxes, as well, to motivate women, to inspire them to still keep moving.  It helps not just from the physical point of view with blood flow, but mentally, it’s so important.  Get fresh air; go for a walk.  That’s really a point of inspiration.  It’s about making these modifications.

A lot of change happens in our relationships, as well.  Rumbly tries to support that a bit in our subscription boxes with games and other products that really help you reconnect with your friends and partners.  We have letters in every box, as well, that kind of provide little tips, as well, to really support your relationships.  And something, too, I found I really struggled with, and I’m still struggling with, to be honest, is kind of rebonding with a lot of loved ones in my life.  There are a lot of shifts and changes in pregnancy, and I think that being really cognizant of that, too, is really, really important.

Then carving out time for yourself.  Think about what did you love to do pre-pregnancy?  Still do that.  Still do that.  Don’t lose those things.  Especially when you become a mom – I really dislike when women are like, I’m a mom and I can’t do that anymore.  You can.  You can do everything.  You can do everything.  You just have to be creative and find the ways, but you can still do it.

Such good advice.  And spanning everything from relationships to friendships to just finding that self-care time.  I agree about the exercise component.  If you’re medically able, it can make your labor much quicker and smoother, as well, having that consistent, simple exercise, as you mentioned.  Walking; I love swimming during pregnancy.

And you may discover new passions.  That’s something to embrace and look forward to, as well.  Again, we’re continuing to evolve; be open to that, too.  But make sure there are things just for you.

Exactly.  So what are your top self-care tips for our listeners?  As a busy mom and entrepreneur, how are you taking time?

The number one thing is do one thing for yourself every single day.  Something totally, totally selfish, if that’s a word you’re comfortable using.  Whether it’s going to get a coffee, whether it’s taking a moment to scroll Instagram or TikTok.  It doesn’t matter what it is.  It’s whatever, as long as it’s something that’s just for you and feels that way, even in a rebellious way.  If that’s the response to that, if it feels that way, it’s magical and amazing.  And someone gave me that advice, and I’ve really stuck to that every day.  A lot of times for me, it may just be that I have a small dinner with my kids, and afterwards, I sit alone and eat alone, and that brings me so much happiness.  I can’t tell you.

Avoiding the criticism of what self-care means is also important.  I hear a lot of women trying to tell you what self-care is and isn’t, and that’s kind of why I mentioned that if self-care to you is that you just happen to have a moment to go on your phone and scroll or whatever, that’s okay.  No one is here to tell you what is right or wrong.  It’s really whatever feels good for you, and find that one moment in a day.

The other thing that I would really recommend for all women is setting boundaries, and that’s something that I’m really working hard on now personally.  I think, again, as early as your pregnancy, start setting those boundaries to really help set you up for postpartum and the early years of motherhood.  Spend time understanding what your boundaries are, and then verbalize them so those around you know what those are.  It really helps to hold yourself accountable to it.

Great advice!  So how can our listeners find Rumbly and subscribe?  I know you’re on quite a few social media channels.  Feel free to share away!

The best way to find Rumbly is on Instagram.  We’re @rumbly_co.  It’s the same on TikTok, and you can follow us on either of those channels.  Otherwise, our website is rumbly.co.  You can also send an email.  My personal email – I’ll drop it, too, because I’m always happy to have a conversation with anyone, anything to do with pregnancy, motherhood, identity; I’m here.  It’s marnie@rumbly.co.

Love it.  I know you shared a bit about the calendar in the box.  Any other favorite items in the box for our listeners to get excited about?

I would have to say two things for that.  Our Rumbly exclusive items are probably my favorites, and I created those because they don’t exist.  They didn’t exist, and they still don’t exist, and they were things that I really felt would be really useful in my pregnancy.  One is that countdown milestone calendar.  The second would be that I have a pregnancy felt folder organizer.  It has two ultrasound photo slots in it, as well, and this is your personal PA.  It’s to hold all your papers, your pamphlets, your documents, your appointment reminders, ultrasound photos, everything, in this one chic folder, your go-to, and I absolutely love that because I found when I was pregnant and even after birth, I just was inundated with tons of papers and things to read up or even ultrasound requisitions, and they were scattered around my house.  So I absolutely love that item.  I used it in my fourth pregnancy.  Those would be my top two favorites.  The rest of the box – we hold a very limited inventory of everything in the boxes.  Currently, we’re only partners with female-founded brands across four continents, and those are typically independent brands.  So we’re not always working with big brand names because part of, I think, the delight is to discover new brands that we absolutely fell in love with and that we want to share with you.  And so we’re constantly rotating products to keep it fresh but also keep, as we discover new products on the market and new other businesses that we want to support, those are always rotating through.

What a wonderful way to support other female entrepreneurs.  My business is a certified B-Corp, so I always try to support local and support women.  So I love everything you’re doing, Marnie.

Amazing.  Thank you so much.

And thank you for your time.  I can’t wait to share Rumbly with our doula clients and our online course, Becoming A Mother, students.

Amazing.  Thank you.  It was so great to talk to you.  I really enjoyed everything.

Same.  Take care!

IMPORTANT LINKS:

Rumbly boxes

Becoming A Mother online course

Identity shifts in Motherhood with Marnie Madras of Rumbly: Podcast Episode #209 Read More »

Melissa Llarena, author and coach, holds a white coffee mug wearing a black top and beaded necklace

How to Reawaken Your Imagination with Melissa Llarena: Podcast Episode #208

Kristin Revere chats with Melissa Llarena, author of Fertile Imagination: A Guide to Stretching Every Mom’s Superpower for Maximum Impact about how to reawaken your imagination!

This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Melissa Llarena today.  Melissa is an imagination coach, consultant, seeker, contributor to Forbes Women articles, having garnered four million plus views, and the host of Unimaginable Wellness, the podcast for entrepreneurs, founders, and creators who happen to be moms.  Melissa holds a psychology degree from NYU, an MBA from Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, a Transformational Coaching Academy certificate, and is on the road to becoming a meditation practitioner.  Melissa lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and three sons.

Welcome, Melissa!

Thak you so much, Kristin!  What a mouthful, but thank you!  I think I’m an expert in tongue twisters, it seems, but thank you so much for this opportunity.

Yes, I am so happy to chat with you!  We are both fellow Hey Mama members, so it’s great to connect.  You have such an impressive background, and it seems like so many different interests.

Yes, Kristin, I would say I love a slough of things.  For me, I think being someone who has a lot of knowledge around a variety of topics has actually helped me as a fellow podcaster, to be honest, Kristin.  So it really helps with conversations and just having that rapport with anyone, including clients who come to us and share some intimate details and seek our honest opinions.  I think having that variety of experiences is so helpful for anyone that’s even curious about this space, including a mom who’s listening right now.

It is interesting that oftentimes as mothers, our career paths tend to take a few little detours and changes.  Did you want to work with and interview moms because of your own journey as a mother, or what led you to your focus on working with women, especially mothers?

It’s such an amazing question because you would think that this is like my coming out party.  Like, oh, I’m a mom.  I’ve been a mom for 12 years and in parallel, a coach and business owner.  I launched my business, actually, with my firstborn in my Ergobaby, so on my chest in midtown Manhattan, and it all began with his diaper blowout on my prospective client’s wife.

Oh, no!

Oh, no – oh, yes.  I still got the sale.

You made it work.

Oh, yeah.  Just like a mom, right?  Whatever it takes.  I think that’s such a phrase that resonates with any mom.  For me, I would say that was the beginning of a pivot because I had worked prior to that in corporate.  I was on the agency side, working at a design agency in Brooklyn, and before that, having pursued my MBA, the anticipation would have been that I would have been working for a Fortune 500 organization, which I had worked for prior.  But there was this incongruence when I was at the design agency in Brooklyn and I had just had my first son.  The incongruence was this: I was working on the car seat account, like the Graco baby car seat account, as an agency professional.  And I was not – that was the choice I had to make, and I was not being a mom to my firstborn.  So when I came back from maternity leave, the very first day, it just felt so out of sync with my heart.  It was like, this is really weird.  I’m here working on these advertising briefs and such for a brand that is supporting moms; meanwhile, I felt unsupported.  So that was a cue for me to send in my resignation letter.  This was totally pre-pandemic, pre-hybrid work opportunities.  Yeah, Zoom existed, but it was just not common in an agency sort of setting.  That was the moment that I just had to figure out what else would be more flexible.

Entrepreneurship, for me, has been more flexible, but there’s been some hiccups along the way.

So you moved across the country?  When did that happen, the move to Austin from New York?

Well, I moved even across the world.  This is the interesting bit, and I definitely share this story in the book that’s coming out, Fertile Imagination.  I remember there’s been moments, and maybe other people can relate, where you look at it like a restaurant menu, and you’re anticipating what you’re going to order when you get there.  And you spend some time making that decision.  So I remember when we were living in Connecticut, actually, and my husband then says, what if we move to Australia?  And I literally didn’t even have to think about it as long and hard as I would have for a menu item at a restaurant.  I was like, heck yeah.  And we had three little boys already.  I have identical twins in my mix.

So fun!

Yeah, fun and frazzled, I guess, is the best word to say.

We work with a lot of twins and triplets, so I don’t personally get it, but professionally, I do.

Yeah.  It’s a blast.  Every single day, you just don’t know what you’re going to get, to be honest.  I remember we had three little boys at the time, and my husband says, oh, Australia, and I was like, heck yeah.  We had just bought a home.  We had a car for maybe three years.  And it was like, okay, let’s make this move because we wanted to experience life in a different sort of way.  And so this was pre-pandemic.  We went to Australia, made it happen.  It was not because of a job.  Again, this was pure interest, and we had to work through the visa process and figure that out.  When we landed, that was when they had the wildfires, which maybe listeners are aware of, right?  You probably saw it in the US on the TV.  Australia, right?

And then after that, for another global milestone, that was the pandemic.  And that was when I wrote the book, and that was a choice I had to make because Kristin, for me, entrepreneurship was supposed to be flexibility.  And during the pandemic, I’m sure a lot of folks can attest to this.  I felt really inflexible.  It was wild.  And it was at that point, to kind of go to your earlier message, which was why did I choose moms as someone to support.  I would say during that moment, as I felt even less supported than when I had my corporate career, I just decided.  I said, what, I do have a book inside of me.  And if you’re listening and you’re wondering to yourself if you do, maybe you do.  But that was all I needed in order to say, this is the time to actually work on this book, and who do I want to support?  Like, who needs the most support?  For me, it’s moms.  It’s us.  Like, we need so much support.  We have this village for our kids, but I would argue that we need it for ourselves, as well.

Absolutely.  100%.  That’s why I pivoted my career, as well.  I was a political fundraiser before opening the doula agency and getting into birth and baby work.

I mean, yeah, what an opportunity.  As I think about that support – and I love the idea that we have doulas.  And I know that it’s not necessarily a new invention, right?  Since the beginning of time, there have been individuals helping other individuals get through this extremely tender and sensitive moment.  And I use tender in a thousand ways.  But I think it’s so beautiful to have that new sort of support, especially coming from a position of empowerment, you know?

Exactly.  There’s no perfect way to birth or parent or feed your baby, and everyone is unique.  And so our focus is judgment-free support, and I feel like moms have so much judgment, whether they go back to work, start their own business, freelance.  And certainly in their choices in schools and parenting and feeding; there’s just a lot on our shoulders.  I love the work that you’re doing, and it definitely seems to be both focused career-wise but also on the mental and emotional stability and support for women.

Absolutely, Kristin.  My background, and part of the reason why an imagination is critical, is because I was raised by a single mom with manic depression.  So for me, mental health is not like the month of May.  It’s not something that is all of a sudden has this bright light after the crisis we came out of in terms of the pandemic.  I know my mom as someone with this mental illness since birth, so for me, it’s like my podcast, right, Unimaginable Wellness.  And when I think about entrepreneurs, it really is about bubble wrapping your sanity.  This is not an option, if moms are at the front of what’s happening the next generation and the next generation.  We need so much support that it’s like – it would be horrible, immoral, not to have the sort of back up plans and back up solutions and all the resources to make sure that we can raise this next generation with a level head and clear mind and a clear conscience.  And in terms of how I think about this by way of the book, I would say that it’s really about reclaiming our power and that one super power that I firmly believe is one that every mom has is a fertile imagination.

Yes.  I love it.

Yeah.  And the reason why I’m imaginative, to go back to my mom’s mental health, is because during her manic highs, for anyone that’s familiar with manic depression, you get very – how can I describe it?  Very active, for lack of a better word, when you have mania, and you have these grandiose ideas.  So when I would see my mom have grandiose ideas about her and what she can do, that just told me, oh, there is no roof.  There is no ceiling on what I can do.  And this is me interpreting it, right, as a little girl.  But then when she would have her lows, so those depressive states, that was when I had to pick up the slack and use my imagination to do a myriad of things.  Find her at a movie theater.  Get her the help that she needed.  Negotiate with her so that we didn’t cause a scene in the street.  These are the things that really, really fine-tuned my ability to cast this huge vision of what was possible in my life.

And that’s a skill that, in my book, I would love to teach a mom because right now, I’m thinking about last year, for example.  I dropped off my kids in a school here in Austin, Texas, and there was this kind of false lockdown moment.  And for me, I thought to myself, this is the stuff that moms have to be ready for, right?

Absolutely, Melissa.  We are at all times, prepared for whatever may happen.

Ready for anything.  We’re like the Navy Seals on crack.  You know what I mean?  Yeah.  And for us, this is at the DNA level.  This is not at the surface; oh, there’s a community we have to support.  Oh, no, it’s like our heart, like our inner organs, our outside of our bodies, and we have to protect them.  And so who – what mom can’t use all the resources available to her?  And that’s again why I really point to this idea of a fertile imagination and why my book walks a mom through the process of how to wake it up, because for me and part of why I wrote the book, it was in a coma because I wasn’t sleeping very much as a newer mom.  And then you have to also play with your imagination.

So here’s the thing.  With our children, I hear this all the time.  “Your child is never going to be five years old again.”  “Your child is never going to be ten years old again.”  Well, guess what?  At those ages, our kids are ripe for imagining, for wonder, for awe.  And guess what?  As a mom, I’m never going to be 40 again, even if I lie about that age, right?

So true.

Right?  Or AI, at least the way it is being discussed right now, is never going to be as exciting in this moment, either.  So what if I have an idea?  What if I, as an entrepreneurial mom, have an idea, and it has a timestamp on it?  And what if my child is five and their imagination is ripe at the age of five?  Could you imagine if I, alongside my child, decided to play, and maybe I would stumble on a new, innovative solution for a creative problem that I’ve been trying to solve?  I mean, it’s like – it’s this missed opportunity that I feel that moms have because we might feel overwhelmed or just in the stuck of all these kid things, like kiddie toys and kid talk and all I do is talk to a child, and it’s hard because I don’t talk to an adult.  Well, why not use that opportunity to incorporate a level of playfulness that can, A, maybe lighten up your load emotionally and bring joy into your life, or B, help you come up with a new business idea.

How many ideas are brought up in a play room?  Like, you’re looking at toys all around you, and you’re saying, I think there should be a toy that looks like A or B.  Or you know what, why haven’t they thought of a way to just close up a stroller with one hand – for real?  Not pretend that you can.  Right?  So that’s the second part of the book.  So you’re waking up the imagination, and a lot of that has to do with the way that we feel about ourselves, and a little bit of it is imposter syndrome, and I share with readers my own journey around that.

The second part is playing with your imagination, so using the moment in time with your kids to come up with these ideas or just introduce joy into your life.  And then it’s about stretching your imagination.  That’s the third part.  And that’s really about almost duplicating yourself.  What mom does not want to duplicate herself?  That’d be amazing, right?

It would, yes.  All of us do.

Yes.  All of us.  All of us.  And so for stretching your imagination, what that means is that you’re enlisting the help of other people.  You’re mobilizing your network, right?  And so it might sound like a businessy, jargony phrase, but even from the perspective of a stay at home mom who’s not in the corporate world or an entrepreneur yet – and I love using that word because I feel like a lot of us should really explore that as an option –

Agreed, Melissa, for sure.

Right?  I think that it’s the way to go as far as making sure that whatever skills we have, whatever talents we have, whatever dreams we had, actually make their greatest and maximum impact.  And that’s where I stand.  I see so much beauty on a playground when I see moms look at their children.  I actually see wonder in the eyes of moms on the playground with their kids, and my mind, what I can imagine, is a situation where you’re there with your child – maybe holding their hand, maybe skipping along a path, and you’re both dreaming bigger, but at the same time, you’re respecting and honoring the fact that everybody needs support, needs love, has their moment.  Moms do not have to wait until their kids graduate high school to get started on their ambitions.  Sometimes those ambitions, as I said, do have a timestamp, and that’s part of the book.  I want to make it happen for moms.  It’s a guide.  Lots of reflection questions.  I have examples of people that I’ve interviewed on my podcast who are imaginative, and some of whom are not moms.  And I feel like there’s a place for that because it gives you a sense of what’s possible as humans.

And we all as women still have the mothering instinct, whether we’re a mother or not.  Some of my doulas are child-free, and they have the instinct within them, the same way that our doulas who are mothers do.

Absolutely.  I mean, I have an example of a client in my book who doesn’t have children, and she did the most beautiful thing for a little girl at a school where she was working.  She saw that this little girl who has different abilities couldn’t participate in a ride to school on your bike day, and then she launched a fundraiser for this little girl.  Like, are you telling me that this person is any less nurturing than someone that has a child?  No way.  I can learn from her.

Exactly, yes.  It’s still in us, whether you’re an aunt or a teacher, whatever it may be.  We all carry that instinct to nurture and grow and mother and care for others.  I love it. 

Your book basically is for anyone, as you mentioned; stay at home moms, working professionals, mothers, women in general. 

Absolutely.  And I would say this, Kristin: I’m not sure if you’re familiar with the book The Artist’s Way.  Are you?

I have not read it, but I’m quite familiar.

So I basically compare fertile imagination like The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron, but for moms who feel like they’ve lost their ability to dream big.  So it’s all about rediscovering your imagination, and the reason why I compare it to this book, for anyone that hasn’t read it, is because it’s very much so like a course in a way.  In every chapter, you’re invited to reflect on questions, do exercises, consider different perspectives.  And it’s really about handholding you throughout your life.  It’s not a book that’s meant to be just consumed immediately.  It’s really meant to be enjoyed, depending on what you need.

So I basically compare it to going into one of those woo-woo stores with crystals.  Like, when I was living in Sydney, Australia, I went into one of those stores.  It was this beautiful, rainy day.  And the person working said, hey, is there a crystal that you’re drawn to, and that’s how you choose the crystal that you purchase.  That’s exactly like the book.  The different chapters, they really share different adventures in a way, but in the beginning, it’s more like limiting beliefs and things that might stop you from dreaming very big.  So if you feel, for example, that you’ve been very indecisive and you want a solution for that, there’s a chapter for you.  If you feel like you have been like the boring parent, which I’ve been there –

Yeah, someone’s got to be the fun parent, and then you feel like, okay, I have to be the boring one, then, and keep the structure and routine.

I know, and then you’re like the bad person, right?  So if you feel like you’ve been the boring parent, well, there’s a chapter for you there, as well.  And what’s amazing is that every chapter features a podcast guest that I have had who’s exceptional in terms of their use of imagination.

For example, Beth Comstock.  She is the former CMO of General Electric.  This is a powerful, powerful woman who is inviting us to be and do weird things as a competitive edge.

And also, I would add – again, to lighten up the mood and just see what other interest might lie for you or might be right for you.  So that’s a chapter that a working mom in a corporate setting – you could take that, and you could really come up with a really amazing business idea, right?  Or if you are someone who has a child who reads books that are, like, picture books – I invited David Roberts, the New York Times bestselling illustrator of The Questioneers series that’s written by Andrea Beaty.  I invited him to share how he uses his observational skills to really imagine bigger and better.  So there’s a chapter with him inviting a mom who’s read books – I’m sure the same ones a billion times, as all of us – to see beyond what’s on the page through the lens of an illustrator.

It’s very, very much so conversational in the sense that I am vulnerable and I share my mom and entrepreneurial stories, but it’s also practical because for anyone that is curious about writing a book, there’s so much research that goes on behind the scenes.  This was a two-year journey for me during a global relocation/pandemic historical moment.  And I would say that part of the research that I notice as far as other books for moms on the market is that, okay, there’s a lot of theory out there, but what about practicality?  What about – okay, I have a unique situation.  I have two children, for example, that have different abilities, and I’m constantly schlepping between doctor appointments, et cetera.  And I have children that maybe don’t need that sort of support.  Like, how can I bring this idea, this big idea of a fertile imagination, to my life?  And so that was important to me.  I wanted flexibility in terms of how these concepts could be adjusted to a mom, and I completely know and am confident that any mom reading the book can make the adjustments based on her reality.

Beautiful.  We need actionable steps versus feeling overwhelmed by some of the books, the self-help, business-focused options where you walk away and say, well, that’s not me.  I can’t really make this happen in my life. 

Absolutely, and I think what’s important, too, and as I was sharing the book with other moms who actually write books, as well – what’s important too is that some of this does read like my own personal diary.  And I was like, oh, wow, people really want to read my diary?  How weird is that.  But apparently, there’s an interest for what we’re actually thinking versus the way we present ourselves to the world.  So if I’m having a conversation with, like, someone who is powerful – like, Suzy Batiz is in the book.  She’s the inventor of Poo-Pourri.

Big brand, right?

Huge brand.  During that conversation, I could have just given the world this idea that, oh, I’m just hanging out with multimillionaires and I’m fancy-schmancy.  But I actually reveal in the book that it was a 2:00 a.m. conversation for me because I was in Australia.  I had to write questions that were so clear that I just could not go off script because I didn’t trust myself at that hour of the day without sleep, and I was so intimidated, you know what I mean?  Like, these are the things that a lot of moms, especially anyone that suffers with imposter syndrome, for example, might be struggling with and you’ll never know.  Like, you’ll never hear this, but I wanted to really share the reality of what I’ve experienced.  And I also wanted to show moms that, although some of these things may have not been “originally intended” for moms, so some of these adventures that I’ve gone on, for example, getting Gary Vaynerchuk on my podcast was not a walk in the park.  It took 100 days, and I wrote 67,000 words in total in order to get his attention.  But I wanted to show moms that if it’s something that’s on your heart – like, if there’s something that you really, really want, that there’s a way for you to explore the opportunity while, again, being mindful of your sanity and what you’re family needs and not having the guilt of, like, oh, I’m ignoring my kids, or I’m not a doting mom.  No, how about your kids are watching you fall down and stand back up?  Your kids are watching you do things that other people have not asked you to do, so take the initiative, and in that way, they’re learning from us, and not just because we’re telling them things, which I think we know that they learn more from what they see as opposed to what they hear.

Absolutely.  So your book is coming out this fall, and tell us about how to get on the preorder list or where it will be as far as online and in store options.

Absolutely, Kristin.  At fertileideas.com, you have the opportunity to do a myriad of things.  I actually created a five-day challenge on my website that gives anyone the opportunity, whether you’ve read the book or not.  It’s totally free.  You can actually go through a real-life implementation of the concepts that I talk about in the book.  So this concept of leveraging your child’s imagination, coming up with a business idea, playing with your child – you can go to the website and actually go through a five-day challenge alongside your kid.

At the end of the challenge, which is so much fun, and I know I’m super nerdy – you can actually print out a certificate of completion because your kids are imagination experts in residence.  And I think that we need to really celebrate.

There’s also for free for anyone that’s an entrepreneur mom – you’re able to actually take a quiz, and on that quiz, you’re going to have a very clear area of focus on why you might be stagnant in your business and income.  It’s really designed for moms that want a surge of energy in terms of both of their roles, as a mom and entrepreneur.  So there’s two options, totally free.  Take the quiz; do the five day challenge.  You can buy the book on the same website.  It’s going to be available October 31st.  Oh, my goodness.  I’m so excited!

So soon!  Yay, that’s amazing.  And of course, our listeners and doula clients can find you on your podcast, the Unimaginable Wellness podcast.  You’re on all podcast players, and I know you have quite an active social media presence.  Where else can our listeners find you?

I would love to hear from anyone who’s listening right now on Instagram: @melissallarena.  Send me a DM with the word “doula.”  I would love to know that you caught this conversation.  Kristin has been so amazing.  I am so grateful for this.

Well, I’m grateful for you, Melissa!  You also are a coach, so if our listeners are interested in working with you personally, do you prefer that they reach out on your website or Instagram?

Either way, I’m available because hey, why not be creative about it, right?  We’re using our imaginations.  Smoke signals; that works, too.

I love it.  Message in a bottle; whatever works.

Absolutely.  I think right now the idea is that anyone that’s listening to the conversation – I mean, you have resources available to you.  I can be a resource.  If you do the quiz, you’ll be invited for a breakthrough session with me that’s complimentary.  So there’s all these ways of us engaging and me helping you really strengthen and super power your fertile imagination, too.

Beautiful.  Any final tips for our listeners, Melissa?

I would say here’s two tips.  One is the following.  I know as a new mom, the need for reassurance is such a big part of it, and there’s been so many moms who have been powerful in other realms of their life, but for some reason, when you become a mom, there’s this, like, am I doing it right, you know?  For every step of the way.  And what I want to say to anyone that’s listening is, your heart – follow what’s on your heart.  Like, really, really.  For me, as with the book journey, too, like, it was a very intuitive process.  I was just really keying into what I wanted and what I felt when I saw what I wanted.  So same with anyone that’s listening.  If you are unsure what your baby might need or what you might need, at least give yourself the opportunity to be still and just really feel into your body and see what it’s trying to tell you, and I think that’s part of the medication practitioner coming out in me.  But that’s the biggest tip.

I love it.  Excellent advice.  Well, thank you so much for all of your time and sharing your talents.  I am so excited to read your book!  Hopefully we can talk again soon, Melissa.

Thank you so much, Kristin.  Absolutely.  This has been such a pleasure.

IMPORTANT LINKS

Fertile Ideas – buy the book!

Melissa Llarena’s website

Becoming a Mother course

 

How to Reawaken Your Imagination with Melissa Llarena: Podcast Episode #208 Read More »

Alyssa and Kristin from Gold Coast Doulas holding babies in a nursery

How To Get The Moolah to Pay for Your Birth or Postpartum Doula: Podcast Episode #207

Kristin Revere of Gold Coast Doulas chats about how to get the funds to pay for your birth or postpartum doula.  This includes insurance, gifting support, payment plans, packages, and more.

This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and this is part two of our solo chat with me.  Our topic today is based on an old blog post I wrote when I was a solo doula, titled How To Get the Moolah To Pay For Your Doula.  So it’s all about affording your birth and/or postpartum doula.  So let’s chat!

Flex savings, HSA, & Medicaid

Doulas have been part of most health savings and flex spending plans for a bit now, and that is super exciting.  We’re even approved to take HSA cards.  Now, those plans, depending on each unique one, may need to be itemized; may sometimes need doctor approval, especially if it’s a flex spending, and often covers not only birth doula support, but often day or overnight postpartum care.  Now, as of this recording in 2023, standard insurance does not cover doulas.  But certain states do have Medicaid coverage, Michigan being one of those as of January 2023.  Now, at Gold Coast, we don’t personally accept Medicaid at this time.  We did a whole podcast on that in the past, and we’ll link to that episode if you scroll down to the bottom under Links.  If you want to learn more about Medicaid coverage in Michigan or Oregon or New York or other states that do cover it, listen to that podcast.

Gifting

We’re finding more and more gifting of services, especially after the pandemic.  You can add doula support to your baby registry and have links to the doula groups or individual doulas or agencies like Gold Coast that you would like to work with.  You can also work with sites like Be Her Village that has their own registry service, not only for doulas, but other professionals that do support families after baby is born and during pregnancy.  We are partnered with Be Her Village, and you can find all of our services on their website.  I also happen to be set up in an in-store baby registry through our local baby store in Holland, Michigan, called EcoBuns Babies.  They’ve added us to their virtual and in-store registry.  It makes it so much easier.  Instead of getting all the stuff and baby items, why not get the support you need, especially with a postpartum doula?

Payment Plans

Many doulas also offer payment plans.  You can look into making a deposit and then see what their terms are for final payment for postpartum support.  If a client wants to reserve a particular doula or a team of our overnight doulas, for example, then they would put a deposit down and then pay another final payment before the first shift begins, and then after their block of hours that they choose, then they’re able to add on week to week and get invoiced weekly as needed.  That’s certainly another option.

We certainly also encounter clients who want to use their credit card to get points, so that’s an option.  We take checks and other payment methods besides an HSA or a credit card.  And we do believe in supporting other businesses and shopping local, so we hope that you find a lot of local resources when you’re making your baby registry and choose local stores.  Choose local service-based businesses like Gold Coast and other doula groups and lactation consultants, so as you’re planning for birth and baby, think local.

Packaged Rates

Many doulas and other birth and baby professionals offer packaged rates.  So, for example, at Gold Coast, if you purchase our HypnoBirthing class and hire a birth doula within Gold Coast, then you get a discount.  We give $30 off as of this recording, and we also have packages where the more hours of day or overnight postpartum support that you purchase, you get a lower hourly rate.  There may be discounts for other particular categories.  For us, we have a military discount for birth and postpartum support.  We also offer a discount for repeats clients.  As our rates raise, we want it to be as affordable for them and we value that long-term connection.

Special Discounts

I think this is pretty unique to Gold Coast, but we also offer a postpartum and mood disorder discount for any clients who are suffering and really need that postpartum doula support, or for clients who are in therapy in general, we give $2 off per hour.  So there may be discount plans or packages, or you might be able to make multiple payments to afford your doula.

So just thinking about planning for birth and baby, again in that way that you would for a wedding or building a home or moving into a new home and redecorating, what is important to you?  What’s your budget?  How are you going to pay for it?  When are payments due as you’re breaking down your household budget?  Certainly, there is so much evidence that doula support ensures your satisfaction, even if there are interventions.  It can reduce interventions, reduce the rate of Cesareans, which then could reduce your medical bills if you’re having fewer interventions, based on the insurance you carry.  And then another thing to think of is getting more sleep and how that can affect your mental health with a postpartum doula or a newborn care specialist.  It’s definitely worth the investment to have support versus all the things.

Doulas added to benefit plans

Other ways to pay for your birth or postpartum doula: a lot of companies are now adding doulas to their benefits, which I love.  We had worked with some individual companies in our areas that have self-funded insurance plans over the years, and we can link to an article about CVS Health that Gold Coast Doulas was fortunate to be part of through the publication The Lily, and it will give you more insight into that.  Many companies have added doulas to their benefits, along with Pioneer Construction here in West Michigan who we partnered with.

Some examples of companies are Target, Walmart, PNC Bank most recently.  A lot of tech companies have added doulas to their benefits.  Sales Force, LinkedIn.  There’s also a new fertility benefit called Carrot Fertility, and they offer different incentives for birth and postpartum doulas and include that in company benefit packages.  It would be helpful to check with your employer and see if doulas are part of your benefits, and if not, talk to human resources and see if they would be willing to add to the plan or consider Carrot Fertility.  Depending again on the benefit package, some benefits are only for birth doulas.  Other are for birth and/or postpartum support.  I’ve had clients work with Gold Coast and choose to utilize their funds for one service or the other or a mix of both and then self-pay for any funds that aren’t covered.

There are a lot of options compared to when I had my own babies.  We’ll see if general insurance down the road does decide to cover doulas.  There are some nonprofits and community based programs that also would cover doula benefits, and if they’re grant funded, then maybe a certain portion.  Some doulas work in sliding scale plans, so based on income, they may have a reduced rate for birth or postpartum support.  You can certainly look into all of those options as you’re trying to budget for birth and baby.  But let me tell you, having hired doulas myself before becoming a doula, the investment is worth it, and my husband would certainly agree.

Doulas are worth the investment!

I’d love to hear ideas for you if there was any other way outside of baby shower or gifting or payment plants or packages, how you afforded your birth or postpartum doula.  Or if you’re a doula yourself and have a different plan than we do at Gold Coast, reach out to us and let us know what you’re doing.  I’m always interested to hear about other options because we know that it is a big investment and that money is tight, but it’s very valuable, especially in my opinion, that newborn care and that postpartum support and getting sleep.  Even one good night of sleep can change your life.  So reach out to us!  You can find us on Facebook and Instagram.  We have an amazing Pinterest channel.  Find us on YouTube.  We’re pretty much everywhere, so reach out and we’d love to hear from you soon about how you plan to budget and pay for your doula.

Take good care!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Medicaid for Doulas

Be Her Village

EcoBuns Baby + Co

Becoming a Mother course

CVS Covers Doulas

Carrot Fertility

Gold Coast is on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube.

How To Get The Moolah to Pay for Your Birth or Postpartum Doula: Podcast Episode #207 Read More »

Emma Bromley of Bromley Method wearing a white tank top and camo pants with white walls

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

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

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

Thank you, and thank you for that great introduction!

I am very excited to chat about the pelvic floor.

It’s one of my favorite subjects!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah, it’s great.  I love it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It is.

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

There’s so much pressure.

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

And for prepping your body for future babies?

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

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

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

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

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

Obviously, join your program.

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

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

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

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

IMPORTANT LINKS:

Emma Bromley and the Bromley Method

The Pelvic Floor book

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

Freebies from Emma: Pelvic Floor 101 , Too Tight

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

Katie Bersch, a birth doula, of Gold Coast Doulas with a floral top and purple wall

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

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

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

Hi.  Thank you!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For sure.  What’s next?

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

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

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

Exactly.  What’s next, Katie?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For sure!

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

It is a great workout!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next, Katie?

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

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

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

We actually donated three to Trinity Health.

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What other tools do you have?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks so much, Katie!

Thanks for having me!

IMPORTANT LINKS:

Katie’s bio

Comfort Measures for Labor class from Gold Coast Doulas

Birth doula support from Gold Coast Doulas

HypnoBirthing class from Gold Coast Doulas

Spinning Babies

CUB Stool

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

Jenni Froment of VBAC Academy wearing a floral top with striped rug and white lamp in the background

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Makes sense.

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

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

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

Kristin:  That was a lot!  You are amazing.

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

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

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

Kristin:  That is cool!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:   It’s all about having options.

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

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

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

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

Jenni:  Great.  I love to hear that.

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

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

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

Jenni:  You’re welcome.

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

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

Kristin:  For sure.  Take care!

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

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

Dr. Annie Bishop wearing a black tank top and jeans giving a chiropractic adjustment to a little girl with a yellow flower, white shirt, and navy blue shorts

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Yeah, it’s been a while!

Dr. Annie:  It has.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Annie:  Yes, a whole lifetime ago!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Same, yeah.

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

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

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

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

Dr. Annie:  Diapers are expensive, yeah.

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

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

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

Dr. Annie:  So cool, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Annie:  Those are good people, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victoria Facelli IBCLC and author wearing a red dress with a yellow background surrounded by baby bottles, formula, and breast pumping parts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Yes.

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

Kristin:  Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Love it!  So talented.

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

Kristin:  Yeah, that’s a long labor.

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

Kristin:  Exactly.  100%.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Right, so true.

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  No.

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

Kristin:  Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victoria:  It’s very overwhelming.

Kristin:  The information doesn’t align.

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

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

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

Kristin:   Absolutely, Victoria.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  It does, yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Victoria:  So great to talk to you!  Take care.

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

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

Kristin in black and Alyssa in teal sitting on swings with splatter painted background that states "Live Colorfully"

It’s Our 200th Podcast Episode!

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

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

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

Alyssa:  Hey!  That’s wild.  200.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alyssa:  Yeah, way to go!

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

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

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

Alyssa:  Right.

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

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

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

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

Kristin:   Yeah, it is.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alyssa:  Right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Exactly.

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

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

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

Kristin:  Exactly.

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

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

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

Kristin:  Thanks for your support!  Take care!

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

It’s Our 200th Podcast Episode! Read More »

Amanda Koch wearing a teal jacket with a purple knit hat standing in snow

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

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

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

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

Amanda:  Thank you so much for having me today!

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

Amanda:  Let’s do it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  That’s young.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Makes perfect sense.

Amanda:  Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melissa Mor sitting in a pink chair holding a book wearing black pants and black high heels, a white top, and a lime green blazer while reading a book

The Rising Popularity of Push Presents: Podcast Episode #198

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

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

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

Melissa:  Thank you.

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Oh, I love that!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melissa:  Yeah.

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

Melissa:  That’s so special.

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

Melissa:  Sure.

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Yes!

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

Kristin:  That makes sense, yep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Your body just needed that.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melissa:  Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melissa:  Thank you for having me.

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

The Rising Popularity of Push Presents: Podcast Episode #198 Read More »

Lisa Newhouse of Gold Coast Doulas wearing a brown blouse with a purple background

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

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

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

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

Lisa:  Thank you!  Thank you for having me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa:  Yes, practical use.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa:  You’re welcome.  Thank you.

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

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

Lisa Newhouse of Gold Coast Doulas wearing a brown blouse with a purple background headshot

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

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

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

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

Lisa:  Hi!  How are you today?

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

Lisa:  Yeah!

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

Lisa:  Right.  For sure.

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

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

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

Lisa:  Oh yeah, for sure.

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

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

Kristin:  Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Love it.  So helpful.

Lisa:  It can be very helpful.

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

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

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

Lisa:  Absolutely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Right.  It sticks when you hear it.

Lisa:  It really sticks, yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Burns wearing a red sweater dress sitting in a chair

Holistic Fertility with Dr. Burns: Podcast Episode #195

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Burns:  It’s a pleasure.

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Thanks:  Take care, Dr. Burns.

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

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

Holistic Fertility with Dr. Burns: Podcast Episode #195 Read More »

Rachel Meakins posing in a pink ruffle top against a white wall

Fair Play with Rachel Meakins: Podcast Episode #194

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Definitely.

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

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

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

Kristin:  That makes sense.

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  I bet.  I need to try this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rachel:  Thank you, Kristin!

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

Fair Play with Rachel Meakins: Podcast Episode #194 Read More »

Joel Austin of Daddy University poses with his arms crossed against a blue background wearing a black suit, blue dress shirt, and purple pocket square

Supporting the Father: Podcast Episode #193

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Much different than our nesting.

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

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

Joel:  You have to do the balance.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  I’d love to see it!

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

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

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

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

Joel:  Have a great day!

Kristin:  You too!

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

Supporting the Father: Podcast Episode #193 Read More »

Dr. Payal Adhikari posing against a white background wearing a white blouse and black blazer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  So how can our listeners find Evivo?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Adhikari:  Sounds great!

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

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

Jackie from Gold Coast Doulas poses with your husband and two kids

Sleep Training Misconceptions: Podcast Episode #191

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Exactly.

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  What is that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jackie:  Yep, yep.  Exactly.

Kristin:  Vacations can also be challenging.

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

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

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

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

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

Sleep Training Misconceptions: Podcast Episode #191 Read More »

Laura Fletcher poses with her arms crossed wearing a white blouse and brown blazer against a white wall

Balancing Life and Fertility Treatments: Podcast Episode #190

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Oh, absolutely.  Yes.

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

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

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

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

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