Kristin and Alyssa talk with Nathalie Walton, CEO of the Expectful App about managing a high risk pregnancy.  Go to www.expectful.com/ask-the-doulas promocode ASKDOULAS to get your first month of Expectful for just $1.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

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

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This is Kristin, with Ask the Doulas, and I’m joined today by Alyssa here.

Alyssa:  Hey!

Kristin:  And our special guest is Nathalie Walton.  Thank you for joining us!  Nathalie is the CEO of the Expectful App.

Nathalie:  Thank you so much for having me!  I’m really excited to be here with both of you today.

Alyssa:  Thanks for joining us!

Kristin:  We’re so thrilled to chat with you about your story.  Fill us in about, you know, your experience as a mother using the Expectful App and then later as an advisor to becoming CEO of the company.

Nathalie:   Yeah.  So for me, it all started – I was introduced to Expectful in my pregnancy, and I’m one of these people that I’m really into wellness and fitness, and I’m also Type A.  So I went into pregnancy thinking, like, I’ve got this.  I had all of my plans laid out.  I had my doula.  Like, I really was set on doing an unmedicated birth.  Like, I was doing everything, like the acupuncture.  I was really living and breathing the pregnancy, being pregnant and living my best pregnant life.  And I thought I was doing everything right.  And then around my 20 week scan, I went into the doctor’s office, and I had my bags packed because my husband and I were going to go on our babymoon later that day, and they kind of looked at me, like midway through the appointment, after you put on your clothes, and they were, what’s that bag?  Where do you think you’re going?  And I was like, on my babymoon.  And they were looking at me, and said, whoa, whoa, whoa.  You have a high risk pregnancy, and you’re not going anywhere.  You’re at risk for preterm labor.  And at 20 weeks, they told me this.  Your baby could be born at any time.  And it just came to be as such a shock, because it’s like, I’ve done every single thing right.  Like, I had everything prepared.  Are you serious?  And so for me, I became really stressed, to be quite frank, because it’s like I started living my life in weeks and days.  I was like, I didn’t know when I would deliver, if I would make it to term.  And it just created a lot of stress because I couldn’t control anything.  I was doing my best, but so much control was out of my hands.  And I found this app called Expectful, and I’ve had a meditation practice for – honestly, I’m going to sound really old, but I started young.  But I’ve had a meditation practice for almost 20 years.  And when I started Expectful and I got really into HypnoBirthing, as well, something changed, where I had been getting worse and worse, but I managed to stabilize, and actually, shortly after using the app, I just reached this place where I had a calmness that really helped me get to term, and lo and behold, I made it to term.  It was definitely a challenge, but there was just something that I had this profound experience with, like the meditation and the HypnoBirthing, that really enabled my pregnancy to make it to the end, which had a tremendous impact on me.  So that’s the story of how I was introduced to Expectful, and how I came to now lead the company was that when I was on maternity leave, I came across, randomly, this opportunity to advise Expectful, and I was like, wow.  I just used this product in pregnancy.  It just had a really big impact on my life.  Why not advise them?  And that transitioned into the CEO role, which I’m not – I’ve been in for almost a year now.

Kristin:  That’s amazing.

Alyssa:  How old is your baby now?  I’m curious.

Nathalie:  My son Everett is 20 months old.

Alyssa:  So this is all still very new and relevant to you.

Nathalie:   Yes!  Yeah.  I still consider myself a new mom.  I mean, I don’t know when you stop considering yourself a new mom, but we’re still going through many firsts, and it still – I joined Expectful when Everett was an infant, and we still weren’t sleeping through the night.  So we’re both growing up together.  Expectful is growing up.  Everett’s growing up.  I’m growing up.  It’s a lot growing!

Kristin:  We work with a lot of high risk moms.  We specialize, especially in the postpartum end of our business, in multiples: twins, triplets.  So what advice do you have personally going through a high risk pregnancy in preparing and really having some way to manage everything that’s ever-changing as a high risk mother?  I had preeclampsia.  I was in a high risk status later in my pregnancy than you were, but I can personally relate to some of what you went through.

Nathalie:  Yeah, my advice is, you know, so much of pregnancy is – and motherhood, and life – is out of our control.  But I think that in pregnancy, we have this desire to prepare and control everything and what we can.  And so that’s why I think so many people spend time – I mean, I think about the hours that I spent on my registry.  Do I have the right stroller?  Do I have the right swaddle?  And I didn’t really think about, like, how do I prepare my mind to deal with not having any control?  I never really prepared – how do I prepare for a NICU stay?  It never even crossed my mind how to think about preparing for that.  How do I prepare for an emergency C‑section?   I didn’t prepare for that, either.  So my advice to anyone in a high risk situation, or even just if you’re having the best possible pregnancy, is to build the tools and the mindset to navigate the unknown, and that’s where meditation comes in and Expectful comes in.  There’s a lot of scientific evidence that shows that cultivating a meditation practice in pregnancy reduces your chances of pregnancy and postpartum anxiety and stress.  There’s studies that show that a meditation practice can reduce pain in labor.  That’s another reason why I really got into HypnoBirthing.  And so my advice to anyone that’s going through this, or anyone in general, is to think about, what is that practice that I can cultivate that’s going to enable me to deal with the unknown, because as much as we like to think we can prepare for everything, there’s going to be something in your pregnancy or motherhood journey that you’re just like, I didn’t even think about it.  And it’s probably going to happen a lot more than once, and the sooner that you come to that reality, I think the more you will thrive.  And so that’s my advice.  And one way to do that is through meditation.   There are other ways, like cultivating a yoga practice, a HypnoBirthing practice.  Finding that thing that’s going to give you that power to navigate uncertainty is just so key.

Alyssa:  I didn’t have a high risk pregnancy, but I am a Type A friend of yours.  So I do understand that sense of – that need for a sense of control, and I think pregnancy was my first realization that all this is out of my control.  And then birth is out of our control, and then, I mean, don’t even mention postpartum.  Once you have a kid, like, my schedule is no longer my own.  Your sleep is no longer your own, for a while.  So I think just that Type A, for those of you listening that are the Type A mom as well, that we think we need the sense of control, figuring out a way to kind of release that control and allow the unknowns to filter into our life because there’s no way around it.

Nathalie:  Absolutely.  Yeah, I mean, your body isn’t your own.  If you decide to breastfeed, that is something that I had to learn.  Like, how do I share this body with another human?  So you’re right.  It’s definitely – maybe it’s harder for the Type A people.  But the sooner that you come to that realization that you just have to surrender to the process, of the beauty of creating a life and bringing that life into existence, I think the better prepared you will be.

Alyssa:  So I’m curious.  I was reading that you kind of changed, over the last several months – Expectful has grown from a meditation and sleep app for pregnancy to more of a holistic wellness program.  Can you explain what that difference is and how that has changed?

Nathalie:  Yes, absolutely.  So, I mean, as someone who’s still going through the early stages of motherhood, I realized that, you know, meditation and sleep is wonderful, but women need so much support beyond meditation and sleep.  And so I want to create this holistic wellness haven for anyone in fertility, pregnancy, and parenthood.  What that means is we’ve expanded our content far beyond meditation.  So I brought in my prenatal fitness instructor, and we have live prenatal and postnatal fitness classes and fertility flow classes.  We have all sorts of live video with experts where we talk about everything from nutrition to infant sleep.  We are launching a video library soon that just contains a ton of fitness videos and chats with experts.  What I’m really excited about, something that’s going to launch in the next couple of weeks, is the ability to subscribe to our support service.  In my pregnancy, I had a lot of questions, as I think everyone does, and you only get a few minutes with an OB, if you can even see your OB.  Sometimes I had to see her assistant, and I’m like, hmm, you know, what foods should I be eating to help me, or thinking like, you know, is this normal, and then instead of getting an answer from my doctor, I’d go to Google.  And so what we are building to solve this is we are building the ability to connect with experts as a part of our subscription.  In fact, this part is actually live now.  So we have support groups that are led by doulas or experts in pregnancy and postpartum.  So you can connect with other women and talk about what you’re going through.  We also have office hours with a nutritionist, a lactation consultant, an infant sleep consultant.  It’s really hard to access those providers, and so we’re innovating the business model in that, if you have questions, you don’t have to go to Google.  You can just sign up for our office hours and get advice directly.  And that’s part of the Expectful subscription.  So that’s all part of this journey to creating this holistic haven, a wellness haven.  And on top of that, we have the ability to get one-on-one advice and one-on-one services.  So let’s say you have a little bit more of a complex problem, and you want to chat with a nutritionist for, like, 15 minutes or an hour.  We have that ability for you to connect with a nutritionist who specializes in pre- and postnatal wellness and fertility, and you can get your questions answered, which is something that I wish I had in my pregnancy because it’s so hard to find your support village.  It’s at your fingertips with Expectful.

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

Kristin:  That’s amazing.  Especially during the pandemic – it’s so isolating.  We have a lot of clients that move into this community and they don’t have any support, so we launched an online course called Becoming a Mother that has a bit of that Facebook community, as well as live calls, so I love everything you’re doing, especially on a large national platform.

Alyssa:  And in that Becoming course, we actually ask our students, who are pregnant mothers, what – one particular question is, what apps are you using and what apps do you recommend to the other moms, and yours was one of them!

Kristin:  Yes, it was the top one!

Alyssa:  It’s been on our list!

Kristin:  They love it.  It’s great to keep up with, since we’re not pregnant ourselves, and the changing registry items from women in our courses and what they’re listening to in podcasts and what apps they’re using.  So yeah, that part has been quite lovely.

Nathalie:   That’s so wonderful to hear, and I love that you’re creating that course, because it’s – I mean, the word that comes to mind, and this is a big, heavy word, is matrescence.  It’s the transition to motherhood.  It’s just not talked about enough.  I love what you’re doing in terms of preparing to become a mother because so much of pregnancy and birth is all around the baby, and it’s like, hello, there’s another human being born in this process that really needs that same nurturing and care.  So I love what you’re doing and providing that community because it’s not talked about enough, and I see this on Expectful, but people just suffer in silence and they don’t know that literally everyone else is going through the same.  I mean, it might be a little bit different, but everyone struggles with this in some way or another.  So I love the community that you’re building.

Kristin:  Yeah, there are so many things that are left unsaid.  I mean, you share certain things with friends and family members, but other things like the lack of sleep and what you’re going through in things like bladder control and wanting to work out – like, we love sharing information about pelvic floor therapists and more of the services after you have baby and things that aren’t really discussed.

Alyssa:  Yeah, we love talking about all those things that I wish somebody would have told me about before they actually happened.  You know, like, oh, yeah, pooping the first time will be a little bit scary after, whether it’s a vaginal or a Cesarean birth.  That idea is scary, and oh my gosh, I went to run for the first time and about peed my pants.  Like, what are all the – like, why, and what’s going on, and how do we help it?  Instead, we just suffer, like you said, in silence and think, well, it’s just the way it is now.

Kristin:  And you have different subgroups in Expectful?  Nathalie, can you talk a little bit about that?  Like, different ways that people can join?

Nathalie:  Absolutely.  So we have everything from healing to motherhood.  I think healing as people that have experienced a loss.  I personally find, like, in just talking to so many of our users, my heart aches for anyone who’s experienced a loss.  It’s so terrifying, but what probably might even hurt just as much is just the lack of support and empathy for people that experience loss.  And so we have a healing library that’s free for anyone who wants to access it to access our meditations on how to heal and how to connect.  Our first group starts with healing, if that’s something that you need.  We have a robust fertility library of meditations, like cycle meditations.  Our biggest community is obviously pregnancy where we have, you know, a ton of support options from the chats with the nutritionist or connecting with services but also our fitness videos for pregnancy.  Something I’m excited about that just launched is we have weekly pregnancy meditations, which are super popular, and we just launched daily ones.  And I love this because, I mean, each day in pregnancy is a very special day, and it’s nice to know, like, where you are in the day and be reminded of the really awesome time that you’re in, even though it can be challenging.  So we have daily pregnancy meditations.  I’d say one of our most popular courses is HypnoBirthing, which I’m a huge HypnoBirthing fan, and that’s in our app, as well.  We have a robust postpartum library that features anything from nursing meditations to stroller meditations, catnap meditations, and then, you know, of course, all the fitness and the experts that you can connect with.  So we really do have something for anyone that’s, like, you know, has baby on their mind to actually having a baby in hand.  I really feel like anything from fertility through the first year is a really sweet spot for using Expectful.

Kristin:  So I know you’re very active in the Black maternal wellness space and using this app to move forward in getting more support for Black women, get the provider options and just information that is so necessary.  Can you speak to that, Nathalie?

Nathalie:   Yes.  So, I mean, I am a Black woman, and I think going in pregnancy, like, I knew I’d have a hard time as a Black woman when I look at so many prominent figures in the world.  I look at Beyonce.  I look at Alison Felix.  I look at Serena Williams.  Like, these are some of the most successful Black women, and they have all of the resources at their fingertips, and these women almost died in childbirth.  And I knew that if that was happening to them, it would happen to me.  It would happen to everyone, every Black woman.  And it’s true.  Like, if you look at the statistics, Black women die at a rate of three to four times of that of White women in childbirth.  And I had my fair share of complication during pregnancy.  I was frequently dismissed, which made the entire process more stressful.  I wasn’t given answers when I wanted them.  I mean, I really had a challenging time, and in fact, my son and I, we almost did die during childbirth.  It ended up being incredibly traumatic and much more so than I could have ever envisioned.  And I think that to me, the whole process made me realize, like, I did have access to everything that I could want.  Like, I had access to amazing doctors.  I had all of the wellness tools that you could imagine.  I had fantastic benefits from working in tech.  And I still – we still almost died.  And so that feeling of not being able to control, but also not being able to control something because of your race and knowing that you’re not taken as seriously as someone who’s a different race is just a really difficult burden to face on top of, you know, having a high risk pregnancy.  So I worked with several leaders in the Black maternal wellness space to come up with meditations specifically for Black women.  It’s called Black Mamas Meditate, and this is a collection of meditations.  It’s free for anyone to use.  It’s on our website; it’s on our app.  And these meditations are really meant to address the experiences that Black women might be feeling during their pregnancy journey, and so it’s my hope – I mean, this is not going to solve the problem, but for any Black woman that might be experiencing these difficulties, we have those meditations for Black women.

Alyssa:  That’s awesome.  That was going to be my next question was if you had, you know, within these subgroups, a subgroup for Black mothers.  So can you actually let us know, like right now, the people listening, like, where do they find these free – like, on the app and on the website, you said?

Nathalie:   Yeah.  So this is on the app.  If you Google Expectful Black Mamas Meditate, you should be taken to the landing page.  It’s a meditation collection online.  In the app, it’s in the pregnancy section.  There’s a sublabel in Meditate that says Black Mamas Meditation Collection.  So in either place, you can experience these.  And it’s my hope that it’s helpful because there isn’t a ton of support, and it is very isolating, so anything that we can do to help support is important to me.

Kristin:  That is wonderful.  We’ll share that resource with our clients and students.  Thank you for creating that!

Alyssa:  So when moms download the app, is there a free version where they can get these free meditations, then, and there’s a paid version, as well?

Nathalie:   So right now, it is – we have a seven-day free trial membership, and that is to experience all that Expectful has to offer, unlimited.  And then it transitions into a paid version.  That being said, I’m happy to share, and perhaps you would like to talk about, we do have a special offer for your listeners.  I think that this is really amazing for your audience, so I hope that everyone just checks out Expectful.  So for the first month, we’re offering Expectful for just $1 a month.  So you have 30 days to check out Expectful, attend a support group.  You can go to office hours with any of our specialists, listen to all of our meditations, our HypnoBirthing courses, all of our courses that we offer, you can check out just for $1 a month.  So I hope that that is of use to your listeners.

Alyssa:  That’s incredible.

Kristin:  That is so generous!  Does that expire, Nathalie, or –

Nathalie:  We don’t have an expiration date.  I mean, at some point, it will expire.  Like, maybe two years from now, but we want people to access that, and so this is a code that’s unique for your users in the future so that they can access that.

Alyssa:  And we will share a link for our listeners to that.

Kristin:  Yeah.  The promo code is ASKDOULAS on your website.   Any final words of wisdom to share with our listeners, Nathalie?

Nathalie:  Well, first of all, I absolutely love what you’re doing, so thank you for all the work that you’re doing.  My advice, my last parting words, would be that pregnancy and fertility and new motherhood is that it has its ups and downs, and it’s beautiful, but it is also one of the most challenging things that one might go through.  And my advice would really be that whatever you’re going through, you’re not going through it alone, and seek out that support so that you can get the help that you need because the help exists.  Like, it’s not normal – you mentioned pelvic floor therapy – it’s not normal to pee your pants for months on end.  It’s not normal for you to, like, have breast pains or to be in constant agony.  There’s help, and that’s what I’m trying to normalize, and I’m trying to do that at an accessible price point.  So if you’re feeling any kind of discomfort or even if you’re feeling just amazing and you want to share that with others, I just recommend tapping into the Expectful community so that you can share your experience with other moms and help people feel more supported.

Kristin:  Thank you.  We love everything you’re doing and appreciate your time today, Nathalie!

Nathalie:  Thank you so much for having me on.  It was just so great to connect with you.

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

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