Do More Than Just Survive Postpartum with Jess Hull of Mother Me – Podcast Episode #229
March 14, 2024

Do More Than Just Survive Postpartum with Jess Hull of Mother Me - Podcast Episode #229

Kristin Revere and Jess Hull discuss the concept of matrescence and the changes that happen to women when they become a mother.

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with Jess Hull today.  Jess is a former Facebook and Google executive who founded Mother Me, which is an app and online course and support framework for successful women who want to do more than just survive their postpartum.  The system Jess developed is called the Mother Me Method, and it’s based on the science and data of matrescence as well as incorporating global perspectives on how other countries and cultures support postpartum women.  Welcome, Jess!

Thank you!  Thanks so much for having me!

I am very excited to dive into the major transition that I don’t feel like gets enough acknowledgment in becoming a mother.  I actually have an online course called Becoming A Mother that started during the early stages of the pandemic when we had to move everything to virtual, and it’s all about women supporting women and a mix of preparing for birth but also the transition to motherhood.  So we have a similar concept, but I love that yours is so research based, clinical, academic focused.  So I would love to hear more about what drew you to this rite of passage and major life occurrence.  Was it a mix of personal and professional coming from the tech industry?  It’s a big change.

Yeah, absolutely.  So I had two children very close in age.  They’re 18 months apart.  And with those postpartum experiences, I felt like my world was rocked both times.  The first time, I like to say that I was comically naïve on what to expect.  Then the second time, you’d think, okay, you’ve been through this.  You know, you should know a little bit more, be better prepared.  But the reality was, my mindset going into it was really just about surviving.  And I was like, I got through it before.  I can get through it again.  And after getting through it, I realized I didn’t really want to have more children, not because I didn’t want to grow my family, but because I didn’t want to have the experience of postpartum again.  And that mindset of just struggling through something that’s meant to be such a beautiful time, I realized, was what was holding me back.  So I started just looking at some data and research, and again, that’s where my background in tech came into play.  I saw that 90% of women felt unprepared for the postpartum experience.  So that helped me feel validated, number one.  But number two, that gave me hope that 10% of women were doing something that helped them feel better about it.  So I used that insight to say, well, what are they doing?  I’m really curious.  What works well for people?  And it’s not just a naïve first time mom problem.  As a second-time mom, I experienced it, too.  And the more I talked to other friends, family, and coworkers going through it, it was shockingly universal how many people felt the postpartum stage was truly something they just wanted to survive.  Like, how low the bar was set that we didn’t even want to enjoy it.  We just wanted to get through it.  So that was really the key catalyst in getting me to explore this space.

And then I started to talk to my husband about it, and we said, what would need to be true for us to feel confident in expanding our family, that it wouldn’t rock us again and that we could do more than just survive?  That’s really how I started down this path and used my background in data and research to understand, again, the insights that would help me feel more empowered rather than just survival mode that we sort of default to.

Yes, and it makes perfect sense with your background in tech to transition to an app to be able to merge your personal experience and your background and also just being able to promote a multi-option business, between the online course and the support that you have.

Yeah, and again, sort of in work and in practice, we know that people can have the best information in the world, but if it’s not convenient and it’s not actionable, they’re not going to do it.  So convenience, I think, is a key part to changing an outcome, whether it’s in postpartum or in any aspect of life.  So I really wanted to design a program that would fit somebody like me who was a busy working woman who has a lot going on but wanted to take care of herself and not have it be a massive time commitment or a huge learning curve.  I’m a very visual learner myself, so developing the app with the video modules was something that I felt as a user I would really want.  And as somebody who’s creating content, you know, I didn’t want to blast it all over social media, either, so having a private community that felt like a safe place for moms to learn and grown and connect was really the heart of how I designed the business.

I love it.  So in your research, I’m curious about what you found that 10% of women were doing that helped them to feel confident and prepared in the journey to motherhood and becoming a parent, whether it’s baby one or baby five.

Yes.  So in the study of matrescence, we know that women go through universal changes and transitions in becoming a mother.  So for those who may have not heard the term matrescence before, it’s exactly like adolescence, which is the process of a child becoming an adult, except matrescence refers to a woman becoming a mother.  And just as in puberty you go through hormonal changes, social changes, identity, you have different nutritional needs, your brain evolves and you have neurological changes – the same exact things happen to women when they become a mother.  And I think that when we holistically embrace the process of becoming a mother, we feel not only more prepared but more at ease with the transition.

So much of what makes this process difficult for women is the cultural narrative on getting your pre-baby self back and feeling like your old self, and there’s this sort of obsession with who you were pre-baby.  Matrescence is really focused on embracing and evolving into the new version of you.  It’s almost like surrendering to the process.  If you think about an adult sort of clinging to the naivete of childhood, you’d be like, buddy, you got to grow up.  It’s just part of life.  And yet for women, it’s sort of like almost a source of – an unrealistic, unobtainable goal to say, I want to be my pre-baby self.  And that sort of unintentionally shames this new version of the woman you’re becoming who’s stronger, who’s more compassionate, more empathetic, and maybe knows herself more.  So it’s embracing this new version of you and accepting this idea that you are meant to change and you’re meant to be somebody new.  I think that’s the foundation to having a better experience.

And in my research, I looked at other countries and cultures and the things that they do to help prepare the women in their communities as they become mothers, and they really celebrate this rite of passage, and they have rituals that honor not only what the body goes through, but what the spirit and mind go through, as well.  So I think there’s lot of different aspects that play into overall feeling more prepared, but the first foundational element is understanding that you are meant to be somebody new.  And when we look towards nature, we see that all the time.  A butterfly started as a caterpillar.  They’re not meant to want to be their caterpillar self again.  But it can be scary embracing the new you, so I understand why so many people sort of fight that urge and that change.  Surrendering to that, I think, helps.

And motherhood in our culture can be so isolating.  And again there is that pressure to get back to work, get back to getting your old jeans on, and just back to that former life, that is really hard to embrace when you’re going through so many changes.  And after giving birth, it’s all about the baby, and the mother often feels left alone and behind.  In so many cultures, with your studies, as you said, it’s all about celebrating this new journey and mothering the mother for oftentimes at least a month, if not longer.

Absolutely.  That’s actually the reason I named my company Mother Me, because I wanted it to be a call to action for women and everyone to recognize that women deserve the same love and care that we give our newborn.  And I think in the US, our culture is sort of women priding themselves on being super mom and doing it all and having it all, and that contributes to the isolation that you mentioned.  Where in other countries and cultures, there’s much more community support and the village support that we hear about, and I think women yearn for that connection and support.  We don’t necessarily want to do it alone, and we feel like it’s a sign of weakness to raise our hand and ask for help, but in reality, it’s a sign of strength to recognize, I need help at this moment.  And guess what?  I deserve help.  I’ve gone through a major medical event of nine months, and labor and delivery, of course, is no walk in the park, either.  So there’s no shame in needing help and actually recognizing that the mom deserves the help, I think, is another sort of cultural aspect I’m trying to support women in, in saying it’s a sign of strength to ask for and give yourself the support, just like you’d say that a baby needs help.  You’d never deny a baby love and care, so why would you deny it of yourself?

Right.  And so with this change, what has your research shown you about the shifts in relationships and how do you teach students in your course and in the app how to navigate relationship changes?

Another very compelling data point that I found from the Gottman Institute is that 70% of couples report a decline in relationship satisfaction after becoming parents.  And as somebody who went through that experience of having two under two, I’m quite honestly shocked that number’s not higher.  Having a baby and becoming the mom and dad or partners in parenthood is a wild ride in and of itself, and the dynamic and resentment is one of the biggest factors to that decline in relationship satisfaction.  In my own personal experience and in my research, I’ve focused a lot on the dynamics between the parents and supporting them as they evolve into new roles of individuals, of being a mother and father, and also being parents together and having different parenting styles, different family of origin values, different expectations of what this time will mean to them and sort of the traditions and rituals that they want to create with their family.

So one of the things that I teach in my program are – I call them mad libs for adults, if you remember those games that we played as kids.  Giving people language to ask their partner for help and communicate their experience – that is very unique.  What a mom goes through versus what a dad goes through: completely different, right?  And so much of what the woman goes through is invisible.  So even my husband, who’s very attuned to the female experience – he has three sisters – he still would be like, well, you look the same, or you look okay.  And I’d be like, how I look is not how I feel.  What I’m experiencing is completely invisible.  So let me tell you about it, and let me use language that helps me explain to you the complicated feelings that I’m having so he could have compassion for what was going on beneath the surface.

In my program, I have scripts where I have a list of emotions, a list of experiences, and you can fill in the blank with your partner in a way that’s kind of fun and a little silly.  Like, we want to have fun, and we don’t need to be so serious that it’s overwhelming or uncomfortable for couples, right?  So we have a little fun about it and say, like, here’s how I’m feeling, here’s what I need from you.  And sometimes it’s really just acknowledgement.  There’s no action that the man can do other than listen and acknowledge and say, I hear you.  I see you, and I appreciate you.  And that does wonders for making a relationship healthy, especially through this vulnerable transition of becoming parents.

And that avoids the resentment that you described earlier, if couples aren’t communicating and then the partner goes back to work and the mother is left alone with this baby and could have other kids at home and wants her old life back and is resentful that the partner even gets to go to work and listen to music and go out to lunch with colleagues, whatever it might be, missing that old life.  Even during just a short maternity leave.

Yeah, and I think that’s where your work as a doula and helping women, especially to get more sleep early on in the recovery – the sleep factor is a huge source of resentment for a lot of couples because the mom is traditionally the one waking up in the middle of the night, and if the male partner doesn’t have paternity leave, which is, again, another systemic problem in the US – there’s sort of an expectation that because the mom is staying home, that she should be the one getting up all throughout the night.  That deteriorates the quality of her recovery massively.  What I focus on in my program is, I have a whole module on sleep deprivation and the impact on not only your physical recovery but also your mental and hormonal recalibration.  Sleep is a huge factor, especially in that first four weeks.  It is critical that the mom gets enough sleep and that the partner steps up in those early days and weeks to allow the woman to recover and have constructive rest in that time.

Exactly, and as overnight and daytime postpartum doulas, we find that some partners have to go back two days after the birth, so they’re there in the hospital, but they’re back at work, working long hours, and then that depletion and exhaustion begins.  With some families, even coming in a couple nights a week can get them at least caught up a bit on rest, no matter how they feed their baby.  For exclusively breastfeeding moms, we can bring the baby to them or wake them and have them go into the nursery, so then they’re optimizing the rest they have.  The doula – or we also have newborn care specialists – do the diaper changes, the sleep shaping, burping baby, and you’re able to get support and ask questions about feeding.  The parent is awake at that time.  So it can be helpful.  But I have found that with some of the media attention, overnight doulas, newborn care specialists, night nannies – there have been a lot of negative public comments about getting help or investing in that much-needed support.

Right.  I mean, I am truly shocked that anyone would view that as negative because it is recovery needed for the woman, and I think that we’re recognizing the toll that pregnancy and labor and delivery takes on a woman’s body, obviously, but also mentally.  It’s critical to get that help, whether it’s from a partner or whether from a third party.  And I think that having a doula or a night nurse or somebody to come in and provide that peace of mind so that the mom can rest – again, there’s constructive rest, and that is the type of rest we want our moms to be able to get in this time.  But if it’s something that’s within the family’s means, I would ten out of ten recommend that people get a doula and support to provide them the opportunity to rest because that will not only help their recovery; it will help their relationship.  It will help how the mom is able to show up with her other kids as a mom, and it’s something that, I think when you look back, this time goes back so fast.  And again, the goal is not to survive it, right?  You want to actually enjoy that time.  And how can you enjoy it if you’re sleep deprived and you’re anxious?  You can’t.

Exactly.  Then it’s a blur, and all you have are the photos to look back and be like, all right, I got through it, as you mentioned before.  We should be embracing and celebrating this change and have the support we need and feel confident in asking for support.  But as you said, having those conversations early on with your partner and even with family members is so important to set expectations.  Otherwise, we can feel like we’re overwhelmed and drowning.

Absolutely, and the majority of women are overwhelmed and drowning, and it’s through no fault of their own.  One of the things that I talk a lot about in the program is that I went through this twice, feeling exactly that way, overwhelmed and drowning.  And I thought it was my fault.  I thought it was a reflection of me as a mother, or I just wasn’t the type of person to enjoy the newborn stage.  And through my research, again, I found the validation that a lot of women were set up to fail.  And this is not a reflection of me as a mom.  This is not a reflection of me as a woman.  This is a reflection of the lack of support that our society provides people, and we need to recognize that not only is it okay to get the support, but we deserve the support and we need the support.  So I’m really trying to, of course, address the immediate term of how to take care of yourself in postpartum and have a wonderful experience, but also, I feel like it’s honestly a movement of women feeling empowered to say that we deserve more and we need more, and this is again not a sign of weakness at all.  Really, it’s not.  We should feel truly empowered to get this help, and not to feel shame in telling other moms when we get this help.  I think that’s where social media for me is a slippery slope because you see people’s highlight reels on Instagram and Facebook and you think, oh, that woman has it all together.  She’s thriving in motherhood.  How is she doing it?  And it’s not the reality for the majority of women.  Or if they get help, they don’t want to publicly show that they’re getting help because they feel maybe ashamed that they’re getting help, and they really shouldn’t.

Right.  Not at all.  And I do appreciate – I feel like there are two sides to social media right now.  There’s the vulnerable side of really expressing that.  Some influencers, if you want to call them that, moms, have shared some of their struggles, and it has led to more openness about how the house doesn’t have to be perfect, and women showing their house with kids running around, and it being okay.  Or that you can have a bad day.  And then of course, there is that highlight reel, very filtered, Pinterest perfect, that is hard to live up to.  It can be overwhelming, but if you find the right accounts, then it can also make you feel like you’re not alone in the journey.  You just have to be connecting with the right people, I guess.

Absolutely.  And again, I talk a lot about tech usage in my content, and I recommend doing sort of an audit of who you’re following and just unfollowing anybody that brings you any type of comparison instinct.  I realized that there were certain people, when they would show up in my feed, I’d be like, oh, how do they do it?  And then I was like, wait a minute.  Let me have some awareness around how that’s coming up for me when I see this influencer or this person or this celebrity, and I’m just going to detox.  And I unfollowed probably about 100 or so accounts while I was pregnant because I realized it’s not serving me.  It’s not serving my child.  And those people will be there.  If I want to go back to them at another point in my life, they’ll be there.  So it’s a temporary thing, and I think that’s what pregnancy and postpartum is all about.  It’s recognizing that it’s a temporary thing, so what can you do?  It doesn’t need to be forever, but what can you do in this moment right now that will serve you, serve your child, serve your relationship, and set you up for what should be a happy and peaceful time of your life.

Exactly.  So Jess, what are your top tips for setting yourself up for postpartum success?

I would say starting in pregnancy is key.  A lot of people will take a wait and see approach, and they’ll say, you know, I’ll be fine.  And some people may be fine, and I hope truly that they are.  But again, we know from the data that unfortunately the majority of people are not.  So recognizing this is something to plan for.  I mean, how many women are planning their baby nursery, right?  You know you’re planning that.

Yes, and showers, and all the planning that goes into those.  People aren’t planning for birth and baby the way they are for a wedding, that’s for sure. 

Right.  For sure.  And I think that recognizing that having stuff and being organized – of course, that’s important.  Of course, that helps you feel calm.  But take care of your insides, your brain, your body, your spirit, with the same love and care that you’re preparing your external environment.  Right?  Imagine if we spent as much time thinking about ourself and our spirit as we’re transitioning to motherhood as we did planning the nursery.  It would be incredible.  I’d say that’s number one.

Great tip.

And number two, I would say, is getting help, whether it’s from a doula, whether it’s from somebody like me who’s working with you during pregnancy, whether it’s from the support of family of origin that you can tap into, friends, coworkers, whoever it is that you feel you can rely on, getting help and recognizing that you are not meant to do this alone.  That’s a big step, too, for me.  And I would say step three would be a very practical thing.  One of the things that I encourage all women to do is get paper plates or little things that make your life easier for the short term because we know that bending over, whether you’re pregnant or in your early postpartum days, is a way many women do too much, too fast.  Emptying the dishwasher, switching the laundry.  Little household things like that are adding up and actually creating longer term injuries for people.  So making temporary accommodations to not do so much in those early days.

Right.  It’s not just avoiding vacuuming and stairs.  There’s so much more to it, as you mentioned, with lifting.

Yeah.  And even if you have a toddler and you’re going to say, like, how could I possibly not lift my toddler?  It’s really challenging.  But having your toddler climb on the couch and give you a hug that way.  For me, bending over and picking up my big kids was really detrimental, so I would have them walk up the first few stairs, and I would say, that’s the bus stop.  I’ll meet you at the bus stop.  And they would jump into my arms that way so I wouldn’t have to bend over to pick them up.  I would say practical things like that, and of course, there’s a lot more on that front.

And then I think valuing your partner and using this as an opportunity for connection to talk about how your experience is different than their experience and opening up rather than keeping it all to yourself.  I think that’s the other part we didn’t totally go into when we talked about the partner aspect, but feeling like I’m going to keep it to myself.  I’m just going to struggle through it, or when my partner comes home from work, they had a tough day; I don’t want to burden them with my tough day.  And it’s fighting that urge to stay silent.  You know, really open up, and that’s where having scripts or language to use makes it a little easier for people to open up.  But we don’t want to keep these things to ourselves, especially in the vulnerable postpartum recovery stage.

Beautiful tips.  So how can our listeners and our Gold Coast clients work with you, Jess?

Yes!  I am on Instagram.  My account is  And that is the same as my website,  And people can find me through Instagram and book a call with me, and I’m happy to discuss their individual circumstances and recommend sort of a pregnancy prep path.  I’d love to work with anyone who feels confident to say, I want more help and I need more help, and guess what?  I deserve it.  I really feel like that journey through recognizing help and feeling empowered – that’s what I love most about what I do.  So if you’re of that mindset, please reach out to me, and I’d be happy to chat with you.

Excellent.  As you mentioned, during pregnancy, it’s ideal to prepare early, similar with hiring a doula.  The earlier, the better; the more they’ll get out of your different programs.  But what if someone just had a baby and is feeling isolated?  What would it be like to work with you immediately postnatal?

Yes.  I have several women who actually DM me when they’re in the hospital.  And they’re like, I just had the baby.  I need help!  And absolutely, it’s never too late to raise your hand and say, I need help.  So definitely still reach out to me if you just had your baby and you want a little bit more support mentally, nutritionally, or guidance in your relationship and supporting this transition to mom and dad or from individuals to partners and parents.  It is absolutely always a good time, if you need help, to get help.

Excellent.  Well, I could talk to you forever.  We’ll have to reconnect again, Jess.  Thank you for sharing all of your tips and wisdom with our listeners.

Well, thank you for having me.  I could talk to you forever, too.  I’m so grateful that there are services like Gold Coast Doulas to really help women get that support they need because that is a huge part of the experience, so you’re doing wonderful work and we’ll continue talking.  Maybe we’ll do another session.  If the listeners have any more questions, we can go deeper on any of it.

That would be great.  I love everything you’re doing with Mother Me.  I will add you to our resource list.  It’s great to have another excellent app to use for preparation.

Thank you.  Thank you so much, Kristin!

Thanks, Jess!  Take care!


Mother Me

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course