Podcast Episode #10: Dealing with Modern Medicine and Your Mother-in-Law
On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa and Cindy talk about dealing with input from family members, including your mother-in-law, about parenting and about the role modern medicine plays in being a parent. You can also listen to the podcast on iTunes.
Alyssa: Hi, welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas! This is Alyssa. I am co-owner and postpartum doula at Gold Coast. Today’s episode is sponsored by Cindy’s Suds, and we actually have Cindy with us again today. We had a question from a client about dealing with in-laws in their home, and Cindy and I have had an interesting conversation with her background as a physician’s assistant and dealing with parents bringing their children in and then maybe the role of the in-laws in that situation. And then I obviously deal with that in-home in postpartum support. So let’s start by giving some background on you as a PA and then how your outlook changed after doing a lot of research and creating your natural product line.
Cindy: Okay. Well, I worked in family practice, and so that means that I saw everything from birth, pregnancy, all the way to, obviously, the elderly. So I kind of saw the whole gamut, which I loved because I love that I could see somebody starting out in their 20s, then getting married, and then getting pregnant and starting a family. I absolutely love that because I could grow with them and get a window into their world and see how they’re transitioning from being a single person to being married to being a mom. So, super fun; I completely loved it. I worked in family practice for about 14 years. In that time period, when I started, I was a single person. I hadn’t been married yet, and so it was interesting even for me professionally to grow from “this is what you do” to all of a sudden being married and being like, wow, there’s a whole dynamic here, being married. And then wow, wait a minute, now as a mom, my whole “this is what you do” completely changed because no longer is it what the books say that you should advise a patient on. Now it’s like, well, let me give you some background.
Alyssa: I have some experience now.
Cindy: I have experience in this now, so it’s really great, and I think that was just a really neat part of being a PA is being able to bring in my own experiences. And that’s part of, I think, life anyway. We’re all given so many different experiences; we can come along each other and say hey, this is what I’ve learned and if I can help you, then we can kind of help each other grow.
Alyssa: In a supportive way.
Cindy: In a supportive way.
Alyssa: Because I can think it can end up being judgmental as well. Here’s my experience –
Cindy: Right, you do it my way or the highway. And I actually saw that sometimes because sometimes a patient would come in with her brand new baby, and in tow would be either Mom or Mother-in-law, kind of this hovering presence, and instantly, as a provider, I would walk in and go, oh, I’m feeling the dynamic in the room; I’m feeling the tension in the room because you have Mom with her new baby, who is navigating the waters of what does it look like to be a new mom; what do I make of this; how do I do the best thing for my child? And Grandma, who I know is well-intentioned, and Grandma has the biggest love and heart for Baby, too, but the way that it was done 40 years ago is not the way, even scientifically speaking, that we’ve learned may be the best way nowadays. And so Grandma may come in with this preconceived idea of, “You do it my way, and if you’re not doing it my way, you’re going to ruin this kid’s life.” And it’s really, really hard for the new mom to figure out how she can’t – you know, what do I do so I don’t offend my mom or mother-in-law, but also what do I do so that I’m being true to my own feelings and my own desires of how my husband and I want to raise our new baby? And I feel like a lot of new moms are really pulled in different directions because they’re reading, and today’s mom is so informed, and they’re so much more educated in what it looks like to be a mom vs. when you had a baby 40 years ago. Sometimes you were still knocked out; you woke up; baby’s in your arms. This is what you do because this is what was always done. It’s a very new world nowadays in parenting, and you have perhaps maybe a mother-in-law or mother that is coming into the situation with very different preconceived ideas than where you want to go parenting-wise. So there’s a lot of – you’ve got to be kind of gentle on both sides because you need to do in your heart what is best for your new baby, but you also somehow need to teach Grandma that we really love your support, but this is the way that we’re choosing to do things.
Alyssa: We actually created a class called The Modern Grandparent for that exact reason.
Cindy: Love it! Love it!
Alyssa: We’ve had clients say these are really tricky waters to navigate. “I want my mother or mother-in-law to be around. They’re great caregivers, but they’ve been out of the game for 30-some years.” And so the class actually, in a very gentle way, teaches them that this is your son or daughter’s family. You have to let them parent the way they want to parent, and then update them on health and safety things. You know, even talking about SIDS and that we keep the crib clean and we don’t lay them on their tummies anymore; it’s Back to Sleep, and just going over all these – you know, car seat safety, and really, really updating the grandparents so that Mom and Dad can feel comfortable with their parents as caregivers. I think that’s huge.
Cindy: Absolutely. It’s huge because as a new mom, we all know how important it is to still keep that relationship strong with our husbands and still have a date night once in a while, but if your mom or mother-in-law is the babysitter that night, and you’re trying to have a nice dinner with your husband out, and you are terrified that Grandma is going to put baby to bed on their tummy or do things that you have specifically chosen to not do as a parent, it can really be upsetting, and you’re not going to be able to really let go.
Alyssa: You don’t enjoy yourself.
Cindy: No, you don’t. Not at all. So I think it’s great that you guys are offering this class because there’s a lot of education, I think, that needs to happen to grandmas, whether it’s your own mom or your mother-in-law, so that a grandma can now be a supportive person to you instead of more like a hovering “you do it my way” kind of personality, and that can just be so hard.
Alyssa: How would you deal with that in the medical world? Like this family comes in and you have the hovering grandmother? Is she sometimes trying to tell you how to do things, or what’s best for baby?
Cindy: A lot of times they can be fairly vocal and say, “Well, when my daughter was a baby…” And then I kind of would gently say, “Well, gosh, you know, you’re absolutely right. When you were parenting your daughter 35 years ago, that is exactly the standard that they said was the best. But now there’s a new standard, and research has shown – etc.” So I always try to validate that; “Oh, my gosh, you’re so right. That’s exactly what was best protocol then” – because you don’t want Grandma to feel like, you know, what are you thinking by doing this or that? Because she honestly is wanting what’s best for the baby. So if you validate, “You’re right. That’s exactly what was the right way to do things back then, but nowadays, they’ve really made some new headway in research, and they’ve discovered this, and they’ve discovered that.” So kind of validating and then redirecting to the newer research and the updated research so that Grandma doesn’t feel like an idiot, number one, because she’s there to help and she loves the baby and she loves her own child. So you really want to validate Grandma, but then steer them into the latest facts so that they know that there has been a change because they’ve been out of parenting little babies for that long. So you really want to kind of gently segue into, “The latest research shows; the latest studies show–” so they don’t feel bad. So that was my role as a provider. Then the pressure’s taken off of the new mom. So the new mom is no longer feeling like she’s battling with her mother or mother-in-law. It’s kind of taken the weight off of the new mom, and I see that as a doula, that’s a perfect role too, because as a doula you can come in and say, “That’s so great that you want to help Baby. That’s so great that you want to be a great caretaker. Have you heard that some of the new research shows, blah blah blah.” So that way, the new mom doesn’t feel like she’s trying to pick sides between baby and her parent.
Alyssa: Yeah, and I think that’s so important. You don’t want them to feel like they’re being attacked, and you don’t want them to feel silly. Like, oh, I’m stupid because I’m looking at data from 40 years ago. I think validating that is really important; saying, “You obviously did a really great job because look at your kids. But now, you know, here’s what’s changed, and let me show you why.” Yeah, that’s great advice. So when you started your company, were you still a PA?
Cindy: Yes, yeah. So I was still working as a PA, and I had my company on the side, and so the very early years of my company, I very, very intentionally kept it small because my role was mom to young kids because my kids were all quite young at the time. I was working as a PA, and I also homeschool, so that’s a factor, too; that was another job, right? And so I very intentionally – I kept feeling like I had horse reins that I would pull back, pull back, because I knew how it could quickly snowball to growing so fast, and I didn’t want that because my kids were little. I was working as a PA; I was homeschooling. So yeah, I worked as a PA for several years as I had Cindy’s Suds, so I did the two things for a while.
Alyssa: And so you’re researching, studying medicine, and very westernized medicine, and having this mindset, and then you start to research this more holistic, natural – these remedies for very common ailments. How did that affect how you treated clients, and did that become hard?
Cindy: It did. It really, really did because so many people want the quick fix, and so they would come in and say, “I don’t feel good. I need an antibiotic.” And I tried to be gentle and sit down and educate and say, “Well, let’s first see if there’s anything bacterial going on because if there’s not, really, viruses take about five days to completely run their course, and you just need rest. You need to give your body some time to heal. You can symptomatically treat if you want to with Tylenol or Advil, but you don’t need an antibiotic.” And I actually had several, several patients get angry. “Well, I want one.” And being very adamant with, “This is what I want. I came in; I need to be fixed.” And so it was hard because I’m trying to educate them on the fact that there are natural options out there; there are other things that you can do to stay healthy, to be healthy, and not necessarily turn instantaneously to prescriptions. But I think there still is a large part of the population that is resistant to that and they want the quick fix. We live in such a quick-fix-me world that people want that.
Alyssa: Yeah. But do you think just like with the mother-in-law who had a baby 40 years ago and thinks things are this way – is it that same age group thinking that well, an antibiotic fixes everything? And they don’t know that, okay, let’s get enough sleep; let’s eat healthy; let’s cut out processed foods; let’s drink a lot of water and exercise; probiotics; all this good stuff – they have no idea.
Cindy: Yeah, for sure. And I think that’s where a lot of the education was coming in, that I would sit down and I would try to educate them on these things, but a lot of it is generational. And so generationally, if this makes no sense to you, if you sound like you’re talking voodoo to them, they just – sometimes they just don’t get it, or maybe their minds are a little bit more closed off. They may be a younger person. Sometimes they do try to learn and be like, “Oh, I had no idea. I’ll try that.” But there are also others that were generationally – they were kind of set in their ways and their thought patterns, so it really depended on the patient, but it did get hard because I really felt torn because I really felt like there are so many great things to try first, and I’ve not turned my back on western medicine. There is certainly a time and a place to use prescriptions and all the great things that have been discovered and new medications that are out there. But first do no harm. First try things that are safe. First try things that are natural, and if these aren’t getting you to a place of healing or wellness, then start looking around. What else could be going on? And obviously if it’s something that’s obviously needing to be treated, you go right to that treatment first. I mean, you’re not going to turn your back on, oh, this person has pneumonia. Go home and rest. But obviously you’re using your head in those situations, but a lot of times for the smaller, easier things, it’s just –
Alyssa: Well, I think that’s preventative, right? A lot of it is just, let’s prevent this small stuff. I mean, there’s obviously big things. Like you said, they’re going to happen. You can’t just rub coconut oil on it and have it go away.
Cindy: Right, exactly.
Alyssa: So then your transition from the medical world to just doing your business – and you had said in our last episode that a lot of it was friends. You had this overabundance of supply. Your friends were like, “Oh, you should just sell this.” You got into craft shows. How much of that, like leaving the medical world to do this, had to do with this pull from, “I can’t really do this western medicine anymore.” Or was it just more purely business?
Cindy: It was actually several factors. So I wouldn’t say that, oh, I left being a PA to exclusively focus on Cindy’s Suds because that’s not entirely accurate. There were many things changing within the whole physician assistant profession that was bothersome to me. The insurance companies were dictating so much of what we could and couldn’t do. So you would come in and see me, and I’d go, oh, you know, listen, this is what you have; you need to get, say, a cat scan of your shoulder, whatever. I would first have to look at your insurance and go, oh, gee, you’ve got this insurance. I can’t do that yet. I have to go to step one first, and then if step one fails, I have to go to step two. So there were so many legalities that had changed –
Alyssa: Even though you knew what you needed to do.
Cindy: Oh, my word. And it was – you felt like your hands were tied. So even though – when I started practicing in 1996, it was a very, very different world than when I left in the late 2000s because you had to really check into what the insurance company wants me to do first, and I really felt that I could not practice with my head and my heart knowledge anymore. I had to go see what this third party said that I could do to you and for you. That was very frustrating. At the time, my boss wanted me to work more, and that was also a factor. My husband and I had decided we weren’t going to allow that to happen to our family because we had set up an amount of hours that we felt comfortable with me working per week, and adding to it was just not in the equation. So it was that, and it was growing my company, as well. So it was multi-faceted. It was not just one thing, but the frustration with the current state of practicing health care was very, very high on the list, just that frustration of “I want to treat you this way, but I just can’t. My hands are tied.” And so that became a big factor in it, as well.
Alyssa: I feel like that probably hasn’t gotten any better since you left, right?
Cindy: It hasn’t, no. My friends that still practice – it’s a very frustrating aspect of trying to practice modern medicine nowadays. Very frustrating.
Alyssa: Well, I think you gave us some really, really good tips in many areas. So thank you for sharing your wisdom.
Alyssa: We will have you on again soon.
Cindy: That sounds great.
Alyssa: And you can find Cindy at www.cindyssuds.com.
Cindy: Absolutely. We’ve got our website there; you can look on the website. There’s product descriptions. You can also contact me via the website or at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have specific questions that I can help you out with.
Alyssa: Awesome. And you can find us at goldcoastdoulas.com. Email us at email@example.com. And you can find us on Facebook and Instagram. Don’t forget to subscribe to our iTunes podcast. Thanks.