It’s the 100th episode! Alyssa and Kristin, co-Owners of Gold Coast Doulas, talk about what the past two and a half years of podcasting has looked like, how the podcast has changed, how the business has changed, how services have pivoted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they are playing their part in supporting other local businesses. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to the 100th episode of Ask the Doulas Podcast! I am Alyssa, and Kristin’s here via phone because it’s COVID-19. We can’t even see each.
Kristin: Right. It changes everything!
Alyssa: I know! We haven’t seen each other in forever, and I actually came into the office for the first time in weeks, and it feels so good to be not working in my house.
Kristin: Yeah, it certainly changed so much about the way we do business. But 100 episodes — I can’t even believe it, Alyssa!
Alyssa: I know. It seems wild that in two and a half years, we’ve done 100 episodes. What is that even — I should do the math on that. Let me do it real quick while you talk.
Kristin: Yeah. I mean, we started this podcast as a member of the Radio for Divas team. It’s a radio show with women experts in the community. And then we transitioned to the podcast format, wanting to really keep our clients as the central focus and information that they would want to hear, and then also thinking about what other listeners, whether it’s regionally or across the US, might be interested in. Capturing more information from experts on anything related to pregnancy and newborns to even toddlers and parenting in general.
Alyssa: So the math, by the way: two and a half years is 130 weeks, so in two and a half years, there have only been 30 weeks that we did not put a podcast out.
Kristin: Wow! Yeah, I know when we started out, we had more frequent podcasts and then have slowed it down a bit. And Alyssa is the editor and producer. How has that changed for you?
Alyssa: It’s a role that I don’t particularly love, but I think, actually, COVID has increased because — you know, I think for the first year and a half of it, I was cranking these out once a week, and then it slowed, just because it is so time-consuming and so much work. We covered a lot of topics already, and we had a lot of changes in the business happening and I wanted to focus on other things, other than the podcast. But now that we’re home, the last few weeks I’ve actually been putting one out every week. And the fact that I can’t meet with someone in person — it’s kind of easier to do it over the phone. The sound quality obviously isn’t as good, but it’s allowed me to — you know, I’ve got three podcasts recorded now with Laine Lipsky, who’s in California and is a parenting coach, and we’ve had just a ton of stuff to talk about. But the virtual, like able to do that virtually, it doesn’t matter that she’s in California. She can coach a parent in Michigan, and same with my sleep. I can do sleep consults for families anywhere.
Kristin: Yeah, it’s been amazing to see the locations that some of your sleep consults have been from.
Alyssa: Yes, my last ones from Colorada and New Orleans, I think, and then somewhere in Florida were my last three. So they haven’t even been local.
Kristin: That is one thing with COVID. We’ve taken things more globally as far as now offering classes online and being able to expand our base outside of the 50-mile radius that we serve. And your work hasn’t changed much because a lot of what you do is virtual anyway, so you haven’t had to pivot all that much as a sleep consultant.
Alyssa: Right. I just don’t do it in person, obviously, but everything else is exactly the same. And then we can’t offer postpartum doula support. Well, I mean, I suppose we could for a newborn, but I’m not doing sleep consults for a newborn, so that doesn’t come into play, either.
Kristin: So, Alyssa, let’s talk about some of the episodes and highlights of what we have gone over in the last two and a half years that we have been producing the podcast.
Alyssa: The topics have been all over the place. You mentioned a few, but I know you in particular, you like to reference a few of them for your birth clients, like the episode, #54, What to Pack in your Birth Bag that you did with Dr. Rachel from Rise Wellness. You know, a lot of our topics, we choose because they’re questions that we get asked often, so why not do a podcast on it, give them all the information, and then just allow them to reference that all the time. So it’s a lot of the reason why we choose certain topics.
Kristin: I also love the dad perspective. We’ve done a couple podcasts of what it’s like to work with a doula and how a partner feels about their role in the birth with having another support person in the room, and even some of our students in the classes we’ve talked, talking about their person experiences, have been really fantastic because it’s a better testimonial to hear it from someone outside of our agency than us telling, you know, our audience all of the features and benefits of everything we offer.
Alyssa: Right, and I think for somebody who doesn’t quite understand the role of a doula, even after researching, sometimes just hearing the personal story from one of our clients makes something click. We love hearing personal stories of clients. Like you said, either birth support, postpartum support, any of our classes. We’ve done a lot on nutrition and diet, babywearing, pelvic floor stuff. You know, that’s a big question for parents after a baby is born.
Kristin: Especially because we happen to work with a lot of athletes, especially in the birth doula role, and they want to be able to get back to running marathons or whatever their particular sport is. So, yeah, pelvic floor therapy and physical therapy in general has been very helpful for our clients.
Alyssa: Right. And then our friends at Rise have given us lots of information on different chiropractic topics. Obviously, I’ve got quite a few on sleep. I love talking about sleep.
Alyssa: Yeah, breastfeeding.
Kristin: Yeah, a lot of breastfeeding-related questions and feeding in general. And certainly anything related to mood disorders and postpartum depression with different experts.
Alyssa: Pediatric Dental Specialists of West Michigan is one of our partners, and Dr. Katie has been on a few times to talk about, you know, her special laser beam for tongue ties and lip ties. And she just had a baby of her own! We should probably check in with her and see how they’re doing.
Alyssa: Cesarean births; we’ve talked a lot about Cesareans and what is a doula’s role within that, and we’ve got some actual birth stories about what that looked like for the birthing person and the family.
Kristin: It’s been a lot of fun to have different guests in and try to find new and fresh content. I mean, after 100 episodes, there are only so many topics you can cover, so…
Alyssa: I know. You kind of have to redo topics with different people. But I’d love for our listeners to email us, too, and just let us know, like, what haven’t we talked about, or what did we talk about but you would like more coverage on? Or do you know somebody who would be a great person for us to speak to?
Kristin: And recently we’ve done some COVID-related podcasts, but that is ever-changing with policies in the hospital and specific states, of course. We have had personal client experiences, birthing during COVID, as well as how our agency has adapted to this time and what precautions we cake.
Alyssa: Maybe we can talk — do you want to talk a little bit about, just in case people aren’t up to date? So as of May 21 when we’re recording this, 2020 — what the role of a doula is right now, like how we can work in hospital settings, and our postpartum doulas.
Kristin: Yes. So for those of you listening in other states, in the state of Michigan, we are following the governor’s stay at home orders. So as Alyssa mentioned earlier, we’re not in our office working together, and we are seeing our clients and students virtually. So all of our classes are done virtually via Zoom, so still very interactive. We recently had our Saturday Series class, which is interesting, because for me, the comfort measures class that I teach is so hands-on and interactive. To do that virtually without even a helper or model to demonstrate positions, I’m trying to describe things and show diagrams and videos and how to do a hip squeeze and counterpressure, for example. So that’s been really interesting, and I know you taught your newborn class several times virtually. And our lactation consultant had the breastfeeding class.
Alyssa: Yeah, I think it’s hard for her, too, the breastfeeding, because to show different positions and — I mean, same with me. Mine’s not as interactive as yours, but even moving the computer into the right spot so I can show my different swaddling methods or, you know, paced bottle feedings, things like that. It works, and I always ask, did everyone see that okay? Is everyone getting it? Do you need me to do it again? It’s just different. I miss being able to meet the students in person. But it’s just where we’re at right now.
Kristin: But at the same time, it’s more convenient for them because they can be at home and, you know, not have to travel. It gives everyone more time in their day, but as far as how we’ve adapted, other than classes, right now with the stay at home order, our lactation visits are all done virtually. So, again, for our two registered nurses and IBCLCs, that has been different than hands-on or more engaging support. But our clients have found it — I’ve had personal birth clients that I’ve worked with who have told me that Kelly was very helpful virtually, so that’s been going better than we had hoped. And with birth support, things are, you know, ever-changing for us, but we’re doing all of our prenatal visits and even the initial consultations before hiring and certainly the postpartum visits after the birth — all of that is done virtually. And different hospitals have different policies related to whether or not a doula can be in the hospital. We’re fortunate that our governor has an executive order that includes a doula and a partner in the hospitals. The doulas are not considered visitors, and we have access. But every hospital, again, has the ability to make their own policies surrounding doulas, and we are right now working in Spectrum Butterworth and all of the regional Spectrum hospitals like Zeeland and Gerber and Pennock and Hastings and Greenville, and so that has been really fantastic. St. Mary’s Mercy Health is currently not allowing doulas but encouraging virtual support, and Metro is allowing doulas. Holland Hospital is not. I was just informed that Mercy Muskegon, who was not allowing doulas up until very recently, and as of — I want to say it was this week — doulas are now being admitted to the hospital and able to support birthing persons. So that has been fantastic since we do serve a 50-mile radius of Grand Rapids. So as doulas, we are monitoring our symptoms, and if we have any symptoms of Coronavirus, then we send in a doula who is symptom-free. Right now, all of the hospitals in our area are requiring doulas to be certified, so if a doula took a two-day or four-day training and chose to never certify, they are not able to work during this time. And if a newer doula is working toward that, then that would be an option in the hospitals. They could certainly attend homebirths. So that has been interesting. We worked with our lawyer and consultant to work on a COVID questionnaire and have included COVID language in our contracts that our clients sign so that our doulas are able to feel comfortable and confident, as well as our clients, in potential exposure during stay at home and what each household is doing as far as going to the grocery store versus having groceries delivered, or is a partner working outside of the home as an essential employee. And then our clients and doulas are able to choose each other. Some of our doulas are not working during COVID or only working with completely isolated clients. So we’ve done a lot of focus internally on what our team wants to do and how we’re able to pivot during this time. So we’ve been able to, you know, have conversations with the governor’s office and make sure there are no gray areas in the doulas role during stay at home and got some confirmations about what a postpartum doula can do, because a lot of that language was focused on our work in the hospital. During the stay at home order that is set to expire at the end of the month — it may or may not be extended — we are only offering essential postpartum support. So since we are working with clients normally through the first year, and they don’t need to have an urgent reason to have us there — they don’t need to be struggling with postpartum depression or a mood disorder — and they don’t need to be healing from a birth. We can work with them until their child is one year old or until their multiples are. So we have stopped working with some of our existing clients during the stay at home and plan to resume work with them. We’re focused only on those first six to nine weeks of healing, depending on the type of birth that our client had, or those struggling at any point in their postpartum time with mood disorders or depression.
Alyssa: So, to clarify, before this, we worked with people up to — we worked with families up to a year old, but now we can only do essential work which is, like you said, the six to nine weeks after someone just had a baby or with someone suffering from a perinatal mood disorder.
Kristin: Yes, or if they don’t have a partner, that is essential, if they need support, since obviously grandparents cannot be involved during this time. Families that have other kids are not able to take them to daycare if they’re not essential workers, so that has been interesting. Obviously, we can work with triplets and multiples because they need more of a hand around the house especially during healing.
Alyssa: So the moral of the story for postpartum is, we can’t just work with anyone right now until the stay at home order lifts, but we can work with you if you have a newborn, if you are suffering from a mood disorder, and/or have had multiples; twins or triplets.
Kristin: Exactly. Yes.
Alyssa: And we can do day or overnight, and that would involve you, again, virtually meeting the doula. You would both fill out this COVID-19 form that we created so that you and the doula both know what your risk, your exposure risk, is. Who’s leaving for the grocery store? Is someone in the home leaving for work? And as long as you’re both comfortable with it, you can work together.
Kristin: Exactly. Yeah, and our doulas are taking every precaution and following what the family wants as far as, you know, sanitation and wearing gloves. We’re all wearing our own cloth masks in the home, but if a client wanted surgical masks and has those or needs us to get them, then we work around their needs, and our doulas are bringing in a fresh set of clothes and taking their shoes and any coats that they may be wearing off immediately. So that has been a pretty seamless process transitioning over for the doulas who are comfortable working with our clients. And we’re so busy in postpartum pre-COVID. You know, that has been some growth that we’ve seen since we started the podcast and very intentionally focused on educating our community and what a postpartum doula is and the benefits of it. But now that is obviously slowed during COVID. But we’ve seen an increase as far as, you know, our students, and being that many hospital classes have closed or not all educators are offering virtual classes, and certainly our birth clients have increased more recently. It slowed for a bit initially because, you know, some doulas in our area are not offering in-person support, and we are. So that has also been a change in our business. Focusing on supporting local businesses is so key. So for any of our listeners, support the local shops in your community. I know, Alyssa, you order from Rebel, and I’ve been getting juice from different local businesses, whether it’s delivered to me or pick up, and just trying to keep our local businesses afloat, because as Local First members and a B-corporation business, we know the importance now and don’t want to see more businesses close down due to COVID.
Alyssa: I know. It’s so sad. What’s the statistic; like, 50% of small businesses aren’t going to make it through this? And luckily, Gold Coast will. We’re doing what we can. We’ve changed our business model a bit. We’ll be good; we’ll make it through this. It’s going to be a tough couple of years, I think, for everybody, but we’re going to do what we can in the midst of this to continue to help other small businesses and to keep all of our subcontractors. They’re their own small businesses. We want to keep them working and support them as much as possible, too.
Kristin: Yeah. And it’s been really sad even seeing other doula agencies that started at the same time as Gold Coast, which we’re nearing our five year anniversary. You know, they’re closing their doors in bigger markets than we live in, and it’s due to COVID. And that’s been very sad for me because they were peers of ours. And so, yeah. If you can support your local service and retail businesses and restaurants, do your part and think local. And just thinking of our stores like EcoBuns with online ordering and Hopscotch, that we often partner with. Supporting them, and the nonprofits. We’ve actually given more during COVID since a lot of the fundraisers we would normally attend and support for some of the hospital foundations have been canceled. We’ve given money to Mercy Foundation and we’re looking at what we can do within Metro and the Spectrum Foundation. And we are analyzing what we can best do to help Nestlings Diaper Bank because let’s not forget that diapers are needed now more than ever, and it is not covered by your basic government assistance programs. So that is something to keep in mind if you’re looking to help; if you have extra diapers or you’re looking at giving somewhere. Nestlings Diaper Bank is in need, and they are running low in diapers.
Alyssa: Yeah, the need is probably greater than ever right now, I would imagine.
Kristin: Yes. So, yeah. Thanks to everyone for listening all of these years and supporting our podcast. We would love to know what topics would be of interest to you and where we can go from here.
Alyssa: Yeah. Please let us know. You can find the podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. We also have on our website a blog section. If you hover over that, we actually have a listing of all the different podcasts. There in order by date. I don’t think you can search by topic, but you can probably Google it and find a certain topic. But we appreciate you listening, and obviously, if you can subscribe, if you can like it, if you can rate us. We’ve never really asked people to do that. It kind of started out as just like — I don’t want to call it a hobby, but, you know, something fun to do to give our clients something; a resource for our clients. But the more people we can educate, the better.
Kristin: We’ve gotten some recognition in Grand Rapids Magazine about being a local podcast, and also through a national organization that rated us in the top ten podcasts that are birth-related. So that was pretty exciting!
Alyssa: Thanks for listening, again!