Postpartum Fitness

Podcast Episode #69: Postpartum Fitness

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!


Podcast Episode #69: Postpartum Fitness Read More »

Postpartum Wellness

Podcast Episode #61: Postpartum Wellness

Dr. Erica of Root Functional Medicine gives moms some tips about staying healthy through pregnancy and into the postpartum period.  We also talk about her upcoming Postpartum Wellness class on March 7.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

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.

Dr. Erica:  Sounds good!


Podcast Episode #61: Postpartum Wellness Read More »

Traveling postpartum doula

Podcast Episode #56: Traveling Postpartum Doulas


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?

Kelsey:  Yes.

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?

Kelsey:  Yes.

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?

Kelsey:  Right.

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.

Kelsey:  Thank you!


Podcast Episode #56: Traveling Postpartum Doulas Read More »

birth story

Podcast Episode #51: Carrie’s Birth and Postpartum Story


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.

Alyssa:  Right?

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!


Podcast Episode #51: Carrie’s Birth and Postpartum Story Read More »

postpartum depression

Podcast Episode #48: Bri’s Postpartum Story

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.

Bri:  Definitely.

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.

Bri:  Yeah.

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?

Bri:  Exactly.

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!




Podcast Episode #48: Bri’s Postpartum Story Read More »

Kelsey Dean

Meet Kelsey, our newest Certified Postpartum Doula!

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Tank and the Bangas: I guarantee if you watch their NPR Tiny Desk concert (it’s on YouTube), you will understand.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.


Meet Kelsey, our newest Certified Postpartum Doula! Read More »


My role as a postpartum doula.

Our very own Jamie Platt, BSN, RN, CLC, CPST shares her personal insights on what it’s like to be a postpartum doula.

What is the role of a postpartum doula? What does it look like, and how might a doula support the breastfeeding relationship between mom and baby? A postpartum doula can take care of mom, baby, and the entire family. Sometimes mom needs emotional support, help around the house, or even just a nap! I’ve taken care of baby while mom takes a nice hot shower or has one-on-one time with older siblings. We’re also able to prepare meals and run errands. We help with newborn care; we serve a variety of moms from different cultural backgrounds and some families need help with bathing, breastfeeding, and diaper changes. Some of our doulas have had additional training regarding the care of multiples, or have multiples themselves!

I have completed special training in perinatal mood & anxiety disorders so that I am able to recognize the signs and symptoms of a variety of mood disorders. It’s important that mom receives help if she needs it, and the general Grand Rapids area has great resources that include therapists and community support groups. In fact, we have one of the few Mother Baby programs in the entire nation, which provides a day program where mom can bring baby with her while she receives treatment. It is critical that we recognize when a mom needs help, that we support her, and in turn reduce the stigma of postpartum mood & anxiety disorders. Postpartum doulas are right there in family’s homes and can be a direct source of help and information.

Doulas also provide overnight support, which can be so great for moms (and partners)! The entire family can get the sleep they need and mom can still breastfeed baby through the night. I like to think that when I show up to a family’s home at night, I am well rested and mom may be feeling tired- but when I leave in the morning, I leave with bags under my eyes and mom looks and feels like a goddess when she wakes up. That is my goal!

I also want to acknowledge the importance of breastfeeding while still respecting the needs of mom, which may include formula feeding. As a postpartum doula I provide nonjudgmental support, and I help mom reach the goals SHE wants – not me. I recently completed my Certified Lactation Counseling (or CLC) training. The CDC considers both CLC’s and IBCLC’s as professional lactation supporters.

So why is breastfeeding so difficult that mothers need help? Well, our culture has unrealistic expectations of what the newborn period is like. The fastest drop-off in breastfeeding rates occur in the first 10 days after hospital discharge. The main reasons mothers stop breastfeeding is because they believe they don’t make enough milk, the baby won’t latch, and/or mom has sore or painful breasts. Breastfeeding rates drop again when mom has to return to work or school between 8-12 weeks. It is so important that as a community we support mothers who want to breastfeed. As doulas, we can help mom gain the confidence she needs, give basic breastfeeding information, and make appropriate referrals if needed. Gold Coast Doulas offers lactation support through our IBCLC, Shira Johnson, who makes home visits. Gold Coast also has other doulas who have other breastfeeding-specific training, like the CLC training. We know that breastfeeding has amazing benefits for both mom and baby, so it’s time that we start normalizing it, and again, support all moms regardless of their feeding choice.


My role as a postpartum doula. Read More »

postpartum anxiety

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

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

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

Lisa:  And questions.

Alyssa:  Yeah, fears and questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alyssa:  When the Bough Breaks?

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

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

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

Alyssa:  Maybe wouldn’t have lasted eleven months.

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

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

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

Alyssa:  Talking about it is the first step.

Lisa:  For sure.

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

Lisa:  Thank you.

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

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