What did you do before you became a doula/consultant?
I had a 20+ year career as an Occupational Therapist. Much of my career as a therapist, was at Mary Free Bed Hospital working in the wheelchair and custom seating department. Approximately 7 years ago, I completed my master’s degree and became an academic advisor. I worked at Aquinas College and Grand Valley State University until the initial months of Covid. At which time, I resigned due to family needs.
What inspired you to become a doula/consultant?
I have always enjoyed professions that allow me to help others. I knew I wanted to do something that would feed my soul a little more, and I also knew that I had a desire to be involved with helping women and children. The doula profession has been on my radar for a while now and the time seemed right to go with my heart and pursue this career.
Tell us about your family.
I have a blended family that consists of four children from my husband’s previous relationship, two children from my previous relationship and one child together. All our children, with the exception of the youngest (15 y/o), are adults and most have families of their own.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
My husband and I love to travel and have many favorite spots! I would say that we enjoy traveling internationally and South Africa was one of our favorite trips.
Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
I really enjoy music, particularly live music, and I find it hard to name who would be my top 5. I can say that I have three artists that I have seen live a few times and every time it has been so fun! The first artist is U2, that I have seen two times. What I love the most about U2 is how they always fill me with hope. A couple other artists that I have seen a couple times is OAR and Michael Franti. I have seen both of them at Meijer Gardens and both artists put on a fabulous show!
What is the best advice you have given to new families?
To always lead with love. At the end of the day, we all make mistakes or can think of something we wished we would have done differently, but I firmly believe that it is always going to be ok if you lead with love.
What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?
I am not completely sure, but I think it would be my ability to anticipate what someone needs in the moment. I have always been good at reading or sensing when someone needs something and responding appropriately.
What is your favorite food?
I am a real foodie! I like just about anything that is local and fresh. However, I do have a real love for ethnic flavors and in particular Mediterranean.
What is your favorite place on West Michigan Gold Coast?
I have two favorite places on the west coast. Saugatuck holds a very special place in my heart because my husband and I were married there! We also love Petoskey, not only is it beautiful, but we have an annual camping trip with friends there every Labor Day. So, we have wonderful memories in both spots!
What are you reading now?
I am a voracious reader! I typically have a stack of 3-4 books at any given time that I am reading. I am in two book clubs, one that primarily focuses on non-fiction and the other fiction. The last couple of books I just read was Brene Browns Atlas of the Heart, love her so much and everything she writes! I also, just read The Sentence by Louise Erdrich.
Who are your role models?
I have always admired and tried to emulate women who have weathered the storms and did what needed to be done. I believe there is nothing more formidable than a woman who is doing what is right and necessary for those she loves.
Stem cells are special human cells that have the potential to become many different types of cells, such as brain cells, muscles cells, and more. These cells have the potential to treat, or even sometimes reverse diseases that have left patients of the past without effective options. Umbilical cord blood banking provides potential treatments for many of the medical conditions we hope our children and family members never have to suffer through.
What is Cord Blood Banking?
Cord blood banking refers to the freezing and storage of umbilical cord blood and tissues. In the time leading up to delivery, there is a transfer of powerful stem cells and other immune-boosting cells between the mother and fetus. These cells remain in the blood and are often discarded with the umbilical cord and placenta.
Cord blood and tissue banking involve collecting the blood and tissues that contain these cells and freezing them for a later date, when they may be used to treat a variety of illnesses that were previously thought to be difficult to treat or incurable.
Did you know? Umbilical cord blood banking is OB, Midwife, and Doula recommended!
Types of Stem Cells Obtained from Cord and Tissue Banking
There are two main types of stem cells acquired during cord blood and tissue banking: hematopoietic stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells.
Hematopoietic Stem Cells
Hematopoietic stem cells are obtained through umbilical cord blood banking and are approved by the FDA to treat a variety of illnesses, including blood disorders (e.g. sickle cell anemia), immune disorders (e.g. multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis), and cancer (e.g. lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma). There are also over 1000 ongoing clinical trials examining other use cases.
Mesenchymal Stem Cells
Mesenchymal stem cells are found in the umbilical cord tissue, placenta, and bone marrow. They are powerful stem cells used to treat a variety of chronic and progressive medical conditions, including lung disease, Autism, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, and hair loss.
Public vs. Private Cord Blood Banking
While you have the option of receiving cord blood or tissue from a donor via a public cord blood bank, serious side effects may occur. There is a high risk of incompatibility, which may result in a range of significant acute or chronic symptoms.
Since the body is meant to attack foreign bodies it sees as dangerous, a condition called graft- versus-host disease may develop as a result of a stem cell transplant from a donor. This occurs when donor stem cells see the transplant as an immune system invasion. The body rejects the healthy new stem cells, leading to harmful symptoms and sometimes death.
By using stem cells you’ve privately banked that are at least a partial match, you greatly reduce the risk of developing such complications. When banking your cord blood and tissue for future personal use, the cells are always a match for who they came from. They may safely be used as a treatment for family members as well.
Siblings have a 75% chance of being a match, while parents are always a 50% match for their children. Extended family, such as aunts and uncles, also have a probable chance of being a partial match, which could have a significant impact, should they need treatment.
How Can Recipients Benefit From Private Cord Blood Banking?
Significant improvements have been observed in medical conditions with the help of stem cells. These improvements include but are not limited to:
● Reversing Type 1 Diabetes
● Significantly improving symptoms of Crohn’s disease
● Improving motor function in children with cerebral palsy
● Promoting CAR T-cell therapy, an immunotherapeutic cancer treatment
● Aiding in heart failure treatment
● Showing protective effects on hair loss
How To Store Your Cord Blood and Tissue Stem Cells
To bank your baby’s umbilical cord blood, cord tissue, or placenta, order a collection kit before your due date. Store the kit at room temperature and bring it with you to the hospital. When you arrive at Labor & Delivery, tell the admitting nurse that you plan to collect your stem cells. Before birth, tell your healthcare provider that you have the kit ready for collection.
Your collection kit from Anja Health has everything you need and their stem cell banking experts will help guide you through the process.
Use the discount code GOLD to receive 90% off the price of your collection kit!
After the birth of your child, the team at Anja Health will collect your kit from the hospital and take care of everything, including viability testing, optimization, and cryogenic storage in their AABB-accredited, FDA-approved lab in New Jersey.
If the time comes, you’ll be glad to know you have the stem cells to help your child or other members of your family when they’re in need!
We have been listening to our clients and trusted health practitioners, and we are expanding our day and overnight postpartum and sleep consulting services to Northern Michigan and Southwest Michigan starting in April of 2022. Michigan postpartum doula services and support will expand along the Gold Coast of Michigan, covering 300 miles of the western shoreline.
Gold Coast Doulas is proud to announce that we will serve beach towns from Niles in the Southwest to Harbor Springs in Northern Michigan. Our doula agency is focused on exceptional service and support for families. We are currently looking for exceptional postpartum doulas who reside in Southwest and Northern Michigan.
In a recent article from Petoskey News, the Charlevoix Area Chamber of Commerce President comment “Adding to any health services in the area is beneficial for our residents, and helps our region be somewhere you can truly live, work and play year-round.”
Northern Michigan postpartum doula lakeshore cities covered in the expansion include: Bay Harbor, Harbor Springs, Charlevoix, Cadillac, Suttons Bay, Petoskey, Traverse City, Frankfort, Manistee, Ludington, Silver Lake, and Pentwater.
Southwest Michigan postpartum doula lakeshore cities include: South Haven, Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Stevensville, Lakeside, Coloma, Union Pier, Sawyer, Three Rivers, New Buffalo, and Niles.
Gold Coast Doulas has always had the intention of expanding and have been deliberate in our expansion plan. In Northern and Southwest Michigan, Gold Coast Doulas will focus on providing postpartum services like feeding, sibling care, household tasks like light housekeeping, meal preparation, and running errors. The primary focus in these lakeshore cities is on day and overnight postpartum doula services and sleep support. Gold Coast Doulas will continue to offer birth services, lactation, and classes to our West Michigan clients.
If you are interested in partnering with us or becoming a day and overnight postpartum doula, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Preeclampsia is a prenatal and postpartum condition that is hallmarked by gestational hypertension and the presence of protein in the urine. It occurs in approximately 5-8% of pregnant women and can be life-threatening. Women who have had preeclampsia with a previous pregnancy are at a higher risk of developing it again.
The symptoms of preeclampsia can be varied and confusing. Edema (specifically pitting in the ankles), sudden weight gain, headaches or vision changes are all common complaints amongst patients with this condition, but presentation varies on the underlying cause.
Research has shown that nutritional deficiencies may play a role.  There have been several studies linking different nutritional deficiencies with an increased risk of developing gestational hypertension and preeclampsia. In this article I will address the individual nutrients linked in these studies, as well as nutritional principles to get you started.
NUTRIENT DEFICIENCIES ASSOCIATED WITH AN INCREASED RISK OF PREECLAMPSIA
Magnesium: Magnesium is essential for the proper development of the placenta from mid first trimester on. We see significantly lower levels of magnesium in preeclamptic patients.  Not only is Magnesium necessary for many of the other nutrients, like Calcium, Sodium and Potassium, to function properly, it is also necessary for the hormone receptors to accept certain hormones. Without proper levels of Magnesium, sodium and calcium build up in the blood causing increased blood pressure and increasing the risk of preeclampsia. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant, and deficiency can cause tightening of the blood vessels. The demand for magnesium grows exponentially from 28 weeks of gestation through childbirth.
Calcium: Calcium supplementation in pregnancies at a higher risk for preeclampsia has been shown to reduce the risk of hypertension and preeclampsia  as well as reduce the maternal mortality risk due to preeclampsia. Calcium supplementation help prevent dysfunction in the placenta by affecting Nitric Oxide Pathways.  Calcium also interplays with a other nutrients associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia, Vitamin D/K/Magnesium.
Zinc: Zinc is an important mineral for hormone development and immune support. It is one of the most essential minerals for pregnancy. Deficiencies are associated with an increased risk of miscarriage, birth defects, and stillbirths. Too much copper or iron can deplete zinc (there is a tricky balance), it is also necessary for proper B6 absorption. Zinc is the catalyst for the millions of enzymatic reactions that are occurring as your baby develops. It is also necessary in protein synthesis (protein is what your oxytocin is going to be made from). Zinc plays a role in the formation of red blood cells, and deficiency can lead to anemia. All things associated with preeclampsia. A 2015 study found lower zinc levels in preeclamptic mothers. 
Manganese: A new study, published in 2020, may possibly be bridging the gap among manganese deficiency, oxidative stress, and preeclampsia risk. This study was led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The analysis found significantly lower levels of manganese in early pregnancy increased the likelihood of the development of both gestational hypertension and preeclampsia.  This is the first paper linking manganese to preeclampsia. Manganese makes up a very important enzyme called superoxide dismutase that helps to reduce inflammation in the placenta.
Vitamin D: Vitamin D is a hormone. It is formed from cholesterol in the diet which interacts with the UVB rays to create Vitamin D. It is a fat soluble vitamin in the diet, and there MUST be a fat present for absorption. We do know that Vitamin D plays a significant role in the regulation of the hormones of our body. The role of Vitamin D in hypertension is still not fully understood, but we know there is a connection between low Vitamin D preeclampsia. There is an interesting correlation between winter pregnancies (lack of sunlight) and preeclampsia rates. Vitamin D is necessary in the formation of several enzymes produced by the placenta, which are missing in preeclampsia. Vitamin D is necessary for Calcium and Phosphorus to function. Supplementing with Vitamin D is associated with a decrease in preeclampsia risk.  Vitamin D and K work together, and in combination with Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium. Without vitamin K, these nutrients cannot work together correctly.
COQ10: A 2003 study found a marked decrease in CoQ10 in women with preeclampsia.  The theory is that increasing oxidative stress “consumes” the CoQ10, decreasing mitochondrial function. Interestingly, this difference is more prominent in women living at altitude than women living at sea level,  and with age.
Folate/B12: Homocysteine is a byproduct of the methionine cycle. This is cycle is the “methylation” cycle and is dependent on folate and B12.  Homocysteine increases cardiovascular inflammation, and the decrease in proper methylation affects the stability of the placental cells and their function.
The idea that diet influences the onset of hypertension and preeclampsia is a huge component of the functional medicine approach to chronic disease. Bear in mind that the development of the blood vessels between the placenta and the uterus begin early in gestation. In prevention, it is important to begin proper nutrition prior to conception. This doesn’t mean that it cannot develop later, or that severity in symptoms cannot be prevented during gestation. The placenta is growing for several months, as your baby develops, and at any point proper nutrition can be used to grow these blood vessels properly, create healthy blood flow, and relax tense blood vessels and stabilize placental function, all to lower hypertension and preeclampsia risk.
Here are my top guidelines for preventing preeclampsia through diet.
REDUCE PRESERVATIVE SODIUM: Research shows that once you have come into a hypertensive state, you are more sensitive to sodium and will react stronger than you would out of the hypertensive state. Typically, because there is an imbalance in the sodium levels in the cells and out of the cells (in the blood). This imbalance causes a strain on the blood vessels and increases blood pressure. Preservative sodium is different than sea salt sodium, or table salt. This synthetic form of sodium is more difficult for Magnesium to transport and becomes built up in the blood more quickly. Learn to read the labels. Synthetic preservative sodium is found in most packaged products.
REDUCE EXCESSIVE AND ADDED SUGARS: In a natural and balanced diet, our body needs sugars. Fructose is a fuel for the brain, and Glucose is a fuel for every cell in our body. But in excess, or not properly balance, these fuels become toxins. In our society, we consume excessive amounts or processed and packaged foods that are full of refined flours and sugars, and typically lead very sedentary lives. These inactive lives and diets rich in unused fuels causes excessive weight gain, hormone disruptions, and internal damage. Stick to natural sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup, and fruits and fruit juices when needing to sweeten a recipe. If you are craving sugar, it could mean that you are not consuming enough vitamins and minerals, or you are not balancing with enough fat. When your cells are malnourished, you will crave sugar.
LEARN TO LOVE FAT: Many nutritional fats work as anti-inflammatories in the body. Without a proper level of good fats in our bodies, our hormones cannot function (Our hormones are made from fats!), our brain slows down (over 60% fat), our nerves become hypersensitive to stimuli, and our cells become weak. During pregnancy fats and cholesterols are even more important. They are the building blocks of the hormones that sustain pregnancy.
TASTE THE RAINBOW, AND I DON’T MEAN SKITTLES: What I mean is embrace the rainbow of colors found in fruits and vegetables. Foods that are rich in color are also rich in nutrition. They are also higher in antioxidants. Greens, Reds, Yellows, Blues, Purples, all of these colors are associated with nutrients and antioxidants.
SPICE IT UP: Use herbs to flavor your meals. There is such an amazing array of herbs out there that not only add vibrancy to our meals, but are packed with nutrients, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory phytochemicals. Garlic, Ginger, Turmeric, Parsley, Cilantro, Oregano, Lemongrass, Curry, Fennel, Dill, Mint, the possibilities are endless. Stimulate your body and your brain with these intense flavors, not added sugar. Many of these herbs are also important sources of pregnancy important nutrients (parsley – Vitamin K), others are specifically known to help treat hypertension (Basil, Cinnamon, Garlic, Ginger, Parsley, Dandelion)
CHOOSE QUALITY NOT QUANTITY: The adage of eating for two is a misnomer. The baby growing inside you, at the most, needs 300 extra calories a day at its biggest. What we do need is more nutrients that sustain the health of your body…not calories. Excessive meals are hard on the system and put strain on the body. Often those consuming poor diets, or nutrient deficient diets, find themselves craving more food, even though they are eating large amounts of calories (well over what they need). This is because the foods they are consuming are nutrient deplete but high in carbohydrates and sugars, and the cells are actually STARVING for nutrition. Choose nutrient dense foods and smaller amounts over large amounts of poor-quality foods. You’ll be surprised at how much your food cravings and excessive hunger go away when your cells are getting the correct amount of nutrients.
STAY HYDRATED: Water makes up the majority of our body (80+%). It is a cooling, and lubricating mechanism. When we are deficient the body can heat up and dry out, causing friction and inflammation. Dehydration also causes an increase in pain perception, and reduction in blood flow to the brain. Over time, chronic dehydration can affect the neurotransmitters of the brain. Even mild dehydration can affect your mood, causing mood swings and depression. During pregnancy, your body is making and filtering amniotic fluid, which is a combination of water Vitamin C, E, and other electrolytes. You need to consume enough for your needs, the amniotic fluid, and your developing baby. The old adage of eating for two, should really be drinking for two, which would be more accurate. A little drink to absorbing more and peeing less…. add fruit, lemon, trace minerals, etc.…to your water. Tap water is lacking in naturally occurring minerals, they are removed during filtering, and processing. Traditional peoples didn’t carry around and fill 32 oz water bottles 2-4x per day…they didn’t have to, the water they drank was more nutritional with little bits of soil and debris which aided in absorption.
Sarah Thompson founded Sacred Vessel Acupuncture in 2012, after years of working alongside western medicine physicians. Sarah has dedicated her practice to those with complicated conditions, and those seeking to improve their health.
She brings over 20 years of experience working directly with medical doctors in the fields of Pain Management, Obstetrics & Gynecology, and advanced studies in both Acupuncture and Functional Medicine.
1. Grum T, Hintsa S, Hagos G. Dietary factors associated with preeclampsia or eclampsia among women in delivery care services in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: a case control study. BMC Res Notes. 2018;11(1):683. Published 2018 Oct 1. doi:10.1186/s13104-018-3793-8
2. Kharb S, Goel K, Bhardwaj J, Nanda S. Role of magnesium in preeclampsia. Biomed Biotechnol Res J 2018;2:178-80
3. Hofmeyr GJ, Lawrie TA, Atallah AN, Duley L, Torloni MR. Calcium supplementation during pregnancy for preventing hypertensive disorders and related problems. Cochran Database Syst Rev. 2014;6. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001059
4. DeSousa J, Tong M, Wei J, Chamley L, Stone P, Chen Q. The anti-inflammatory effect of calcium for preventing endothelial cell activation in preeclampsia. J Hum Hypertens. 2016;30(5):303-308. doi:10.1038/jhh.2015.73
5. Ma Y, Shen X, Zhang D. The Relationship between Serum Zinc Level and Preeclampsia: A Meta-Analysis. Nutrients. 2015;7(9):7806-7820. Published 2015 Sep 15. doi:10.3390/nu7095366
6. Liu T, Hivert MF, Rifas-Shiman SL, et al. Prospective Association Between Manganese in Early Pregnancy and the Risk of Preeclampsia. Epidemiology. 2020;31(5):677–680. doi:10.1097/ EDE.0000000000001227
7. Fogacci S, Fogacci F, Banach M, et al. Vitamin D supplementation and incident preeclampsia: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. Clin Nutr. 2020;39(6):1742-1752. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2019.08.015
8. Teran E, Hernandez I, Nieto B, Tavara R, Ocampo JE, Calle A. Coenzyme Q10 supplementation during pregnancy reduces the risk of pre-eclampsia. Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2009;105(1):43–45. doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2008.11.033
9. Teran E, Chedraui P, Racines-Orbe M, et al. Coenzyme Q10 levels in women with preeclampsia living at different altitudes. Biofactors. 2008;32(1–4):185–190. doi:10.1002/biof.5520320122
10. Mujawar SA, Patil VW, Daver RG. Study of serum homocysteine, folic Acid and vitamin b(12) in patients with preeclampsia. Indian J Clin Biochem. 2011;26(3):257-260. doi:10.1007/s12291-011-0109-3
Parents are deeply concerned about the safety of their baby. Why wouldn’t they be? Your baby is your bundle of joy and the most precious. With the abundance of wireless devices these days, EMF radiation is a hot topic amongst parents. In this blog post, we will walk you through what is an EMF and 5 tips to create a low EMF emissions environment for your baby.
What is EMF?
EMF stands for Electromagnetic Field. That sounds complicated! Well, it is kind of, but it’s actually elementary college physics. Electromagnetic field is present throughout the universe and is an essential part of our everyday life. There are many forms of EMFs, some are good EMF, while some are bad EMF, just like cholesterol in your body. Visible light, WiFi signal, microwave, and cellular signals are all different forms of EMFs. Your ability to see things is due to electromagnetic waves interacting with the retina in your eyes and turning that into an electric pulse in your brain. That said, an example of bad EMFs would be high power waves coming from high power electrical cables or even what scientists call “ionizing radiation” from powerful sources. To put it simply, exposure to these bad EMFs causes significant health problems because the EMF waves ionize your cells and may cause cancer. X-ray is a common example of ionizing radiation, which is why you do not want to be doing X-ray scans often.
Why is EMF important to your baby’s safety? Parents should exercise the highest level of caution when it comes to baby safety. Depending on where you look, there are scientific studies that have linked exposure to EMF with the development of cancer, including the W.H.O. classification of EMF as possibly carcinogenic to humans in 2011. Furthermore, there are scientific studies that indicate correlation between exposure to EMF and learning disabilities such as ADHD. Nevertheless, it is a controversial subject with stakeholders making arguments on both sides.
5 Tips to build a low EMF emissions home
Place WiFi Routers Far Away from Your Baby The further away the source of wireless emissions, the lower its EMF power. WiFi routers are one of the most common sources of wireless emissions at home or office with health side effects. You should consider placing the router away from children or yourself. Power is often measured in Volts per meter (V/m) or milliWatt (mW), meaning you want to purchase a router with a lower power rating.
Put Your Phones Away from Your Nightstand One of the most common mistakes is putting your smartphone on the nightstand next to your bed. This exposes you and your family to several hours of constant exposure to wireless radiation as you sleep. Try placing the phone at least 15 feet away, or even putting it into Airplane mode.
Install EMF Shielding at Strategic Places EMF shielding can be an effective way to create an EMF safe zone within your home. Metal panels have the ability to block out Electromagnetic waves from entering into this safe zone.
Pick a Home that’s Far Away from Power Plants and Wireless Towers Cell phone and communication towers emit the highest doses of wireless radiation. The long term effects of constant exposure to such high doses of EMF radiation are not well understood by the scientific community. It is wise to choose a home that is far away from these sources of high energy wireless signals.
Use a Low Wireless Emissions Baby Monitor Your baby monitor acts as the communication bridge between your baby and you. Therefore, it’s of utmost importance that the baby monitor operates in a safe, ultra-low emissions manner. Bebcare baby monitors utilize DSR Digital Safe Radio technology, which emits less than 10% of wireless radiation compared to other products.
Get the lowest EMF emissions baby monitors at bebcare.com with 10% DISCOUNT using discount code: goldcoastdoulas
Check out our BECOMING A Mother course! It’s a self-paced, online series to help reduce fear and gain confidence in pregnancy, birth, and early parenting. With recorded video lessons, monthly live chats, and a supportive FaceBook community – it’s everything we wish we would have known before we had our babies! We’d love to see you there!
This is probably the most commonly asked sleep question for parents, and unfortunately there isn’t an easy answer!
There are many factors involved when attempting to answer this question. It can depend on things like:
How old is your baby?
How much do they eat?
How often do they eat?
Were they premature?
Do they have any health concerns?
But first, it’s important to understand how much newborns are supposed to sleep, and how that changes across the first few months of life.
How much do newborns sleep?
If you have a newborn, the answer is you cannot get them to sleep through the night. If your newborn does sleep through the night, this is not a good thing! You need to talk to your child’s pediatrician immediately. If you are struggling with feeds, reach out to a Certified Lactation Consultant. A newborn needs to eat every 2-3 hours, so sleeping through the night is not conducive to your baby’s growth or your breastmilk production if breastfeeding. A typical newborn is not going to be awake very often, only to feed and then cuddle for a few minutes before falling asleep again. So this means, yes, a typical newborn sleeps most of the day and night, but not several hours in a row. Like I mentioned, they need to be eating frequently, so after they feed (typically every 2-3 hours), they will sleep until they wake up hungry again. This means they may sleep for 1-2 hours at a time, then wake to feed.
How much does a 3 – 4 month old sleep? If your baby is 3-4 months old, it’s possible they may sleep through the night, but most do not quite yet. A 3-4 month old baby that is at least 12 pounds and eating well throughout the day, could give parents a 6-8 hour stretch at night. A baby’s ability to sleep this long at night is also dependent on their daytime feeding, activity, and nap schedule. At this age a baby’s circadian rhythm is ready to be set and they will thrive on a routine. This is the perfect time to reach out to a sleep consultant. Sleep training at this age involves very little crying and most babies are ready and willing to jump right into a sleep routine without much fuss! How much do older babies sleep? Some babies, even at 9 months, may not sleep a full 12 hours overnight without a feed. This is normal. Babies come in all shapes and sizes so we cannot expect them all to have the same needs or patterns. A smaller baby that eats less during the day is going to need more feeds in the night for a longer period of time. A larger baby that has big feeds during the day may start sleeping through the night much sooner than most.
Do I have to use Cry It Out?
Many parents, exhausted after months of sleepless nights, will resort to cry it out at this point. Please note, this is not necessary! No amount of crying will help a baby fall asleep if they are hungry and/or do not have a good daytime nap routine. Small amounts of crying are normal and necessary, but attempting CIO on your own with no other change to feeds or naps usually ends in frustration.
The problem with a question like this (How do I get my baby to sleep through the night?) is parents are often searching for a one-size-fits-all answer and there just isn’t one. That’s why a sleep consultant is so beneficial. They can assess your individual baby’s needs and your sleep goals to create the perfect sleep plan for your family. A sleep consultant that does not ask questions about your baby, your goals, or your parenting style and then doesn’t offer different methods to try based on your answers, is not going to be the most successful option.
As a sleep consultant, you can see why it’s so hard for me to answer this question with a blanket statement. I don’t know you or your baby to give you the best answer for your family. But I know you clicked on this link looking for help, so I’ll give you some very basic tips by age that will hopefully get you on the right path. You can also check out this blog post that lists my favorite sleep products!
Newborn Sleep Tips From day 1 there are some things you can do to get into some healthy sleep habits early. That way, when your baby’s rhythm is ready to be set, it will happen easily because you’ve already been working on these habits.
Put your baby to bed on a hard, flat surface (a crib or basinet). This is not only the safest place for them to sleep, but it gets them used to sleeping in the space where you ultimately want them sleeping later. They can sleep in your room near your bed for as long as you like, but this creates an easy transition when they are ready to be moved to a nursery. They just move along with the crib they are already familiar with.
When you put your newborn down for a nap, make sure the room is dark, cool, and use a sound machine.
When you wake your baby up, make sure to give them light. You’re unknowingly helping to set their natural circadian rhythm. High five!
With newborns, focus on feeds. Don’t worry too much about how much sleep they’re getting and when, just make sure they are getting enough to eat and growing well!
As your baby gets more efficient with feeds and can stay awake longer, see if you can separate feeding from sleeping. Make them two separate activities instead of always happing together. Eat, awake, sleep, repeat!
One way to help soothe your baby to sleep without feeding is Shush Pat.
In these critical newborn weeks, the support of an overnight postpartum doula can be so beneficial for parents. Mothers can heal, bond with baby, rest, and focus on feeding. Fathers or partners can get extra rest, learn newborn care tips, and ways to be supportive and helpful to a new mother. Postpartum doulas are there to offer judgment-free support to every family, day and night.
3-6 Month Sleep Tips Like I mentioned above, around 3-4 months, your baby is ready for a more structured routine. Babies thrive on routine and even if you’re not a schedule-oriented person, you can figure out ways to have a routine instead of a schedule. The easiest way to do this is have a set wake time every morning, a set bed time every night, and try to get 3 naps in per day at around the same time.
You still want to have your baby sleep in the dark and wake up to light.
Feeds are still very important. A hungry baby doesn’t sleep for long.
At this age your baby’s cries should be sounding different to you. Learning to listen to your child and understand what they are communicating to you is key to building a trusting relationship and is critical for sleep success.
6-12 Month Sleep Tips If you’re still struggling with sleep at this point, don’t wait any longer to seek help from a professional and experienced sleep consultant. I promise you, the right sleep consultant will offer your family life-changing results and it won’t be scary! Find someone that listens to you!
This is often when solids are introduced. As your baby eats more solids, milk feeds will decrease. This is normal.
Don’t offer food at dinner first as this disrupts night time sleep while food digests.
Routines are especially important at this age. Babies are really observant and knowing what to expect and when will help with nap time and bedtime.
12 months + Sleep Tips For toddlers, sleep can become even more difficult if they never slept well as a baby. They are now walking and talking and can put up a fight for naps and night time.
Routines are still crucial, if not more so now than ever! A toddler expects things to be the same each night.
Set boundaries and stick to them. It’s important that all caregivers are on the same page.
What did you do before you became a doula? I have a background in healthcare management. However, for the past 6.5 years I have managed a law firm dealing in personal injuries. I am also a yoga teacher specializing in prenatal, postpartum, and fertility yoga. What inspired you to become a doula? It took me many years to conceive my baby girl. Feeling the lack of control in my own journey, I began educating myself on our maternal healthcare system, choices, and norms. I began to feel empowered with all of the new information I had uncovered. While I waited for my turn to become a mama I decided that I would help other families on their journeys.
Tell us about your family. I am one of 15 children, six sisters and six brothers, originally from the east side of the State. I have a wonderful husband and a blended family of three strong and amazing daughters. We also have a ball-obsessed Labradoodle.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why? Anywhere warm and humid with a touch of adventure! I love a cruise with options to see a lot of places in a short time.
Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them. Truly my musical selections bend to my mood.
John Mayer – amazing songwriter
Amos Lee – sings to my soul
Deva Premal & Mitten – because you can’t not love someone named Mitten
Dolly Parton – speaks for herself
Beach Boys – I’m a sucker for nostalgia
What is the best advice you have given to new families? Support yourself by lining up the support you’re going to need!
Delegating tasks to others doesn’t make you a lesser parent, partner, or spouse. It makes you smart.
What do you consider your doula superpower to be? My ability to anticipate a need, then seamlessly sneak in and fill the cracks where help and support are needed.
What is your favorite food? Inn Seasons Salad from this vegan restaurant in Royal Oak…yum!
What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast? I am a sucker for rock and stone collecting. Hiking over Sleeping Bear and spending hours head down searching for hidden gems is my favorite!
What are you reading now? The Whole-Brain Child by Daniel J. Sielgel and Tina Payne Bryson.
Who are your role models? My older sister Nici has always, ever since we were young children, been miles ahead of me. And my mother showed me what unconditional love and empathy for everyone truly looks like. Together they lit the torch and blazed the trails so I could find my way.
What did you do before you became a doula? Currently, I own my own Health & Wellness business through Isagenix. In addition, I work as an Interior Designer for a company that does home staging for realtors and their clients. Previously I was an Administrative Assistant for Leadership Events throughout the US and Canada.
What inspired you to become a doula? It was suggested to me by a friend and it resonated with me that this was something I have always wanted to do.
Tell us about your family. My husband, Jeff, and I have been married for 32 years. We have three adult children – Steve, Shannon, and Griffin. We lived in the Nashville area for ten years and have been in Holland since 1998. In 2019, we added our son-in-law, Ciaran, to the family with a lovely family/friend small wedding in Ireland.
We love to travel and experience other countries and cultures. We have been to Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica, Italy, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Ireland. We like to hike, kayak, ski, boat, golf, and other outdoor activities.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why? Ireland because our daughter lives there currently! We also love Arizona and Colorado. Honestly, we love just to travel.. All of our trips have been such wonderful experiences and memories.
Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them. Garth Brooks, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Amy Grant, and the Beatles. Honestly, I just love a large variety of music. I love to dance, I love the message of the lyrics. Mostly it is the emotions that music evokes.
What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Breath, enjoy the moments, take things one at a time, and don’t hesitate to ask for advice or assistance. We all need it.
What do you consider your doula superpower to be? Being a calm presence in an anxious situation.
What is your favorite food? Seafood and Yellow Curry
What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast? Lake Michigan, skiing up north, or hiking in our many parks
What are you reading now? ProDola, Labor Doula Training Manual
Who are your role models?
There are three very influential woman in my life: my mother-in-law (Rosemary), my best friend of thirty years (Juli), and my spiritual coach and treasure friend of twelve years (Trisha).
What did you do before you became a doula? I was a RN at Mary FreeBed, then I transitioned to Saint Mary’s L&D. Most recently, I was at Mercy Health Physician Partners.
What inspired you to become a doula? The first birth I attended was in college during the L&D portion of nursing school. In that moment I knew I wanted to always be a part of this major event in a family’s life. I pursued L&D as a nurse but it wasn’t the right fit. As I looked into becoming a doula it was much more appealing to me as a nurturing, caring, and supportive soul.
Tell us about your family. My husband’s name is Luke. We got married in October of 2017. We have 2 small dogs – a 12 year old Yorkie named Oliver and a 2 year old Havenese named Watson.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why? I went to London, England in college and that has been my favorite travel experience so far. London is wonderfully historic and has so much amazing culture and architecture.
Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them. Maroon 5 – The best summer-time memories band.
Ed Sheeran – Makes me want to fall in love with my hubby daily.
Chris Tomlin – His voice pierces right to my soul.
One Republic – Best dance around and sing into a hairbrush music.
Lauren Daigle – “Rescue” has me in tears every time.
What is the best advice you have given to new families?
This new situation is unknown to you and your baby; give yourselves and your baby grace in this time of discovery.
What do you consider your doula superpower to be? I have a calming presence and endless patience.
What is your favorite food? I love French Fries and Chicken & Waffles pizza (yes, it’s a real thing!).
What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast? I was born and raised in Saint Joseph, MI so it will always have a special place in my heart.
What are you reading now? The Doula’s Guide to Empowering Your Birth
Who are your role models? My Grandma. She has such a capacity for understanding, compassion, and healing hurting hearts.
Alyssa: Hi. Welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast. My name is Alyssa Veneklase. I am co‑owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today, I have Jessica Kupres, one of our postpartum doulas, with us, and we are both so excited to talk to Dr. Ladd. She is the author of a book called Transformed by Postpartum Depression. Hi, Dr. Ladd.
Dr. Ladd Hi, guys!
Alyssa: Hi, Jessica!
Alyssa: So, it’s still COVID. We’re still in a pandemic. We’re recording via Zoom, so if we hear any — you know, I have a dog and who knows what else. Bear with us, right? So, Dr. Ladd, I have to start — so Gold Coast Doulas is a doula agency, and I read that you were a birth doula.
Dr. Ladd That’s correct!
Alyssa: Are you still actively working or not?
Dr. Ladd No. I miss it. I miss parts of it. I decided to become a doula — I had a doula for my first birth, and she was wonderful. And after I had my experience with a traumatic birth and then postpartum depression, I decided that I wanted to be a birth doula and did the DONA training. And when I did the DONA training — this is all related, I swear – I saw in the syllabus, and Jessica, you can probably relate to this. This was back in 2000ish – 2001, 2002. So I was doing the training for birth doula certification, and I saw on the syllabus that there was nothing about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Nothing. And at the time, it wouldn’t have been even called that, but we didn’t – there was no training about depression or anxiety or any sort of mental health other than this kind of vague emotional support. So I asked the trainer if I could bring in my own materials and do a presentation at the doula training. I was so obnoxious. And I took the PSI information with me and some basic statistics and basic, you know, what I had been through and shared my story. And so my doula practice ended up being – I got breast cancer shortly after I was certified, so I took a hit in terms of how many I was able to do, but I did specialize in working with moms and partners who had had some sort of a trauma. Either previous birth trauma or other; military. I worked with some military couples. And I absolutely loved being a doula. It was hard physically. I don’t think people realize how hard it is in terms of sleep deprivation and physical stuff. But yes, I was a birth doula.
Alyssa: Yeah. I thought that was amazing. Well, and it’s really amazing that you – they let you do your own presentation on mood disorders at that time, and I almost wonder if maybe you were a catalyst to adding some of that stuff to the DONA training, I wonder.
Dr. Ladd Well, I’ve since been lucky enough to know Penny and Phyllis and work with them. I was the founding president of PATTCh, which is dedicated to preventing traumatic childbirth. And I’ve had many conversations over the years with Penny regarding whether or not doulas, birth doulas, should have what she would consider, I think, a scope of practice issue, because her amazing vision and belief was that anyone should be able to get the training to be a doula. And along those lines, she felt that anything that kind of went into mental health needed to be handled by a professional. So she and I have had those conversations throughout the years, and I’m hoping that the more the doulas nudge, that we can handle the statistics. We can wrap our head around how to help somebody get to the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. It’s fairly straightforward.
Alyssa: Yeah. I think we’ve come a long way in 20 years, right? It’s been almost 20 years since that training. At least we’re talking about it more. I mean, that’s a step; a huge step in the right direction, that mothers are talking about this.
Jessica: Yeah, getting the word out there so they don’t feel alone.
Alyssa: Right. So one question I had about even just the title of your book, Transformed by Postpartum Depression, I was wondering – you know, that word “transformed” is so powerful. And then I read in one of the chapters that you had – you were reading a book yourself about – I forget who the author was, but it had something to do with mental illness and mental health for mothers, and you read that word and it just, like, hit you. So I’m guessing that’s why that word is so powerful to you and why you used that for the title of your book?
Dr. Ladd Partially, yeah. I mean, the title – that word did jump out, and it was Jeanine Driscoll, and this was a book that I had been given in my clinical training as a therapist. And her story of postpartum – at the time, this was, for her, in the ’80s – she used the word transformed, and it’s the first time, I think, I had aligned the idea of transformation with perinatal mood disorders because I felt so different. And when I, years later, went forward to do research in this area, the original title of this study was Changing instead of Transformation. It was Changing Depression. And my thought there was that what I was finding from the women’s own lived experience was that there’s a certain nature to postpartum depression. Like, it has its own entity, and it is a changing kind of depression. It’s so forceful. It’s so sudden and comes on so strong, like a trauma, that it has its own sense of power. It can change you. And then I came back to the word transformation, and I think now, to be honest, I still grapple with that word a little because I think it has – I don’t want it to only be seen as a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just that, gone untreated, these disorders change women. They change women. And for some, that change can be powerfully positive, and that’s where I got more – you know, I got involved with posttraumatic growth, but not everyone. Not everyone. So, yes, it’s a transformation, but I’m also kind of hinting at – which I don’t think I’m quite there yet. I want to keep working on it. I want to transform postpartum depression itself. I mean, in the very back, I put together that graphic at the back page, which shows what we’ve called postpartum depression since the beginning of time, and we haven’t really gone very far. It’s around birth. It’s always related to some sort of reproductive event. So I want, like you guys, to transform not only the experience that women have, but what we say about it, what we know about it, and the language that we use.
Alyssa: Yeah. You had mentioned that your husband at the time just kept telling you, this is all in your mind. You’re making this choice. Right? And I think, you’re not the only one who hears that. And maybe even if we as mothers aren’t hearing it from someone else, we’re hearing it from ourselves. Why don’t you just do this? Why can’t I just be that? So I think you’re right in transforming not only what we call it but what we think about it and what we know about it, and I still think we don’t know enough about it, even though we’re talking about it. It’s very surface level.
Dr. Ladd Why do you think that is?
Alyssa: You know, I didn’t know about it when I had my daughter. I didn’t really know what it was. And I would say, oh, no, of course I didn’t. But then I think back, the more I learn, I’m like, oh, my gosh. I remember sitting in the nursery just in tears in the rocking chair, and breastfeeding was so much harder than I imagined, and your hormones and your emotions are all over, and, you know, granted, for me, it slowly got better, but I don’t know. I guess, was I in a depression? Did I just have some anxiety? Was this all just normal? It’s hard to put a name on something. And then the stigma of that is also what hinders a lot of mothers. And, Jessica, I think you had a question specifically about postpartum depression, too.
Jessica: Yeah. But to go along with what you guys were just talking about, I think that part of it is, a big piece is that stigma, and going with my question in just a second, is that moms are afraid. If they speak up and say something, their baby will be taken from them. I did have postpartum depression pretty severely, and I didn’t seek help for eight months because I was, like, these horrible thoughts, which I now know were intrusive thoughts: they’re going to take my baby. I don’t want to lose my baby. And I think that that’s a big message that has to get out there, is that seeking help doesn’t meant that you’re a bad mom, and it doesn’t mean they’re going to take your baby. It just can help. And so I think that is a big piece of it. But talking about this and this language, I wonder – you’re predominantly saying postpartum depression and focusing on the depression. Why don’t you include more of the other things that go with it?
Dr. Ladd Good question. And I do, but it’s all because of language. What we’ve known in common society – I think postpartum depression is the most identifiable. So anybody who’s a possible reader or a clinician who hasn’t full training in the full spectrum of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders might identify postpartum depression. And I also use it as an umbrella for all of the disorders because the language hasn’t filtered out to – I mean, we’re talking, all three of us this morning, about not knowing what to call our own issues when we have them. So somebody with intrusive thoughts is not necessarily going to know that they might have postpartum OCD or postpartum panic disorder. So I use the language that we’re most familiar with. And I want to tag team on something you said about stigma. You know, stigma – I did a study about how women who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the first year of postpartum, how they experience stigma. And, basically, for all of us, any sort of the way we make decisions about the world is we observe how people are behaving, and if we perceive something to be outside of the norm – this is based on Goffman’s stigma theory – we kind of mentally categorize them as different. Right? And that different space is over, away, from what we’ve come to recognize as everybody else being normal. Right? So that different space lingers, and if we perceive them as either physically different or behaviorally different or emotionally different, we’re going to put them – our habit is to put them over in the “different” space. And gone unchecked from just basic knowledge, that “different” group of people, we will build assumptions and beliefs about what they are capable of or how they fit in society, and it’s usually negative. That creates the prejudice. A prejudice; a preknowledge belief that, okay, that person who is behaving or looking different is going to potentially do things that are unpredictable. And then if that goes unchecked, we can actually unconsciously build this implicit bias where we will discriminate. We will discriminate in micro ways against or away from people that we perceive to be different. So let’s take a mom who is crying a lot, and in the book, one of my participants referred to it as leaking. You know, it’s like this kind of leak. It’s like an involuntary crying. Like the stomach flu, but you’re crying. There’s no control over it; it’s just coming out. So let’s say this mom is crying. She feels that those symptoms are out of – they are out of the range of normal for her, and all of the baby stuff that she’s seen, from the minute she peed on the stick, didn’t show anybody crying inconsolably. So when she goes out into the world, if it’s to Walmart, if it’s to the care provider, if it’s to the postpartum doula, there are no representations of that as normal. So she moves herself into that “different” space and can start to believe that maybe there’s something seriously wrong with her. And if that goes unchecked and she is at a family event crying, it gets validated because everyone’s like, why are you upset? You have a new baby. Everybody’s great. So that process of stigma happens for women constantly. And we unfortunately do it to each other. When I was a doula, I once had a mom ask me to go to the supermarket for her to get formula because she was so afraid that some of her neighbors would see her buying formula instead of breastfeeding. So that’s just one example. So that stigma piece is – and the media certainly doesn’t help.
Alyssa: Right. And I had a question about one excerpt from your preface, and maybe I’ll just read it, because it stuck out to me. Again, it’s the whole stigma, and it’s the idea of what do we call this. So it says: “I reject the notion that objective truth is inherently real or measurable but rather constructed by multiple entities, including society, culture, history, and individuals, all coexisting. So from this perspective, the reality of postpartum depression can’t be known, defined, or quantified. By definition, it is constructed in real time, every time, in multiple ways, by multiple people.” So it’s dynamic and changing, and to me, this pinpoints exactly why this is so hard to define, because postpartum depression, for one, doesn’t look – you know, for you doesn’t look like it does for me, and a lot of how we feel about, you know, if I had it, maybe it’s the way my family’s talking to me about it. Maybe it’s, you know, not going to the grocery store for fear of my friends finding out I’m buying formula. Or maybe I don’t care about that, but I have to post all the beautiful Instagram photos. There’s just so many different layers and levels that I think you just hit the nail on the head with why this is so hard to define and then so hard for others to understand.
Dr. Ladd Exactly.
Alyssa: So when a mom has it, I feel like she’s – you know, maybe her partner doesn’t understand. So like you, getting the whole thing about well, just change your frame of mind. Just do something different. Get your head out of the hole and, you know, you have a baby who’s beautiful, so what are you so sad about? If people don’t understand, then we just dig ourselves into a deeper hole. Well, I know I feel this way. I shouldn’t feel this way. I don’t want to feel this way. But now they’re making me feel worse, so now I’m probably digging a deeper hole, and it’s just getting harder and harder to get out.
Dr. Ladd Yes. And part of what you’re saying, really, it speaks to how do we fix this, and I think the more we can normalize that – we have no trouble talking about a clogged milk duct. No trouble. We’ve made that okay. And women have said, I need help. So there’s been this agreement between science and society to allow women to talk about things like sore, cracked nipples, for God’s sake. We can do that. We can talk about how to care for an episiotomy repair. I think maybe if we could talk about the range of that for every birth, there is a range of physical and emotional recovery and experience, and within that, I mean, we do know that 80 to 85% of all birthing women will experience postpartum blues, that kind of – you know, shortly after birth, two or three weeks. It lasts for a few days and then moves out. But we’re not even comfortable talking about that, and when I say we, I mean all of us. But predominantly care providers. So when you’re discharged after having a baby and you have all those pamphlets about how to lactate and breastfeed but there’s nothing in there about how you can identify if you’ve got some things going on with your brain, there’s a miscommunication.
Jessica: So what would you suggest? And this – I just really am interested. What would you suggest as care providers that we do to get the word out? How do you think we could improve that so more moms would know about it ahead of time and can be better prepared for it so it doesn’t just hit them like a ton of bricks?
Dr. Ladd I think there are a couple of things, one of which is public health. And on the public health level, we need more support for mandated screening. And ACOG is close, but not there with the mandate to screen. And even asking a woman about her family history, we’re not – if it’s not on the checklist for an intake for the OB nurse, for any sort of prenatal or perinatal care provider to say, so, tell me about your family history with any sort of mood or anxiety disorder. If that’s not on the list, that’s something we could add quickly. We’re not shy, and ACOG is not shy, about saying that we need to test your urine. We need to test your blood. We need to test your blood pressure many times to screen. But yet even though we’ve got these validated screening tools, it’s not mandated, and that sends a message. I’m not even sure that would fix it. But on the public health level, organizations like National Perinatal Association, NPA, PSI, who are saying, we have to change it by asking women. That’s one way. And then I personally believe, and that is my personal belief, that the more women can talk about how they’re feeling, regardless of what they think might be happening in response to that, the better. So in my research, all 25 women ended up having to get themselves treated because providers failed, even when women were saying flat out, I’m not sure I want to be here, or I think I shouldn’t be my child’s mom, or I can’t sleep. And providers miss it. And I don’t want to bash providers; I really don’t. I want them to get the support from their certifying bodies that it’s important; important enough to take 5 minutes out of the 15 minutes that they’re given with a patient and ask. So that’s part of it. And I think as the birth community, the mom community, that’s so huge now online. Maybe we just need to lighten the load on the language. I mean, the women in my book speak very frankly, and I think all women speak very frankly when they’re not under the – you know, when they’re not being analyzed. We all have those private Facebook groups where women are throwing down. So when a participant will say to me, I don’t know why we don’t just tell each other. It sucks, man. That resonates on a level to any mom, regardless of their perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. Why don’t we tell each other it sucks? And that’s the last piece. And it seems to be that we have a lot of trouble allowing – I’m going to use the word allowing – women to be ambivalent about motherhood. You’ve got to love it all, or you’re horrible. Every moment of it, every diaper change, every ear infection, all of it. And that’s – who loves all of anything?
Alyssa: Right. That’s not fair for anything, let alone a screaming toddler or a sassy teenager, right? With each new stage, I feel like – you know, I always tell my postpartum clients that every developmental stage, you lose something that’s so hard, and then you go onto something that’s easier, but then this new hard thing is going to come. Like, there’s always going to be this new hard thing, and you won’t be prepared for it, and it’s okay. It will suck for a while. But yeah, I think it’s hard to – you know, I have whole days that I’m just like, oh, my God. This is awful. What in the world? Why? I read something the other day where this mom said she had one kid, and it was – you know, the pain of it and just the exhaustion. It was, like, a two-day induction or something. She goes, my only thought was, why in this developed world where contraception is available do we have so many humans? Like, why are people doing this again and again? And she was so real. I loved it.
Dr. Ladd Yes! And the last piece of this, and not everyone – you know, I will just share that I think Bowlby and attachment theory has done a number on us for six decades because, on some internalized level, guys, we are buying the notion that maternal deprivation will harm the thing that we love more than anything. That if we sneeze in the wrong direction or have a thought about, God, I’d really like to not be doing this right now, we will harm our child. Not only once; for their lifetime. And while we do have, you know, years of science about maternal attachment and development, we have yet to really clear the debris of what attachment theory can also do, which is to shame women out of their reality.
Jessica: Yeah. I feel like that’s a lot of mommy wars type of stuff. There’s so much information on how to be a good mom, and whichever way you choose, every other way is going to say you’re wrong, and I think that’s just really hard, that we just don’t – I mean, it’s all this pressure to be this perfect mom. Yeah. I think that’s a big piece of it. And then we have, on that, that if you have depression, if you’re not happy, if you don’t enjoy every minute of every day, now you are destroying your child for the rest of their life. Now you’ve not only given them depression because you have depression genetically, but now you’ve given them depression because you’re depressed and you didn’t bond with them appropriately. And so let’s just add a little more stress and anxiety to someone who’s already stressed and anxious. And I just think that’s – I mean, it’s good to know. Like you said, it’s research. We know that there’s not that – it’s not going to be as much bonding and that it can cause more depression, but I feel like sometimes it just adds more. It’s another way to feel like you failed.
Alyssa: Well, and I think – I have the same thoughts about the attachment. You can always go too far. You know, and of course the oxytocin that you can get from the skin to skin, but sometimes even now, and my daughter’s 8, I just feel touched out. Everyone just needs me all the time, and if I were a depressed mom with a newborn baby, and everyone’s saying, oh, you’re feeling depressed. Just hold your baby all the time. Wear your baby all the time. Breastfeed more. That’s just more touch when I need my own space. And then sometimes babies – I see this a lot because I do sleep consultations, and I get those depressed moms who haven’t slept for months. They are so sleep-deprived, and then they think, I’ve been holding my baby to sleep for three months straight or all these things. They don’t know that their little babies are developing these personalities, and they might not want to be touched all the time. Just because you’ve been told that they need to be picked up every time they cry – your baby doesn’t always need that. So really listening and being in tune with what you want as a mother and what your baby is actually asking for – I think we’re just getting – like you said, the attachment thing. We’re just getting too touched out. We don’t necessarily need that all the time.
Dr. Ladd This is such a great conversation, and it makes me think about how it loops into the stigma. It loops into what we said about needing to let women speak to their own experiences. And I think there’s something about redefining attachment as – or this idea of motherhood as, you can communicate to your baby and to your child: Mommy’s struggling, and I’m right here. I had a conversation with a mom this week, a colleague of mine, who’s got a boy who had to have a tooth extraction. And as anybody listening can imagine, a child having a tooth extraction is incredibly anxious, and it was long and very difficult. And I said, you know, it’s okay to tell him that you – it was hard for you, too. And that you went through it together, and that you’re okay. Yeah. I was there, and because it validates to your child, yeah, that was pretty crazy, wasn’t it? That was pretty hard. It was hard for me, too. And I’m okay. And maybe we can allow each other to say, you know what? I see that you’re an amazing mom, even though you have these experiences that tell you that you’re not. And we can start to say to our children, you know, I went through this, and I rock. It didn’t screw me up in terms of my connection to my child. It actually made it stronger. And I’ve had women, lots of women, tell me that, that the connection with that child with whom they went through a mood disorder is unique and tight. In other words, I think women – we love our kids, no matter what. It just doesn’t have to always be positive.
Jessica: I love that you said it doesn’t always have to be positive, and I think that’s really important for moms to know, that it doesn’t always have to be positive. That there will be ups and downs, and it’s the hardest job in the world.
Dr. Ladd And we’re able, in other areas of society, to really honor struggle in a way that’s noble. Veterans: we’ve gotten our heads around honoring the nobility of somebody who’s sacrificed and paid a price emotionally, physically, et cetera. And yet we’re not able to do that for moms in terms of honoring their suffering nobly.
Alyssa: I love this conversation. Two more things. We’re going to end with how people can find you and your book and tell us anything else about your book, but let’s say not everyone is going to be able to read your book. What’s one thing you think every mother, parent, would need to know going forward, either about motherhood or mental health or…
Dr. Ladd I would say about any woman who is of childbearing years should be talking, should be telling, their provider about their sleep, their appetite, whether or not there’s a history in their family of mood or anxiety disorders, and for women of color, it is so much harder to get the message across, so I would say we all need to support our women of color to have an ally, to possibly go with them to the provider. Without a doubt, we need to be telling – because they’re not asking right now. They’re not saying. They’re just not asking. For a number of reasons; put COVID on top of everything else. So we need to be encouraging. I would love to see – there’s this concept called a reproductive life plan where doctors could be asking young girls and young men about their emotional and mental health very early on. So a pediatrician who’s doing a well‑check for a kid who’s 11 could be planting the seeds that that’s a safe space to say, I am not sleeping. I’m having intrusive thoughts. Or I can’t stop thinking about this, or I’m any of the symptoms that would come forward. So to wrap that one up, I would say – and for anyone who’s pregnant and/or just had a baby, I would say, know the language of mood disorders to be able to say it to your provider to get help, and that would be how your sleep is affected, how your appetite has been affected, and how your sense of hope or interest in life, anhedonia, has been affected. Just being able to say, I’m not sleeping. I’m not eating. And I feel like I don’t want to do this.
Alyssa: Yeah. I think that’s beautiful. Well, thank you so much for doing this. It’s such a pleasure, and I look forward to finishing the book. We got quite a ways into it. But tell people about your book; maybe say your name and the title again and where they can find your book.
Dr. Ladd Sure. So my name is Walker Ladd, and you can go to my website. And the book is Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth. And that’s on Amazon or at my publisher, Praeclarus Press. And I also wanted to give a shout-out to anybody interested in the book to think about – I was able to get interviews with amazing experts, so a part of the book is dedicated to – I ask, you know, Karen Kleiman and Jane Honikman. I had such a great experience interviewing these leaders to see what they think about the idea that untreated postpartum depression or any disorder could be experienced as a traumatic life event, and it was a very interesting response.
Alyssa: Great. Well, thank you so much! We’ll talk to you soon.
Alyssa: Welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast. You are listening to Alyssa Veneklase. I am the co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today, I am so excited to be talking to Dr. Carrie Dennie, a naturopathic doctor at what was Grand Rapids Natural Health but is now the Michigan Center for Holistic Medicine. Hello!
Dr. Dennie: Hi, Alyssa! Thank you for having me!
Alyssa: I want to know, do you prefer Dr. Carrie or Dr. Dennie?
Dr. Carrie: Dr. Carrie is fine.
Alyssa: Okay. Dr. Carrie. So I have some questions for you. You started out this path, and you became a naturopathic doctor, but then I was reading your bio. You had one acupuncture treatment and just fell in love with it and then went on to acupuncture school and graduated the valedictorian of your class?
Dr. Carrie: I did.
Alyssa: That’s amazing!
Dr. Carrie: Thank you.
Alyssa: That makes me wonder what happened in that treatment of acupuncture that just made you fall in love with it so much.
Dr. Carrie: So it was interesting because my school has both programs, and we get free access as students to go and have free appointments. And so I had never had it, you know. Heard about it, and so I went and tried it. And it was just — I think the — my favorite part about acupuncture is that it’s so relaxing. I don’t care what you’re coming for, if it was pain, if it’s some sort of an organ dysfunction. Nope — well, yes. That is important, and you can get relief, but also, the relaxation. It just — it’s so amazing. It’s just so invigorating. A lot of my patients will say that they feel gentle sensations when they’re in the treatment. And, again, everybody leaves feeling just relaxed and they end up sleeping better that night or even several days afterwards. Like, there’s just so many different ramifications that can occur as a result of one acupuncture treatment. So that’s why I loved it.
Alyssa: So I’ve only had one, so I’m not very experienced in acupuncture, but what exactly — what is it doing? You know, I know I have these little needles poked in. I would imagine that it’s doing something to my nerves, which then send signals to my brain to do something else?
Dr. Carrie: That is correct. So that’s how we understand it from a conventional medical perspective, is that you have nerve stimulation. The nerves release chemical messengers that can go to the brain, the spinal cord, the muscles, the organs, and then affect change from that point on. Also in general, acupuncture can reduce inflammation. It is a stimulator of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers, so obviously can help relieve pain. It can improve blood flow and circulation. And, again, like I said, it is just relaxing and has an overall mood-boosting affect. One other thing that I will say is that I had a patient recently who was undergoing chemotherapy currently, and they were unable to get their treatment because their white blood cell count was too low. So they came for an acupuncture treatment, and after one, the numbers went up enough that this person was able to get his treatment the next time. Again, it’s so amazing how these little needles can affect great change in the body.
Alyssa: Yeah. So this is kind of a strange question that just popped into my head right now, but what’s the most amount of needles you’ve ever had in someone? Or is it typically, like, only a dozen or so?
Dr. Carrie: So I try to keep it around let’s say 15 or 16, and again, it just all depends what they’re coming for. But the most, I think, that I’ve ever personally put into someone was around 30, and the reason why is that their concern involved their fingers and toes. And so I had needles in between fingers and toes, which is about 18 needles in total, let’s say. And so the rest of the other body points add on top of that. Like I said, normally, I try to keep it less than that, but again, it just all depends. This person who I did all these needles in, they felt benefits afterwards. I love it.
Alyssa: And that’s the point, right?
Dr. Carrie: Exactly.
Alyssa: So how do you integrate the two, then? As a naturopathic doctor, how do you integrate that medicine with acupuncture? Is that a silly question because you’re like, well, they just go hand in hand? The benefits of both?
Dr. Carrie: It’s not silly, but you’re 100% correct. They definitely go hand in hand, and it all depends on the patient. So as a naturopathic doctor, for your listeners who may not know, I am trained as a primary healthcare professional, and I am trained to emphasize prevention, treatment, and optimization of health using natural therapies that are safe. And most of the time, research has proven them to be effective. And so primarily my goals are always to identify the root cause of disease, to reestablish the foundations for health, which basically is diet and lifestyle changes, and then again to support the body’s natural ability to heal itself. And that’s the piece right there where acupuncture just fits in perfectly. Again, tiny needles being applied in random places, if you don’t understand the theory behind it, but it, again, it just has so many different effects on different systems. And so like I said, I was in school for naturopathic medicine, but once I had that treatment, I had to add on my acupuncture degree because it just didn’t make sense to leave without this awesome therapy.
Alyssa: For you, it was just a no-brainer. It was like that missing piece of the pie to what you were already doing?
Dr. Carrie: Yes. And it was interesting, what I was learning, because it just makes so much sense when you really start to dive into the theory and why they are — you know, why this person or these people decided to do these things. It’s just so interesting. And it’s natural. Again, the Chinese developed this over 4,000 years ago. They didn’t have MRIs or X-rays but they were able to ascertain functions of the organs in an — you know, almost in the exact same way that we do in western medicine, but there’s some tweaks. But again, it was just amazing, so I had to do it.
Alyssa: I love it. So, you know, for our listeners, most of them are either pregnant or in this postpartum period. If someone were to come to you pregnant or newly postpartum, would you have to treat them differently, or what would treatment look like for them?
Dr. Carrie: So treatment for anyone is initially a two-hour long appointment, and we talk about everything, especially if they’re coming to me for naturopathic medicine. If they’re coming to me for acupuncture, the initial appointment is an hour and a half, and again, we’re still talking for at least an hour in both sessions. But I’m not just focusing on their chief concern, whether it’s, you know, having lactation issues, or I’ve just got this nausea all of a sudden. You know, it’s more than that. I want to know everything because your health is influenced by so many different factors beyond just the physical. You know, what is your mental emotional state? Do you have any religious or spiritual beliefs? Are you walking in those beliefs? Are you using — are you living those principles? All of that affects your health. But then also, too, we talk about the things that you do and the things that you eat and what comes out of your body every day, and hopefully people are looking at the things that come out because, again, these are all…
Alyssa: It’s important!
Dr. Carrie: Yes! These are clues towards your health. And so we talk about all of those things, and then, you know, the thing that I love about naturopathic medicine and that I incorporate with acupuncture is that I want to heal your whole body. I want to care for your whole body so that you can have the best life that you have because your whole is as well as can be. And so that’s usually how it starts is a two-hour treatment. If it’s acupuncture-based, after we talk, then I start the acupuncture, and I have a whole process, especially for people who don’t or who have never had acupuncture before, and I kind of walk them through it. But then they just get to relax afterwards. And if they like heat, there’s heat therapy that can be provided. Music, you know. Essential oils. It’s just relaxing while you lay there. And you can either focus on your breathing, or if you’re a person that prays, you can pray while you’re laying there or you can meditate. Or you can just, again, invite in relaxation and good vibes and sent out the bad ones while you’re resting and not thinking about all the things you have to do afterwards and the nuances of life that tax our systems.
Alyssa: I think that maybe the relaxation part that people who have not had an acupuncture treatment before might not realize is that you put the needles in, and then — is this the case for you? Do you leave the room and then they have time to relax?
Dr. Carrie: Yes.
Alyssa: And that’s what I didn’t know when I had mine is, oh, I just get to sit here in this beautiful room with the noise machine going. But yeah, that sounds lovely. Heat therapy and essential oils. It’s kind of like you get a massage and then you still get to lay there for a little while.
Dr. Carrie: Yes. You get to bask in stillness, you know, and hopefully, you can let go of all the things that are plaguing you for those moments while you’re laying there and just let your body heal itself. You know what I mean? Let your body do what it can do for you when you’re not under stress all the time.
Alyssa: So are there certain areas of the body, then, that you probably couldn’t work on for a pregnant person? Like, you know, certain spots that might activate labor?
Dr. Carrie: Correct. So with pregnant women, we do not — we’re trained very strictly on this. There are several points we do not do during the pregnancy, and even with my patients that are trying to conceive, depending on what’s going on, I may or may not do them, either. But, yes, we’re trained very much not to do those, unless the woman is in the third trimester. Maybe she’s trending towards her due date or she’s past her due date. She wants to try to avoid an induction process in the hospital. Then we would do those points because we are trying to promote labor.
Alyssa: Yeah. That’s a great point because early in pregnancy, you want to avoid them, but you’ve got this mom who’s 38, 39, 41 weeks, and she is in there for the complete opposite reason. Help me get this baby out!
Dr. Carrie: Exactly.
Alyssa: That makes sense. And then what about postpartum? You know, a newly — you know, there’s all sorts of things with healing and then mental and emotional wellness. Is there anything specific in the postpartum time that you would do for a parent?
Dr. Carrie: Totally. So moms, being a new mom or a new parent in general, is overwhelming. Now there’s a whole other human or humans that you have to care for, and it can definitely be an around-the-clock experience. So the first thing that I would suggest for anyone looking to acupuncture to help is for that relaxation piece, to alleviate anxiety; to relieve stress. For the parent to have, again, that moment, time where they don’t have to worry about the baby or babies or their spouse. They can focus on zenning out, relaxing. So that’s number one. Specifically for new mothers, you know, postpartum depression can be a huge obstacle to battle during this time, and so acupuncture, again, would promote serotonin and dopamine production, and these are the happy hormones. So, again, boosting mood. It can improve sleep and boost energy, which are very much important things to have when you have new babies. But beyond that, again, like you said, there’s healing and rejuvenation that needs to happen after a birth, and acupuncture can definitely assist with that. Another thing that people don’t think about is milk production. Acupuncture can definitely help boost lactation so that, you know, that’s one less thing that mom has to worry about.
Alyssa: So where in the body — I’m picturing nipples or needles in the boobs. Where do you — is there another spot on the body for anyone who might say, oh, that sounds interesting, but I don’t think I could handle a needle in my boob. Where does it go?
Dr. Carrie: Totally! Again, all depends on how they present. But you’re 100% correct. There are points in the chest area where I could put needles. I would not, though, and that’s the beautiful thing about acupuncture, like you said, is there are other places that you can put needles, and the answer is yes. So some are — one is on the shoulder area or in the — yeah, on the shoulder area, and then there’s other that are kind of, again, on the limbs that I could use to boost milk production.
Alyssa: That’s really cool. We have two lactation consultants, and I wonder if they’ve ever recommended acupuncture to anyone who’s struggling with milk production. That’s an interesting idea.
Dr. Carrie: Something else, though, that I want to mention, too, as a naturopathic doctor, is I don’t just think in one lens. I have both on, hopefully, if my brain is working correctly. But I would also be thinking about naturopathic therapy. So as we know, labor is a trauma to the body, and depending on — even if it goes smoothly, or even if there are some complications, like you said, healing reformation needs to be done. But you also need to know the state of your body, and a lot of times, bloodwork is necessary or recommended after labor. And so think of things like just the general CBC in case the person is anemic; looking at the thyroid, because there is a connection between delivery or pregnancy and thyroid dysfunction afterwards. And then simple things like vitamin D. Depending on the time of year, you may have been inside for the majority of your pregnancy because it’s cold. What’s your vitamin D status? And so a lot of these, if there are dysfunctions in these areas, it can mimic depression. And so those are things that you want to look at, also, or consider looking at, but then also other lifestyle things. I know that having new babies is overwhelming, like I said, and so are you taking care of you? Are you going outside if it is nice enough to go outside? If you can go outside, you know, I always recommend people go out for 30 minutes. Take the baby for a walk. Hopefully, the rhythm of the walk will put the little one to sleep, and then you can tuck them in the bed when you get back and hopefully have more time. And especially if you live around nature, if you can go into nature, it’s been proven that being in nature is calming. And so those are other things that I suggest. And then the walk is exercise, and that we know is beneficial to the body, as well. You know, it’s just so many different aspects of being that I look at when people come to see me. And so you likely will hear me say things that are naturopathic tips in my acupuncture appointments, and I definitely recommend acupuncture to the majority of my naturopathic patients, unless I know they don’t like needles.
Alyssa: Right. Well, I think even someone who doesn’t like needles, you could put, like, a sleepy blindfold on them or something, because you can’t even feel them. I was so surprised because I was watching, and I was, like, I didn’t even feel that. That’s wild.
Dr. Carrie: It’s so true. A lot of the times, I do hear from people that they don’t necessarily feel certain points. But I won’t lie and say that there aren’t times where you definitely feel the needle go in. But it’s instantaneous, you know what I mean? It’s not like a lingering pain. You’re not going to lay there in pain for 30 minutes. No. You’re going to be relaxed. But you’re right, and they’re very thin. The needles are almost as thin as a strand of hair. It’s totally different from what people think when they’re normally thinking about getting their blood drawn. That’s a huge needle.
Alyssa: I agree. Totally different. Totally different. You know, that makes me wonder, how young — can you take children? Can you do acupuncture on children or even babies?
Dr. Carrie: Yes. Technically — I wouldn’t say babies, but in China, they do acupuncture as young as one year old. But with children that young, the needles are not in for an extended period of time. It’s more of a stimulation of the point and remove the needle and move on to the next point sort of a thing. With children, I think the youngest person that I’ve done acupuncture on was 14. And so for kids, especially us in America where this is not our culture — it’s the norm to have acupuncture as a therapy that they can readily go to. I would say if you’re children can’t be still for, I don’t know, 10 minutes, let’s say, then they probably shouldn’t come for acupuncture. Again, you have to have the mental capacity to be still and be able to relax and not move.
Alyssa: Right. And that’s why it doesn’t work on babies because they’re flailing their arms all around, and if anything, they’re going to hurt themselves more than heal.
Dr. Carrie: Exactly. Right.
Alyssa: This has been enlightening! Is there anything that you wanted to cover that we didn’t cover?
Dr. Carrie: So I just want to mention, for women who are pregnant, definitely, acupuncture is safe and an awesome way to relieve any of the common symptoms that they have at any stage or that they may have at any stage of pregnancy. During the first trimester, if you are having nausea, vomiting, or you’re just extremely fatigued or you may be constipated or have diarrhea, this is an important way to kind of support those systems and just, again, rejuvenate the body. During the second trimester, a lot of times aches and pains occur or start occurring. That is another great reason for acupuncture. Again, if sleep is starting to become uncomfortable, acupuncture is awesome for insomnia. And then even like hemorrhoids or complications from GI dysfunction can be addressed through acupuncture. And then like we were talking, in the third trimester, if they are close to or beyond their due date, labor induction or labor promotion, I should say. And then one thing that’s really interesting that women may not be aware of is that if your baby is in a breech position and the doctor is talking about a C-section, you can come to an acupuncturist and we can do a sort of heat therapy, and it’s really interesting. It’s over your toe, your pinky toe, and it’s amazing. Again, the woman — it’s ideal if she comes at 36 weeks if she finds this out, but we do this heat therapy, and I send them home with the heat therapy so they can do it at home, but a lot of times, the baby will move into the correct position.
Alyssa: That’s incredible. Is there a statistic on how often that actually works?
Dr. Carrie: I don’t know any off the top of my head, but I know that it’s definitely been studied.
Alyssa: Yeah. I’ve heard of it before.
Dr. Carrie: Yeah. The therapy is called moxibustion.
Alyssa: Say that again?
Dr. Carrie: The therapy is called moxibustion.
Alyssa: Moxibustion. Huh.
Dr. Carrie: It’s basically burning a dry cone of Chinese mug wort over the toe, and it sends this, like, smooth, warming sensation deep into the body. We use it for other reasons as well, but that’s — again, you just get it over the toe, and baby flips over the majority of the time, in my experience.
Alyssa: That little baby pinky toe sends some signal all the way into the womb, and tickles that baby right around?
Dr. Carrie: That’s right.
Alyssa: Wow. Well, thank you so much. If somebody wants to find you specifically, I mean, we’ll link to your website and stuff, but why don’t you tell us how people can find you?
Dr. Carrie: So you can definitely find me on Facebook. I’m Dr. Carrie ND on Facebook, and you can also find me on Instagram. But all of this is available on our website.
Alyssa: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for all of that information. I’m sure everyone will love this, and I have learned so much more about acupuncture!
Dr. Carrie: Well, thank you again for having me. I really appreciate it.
1) What did you do before you became a doula?
I was a labor and delivery nurse for 13 years, a nurse for the maternal infant health program for two years, a phone triage nurse at a pediatric office for almost a year, and am currently working as a childbirth and breastfeeding educator, as well as teach a sibling’s class and infant massage class.
2) What inspired you to become a doula?
My mother was a doula, though only assisted friends and family. That’s how I saw my first birth at 14 that shaped my future career. I also feel families need a lot of support when a new baby comes home. Unfortunately, most mothers don’t get the help they need.
3) Tell us about your family.
My Husband and I have been married for 6 years. We have two boys. Kaden is 5 years old and Carson is almost 2. We are a pretty close family, and grandma and grandpa are usually over several times a week. I love to do crafts with my boys.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
My favorite vacation spot is Disney World. Every year as a child my family went to Disney World, so there are a lot of very special memories. About every 5 years my family, including my parents and my siblings and their families go down to Disney World together. It is great to spend time with family in the most friendly and magical place in the world!
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
1) Justin Timberlake – He has catchy songs that make me want to get up and move.
2) Taylor Swift – I love her songs and she is great to her fans.
3) Imagine Dragons – Just like their music.
4) Ed Sheridan – I like his music and positivity.
5) Colbie Caillat – I like her positivity.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Do what works for you and your family. Don’t worry about impressing others or doing what everyone else is doing. Keep life simple at the beginning.
7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
Encouraging others and being calm and nonjudgmental.
8) What is your favorite food?
9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I love going to the Fredrick Meijer Gardens with my kids because there is so much to do there.
10) What are you reading now?
Love and logic.
11) Who are your role models?
My Grandmother – she was a strong woman, always spoke the truth, and was a great artist.
Have you ever heard of an athlete getting back on the field after a major injury WITHOUT a period of rest followed by intense rehab? Of course not! But somehow the expectation for women after their pregnancy is to mysteriously “bounce back” to normal activity, appearance, and function without any guidance. Most mamas even attempt to do this while caring for one or more very adorable, yet extremely needy human beings.
Wow!! Just writing that paragraph made me feel anxious! Thankfully our society is beginning to recognize the fact that child-rearing is hard work and calling in reinforcements is acceptable and often necessary. Thank you doulas, lactation consultants, counselors, chiropractors and more for all that you do! I would like to propose that a Women’s Health Physical Therapist should ALSO be part of your postpartum team.
Women’s Health Physical Therapists specialize in the changes that occur within your musculoskeletal system (muscles and bones) during and after pregnancy. They often have additional training in pelvic health which means they have specialized skills in how to assess the pelvic floor’s function from an external as well as an internal perspective.
Let me tell you a story about how one woman’s body changed after having her first baby; let’s call this woman Susie. In the delivery room, Susie’s baby made its way through the birth canal so quickly that Susie’s perineum had very little time to stretch to make a clear path for her baby to exit. Susie ended up with significant perineal trauma that required stitches to repair. After the delivery, it was painful for Susie to walk around her hospital room and sitting proved to be very uncomfortable as well. She faithfully rested and used her ice packs for pain relief in hopes that with time she would feel better. As time went on and she saw other new moms grocery shopping, going for walks, and starting to exercise again, Susie started to become worried that she was falling behind in her postpartum recovery! Not only was she still having pelvic pain that got worse with activity, she was now having rectal pain that filled her with dread each time she felt the urge to have a bowel movement. Susie was given the go ahead to return to sexual intercourse and begin exercising again at her 6 week follow-up appointment with her OBGYN, but she knew there was no way she could tolerate these activities without experiencing a lot of pain. Susie had proactively participated in Physical Therapy before delivering her baby, so she bravely asked for another referral.
Although a woman’s body is going to be forever changed after participating in the miracle of creating life, mamas shouldn’t feel like they’re left with a body that is broken. Physical Therapists want to give you tools and strategies that keep you strong so you can participate in activities that make you healthy and happy inside and out! We want you to lift and chase after your little ones, return to intimacy in an enjoyable way with your partner, and be able to participate in activities like barre classes, 5ks, and nature hikes. Sometimes it is a common misconception that women “pee when they sneeze” BECAUSE they had a baby, it’s “normal for sex to hurt” BECAUSE they had a baby, or “vaginal heaviness” occurs BECAUSE they had a baby. While it’s true that these things commonly HAPPEN after we’ve had babies, they aren’t normal or inevitable after having children, and it will likely require more than just lots and lots of kegels to solve these problems.
Let’s check in with Susie again to see how things turned out after going to several Physical Therapy appointments. Susie learned that her pelvic floor and surrounding muscles were very tight (kegels were NOT recommended) and that she needed to learn how to combine breathing, stretching, and relaxing positions to maintain a relaxed and healthy pelvic floor. Her Physical Therapist performed manual techniques to break up scar tissue from her episiotomy which improved the elasticity of her perineum. They even taught her how to work on these things at home on her own between sessions. With hard work and guidance from her Physical Therapist, she was able to enjoy sex with her husband again, have bowel movements with less pain, and exercise with confidence because she had learned safe ways to move her body.
Physical Therapy for mamas can be done during your hospitalization, at an outpatient clinic, or even in your own home! And while there are lots of therapists just waiting for mamas to walk through their doors, it isn’t standard for Physical Therapists to be included in postpartum care in the United States. Good news though, they are accessible and sometimes even covered by insurance when you seek them out. You’ll know you’ve found an exceptional Physical Therapist when they ask about your specific goals, give you tasks to complete at home between sessions, and you notice progress after each session.
Knowledge is power, and I hope that this information empowers you to feel comfortable talking to your providers about Physical Therapy or seeking it out on your own. Mamas do incredible things and they deserve to have the resources they need to live their best life.
Newly postpartum and ready to get started? Download this FREE handout to start your postpartum recovery journey today (even useful for mamas still in the hospital!)
If you’re ever looking for free information from the perspective of a mama and Physical Therapist, I put out videos weekly on my YouTube channel. I also offer 1 on 1 Physical Therapy Evaluation and Treatment sessions for moms living in West Michigan and offer an Online Postpartum Recovery Course for moms that don’t have the time or resources to get out to appointments.
Investing in your health is one of the best investments you can make. Become a STRONG mama so you can grow a STRONG family!
Dr. Nicole Bringer, DPT
Owner of Mamas & Misses, LLC
Phone: (616) 466-4889
We are excited to have Jamie join our team. As a yoga instructor, she brings a sense of calm and balance to a room that immediately sets you at ease. Let’s learn more about her!
What did you do before you became a doula?
I spent a glorious taco-and-sun infused 6-years in Austin, Texas, doing communications for the mother’s milk bank, traveling, and writing historical fiction for a start-up fashion brand, and later hustling as a project manager at a digital strategy agency. Now back in the mitten, I teach hot yoga at Yoga Fever and work part-time as the storytelling coordinator at Treetops Collective, a non-profit that supports New American women.
What inspired you to become a doula?
I’m passionate about supporting and advocating for women. I’ve babysat since I was “old enough” (which was 12 because it was the 90s…) and have always been fascinated with pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. So becoming a doula made perfect sense––empowering new moms in this amazing new stage of life. I want new parents to be confident in their innate skills as the perfect parent for their child—resisting the temptation to compare themselves to others, and ignoring the overwhelming opinions and conflicting messages that barrage them daily.
Tell us about your family.
My husband Chris and I met in Chicago 8 years ago and when he got accepted to grad school in Texas, I crazily agreed to move with him after only dating 6 months. We’ve been married for 4 years now, so it turns out maybe I wasn’t that crazy. We moved back to Michigan last year and bought a home in the South East End of GR and are eagerly expecting our first baby this summer. Until then, our two big dogs and 6-toed cat continue to keep us vacuuming.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
The best vacation I’ve ever been on was to Peru this past spring. We got the city and coastal experience in Lima and the historic, mountain setting in Cusco, and topped it off with a bucket-list hike of the Incan Trail to Machu Picchu. The culture, landscape, people, food, and history of the country was beyond incredible––10 out 10 would recommend this trip.
Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Whew, impossible to choose! How about 5 albums I’ll never get tired of?
Lucius, Good Grief
Solange, A Seat at the Table
Prince, Purple Rain
Paul Simon, Graceland
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours
What is the best advice you have given to new families?
You are so strong. You are capable of so much more than you think you are. One day at a time.
What do you consider your doula superpower to be? As a project manager at heart, I’m all about strategizing to meet goals. I love to help parents develop a plan for meeting their parenting goals––be it with developing a schedule, breastfeeding, sleep shaping, whatever.
My doula superpower kicks in when things get tough and sticking to the plan is overwhelming. I’m there as a calm and reassuring presence––even in the face of endless crying and sleep depravation—to support and encourage parents to keep at it and work towards success. It’s rewarding to watch these parenting wins—when they are reminded of just how capable they are.
What is your favorite food? I love Indian food. Lately I can’t stop requesting my husband make us butter chicken in the InstaPot—with lots of garlic naan on the side (you’re going to want this recipe—just ask me for it).
What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast? I love the beaches of Lake Michigan––during my time in Texas, I really missed my Great Lakes. Growing up, our family spent many summer weekends camping in South Haven—going to the beach and eating huge waffle cones at Sherman’s Ice-cream so that gets my vote for nostalgia.
What are you reading now? This book has been on my reading list since I had the opportunity to meet the author, Jessica Shortall, during my time at the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin, and I’m finally diving in: Work. Pump. Repeat: The New Mom’s Survival Guide to Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work.
And when I’m done with that, The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp is queued up on my nightstand.
Who are your role models? I am inspired by strong women who support one another, follow their truth, and live their passion. My social media feed is full of amazing women who get me all fired up in the way they advocate for body positivity, social justice, equality, mental health—here are a few of my faves: Frida Kahlo, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Beyonce, Rupi Kaur, the fine ladies of the My Favorite Murder podcast, Karen Kilgarif and Georgia Hardstark, Ilana Glazer, Christiane Amanpour.
Welcome Lauren Utter to the Gold Coast team as our newest birth and postpartum doula. We are so happy to have her!
1) What did you do before you became a doula?
I was a preschool teacher, event coordinator for a camp for children with various needs, and a nanny.
2) What inspired you to become a doula?
I accidentally discovered doula work. For a while, I knew I wanted to work with families transitioning into parenthood but I did not know how specifically. Initially, I thought I would be a lactation consultant but with more research the term “doula” kept coming up and it was exactly what I was looking for. I am excited and eager to begin supporting families as a doula.
3) Tell us about your family. I come from a large family. Five kids and I am smack dab in the middle. Our house was loud, busy, and always on the go. We are all very close now, and I am proud to call them some of my closest friends. Also, we ALL have our own dog so you can imagine how wild holidays are.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
I have not traveled as often and far as I hope to one day, but my favorite so far is Hawaii. It has some of everything; beaches, mountains, volcanoes, and culture.
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them. Surprising to most, I do not listen to music often. If I do it is normally the radio or on shuffle. However, a couple current favorites are Leon Bridges and Desi Valentine, and am a big fan of songs that make you want to move!
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families? Parenting is not one size fits all. It looks different for every individual and family.
7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be? Connecting with timid babies and toddlers, and babies experiencing stranger danger.
8) What is your favorite food? French Fries!
9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast? Ludington is one of my favorite places in West Michigan’s Gold Coast because my family and I always went in the summers growing up. It is a family favorite.
10) What are you reading now? The Whole-Brain Child By; Dr. Dan J. Siegel, and Nurture By; Erica Chidi Cohen.
11) Who are your role models? I have loads of role models but a few are Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama, and Ellen DeGeneres.
Elsa Lockman, LMSW of Mindful Counseling talks to us today about how partners, family members, and other caregivers can support a mother during those critical postpartum weeks to ensure she seeks help if needed. How do you approach a new mother and what are her best options for care? You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Elsa Lockman. She’s with Mindful Counseling, and we are talking about how partners and other caregivers and family members can support a woman who has potential signs of postpartum depression or mood disorders.
Elsa: Yes. So postpartum is going to be an emotional time, so tears, some anger, sadness, are all part of the experience. After about two to three weeks out, if spouse or a friend or a mother is noticing maybe a mom is crying more than usual, isn’t really looking forward to things, has these unusual fears that they can’t seem to let go of. Another sign would be not seeming to eat very much or either sleeping a lot or not being able to sleep when the baby is sleeping. If they’re noticing those signs, it would maybe be a sign that they could go talk to somebody as far as a therapist or go see their doctor. Approaching Mom would be in a way to not criticize mom as if she’s doing anything wrong. She’s not doing anything wrong, so start off with validating, actually. She’s doing a great job with how hard it is; validate how hard she’s working, and try to tell her that it doesn’t have to be this way. She doesn’t have to do it alone.
Kristin: How does the caregiver know if it is baby blues or if it’s something that she needs help for? Because, of course, there can be that hormonal fluctuation. They may be teary.
Elsa: Baby blues usually stops after three weeks postpartum. So after that would be maybe a sign that there’s more going on. But I would say, is it getting it the way of functioning? Is it getting in the way of relationships? Is it getting in the way of their working in the home or outside of the home, getting those things done? To a degree, that is expected postpartum; not everything running smoothly, but are relationships being affected? Those would be signs that it’s more than just baby blues.
Kristin: How can a spouse, partner, or caregiver be supportive in order to empower her to get help? Is it best for them to directly reach out for help for her if they’re seeing signs, or what do you recommend?
Elsa: I recommend the mom reaching out, so that would be encouraging Mom to reach out herself. And maybe she needs to talk to a friend and have more time with friends or more time to herself; maybe that would help. See how that works. If that seems to help and is enough to alleviate whatever stress is going on, then that works, but maybe if it’s not working, then take it to another level, which would be contacting a therapist or your doctor.
Kristin: And since, obviously, women have multiple doctors — they’re seeing their OB or midwife and family doctor and their pediatrician — does it matter who they’re speaking with about getting help?
Elsa: No, it wouldn’t matter who you see. Usually the OB would be the person that they’ve seen most recently, but they can even bring it up to the pediatrician, since moms see the pediatrician very often.
Kristin: And as far as getting help for our local listeners and clients, they can reach out to you directly? How do they access you at Mindful Counseling, Elsa?
Elsa: They can go to the website, and they can contact me through there. Another resource would be Pine Rest, and through your OB’s office, there also is a list of therapists who specialize in perinatal mood disorders, which includes postpartum depression and anxiety.
Kristin: That’s so helpful. And in past conversations, you had mentioned that women can bring their babies to therapy; that you allow that with clients you’re working with, and I know Pine Rest encourages that with their mother-baby program?
Elsa: Yes, for sure. Bring your baby to the session; you can feed the baby, breastfeed, anything. Coming with your baby is welcomed and encouraged, for sure.
Kristin: Do you have any final thoughts or tips to share?
Elsa: Just that it doesn’t have to be going through this alone. It’s very normalized for women to feel that anxiety is just part of the postpartum experience or feeling depressed and stressed is part of it, and while it might be a new phase and there’s a lot going on, it doesn’t have to be that women are just suffering through it.
Kristin: Great point. Thanks so much, Elsa, for being on!
Author Bio: Roselin Raj is a journalist and a writer. She has been writing extensively on health and wellness related topics for over a decade. Besides her professional interests, she loves a game of basketball or a good hike in her free time to fuel her spirits. “Health is wealth” is one motto of life which she lives by as well as advocates to every reader who comes across her blogs.
In the months leading up to my first delivery, I had many emotions ranging from excitement to fear. The idea of delivering a baby was daunting and had occupied my headspace completely. Though I had a consulting doctor and limitless information on the internet, getting the personal assistance and care from a doula did the trick.
According to What To Expect, “Doulas, who offer non-medical emotional support, are growing in popularity in the delivery room (or birthing center), but many also do postpartum work, helping new moms navigate the stressful, bleary-eyed early days of parenthood. Here’s why you may want to consider hiring a postpartum doula to help you through the fourth trimester.” With the rising popularity of doulas, let us understand what a postpartum doula is and how they help expectant mothers through and post pregnancy.
What is a Postpartum Doula?
As mentioned earlier, a doula is a trained professional who guides mothers with information, emotional and physical assistance before, during, and a short while post birth. The guidance and assistance are given to expectant mothers to make the process a healthy and less stressful experience. However, a postpartum doula extends their assistance until the baby has adjusted with the family.
A postpartum doula is skilled to assist with a variety of needs and requirements according to each family. For instance, once the baby is born, all the attention is directed towards the new bundle of joy. But the physical and mental health recovery of a mother is very important. A postpartum doula can help the mother ease into motherhood, provide necessary information on caring for the baby or help with breastfeeding issues, and much more. But a postpartum doula is not a nanny and helps the mother emotionally to recover after the birth of the baby, bond, offer newborn care, sibling care, and lighten the load of household tasks.
Benefits of a Postpartum Doula
The work of a postpartum doula extends post birth, unlike a birth doula. The postpartum doula’s main purpose is to make the mother comfortable with the baby and support her in doing so. The tasks may vary from mother to mother, and she is equipped to do the best in any situation. Here are a few of the tasks a postpartum doula can provide:
Postpartum Care for the Mother
Once the baby has been delivered, the mother requires a lot of caring and help. The basics involve eating healthy food, drinking water at regular intervals, and most importantly, rest. A postpartum doula will help in cooking, running errands, etc. to allow the new mother to recover. In the case of c-section delivery, she can assist the mother with the newborn, household tasks, offer support and resources, rest and healing, and aid in hassle-free recovery.
Women are usually emotionally weak post-birth with chances of depression and anxiety. Postpartum doulas can help create a stress-free environment, take care of the baby, and be emotionally available for the new mothers.
Breastfeeding and Newborn Support
Postpartum doulas are equipped with complete knowledge of handling newborn babies, and they help mothers to ease the process of parenting. The next big challenge after giving birth to a child is often breastfeeding. And as you are probably aware, it can be a challenging experience for both the mother and the baby.
In such cases, the doula helps with information on newborn behavior, soothes the process of breastfeeding or transitioning to bottle feeding. If further breastfeeding support is needed, she can offer local resources to an IBCLC (Board Certified Lactation Consultant).
Finding the Perfect Doula for You
Doulas can be found through word-of-mouth or going through service providers to find certified doulas as per your needs. The idea is to get a suitable doula who is certified, experienced, and well-synced to you and your family requirements. Before hiring a doula, talk to the agency regarding their qualifications, certifications, insurance, etc. to get a clear idea of who you are hiring.
Doulas or the agencies usually charge for services by the hour, location, services required, and the experience of the doula. There may be provisions to use your Health Savings Account (HSA) to hire a doula. Clarify with your insurance provider or the doula agency before going ahead with the plan.
On this week’s episode of Ask the Doulas, we chat with Chris Emmer, owner of Biz Babysitters, about postpartum life and owning your own business. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: This is Alyssa. I am recording with Chris Emmer again. Welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast. How are you, Chris?
Chris: Good, how are you?
Alyssa: So we talked to you about sleep before, and today we’re going to talk a little bit about being a mom in business and how that affected us. We were talking about this book you just read and the rage, the fire, that it lights under you about just how – I don’t know, would you say a mother in general, or would you say a whole family, is treated during pregnancy and how we’re just kind of disregarded during this postpartum time? And how we wish more was part of the whole process. You get pregnant, and you just get X, Y, and Z, instead of having to seek it out yourself and pay for it all yourself.
Chris: Right, that’s the biggest thing is that there is this huge lack of support postpartum. I guess I can only speak from my experience, but I felt like when you’re pregnant, you see the doctor every two weeks, and people open doors for you, and they smile at you, and you just hold your belly and you’re so cute. And then you have the baby, and it’s like wait, what? It’s just a complete shock, and it’s like, now is the time I need people to be nice to me! This is the hard part!
Alyssa: Yeah, you’re completely forgotten, and it’s all about the baby. Nobody’s holding a door open. I mean, how many moms do I see trying to struggle with a toddler in one arm and trying to push a stroller through a door, and I’m watching people walk by? I’m running up to her, like, let me get the door for you! Why are people just completely ignoring you?
Chris: Blowing past you like you’re not there, yes. Absolutely. So, I mean, I don’t know what your birth experience was, but there was a six-week checkup or an eight-week checkup, maybe, and at that appointment, my OB said, and I quote, “You are a normal person now. Go back to life as it was.”
Chris: And I was like, but…
Alyssa: I’m not! And define “normal,” please!
Chris: How do you know I was even normal before? But yeah, and then that was it, and then she scheduled me an appointment for one year out or whatever, just a normal physical exam like you would have just as a person before kids. And that just felt so shocking and kind of, to be honest, just cruel and unjust. Like, you’re in this huge transition, the most incredible and important transition of your life, and the bottom drops out, and you’re completely alone there. And we know that mental health is a huge issue postpartum, and there was really no education on that besides circling which happy face you feel like today.
Alyssa: Yeah, we’ve been talking to pediatrician offices a lot because they oftentimes are the ones who see this mom and baby before the six-week checkup, so they’re the ones who are seeing this mom struggling with breastfeeding. She’s crying all the time. We can tell she’s not sleeping. Let’s talk about her mental health. Even though you’re here for me to see this baby, I’ll weigh the baby and do all the things I need to do with the baby, but let’s also ask Mom. So thinking about tests, you know, different tests and not just picking the smiley face; let’s really ask you some real questions. Because, yeah, six weeks is too long. It’s way too long to wait to see a mom, and then to tell her that she’s normal and to go home and go on with life. I mean, maybe somebody feels kind of back of normal again at six weeks, but sex is not the same at six weeks. You might not even be completely healed, especially from a Cesarean. Maybe breastfeeding is still not going well. How do I deal with these leaky boobs? What’s going on? Nothing is normal!
Chris: There is zero, zero normal, and I think in that circumstance, being told, “You’re normal now,” when on the inside you’re like, “This is anything but! I feel like an alien in my own body and in my own brain and in my life! Who am I?” You look in the mirror and honestly have no idea who you’re looking at, and to be told you’re normal, then it adds, I think, a layer of shame, because you’re like, oh, I’m supposed to be back…
Alyssa: They think I’m all right, so what am I doing wrong?
Chris: Yes, and then I think of the way that I handled that appointment. I probably just smiled and giggled and said, oh, thanks! Yay, I can chaturanga again! See you at yoga; bye! You know, and then just acted happy and normal, and then got in my car and cried or whatever happened next. But yeah, getting back to what we were originally on – now, I’m almost a year out, and I’m coming to a point where I can look back, and I’m processing all the different stages and reflecting on what everything meant, and I’m getting really obsessed with this transition and I’m soaking up all this literature on how we do it in other countries. My question for you is this: how do you come to terms with that? It feels so – I don’t know.
Alyssa: Just unjust?
Alyssa: I think knowing that what we’re doing at Gold Coast is just a small, small piece of this pie, right? We’re one tiny piece of this bigger puzzle. I could look at the whole big picture and get really, really angry, but what can I do right here, right now, for my community? But then, even then, I’m like, okay, so, even in my community, there is just a small portion of people who can afford this because it’s not covered by insurance. So what about the rest of the community that I can’t help? So we just do the best we can. And every family that we support, we support them the best we can, and we know that we’re making a difference for those families. And then they’re going to, in turn, hopefully, kind of pay it forward, right? Like, either tell someone there’s this support available, or they’ll say, “I struggled too. I want to help you.” You know, my sister, my neighbor, my friend: be that support! Because maybe your neighbor can’t afford to hire a postpartum doula, but you have a group of friends who could stop over. You know, I’m going to stop over for two hours today. She’s going to stop over for two hours tomorrow.
Chris: That’s a really cool way to think about it, the ripple-out effect. Because you do need a lactation consultant; you need a sleep trainer. All these things; where the lack is in other areas, you end up having to find that somewhere else. So what about people who can’t afford these things? But I love what you said, that you could teach this one family this thing, and then you know that that mom is on a group text with, like, 15 other people. Like, I’m in probably five different group texts with different groups, like my cousins that are also moms, my friends from growing up that are also moms, and we’ll text each other pictures of things like a rash. The trickle-down image is cool to think about, that if you equip one family with the tools to do something, that they can then kind of pay it forward.
Alyssa: Yeah, and I think, too, about sleep. So I try to make my plans very affordable, but there’s always going to be people who can’t even afford the most affordable package, so I’m like, what can I do? Maybe a class. So I’m actually working on a class right now where I can give new parents some of this basic knowledge about healthy sleep habits. But again, like we talked with your sleep podcast, there’s not just one solution that works. So I don’t want people to think that by taking this class, they’re going to walk away and say, “I can now get my kid to sleep through the night.” I will give you the tools that I can that are generalized to children in certain age groups, but then from there, they kind of just have to take it on their own, if they can’t afford to have me walk with them and hold their hand through the whole process. But I guess it’s one step of, like, what else can I do to reach those people who maybe can’t afford everything? I think we’re just slowly working on it. We’re finding ways to infiltrate the community in so many different ways, whether it’s volunteering. We used to teach free classes at Babies R Us until they closed. That was another way that we could just get information into the community and let people know, you have options. You have a ton of resources in this community, and here they are.
Chris: That’s so cool.
Alyssa: Otherwise, yeah, you can get really, really mad about it.
Chris: Yeah, you can get really mad!
Alyssa: And I think that is the fires that burns. That’s what makes us passionate about what we do, because it is not fair that moms feel so isolated and alone once they have a baby. It’s not fair.
Chris: And then take that passion and turn it into something that can help people.
Alyssa: Yeah. So this kind of is a good lead-in to your new business because you, reflecting now back over the past year and owning your own business, and thinking, “Oh, I got this; I can do it all during my maternity leave” – even though you work for yourself and you don’t really give yourself a leave. Life still goes on; you still have emails to deal with and all your social media stuff, and looking back and saying, how can I help other moms when they’re going through this transition? So explain what you went through and what made you start this new business.
Chris: Yeah. So a little bit of background info: I have a social media business, so I do social media for a handful of clients, and when I was prepping for my ‘maternity leave’ last spring, I thought I was getting ahead of the game. I was, like, “Chris, you’re amazing! Look at you pulling it together!” I hired some people to my team. I started training them. I started onboarding them. I thought I had all my systems put together, and I thought everything was awesome. In my head, I was going to take at least one full month off, not even checking email, just completely logged off. In my head, I was, like, wearing a maxi dress in a field, holding a baby, effortlessly breastfeeding, with sunshine. It was going to be awesome. And then I thought that I would just slowly ease my way back in and maybe come back in September. In reality, what happened was I had a C-section. My water broke one week early and I ended up having a C-section, and in the hospital still, just hours after my surgery, I was doing clients’ posts on social media and doing their engagement because I hadn’t tested my team. I actually had a few people who I had hired who ended up just not working out. And so it all fell back on me because, as a business owner, it does. And so that was just in the hospital, and then getting home and starting to learn how to do, like, sleep training and breastfeeding and even just dealing with my own healing – that was more than a full-time job already, so I was trying to balance that with continuing to work. So there was zero maternity leave there, and that made my transition, which was already really pretty tough, a lot harder than it needed to be, and I can see that looking back. I’m like, whoa, girl. That was nuts. But at the time, it felt like the only thing that I could do. And so, like we said, looking back and seeing that, I’m like – it fires me up, and I don’t want anybody to have to do that. And I will do anything again to prevent that for other people. So when I see women who are pregnant and own their own business, I just want to shake them and tell them, “You don’t know what’s coming! You need to prepare!” Because I wish that somebody would have done that to me. But all I can do is offer to them what I wish I would have had. So I started a business now called Biz Babysitters, and what we do is we take over clients’ social media completely. So we can handle posting; we can handle stories; we can handle DMs, engagement, comments – literally everything. We can handle your inbox, as well, so that you can log off totally in your maternity leave. Because there is such a temptation to just bust out your phone, and there are so many things that you think, while you’re breastfeeding or raising a newborn, that you can quickly, easily do. You just can’t!
Alyssa: On that note – so I too was a breastfeeding mom, scrolling through my iPhone. I recently learned that there’s an increased risk of SIDS by trying to multitask while breastfeeding because you can get your kid in an unsafe position. Like, especially a teeny-tiny baby who needs to be held in the right position. They can suffocate on the breast. So that’s another reason for mom to just put your phone down.
Chris: Put your phone down!
Alyssa: Yeah, stop multitasking.
Chris: Two other things with that. One is the blue light that comes off your phone. If you’re shining that in your baby’s face in the middle of the night and then wondering why they don’t sleep or why you don’t go back to sleep? I would get up and breastfeed my baby and be scrolling through Instagram, and then I would lay down in bed exhausted but completely unable to fall back asleep, and I think it was because I was staring into a glowing blue light. And the other thing is just the mental health aspect of social media. There’s so many more studies coming out on this now, but Instagram is not good for our mental health. You’ve got to really clean up your feed and be intentional about it if you want Instagram or whatever app to not send you down a shame or comparison spiral. And I remember feeling, while spending hours and hours on Instagram and breastfeeding, that this whole world was out there happening around me, and I was watching all the fun things everyone was doing, and I remember just feeling like I was stuck in this one place. So I could feel the negative effects of being on social media in my immediate postpartum, very strongly. So I think that just acknowledging, like, maybe this might not be a great thing for you in a time when you are so tender and vulnerable.
Alyssa: So we had talked about this, and you had said, “I wish somebody would have told me all these things I needed postpartum,” and then you were looking back through old emails and you found one from me, saying, “Hey, you should take my newborn class.” And you were, like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’m too tired.” And now you’re like, well, shoot, I wish I would have done that! So how do you tell moms who are pregnant and saying, just like you did, “I got this. I’m lining everything up; all the Ts are crossed; the Is are dotted; when I go on maternity leave, everything is done. I’m good.” And you’re saying, no, you actually need to prepare. How do we really reach people? You don’t know what you don’t know, so unfortunately, this mom isn’t going to know she needs you or me until she’s already in the thick of it and losing her mind and crying and saying she can’t handle this anymore. So maybe it’s just education? They need to hear it over and over and over again that this harder than you expect, and you have to prepare ahead of time.
Chris: Right. I don’t know! This is the hardest part, because you’re exactly right, you don’t know until you know, and I looked back this morning on that email that I had sent you, where I was like, eh, I think we’re good. We were so not good! Oh, my God! That’s the hardest thing, I guess. All you can do is share your story, and maybe it will connect with some people. But I think that a lot of it is, in that state of shock afterwards, to be there to help out, too, as sort of like a 911.
Alyssa: And we have that. You know, a lot of people call us. “We need postpartum help,” or, “I need sleep help.” And it is like, how soon can you start? But with your business, if I was a new mom and I was in the middle of this social media campaign, but you don’t know anything – like, how would a mom do that 911 with you?
Alyssa: Would that even work?
Chris: It would, because we’ve got systems set up, like our intake forms and everything. I mean, it wouldn’t be as effortless. You know, you would have to go through a lot of onboarding because we need to figure out your voice, your tone. A lot of it we can do just from stalking your account and everything that you already have out there on the internet, but yeah, there is a little bit of work that needs to go into handing off the reins to somebody. But I really like to tell people – this is the cheesiest – it’s a skill to chill. But it’s for real, especially for people who own a business. We are a weird breed of people where you don’t know how to relax because you’re so passionate about your business that a second that you have to breathe, you are probably dropping into your business. I don’t know. I was that way.
Alyssa: No, it’s true. I’m always on, and I think occasionally, let’s say an appointment cancels or I end up having an hour of free time. I find myself wandering, and I don’t even know what to do. What do I do right now? I just finished all my work because I was supposed to be doing this other thing right now, but I can’t get out of that mode to just sit and read or go for a walk. I’m trying to get a lot better at that. It’s beautiful out; I should go for a walk. But it is hard to get out of that mode and into chill mode.
Chris: Yes, so it takes practice because it’s shocking. And so I love to recommend to people to get started working together around 30 weeks. Go through all the intake forms; get everything put together, so that you can start your log-off at, like, 36 or 37 weeks. And in those last couple weeks, you can start to practice relaxing and see what it feels like to not check your email, and see what it feels like to not being in your Instagram DMs every 15 minutes. Fill in your vice of choice, but you can start to slowly – just like how you want to phase slowly back into working, you can slowly phase out of it. And you don’t know what’s going to happen towards the end of your pregnancy. You could go into early labor. You could want to nest so bad that you just wander around Home Goods for eight hours. So I love to tell people to start early; start around 30 weeks, then slowly phase it out. We can work out any kinks, and then you can practice for maybe a week, maybe two weeks, seeing what it’s like to be completely stepped back and completely relaxed. And I think that’s a great way to mentally and physically prepare for your immediate postpartum as well so that you aren’t tempted to jump back in. That little reaction you get with your thumb when you turn your screen on where it just goes to Instagram and you don’t think about it – you can start deprogramming that now.
Alyssa: That’s really smart. So for any moms who are listening to this and going, “Oh, my God. I need that. I’m a business owner and I’m pregnant.” Whether it’s your first or fourth, you can use this. How do they find you?
Chris: You can find me on Instagram, of course.
Alyssa: Of course. You have a beautiful Instagram feed. I love it.
Chris: I’m such a nerd for Instagram. I love it so much. So on Instagram, I’m @bizbabysitters. And you can find every other piece of information from that point. Instagram is the hub. And then bizbabysitters.com is the website. I also have a free maternity leave planning workbook for anybody who is coming up on your maternity leave and you’re not sure you want to work with somebody. This is totally free and a good way to just get started wrapping your head around a game plan.
Alyssa: And they can download that on your website, too?
Chris: Mm-hmm, bizbabysitters.com/freebie.
Alyssa: Lovely! Well, thanks for joining me today! Is there anything else that you want to say about either your business or this crazy mess of being a mompreneur?
Chris: I think it’s such an interesting, cool breed of women. And there’s so many more of us now! A big shift is happening, I think, and it’s really cool to be part of it.
Alyssa: I have a daughter, and so do you, so I think it’s really cool that as Sam gets older, she’s going to see you as your own boss. I think that’s really cool. My daughter knows that I own my own business and I am my boss, and I work when I want to work – and I’m going to get better at working less – but I just think it’s really cool and empowering. That, in and of itself, is really empowering.
Chris: It is! Julie, the postpartum doula at Gold Coast, left me a stickie note. She always leaves little stickie notes, and I save all of them. She left a stickie note that said, “You are setting a good example for your daughter.” And I was, like, tears!
Alyssa: Tears! Oh, Julie.
Chris: She’s the best!
Alyssa: Yes, we love her too!
Chris: So I guess also just a reminder that you’re not alone, even if you feel that way. We’re all feeling it.
Alyssa: So help a sister out. Stop this mom shaming stuff. You are no better than another mom, and don’t even try to make yourself look better than another mom. We’re all struggling in our own way, no matter what stage; six weeks or six years. We all have different struggles.
Chris: Yeah, and different areas of thriving, as well. We’re all in it together.
Today we talk with Dr. Theresa, Chiropractor and BIRTHFIT Instructor in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We ask her about what’s safe for a pregnant and postpartum mom to be doing and why having a supportive tribe around is so important. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud. Be sure to listen in or keep reading to get a special discount code for your BIRTHFIT registration!
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas! I’m Kristin.
Alyssa: And I’m Alyssa.
Kristin: And we’re here with Dr. Theresa today from BIRTHFIT. She is also a chiropractor and does many things, which she’ll explain later. So, Dr. Theresa, tell us about BIRTHFIT and why you decided to bring this to Grand Rapids.
Dr. Theresa: Yeah, so I have been in practice for about seven years, focused on the perinatal population, and I found this big disconnect in the postpartum time where women are preparing for birth, and it’s kind of like this mindset of, okay, I just need to get through birth. And we’re kind of forgetting about that postpartum time where the real work begins, because now you’re not only taking care of a new family member, but you need to heal and take care of yourself, too. So I really wanted to help with that time specifically and give women more information on what they can do.
Kristin: So when does a woman typically take your class after they’ve had their baby?
Dr. Theresa: We recommend the first two weeks postpartum as the coregulation period, so that would be way too early to take my class. That’s when you are bonding with Baby, hopefully not really leaving the house at all, and usually after that time, women are like, okay, I’m ready. So probably the earliest somebody has taken my class was after two weeks postpartum, and that was almost an exception to my rule because of her fitness level during her pregnancy and before. But for the most part, I recommend four to six weeks as a perfect time. But also with that being said, postpartum is forever, and I’ve had moms that are a year or two years postpartum take the class.
Kristin: That’s what I’ve seen on your social media posts, and tell us about how babies are involved.
Dr. Theresa: Yeah! I kind of time my classes so that, even though women are on their maternity leave, they may have other kiddos at home that they want their husband to come home and take care of. But Baby needs to come with Mom, and we totally encourage that because they need to nurse or they need to be tended to during our class. So we encourage moms to bring their babies; bring your favorite carrier, and we can implement them during the workout in a safe way.
Kristin: That is amazing. Do you find, since you also have a prenatal series, that women take that during pregnancy, and then you’re able to extend the relationship into the postpartum time?
Dr. Theresa: Yes, that is the goal, and my last session for the prenatal series is all about postpartum. So I talk to them about things they can during pregnancy to stay active and hopefully lead to better birth outcomes, but then what can you start doing postpartum at what time. So for those first two weeks, right away, women can start working on their belly breath, whether they’ve had a C-section or a vaginal birth. They can start doing that to mobilize their pelvic floor in a really gentle way, and then also reteach their abdominal wall how to come back together.
Kristin: You mentioned Cesarean. If she had a Cesarean, does the provider need to give approval at some point for her to start taking your series, or how does that work?
Dr. Theresa: Good question. So, typically they’re released for exercise, depending on the person, between 8 to 12 weeks or whenever the scab falls off is usually another really good time to start doing some exercise. And with those women, we teach the slow-is-fast mindset anyway, for everybody, but especially for those women, because now there’s a different pull happening when they move. So that can be a little bit scary, so we talk through those things; we talk through signs that, okay, we need to slow down a little bit. So it’s totally customizable to the woman and the birth that she had, which is also why I keep the class sizes small. They’re limited to about ten people per class, so I make sure everybody’s being tended to.
Kristin: Now, of course, you mentioned some of your students are very fit and they exercise throughout pregnancy. So say they’re a CrossFitter or they took prenatal yoga. What about women who were not in shape before they got pregnant and who are trying this and worried about their fitness level?
Dr. Theresa: Yes! Those are my favorite clients that I have in these classes because most of the women have never picked up a barbell before; women like that who have really never exercised. And when I first did this, you think BIRTHFIT; CrossFit — is it the same thing? And it is not the same thing at all, so I don’t want that to intimidate people. When I say barbell, that could be an empty 15-pound barbell that’s just there to give you a little bit of load, and it can even help you with your form on some of the movements. So we go really slow, and we really focus on form and breathing through each and every movement. And I love to see how confident these women get when they have a barbell in their hand. Or when we’re coaching pull-ups and we use a band to help assist them with the pull-up, and they have so much fun! They’re like, I never thought I could do a pull-up before! And it’s just the coolest thing to see.
Kristin: So what, of all the focuses you could have, why are you so passionate about the postpartum phase in women’s life? You’re focused, obviously, on prenatal, as well.
Dr. Theresa: So I think we’re really luck in Grand Rapids. There are so many resources for prenatal. There are some awesome childbirth education classes, and I see a lot of people preparing and taking multiple childbirth education classes and taking, like, car safety and CPR and all the things to get ready for a baby, and then postpartum kind of looks like this, where they go to their six-week checkup, and they’re released for exercise and maybe they’re given a sheet with exercises to do on it, like strengthen your abs and do Kegels. And it’s such a blanket recommendation that is not doing service to women the way that we need them to be feeling really connected back to their body through the four pillars of BIRTHFIT, which are fitness, nutrition, mindset, and connection. So I think those four things are so important in the postpartum time that women aren’t having the opportunity to do or they’re not understanding how they can do it postpartum. So I want to take each person and individualize to them: what can you do postpartum to really help fill your cup so you can take care of everybody else?
Kristin: And it sounds like a wonderful community. Women are often isolated after giving birth and they struggle with childcare or even wanting to leave their child. So they can bring Baby with them and find a circle that women are going through the same thing around the same time; some may have toddlers and be the “wise ones” to give the newer moms some advice. So I think that part of it sounds great because everyone needs a tribe. I know that word is overused, but it’s true.
Dr. Theresa: Yeah, and that is so fun, to see them exchanging phone numbers. This summer is the first year — because I just finished up my first year of BIRTHFIT. I started in 2018, so now I’m on my second cycle of it, and we’re going to do a meet-up this summer where, whether it’s going out for coffee or meeting in a park or whatever, because women are asking for that. They want to see the people that they took class with; they want to talk to other people. So I really loved that. We also have a private Facebook group, so they’re able to still keep in touch that way, too.
Kristin: And then you’re able to give them resources in the community if they need to see a pelvic floor therapist. I know you said you work on the pelvic floor, but they need recommendations, and as an expert, you’re able to give them.
Dr. Theresa: Absolutely.
Kristin: And postpartum doula recommendations and sleep and lactation and whatever they might be looking for?
Dr. Theresa: Yes, exactly, and I really keep that door open. We always have, during each class — so we meet twice a week for four weeks during the series. At each class, there’s a workout, but then there’s always an education component, whether I’m having my good friend Emily VanHOeven from Spectrum Health, who’s a pelvic floor PT; she comes in and gives a really awesome presentation and answers questions for these women. I have a nutritionist come in, Jenna Hibler, who you guys had interviewed. She comes in and talks about nutrition. So I have these different resources and topics, depending on — and sometimes it changes, depending on the needs of the group. I kind of ask them in the beginning what they’re looking for and what they need, so that way I make sure, at some point, they’re getting that.
Kristin: That’s great!
Dr. Theresa: Yeah, it’s really fun!
Kristin: Alyssa, is anything coming to mind for you?
Alyssa: Where were you six years ago?! Because, yeah, it was really hard to find things to bring my daughter to with me postpartum. And I know some moms are like, no, I don’t want to bring my kid with me; I’m coming alone. This is my time. But when that’s not an option, it’s good to have a place that you can bring your baby, even if it’s just in a car seat right next to you. I mean, I’ve done that before, too.
Dr. Theresa: Absolutely, yeah. And the postpartum series takes place at the CrossFit gym I go to, CrossFit 616, and they have a childcare room there, which you never see. Especially in a CrossFit gym, it’s unheard of. And we’ve had a baby boom in the last couple of years within our gym, so it is not uncommon to see women breastfeeding just at the gym, out in the open, and it’s not uncommon to see somebody else holding somebody else’s baby and just kind of helping out. So it’s a great community.
Kristin: Yeah, I would not picture a childcare room in CrossFit at all!
Dr. Theresa: There’s a TV; they have PBS Kids. It’s pretty nice.
Kristin: I’ve supported some birth doula clients who were CrossFit, and they were incredibly strong and determined. So, yeah, I’m inspired that they’re so healthy that they could exercise in that way through the entire pregnancy.
Dr. Theresa: Exactly, and those are sometimes the hardest ones to teach that slow-is-fast mindset, and there have been several high-level CrossFitter women coming out now, like athletes coming out and saying, I really wish that after my first baby, I had done this differently because I did some serious damage just starting too soon. And then after they have their second baby, they’re like, I’m doing this differently and slowing down.
Alyssa: I like that you talk about breathing, even just having that breath, like that yoga breath, of when you breathe in, your stomach should expand, and that actually helps your pelvic floor. You don’t know that — I didn’t know that until I saw a pelvic floor therapist. I’m, like, breathing helps make my pelvic floor stronger? And it does! And how slow and gentle that is for somebody who just gave birth, no matter whether you had a Cesarean or a vaginal birth; that slow movement makes you stronger. Your breath makes you stronger.
Dr. Theresa: Absolutely. Those are our top pelvic floor tips: belly breathing and LuLuLemon high-waisted pants because they give just enough compression without too much downward pressure.
Kristin: And the focus on nutrition is key. Woman are so depleted, especially if they’re breastfeeding, so making sure that that’s part of the class and having someone who specializes in nutrition speaking — I love that you bring in experts.
Alyssa: If you want to ever talk about sleep, I would love to come in and talk about sleep.
Dr. Theresa: Yes! I am always looking for people who want to come in and talk to these women because it takes some of the pressure off of me, too, and they don’t have to listen to me talk the whole time. It’s nice to hear from an expert! That would be great! And a postpartum doula — I think a lot of women don’t know that’s a thing. That’s big.
Kristin: And I think of it as more of the tasks that we do as postpartum doulas, like someone to clean up or do meal preparation, and caring for the baby, but we are caring the whole baby and setting up strong systems and supporting sleep. So it could be anything from three hours in a week to 24/7, and so we’d love to come in and talk about our role and how we can support a family.
Alyssa: That would almost be better for a prenatal series, to get them thinking about it before. I think the biggest thing is that we plan for this birth, and then it’s like, what now? What do I do? I’m home alone with this baby. So talking to them about the resources that they have postpartum before the baby actually comes. Not that it’s too late; if you have a six-week old or a six-month old, you can still hire a doula, but it’s certainly more critical in those first few weeks.
Dr. Theresa: Right. And I find in my classes, it’s the women who are third- or fourth-time moms, even fifth-time moms, that are like, I understand why I need all of this stuff now to help support me. Even though you would look at them and think, oh, they must know it all; they’ve been through this — but those are the women who are seeking more information, I find, and they’re the ones hiring doulas and really trying to prepare because they know what they’re in for.
Alyssa: Exactly! They know how hard it is. These first-time moms are in this state of bliss, which you should be, thinking about all the wonderful things that will happen, but no matter what kind of birth you have, you’re going to be waking up every two to three hours while you’re healing. So you’re not getting the rest you need to heal. You can’t really exercise yet. You’re sleep deprived, and you are in pain. It’s hard!
Dr. Theresa: It is! It’s really hard! It’s so good to have support, from having somebody coming into your home to having that tribe, again, using that word, but having that tribe to talk about those things together. One of my favorite topics that we talk about during the postpartum series — and it’s totally one of those things I was nervous to even bring up because I don’t want to offend anybody, but talking about having sex for the first time. We’re talking about all of these things that other women are like, oh, my gosh — you, too? So having those resources to be able to talk — I think that’s a perfect thing, that you could have a conversation about that one-on-one with your doula, because I don’t know how many OBs are talking about that.
Alyssa: It’s a lot of what our doulas do postpartum is just tell them, this is normal; this is okay. Let’s normalize this. You know, as a first-time mom, breastfeeding is really hard and I’m failing. No, no, no. This is normal. Let’s talk to a lactation consultant, or let’s just change your latch a little. Some very simple things a doula can help with, but this mom might not even know she has a problem with latch. She might not know that it’s a problem that her nipples are cracked and bleeding. The doula can say, no, this isn’t normal; you do need to seek out additional help.
Dr. Theresa: Totally. Something that I’ve seen crop up a couple times lately are vasospasms, that they just have no idea what that is, so they don’t do anything about it, and it’s like, oh, this is a perfect opportunity to work with a doula or work with somebody who can be, like, oh, yeah, I’ve seen this before; this is what you do.
Alyssa: What’s a vasospasm?
Dr. Theresa: From nursing; it’s like Raynaud’s in your fingers where you lose blood supply, so the nipples turn white and it’s super painful. It’s like frostbite on your fingers, you know, that searing pain.
Alyssa: I get that on my fingers all the time. I can’t imagine that on my nipples!
Dr. Theresa: I know, yeah! And it’s things like warm compresses, checking latch; you can use some magnesium to help dilate the blood vessels. So some things like that can really save that mom some excruciating pain. Yeah, just talking about those things that people think are normal, and you’re like, no; that’s not normal. We can do stuff about that.
Alyssa: Well, and that’s the beauty of a doula, too. It’s different than a babysitter. It’s different than a nanny. Doulas have this vast knowledge and experience and resource base to share, and sometimes, it’s crying and talking together. Sometimes it’s just like, okay, go take a nap and I’ll clean up your house, and that mom feels like a million bucks after a two-hour nap and a clean living room when she makes up. It’s much, much more than that.
Kristin: And a doula, just like you, as an instructor, would have resources to say, hey, you should really check out this BIRTHFIT postpartum series, or you need to go see a chiropractor, or there are some things that you can do in the community. You can do to La Leche League meetings and bring your baby with you.
Alyssa: And I think that’s what you’re doing, too. It’s so much more than just going to work out. You mentioned those four pillars; they’re getting that, and that’s why they want to keep coming back and why it feels so good.
Dr. Theresa: Absolutely! And changing that mindset, because women want to come for the workout. They’re, like, yes, I want to get back in shape, and that’s kind of their focus is that physical piece. But we sneak in all this other educational stuff that they didn’t know that they needed, and they are able to leave with so much more than they thought they were going to get. I love that. I love seeing that.
Kristin: So, Dr. Theresa, tell us when your next series is, how people can find you and register, and any other info that is relevant.
Dr. Theresa: Yes! So this year, with the postpartum series, I also developed a workshop to do before the actual series starts. So the postpartum workshop is a two-hour event where we just focus on body weight exercises, more like floor exercises, which are great for that early postpartum time for Mom to get reconnected to her body. And it’s great, too, if Mom can’t commit to four weeks, but my goal is that women are taking the workshop and then they take the series, which builds on the workshop. So the next workshop starts April 23rd, and that’s from 6:00 to 8:00 PM at Renew Mama Studio, and then the series starts a week or two later; I believe it’s May 4th, something like that. It starts in May, and that will go for four weeks twice a week. And you can find more information on our website on how to register.
Kristin: And you said you had a special coupon code for Gold Coast clients and our podcast listeners?
Dr. Theresa: Yes, absolutely. So I’m offering $20 off registration using code BFLOVESGCD. That promo code can just be applied at checkout.
Kristin: Fantastic! Well, thanks for joining us today. It’s so good to see you, Dr. Theresa!
Dr. Theresa: Thank you! It’s so good to be here! Thank you for inviting me!
This podcast episode is sponsored by LifeFuel, providing healthy meal delivery in West Michigan. We love partnering with LifeFuel!
Alyssa: Hello! Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas. I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today I’m talking to Dr. Erica Armstrong of Root Functional Medicine. Hello, Dr. Erica! Welcome.
Dr. Erica: Hello, thank you for having me!
Alyssa: My business partner, Kristin, has been talking to you, but I want to know a little bit about Root Functional Medicine, and then we will talk about an event that we’re going to have together here in our space. So tell me a little bit about what you do.
Dr. Erica: So I am a functional medicine doctor. My background was in family medicine for several years before I went through functional medicine training, and Kelsey, our dietician, and I created a specialty practice in functional medicine, the first of its kind in West Michigan, and we partner up to help patients really get to the root cause of why they’re not feeling well. That’s kind of the basis of functional medicine; we look at people in a holistic sense and try to solve problems at the root, and a lot of the time, we do need to make nutritional changes, and so it just made perfect sense to partner up with a dietician to do that.
Alyssa: So explain to me what a functional medicine doctor does versus a regular medical doctor. How would you, in very simple terms, explain what functional medicine is?
Dr. Erica: Sure, I would say there’s not a simple explanation other than it’s a different model of healthcare entirely. Functional medicine isn’t the symptom, one diagnosis, one treatment, the typical path that gets rushed through. It really is stepping back, looking at the entire picture since birth and even before birth of a patient because they’re not just a snapshot in time. We look at their genetics. We look at their microbiome. We look at their nutrition and lifestyle and really plot everything on something called a functional medicine matrix, and we try to balance the imbalances. And then we look at lab testing that’s simply not available in traditional labs to see how the body is actually functioning, and with that information, we can be much more preventative and not only help people stay away from disease but actually help them feel well.
Alyssa: Yeah, I think of it as — you know how you go to a doctor within one medical system, and then you go to another one, and you’re answering the same questions all the time, but nobody seems to be talking together. And functional medicine is like having all those specialties together talking to one another, so the heart specialist isn’t just looking at your heart. The heart specialist should also be asking about nutrition and diet. You know, it’s not just all these segmented pieces.
Dr. Erica: Yeah, that’s absolutely right. In traditional healthcare, we tend to silo things, but yes, if you have a heart issue, it doesn’t stop there. There are other things that we need to look at, so it’s really putting the big picture together.
Alyssa: So you and Kelsey — she does the dietician part of it? We should have her on sometime, too, because I love talking about diet and sleep since I do sleep consults and food, especially for little ones. Do you see children, as well?
Dr. Erica: We do, yeah. We can see all ages, and I do a lot of nutrition, too. Just in functional medicine training, a vast majority of that is nutrition, but Kelsey does help a lot with specific diets and troubleshooting, and she has a lot of nutrition knowledge that she shares with patients, too.
Alyssa: Let’s talk about this event and tell people what it is that you do to help pregnant women and what they can look forward to if they come to this event.
Dr. Erica: Yeah, so even before pregnancy, really optimizing wellness and things like just trying to make sure they’re eating balanced, healthy meals is important, and then things to look out for in the postpartum period where we’re often sleep deprived and have higher cortisol levels and how to navigate and troubleshoot those areas, how to plan ahead for that.
Alyssa: So this event we’re having is on March 7th from 6:30 to 8:00 PM and it’s going to be here in our office in the Kingsley Building. Seating is limited because our office can only hold so many people. It’s $35.00 per person, and we’re going to create a link and post it on Facebook and put it on our website. Are we calling it How to Set Yourself Up for Success in the Postpartum Period?
Dr. Erica: Yes!
Alyssa: So we’re going to talk about good foods during pregnancy, what to watch out for, sleep deprivation and cortisol, like you just mentioned, tips for dealing with that, and then how to evaluate adrenals and thyroid, which I know is a common question for a lot of women, pregnant or not.
Dr. Erica: Yes, we end up seeing a lot of thyroid disease coming after pregnancy, for a variety of reasons. So how to test for that and assess it from a functional standpoint.
Alyssa: And then we have — and you might need to help me with this; talk about some adaptogens in food? What is that?
Dr. Erica: So adaptogens just means that it helps your body adapt to situations, so certain things like mushrooms or ashwagandha, those are called adaptogens. So if people are having a lot of high cortisol levels, actually eating that food helps because food can talk to your genes and tell your genes to turn on or off and produce more or less cortisol. That’s a very scientific answer, sorry!
Alyssa: No, I get it! And then the last thing I have on here, “some supportive things to do such as basic ideas that can be forgotten during the postpartum period.” What do you mean by that?
Dr. Erica: So even just remembering to continue your prenatal vitamins. Things can get so out of routine with a newborn baby that you forget to do simple things that can help you feel well. We end up seeing a lot of nutritional deficiencies just after giving birth, especially vitamin D. There’s a lot of vitamin D deficiency in general in West Michigan, but if you’re breastfeeding, you’re at more risk for that. And then magnesium deficiency, which many of us are deficient in. So just those two simple vitamins, we can test those levels, and people end up feeling a lot better when we replace those.
Alyssa: So who would you say should come to this event? Women who are pregnant, trying to conceive, postpartum, all of the above?
Dr. Erica: I think all of the above, for sure, because we’re going to talk about a lot of general health tips, as well, as focusing on the postpartum period.
Alyssa: Okay! So again the event is called How to Set Yourself Up for Success in the Postpartum Period, but even if you’re pregnant, I always tell people to plan ahead. So it’s good to learn this stuff so that you’re not in the midst of all this chaos with a newborn at home, and going, oh, shoot. If you know this stuff, you can plan ahead. And again, that’s going to be on March 7th from 6:30 to 8:00 PM, so if you’re interested, you can go to our contact form and let us know you’re interested in the event. I would still like to know a little bit more about your practice. Where are you located?
Dr. Erica: We’re located in downtown Grand Rapids, and we mainly see people in person, but we can also see people virtually throughout the state of Michigan via telemedicine, and some people will drive in for the first visit and then follow up virtually, as well. We have different packages on our website. You can either work with Kelsey in nutrition package or with me in functional medicine or with both of us in what we call the Get to the Root package in where we work together for at least three months and really help get to the root cause of feeling better.
Alyssa: I love that you can do it virtually, especially for postpartum moms!
Dr. Erica: Yes, it makes a lot of sense not to have to lug the baby in!
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s the last thing you want to do! You’re in your yoga pants; you don’t want to have to drive downtown and probably run in to somebody that you know with no makeup on and all that stuff. It’s just a lot easier, especially if you have a newborn and toddlers at home to not have to leave.
Dr. Erica: Yeah, and we can attach all the food plans and wellness plans right to the patient portal.
Alyssa: That’s really convenient! Well, if anyone is interested in getting ahold of you, what’s the easiest way?
Dr. Erica: There’s a contact form right on our website. And we’d be happy to answer your questions. We’re also on Instagram and Facebook as Root Functional Medicine, and we post most of our updates there.
Alyssa: And we’ll share the Facebook event, as well. Again, it’s How to Set Yourself Up for Success in the Postpartum Period and it will be on March 7th from 6:30 to 8:00 PM here at the Gold Coast Doulas office. Well, thank you, Dr. Erica! Thanks for joining us!
Dr. Erica: Thank you!
Alyssa: And tell Kelsey we’ll have her on sometime, too.
Will a postpartum doula travel? Yes, at Gold Coast they do! Today we talk to Kelsey Dean, a Certified Birth and Postpartum Doula, about her experience in California and in Michigan traveling with families as a postpartum doula and what that looks like. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hello, welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. Today we’re talking to Kelsey Dean, one of our newest postpartum doulas, and then you’ve also come on as a birth doula as well. Welcome!
Kelsey: Thank you!
Alyssa: I wanted to talk specifically about your postpartum experience. Can you tell us where you came from and the type of experience you’ve had in California and even in the Detroit area, right?
Alyssa: And then specifically I want to ask about this traveling aspect of the postpartum doula role.
Kelsey: I started my doula training in 2016 to be a labor doula and postpartum doula. It was just a full-spectrum course, so from there, I had intended to start midwifery school right after, and I thought I really want to get more experience, and so I started picking up postpartum clients because it’s work that’s easy enough to schedule, and it’s also such a rich transition time that it kind of just called to me more. So I began more so nannying for really small children; that was kind of how I got into the doula community and practicing, and then by referral I started to get young families or families that were planning on having children so we could plan a little further in advance. And then I became a full postpartum doula in 2017, so it was about a year transition between doing nanny work and just getting what I could find. In Sonoma County, I served families as a postpartum doula. A lot of overnight shifts were something that were really popular there because sleep is critical. So I moved to Michigan this past summer, in July of 2018, and I got really, really fortunate to link up with Jill Reiter from the After Baby Lady doula services in southeast Michigan, and she was great and connected me with so many families in that area. The experience ranged from single parents to families with really extended family that’s visiting on and off; a lot of range in socioeconomic status, and that’s been really helpful to see, too, to just have that wide range of what can we do; what are your best resources? And now I’m getting a little bit more into the traveling doula idea, and sometimes that’s day work; sometimes it’s overnight. It totally depends on what the family wants, but I’m happy to talk about that more.
Alyssa: Yeah, what does that look like for a family? How far do you travel and how long?
Kelsey: Totally depends on the doula. For me, because I am pretty easily up and mobile, I am willing to go — I can’t think of anywhere I wouldn’t go. I mean, really, if you’re traveling, the idea is that you’re essentially bringing another person with you that you would account for like a family member, so the family that’s hiring is making sure that person has room and board, is able to access everything that they would be accessing like food and tickets and that sort of thing. So in that sense, in some ways, it’s very easy if you’re a single person to just go because you’re just jumping in to the plan that’s already existing. If it’s someplace that’s a little closer by, sometimes – like when I was with a family up in northern Michigan, it was nice that they made accommodations for me, but they already had a home, and so in that case, it’s more a conversation of what does this look like? If I’d had family up there or something, I really wouldn’t have needed that, but if it were, like, we’re going to Mexico and we need a doula, that’s definitely, you know…
Alyssa: You’d have your own room?
Alyssa: And in northern Michigan you stayed in a hotel nearby?
Kelsey: I did, yes, and those are usually flexible things, too. Airbnbs are really affordable, and if they have an extra, you just would get one with one extra room in it or something like that. That’s actually worked out for a couple of doulas that I have been in a collective with in the past, that they just did that house share kind of thing, and then in that time off, usually if they’re working overnight shifts or if doulas are working overnight shifts, then it’s easy enough that they wake up and go to bed around 8:00 AM and then the family gets that nice morning time, and then around nap time, the family gets to all go take a nap and the doula comes back in. So it’s a rotating shift kind of thing. It’s like having another family member. I mean, traveling is already kind of a stressful event, and a lot of the things that you would worry about as a new parent when you’re in your home, like, okay, if I need to go see my doctor, where are they; how long is this going to take; or where can I go find this very specific thing that I need for my own health, like elderberry syrup is really popular now because it’s the middle of winter, but things like that: doulas tend to think about those things, and we want to know that before we go somewhere and it’s just one less thing for the parents or the family to think about over and over and over again. So it’s just like having that extra set of hands that you would need anywhere else.
Alyssa: And what if somebody says, oh, wouldn’t it be cheaper to bring a nanny with me? Like, what would be the difference between hiring a nanny and a postpartum doula to come with you?
Kelsey: I like this topic all the time, traveling or not. Nannies are excellent, and they’re meant to be with you for a long period of time and be with you while your child grows, and that’s wonderful, but they’re not necessarily certified in any education or expertise about your baby. So yes, they might come in like another person that feels very warm and loving, and they feel like another family member and this extension that’s really great, but there might be some really serious cues that they would miss about your newborn because they’re not supposed to know. Whether or not they’ve had kids, they might not have had that experience.
Alyssa: And even cues with the mother, right? Like noticing signs and symptoms, like breastfeeding issues or mental health issues that a postpartum doula is trained in.
Kelsey: Yes, absolutely. And nannies, I think, generally — I mean, I’m thinking about childcare, but in general, nannies really aren’t there for a family in the same way that a doula is. A doula is looking at everyone as a spectrum, as a family, whereas a nanny is really there for the childcare.
Alyssa: I think that’s a common question in general. That’s why I like to ask it, so I like that you like to answer it.
Kelsey: I do! And because I totally get it. I’ve had several of my friends tell me about their nanny experiences with, like, twins that are four weeks old and stuff like that, and they just felt super overwhelmed and totally unprepared, and it’s like, well, yeah, you were.
Alyssa: You haven’t been trained!
Kelsey: Yeah, and a lot of times, the stories are from when my friends, being the nannies or babysitters, they were only, like, 16 or 17, totally unprepared for that kind of circumstance.
Alyssa: That’s kind of like a mother’s helper role at that point. You know, it’s not even — I would have a hard time considered a 16-year-old a nanny. It would be more of a babysitter or a mother’s helper.
Kelsey: Right, yes! If you think of it in village terms, a woman that just had a baby — yes, there are those young women that come in to do some cleaning and make sure that you have fresh clothes and you get time to take a bath, but there’s also the matriarch women, like the women that know what’s right and wrong and how this process goes. You need both. I think doulas, as doulas, we try to cover as much of that spectrum as we can by going through some training and education and experience. And yes, it’s great that you also have the opportunity to have a nanny come in and help in that soft way and maybe make meals and things like that, but it’s just not the whole package.
Alyssa: Yeah, I agree. And a doula — we know that we get into this for a temporary amount of time. Like you said, it’s a whole spectrum. We’ll supporting the whole family, and once the parent or parents feel — you can almost sense that confidence in them when you’re like, okay, it’s time for me to go. And they’re like, well, I don’t want you to go! But it’s like, you’re ready. They’re just not ready for you to leave, and sometimes it has to be gradual. Like, okay, we’ll go from three days a week to two to one, and it’s like this gradual process instead of abruptly ending that relationship. But then it’s a great time for a nanny to step in.
Kelsey: It is. I like the concept that doulas are coming in during a transition time, and we try to be these invisible people that just have everything going on, but then the reality is that we’re not invisible, and it’s a subjective experience, and we’re like, oh, now you have to transition out of us too, like double transition time. But that’s such a good time to connect with mommy groups in the area, or like you said, a nanny. We can make those resources and referrals happen, too.
Alyssa: Well, and that’s the other thing too; we’re connected. Doulas are connected in the community, and like you said, we like to know where, if you’re having an issue about this or that — hey, we know who you should talk to; we know who you should go see. Let me have you call so and so. We know how to make those referrals and connections.
Kelsey: Yeah, we really can ease that transition. And just on the note of nannies, sometimes I know we’ve all found people that were unexpected connections. Like you meet someone that’s a nanny that’s a really good fit for you and your family, and that’s great, and maybe you meet — the first interview that you go on with a doula just doesn’t seem like the right fit, but in the same way, you choose a doctor or a chiropractor or someone like that, and if it’s not the right fit, you still wouldn’t go to a doctor and say, well, I didn’t like that doctor, so I’m just going to see an acupuncturist or a chiropractor or a nurse. If you need a doctor, then that’s who you need, and I think with doulas, it’s very much about finding the right fit. This person is going to be in your house, in your vulnerable space. They’re seeing you at a vulnerable time. It’s so important to get the right fit, and the same thing goes for a nanny, but they’re just not necessarily interchangeable. They don’t replace one another.
Alyssa: Yeah, and I think that’s what’s great about having the team we do is because they’re all wonderful, but they all have different personalities. And I agree; I’m a definite type of personality that wouldn’t want certain traits in a postpartum doula that another mother would be like, no, I need those. So I think you’re right, and meet two or three of them if you have to. If you connect with the first one right away, awesome. Which most of them do because all of our doulas are lovely, but yeah, it’s not like a personal stab to the heart or anything if you don’t get hired. Just maybe it’s a personality thing; personalities just don’t fit.
Kelsey: And at Meet the Doula events where there’s a lot of us, we can feel that, too. As a group of doulas, when a family walks in, you can say, oh, that’s totally a doula family for Kristin; she’s got that one for sure. And it doesn’t mean we don’t like them. I can still totally love a family and want the best for them, but just say that I can totally tell that they’re a match for someone else.
Alyssa: I agree. We do that even with a phone conversation. We can tell. Five minutes of talking to a mom on the phone, and I can be like, I know who you need to talk to. Gina, Julie, Kelsey. You can totally get that vibe right away, and usually it’s spot-on.
Kelsey: Oh, yeah. Women’s intuition.
Alyssa: So when you’re traveling with a family, a nanny just has a salary?
Alyssa: Is that how it works? So everything is the same? But a postpartum doula is an hourly rate, so explain what that looks like for families if they wanted to go on vacation for two weeks and they had a nine-week old baby and wanted to bring a postpartum doula along. What do the hours look like? How do you figure out pay?
Kelsey: It varies per family, again; however, I think the idea that you’re taking someone on vacation so you should be able to get a discounted rate — at first glance, that does make sense. However, when you look at the flip side of that, you’re asking someone to uproot their lives, make sure everything is taken care of on a last-minute basis, and any plans that they may have had in those next two weeks, they have to reschedule. So we are really putting our life on pause for this family, and I think for that reason, there are things that are just assumed that they’re going to be paid for, like the accommodations and the ticket, and no, travel doulas aren’t for everyone because they can be more expensive than a regular postpartum doula. I mean, you’re traveling, so in that sense, it can be — it’s more expensive in general, but usually the rate is about the same. We’re all flexible, and we want to help, so we’re willing to make it work with families. But that being said, it’s usually around the same rate in my experience, and what I’ve heard from other doulas that are also doing this. And as for hourly schedules, we are there.
Alyssa: You can either be there for 10 hours a day or 24, depending on what the family wants, right?
Kelsey: Right, and it’s kind of up to the family and the doula, because just like in any other doula work, if I’m doing an overnight shift here in Grand Rapids, I might be asleep for three of those hours and still being paid to be present in case something were to happen, so that’s something that the doula and the family need to work out. If they want overnight support, is that sleeping overnight support, or would they rather have maybe something until 3:00 AM and then switch so that the doula can get some sleep? There’s always a way to work it, and if cost is a limiting factor, then maybe 24-hour support isn’t the best choice, but there’s just so many different ways to work that, just like natural doula work in any other location. And I think most people usually would prefer to have a 12-hour shift or something like that and then have a little time where it’s just them and just their new family and have that bonding time where there’s not another person kind of butting in and out because after a while we, if you can tell that everything is going really smoothly, it’s like I don’t need to ask you again if you need anything; I can tell you don’t. But if we’re traveling with you, we’re wherever you are. It’s not that we’re out partying in Mexico for three hours and coming back to you. We’re probably just right down the street or at the beach or getting lunch, just in case you call or something like that. So it’s so flexible, and maybe a little bit — I think maybe doulas are a little bit more available in that kind of circumstance. Like, if you wanted more care, we’re already right there.
Alyssa: Right, whereas a nanny service could be a little bit more rigid? Like, you have her from this time to this time, and if you call after that, she’s not going to answer.
Kelsey: Yes. And another thing about those excursions, like going-out-into-the-world excursions kind of things, when I was living in Sonoma, there were families that would want to go wine-tasting or something like that during the day, which is great; live it up. I don’t know if that really counts so much as traveling; it’s more like a day-long event where you just need an extra pair of hands and somebody to juggle all these things.
Alyssa: Well, and wine-tasting, specifically, you want a pair of sober hands, right, to be caring for your baby while you go wine-tasting. That’s probably a really good choice!
Kelsey: And I guess that’s not something that — I don’t know if we would run into that here very often, although the beer thing — like people might go on a beer tour or something like that, but it’s just like, that’s great, get out and do your thing, and a pair of sober hands to make sure there’s a quiet place for napping — and you’d be amazed. Some of those places, if you’re going to on a wine-tasting day or bop around a city, it’s totally beautiful and it’s totally feasible. It’s not this wild, crazy, drunken event. It’s okay to bring your baby with you. It’s just that there need to be safety precautions in place, so another pair of hands, yes, is critical.
Alyssa: Well, and especially let’s say if you have a three-year-old as well. I think that makes it even trickier. You just say, okay, I’m not even going to do these outings anymore. But if you know you have this trusted professional that can come with you, why not? Why not bring the kids along and let them experience this and everyone can enjoy it?
Kelsey: Yes, and just in terms of mental health and overall wellbeing, that kind of feeling when you know you can go out and do something that you really want to do, in 15 hours, you’re going to feel like a better person than when you were stuck at the house, like I can’t leave; I’m stuck here. Just having that mentality switch of having this liberation, this choice to make, that if I want to go do this thing, I can. It’s so relieving. A lot of moms just feel stuck, like I have to take care of my two kids right now, and they’re both driving me crazy at the same time, but I can’t leave.
Alyssa: Right. And obviously, money is a factor for some families, and in that sense, a neighborhood little girl or mother’s helper might be the right fit for them if that’s all that they have the resources for. And then in-home doula support is another level, and then traveling would be another level beyond that.
Kelsey: Yes, traveling is definitely the most fortunate option, but even if — I mean, the great thing about postpartum doulas is that you can have us in your house, and you don’t need to go anywhere. If you want to go take a nap or take a shower, that’s normal. That’s so much a part of our job.
Alyssa: That’s the majority, yeah. I mean, sometimes a client will need to get out, and we tell them, you know what, go run for a coffee and come back in an hour. But that almost gets into that babysitter role, like I’m just going to watch your kids while you leave. I think as a postpartum doula, to be there with the family is critical because you can see them in action; you can help the mother bond with her baby if you see her struggling or help her with breastfeeding support or tell her, you know what, go take a shower or take a nap; I got this. And when she wakes up and you’ve done the dishes, the baby’s napping, and you’re picking up the house, she’s like — you’re an angel! This all happened in two hours? How did you do this? So I think really being there for the family when the family is there is critical, but there are those times of need where you’re like, this mom needs to get out, and whether you go with her or tell her to go alone, I think sometimes that’s just as important.
Kelsey: Absolutely. It is nice to have a whole family perspective, to see everyone together, and I know that’s hard, especially if one parent is working or if it’s a couple and one person is working already by the time they get a postpartum doula in the house. That can be really challenging, but I’ve definitely had families who, even when there’s only one person, you can feel something is just in the air. Like, we’re not talking about the partner that’s not home, and there’s, of course, different ways to handle that. We do hear a fair amount, and there’s that fine line that’s, like, oh, playing around, and maybe that’s how the relationship is with those people, that they’ve always kind of joked with each other like that, but sometimes it’s not. Your hormones are all over the place, and as doulas, we have a limited role in that, I think. As a postpartum doula, there’s definitely been times where I just thought, you know what? This is maybe rooted deeper than the postpartum period, and I know that therapy sounds like a four-letter word for some people, but there’s so many different ways to access really great conflict resolution and therapeutic helpers in the world that can sometimes just be a phone call from home that’s really private. And if that’s something that is very built up already in someone’s mind, maybe we can find the resources. But most of all, I think we’re the eyes in those kinds of circumstances to just be able to sense out just how strong the conflict is, to be able to make a plan of attack. A lot of times, we get to ask the questions that are the uncomfortable questions that the cousin or the aunt or the mother-in-law would notice, but wouldn’t want to say anything because you want to preserve that relationship for a lifetime, and it’s a little more delicate.
Alyssa: Or if they did ask, mom wouldn’t answer honestly or would be offended or would get angry. But coming from her doula who is in her home and she loves and now trusts, it feels like a friend asking, and you’re available to be open and vulnerable with this person. It’s amazing how quickly that bond forms between a doula and a parent. They just become so vulnerable with you, and I think that’s the beauty of the relationship that becomes between these two or three — usually it’s mom, baby, and doula, where they have this relationship, and that’s why it’s so hard to leave because mom has formed this bond. And baby, too, you know? Oftentimes, it’s really hard to leave that baby that you’ve been with. We have birth doulas who have been with a mom throughout pregnancy. They were there for labor and delivery, and then there for months afterwards. So that’s a really strong bond. It’s really har d to sever.
Kelsey: Absolutely it is, especially because you want to see the next step. You know, there’s always that one next thing that’s almost there and you just want to be there for it. Yeah, that is a hard bond to sever. And they don’t have to severed. I mean, we’re always there. We just love. Doulas are such big lovers that it doesn’t have to be this severed bond of never speaking to each other again. We just aren’t going to be in your house four days a week anymore.
Alyssa: Right, and you end up becoming Facebook friends and following photos there. They’ll send random photos via text, so yeah, I think that relationship continues; it’s just a little less frequent. Well, thank you for joining us. If anyone is interested in learning more about Kelsey or hiring her for in-home or traveling doula, she is available, and you can contact us to chat about that.
One of our clients describes her pregnancy, labor, and delivery and how having birth and postpartum doula support saved her sanity. You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hello! Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas. I am Alyssa, and I’m super excited to be talking to one of our clients, Carrie, today. I feel like I known you. We’ve been emailing back and forth forever, and I finally get to see you and hug you today.
Carrie: I know, it’s nice to meet you!
Alyssa: Welcome! So you have used a few of our services, and I kind of want to hear your story from start to finish with as much or as little as you want to tell us. So you find out you’re pregnant, and then what?
Carrie: Well, and just a quick background about me, too: I was a late bloomer. I got married at 38, and Mark and I talked about having kids, but it wasn’t a priority. We loved to travel, and I was focused on my career; he was focused on his career. If it happened, great; if not, we were okay with that. And a couple years later, I was almost 40 and it happened.
Alyssa: So you weren’t necessarily planning it, but not preventing it, either?
Carrie: No, exactly, but we kind of figured with my age, I was a higher risk, and I kind of figured it just wasn’t going to happen for us. But then it did, and now, of course, we can’t imagine our life without our daughter in it, now that she’s actually here. But at the time, you know, we had other priorities. So now we’re pregnant. We’re like, oh, my gosh, what the hell do we do? We had all these array of emotions come over us, like our life is going to change forever. And we bought all the books that we were supposed to buy, and we started reading. And that’s where I came across the term doula. I had never heard of a doula before. So I do what anybody does nowadays, and I go to Google. I’m, like, what is this doula that they keep talking about?
Alyssa: Do we have any in Grand Rapids?!
Carrie: I know, it’s kind of a small town, but there were actually a couple companies that led me to you guys, and Gold Coast had rave reviews I started reading. Mark and I don’t have much support. Our parents are older, as we’re older, and our siblings live far away, so we didn’t have many friends or family that could or would want to be there to support us through this process. That’s what led us to make the decision, and we kind of did it late in the game, too. I forget how many weeks along I was, but I was due in early August, and I think we reached out to Gold Coast right around early July, so very late in the process.
Alyssa: You make me want to look it up right now and see, but yeah, I think you were 35 weeks or so; pretty far along.
Carrie: Yeah, it was kind of late. So apparently, I didn’t read these books soon enough, but it was the best decision I made, especially with just not having that support from family. The doulas were amazing. They didn’t judge, and they gave their honest opinions on their experiences and what they saw, but they weren’t biased. So at that early stage in the pregnancy, we were able to build that relationship, and we had made the decision to do the birth doula and postpartum doula. I love Mark, but he’s not female and he’s not given birth. He said, “I think I could handle this all by myself,” and I’m like, no. No, he couldn’t have. So I was really glad we went through the birth with the birth doula and the postpartum doula. Before the labor portion, we had a text chain going on, so I was able to text Julie and Tricia and just ask any question. It could be as dumb as it sounded or just very simple questions.
Alyssa: First-time moms have a ton of questions, and you can’t call your OB five times a day.
Carrie: Right, so I was able to text them, and they got right back to me. But that just started the relationship-building, and I think that was the biggest thing, just having a relationship, because they’re embarking on this incredible journey of yours, and it’s a very private journey, but we’re asking them to join us. And that initial correspondence between them just helped build that bridge of feeling secure with the person that you’re with. Then to jump forward to the labor portion — you have to be open, you know? You have the doula there, and she’s just helping you as much as she can, but she also offered the privacy that we wanted, too. We had to make some decisions, and Tricia was our birth doula, and she gave us the privacy that we needed to make those difficult decisions, if we were going to have a C-section or are going to continue to try to do it naturally. But she was there when we needed her, too, so it was such a good experience. If I were to do it again — and I think we might be one and done — but I can’t imagine not having a doula with us for that part of it.
Alyssa: What was Mark’s experience, since he was thinking, going into it, “I can do this; I got you, honey. You only need me.” After actually experiencing this and having a doula, what does he think?
Carrie: He sat on the couch, so…
Alyssa: Watching the game on his phone.
Carrie: Yeah, he was watching the game. Both games! But no, he did great. He supported me how he could, but he realized that he couldn’t support me the way that a doula could, and there’s just certain things that Tricia knew, like different things to try that might help the process, that Mark wouldn’t have had a clue. And it’s nothing against a male, but they can’t carry a baby. So if we did have another child, I think he would be all for it.
Alyssa: He’d be on board right away this time?
Carrie: Yeah, yeah. And then that leads us into the postpartum, and for me, that service was invaluable. I don’t know what I would do without having some help. The first month was more like they helped me survive. I’m not working right now, and I wanted to make sure my husband was able to sleep because somebody’s got to bring home the bacon. And so I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t up all night like I was, but I would look at my Fitbit, and I thought, oh, my gosh. I am not getting any sleep at all!
Alyssa: Getting a lot of steps, but no sleep!
Carrie: I know! Like, okay, moms are not joking! This is reality, what you go through the first month of having a newborn. Some nights, if I got more than 30 minutes of sleep a night, that was good. Or just at one time, in one chunk. My average was maybe three hours or so. But your body just adjusts to it, so you do what you need to do, but without having the doulas, it would have been rough. And I think they started out maybe around ten hours or maybe a little bit more right at first. Now my daughter is three months, and we still have the doulas. We made a decision, and for my sanity, we still have the doulas coming about ten hours a week. So it went from survival to now giving me part of my life back, but it’s giving me a break now.
Alyssa: You went from survival mode to thriving; surviving to thriving.
Carrie: Yeah, and our daughter loves the doulas. She’s so happy. It’s almost been such a process of they get to grow with her. The babies grow. I didn’t know; they grow a lot between newborns and three months, and she’s so big now, and she’s giggling. So the doulas get to see that and be a part of her life.
Alyssa: They will be so sad when you’re done. They will be so sad. That’s the hardest part of being a postpartum doulas is being with a family for that long, especially with you, because they were with you through pregnancy, labor, delivery, and now months postpartum. Usually, those relationships don’t just abruptly end. We’ll still have contact somehow.
Carrie: Well, and another thing I wanted to comment, too, that compared to just a babysitter or getting some external help, the doulas are so reliable. I know Julie, if she’s supposed to be there at 2:00, it’s 2:00. She is rolling in at 1:59.
Alyssa: You know something’s wrong if she’s not there at 2:00.
Carrie: Yeah, she’s very punctual. So a few weeks ago — I think our daughter was ten weeks at this point, and I was having some issues going on, and I thought it was just food poisoning, and like a typical female, I just put it off, like, oh, it’s going to be fine, you know, hide the pain. And after day three, I’m like, okay, something’s not right. I can barely stand up. So I went to urgent care, and I had appendicitis. The doctor at urgent care said I had to go straight to the ER, and I asked if they were going to do surgery right now, and he’s like, yep! So I call Mark, and we don’t know what we’re going to do because we don’t have the help and it’s Sunday. We try not to bother the doulas on the weekend, but Mark called the doulas, and within an hour, they were at the house. With them working as a team, usually either Julie or Tricia can always make it, and they were a lifesaver. So my biggest advice for anybody that is deciding if a doula is worth it — if you have the financial means to do both the birth, and the postpartum, do it if you can. It’s a game changer, and if they don’t have the financial means to do both, the postpartum for me probably was the biggest help. I mean, if I had to choose. I wouldn’t want to choose, but if I had to choose, I would choose just having postpartum help.
Alyssa: I agree, because even if you wouldn’t have had the support through pregnancy and birth, and let’s say you had this traumatic experience, having a postpartum doula to then talk to you about that and go through the emotions of that and talk about the traumatic story — you’d still get all that emotional help afterwards.
Carrie: Yeah, the baby’s here, no matter what.
Alyssa: Right, and as we see depression rates and anxiety rates climbing, especially with new mothers, postpartum support is critical. That’s where my heart is, so I agree with you.
Carrie: It was interested because I’ve been given the depression surveys every time I go in, even to take my daughter to the doctor. I always get a survey. Luckily, I’ve been fine, but the only time I ever got a little depressed was after this second surgery because I was starting to finally bounce back and get back into my groove. I wasn’t working out like I used to be working out before, but I was getting my life back, and then I had this, another setback. And then that’s kind of when I got sad, but luckily, I bounced back really quickly, and it wasn’t bad for me. But I can see how easy it is to get into spaces that are darker than you want to be in.
Alyssa: Without even realizing it’s happening, sometimes.
Carrie: Yeah, absolutely.
Alyssa: You just wake up and there you are, and how do I get myself out if I have no support?
Carrie: Yes. And the doulas are always so positive.
Alyssa: You have an amazing team. Julie and Tricia are so wonderful.
Carrie: They are, they are. We share so many pictures back and forth, and I even — sadly, I shared — it had been 12 days since our daughter had had a bowel movement, and…
Alyssa: Did you send a poop picture?
Carrie: I did! She did it while we were at our friend’s house in the middle of dinner, and they had cooked this nice dinner for us.
Alyssa: Of course!
Carrie: And she was kind of fussy and she wasn’t crying, and Mark grabbed her, and he said, “Oh, she’s kind of sweaty.” And then he’s like, “That’s not sweat!”
Alyssa: Everywhere, right?
Carrie: Twelve days of backed-up!
Alyssa: That’s what I tell clients. You know, if they go a few days, it’s not good, but I mean, it can happen, but I just warn you — watch out. It’s all coming out.
Carrie: I was holding off on all the Miralax until after we didn’t have any plans, but no, she let it go.
Alyssa: She got it out!
Carrie: Yeah, she did!
Alyssa: So what’s been the biggest joy of being a new mom?
Carrie: Now that she’s kind of getting past the big blog phase, now she’s starting to laugh and make squealing noises now, so it’s very interesting watching them. Every time they learn to do something new, they keep doing it. So that’s the biggest joy, I feel like, just watching her learn. We’re just showing her the world right now, and it’s pretty cool. Just seeing her learn and making all sorts of new noises and her eyes and having her look at you and just smile.
Alyssa: She knows that you’re Mommy.
Carrie: Yeah, yeah! It just makes you tear up. And then also seeing my husband. You never know how a guy is going to handle that new baby, and he doesn’t know, but seeing how Mark was transformed, and he’s just this doting dad now, and he is so in love. And he was probably more in love because he was taking care of her because I had a C-section, so he had to take care of the dirty diapers right at first and do a lot of it. Seeing him just mold to being Dad right away was breathtaking, and it was such an awesome experience.
Alyssa: It is fun to see dads turn to mush when they meet their babies. So if you had to choose — we’ve talked a lot about postpartum support, but if you had to choose one thing that you wanted to tell a mother — let’s say they could only afford a birth doula. What’s the main thing? Would it be for you or for your husband? Who was it most life-changing for?
Carrie: It was more life-changing, I feel like, for me, because I was the one going through the labor. Once the nurses knew I had a doula — and the nurses were great, but they have so many other patients that they’re also visiting at that time, too, so they were able to kind of back off me and let Tricia help, and she was able to just understand what my body was going through, because I didn’t know what I was going through at the time. She was able to see the contractions that I was having on the monitor and say, okay, you’re starting a contraction right now. And my husband wouldn’t have been able to go through that with me. He was so green and didn’t know. But she was also able to put me in different positions, and then also let me know what my options were. I was at five centimeters for, like, twelve hours. And I just wasn’t moving, so it was nice getting Tricia’s point of view of, okay, what would be the best avenue to go down? Through the whole process, she just really helped me, as a doctor or a nurse would, even though she’s not medically trained. But I was a hundred percent comfortable with her.
Alyssa: So she would offer you some suggestions, and then let you and Mark talk that through and see what would be the best option?
Carrie: Yeah, she had been through so many different births, and every birth is different, but she was able to just give me advice on what she had seen and what she had also gone through, and she had twins. So she’s been through a lot, and she also has an older son, too, so she’s been through labor two times, but technically three times because she has three kids. So she has a lot of advice, and I always learn from people that have been through the situation before. So it was nice having her feedback.
Alyssa: And it was never, like you said, a judgment. You didn’t ever feel like she was telling you this is what you need to do or this is what you have to do?
Carrie: Absolutely not. And when it was time for Mark and I to make the decision or just talk about it, we just asked Tricia to go get coffee, and we talked about it. But it was nice having her feedback or her suggestions on different avenues we could take. Not that we didn’t trust the doctors and the nurses, but we had a relationship with Tricia.
Alyssa: So if you had to tell someone in a nutshell, what does a birth doula do? Like, if you had to give an elevator speech for someone, even after listening to this, if someone’s still like, well, hmm? So they just sit there and give you advice? What do they do? What would you tell somebody? You just find out you’re pregnant; you don’t know what a doula is. What does a birth doula do?
Carrie: So the birth doula made the experience a positive one, and whether that was by giving a massage or just helping with breathing and different positions to help make it more comfortable to give birth. I did have an epidural at one point, so I didn’t do it naturally, and ultimately, I had a C-section, but Tricia was able to put me in different positions to make that pain easier, before the epidural. It’s kind of all mush now, the memories of the actual birth, but I do know that Tricia was there for every step of it. She was such an integral part of it. It was almost like we were one. She just helped with the pain, even though she wasn’t giving me drugs, but she helped make things a lot easier. For a birth doula, it just meant, for me, an easier pregnancy, to deal with the unknown that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.
Alyssa: And then what about finding out you have a C-section?
Carrie: I just wanted that thing out!
Alyssa: Right! People often wonder, well, what is a birth doula going to do if you have a C-section, and they don’t think about that immediately afterwards time period. Who’s there?
Carrie: Yeah, good question, because she was actually also a lifesaver for the cord blood donation. We decided to do that because our doctor had mentioned that they are just making a lot of advancements on what they can use the cord blood for down the road, even helping with autism and different things. So we decided that we wanted to store the cord blood. But there’s a procedure that not all the nurses knew what to do, and our birth doula, Tricia, was able to take that in her hands. She wanted to make sure that everything was handled properly and got where it needed to go. So when we actually got out of recovery from the C-section — the C-section happened really quickly, and it wasn’t an emergency, but our doctor gave us an option. She said we can do this, and Mark and I talked about it for probably less than five minutes. We were like, it’s been twelve hours. Let’s do this. So we went in, and before you know it…
Alyssa: There’s a crying baby!
Carrie: There’s our daughter! But then the cord blood — that went back to recovery, and as far as I know, Tricia helped to orchestrate that whole process, making that happen. She was a lifesaver on that end because then we would have just wasted our money. She was able to come back in recovery, and it was so nice having her meet our daughter. And then I told her to get home because she had been awake for I don’t know how many hours. It was 1:00 in the morning, and I think she joined us at 11:00 AM. So it was a very long day.
Alyssa: Like, 14 hours or something?
Carrie: Yeah, it was a long day for her. So I told her to go home, and then I went back to the room.
Alyssa: Thank you for sharing. I know that they just adore your family and they’re going to be so sad when this time ends, but our jobs as doulas are temporary. We know that going in.
Carrie: It’s hard. I don’t know how you guys do it. It’s kind of like fostering an animal.
Carrie: I don’t know how people just let them go.
Alyssa: I know, you make these connections. But Grand Rapids is small, and I’m sure that relationship won’t doesn’t end, like I said before. They’ll be in touch for a long time. And then if you do get pregnant again, who knows, right?
Carrie: I know who to call!
Alyssa: Well, thanks for coming on! We’re going to have you on again another time to talk about a whole different issue, but thanks for joining us today!
In this episode our dear friend, Bri Luginbill of BetterBodyImageConference.com tells us about her struggle with depression and anxiety before, during, and after pregnancy. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas. I’m Alyssa, and today I’m so excited to be talking with my friend Bri. Hey, Bri.
Bri: Hi, everybody.
Alyssa: She is with the Better Body Image Conference, and we did an event together – how many months ago was that?
Bri: It was this March.
Alyssa: Was it this year?
Bri: It was this year. Doesn’t it feel like it was last year?
Alyssa: Forever ago, uh-huh.
Bri: It was this year, March. I believe the 11th. Crazy. It feels like eons ago.
Alyssa: Yeah. Well, maybe since I mentioned it, tell everyone a little bit about what that conference was, and then at the end, we can ask you for more information.
Bri: So that conference was a way to connect people in the community with different organizations that are very passionate about body image and just the mental and physical health, as well as social change, that can happen in our communities around that certain issue. And so Gold Coast Doulas actually did a workshop on body image with pregnancy and postpartum bodies and had a lot of intimate conversations with different moms or even moms-to-be.
Alyssa: Yeah, we loved that conversation. It was – when our time was up, I remember someone came in and said, “Time’s up,” and everyone was like, “No, no, we just got started!” So it would be fun to continue that conversation at another point.
Alyssa: Or even to have a podcast about it. That could be a good one, too.
Bri: Do a mini-event. We’re trying to do mini-events now, too. But we’ll talk later about that.
Alyssa: So Bri and I see each other all around, and the last event we went to was just, again, the postpartum time with moms comes up a lot. It’s just a topic that we always talk about, and you even spoke to the group about the struggles that you had, so I think – I just want to kind of continue that conversation, the two of us together, and let’s just have a real conversation about what it was like for you having a baby and was it even – did you struggle during pregnancy, too?
Bri: During pregnancy I struggled more physically. I had a lot of the sciatic nerve pain that a lot of people had, so I did go see – in my third trimester, it was weekly appointments with my DO just to get adjusted. But the mental health was still okay there. I think as soon as I had my baby, it was a very – I even had a lot of blood loss. I almost hemorrhaged, too, during it, so I think when I had my kid, I was just exhausted, and I remember them putting him on me, and just being like, hey, there’s a baby there, but not really feeling that, like, instant love because I was just so exhausted and tired. And so from that first point, I’m like, whoa, I was told I was supposed to feel instant love, instant excitement, and I was just worn out.
Alyssa: You weren’t the photo of the mom in the hospital looking lovingly down at her baby; you were like, just let me sleep. What’s on my chest?
Bri: Yeah. And then I even had to get walked to – when I went to the bathroom, another blood clot passed. I almost actually passed out. I remember telling the nurse, “I can’t hear anything, but I know you’re there. I’m starting to not be able to see. I’m just letting you know.” So that was my experience, which some people even have it crazier than that, but I think I was just trying to make sure I was awake enough to be there, like not passing out, to be there for him more than, oh, my gosh, I didn’t have that moment to really be like understanding what was happening because of my health at that point in time. And then after that, I do have a history in my family, and I have anxiety and depression, which I feel like is not a fair combination to have. You get anxious, and then your thoughts race, and then you feel bad about yourself, and then it’s just like a cycle. So I’ve learned over time coping strategies and things like that.
Alyssa: And this something you struggled with before having a baby?
Bri: Even before having a baby.
Alyssa: So you knew that your risk after was so much higher?
Bri: Yeah, definitely. And I remember coming home, and we entered the door, and I just was bursting into tears, and I knew. I also have a hard time with transitions. I take them a lot harder than most people, and so I knew even with that it was going to be a little bit harder.
Alyssa: Probably the biggest transition of your life thus far.
Bri: Very true. So I was super honest. That’s the thing my mom taught me growing up. She said, our family has these things; I’m going to tell you, and you just – if you feel anything, make sure you tell people. So her training me in middle school with that still helped, and so I was able to just let people know, like, I know that I’m feeling these things, and logically and practically, I shouldn’t be sad; I shouldn’t be like this. I just – it’s just so hard to fight that. And then I was anxious at night because I was worried for him and just wanted to make sure he was okay, my baby, and then I was kind of depressed during the day just because that anxiety wore me out. And I would go and sleep in the sun in our hammock because it was summer time, just to get some sunlight. I actually did talk to my doctor and I did start taking medicine as soon as I could after getting out of the hospital, just because I had taken those before. Zoloft is what I took, even before him, so I was doing all the things to try to deal with it, but I wasn’t being very compassionate to myself to just let myself be, and so I think my word of advice and encouragement to people is if you are feeling those feelings, as long as you’re voicing them and getting help and asking for support, just don’t beat yourself up too much. You’re already doing so much, and it’s hard not to beat yourself up, but you’ve got this whole new world that’s going on, and you deserve to also be understanding to yourself, and you’re trying to understand what’s happening.
Alyssa: Did actually getting on medicine seem to help? Or not enough?
Bri: It seemed like it helped a little bit, but it was still learning a new system, learning a new normal, learning what this means, and it really does take a village. My mom helped a lot. I had different friends that were helping. I needed a lot of support from my husband. There were times where we would wake up together at night with the baby because it was just nice, even if he was just sitting next to me, just having that person there. And so, yeah, it was hard. My anxiety, I knew was there because I remember just being so worried, is he eating enough? Is he getting enough food? And I would line up these bottles and then I would just obsess with counting and all that, to a point that was detrimental, and I remember I was over-pumping and all I was doing was pumping and taking care of my kid and eating, and that’s all I was focusing on for a few weeks, and I remember my husband pulling out all of the milk from the freezer, and he was like, there are 30 bags of 4-ounce milks here. He is getting fed enough, and you’ve got enough. I just think I was worried about my stock because I have to go back to weddings and I have to go back to work. I was a wedding photographer, and just trying to make sure my stock was there.
Alyssa: Anxiety turned a little bit OCD, it sounds like.
Bri: Yes. Yeah, so I just like to be open about it because I feel like a lot of people have their own experience of what goes on, whether they have anxiety or depression or not, but we’re usually always looking to someone to tell us – which is what I did. I would ask all these different people of, what did you do? What did you do? Or what was your experience? And none of their experiences were like mine, so I felt like I was doing something wrong, when in reality, everyone has their own unique experience, so don’t compare yourself to someone else’s postpartum story. Just let yours be yours, and know that the one constant is that everyone’s journey is going to be different, and that’s okay and that’s good. But I think sometimes, too, we just want to do it right because that’s what we’re taught in our society. “Do it the right way.” And there’s really no right way. The only right way is making sure your baby is fed, has shelter, and that they’re loved. And how the system happens for that is up to you and up to what your body and your family is able to do. I did end up doing – I stopped breastfeeding at nine months just because he started not being interested anymore. It’d be two minutes, and then, hey, what’s over here, looking around, and then he was always kind of a chomper, and I never discouraged that because I didn’t understand at the time, and my lactation consultant was like, uh-oh. And so I was about done once he had teeth, too. So for me, that ended at nine months, and then we did formula. And sometimes people have to supplement or do both or do all formula, and that’s – it doesn’t really matter. It’s whatever works for anybody.
Alyssa: By the time you got to the nine-month mark and weaned him, did that help your mental health in and of itself, or had you gotten pretty much to a better place by that point?
Bri: It did actually help my mental health even more just because then it was one less thing to think about, and I do think – I don’t know; I’m not a doctor, but I think your hormones after you’re done breastfeeding – do they normalize more?
Alyssa: I feel like they’re always fluctuating after you have your baby. Five and a half years later, I still think mine are all wacky.
Bri: Yeah, you know, I would agree with that, too. I think I felt a little bit less – maybe it wasn’t chemically after stopping breastfeeding, but at least one less thing to have to do.
Alyssa: Well, there are hormones involved because, you know, there’s the hormones that actually produce, that allow you to produce the milk, so they are changing, but I think for someone with anxiety, who’s worried about breastfeeding and pumping and how much milk – now you can give them solid foods and a bottle that’s very quantifiable.
Bri: And I don’t have to worry about producing that.
Alyssa: And again, like you said, everyone’s story is different. For some moms, weaning becomes a source of depression because now it’s the end of this time with your baby that you’ll never get back.
Bri: That’s true.
Alyssa: So you really just can’t compare.
Bri: Yeah, no comparing whatsoever. I thought of wanting to make some sort of book, and it wouldn’t be photo; it would be more of just stories, and it would be everyone’s experience postpartum, like just different people’s stories of postpartum, and then you can gift it to people who are pregnant but tell them not to read this until you feel like you want to read other people’s stories, like after you’ve had your kid and maybe you’re tearing your hair out, like what is going on, in the thick of it, and then you can see, look, everyone’s had a different experience, and that’s okay. Because it’s something that you don’t want to take away from their pregnancy experience with all this; we don’t want to scare people; we don’t want to also say well, this is what I went through so you should go through this same thing, but having a collection of those stories, when it just seems like so much and you don’t know if what you’re doing is right, look at all these people, and they did it right. Their kid is healthy. Your kid will be healthy, and there’s all different experiences.
Alyssa: They did what’s right for their family.
Alyssa: In that moment.
Bri: Yeah. But that’s one idea I had recently. I have too many.
Alyssa: That’s funny that you say that really, all that Baby needs is food, shelter, and love. That’s how I end my newborn survival classes. I’m like, all this information that I gave you, if you get nothing else out of this, is keep it simple because there’s just way too much information out there, and Dr. Google is telling you one thing, and your neighbor is telling you another thing, and your mom and your mother-in-law are conflicting things. Keep it simple, and give this baby food and love and shelter. That’s all this baby needs. The rest is just icing on the cake. They’re going to be fine, and you’re going to be great parents. Just keep it simple.
Bri: I love that!
Alyssa: Anything else about your postpartum journey? How old is your son now?
Bri: He is a year and a half.
Alyssa: And how has it gone from the nine-month weaning period to twelve months walking? How has your journey been?
Bri: So he had actually had some – we actually went to food therapy for him, too. So we weaned him at nine months off of breastmilk, and then we did formula. We noticed he was having trouble eating solids. He would try to eat and try to swallow, but then he would gag and sometimes to the point of vomiting. So at first, I thought, you know, maybe it’s just something he’s doing and he’s learning, but it would happen a lot, and so I actually got a request to go to Mary Free Bed, and they were wonderful there. They actually said, yes, he has silent reflux, and so that is why this is happening, and then they were showing how his tongue wasn’t working in the correct ways to swallow and get all the food out of his mouth that he was eating. So we went there for a few sessions and then I just did stuff at home. Also, that of course didn’t help my anxiety, but that’s okay. It really taught me to be patient and to be understanding and being a part of Better Body Image, I don’t want his relationship with food and his body to be stressed from the beginning. He needs to have me be calm so that he doesn’t get a bad relationship with that food from the start, and he needed more of me to be the patient and calm one, and he now is doing great. He has weaned off of bottles now. He does do a bottle of water for comfort sometimes, but he’s drinking his sippy cups. He’s eating lots of food. Our magical food we found that he just could do really well with was cottage cheese, and he loves it and he’ll eat tons of it, and now he’s doing better. He actually ate noodles last night, and he usually never eats noodles, and he ate some chicken, and I was like, whoa! And it was just really exciting. So that’s how his food journey has been more unique, but it’s been really good for me because I’m able to understand the signs better, and he’s a healthy, happy boy. He likes to play. He’s very extroverted, so he likes to go up to people and talk to them. And right now, it’s half-gibberish, half sentences, and the other day I was washing dishes while he was eating some snack, and he goes, “What are you doing?” And I’m like, whoa, you just…
Alyssa: A full sentence!
Bri: Yeah, out of nowhere! But I always ask him that all the time, like, “What are you doing?” And so I thought that was funny, and I just told him, “Well, I’m washing dishes. That’s what I’m doing right now.” And then the other day, my husband said, “Hey, did you go to the doctor today?” And he answered, “I didn’t do it.” And then just went and played. So it’s been a really fun journey. And I’ll say that I know I wouldn’t be the same without having him as my son. There’s something about having a child that does change you in different ways, and it challenges you to be a better version of yourself, more patient, just perseverance to a different degree, and being able to function on less sleep. You still want to get enough sleep, but you realize how much you can actually do in a day vs. when you didn’t have a kid. I’m so much more efficient in certain ways.
Alyssa: I’m definitely more productive. My time is so important, and I get so much done. It’s very valuable; I’ll say that.
Bri: Yeah, very valuable and efficient.
Alyssa: So do you feel like, even though your whole life you’re going to struggle with anxiety and depression, that you’re just learning different ways to cope with these new developmental milestones, and instead of internalizing everything – and it sounds like your husband may be like mine, where he’s very rational?
Bri: He’s very calm.
Alyssa: And says, hey, let’s look at all these bottles you’ve got laid out and you’re counting and all the supplies – my husband did the same thing for me when I was struggling with breastfeeding. He was my voice of reason, so finding somebody like that, that you can talk to and say, okay, how can you calm me down? Tell me something that’s rational. Validate me and understand my feelings, but let’s look at this outcome or this fact.
Bri: Yeah, I definitely think so. I think I’ve learned with him to let go of control more. I’ll still always really – I’m a planner, and I like to do stuff like that, but I’m trying to let go of control more. And then I think also having self-compassion more, which is my new thing I like to teach people about, but just being compassionate towards myself makes things a little bit less extreme or less anxious. So, oops, I lost my temper or something with my son because I was up here and there were so many different things going on that day. Well, I make sure to apologize and hug him, and then that’s that. I forgive myself, and I don’t dwell on it. In the past, I would have, the whole rest of the day, been just dwelling on that, or any event that happens; dwelling on every single thing. And there’s too many things that happen in a day that can bring you down, and if you just take each of them so much and internalize it, you’re going to drive yourself crazy, and it’s just not fair to yourself. So I think also embracing that life is always going to throw you different things, and that’s just another constant that you can know and expect, and just don’t put too many expectations.
Alyssa: My journey is very similar to yours. I think I didn’t realize that I ever had anxiety until I had a kid because I went through a lot of the same struggles you did.
Bri: Yeah, there’s a lot of different exercises I use daily, too. If my mind starts to spiral, I stop that thought, and I go, okay, is this thought – this feeling can be valid, but is this thought truth or a lie? Is this really something that I should think about to that extent? No, it’s probably not, so let’s stop that.
Alyssa: All the would-have, could-have, should-have, right? Like all these things that could happen – well, it didn’t happen. It probably won’t happen. So why am I dwelling on this?
Alyssa: This intrusive thought of something I’ll never have to deal with. I totally get it. Well, you have your own podcast? Tell us the name of that and where people can find it.
Bri: That podcast is called Compassionately You, and you can find it on iTunes and Google Podcasts. It’s also on my website, and I just host conversations where I have people on and they talk about either a personal journey or a body image journey and we talk in vulnerability in hopes of inspiring other people or if someone went through a similar situation, they can relate and feel that they’re not alone. And we also usually feature people’s businesses in there, as well, during that podcast.
Alyssa: Cool. So the Better Body Image Conference – is it once a year? Are you going to do it every year?
Bri: Yeah, once a year. We are set for next year, same place, Wealthy Street Theater, on March 2nd, 2019, so we’re set for that date. And, actually, our speaker is going to be Diane Bondi, who’s in the yoga world. But we are looking into and we have done a few mini-events where we just partner with an organization or a few and we host – who knows what I can be, but we host different types of mini-events. One was a reshowing of the movie that we showed at our conference this year. I think we are going to possibly be partnering with an organization this December to do another event, and then there might be some in the works for January, as well.
Alyssa: Where do you promote those?
Bri: We usually promote them on our Facebook and on our website, which also just got a redesign. One of our board members is a designer, and the lovely Brittany redesigned it, and it has pictures from last year. I think, actually, our main header image is a picture during the Gold Coast Doulas workshop.
Alyssa: I’ll have to look. I didn’t know you redesigned. I’ll have to look.
Bri: We just did it this week. She’s been working hard on that. And so that’s a lot of fun there.
Alyssa: Awesome. Well, thanks again for doing this. It’s always great to see you and talk to you. Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your story.
Bri: Definitely. Thanks for having me, and if people wanted to follow my Instagram page, I’m pretty vulnerable with just life. So it’s just @briluginbill. I just try to be super vulnerable in my days and let people know, like, hey, if you’re having this type of time, I might be, too.
Alyssa: Well, you can always find us at our website, Instagram, and Facebook, as well. Hopefully we’ll talk to Bri again sometime soon. Hopefully, everyone has a great day!
1) What did you do before you became a doula? I have always secretly been a doula, just in other facets. Before becoming a doula, I ran a mental wellness day center in northern California, and I also worked at an emergency youth shelter looking to reduce rates of domestic violence, child abuse, and human trafficking.
2) What inspired you to become a doula?
I have an educational background in both holistic healthcare and Western medicine, and when I learned about doulas, I considered the role a bridge between the two worlds. I was taken with the concept, and the doula community was supportive as well as informational about how to get involved.
3) Tell us about your family.
We are spread far and wide throughout the country! I’m fortunate to have nearby friends and a community with whom I am very close, including living with two elementary school teachers who I’ve known since college. I’m an only child, raised by my father after my mother died at an early age.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
Toss up: I recently rediscovered my affection for the desert (think Horsheshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Zion), but I think my ultimate retreat is intruding upon the silence of the redwood forests.
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Nahko & Medicine for the People: While I enjoy also his style of music, he’s my number 1 because his message is deeply aligned with many of my personal visions and values.
Maps & Atlases: They’re one of those bands that has stuck around with me through the years; I enjoy their unique sound and style. While I don’t listen to them much anymore, they’re like coming home to distant family.
St Paul and the Broken Bones: One of my favorite memories is dancing to them live at a music festival in Napa Valley. They are such a fun and lively bunch of humans, and they are willing to go into those deep feelings with levity at heart.
Tank and the Bangas: I guarantee if you watch their NPR Tiny Desk concert (it’s on YouTube), you will understand.
Miguel: He might not actually be one of my all-time favorites, but his music just gives me all of those lovey-juicy-gooey feels and I’ve been really enjoying dancing to it lately while unloading the dishwasher.
Bonus: To be transparent, I believe I have to admit here that my guilty pleasure shower singing go-to is Ariana Grande.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families? Pace yourself. I definitely didn’t come up with this pearl of wisdom myself, but I think it’s a very important reminder to new parents. There are voices coming from so many different directions, asking how soon things can happen, and it can be distracting (and sometimes disheartening). When that ungrounded feeling begins, it’s important to notice it, sit with it, and take a step back so as not to lose ourselves in the rush of transition. 7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
Being a communications jedi! It can make all the difference in a conversation when another person is present to listen and reflect back; I think doulas bare the gift of being able to pull out deeper truths in many conversations because they are reading how you say things as well as what you’re saying.
8) What is your favorite food?
Favorite?! I could never! I like Indian, Thai, Lebanese, Spanish, Eritrean; whatever I can find. After living in a co-housing community for a few years, I also came to appreciate cooking like an American farmland hippy. 9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Grand Rapids, though I’m still exploring! I lived in Allendale when I went to Grand Valley, but moved away quickly after graduating. Upon my return to the Gold Coast this fall, I’ve noticed an abundance of growth and development throughout the city; I love exploring all of the neighborhoods’ new-to-me treasures.
10) What are you reading now?
“Natural Health after Birth” by Dr. Aviva Romm. I have much admiration for Dr. Romm’s newsletters and podcasts, and her postpartum information does not disappoint! I find her information is based in both holistic healthcare and Western medicine.
11) Who are your role models?
Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Alan Watts, Paul Hawken, Elizabeth Davis, Amy Gordon, Elizabeth Gilbert, Alex Atala & my Sonoma County doula sisters.