birth doula

Woman standing by a tree in a wooded area with jeans and beige jacket

Meet our new Postpartum Doula and Newborn Care Specialist (NCS), Sarah!

We hope you enjoy getting to know Sarah in our Q&A blog! Sarah serves families in West Michigan as a certified Newborn Care Specialist. She offers day and overnight newborn support.
 
1) What did you do before you became a newborn care specialist?
I have worked in the field of Early Childhood for 20 years as a preschool teacher, early childhood specialist, infant toddler teacher, center director, and nanny.
2) What inspired you to become a newborn care specialist and a postpartum doula?
Seeing how many families are struggling and feeling alone after bringing a baby home. I want to offer them support during this time.
3) Tell us about your family.
I am a mother of five. I have three girls and two boys. They are all unique and amazing. My husband is my best friend and biggest supporter.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why? 
I loved Maui. It had great scenery, wonderful people, and amazing food.
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Rihanna is my favorite musician. I love that she is free to be herself.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
To trust yourself and your intuition and also to give yourself grace.
7) What do you consider your doula/newborn care specialist superpower to be?
Anticipating needs.
8) What is your favorite food?
I love curry and also pho.
9) What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I enjoy all West Michigan beaches.
10) What are you reading now?
The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin.  
11) Who are your role models?
Dr. Shefali. She is an author and clinical psychologist. Her work and message are amazing.
Mya from Gold Coast Doulas sits inside a floating circle in front of a Kitchen + Kocktale wall wearing a headband, scarf, and crossbody fanny pack.

Meet Mya, Our Newest Postpartum Doula!

Meet Mya, Our Newest Postpartum Doula!
As you know, when we bring a new person onto the Gold Coast team, we love to find out more about them and
share that with you!

Let’s find out more about Mya.

1) What did you do before you became a postpartum doula?
Before becoming a doula, I worked as a swim instructor, and as a head swim coach for young children in
Naperville, Illinois. After that, I went to Central Michigan University to earn a bachelor’s degree in science.

2) What inspired you to become a postpartum doula?
I’ve always been fascinated with pregnancy as a whole, after watching my family members, experience,
pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. I knew I would be the perfect helping hand for those who look like me,
which is what inspired me the most. I want other minorities to feel comfortable while giving birth, which is why I
pride myself on creating such a warm and open environment.

3) Tell us about your family.
My family has a very tight bond, we are quite a small family, because of this we spend lots of our free time
together whether it’s hanging out and enjoying each other’s company or traveling and going on new
adventures. Overall, my family is very loving and supportive, and most of all we love to have a good laugh.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why? 
My favorite vacation spot is probably Barcelona Spain, the reason for this is because I’m a total foodie, and the
food there was beyond fresh and different from anything I’ve ever had before. Also, the architecture of all the
buildings were incredibly breathtaking.

5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is a hard question, considering I enjoy listening to almost all genres of music.

6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
The best advice I have for families is to stick with their goals and values, just because they don’t align with
others in your community does not mean they are wrong, and also to give yourself grace and patience. Some
things take time to heal, and we must be mindful of that.

7) What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?
I believe my doula superpower is making people feel comfortable and empowered, no matter what the situation
is. Growing up looking different from most of my peers I know how it feels to be in uncomfortable situations.
This is why I pride myself on being able to make others feel both comfortable and confident in all environments.

8) What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is tacos, I could probably eat tacos every day for the rest of my life.

9) What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Since I’m not a Michigan native, I absolutely love going to the dunes, we don’t have anything similar to that in
Chicago so it’s always a fun treat.

10) What are you reading now?
Self-care for new moms

11) Who are your role models?
I would say, my mom is one of my biggest role models, she’s taught me how to be kind, empathetic,
independent, and resilient.
Mya serves day and overnight postpartum and infant care clients in West Michigan, SW Michigan and Northern
Michigan.

 

2 women in professional clothes with a colorful geometric background

2022 Reflections

2022 Reflections:
Whew! Our word of the year for 2022 was changed. Gold Coast announced an expansion for day and overnight postpartum support to Northern and Southwest Michigan in April.
Alyssa Veneklase transitioned from co-owner to subcontractor at Gold Coast in August. She still leads the Becoming A Mother course with Kristin and teaches at Gold Coast.
Kristin and Alyssa have signed with a publisher for a book deal!
Our small business has been operating on EOS with our implementor Laurel Romanella for a full year now and we have seen tremendous growth as a result.

Here are the Gold Coast stats for 2022:  

  • Number of group and private classes taught: 28
  • Number of students: 82
  • Number of birth clients that delivered in 2022: 95
  • Number of birth clients supported in 2022 with 2023 due dates: 26
  • Average Continuing Education training per doula: 5
  • Lactation: 22 clients
  • Alyssa created a new sleep class for infants and toddlers at different stages
  • Sleep Consultations: 18 clients served
  • Day and Overnight Postpartum Doula support hours: 7,776 (our best year yet for postpartum)
  • Multiples: 6 families served.
  • DEI our entire team had a 2-hour virtual DEI training with Sabia Wade, The Black Doula in February
  • Our entire team participated in a 2-hour pregnancy and newborn loss training through PAILAdvocates.
  • New Subcontractors Added to our Team: 8 doulas, 1 sleep consultant
  • Advanced Certifications Achieved: 12
  • Julie Skripka and Gina Kraft celebrated five years with Gold Coast.
  • We had our seven-year anniversary in October.
  • Ask the Doulas Podcast- We ended the year with 167 episodes total. Feedspot ranked Ask the
  • Doulas as 6 of the Best 15 Doula Podcasts on the Planet in 2022.   Listen Notes ranked Ask the Doulas as one of the top 5% most popular shows out of 3,005,585 globally. We launched our podcast in 2017 and are still growing strong thanks to our fantastic guests and listener support.
  • Becoming A Mother Course- We added new expert videos and enhanced our email communication to further grow our self-paced online course.
  • We offered two pro-bono spots in the course to low-income women.
  • 2022 Awards: West Michigan BBB Torch Award for Ethics Finalist, Best of Michbusiness small business award winner and Kristin Revere was named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.
  • Media: First Time Parent Magazine: Kristin Revere wrote an article on making your hospital room feel like home.
  • Gold Coast continued as a Climate Leader with Aclymate. We purchased 13,855 lbs of carbon offsets.
  • Gold Coast applied for B Corp recertification in July.

Volunteer Hours: 129 

  • Charitable Donations:  $2,703 to charities supporting low-income women and children.
  • Organizations donated to include: Nestlings Diaper Bank. Spectrum Foundation for a breastfeeding training for the Butterworth Women’s Center nursing staff, St. Mary’s Foundation with funds dedicated to clinics, Pine Rest Mother-Baby Program, MomsBloom, Preeclampsia Foundation and the Hello Seven Foundation.
  • We also donated a birth stool to St. Mary’s Foundation.
  • Diapers Collected for our 7th Annual Diaper Drive for Nestlings Diaper Bank: 11,133 disposable diapers, 97 packs of wipes and 100 cloth supplies. Many thanks to our partners: Rise Wellness Chiropractic, Fit4Mom Grand Rapids, Mind Body Baby, Mindful Counseling, Advent Physical Therapy, Hopscotch Children’s Store, EcoBuns Baby + Co, Brann’s, The Insurance Group, R. Lucas Scott. Co, and Howard Miller Library.

We are so thankful for our clients, partners, podcast listeners and students. Thank you for
trusting us to support your families!

 

New Gold Coast Doula

Meet our new Postpartum Doula, Jene’e!

1) What did you do before you became a doula/consultant?

For many years, I primarily have been a “domestic engineer”, a stay-at-home mom. Although in some of those years, my family has owned a few restaurants, and I helped there when I was needed.

2) What inspired you to become a doula/consultant?

Becoming a mama at a very young age, to two boys, and the birthing experience I had with them started my journey to want to make others mamas experiences more empowering and filled with better memories and support. Because of my birthing experience with them, for a long time I wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse, or an OB nurse practitioner, but that was not my life path.

I now have 7 beautiful children, and each one of those birthing experiences was different. It was not until my 6th child that I became more aware that I have a choice to a have different birthing experience. Now I want to empower mamas to know that they can too.

3) Tell us about your family.

We moved here to the Traverse City area at the end of 2020, from Henderson, Nevada. We would visit family here every summer, and loved the area.

We are a very outdoor family. Love the beach, paddle boarding, fishing, soccer, snowboarding, sledding, all fun activities

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

I absolutely love Hawaii. The beaches, the warm water, the smell, the culture. It is my Happy place.

Traverse City use to be one of our favorite vacation spots every summer also, until we moved from Las Vegas.

Now Las Vegas is one of my favorite vacation spots, so I can see my son, my amazing friends, and my previous village.

5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.

This is really hard to answer. I really think it depends on intention, mood, and the time of day.

6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?

There is so much “best” advice to give! Give yourself Grace, time to heal and rest, do what is best for you and your family even if that means setting boundaries, and do not feel the need to follow the western culture to “bounce back”.

7) What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?

From what I have been told, is that I bring great, empowering, safe energy when I walk into the room

8) What is your favorite food?

I love raw sushi and Mexican food

9) What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?

I love Empire, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Glen Arbor, & Traverse City

10) What are you reading now?

The First 40 Days

11) Who are your role models?

I love to listen and surround myself with empowering woman and friends.

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Jordyn's Q&A blog photo

Meet Our New Birth Doula, Jordyn!

What did you do before you became a doula?

I have worked in the mental health/crisis industry for the last 8 years. I started with 2-1-1, helping people find local resources, and then the suicide prevention hotline. Over the previous 6 years, I have worked in the EAP world, assisting with coordinating crisis response teams around the country.

What inspired you to become a doula?

I have been fascinated with birth since I was a young child; my babysitter would set me up in her room so I could watch TLC’s Baby Story every day while the rest of the crew watched cartoons. I took every family science class in high school and went to Western Michigan University for my degree in Family Studies. After having my own son, my passion was reignited.

Tell us about your family.

I come from a large family, who are very important to me. My partner and I welcomed our son on our 4th anniversary; not sure anything will ever top that gift! He is now a toddler who enjoys chasing around our 2 cats, Shade & Storm.

What is your favorite vacation spot and why? 

The Upper Peninsula! I love road trips, getting into nature, and star gazing, so the UP provides the ultimate experience. A stop at Clyde’s for a burger, taking scenic M-2, and chasing waterfalls are some of my favorite things to experience each trip!

Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.

This is a tricky question, as music is my love language. If I had to choose: Kings of Leon, Led Zeppelin, Miranda Lambert, Young the Giant, and Fleetwood Mac.

What is the best advice you have given to new families?

I don’t like to give unsolicited advice; parents definitely get enough of that! However, I’d tell parents to trust their gut and don’t compare!

What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?

I am empathetic and a great listener. I know how to de-escalate stressful situations and have been called the calm in the middle of chaos.

What is your favorite food?

Another hard question, as I love to cook and try new things, but a big plate of pasta is the ultimate comfort.

What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?

Holland State Park reminds me of the family reunions we had every summer at the beach.

What are you reading now?

I am an avid reader and always have a few books in rotation. Currently, I am reading: The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood  by Kathleen Kendall-Tacket and Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols.

Who are your role models?

My grandmother, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Brene Brown.

 

Lisa Newhouse

Meet our new birth doula, Lisa.

What did you do before you became a doula/consultant?

I had a 20+ year career as an Occupational Therapist. Much of my career as a therapist, was at Mary Free Bed Hospital working in the wheelchair and custom seating department. Approximately 7 years ago, I completed my master’s degree and became an academic advisor. I worked at Aquinas College and Grand Valley State University until the initial months of Covid. At which time, I resigned due to family needs.

What inspired you to become a doula/consultant?

I have always enjoyed professions that allow me to help others. I knew I wanted to do something that would feed my soul a little more, and I also knew that I had a desire to be involved with helping women and children. The doula profession has been on my radar for a while now and the time seemed right to go with my heart and pursue this career.

Tell us about your family.

I have a blended family that consists of four children from my husband’s previous relationship, two children from my previous relationship and one child together. All our children, with the exception of the youngest (15 y/o), are adults and most have families of their own.

What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

My husband and I love to travel and have many favorite spots! I would say that we enjoy traveling internationally and South Africa was one of our favorite trips.

Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.

I really enjoy music, particularly live music, and I find it hard to name who would be my top 5. I can say that I have three artists that I have seen live a few times and every time it has been so fun! The first artist is U2, that I have seen two times. What I love the most about U2 is how they always fill me with hope. A couple other artists that I have seen a couple times is OAR and Michael Franti. I have seen both of them at Meijer Gardens and both artists put on a fabulous show!

What is the best advice you have given to new families?

To always lead with love. At the end of the day, we all make mistakes or can think of something we wished we would have done differently, but I firmly believe that it is always going to be ok if you lead with love.

What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?

I am not completely sure, but I think it would be my ability to anticipate what someone needs in the moment. I have always been good at reading or sensing when someone needs something and responding appropriately.

What is your favorite food?

I am a real foodie! I like just about anything that is local and fresh. However, I do have a real love for ethnic flavors and in particular Mediterranean.

What is your favorite place on West Michigan Gold Coast?

I have two favorite places on the west coast. Saugatuck holds a very special place in my heart because my husband and I were married there! We also love Petoskey, not only is it beautiful, but we have an annual camping trip with friends there every Labor Day. So, we have wonderful memories in both spots!

What are you reading now?

I am a voracious reader! I typically have a stack of 3-4 books at any given time that I am reading. I am in two book clubs, one that primarily focuses on non-fiction and the other fiction. The last couple of books I just read was Brene Browns Atlas of the Heart, love her so much and everything she writes! I also, just read The Sentence by Louise Erdrich.

Who are your role models?

I have always admired and tried to emulate women who have weathered the storms and did what needed to be done. I believe there is nothing more formidable than a woman who is doing what is right and necessary for those she loves.

 

Meet our new birth and postpartum doula, Angel!

What did you do before you became a doula?
I have been working in health care since I graduated high school. I started off as a CNA working with geriatric populations in a facility. I then because a nursing assistant in adult acute care in the hospital while I went to nursing school. I have been working as a registered nurse for the last 2.5 years, the most recent setting being in the hospital with high risk postpartum and women’s health populations.

What inspired you to become a doula?
My patients are what inspired me to look into how I could better support families during their labor, delivery, and postpartum journey. I have heard too many stories about traumatic birth experiences and families longing for more support. I am always looking to expand my skillset to better serve and partner in my patient’s care. In researching this I discovered doula work and I was intrigued, I wanted to jump right in, but I was not sure where to even begin.

Tell us about your family.
I live in Grand Rapids with my partner. We were doing long distance since we lived on opposite sides of the state for our careers, until this month! Together we have two fur babies – a big baby of a spaniel mix named Willow, and a dramatic, mischievous cat named Tofu. We both have complicated extended families, but they live nearby.

What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
I really enjoy the Ybor city neighborhood of Tampa, Florida. It has the hustle and bustle of Tampa with lots of shopping, restaurants, and entertainment. It is also a historic Cuban town that is full of culture. My father lives about 30 minutes from there which gets me away from the business that the city offers.

Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is difficult because I love music and listen to varying genres depending on my mood.

· Dermot Kennedy: His voice is extremely powerful and soothing. He sounds even better live than in his recordings.

· Eminem: I listen to him when I need to hype up and get some things done quickly. His music never gets old.

· Stevie Wonder: I grew up listening to his music while my dad was working on building my childhood home, I remember being shocked when my dad told me he was visually impaired, it made me enjoy his music even more.

· Machine Gun Kelly: His unique blend of hip hop and rock has me turning to him when I need a little pick me up.

· Fletcher: She sings about real life experiences that I relate to. She is newer to the music scene with her first single being released two years ago, but she is not short on talent.

What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Follow your gut! You know your body and your baby best, advocate for yourself to get questions answered, concerns addressed, etc.

What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
I can quickly form a good rapport with clients. This makes things go smoothly so those around me can feel comfortable being their authentic self and it makes asking those tough questions a little easier.

What is your favorite food?
Chicken alfredo is my favorite, you cant go wrong there.

What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
There is a beautiful area of lake Michigan in Whitehall that always brings me peace. When I am feeling stressed or overwhelmed, it is a great spot to just watch the water and sit on the big rocks or the sand and listen to music or read.

What are you reading now?
I am currently reading the latest issue of the Journal of Perinatal and Neonatal Nursing, specifically an article titled “Perinatal Quality and Equity – Indicators That Address Disparities”. Health disparities have always been of interest to me, especially when it comes to maternal and infant health care.

Who are your role models?
I have a few but my father would be the one who has made the biggest impact on me. He was always extremely tough on me while growing up, and I now realize why. He started from nothing and has really made something of himself. He never wanted me to struggle in the ways that he did so he made me learn some tough lessons, but it made me a better person. He is the person I can count on to give me an honest opinion on something or to tell me when I need to get back on track. He has shown me that hard work pays off and to play hard, you must work harder: that is something I now live by.

 

Alyssa Zapata

Meet Alyssa Zapata, Certified Birth Doula!

Alyssa used to work with us as a placenta encapsulator and is now back with Gold Coast, this time as a birth doula!

What did you do before you became a doula?
I worked in the hospitality industry at restaurants, B&B’s, and assisting wedding planners. I also became a momma to my oldest who will be 7 in October!

What inspired you to become a doula?
Having an empowering unmedicated birth at Butterworth with a wonderful doula, Chasity, who is now a midwife student in Georgia.

Tell us about your family.
My husband of 6 years, Adam, works in IT at Herman Miller in Zeeland. We met through one of his friends at Hope College when I was going to Grand Valley State University. We have made it through a surprise pregnancy of our wonderful son at the beginning of our relationship, through multiple pregnancies/losses, a wedding, a dog, and 3 moves. He works very hard, keeps me grounded, and reminds me to slow down when I need to.

Our son, Joaquin, will be 7 in October; heading to 1st grade Spanish Immersion at Innocademy in Zeeland in the fall. He loves building things, making crafts, and playing soccer.

Our daughter, Valerie, will be 2 in October. She is very strong willed and always on the go!
Currently she loves gymnastics class with me and Minnie Mouse.

Our pit bull, Daisy, who we adopted when she was a little over a year old, and is now 5 years old. She loves people and running around our backyard.

We also have 2 angel babies in heaven.

What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
In Michigan, Harbor Springs where my family cottage is because I have so many wonderful memories there.

In the US probably the Smokey Mountains in Tennesse. It is so peaceful and a beautiful place to hike.

In the world, Florence, Italy. Italians know how to enjoy life and live slowly with beautiful art surrounding them.

Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is hard!

Anything by Lin Manuel Miranda. It’s unique and I’m a musical theatre nerd.

Eagles, my parents often listened to them when I was growing up. They remind me of times at the cottage.

John Legend because he is one of the only artists my husband and I agree upon. Beautiful heartfelt lyrics.

Lady Gaga because she is a great live performer and stands for inclusiveness.

Queen, you just can’t beat the sound!

What is the best advice you have given to new families?
That you are the parents meant for this baby, don’t let other parents or advice cloud your own instincts.

What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
I have a passion for evidence-based procedures and educating clients of their choices.

What is your favorite food?
Fresh made guacamole.

What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Grand Haven.

What are you reading now? 
The Whole-Brain Child

Who is your role model?
My mother. She was the breadwinner in my family growing up and worked in the
male-dominated field of finance within a major corporation. I may not align with that type
of work or be analytical like her, but she taught me how to work hard and not to let
anything stop you because you are a woman.

 

Lee Ann Sotok

Meet Lee Ann, our newest birth & postpartum doula!

What did you do before you became a doula?
Currently, I own my own Health & Wellness business through Isagenix. In addition, I work as an Interior Designer for a company that does home staging for realtors and their clients. Previously I was an Administrative Assistant for Leadership Events throughout the US and Canada.

What inspired you to become a doula?
It was suggested to me by a friend and it resonated with me that this was something I have always wanted to do.

Tell us about your family.
My husband, Jeff, and I have been married for 32 years. We have three adult children – Steve, Shannon, and Griffin. We lived in the Nashville area for ten years and have been in Holland since 1998. In 2019, we added our son-in-law, Ciaran, to the family with a lovely family/friend small wedding in Ireland.

We love to travel and experience other countries and cultures. We have been to Mexico, Peru, Costa Rica, Italy, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Ireland. We like to hike, kayak, ski, boat, golf, and other outdoor activities.

What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
Ireland because our daughter lives there currently! We also love Arizona and Colorado. Honestly, we love just to travel.. All of our trips have been such wonderful experiences and memories.

Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Garth Brooks, Adele, Ed Sheeran, Amy Grant, and the Beatles. Honestly, I just love a large variety of music. I love to dance, I love the message of the lyrics. Mostly it is the emotions that music evokes.

What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Breath, enjoy the moments, take things one at a time, and don’t hesitate to ask for advice or assistance. We all need it.

What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
Being a calm presence in an anxious situation.

What is your favorite food?
Seafood and Yellow Curry

What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Lake Michigan, skiing up north, or hiking in our many parks

What are you reading now?
ProDola, Labor Doula Training Manual

Who are your role models?
There are three very influential woman in my life: my mother-in-law (Rosemary), my best friend of thirty years (Juli), and my spiritual coach and treasure friend of twelve years (Trisha).

 

Jessica Moeckel

Meet Jessica Moeckel, RN – our newest Birth & Postpartum Doula!

What did you do before you became a doula?
I was a RN at Mary FreeBed, then I transitioned to Saint Mary’s L&D. Most recently, I was at Mercy Health Physician Partners.

What inspired you to become a doula?
The first birth I attended was in college during the L&D portion of nursing school. In that moment I knew I wanted to always be a part of this major event in a family’s life. I pursued L&D as a nurse but it wasn’t the right fit. As I looked into becoming a doula it was much more appealing to me as a nurturing, caring, and supportive soul.

Tell us about your family.
My husband’s name is Luke. We got married in October of 2017. We have 2 small dogs – a 12 year old Yorkie named Oliver and a 2 year old Havenese named Watson.

What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
I went to London, England in college and that has been my favorite travel experience so far. London is wonderfully historic and has so much amazing culture and architecture.

Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Maroon 5 – The best summer-time memories band.
Ed Sheeran – Makes me want to fall in love with my hubby daily.
Chris Tomlin – His voice pierces right to my soul.
One Republic – Best dance around and sing into a hairbrush music.
Lauren Daigle – “Rescue” has me in tears every time.

What is the best advice you have given to new families?
This new situation is unknown to you and your baby; give yourselves and your baby grace in this time of discovery.

What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
I have a calming presence and endless patience.

What is your favorite food?
I love French Fries and Chicken & Waffles pizza (yes, it’s a real thing!).

What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I was born and raised in Saint Joseph, MI so it will always have a special place in my heart.

What are you reading now?
The Doula’s Guide to Empowering Your Birth

Who are your role models?
My Grandma. She has such a capacity for understanding, compassion, and healing hurting hearts.

 

Birth during a pandemic

Birthing in a Pandemic

We have seen so much strength and resilience from our clients and our subcontracted doulas within the last year. Being pregnant and birthing in a pandemic is no joke. Gold Coast has supported over 200 families during this time. We are so thankful for the trust they placed in us.

Our birth doulas have worked in hospitals through most of COVID and our postpartum doulas have safely worked in homes supporting families with day and overnight infant care. Families need support now more than ever before.

Gold Coast Doulas moved all of our classes to the virtual format in March of 2020, and they will remain virtual until COVID numbers decline and it is safe to teach in-person. We have been creative with the virtual format and it allowed us to dream bigger than our own footprint of West Michigan. Download our FREE guide to birthing confidently during a pandemic!

If you are interested in more birth and baby planning resources, be sure to register for one of our FREE live virtual workshops on February 23 or 26th. More updates to come in the near future. Stay tuned!

 

Audra Geyer Doula

Audra’s Birth Story: Podcast Episode #105

 

Audra Geyer, Gold Coast’s newest birth doula, tells us her birth story and how birth support from her doula was a game changer.  She also took HypnoBirthing classes and went from being afraid of labor to looking forward to it!  Her experience with Gold Coast let her to become a doula herself! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Kristin:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Audra to talk about her birth and HypnoBirthing experience.  Welcome, Audra!

Audra:  Hi.  Thank you!

Kristin:  So tell us a bit about yourself.  I know we met at the Baby Expo in your early pregnancy stages.

Audra:  Yeah.  I live in Alger Heights with my husband and our two dogs, and we have a seven-month old daughter, Charlie.

Kristin:  This was your first pregnancy.  So tell us about how you planned for your birth.

Audra:  So initially, I had no plans for my birth.  I just envisioned that it would not be an enjoyable experience, and I just had to get through it, and it was just part of what the process was for having a baby.

Kristin:  And how did you get that information?  Was it from movies or friends, or what made you sort of fear birth?

Audra:  I think just society’s view on birth.  You know, everyone I had talked to, I had just heard horror stories about their own personal experience.  And, yeah, watching movies, TV shows, everything just shows that this is a terrifying, awful experience, and so that’s just — I was just preparing myself for that.

Kristin:  And I think people tend to share negative stories more than they do their positive birth stories with friends and family.  That just feeds into it.  So you took some classes with us in early pregnancy, and also used both birth doula support as well as postpartum. So tell us a bit about that preparation and maybe how it changed your mindset.

Audra:  Yeah.  So I went with a friend to the Baby Expo, and I had heard about doulas before but just assumed they were for natural home births.  So we just started talking, and I heard about HypnoBirthing.  I remember the first question I asked you guys at the Baby Expo was, can I still get an epidural?  And they were like, oh, of course.  Whatever birth you want, we’re just there to support you.  So I went home and just did a ton of research, and I was like, holy cow.  There’s this whole world of doulas and support for women that I never knew about.

Kristin:  Yeah.  There is a misconception that doulas are only for home birthing, unmedicated birthers, and, you know, especially at Gold Coast, we pride ourselves on judgement-free support, and we have clients who want an epidural the second they get to the hospital, clients who are planning a surgical birth and they want support emotionally and with resources for that birth.  So, yeah, doulas are definitely for all birthing persons, not just unmedicated birthers.

Audra:  And my whole life I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression, and my husband and I knew that would be something we’d have to keep a close eye on while I was pregnant but also postpartum, and to be like, oh, I could have this support right away, and just knowing that I will have someone in my corner and someone to support my husband, too.  It just provided us both with a lot of comfort.

Kristin:  Yes!  So tell us about HypnoBirthing and what you learned in that class.

Audra: HypnoBirthing was amazing!  First off, we just learned so much about the birthing process and what happens to our bodies in labor.  Stuff we’ve learned, but I’ve never really taken a deep dive into it and thought about it.  And just a big focus on labor and delivery and pregnancy — our bodies were meant to do this.  We learned a lot of medication, breathing techniques, but it was also a big focus on bonding with your baby, bonding with your partner.  Every class we left, I just felt so connected to my baby, to my husband.  A lot of positive affirmations and just really starting to envision my pregnancy, my labor, delivery, as such a beautiful experience no matter what happens.  And what a gift I’d been given to be able to go through this.

Kristin:  Right.  Exactly.  And what I love about HypnoBirthing is it’s, as you said, it’s more like that mind-body connection versus just positions and some physical techniques you can do to reduce the perception of pain.  So it’s just — there’s such an emotional connection to birth and your partner and your support team, and of course breath and using positive language in birth and taking the fear out of it.  It’s a huge aspect of HypnoBirthing.

Audra:  I remember my husband was like, sure, I’ll do this with you.  And when we left our first class, he was like, that was nothing like I imagined.  He thought we were going to be in a gymnasium with pool noodles on the floor in different positions, and I think he just felt really empowered, too, that look at what I can do to help support my partner and be just as involved in the birth.

Kristin:  Right.  Beyond HypnoBirthing, I know you took some other courses through Gold Coast.  What else did you do preparation-wise?

Audra:  I took the Saturday Series course.  So Comfort Measures, Breastfeeding, and then Newborn Survival.

Kristin:  And what were your takeaways from that one day series?

Audra:  It was just so nice to have information, and I just felt so much more calm and educated and kind of knowing what to expect and knowing that there’s no right or wrong way.

Kristin:  Right.  It’s what right for you.  I think all of us, you know, emphasize that in our classes, whether it’s Alyssa’s Newborn Survival or the Comfort Measures that I teach, and certainly Kelly’s breastfeeding class is eye-opening in so many ways and shows how a partner can be involved in feeding, as well.

Audra:  Yeah, and I think with the breastfeeding, it really just prepared me, that if that’s the route I choose to go, it’s going to be hard, and it’s okay that it’s going to be hard.  I think I had an idea that, oh, no, breastfeeding is going to be so easy.  She’ll latch right away.  We’ll have no issues.  But to know that, yep, you’re not alone.  This can be a struggle, and again, you have to figure out what’s best for you and your family.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Now we’re getting to your birth phase and working with birth doulas and so on.  I know Katie was your doula.  Tell us about that experience.

Audra:  Oh, it was amazing.  I went from initially, “Of course I’ll have an epidural,” to, nope, I’m going to do this all naturally, thanks to HypnoBirthing, to at 37 weeks finding out I needed to be medically induced.

Kristin:  Lots of changes with that.  Tell us how Katie supported you in pregnancy and then leading up to the induction.  A lot of people don’t really understand the role of a birth doula through pregnancy and labor.

Audra:  Yeah.  I had — the minute I signed the contract with Gold Coast, I had Katie’s support.  Through the phone; I could text her with any questions, anything I was worried about, anxious about.  She would respond, provide me with resources.  A lot of what I needed was just reassurance that things were going how they were supposed to go, that I was okay, baby was okay.  And especially as a first-time mom and first time being pregnant, your body does a lot of things that you don’t know would happen.

Kristin:  Right.  There’s a lot of, “Is this normal, or do I need to call my provider?”

Audra:  Exactly.  And so just knowing I had someone there, nonjudgmental, you know, just supporting me — because, you know, calling your provider, you don’t always get to talk to them, or they’ll just yep, yes or no, give you a short little information, and then they have to move on with their day.  So having someone who can sit down and really just talk through your options, talk about how you’re feeling, checking in with you emotionally.

Kristin:  So when you found out you needed to be induced, how did your doula support you through that process before she supported you in the hospital?

Audra:  So I left my appointment with the doctor sobbing in the car, just absolutely terrified about getting induced.   So the first thing I did when I got home was text Katie.  I just expressed all my fears to her and what I was feeling, and first and foremost, she reassured me that the medical team I had chosen were going to take the best care of me.  My baby was going to be safe and healthy.  I had blood pressure issues, and so I was just terrified of what could happen if my blood pressure gets really high.  She encouraged me to write out a list of questions to ask my doctor.  Like, if this happens, then what do we do, or what would this step be?  What would this look like?  So I could have more of an understanding of what potentially could happen at the hospital.  And then also she really encouraged me to write out some affirmations, because I love writing affirmations and I use them all the time, and so I was able to write a list of affirmations that I would use while I would meditate to just help calm me down and center me, focus me, and let me still enjoy these last few moments of being pregnant.

Kristin:  That’s fantastic.  So you were able to have conversations before the induction started, and you got the answers you needed to feel empowered.  So tell us about some of the induction process and when your body started to kick in and when you felt like you needed in-person support and how that went.

Audra:  We knew it was going to be a long induction process, just because I was 37 weeks and my body was not near ready for labor.  So between Katie, myself, and my husband, we were basically in constant communication through text message, just how I was doing, how I was feeling, what the next step was.  And Katie actually came the first night we were at the hospital just to check in, see how we were doing, letting us know whatever we needed, she was there and ready for us.  And things were going pretty stable at that point; nothing that we needed a lot of support.  We were just resting.  So she went home, and said, I have my phone with me.  Anything you need, call, text, reach out.  And things were slowly progressing.  It got to the point where I did end up getting an epidural, but I was just pretty relaxed.  And then the next day around noon, my water broke, and things started to pick up pretty quick.

Kristin:  Yes.  It intensifies everything, for sure.

Audra:  We reached out and said, hey, you know, I think we’re ready for you to come.  Labor has officially started after 24 hours of being at the hospital.  And so by the time Katie got there, my epidural had kind of worn off a little bit.  So I was in a lot of discomfort.  I was not feeling well, and I just remember her coming in and with her and my husband, they were both just supporting me as I would breathe through my surges.  And I actually — Katie has two sons, and I remember at one point looking up at her, and saying, I just need you to tell me what you love about being a mom, in between, so that I was able to focus on the things I had to look forward to as I was in some of these deep pains and discomfort.  And it was just so amazing to hear.  You know, I had my husband on one side telling me the birth affirmations we’ve written, and then I had Katie on the other just sharing these amazing things that I knew I would soon be experience.

Kristin:  Yes.  I love it!

Audra:  With that, I was able to just relax, surrender, and just — I felt so calm despite being in one of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve ever been in.

Kristin:  That’s great.  So things intensified.  Did Katie help you move into different positions?

Audra:  Since I had the epidural — because I finally got some relief — she would help with the nurses, with moving me, and I think the biggest thing for me was just the reassurance she was giving me, that I was doing great, my body was moving along, this was where I was supposed to be, helping me feel excited.  And I think for Rob, too, she just was an extra support for him because he was supporting me so much, and it helped me to know he was taken care of as well.

Kristin:  Yes.  That is a huge part, because we do support a couple as a whole and make sure that the partner has gotten rest if needed with inductions or had a chance to get food or to step out and take a break because it can be intense when they’re pouring everything into you and are trying to be that supportive partner.  We don’t want them to be depleted at the time of pushing and meeting their baby.  So I’m glad that he felt taken care of, as well.

Audra:  Yeah.  And once I finally felt relaxed and got a lot of relief, Katie encouraged us both to take a little rest.  And there’s actually a picture of us, with me in the bed sleeping, Rob on the couch sleeping, about an hour before I gave birth, and it’s just one of my favorites.  The last few moments of us resting, just the two of us, and that moment was able to be captured.

Kristin:  And then did Katie offer support after the birth?  Like, how did she help after your daughter was born?

Audra:  When Charlie was born, she came very quickly and ended up needing to be on CPAP pretty quick after she was born.  So as a new mom and just already very anxious, I was terrified.  Like, what is this looking like?  Is she okay?  Is this normal?  What are they doing?  And I had just given birth and my body — you know, I was just in this tremendous amount of emotions in general, and she was able to support both my husband and I.  She encouraged Rob to go stand by Charlie and then was able to be there with me while the doctor was finishing up with me and just kind of keeping us informed, educating us about what was going on and that things were okay because the nurses and doctors, they’re all talking to each other and saying terms we didn’t understand, and just encouraging me to ask questions if I had any and validating that, you’re doing a good job advocating for yourself, Audra, and just — yeah, it was nice knowing my husband could be with Charlie for that brief time, and I had someone right there with me, as well.  And so then after Charlie was able to be off of CPAP, we were able to do our skin to skin.  She helped us with latching and, again, I was just very anxious.  Is this supposed to be happening?  Does she look okay?  Is she breathing okay?  And just, like, bringing me back to focus of, look, you just gave birth, and you have this newborn baby in your arms.

Kristin:  I love it.  Did she follow up after she left to see how you were doing when you were still in the hospital?

Audra:  Yes.  She would follow up to see how feeding was going, and then we did — I would say about a week after Charlie was born, she came to our house to just follow up and see how things were going, and she got to see Charlie and hold her.  And it was just so nice to have her support and to have — like, that she was such a part of this experience to us, where I was so vulnerable, but yet it was such a beautiful, emotional experience that I feel just so connected to her now.

Kristin:  Yes.  I feel that way with my doulas.  It is vulnerable, and a time of reverence.  So, yeah, you end up feeling like your doula is part of your family for that journey, whether it’s a birth doula or a postpartum doula.  And, of course, you delivered pre-COVID, but your postpartum phase was during COVID.  So that’s changed your initial plans as far as postpartum doula support went.

Audra:  Yeah.  So we had — I’m trying to think.  Maybe a couple weeks before COVID hit, being at home and being able to use our postpartum doula.  And I remember initially being like, okay, what do I do?  How can I entertain the doula?  Like, I need to clean the house.  I need…

Kristin:  You’re a helper, obviously!

Audra:  I need to look presentable!  And Jen was our doula, and she came over and was just like, oh, my gosh, Audra, like, you can relax.  I have Charlie.  Don’t you worry.  And I would go take a nap.  I would rest.  I would come downstairs, and the house would be tidied.  She’d have a snack waiting for me.  My pump parts would be clean.  The diapers bag was packed and ready to go.

Kristin:  Perfect!

Audra:  Yeah.  Less things I had to worry about or to focus on later that day.  And I like to talk and talk through experiences, so a lot of times, too, we would just sit and talk, which is what I needed at that time.

Kristin:  And we are there to process the birth with our clients as far as postpartum doula support and then help you heal and talk to you emotionally.  I feel like friends and family ask more about the baby and don’t check in enough with the birthing person and how they’re doing and how they’re feeling.  Everyone wants to hold the baby and give gifts for the baby, and there’s not enough attention to the birthing person.

Audra:  Yeah.  The amount of times I got asked, how’s the baby sleeping?  You know, it was never, how are you sleeping?  How are you doing?  It was, oh, how is she sleeping?  And I also got a lot of, oh, I’m glad that’s going great now, and you just wait until you see what happens.  And I’m like, my body is still healing from this crazy experience.  I’m keeping another human alive.  What about me?  I need help, too.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And in traditional cultures, women are supported for 30 to 40 days from friends and family, and they aren’t expected to do anything.  And in our culture, it’s like, okay, get back to work.  Get back in shape.  You should be feeling great and don’t complain.

Audra:  Keep the house clean!

Kristin:  Right.  Be perfect!  And that’s not how it should be.  So we’re trying to bring back some more of that focus on the birthing person.  So you are now a doula with us!  So tell us how you became interested in becoming a doula after your experience and a bit about why you are drawn to this work, because you obviously have another career.

Audra:  Yes.  So like I said earlier, I went from not knowing a lot about birth, just expecting, you know, this to kind of be a terrible experience, and through my education and through the help of having doulas, I was able to make my birth one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve gone through, and I found myself, after giving birth, wanting to talk about birth a lot, and I was doing a lot of research, reading a lot of books, reading about postpartum, and right now, I’m a speech language pathologist.  I work with people who’ve either had a stroke or a brain injury.  So I’ve always worked with people, helping people.  That’s been a passion of mine.  And just realizing the lack of knowledge, especially in the United States, of the postpartum experience, the birth experience, and what a doula is.  And I just thought, wow, if I could help give other women the support I had and help them through this journey, help them have the experience and support that I had, that would just be so fulfilling and just — it makes me sad when I think about all the people I know who look back on their birth and their postpartum and it was — they felt like they had no support and they felt so alone.  And that shouldn’t be the norm.

Kristin:  Right.  Yeah, they feel isolated, especially now during COVID, and we’ve been working all through COVID.  Some of our postpartum work had halted, and some hospitals weren’t allowing doulas in, so we offered virtual support only, but I feel like now more than ever, because of the isolation with COVID, doula support and that connection is so essential and providing information, as you said, so couples can make informed decisions about their birth and their postpartum phase and planning out what they want to do after baby or babies are born and how they can accept help from others or hire help, like postpartum doulas or a housekeeper or a meal delivery service, whatever it may be.

Audra:  Yeah.  And even the comfort of knowing you guys have a sleep consultant, and if I ran into issues, you know, I had 12 weeks off for maternity leave, and a big area of anxiety was, what is it going to look like when I go back, with sleep?  And so I always knew I had Alyssa if I needed her.  Thankfully, Charlie got on a good sleep routine on her own, but just knowing the amount and the diverse support that Gold Coast had, I knew I was going to be taken care of, and I knew I was in good hands.

Kristin:  So what did you learn — obviously, you worked with doulas, but then you recently took your birth doula training.  What opened your eyes that you didn’t know before about the doula role?  Tell us a bit about your training.

Audra:  It was so amazing.  Just learning about nonjudgmental support.  No matter what someone is thinking, feeling, we are just really there to support them.  And, obviously, as we go through our own births and raising our own kids, we can develop our own feelings, but putting those aside and saying, we are there to support you, and no matter what you choose.  So it was nice to just learn about all those different strategies and how I could go in and help a woman in any situation, no matter what.  I would feel confident doing that.

Kristin:  Right.  And your particular training through ProDoula — and I’m also trained through ProDoula — you realize you don’t need all the things as a doula, and you have that instinctual knowledge, and you’re able to just serve; again, without judgment, and an open heart, and a brand new doula can be just as effective as someone who’s seasoned like myself.

Audra:  Yeah.  And, again, before I knew much about doulas, I always thought, oh, they have the birthing balls and they’re in the tub and, you know, all these other knick-knacks that you have to have.  And it’s really just yourself being there.  That’s all you need.

Kristin:  I mean, I have a birth backpack that is filled with things, but outside of, you know, my bosu and a couple other things — like, I like the LED candles to put in the bathroom if a client’s in the tub or shower, but I don’t use everything I bring.  Other than snacks for myself, and that’s key.  Got to keep going!  But, yeah.  So we’re excited to have you on the team!

Audra:  Yes.  I’m so excited!

Kristin:  And I know you have plans eventually to become a postpartum doula, but you are available for hire for labor doula support.

Audra:  Yes!

Kristin:  So we’re excited to begin that process with you.  Thanks for sharing your story, Audra!

Audra:  Yes.  Thank you for having me!  I love sharing it and talking about my experience.

Kristin:  You’ll impact so many families, not only from listening to the podcast, but when they begin working with you.  And we will include a link to your bio in our podcast notes and the blog.  Thanks for listening to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  These moments are golden!

 

Audra Geyer

Meet Audra!

We are excited to introduce you to Audra Geyer, our newest birth doula! She was a recent HypnoBirthing student and birth client of ours who loved the experience so much she decided to become a doula herself!

What did you do before you became a doula?
I currently work as a Speech Language Pathologist at Spectrum Health. I got my Bachelors and Masters Degree from Michigan State University.

What inspired you to become a doula?
Going through my own pregnancy and birth journey. If you would have told me 10 years ago I was going to become a birth doula, I would never have believed it. I used to be terrified of birth and assumed it would be the WORST experience ever. With the help of my doula and HypnoBirthing, I was able to make the birth of my daughter an empowering, beautiful, and spiritual experience. The idea that I can support others through this journey is just so amazing.

Tell us about your family.
My husband, Rob, and I have been married for almost 4 years. We have an amazing 6 month old daughter, Charli Kate. We have 2 dogs, Laverne and Winston. Rob and I met at Michigan State and now live in Alger Heights.

What is your favorite vacation spot and why? 
We LOVE to travel. Our favorite vacation spot we have been to is Egypt and hope to go back again someday.

Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
I don’t really listen to a lot of music, I am more of a podcast gal. If I am listening to music it is usually from a Broadway Musical. I am currently obsessed with Hamilton.

What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Take things one day at a time or one surge at a time!

What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
The ability to talk through anything with people.

What is your favorite food?
Pizza- just plain cheese.

What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I love the Blue Bridge in downtown Grand Rapids. It’s where my husband proposed.

What are you reading now?
I am a bookworm! Currently I am reading Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts, The Unexpected Spy, and The Matriarch Rules.

Who are your role models?
My role model is definitely my mom. She passed away when I was 16 after a courageous battle with cancer. She lived such a full life and had such a passion for helping others. She never took a single moment for granted!

 

Savannah Tallman

Meet Savannah!

Meet Savannah Tallman, our newest birth doula!

What did you do before you became a doula?
Before obtaining my doula education, I was a full time student at Hope College in Holland. There I was able to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Exercise Science and Psychology. After graduation I moved to Grand Rapids where I moved into my quaint new home and adopted the most perfect kitten!

What inspired you to become a doula?
My experiences as a nurse technician on the Family Birthing unit is what created my drive to enter into this field. I was surrounded by numerous doctors, families, and at that point saw doulas do the amazing work they do. Watching the doula’s love for what they do and seeing the gratification in the families eyes was powerful.

Tell us about your family.
I am the middle child with a younger sister and older brother. My older brother has blessed me with a niece and nephew and my younger sister is my biggest cheerleader. All born and raised in Grand Haven before moving to Grand Rapids.

What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
I love to go to the Upper Peninsula. I often forget how close it truly is compared to going down south. Mackinac Island is one of my favorites up north; it gives off the feeling that you are much further away and living a much simpler life. Always a nice refresh!

Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Chelsea Cutler, Thomas Rhett, Tate McRae, Morgan Wallen, and Upchurch.

All of them put so much time and thought into their lyrics, something I’ve always appreciated out of a song. It should convey more than just a good tune and catchy lyrics. The way they make their music poetry and allow their listeners to connect is so important!

What is the best advice you have given to new families?
As I’ve seen numerous families go through a pregnancy, each time I always tell them to just enjoy it. Oftentimes in this day and age, we are so caught up in all the extras and making sure that everything is perfect. As a doula, all I can hope for is to make this whole journey less stressful for anyone involved, assist in the preparation, and help add happiness in any way I can.

What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
Oftentimes in pressured situations, voices can be muffled in all the movements happening around them. I love to think that I can provide a sounding board for anything that the family or birthing partner needs to be heard.

What is your favorite food?
I love good cheese and will forever be a fan of a quality cheese board! Always an excuse for an easy snack or a meal.

What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
After moving to Grand Rapids, I quickly realized how lucky I was to be raised in Grand Haven. Now, whenever I get the chance I love to go back to my favorite beach spots and hiking trails. I feel more lucky each time I am there!

What are you reading now?
My newest find is called ‘The Beauty in Breaking”, a memoir by Michele Harper. She talks about her hardships in the medical field and how it challenged her to become a better person outside of work, but also how she can use that to push medicine further.

Who are your role models?
The first person would be Ellen Pompeo. At first, you see her life behind the camera, but she has stood up in many political debates for issues that we face daily. As models who are constantly in the spotlight, many refrain from speaking their truth because they are scared of the backlash.

My Mom and Dad have also always been there for me through all of my ups and downs. They push me in times of growth and can laugh with me during my mistakes. They are always there for me and constantly support me, while giving me the space and independence to become my own person.

 

Acupuncture for Anxiety: Podcast Episode #105

 

Kristin Revere, Co-Owner of Gold Coast Doulas talks with Vikki Nestico of Grand Wellness about acupuncture to help relieve stress, tension, and anxiety.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

 

Kristin:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Vikki from Grand Wellness to talk about how acupuncture can help with anxiety, both in pregnancy and after delivery.  Welcome, Vikki!

Vikki:  Thank you for having me!  It’s awesome to be here again.

Kristin:  Yeah, it’s great to have you back!  We spoke about acupuncture and fertility last time.  So I’m excited to delve into anxiety.  A lot of our clients struggle with anxiety, both in pregnancy and after giving birth.  So I’d love to hear a bit about you personally and also your practice before we begin.

Vikki:  Well, I moved here from New York City about six years ago and was so happy, because I do love it here — it’s such a great city — but really exciting to bring — I wouldn’t say I brought this medicine here, but, you know, I’m one of handful of people that do acupuncture in West Michigan.  And in New York, every corner has an acupuncturist.  So it’s wonderful to be a part of the crew that can — that really gets to share this medicine for the first time to so many people.

Kristin:  Right.  Yeah, it is definitely all about education, and we feel the same way about birth support and certainly postpartum doulas.  Everyone has a doula in New York or Chicago or in other markets, and so both of us in our practices have the challenge of educating the community on the benefits of our services.  So it’s great to partner with like-minded professionals like yourself and refer clients and know that you’re a trusted referral source.  You know, we tend to refer a lot of our clients who are either struggling with pain in pregnancy or are trying to induce labor or have a baby who’s breech, for example, and they’re trying to do everything they can to flip baby.  So we appreciate how much you’ve helped our clients.

Vikki:  Oh, thank you.  I love working with women and with women in the process of getting pregnant and working through pregnancy, giving birth.  There is nothing more exciting than to get that note from a client with a beautiful picture of their baby on it.

Kristin:  Yes!  That is the best.  And then if you continue the relationship, that’s also quite lovely, to follow up and see how they’re doing.

Vikki:  Absolutely, and usually when you get in — you know, obviously, with doulas, you then work on next pregnancies and sometimes around that.  For us, it really opens our clients’ eyes to what acupuncture can help with.  So if we’ve helped somebody through fertility and through pregnancy, we’ll often see them down the road for the beginning of other conditions.  You know, they’ll pop in and say, you know, you helped me with this.  Before I have to go in and, you know, take maybe a certain medication, you know, can acupuncture help?  And so it’s really wonderful to, exactly, continue on and help them throughout other struggles they may have in the future.

Kristin:  So, Vikki, tell us how acupuncture can help a birthing person with anxiety during their pregnancy.

Vikki:  Well, first of all, we are all aware when we’re pregnant that the body is making these huge changes.  And with that, we are increasing our blood supply.  We are just making this little human.  And that amount of added blood in our body can really affect how smoothly our circulation flows and how smoothly our energy flows.  So when we look at things like anxiety, in particular, you know, we want to make sure that we are helping somebody have everything circulating through their body with ease.  But why things may struggle: there can be a whole host of different reasons why, and so with Chinese medicine, we — for those that have never had it, there’s not just one answer to a condition.  So there’s not just — you know, say somebody is having struggles sleeping.  There’s not one pill or one herb or one item for the whole idea of insomnia.  And the same way with anxiety.  If we’re having a client who’s struggling with anxiety, we need to ask a lot of questions and go through a lot of our diagnoses to find the pattern and to help unravel that pattern.  So we do — we ask a lot of questions.  We want to know things like, have you had anxiety before?  Or is this something new due to the hormonal changes in pregnancy?  Are you eating differently?  You know, we change our eating habits when we’re pregnant, and sometimes we’re craving things, maybe more items that are hot and spicy, or dairy, or fried foods.  That can affect anxiety.  Being depleted because we’re working at home or at the office a lot can, you know, cause some fatigue in the body.  That can add to anxiety.  But then also we want to know the physical symptoms of what they’re feeling.

Kristin:  Sure.  And if someone’s had back to back pregnancies, there can be a lot of depletion with that.

Vikki:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  So we just take all this information that we get during our conversations with our clients and through our own diagnoses or tongue and pulse diagnosis that we do.  You’ve had your tongue looked at before, so you know.

Kristin:  Yeah.

Vikki:  It gives us a lot of really objective information.

Kristin:  I felt like your intake session was very thorough and, you know, even getting into the supplements that I take and how that affects my mood and energy level and so on.  Yeah, it was very thorough.

Vikki:  Yeah, and then that gives us, you know, how are we going to release this anxiety; how are we able to cool the body if it’s more of a racing anxiety; how are we going to be able to bring that down and allow our clients to take this big, healing, deep breaths.  And acupuncture’s really helpful for that.

Kristin:  Yes!  And so as far as this session — and you describe sort of the intake process, but for clients who say they have a fear of needles or are uncertain on, you know, what a session would look like, and you mentioned that it’s relaxing, and I would definitely agree with that — can you take — walk our listeners through what a session would be like during pregnancy?

Vikki:  Yeah.  I totally understand that it seems really odd that it could be relaxing, until you’ve had it done.  And I see a lot of clients that come in who are very hesitant because they’re very — they may be fearful of needles.  And so I work within their capacity.  Here, we’re very gentle, and as I always say to my clients, you’re in control when we’re in the room.  The importance for me is to help the patient find comfort so when they are resting with the needles in, then they’re able to really relax.  So treatments usually start by a lot of talking.  You know, our first treatments are about 90 minutes, and that’s because we do a good chunk of talking to unravel where this pattern starts so I know how I’m going to approach the treatment.  It also helps our clients get comfortable with me or Corey, who’s the other acupuncturist here.  And know that this isn’t a rushed treatment.  What we do here, we take our time, and we always make sure that our client is comfortable.  And then after we chat for a while, we do that tongue and pulse, that diagnosis, which is, you know, just how we can objectively see what’s going on in the body.  And then we choose the points that we’re going to use to right the imbalance, and the client gets to lay for about 25 minutes or 30 minutes with the needles, which, again, sounds like it wouldn’t be relaxing, but you don’t even know they’re there.

Kristin:  Right.  I would agree.

Vikki:  And it’s a very deep rest.  A lot of times, people are surprised how deeply they nap when they come in for acupuncture.  Very relaxing.

Kristin:  Now, after baby’s born, walk us through how that can be helpful if a listener is struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety or OCD after giving birth and how you can level hormones and so on.

Vikki:  Acupuncture’s a really wonderful and natural way for women to build their strength and to heal after birth.  First and foremost, it’s a great therapy for restoring energy and boosting that immune system, and that is not just, you know, after — for women after they’ve given birth.  That’s for clients going through cancer treatments.  That’s for people struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome.  Acupuncture is just a really great therapy to bolster our energy of our body and really direct it to helping us heal and be stronger.  But specifically to helping after a baby is born, acupuncture helps to rebuild blood that was lost during childbirth, which can bring on other conditions.  It helps you increase circulation that will speed up wound healing and helps stop pain.  It helps with women with breastfeeding issues, increasing milk production or healing mastitis.

Kristin:  That’s amazing.  I didn’t realize.  I knew that the milk supply would be affected, but mastitis healing — fantastic.

Vikki:  I know I see people that, you know, come in and we have certain points that really help to increase that milk supply but also helping our body just to use our body fluids correctly and to create that breastmilk.  It’s wonderful to see women be able to get some support, not with the aspect of how are you positioned and how is the baby breastfeeding, but internally, how your body is actually dealing with the milk supply.  We also, after the baby’s born, we help a lot with emotional issues.  And, you know, like you said, it’s not just anxiety and depression.  It’s worry.  It’s grief.  I see women that aren’t breastfeeding and maybe they couldn’t for some reason, or they chose not to, and after they made that decision, they’ve been feeling grief about it.  We are here to help; we help them process that.

Kristin:  Right.  Or grieving the birth that they wanted that didn’t happen.  There’s so much.

Vikki:  Absolutely.  You know, I always — I often say that in China, women have a whole month where their job is to rest after giving birth, and, you know, they take — the baby is brought to them.  They feed the baby; they cuddle the baby.  But for the most part, their family is there to take care of that baby and to take care of that mom and feed her great food and get her energy and her blood back to normal so she’s at full capacity when she’s back, when she’s clicked into really taking care of that baby.  And we don’t do that here in America.

Kristin:  We don’t, unfortunately.

Vikki:  Yeah.  And so it can take longer for us to heal physically, for us to heal emotionally, because, you know, we don’t — we haven’t nourished ourselves and been able to rest as much and to have as much self-care time.

Kristin: And you describe what we do as postpartum doulas, like in that role of what a family member would do in other cultures, making sure that they’re nourished and they’re taking care of their house and bringing baby to them and encouraging them to rest or take a shower or have a cup of tea.  And so, yeah, so we love that role.  It is such a depleting time, and I feel like our culture is so rushed.  I do love the first 40-day concept of healing and rest and care.

Vikki:  Absolutely.  As I say to my clients when we talk about working with doulas, during that time — in a lot of these traditional countries, villages, our families were so close that we didn’t need all this, you know, this other — we had somebody that was coming.  There was somebody in the village coming.  But now, we don’t have people in the village coming.  We don’t have our families right there.  We need our doulas.  We need our acupuncturists.  We need our advocates or people that listen to us.  Therapy, I often will say, is a wonderful thing, because we don’t always have the support here.

Kristin:  Right.  Exactly.  And a lot of people move here for work and don’t have any family to help care for them and, you know, it’s so needed to take that time.  And like you said, that 30-minute session is a time away from family and responsibilities as a mother, and you can just rest and relax and have someone take care of you.

Vikki:  And in that 30 minutes, that 30 minutes isn’t even just the whole treatment.  That is just the 30 minutes that you’re laying and resting with the needles in.  You’ve already been able to share your truths, to share what’s going on, and we can begin treatment, but then you get that time in just a safe, healing environment, with gentle music, to just relax and let the body just take full control of healing and making some really great, balancing changes.

Kristin:  I love that.  So, Vikki, tell us how our listeners can get in touch and payment methods.  I know you take health savings and flex spending and some insurances and so on.

Vikki:  Yeah.  So we are happy to work with our clients when it comes to billing, in many ways.  First off, if their health savings or FSA does cover acupuncture, we definitely take it, and we definitely supply people with superbills that needs them for insurance reimbursements if they’re unsure about reimbursement.  We do bill insurance directly for those that do have benefits for acupuncture.  And we also have loyalty programs where we, for our clients, we offer the tenth treatment complimentary, and that is a mix of many of our treatments here from acupuncture to reiki to massage.  We understand that, you know, the Western world hasn’t really gotten on board to the preventative medicine, and so insurance doesn’t cover everything.  And we love to be able to help in ways that we can.  So, you know, that’s how with insurance and that.  But they can get in touch with us from our website, and on there is a whole bunch of information.  You can also book online there.  Otherwise, clients can call the office directly and make appointments with our front desk, and the number there is 616-466-4175.  I often encourage people that are unsure to schedule a complimentary consultation with myself or Corey, the other acupuncturist who works here, who’s awesome.  And, you know, we’re happy to really answer questions and for people to hear our voices and to be able to have some conversation about them directly to help with their comfort level as to whether or not they feel like this is the right therapy for them.

Kristin:  That’s fantastic.  Do you have any parting words for our listeners?

Vikki:  You know, when it comes to dealing with changes in our mood, especially around the times of pregnancy and giving birth, these times are just really a struggle for us.  It’s what makes us as women so powerful is the ability to be able to roll with these changes and to experience what is amazing about our bodies.  But it doesn’t mean that everything goes smoothly, and I often see people get caught up in — you know, women seeing other mothers who just effortlessly fall into being a mother and gave birth and just the ease of raising children.  And I can usually guarantee most women that that is — that we all struggle.  We all struggle.  And there are many options for help, and acupuncture is a great one.  It’s not the only one, but it is a great therapy for supporting women during these times and just unraveling the stressors and emotions that we struggle with during that time.

Kristin:  I love that.  Thanks for sharing!

 

What I Wish I Knew: Podcast Episode #104

 

Kristin and Alyssa, owners of Gold Coast Doulas, talk about the things they wish they had known before having a baby.  Listen to this fun episode packed with advice and lots of little gold nuggets of information for new parents!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud

Kristin:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I’m Kristin.

Alyssa:  And I’m Alyssa.

Kristin:  And we’re here today with a fun idea of what I wish I would have known before pregnancy and having a baby.  And this is inspired, actually, by your newborn class, Alyssa.

Alyssa:  That’s kind of why I created it, yeah, because there’s so many things that it’s like, why did nobody tell me this?  Or if only I had known, this would have been so much easier!

Kristin:  Yeah!  So I will start.  We’ll go through, like, the top five things that each of us wished we would have known before having kids.  So my number one is no PJs, especially if you’re registering, that have snaps on them.  You want zippers.  Snaps are a pain in the middle of the night.  They’re noisy.  They might wake your baby.

Alyssa:  Same with Velcro.  But, yeah, I never really thought about snaps and doing that in the dark.  It can be really tricky.  I’ve had it where, you know, the top button is — or the top snap is hooked to the second one, like everything’s kind of off because you’re doing it sleep-deprived.

Kristin:  Yeah.  So Alyssa, what would you say?

Alyssa:  One of the things I remember the most is a friend told me to have pads on hand, and she actually had just had a baby, like, two months before I did.  So she’s like, you know, ran to the bathroom and said, here, I actually have some left.  I never used them.  I’m like, what do I need these for?  And she said, well, afterwards, you just kind of leak, and there’s blood and who knows.  And I’m thinking, okay, whatever.  So I brought them home.  But then I was one of the, what, 25 or 30% of people that your water actually breaks.  So I wore them for — gosh, my water broke at, like, 4:00 in the morning or something, and I had — I didn’t go to the hospital until noon, so I had, like, eight hours of slow leak.  So I wore the pad constantly, and then afterwards, it’s almost like spotting or like a light period.  And I didn’t know, too, you could put, like, witch hazel or something on it and freeze the pad, kind of like in a — like, around a melon or something so that you could sit on it.

Kristin:  Yes.

Alyssa:  I didn’t know that.  I didn’t do that, but that’s kind of an afterthought, too.

Kristin:  Similar to what they give you, but without the witch hazel, at the hospital.  The ice pads and ice diapers if you have more abrasions.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  A client told me that they had heard — or a student in my class, the adult diapers, they kept those around for leaking or spotting or water breaking.  Any of the things.  So having something around like that was probably one of the best things that I was told that many people aren’t told.

Kristin:  Right.  I had one of those pads for my car when I was driving in case my water broke.

Alyssa:  Oh, you sat on it all the time?  That’s actually a good idea.  You could buy those puppy pee pads or something.

Kristin:  Yeah.  I had a long commute to Lansing with my first pregnancy, so it was like, if my water breaks, I’m just…

Alyssa:  I actually thought about that as I sat in my office, you know, the couple weeks before I was due.  Like, what if I — that will be so embarrassing if my water breaks and I’m sitting in my chair.  Had I thought about that, I probably would have sat on something, just to save myself some embarrassment, I guess.

Kristin:  And my number two tip is to look into childcare as soon as possible.  If you plan to go back to work full time or are looking for a nanny or a nanny share, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, don’t delay until your third trimester.  It’s so hard to find help.  And in that in between time, of course, you can have a postpartum doula, day or night.  But that childcare search and nanny search is time-intensive.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It takes forever, and it’s the last thing your brain is capable of doing when you have a newborn at home.

Kristin: Exactly.

Alyssa:  So if you have to go back at 12 weeks, you can’t — you can’t start at 6 weeks, looking for childcare.  A, you probably you won’t find it, or you’re going to have to settle for something that you don’t necessarily love, and that’s the hardest thing to do is you have to leave your baby for the first time.  You want it to be with somebody that you 100% feel comfortable with and trust.

Kristin:  Yes.

Alyssa:  You don’t want to have to settle.

Kristin:  Exactly.

Alyssa:  I wish that I would have taken a breastfeeding class, and I wish I knew there was lactation consultants that actually come to your home because I suffered through — I got mastitis twice, and even though I knew enough about breastfeeding to know, like, the whole supply and demand thing, in the fog of new motherhood, I was nursing and pumping because I was, like, oh, my gosh, my boobs are so full, and I just need to drain them.  And I was, like, doing the worst thing possible because I’m producing then twice as much, which then I got mastitis, and my boobs were so swollen that it was hard for my daughter to eat then, and then my one nipple got really cracked and sore and it was bleeding one day, and I just remember sitting in the rocking chair sobbing, and my husband came in and was like, oh, my gosh, what can I do?  But had I just taken a breastfeeding class, I would have probably more easily reminded myself like, oh, yeah, it takes a couple weeks for this whole process to, you know, adjust and my body to adjust to what baby needs and that I didn’t have to sit in that rocking chair by myself and cry, and my latch was wrong.

Kristin:  Right.  Kelly saved me with both of my kids.  I had mastitis as well and thrush, and —

Alyssa:  You know, I knew about Kelly Emery.  Or maybe I didn’t until after.  I might have found her because she did Baby and Me yoga classes.  She was one of the only ones, like, seven and a half years ago that did baby.  So I think I might have found her after the fact.  I wish I had known about the lovely Kelly Emery before.

Kristin:  Yes.  We’re lucky to have her at Gold Coast, along with Cami, of course.

Alyssa:  What’s your next one?

Kristin:  So I highly suggest, based on personal experience, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, hire a birth and postpartum doula.  With my second pregnancy, my doulas were some of the first to know that I was pregnant, before family.  And I needed resources, and they were there emotionally and to connect me with resources in the community.  So I recommend hiring early, especially as doulas get booked up quite early.  Like, we’re working with clients with due dates in late March, and as we’re recording, it is August.  And so thinking about if a team or individual doula takes two clients or even four a month, how quickly they can get booked up.  So hire your doula early, and same goes for postpartum.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I don’t think I even fully understood what a doula was or did, you know, eight — almost eight and a half years ago that I got pregnant.  And if anything, I knew what a birth doula was but didn’t know enough to even consider looking into one or hiring one.  And, of course, now that we do what we do, it’s a no-brainer.  But I’m not having any more kids.

Kristin:  Right.  Same.

Alyssa:  But if I was to do it all again, absolutely.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So what about you, Alyssa?

Alyssa:  So this wasn’t, like, a big deal, but I didn’t really know what to expect with the baby’s cord and how it fell off and what it looked like, and I don’t do well with blood and scabs.  It just turned into a big, giant, thick, button-sized scab.

Kristin:  Yes.  It’s gross.

Alyssa:  It really grossed me out, and then just falls off, and I remember finding it in her diaper or something one day.  But I’ve also reminded and I always tell people in my class about, if they’ve ever watched Sex in the City — oh, gosh, what’s her name?  The redhead?  I don’t know.

Kristin:  Miranda.

Alyssa:  Miranda.  She has a baby, and the cord falls off, and then the cat finds it and is batting it around the house, and I — it’s like one of those, oh, my god, I’m going to puke in my mouth kind of situations.  But I didn’t know how gross it would be to me, but I’m just squeamish when it comes to scabs and blood.  But, yeah, I didn’t really know what to expect with that.

Kristin:  And then you have to know to, like, flip the diaper down so you don’t cause more irritation.  I didn’t know that at first.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  We go over a lot of that.  And they make diapers now, too, that have little tiny cutouts where the belly button is, and they’re very, very small, for newborn only, but you only need one little package of them because if it falls off within the first week, you don’t need many of those.

Kristin:  And my advice is, with the registry, don’t — it’s not your wedding registry.  You don’t need to register for all the things.  Babies don’t need all that much.  And so my suggestion is to register for a meal service, a doula, classes, lactation support, versus all of the onesies and the high chair and things you don’t need until much later.  I mean, some things are essential.

Alyssa:  Car seats, stroller, yeah.

Kristin:  You know, if you’re going to wear your baby, the different carriers are great.  You know, a diaper bag.  There’s some things that — you know, a thermometer, that are important to have.  But you don’t need all the things.

Alyssa:  I know.  I always see on baby registries, like, spoons and bibs and bowls.  Like, you realize your kid — it could be a year.  You know, you might start solids at six months, but they’re not sitting up at a table by themselves for probably 12 months.  So it’s a lot of wasted money for something that’s going to sit in a closet for up to 12 months unused.

Kristin:  Exactly, especially if you’re in a tight space.  Where do you put all that stuff?

Alyssa:  Right.  Definitely.  Like, have people spend money on support and food.  Bring me food!  And send someone to watch my baby and pick up my house and care for my toddler and let me rest or take a shower.

Kristin:  Exactly.

Alyssa:  Or sleep all night.  So one thing I learned later into have a newborn was to always pack two extra sets of clothing for the baby or at least, you know, maybe not two full outfits, but a couple extra onesies.  And then I also would pack one for myself.  Like, something — yoga pants and a T-shirt.  Something that was easily folded up, because I can’t tell you how many times I either — you know, you’re out and about, and you get spit up on, and of course, it will be, like, yellow spit up on a black shirt.

Kristin:  Of course.

Alyssa:  That everyone can see, and then it stinks like crazy.  Or she’d have a blowout on my lap, and then the poop would come out the diaper onto my pants, and now I have puke on my shirt and poop on my pants.  So I would just always have — even if it’s just in my car, an extra set of clothes for me, as well.

Kristin:  That applies for birth doulas.  I always have an extra set of clothes in case I get fluids or water breaking.  So, yeah, wise advice.  And my advice is, for those of you that aren’t prepared for baby poop, meconium is really interesting for a first-time parent.  It is so dark and sticky and hard to, like, wipe off.

Alyssa:  Like, what did my baby eat?  Tar?

Kristin:  Right!  For breastfed babies, in my opinion, breastfed poop does not smell and is quite easy to deal with, but then you introduce food or formula, and things get totally different.  It’s like, okay, I got through the meconium, then I had my breastfed baby, and now food is like, what?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  We do talk about that.  Breastfed baby poop doesn’t — exclusively breastfed babies — the poop doesn’t smell.  And that’s another thing.  On the registry list, the very expensive diaper genie with the expensive refills — you don’t even need to use that in the beginning.  You can literally throw in in a little trashcan and just take it out at the end of the night or even every couple days.  The second formula or solids are introduced, it’s a whole new ballgame.  It stinks, and you’ll want to use that diaper genie.

Kristin:  Agreed.

Alyssa:  My last one, again, is kind of about breastfeeding because it was tricky for me in the beginning, but I wish that I didn’t buy — like, I bought nursing bras, nursing shirts, nursing dresses, all the things, and there were just so many layers and levels to this breastfeeding thing that I could never do it in public because I had to, like, undo the nursing bra, which was under the other shirt, which — I would always have to go somewhere private.  But then I found these nursing tanks, and there’s like a shelf bra in them, and I could have worn like what I’m wearing now, like a frilly, flowy shirt, and you lift that shirt up.  You have the tank on underneath to cover your belly, and very nonchalantly, you breastfeed your baby.  Nobody even knows.  Oh, and the covers.  All these — I had this thing that looked like an apron.  I put it over my head, and it was this cloth, and then baby’s whipping it all around.  And in my class, I tell people, you’re basically waving a flag to everyone, saying, I’m about ready to breastfeed.  Look right here.  Whereas if I would have just nonchalantly unclipped, put her on, nobody would even notice.  So there’s too many things, and the more things you buy, the harder it makes it, I think.  It’s simple.  Keep it simple.

Kristin:  I agree.  I always used tanks, and obviously, for larger-chested women, that may not be as much of an option support-wise, but I even labored in tanks, and, you know, speaking of labor, my biggest advice is don’t give birth, unless you’re birthing at home and it’s not as big of a deal, in a sports bra.  If you’re at the hospital, there’s no way to get it off.  If there’s an IV line, it often has to be cut off.  So a nursing tank, again, that has the snaps or a nursing bra if much easier.

Alyssa:  People wear a sports bra because they’re comfortable and think, I’m just going to labor in this because my underwire bra is not the most comfortable things.

Kristin:  But then you can’t get it off for skin to skin.  It’s so tight.

Alyssa:  Right.  I just think I didn’t wear a bra.  Free flowing.

Kristin:  Yeah.  I was pretty much that way toward the end.  Started out modest, and then it just all changed.  So we would love to hear your top five things that you learned.  You can always reach out to us, and maybe that will make some future episode ideas.  But we’re happy to share other advice in Alyssa’s amazing newborn class, and for those who are expecting twins and triplets, we have a multiples class.  And, of course, labor advice is given in HypnoBirthing, and we have the breastfeeding and pumping classes that also give some very helpful tips.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  So check out our classes.  You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.  Thanks for listening!

Kristin:  These moments are golden.

 

Jessi Heins

Meet Jessi!

Meet our newest Birth Doula, Jessi Heins! She filled out our questionnaire, so let’s get to know her!

What did you do before you became a doula?
Currently I work part time at a hotel in Douglas, Michigan. Prior to that I was a stay at home parent. I have also made lattes and worked as a social worker helping people find long-term employment and helping families through times of crisis and change.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I have always had a soft spot for pregnancy and parenting. I babysat throughout middle school and high school. Eventually my partner and I got pregnant with our first little one. I feel strongly that if I had adequate support, my birth would have turned out differently than it did. My partner and I went on to have 3 more kiddos and each birth experience was better than the last. I attribute so much of that to education and a strong support system. I want to help other birthing people feel like I did. Like the amazing and incredible humans that we are.

Tell us about your family.
I have an amazing partner. Together we have four super cute (not biased at all) littles. They are 8, 5, 2, and 4 months. They are wild and loud and loving all in one breath.

What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
I’m not sure I have a favorite spot. I think I might be more of a staycation type person, with trips to some of the local tourist spots. Each year we try to travel Up North to explore new areas.

Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Currently on my “Recently listened to” list on Spotify I have Disney songs (cause kids) and Sia, I just love the way her voice sounds; it gives me warm fuzzies. Hozier, I love his bluesy sound. And ballad songs by Spice Girls, the best songs to sing to, and my 5 year old will belt it out with me! Michael Jackson, his music always makes me dance.

What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Take it one day at a time. It’s ok to call upon your support system for help and sign up for childbirth education!!

What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
Listening. Because as a new (or seasoned) parent your concerns, excitement, and ideas are worth being heard. Even at 3am in the middle of labor.

What is your favorite food?
Probably pizza. Just no mushrooms.

What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Anywhere my family is. Which is likely the beach.

What are you reading now?
Pregnancy, Childbirth and the Newborn

Who are your role models?
My mama because she is one of the strongest people I know. My partner, my brother, my kids, and Elizabeth Eckford.

 

Saturday Series of Classes: Podcast Episode #102

 

Kristin Revere, Kelly Emery, and Alyssa Veneklase talk about their Saturday Series of classes offered through Gold Coast Doulas.  Each goes in to detail about what their classes cover including Comfort Measures for Labor, Breastfeeding, and Newborn Survival.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

 

Kristin:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I am Kristin, and I’m here today with Alyssa and Kelly, and the three of us teach our Saturday Series of classes.  So we’re going to talk about what each of our classes are and a bit about what we’re doing during COVID.  So welcome, Kelly, and welcome, Alyssa.

Kelly: Thank you.

Alyssa:  Hey.  So, yeah, we could kind of talk first about why we — so we used to teach all of our classes separately and have different days and different times, but then we had clients who were taking a breastfeeding class and my newborn class, and they would be on separate days, separate times, and we know how hard it is for people to coordinate their schedules.  So doing them all at once in a series on Saturday, and then Kristin adding on her comfort measures — you know, having three classes — it’s hard to find three nights in a week that either a pregnant person or a couple can both get off to take these classes.

Kristin:  Right, and some of our clients work nights, and if they have other children at home, childcare has been easier to find on a Saturday than a weeknight.  So that’s part of why we adapted to this format, and it’s also helpful that the Saturday Series is ala cart, so a client or student could sign up for just Kelly’s breastfeeding class or, you know, just the newborn class or all three.  Or they can take them at different times, since we offer the classes every couple months.  A client could take a class in September and then down the road later in the year take breastfeeding, for example, as it gets closer to their due date.

Alyssa:  And for the students who do choose all three and do them on the same date, it can definitely be a long day.  When we were doing the classes in person, we had a lunch break and then another break in between.  But the feedback we’ve gotten so far is that people really like knocking these out one after another.  And then because of COVID, they’ve been virtual, so that’s actually been kind of nice.  They don’t have to leave their sofa.  They can feel a little bit more relaxed, grab snacks.  So that’s worked out well, too.  But our next series is in September, and we plan on doing it in person for the first time since COVID, but that could change at any minute, depending on…

Kristin:  Right.  And our office is in Eastown, and we’ve talked about having a smaller class size and how we’re going to pivot due to COVID and all of, you know, the sanitation that will need to be done.  But our Zoom classes have been going well.  I wasn’t so sure about the fact that Comfort Measures is so hands-on, how that would work virtually, but the students seem to enjoy it, and they were hands-on as I instructed virtually.  So it went over pretty well the first time.

Alyssa:  Same with breastfeeding.  How does that — you know, you had said, Kelly, that it was going well virtually, but were you a little bit nervous at first about, you know, like, how do you show a position and, you know, what a proper latch might look like, through a computer?

Kelly:  Yeah.  Yeah, that was something — speaking of pivoting, we had to do pretty quickly because people were still having babies and they’re still learning to breastfeed.  That is not something in life that can just stop.  So, yeah, getting up and going on the Zoom and all the technology was rapid, and it was — it’s pretty slick.  You know, what I do is just like in the in-person classes, I show videos, and so I can share my screen.  I show videos, clips of things that — it will make more sense when they actually have their baby, but I think instead of me just talking about it, showing a visual and the videos and all of the pictures that I have.  I have just a slew of pictures over my 20-some years of doing this, so it’s able — the people are able to really see what I’m talking about better when I share my screen.  So it’s all actually working out, and the parents love it.  And, you know, they love being together in a class together, but also I’ve gotten great feedback about the Zoom classes, that they love that they can just sit on their own couch in their pajamas and eat dinner, you know, or eat a meal and have Dad be right there with them, as well.  So it’s all working out.

Alyssa:  Well, Kristin, do you want to talk about — so the series kind of starts with the Comfort Measures.  Then it’s Breastfeeding, and then Newborn Survival.  So you want to maybe in that order talk about each of our classes and what they’re about?

Kristin:  Yes.  So Comfort Measures is a hands-on class that the couple is encouraged to attend, but certainly I’ve had the birthing person attend without a partner, as well.  And so we go over breathing, relaxation, and it definitely doesn’t replace a traditional comprehensive childbirth class.  I’m not going to cover the stages of labor in two hours.  But it’s more about different positions that will relieve discomfort, both while they’re at home, if they’re birthing in the hospital, in the early stages of labor, or positions to utilize further along in labor in the active stage as well as the pushing stage.  And we do cover breathing, as well.

Alyssa:  So is it more to have the partner understand what’s going on and allow the partner to offer these comfort measures?

Kristin:  The partner does learn how to do some of the different measures.  Hands-on massage, light touch massage is covered.  We go over hip squeezes and a lot of the doula tools, just a variety of positions, like hands and knees and leaning up against a wall and dancing, sort of rocking in labor, as well as, you know, using the birthing ball.  And then we talk about different positions that they could consider pushing in, like squatting and sidelying.  And I answer questions, and there are some handouts that they use to just get a comfort level for where the partner and the birthing person are at as far as what their expectations of birth are and how comfortable they are supporting a partner.  So there’s a lot of communication in the short class, as well.

Alyssa:  And Kelly, what about your class?

Kelly:  It’s called Breastfeeding: Getting a Strong Start, and it’s a lot about — my goal, anyway, is to get the mom and her partner comfortable and feeling confident about at least starting out.  You know, I think it’s sometimes overwhelming.  It is a three-hour class, so it is a long time, and a lot of content is covered, but my goal is not to, like, overwhelm the parents with, like, what to do over the next, like, two years of breastfeeding or whatever, like that.  Because I think people in this moment when you’re pregnant, especially, you can take little chunks of information that are going to be relevant to you in the moment.  And so just getting off to a strong start, at least to get you through those first early days and weeks, you know, of breastfeeding, and then let you exhale a little bit and kind of find your answers as they are relevant to you is something that I’ve found over the years of doing this, honing, about what moms really want to know and what they need to know in the beginning.  So I might go over — I’m a really strong proponent of going over anatomy in the beginning, just because I think if moms know how their breasts work and how their babies work, they can figure out — they can put a lot of these dots together and make it make sense for them in their situation.  So, for instance, one of the first things I talk about in anatomy is, like, in our middle school health ed class, we skipped right over the breasts, I’m quite sure.  You know, they talk about your periods and, you know, maybe some birth control.  I don’t know.  I don’t even remember what they all talked about.  But I don’t remember talking about lactation or anything about the breasts other than that they get bigger, and then you wear a bra.  That’s about it.  And so I’m like, wait, wait, wait.  This is an incredible two glands we have here that sustain life.  They have so much to do and so much to contribute, and they’re kind of a natural next stage of being pregnant is lactating.  So it’s kind of all jumbled up together there, and I feel like in our society we kind of — as women, we’ve kind of not learned a lot about our breasts.  So I talk about what’s happening while we’re pregnant, what happens in the first couple days after delivery, and then how lactation and how their breasts change and make milk and all these other wonderful things that they do in the days and weeks, you know, after delivery.  Yeah.  So I’m big on helping women know about their bodies and then seeing how it works, and then I think it’s less of a mystery when things unfold because we just — you’re like, oh, yeah, we talked about.  That’s what I’m supposed to be doing, or that’s what my breasts are supposed to be doing.  Those little bumps on my areola, they mean something and they do play a role.

Alyssa:  What do those mean?

Kelly:  Those are your Montgomery glands, and they enlarge, you know, when you’re pregnant.  They secrete a couple things.  One is — it’s almost like a self-cleaning oven.  One is that they secrete the substance that kind of — it’s an antimicrobial, so kills bacteria.  It kind of keeps your nipples clean and your areola clean so you don’t have to scrub them.  A long time ago, like back in the ’50s, we used to think you had to scrub your nipples, and believe it or not, we would put alcohol on them before the baby would — like, we would sterilize your nipples, like we did with bottle nipples, before we would put the baby on you.  Just ridiculous.  And come to find out, you know, Mother Nature’s already taken care of that with those Montgomery glands.  Another thing that they do is they secrete — it’s an exocrine gland, which means it excretes something, you know, kind of like a sweat gland.  So they also secrete something that kind of keeps your nipple from drying out.  Keeps it kind of supple and moist.

Alyssa:  Kind of lubricated a little bit?

Kelly:  Yeah.  So all of those things — and one of the reasons I mention that is when moms think, oh, I have to buy some lanolin or some nipple ointment, those things are fine if you want to use them, but just use them just on your nipple.  You don’t have to smear it all over your areola because they can — if you smear up too much, they can block off those Montgomery glands, and then they can’t do their job.  So that’s one of the first things I talk about because it’s one of the most visible things you see when you get pregnant is your areola gets the little bumps on them, and then they darken and, you know, all of these things happening.  And then the next thing, the other part, huge part of the class, is getting the partner involved.  The baby’s other parent is going to be a huge part of breastfeeding, and I go over the research of how statistically, whether breastfeeding works or not has a lot to do with the mother’s partner and the worth that they feel and that togetherness.  And I joke that, you know, they’re going to be with you at 2:00 a.m., not me, and they’re the ones who know what motivationally you need to hear in the moment.  You know, what gets you — what makes you feel better.  What kind of cookies do you like?  What do you need in that moment?  And the partner is more tuned into that than I am, of course, you know.  So I can give some technical advice if I’m working with you postpartum to help with breastfeeding, but the partner is going to be there to be the other really important team member, and so that’s why I super, super encourage them to come to the class.  The in-person class or the Zoom class, any kind of class, so there’s four ears listening to all of this and not just two.  For the mom to have to listen to it and then go back and regurgitate it all, you know, it’s another burned on her, and she may forget things.  And I spend a lot of the time giving advice about what dads and partners can do to be helpful because I think they feel like they’re on the sidelines and they can’t be a part of breastfeeding.  And so I totally dispel that, and I give them lots of things, you know, concrete things that they can do that can be very helpful to breastfeeding.

Alyssa:  I know that everyone who’s taken your class has told me they love it.  They think you’re just so knowledgeable, and they had no idea about all these things, and they definitely go into it feeling more confident.

Kelly:  Awesome.  That’s my goal.

Alyssa:  Was there anything else you wanted to say about your class?

Kelly:  Well, I just want to say that I love being part of this entire series because knowing that I’m part of blending it together, like the big picture — like, the labor feeds into the breastfeeding.  The breastfeeding really ties closely with the newborn survival.  They’re all so well-interwoven that I think it’s great for the parents to have all of this information at once or, you know, dole it out as they need to, but just to have all of the information because then they get a sense of the bigger picture, I think.  It just makes total sense when all of these are taken together.  So I’m happy to be a part of this series, for sure.

Alyssa:  We’re happy you are a part!

Kristin:  So at what stage in pregnancy would you suggest someone take your breastfeeding class?  And I’ll also ask the same question of Alyssa and then answer that myself.

Kelly:  I would say the seventh month.  I wouldn’t wait to the last month because there’s a lot going on, you might go early, blah-blah-blah.  But, you know, you can take it in your ninth month, for sure.  But, yeah, I would say the third trimester would be good, start of the third trimester.

Kristin: Alyssa?  What would you say for Newborn Survival?

Alyssa:  You know, I would say third trimester, too, just so that this all is fresh in their heads.  The only problem is waiting that long, we do go over some items that are — you know, like baby registry items.  And by that point, usually they’ve already registered or had baby showers and gotten everything.  So that makes that a little bit irrelevant.  We still go over it, and I tell them, you know, keep things in packages with tags on.  If you don’t use them, you can always return them.  So we still go over it, but I think to do it any earlier, you’d kind of forget all of the stuff we’ve gone over.

Kristin:  I would say ideally the third trimester, though I’ve had students take it in the second trimester and still retain the information and practice the hands-on techniques that they learn.  A lot of my students also have doulas within Gold Coast or are working with me directly, so, of course, the doula is a great reminder of the different positions and comfort measures for labor and also some of the relaxation techniques that we learn.  And, certainly, you know, as far as who should take the class, we are also quite different from other childbirth education classes in that many are suited — just like Bradley method, for example, just for one type of birth.  Like, for those seeking an unmedicated birth.  For Comfort Measures, I have clients who want an epidural as soon as they get to the hospital or, you know, are having a home birth or are seeking an unmedicated hospital birth, so a variety of situations.  And, Kelly, I know that you have students who want to pump, and you do, of course, have the pumping class, the back to work pumping.  But it’s not for one type of parent or birthing person.  I know, Alyssa, you have everyone from attachment parents taking your newborn class to those who are more mainstream in parenting style.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  You kind of have to be open to all of the options and all of the parenting styles.  I would say, you know, for yours, it’s important.  Kelly, you know they’re going to breastfeed if they’re taking your class, or at least going to attempt it.  And I don’t know in my class, so I go over if they’re not breastfeeding.  We’ll go over bottle feeding.  Maybe they want to just pump exclusively and bottle feed.  I go over it very briefly.  Sometimes I can completely skip it because they’ve also taken your class, Kelly, and I don’t need to go over anything.

Kelly:  I think with my breastfeeding class, you’re right, there are some moms who just want to pump and bottle feed, and we do go over working and bottle feeding and how to combine all of that, for sure.  But even the part about the anatomy that I was telling you about, it’s good for the moms to know the anatomy of how, also, to maximize that with a pump, because there are ways — the ways that some of our hormones work with a baby, trying to also trigger those with a pump takes a little bit of knowledge, you know, and a little bit of practice.  So even if you’re not going to breastfeed, knowing about your breasts and how they work would benefit you even if you’re going to be pumping, because then you can work with a pump to work with your anatomy and how all of the pumping and maintaining your milk supply goes together.

Alyssa:  I feel like I should sit through your class.  I haven’t sat through yours, and I always love having a refresher on breastfeeding because when I’m working with sleep clients, we talk about feeding a lot.  So I feel like I should put the next September Series class on my calendar to sit in yours.

Kelly:  I know, and I should — I want to learn more about your sleeping, too, because that’s a big question when it comes around to breastfeeding.  They are so intricately tied together.

Alyssa:  So my Newborn Survival class, I started or I created because, you know, working as a postpartum doula — I don’t anymore, but when I did, you start hearing the same questions and same concerns from the parents over and over.  If only someone had told me this!  Why didn’t I know that?  How come nobody told me that this would happen?  When you start hearing the same things over, then I’m like, yeah, I had these same concerns and questions and fears when I was a new mom, too.  So I just kind of started compiling all these things and talking to experts and put this Newborn Survival class together, and it has real-life scenarios.  Like, things that happened to me, things that happened, you know, in my work, and how do we deal with these?  And then it’s very — you know, we do talk about, hey, has anyone changed a diaper?  If they haven’t, we’ll show them.  But that’s probably the most surface level type stuff.  I want to get into, hey, babies cry.  There’s no way around it.  How do we minimize that?  What do we check for?  And how do you communicate?  Like, you and your baby are a team, and from a very, very young age, they are communicating with you, and you need to figure that out.  So just giving them really pragmatic steps to — you know, the first few weeks, your baby’s just going to eat, sleep, poop, pee.  That’s about it.  But once, you know, six weeks rolls around, there’s kind of this schedule forming.  You probably have a pretty good idea of when they want to eat.  Maybe you start to see some sleep patterns forming by six to nine weeks.  And then if they’re crying, what does that mean?  What causes that crying?  How do we stop that crying?  What happened when the crying started?  And then talking a lot about feeding.  People usually want to ask me a lot of sleep questions, even though this isn’t a sleep class.  We go over sleep.  But a lot of it’s, well, you know, if my baby’s not sleeping well, do I just let them cry?  Never, never, never is my answer; never.  No.  We don’t just let them cry.  But if they’re not eating enough, no amount of letting your baby sit in that crib will do any good because they’re hungry.  So we talk a lot about feeding, whether it’s breastfeeding or bottle feeding.  And then we go over things like, you know, common skin issues.  Like, everyone always gets weirded out by cradle cap and baby acne and maybe some rashes, diaper rash.  And then like I mentioned, we go over some things that are not worth spending your money on.  Here’s some things you really need.  And then talking, too, about the partners keeping communication open and setting goals and expectations for each other ahead of time, because once that baby comes, you don’t have the time or mental wherewithal to be dealing with that in the moment at 3:00 in the morning.  So if you have these expectations set ahead of time, it’s really important.  And then obviously talking about, you know, letting them know that there are resources available.  They don’t have to go through this alone.  There are — you know, Kelly’s a lactation consultant.  She can do an in-person or a Zoom visit.  We have postpartum doulas who work day and night.  All these resources are available to them.  And then we go over a lot of soothing methods.  I show them my swaddling methods.  And we talk about bathing, too.  Bathing is a big one for parents that they’re usually kind of freaked out about.  But yeah, it’s just kind of how to survive those first few weeks or months home with a new baby because it’s a little bit scary when you walk through that door for the first time holding a human that you have to keep alive.

Kristin:  Great summary!  So let’s talk a little bit about — again, we mentioned breaks within the format and a little bit of the timing structure of each class.  So the Saturday Series usually starts off with my Comfort Measures class.  We have switched our schedule a few times, but my class is two hours from 9:00 to 11:00, and then there is a lunch break.  And then we get into Kelly’s class.  And, Kelly, you mentioned your class is three hours.  And then there’s a short break, and then Alyssa has an hour and a half for Newborn Survival.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  I think there’s a half an hour break to grab a snack, go to the bathroom.

Kristin:  Right.  And then as far as the fee for the class — again, the classes are a la carte so you could purchase one class or all three, and each class is $75.  And traditional insurance does not cover the Saturday Series, but if a student has a health savings or flex spending, most plans do cover childbirth classes.

Kelly:  And I would add, Kristin, on the same for breastfeeding classes.  As part of the Affordable Care Act, breastfeeding support and supplies and education should be covered, and I provide a superbill for my class as well with all of my codes and my tax ID number and everything that they would need to self-submit.

Kristin:  Fantastic.  And, Kelly, did you want to touch on your pumping class that’s separate from the Saturday Series?

Kelly:  Yeah.  I have a class for moms who want to go deeper into just the pumping.  During my Saturday Series, I will go over some pumping and working and everything, but to dive deeper into that of what that looks like on a professional level and an emotional level, like leaving your baby, what that’s like, and if I have to travel, and how do I maintain a milk supply and what if my milk supply goes low?  Lots of little details swirling around.  If you’re still having, you know, after this class, if you’re still having questions about that, or if you want to skip over the whole breastfeeding class and just do the pumping and working one, I have a class, and you can just go to my website and you’ll see.  It’s called Work Pump Balance, and it’s an almost-three hour class in and of itself.  It’s self-paced modules that you can go through, and it’s myself and then a — my friend Mita, and she pumped for a year for both of her kids and worked full time.  She had a very demanding career in a very male-dominated industry, and she made it work.  She gives a lot of insight about how — you know, a lot of the laws have changed since she’s done it, so that only benefits moms even more.  But how to logistically travel and calling clients and work around this when you’re really the only female in the whole — it’s a big company, but you’re the only female around.  So, yeah, we dive deeper into that.

Kristin:  Fantastic.  And Gold Coast also offers a private multiples class for any of our clients or students who are expecting twins or triplets.  So we do offer each of the individual Saturday Series of class privately, since our Series is offered every couple of months.  There is the option of taking just breastfeeding privately through Zoom and/or, depending on COVID, in person.  So did each of you want to — I know, Alyssa, you just recently taught a newborn class on Zoom.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  We just did a private one because they were being induced this week.  So we just did it last week.  Yeah.  It’s great.  It kind of allows the couple an opportunity to ask the questions that they might be afraid to ask in front of other people, although I feel like with my class specifically, I make it very clear that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, and I think most of the students do feel very comfortable asking anything.  But it’s just a little different when it’s just me with one couple.  They can ask whatever they want freely.  And I do get told that it’s nice for them to learn the same techniques together so that it’s not, you know, one person saying, well, I think we should do that, and I think we should do that.  You know, they can kind of take all the information I’ve given and make their own decisions from there based on what they’re comfortable with.  So I’ve been told several times that they like that they’re hearing the same information together and not different information from different people at different times.

Kristin:  That makes sense, and yeah, it is nice that if someone wants to take a class last minute or wants the individual attention.  My students have enjoyed just being able to customize the comfort measures based on what their birthing goals are.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  So if anyone wants to register, they can go to our website and register for, like we said, one, two, or all three.  We also have the Multiple class and a HypnoBirthing Series.  And you can always reach out to any of us with questions.

Kelly:  I appreciate you doing this, and I’m looking forward to the next class in September.

Kristin:  Thanks for listening to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  You can find us on SoundCloud, iTunes, and on our website.  These moments are golden.

 

Kristin Alyssa Gold Coast Doulas Owners

Podcast Episode 100!

 

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.

Kristin:  And tongue ties and lip ties and working with breastfeeding.

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.

Kristin:  Yeah.

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!

 

mother and baby

Top 10 New Parent Essentials

Did you notice that this list doesn’t say “Baby Essentials”? Nope, it’s not an error. YOU are the single most essential thing in your baby’s tiny life. While you process all the feels over this game changing reality, I’ve got your back with some advice on essentials that will ease your transition so that you can experience a little more rest, comfort, and peace of mind. 

#10: A comfortable chair and a selection of board books
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in this place over the next several years, feeding, snuggling, consoling, reading, and likely sleeping. Start building your collection of books early and add to it often. Your baby will love the sound of your voice, they will love the expressions on your face, and most of all they will love the time spent on your lap, together. Begin cultivating a love of reading and language from the beginning!

#9: Stroller
The sheer number and price range of strollers on the market is staggering. This market reflects the many priorities of consumers. As a Michigan Mama, I often take into consideration the age of the baby when they are born because it determines the need for a car seat system. For example, any baby born around October isn’t going to see too much stroller time before May, so a carseat system isn’t too important and a bassinet, even less important. On the other hand, a baby born in May will need the additional support and a parent will likely enjoy the ease and mobility of a safe travel system.

#8: Baby Bjorn
Sometimes a stroller isn’t ideal; maybe you enjoy trail walking or you simply prefer that intoxicatingly sweet fresh baby smell right under your nose. In that case, consider a Baby Bjorn Carrier.  My 4th child basically lived in this from 6 weeks to 6 months, maybe longer, no one’s judging. Bottom line, get yourself a way to hold a baby while also having the ability to answer the phone, make dinner, or fold a basket of laundry.


#7: CuddleBug Wrap
Similar to the Baby Bjorn, the CuddleBug Wrap allows for close proximity and easy access to kisses, but is considered a soft wrap. This wrap is breathable, yet structured enough so that it provides great support inside or outside. Unsure how to use a soft wrap? No worries, contact Gold Coast for referrals to places where you can learn how to baby wear and sometimes even borrow them for free.

#6: Summer Deluxe Baby Bather
I love running a bath, closing the bathroom door so that all the warmth stays in, and then placing newborns through older babies in this baby bathing seat. Now, if you’re looking for bells and whistles, this seat may not be for you, but I’m a simple gal who likes portability, fast-drying washable mesh, and a fresh smelling baby.

#5: Pacifiers
Sucking is an innately soothing practice for a baby. Why not have one or two on hand to try? My favorite is the MAM, but try not to overthink it.

#4: Swaddle Wraps
I Love the Aden by Aden and Anais 100% cotton wraps for Summer Babies. A tight swaddle gives babies a safe and secure feel, which often lends itself into better sleep. This alone qualifies the wrap as something you should buy several of.

Pro Tip: Some swaddles have zippers on the bottom that allow for easy access to diaper changes and also mean that you don’t have to un-velcro during the night, buy these! 

#3: Black Out Curtains
In order to help shape healthy sleep habits, it’s helpful to be able to make a room pitch black during daytime sleep. Daylight sends a physiological message to our brains to wake up and can impede daytime naps.

#2: White Noise Machine
No, not the kind that has birds chirping or sings lullabies. A low, steady, white noise that has the ability to sound like a dust buster when employed. This single purchase will add hours of sleep to your life and that, my friend, is precious.


#1: (DRUMROLL….) A DOULA!
Doulas are for “that kind” of parent… you know the kind who welcome support, encouragement, peace of mind, rest, and stability during a vulnerable time. Use one and then recommend that your girlfriend, sister, brother, neighbor- use one, too! 

This blog is written by Jen R., a local doula in the Grand Rapids area.
Gold Coast Doulas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. 

 

Mental Health Awareness Month: Podcast Episode #97

 

Dr. Nave now works with queens through her virtual practice Hormonal Balance.  Today she talks to us about hormones and how they affect our mental health, including the baby blues and postpartum depression.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hi.  Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today, I’m excited to talk to Dr. Gaynel Nave, MD, and she works at Hormonal Balance.  Hi, Dr. Nave.

Dr. Nave:  Hi, Alyssa.  Thanks for having me.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It’s been a while since we’ve talked, but we were emailing a while ago, and we realized that it’s Mental Health Awareness Month in May, and then this week is Women’s Health Week.  So you wanted to talk about baby blues and postpartum depression.  So before we get into that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about Hormonal Balance because last time you talked with us, you worked for — you were at a different place.  So tell us what you’re doing now.

Dr. Nave:  Okay.  Awesome.  So as of this year, I’m in my own practice, as you said.  The name of it is Hormonal Balance.  And so I am an Arizona licensed naturopathic physician, and here in Grand Rapids, I operate as a naturopathic educator and consultant to women, with all gender identities, to basically reconnect to their — who they are and directing their own health, hormonal health concerns.  And that’s the reason why I went with Hormonal Balance, because our hormones affect almost every single aspect of our health, including when we wake up, our mood, our sexual health, all of it.  And for us who are women or female-identifying, the medical community sometimes doesn’t listen to our concerns or minimizes our experience, and so I want to be a part of changing that and, you know, helping women be advocates for themselves and learn more about their bodies, basically.

Alyssa:  Yes.  Awesome.  I love it.  And then you can do — so even though you’re here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you can do virtual visits, so technically, you can work with anybody anywhere?

Dr. Nave:  Yep, yep, yep.

Alyssa:  Cool.  Well, we’ll tell people how to find you at the end, but let’s talk a little bit about the mental health aspect of, you know, bringing some awareness to it this month.  And then, obviously, you know, baby blues and postpartum depression is something that we deal with on a regular with our clients.  So how do you help your patients?

Dr. Nave:  I call them clients.

Alyssa:  Clients?  Oh, you do?

Dr. Nave:  Yeah, because here in Michigan, because my — there is no regulation for naturopathic physicians, even though I have my license.  I function more as a consultant, so I call the people that I work with “clients.”  And so the way in which I assist them is basically gathering information about their concerns as in-depth as possible because I’m not just going to look at you from the perspective of, oh, I’m experiencing this particular symptom, because nothing occurs in a vacuum.  And so looking at you as a whole, how does what you’re experiencing affect you mentally, emotionally, and physically.  And so we do the full assessment, and then a part of that is talking about and educating you on labs that are pertinent to you.  So there are different types of hormonal labs that are available.  There’s salivary.  There’s urine.  There’s blood.  And so, like, making sure that the one that’s best and indicated specifically for you is what we talk about.  It’s very individualized because each person has a different experience, even if we have the same diagnosis.  Does that make sense?

Alyssa:  Right.  So you’re saying if somebody comes in, you do a pretty thorough — kind of like with my sleep clients, I do an intake form.  Right?  There’s no, like — you’re saying there’s no one blood lab for — oh, there goes my dog.  I should have mentioned that we’re recording at home on speakerphone, and — okay.  So what I was saying is with my sleep consults, I do an intake form because there’s no right answer for every family, so if somebody comes in and needs blood work done or — well, like you said, labs.  Blood work might not be the right lab for them?

Dr. Nave:  Yeah, because there’s — let’s talk about female hormones, for example.  So the female sex hormones — and when I say female, I’m using the medical terminology for it, not like — so, like birth sex.  You have ovaries — versus the gender identify.  I’m still working through how to talk about these medical things and still be cognizant and respectful of the different gender identifies, so please forgive me if I say anything that’s offensive.  So the female sex hormones — estrogen and progesterone — but these hormones don’t just occur in women.  They also occur in men.  So all gender identifies have these hormones involved, but specifically for those who can give birth, estrogen is involved in the building up of the uterine lining of the uterus so that implantation of a fertilized egg can happen.  Progesterone is important for maintaining that uterine lining as well as maintaining healthy pregnancy so that you don’t lose the baby.  Obviously, there are a lot more factors involved.  These hormones, based on how the body breaks down balance specifically as it pertains to estrogen — we have three different types of estrogen, so it’s not just one form that’s in the body, and depending on what lab is done, you’re able to verify all three at the same time.  The one that I’m thinking of right now is the urine test called DUTCH test.  I really enjoy that one.  I’m not promoting it right now, but I’m just explaining why I like it.  So that particular type of analysis looks at all three of those types of estrogen in the body as well as how the body breaks them down.  Is it able to get rid of it effectively, which gives information on the metabolic pathways.  So there’s a lot more information that can be gleaned from — depending on what type of lab is utilized and depending on your specific concern and the way in which your symptoms are presenting; a more investigative or information-bent lab analysis might be indicated, and so being able to speak with someone like myself who is well-versed on the different approaches and all the different options can be really beneficial because then you don’t end up having to do multiple tests, you know, all that kind of fun stuff, or having to get blood drawn if you don’t have to.

Alyssa:  Right.  So what hormones are you looking for when somebody comes in and says, gosh, I think I have postpartum depression?  Is it just hormonal, or do I really have — I guess, where do you as a naturopathic doctor, say, “I think I can help you with hormones,” versus, “I think you need to see a therapist”?  Or do you do both?

Dr. Nave:  So I will probably tell them to do both because postpartum depression, as with any mental health condition, is on a spectrum.  So you have mild, moderate, and severe.  Before we go into that, I think it would be important for us to define a couple things.  Baby blues is feeling down or feeling a shift in your mood, like feeling more weepy, more exhausted, after giving birth, and this can last anywhere from a couple days up to two weeks.  If it extends beyond that time or it’s interfering with your ability to function, then it would be classified as postpartum depression, and postpartum depression can occur in that same time frame as the baby blues, like soon after childbirth, within three to five days, up to a year after giving birth.  And I’m going to read a couple of stats, so bear with me.

Alyssa:  Go for it.

Dr. Nave:  Just for a frame of reference.  So postpartum depression affects up to 15% of mothers, and shifting to 85% of moms is that they get the postpartum blues, so that — these statistics may provide some form of comfort that you’re not alone.  Please don’t suffer alone.  If you’re feeling more down and you need more assistance from your family and friends, please reach out.  If you’re a single mom, I’m sure that there are different groups, like single moms groups, or talking to your doctor or your friends who can be there to provide some emotional support for you during that time.  Please, reach out to people.  It’s not anything to be ashamed of.  A lot of women go through it because our hormones, as I said previously, affect a lot of things, including our mood.

Alyssa:  Right.  I feel like mothers are getting a little bit more comfortable talking about how hard it can be and how maybe bad they feel or these thoughts that they’re having.  You know, you talk to the older generations, like our mothers and grandmothers, who said, well, we didn’t talk about those things or we didn’t need help.  And we’re slowly getting to the point where we’re seeing more and more families look for and seek out postpartum support, which is one of my favorite services we offer because they can work day and night.  When a mom is suffering from any sort of perinatal mood disorder, having that in-home support that’s judgment-free can just be crucial to healing.

Dr. Nave:  I totally agree with you.  I’ve seen it in practice and the research back it up.  Just being pregnant, much less giving birth, is hugely taxing on our body and increased your risk for feeling down.  Some of it has to do with the hormonal changes.  I’m going to go really science-heavy because I’m a nerd and I think it’s fun and interesting…

Alyssa:  Do it!  Teach us!

Dr. Nave:  As I said, estrogen is responsible for the building up of the uterine lining, but it also affects things like our serotonin production, which you might know as the neurotransmitter involved in depression.  Like, if you have low serotonin, then you might get depression.  So the thing with estrogen is that it increases the production of serotonin by affecting a particular enzyme called tryptophan hydroxylase that is responsible for processing an amino acid that we get from our food called tryptophan into serotonin.

Alyssa:  Isn’t tryptophan the one that makes us sleepy?

Dr. Nave:  No.

Alyssa:  Tryptophan isn’t the thing that we eat that makes us sleepy?  What am I thinking?  It’s in turkey and stuff?

Dr. Nave:  Tryptophan is in turkey.  Serotonin and melatonin have the same precursor in terms of amino acid but the thing about their bodies is they use similar substrates or building blocks to make stuff, and just because we have the same building blocks doesn’t mean that we’ll get that particular product.  Does that make sense?

Alyssa:  Kind of, I guess.  In my sleep work, I talk about serotonin and melatonin a lot just for, you know, sleep cycles and feeling alert and then feeling sleepy, but I didn’t realize that a lack of serotonin can cause depression.  I’m trying to, in my brain, you know, the science of sleep, then — it makes sense, then, that people who are depressed sleep a lot, right?  Am I going down the right path here?  Because if you don’t have enough serotonin to make those hormones makes you feel awake and alert — sorry, I’m getting you totally off track by asking these questions.  Sorry!

Dr. Nave:  No, no, no.  I don’t think you’re going off track because sleep is very much an important part of the postpartum depression process.  If Mom isn’t sleeping, she’s at a greater risk for experiencing postpartum depression, and we know that the hormonal changes affect our sleep.  Also having a baby, a newborn baby — if the baby’s up crying, and they’re getting their sleep regulated; you’re adjusting to waking up and feeding the baby, feeling exhausted during the day, and your sleep is thrown off in terms of it not going or being matched up to when the sun rises and the sun goes down.  You’re more trying to sync to the baby, and that can lead to fatigue, which then exacerbates your mood, which makes you then more susceptible to feeling more down.  And then it’s like — one of the things that they mentioned is that babies who have a hard time sleeping — there seems to be a relationship between moms who have postpartum depression — so the baby isn’t sleeping; Mom tends to have a higher likelihood of having postpartum depression, but then the opposite is also true.  So if Mom has postpartum depression, it seems that the baby also as a result has a hard time regulating their moods and being more colicky and all these other things.  So taking care of yourself also helps the baby; it’s important to support Mom, which is why I’m so grateful that you guys have the postpartum doulas, and you guys do a lot of work with supporting moms post-baby.  Sometimes people focus so much on the baby that they forget the mother.

Alyssa:  Oh, absolutely.  It’s all about the baby.

Dr. Nave:  Yeah.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.  So the hormonal mood connection is very complex, and it’s not just A + B = C, you know, because, yes, estrogen influences serotonin production, but there are other factors that then influence, you know, the mood.  Does that make sense?  Specifically, when it comes to the mood changes or the hormonal changes in early pregnancy and postpartum – early pregnancy, we see the estrogen or progesterone levels are shifting because you’re now pregnant, so the body doesn’t have to produce as much of those hormones.  And when we have lower estrogen, which is what happens when you get pregnant, and since estrogen is responsible — or, rather, plays an important role in serotonin, which helps you feel calm when it’s at the normal level — if it’s particularly high, it can lead to anxiety-type symptoms.  If it’s really low, depression-type symptoms.  During those times when the estrogen is lower, there’s this lower mood that can also be accompanied by it.  Are you tracking?

Alyssa:  Yeah.

Dr. Nave:  Yeah.  So that’s the estrogen portion.  So estrogen affects serotonin production and also directly affects the neural networks in your brain.  Now, we have progesterone.  So progesterone: I like to think of it as our calm, happy hormone.  And so when you’re just about to have your period, usually it helps you sleep.  It helps you remain calm.  But if it’s really low, that can lead to insomnia, feeling really agitated and grumpy, and those kind of symptoms can also happen postpartum and early pregnancy.  And so that’s how the hormonal fluctuations can then manifest with the depression.  For the reason, at least in the postpartum stage, that these hormones might drop is that you give birth.  There’s a huge change because the body doesn’t have to maintain the hormones to keep the baby inside.  The baby is now outside of you.  And it really drops off really quickly, and that huge shift can then lead to the baby blues.  Then if it prolongs, your body having a hard time regulating, then that’s when we shift from the blues to the depression.  In terms of what I would do, I would assess what exactly is going on for you.  Do you have physical and emotional support?  Do you have a history of depression or any mental health condition prior to being pregnant?  Have you had postpartum depression before?  How is your sleep?  You know, sleep is really important.  If we can get you sleeping, I think that goes a long way.  Good quality sleep.

Alyssa:  You’re preaching to the choir here.  I think it’s one of the most important things!

Dr. Nave:  The other thing that they mention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is that if Mom has any feelings of doubt about pregnancy, that can also influence her feeling depressed because it can get, like, amplified during that time.

Alyssa:  So you’re saying, like, maybe doubting if they wanted to become pregnant?

Dr. Nave:  Maybe, or doubt that she’s capable of being a good mom, because there’s a lot of pressures on moms, you know?  Like, oh, someone will mention, like, oh, my baby’s sleeping through the night, or my baby — you know, they started eating at this time.  So there’s a lot of pressure to meet certain milestones that are from society, and that can amplify feelings of inadequacy that Mom might have had prior to becoming pregnant.  And so addressing that piece with a therapist or someone like myself will be a very important part of supporting her with the postpartum depression and getting her out of the state.  For some women, medication might be what they need to do, and their healthcare provider will be able to assess that.  But it’s not the only thing that’s available.  There’s therapists; there’s hormonal intervention, because if it’s a hormonal issue, if you address imbalance, then women get relief pretty quickly.  There’s having a doula, if that’s something that’s accessible to you, or if you have family members who are close by, asking them to help out some more.  Having people provide meals for you so then you don’t have to cook; having your partner be a part of taking care of the baby and asking them to step up some more to give you additional support.  Basically, asking for what you need is — I know it can be really vulnerable and scary if you’re not used to asking for help, but that can really be important in terms of getting what it is that you need because no one is in your exact position and knows exactly how you need to be supported.  Does that make sense?  Because I can talk about, like, a doula and a therapist and a naturopathic doctor, but you know what you need, and I want you to trust yourself in that knowledge.  You know what you need!  And here are all these different options to provide that.

Alyssa:  So you mentioned something a bit ago, and I don’t know what made me think of this, but how — let’s say a mother came to you pregnant and had postpartum depression before and knew that she — you know, her hormones are all over the place.  How much can you actually do in regard to hormones while pregnant?  Is there any risk to Baby?  You know, risk of miscarriage?  What does that look like for a mom who’s pregnant but knows she needs some help from you?

Dr. Nave:  So in terms of working with me specifically, I wouldn’t want to mess with her hormones during that time.  I would employ other tools, one of which is homeopathy, which basically supports the body’s own ability to heal and regulate itself.  As well as putting a plan in place — basically, working alongside her other healthcare providers to create a plan to support her and make sure that the transition is as smooth as possible.  What does she do if she notices that she’s trending from green and happy, healthy, thriving, into, I’m not doing so hot — what are the resources available to me when I’m at that place?  Who do I reach out to?  Who do I talk to?  What supplemental intervention needs to happen?  Do I need to talk to my doctor about starting me on medication?  There are so many different options, and prevention is always better than cure.  We would talk about what her issues — so she’s coming and she’s had it before — we would talk about what was her previous pregnancy like; when did the symptoms start to occur; what did they look like; what sort of things — what sort of red flags occurred during that time; what was the intervention utilized at that time; what were her hormone levels like?  What else; what were any medications that she was on; what medications is she on presently?  And, basically, maybe even talk about how that pregnancy is different than this pregnancy.  Like, does she feel more supported now?  What were the things that weren’t present in the previous one that she does have presently?  You know?  And basically coming up with a plan.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I like that.  So it’s kind of like what we do, you know, throughout birth.  It’s talking about all those what-if scenarios and what plans do you have in place for if any of these happen.  And then, like you said, once Baby comes home, nobody plans for that.  They’re so worried about the pregnancy and the labor and delivery part that they come home and go, oh, shoot.  What do I do now?  So it sounds like that’s a really healthy way to plan during pregnancy, if you do have any sort of mood disorder, to find a professional like yourself to sit down and say, hey, let’s go over all these things and put a plan in place, and then I’ll be here for you postpartum.  And then we’ll talk about what we can do then.  I like that.

Dr. Nave:  Right, because, as I said, there’s so many different options.  For one woman, maybe hormones, just giving her the hormones, is what she needs, and then I would, you know, work with her other — because I can’t prescribe hormones at the level that would be therapeutic, but I would be able to recommend, okay, that’s what you need.  Let’s talk to your doc.  Hey, Doc.  This is the plan.  If this happens, this is what we’re going to do so that she doesn’t have to suffer.  You know?  Or maybe it’s something else.  Just being able to work with someone who — again, like myself — who is savvy on that in terms of knowing — yeah, it definitely needs a collaborative approach, which is what I’m about.  In my head, in my dream, everyone would have a health team, you know?  People, health professionals, who are all in communication with each other who are just there to support you and help you thrive.  But I think to wrap up, it would be sleep, health, get your hormones evaluated.  If you’re thinking of getting pregnant and you have any mood disorders or any mental emotional concerns, as part of your pregnancy plan, you should be working — ideally, you would be working with a mental health professional as well, just to insure that you have the support that you need and you’re processing stuff effectively, because those concerns, those mental health concerns, can be substantially amplified once you become pregnant, as well as after giving birth.  If you have a mental health condition or if you’ve had postpartum depression before, you are at significant risk for developing it again.  And this applies to — postpartum depression can also occur if you have a loss of a baby, so it’s not just if you’ve given birth, but any form of baby loss can also result in postpartum depression.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I can imagine it would probably be even amplified with that because you still have the hormonal shift, that drastic hormonal shift, and then grief on top of it.  So it probably takes it to a whole new level.  Well, thank you for all of your expertise.  I always love talking to you.  I would love for people to know how to find you at Hormonal Balance, if they want to reach out.

Dr. Nave:  Yeah.  I am on Instagram and on Facebook as @drgaynelnave.  I’m in the process of getting my website up, so I’ll update you on that afterwards, or you can call my clinic at 616-275-0049.  If you have any hormonal or mental health concerns and you want to optimize your health team, you want a second opinion, or you just want some additional support — that’s what I do!

Alyssa:  Thank you!  During this Covid pandemic, can you see people in person, or are you choosing to do virtual only right now?

Dr. Nave:  I’m choosing to do only virtual at this point.  I see clients virtually most of the time Wednesdays through Fridays, actually, from 8:00 to 5:00 p.m., and in person at 1324 Lake Drive Southeast, Suite 7, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506.

Alyssa:  So once the stay at home order lifts and things get a little bit more back to normal, you’ll be seeing people in person again?

Dr. Nave:  In person, yes.  But for now, we will see each other virtually!

Alyssa:  Thanks for your time!  Hopefully we’ll talk to you again soon!

 

Virtual Birth Support: Podcast Episode #95

 

Sam & Justin recently had their baby boy, Judah, in the hospital in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.  They describe their experience in the hospital as well as how beneficial birth doula support was throughout pregnancy and then during labor and delivery, even though support was virtual instead of in-person.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

 

Alyssa:   Hi, welcomes to the Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast, and today I’m talking to Samantha and Justin, who recently had a baby at a hospital in this midst of this Coronavirus pandemic.  We’re going to talk to you about what that was like.  Gold Coast is not attending births after Governor Whitmer’s declaration that we have to stay at home, and we don’t know when the order will be lifted.  So we kind of just wanted to get a sense of what it was like for you two to go through this whole process.  How far along were you when you hired us?

Samantha:  Pretty early when we found out.  We knew when we were trying to get pregnant that having a doula was something that was really important to us, as well as a midwife and just trying to go that more natural route.  So the minute we found out we were pregnant, it was kind of getting things in plan.  So I would say after the first trimester after we kind of told everybody.

Alyssa:  So you hired pretty early, and that was before all this crazy virus stuff happened.  And you worked with Kristin and Ashley as your birth doula team.  Even before all this stuff happened, what did support look like through the majority of your pregnancy?

Samantha:  It was wonderful.  Being a first time mom, obviously, you have a ton of questions, and I just didn’t want to be the person to be blowing up my midwife all the time, plus it’s hard to get ahold of them.  Our midwife was through Spectrum, so obviously you can’t just pick up the phone and call her.  It’s not as easy.  So being able to have a team of doulas that, any question I had from — I had artisan cheese one day and freaked out thinking I did something wrong.  So to be able to text them things like that and just have that reassurance all the time was awesome, as well as after every appointment, they wanted updates on what’s going on with baby, so it was just that extra support and knowing that they’re there no matter how stupid the question was.

Alyssa:  Well, and as a first time mom, I think we feel like all of our questions are stupid.  Oh, I hear the baby!  Hi, Judah!  So, yeah, obviously, because of this, we’re on speakerphone, and they’re at home and I’m at my home because nobody can go into work.  You guys are quarantined at home with the baby, which is probably kind of a blessing in disguise, maybe.  You can actually kind of hunker down and just focus on bonding and feeding and all these great things without visitors.  But like you said, Grandma comes over and she can’t see the baby!  That’s so hard.

Justin:  It’s been a blessing for dads, I think, especially because I would have had to go back to work today.  I am working, but it’s from home and it’s slower, and I’ve got some time to help support Sam and build my relationship with Judah, too, so it’s kind of a blessing in disguise for — I mean, it sucks, but it’s been nice.

Samantha:  And as a new mom, you’re hunkered down.  I mean, I was planning on not leaving my house for a month, anyway, so it’s kind of nice, especially during this quarantine time, because you’re quarantined anyway with a newborn, so it gives you something to do and keep occupied with.

Alyssa:  Right.  Well, and focus on the positive, right?  Like, there’s so many negatives that we can be focusing on, but you’re stuck at home with a newborn baby.  Boohoo, right?  This is what you’ve been looking forward to for nine months!

Samantha:  Exactly, exactly.

Alyssa:  So your support during pregnancy really would have been the same, Coronavirus or not, because it’s a lot of text and phone calls and emails, right?  It’s all virtual, anyway?

Samantha:  Yeah.  Yeah, that wouldn’t have changed, and like I said, they were available pretty much 24/7, so it was just nice to always have them in our back pocket when we needed them.

Alyssa:  Right.  Tell me about the labor, then.  What happened when you were at home, and how did that support, the actual virtual support after finding out that your doulas can’t support you in person, how did virtual support look then once labor began?

Samantha:  So we came up with a plan that we would utilize anything that we needed.  If we needed to do a video chat, we had my laptop ready to go to bring to the hospital.  But once labor started, we kind of — before I went into labor, we talked over, you know, what are the signs, when we should contact them, how long I wanted to labor at home; all that stuff that we would have done anyway if it was just normal circumstances.  So when I went into labor, it was the middle of the night, of course, and we texted both of them and ended up calling Kristin.  She was the one who answered, and we told her how far apart the contractions were.  She could hear, you know, how I sounded and could tell that they were ramping up.  You know, you can just — moms — everybody says moms have the telltale sign of when contractions aren’t a joke anymore.  So, yeah, she said, yep, sounds like you’re really getting in the swing of labor.  She told me to get something to eat before I went to the hospital and kind of gave us some tips before we — as Justin was packing the bag and getting our bags in the car, some tips I could do before we headed out the door.  And so we did that and then headed to the hospital, and from the moment we got there in triage, I had a couple — well, of course, birth is always unexpected, but I had a couple things come up that I wasn’t expecting to happen.  So from the moment we were in triage, we were in constant contact with Kristin and Ashley, whether it was me or — it was actually mostly Justin.

Justin:  Yeah.  I actually took — like, I would step out of the room a few times just to call her.  There was just a couple moments there when we were down in triage where she was uncomfortable, and the room is a little small.  It was hard to get into that calm state of mind that we were looking for.  So without trying to stress Sam out, I stepped out of the room and just called Kristin.  I was, like,  hey, you know, what are some things I could try to, you know, bring her back into this calm state of mind that we’ve been working on forever.  It was great.  She gave us some positions to try, some things to talk to the nurses about.  Like, she knew there was a tub down in the triage area, so she said to go ask them to use the tub.  So it was good to have them just there — just any questions we had, just to call real quick.

Samantha:  Yeah.  And we had a couple unexpected things, because I wanted to labor naturally, but we had some issues.  I had a LEEP procedure a couple months ago.  Well, not a couple months ago; about a year ago, but that caused some scar tissue that made my labor really difficult.  So we had to have the conversation of having an epidural because my labor was so erratic and my body was under a lot of stress.  So that decision we talked over with the doulas.  And then having Pitocin brought in, which was also something that was on our “absolute no” list, but it was nice to be able to call Kristin.  Spectrum was wonderful, too.  I mean, the nurses and midwives were great as far as giving us all the information we needed and then giving us time to talk it over.  But having Kristin there to be able to call and say, here’s what they’re telling us, here’s what we’re thinking — to have that reassurance from them was huge, especially because our birth plan changed so much, and it was upsetting for me, especially.

Alyssa:  Right.  That’s hard when we get into this mindset of, like, here’s my plan and I’m going to stick to it, and baby or your body says otherwise.  To have an expert to ask those questions and give feedback that’s not — and I think that’s one thing a lot of people thing, that doulas are there to tell you what to do.  It’s more about asking you the right questions so you can figure out what’s right for you.

Justin:  Just having that — just having that information so that we can make our own decision.  Just having them giving us all the proper information we knew everything that was at stake and we could make a better, informed decision.  It was a huge help.

Alyssa:  Right.  Knowledge is power in this instance, for sure.

Samantha:  Yeah, and even the positions.  Once I did get the epidural and Pitocin, we still wanted to do a really low dose of Pitocin to try to have my body naturally ramp up contractions, so Ashley and Kristin sent us a bunch of pictures of positions we could try.  They were always available for Facetiming and virtual, as well, but we never needed to.  But to have that in the back pocket was comforting, as well, that if we needed to virtually see them face to face, knowing that we could do that was very comforting for me, especially.

Alyssa:  So once you actually moved from triage to the labor and delivery room, you said you didn’t actually have to use Facetime or anything.  Was it more of you, Justin, were in contact with them because Sam was in active labor?

Justin:  Yeah.  It was a lot of text messages and a few phone calls.  If it was something we wanted to all talk out together, we’d call, or if it was just a quick question, I’d just shoot them a message real quick.

Samantha:  And I definitely think if I didn’t need — if I wouldn’t have had the epidural, we definitely would have utilized Ashley and utilized some of our HypnoBirthing techniques to help me get through labor and probably would have used virtual face to face more, but just because things moved so fast as far as me needing some intervention, it again changed our plan as far as utilizing the doulas a little bit differently.  But, yeah, it was constant contact throughout the whole labor process, and it was actually nice after I did get the epidural.  I was able to then talk to them and tell them what’s going on and what kind of positions I can try and different things like that.  So the plan changed a little bit, but staying in constant contact with them didn’t.  It was pretty consistent throughout the whole labor process.

Alyssa:  And what about when you got to the point where you were ready to push?  Was there anything they could do to support you during that time?

Samantha:  Well, we planned on having them Facetime for that, but my pushing went very quickly.  I only pushed for about 30 minutes, and we didn’t even — when we started, it was — we texted them saying, oh, they want us to do some practice pushes, and 30 minutes later, we were messaging them saying, well, baby’s here!  So, yeah, we had the whole plan set up for them to help — especially because I had an epidural, they were really going to help me try to breathe baby down, which is what we ended up doing, but to have them face to face so they could see what was going on.  But it just ended up happening so fast that we weren’t able to do that.  But after baby came, we were in contact with them, telling them his birth weight and all that stuff, and once we got up to the room, letting them know how latching was going as far as breastfeeding.  So it was just the best experience possible, especially because I was so devastated, you know, being nine months pregnant and all this emotional — that’s emotional in itself, and then to find out your birth plan is completely blown to smithereens…

Justin:  Two weeks before we even go to the hospital.

Samantha:  Yeah, two weeks before the hospital.  It was just terrifying, but to have them there in that virtual sense was everything because it would have been a very different experience if we weren’t able to have them at all, that’s for sure.

Alyssa:  So let’s say a couple just found out they’re pregnant, and they knew they wanted a doula, like you, but then they have this worry.  They’re going to do the hospital birth; they want a doula, but the doula may or may not be able to be there.  What would you say to a family who’s kind of on the fence about hiring a doula because of the current situation?

Samantha:  I would say, hire.  Hire a doula because, yeah, the situation has changed, but I think even more in this time, you need that extra support more than ever, especially because, in my circumstance, my midwife wasn’t even able to be there.  I had a totally different team because of the way they split up her team, so not only is your birth plan changed, but then my midwife who I’ve been seeing for the last nine months wasn’t able to be there.  So just to have that team, that constant contact, still stay the same even though they’re not there in person, was just a huge comfort and relief for me.  And especially for Justin.

Justin:  I was going to say, for the fathers-to-be out there, I think it’s even more important for them.  We went through a lot of the classes and stuff, and we had good knowledge going in, but you get in the heat of the situation, and you know, her surges and contractions were starting to really hurt her, and I didn’t know what to do in that situation.  So we had this whole plan, and I was doing my best to stick to this plan, and when you get thrown that curve ball, having someone to turn to and just get that reassurance.  I might have made the right decision in that situation, but just to have them say, “Yeah, you did,” or, you know, this is — “Yeah, you did do a good job there.  This is what’s going to happen.  Here’s the outcome.”  Just having that extra sense of security in this very unsecure time is a huge benefit.  Even though they’re not there, it was almost like they were, and it was very helpful, especially for the dads that sometimes might feel a little lost.

Alyssa:  Right, which usually, most of them, I feel like, they do probably feel a little bit lost.

Justin:  Especially the first time.

Samantha:  Yeah, and it takes the pressure off, too, you know, just because I’m telling him one thing, and he’s trying to say, you know, it’s going to be okay, but for him to then reach out to the doulas and say, you know, here’s what’s going on, and for them to not only give me reassurance but him was a game changer, for sure.

Alyssa:  And like you said, you’ve built a rapport with them throughout your pregnancy.  I didn’t know that your midwife couldn’t be there either!  So without your doulas, you would have not had your midwife either, and you would have literally been in a hospital with a bunch of nurses who you’ve never met, and that was it.

Justin:  Right.  Exactly.

Samantha:  And thankfully, we had an amazing team.  Our nurses and midwives that we ended up getting were amazing.  But also, you’re going — it’s your first time.  You’re laboring.  It’s new.  And then you have a whole bunch of strangers, so you’re throwing that mix in it.  So having the doulas there that we’ve had throughout the whole pregnancy, virtually, even though they couldn’t be there, was such a comfort because it just — you had somebody to turn to that you know.

Justin:  One more thing, too, is the hospital — I don’t know about other hospitals in the area, but Spectrum — it was like a fortress.  It was so clean and locked down in there.  We kind of forgot this whole thing we even going on until we left.  I mean, I went down in the cafeteria a few times, and every time I went down there, a whole different section was being completely pulled out and cleaned.  There was no visitors walking around.  There was no one walking around.  I mean, it really did feel like a fortress.  Even getting into the building, we had to go through a couple security checkpoints, so if anyone was worried about the hospital part of it, I think that especially Spectrum, that I know of, I think they’re doing a very good job of keeping everything separated, and the sections of the hospital that need to be cleaned and all that.

Alyssa:  That’s a good point.  For those who maybe have that as a main point of fear for them, delivering in the hospital, they’re doing everything right.  I mean, they obviously want to keep their patients safe and healthy.  It’s got to be weird to walk through that hospital and hardly see anybody because there’s no visitors.

Samantha:  It was weird pulling up because they have the whole security detail, and it was, like, “Why are you here?  What’s going on?”  It was very weird, but like Justin said, it ended up — I almost was sad to leave, just because you’re in this clean, sterile bubble, and like I said, we almost forgot about this whole Corona thing because you’re in — you are — you end up being in the bliss of having your baby, even though it’s such a scary time.  But having — you know, right after he was born, we talked with Ashley and Kristin, and then it was just kind of that blissful — we went up to the room, and they’re doing a very good job.  Obviously, things change, but I think they have it pretty locked down.

Alyssa:  That’s great.

Justin:  They’re definitely out in front of it.

Alyssa:  So then you guys go home, and usually, they do a postpartum visit, but I’m assuming they did that virtually, as well.

Samantha:  Yes.

Alyssa:  Did you have that already?

Samantha:  We did.  From the moment we got home, too, we were in constant contact with them, from them asking how he was sleeping.  I had a couple questions just as far as my recovery and what I could do for comfort as far as that goes, just because as a new mom, you just don’t really expect the discomfort.  I kept thinking, you know, I didn’t have stitches or anything like that, so I thought, oh, I’m going to be good, but you don’t realize what you’ve put your body through.  So it was just nice to have them there so I could say, I’m feeling — you know, what can I do about this pressure that I’m feeling?  I’m having some pain and discomfort here.  To have that support on the postpartum aspect, because, you know, this whole time leading up to the birth, you’re thinking pregnancy and delivery and labor and all that, but postpartum support is also huge, and they really, really helped with that, giving me ideas and tips of helping my milk supply come in.  It was just — they’ve been wonderful.  And we just had our virtual visit with them face to face, and that was great to be able to see them.  They could see the baby.  And then to tell them the birth story, since they weren’t there — I mean, they were there, but they weren’t.

Alyssa:  They got bits and pieces but finally got to hear the whole thing.  That’s great.  Well, is there anything else that you wanted to add or that you think other parents should know?

Samantha:  I just think if you’re on the fence, I mean, nothing — I had this whole — I thought I planned for even the most unexpected in pregnancy, and I definitely didn’t because pregnancy can change in an instant.  But I think that’s why even more now in these times to have that extra support and to have a doula because we plan on having another child, and I’ve already said to them — I said, well, hopefully you guys will be there in person for our next baby!  But I couldn’t imagine going through labor and birth and even through pregnancy and postpartum without having a doula and support, and I think Justin feels the same way.

Justin:  Absolutely.

Samantha:  It’s like having your best friends to be able to talk to, and it’s such a comfort, especially —

Justin:  But a best friend who’s also very knowledgeable!

Alyssa:  Your best friend who’s knowledgeable and judgment-free and can give you all the best support.

Samantha:  Yeah.  And especially because my birth plan changed so much in the sense of having to have interventions, which I didn’t think I was going to, so that was even more unexpected, and to be able to — you know, you’re in the rush of the moment, and I was really upset, and, you know, you get down on yourself as a new mom thinking you’re failing in some aspect.  To be able to have them — obviously, Justin can sit there and tell me all day that I’m doing the right thing, but to have somebody else who’s not only gone through that experience but seen other women and giving me advice and telling me what I’m doing and the decisions I’m making are right for me and my baby was such a relief and such a comfort because it’s such an emotional time, and when things aren’t going already as planned, and then you throw in more wrenches into the mix, it can overwhelming.  So to have them as support was just everything to me.

Alyssa:  Thank you so much for sharing!  I wish that I could see little Judah, too.

Samantha:  I know!  I know.

Alyssa:  It’s really hard!  But, yeah, focus on bonding with that little guy.  How’s breastfeeding and everything going?

Samantha:  Breastfeeding is going good.  We’ve had to supplement a little just because he’s such a peanut, but, again, they’ve helped with that, as well, just because that can be hard as a mom.  You know, you think, oh, breastfeeding is going to be this simple thing, and it’s hard.  Being able to talk it over with people — they’ve given me some great articles, and I had a virtual meetup with some new moms that Kristin suggested, a team that I should join in on, and that was really helpful.  I got some great tips from that, and to not only see new moms who delivered around the same time as I had, and that was all virtual and really cool to be able to hear from them.  You know, they might not be going through the same issues as I am, but to hear they’re also having questions and not knowing what to do was really reassuring because you can get stuck in this loop of, why is this not working for me?  What am I doing wrong?  Why is it so easy for everybody else?  And you don’t realize other moms have, you know, if not the same issues, then different issues.  It’s all different for each person.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  It’s not easy for everybody else.  It just seems like it is.

Samantha:  It does, and it’s easy to get down on yourself and think, oh, you know, woe is me, why is it not working for me?  But to be able to have not only doulas but then give me other resources to be able to reach out to was also great, as well.

Alyssa:  That’s awesome.  Thank you for taking the time to share your story!

Samantha:  Of course!  Thank you

 

COVID-19

COVID-19 Reduce Your Risk!

 

Reduce Your Risk by Megan Mouser, NP.
March 31, 2020

STATISTICS COVID-19
With statistics regarding the novel coronavirus changing daily (and even hourly), the most up-to-date information can come from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services as well as the Centers for Disease Control. To date, at the time of this publication, there have been over 163,000 cases in the U.S. alone with over 2,860 deaths. Michigan appears to be an emerging epicenter for COVID-19, making our efforts to reduce the spread of this virus even more emergent.

WHAT ARE WE SEEING? WHY SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?
Locally we are beginning to see an increase in cases. Today there are 108 presumed positive tests with 119 tests pending. You can find local updates for Kent County on the Access Kent website.

With coronavirus being a new (novel) virus, very little is known about best practices. This is why you are seeing information and decisions varying day to day. The clinical picture for those suffering from this virus can range dramatically from very mild symptoms (including some with no reported symptoms) to severe illness resulting in death. Current treatment options are fairly limited, however new therapies and studies are emerging. Even with recovery from the illness, long-term consequences are possible. Coronavirus is also very easily transmitted, even without an individual ever presenting with symptoms. This is why socially distancing and practicing preventative measures is so important! In regards to healthcare resources here in West Michigan, we are preparing for a large influx of possible patients from this virus which will put a strain on our healthcare resources if we do not slow the spread. We are already beginning to see this in the metro Detroit area.

GENERAL RECOMMENDATIONS
We cannot stress enough the importance of washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (if not available, use hand sanitizer with at least a 60% ethanol or 70% isopropanol alcohol content), covering your mouth and nose with your elbow when coughing or sneezing, avoid touching your face, cleaning “high touch” surfaces daily, limiting your contact to only people in your household, and practicing social distancing by remaining at least 6 feet apart from anyone else if you absolutely must go out.

I also think it is important to recognize that this is a very stressful time for many of us and it is important for our overall health to make sure that we are taking care of ourselves including getting adequate sleep, regular exercise, eating a nutritious and healthy diet, getting out for some fresh air (while maintaining social distance), reaching out to our support systems, and allowing yourself some “slack” regarding loss of control and frustrations.

In regards to specific populations, this virus does pose a higher risk to people who are older or have other serious chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or lung disease. Women who are pregnant are also considered at increased risk, however to date limited data is available regarding this illness during pregnancy. Coronavirus has not been shown to cross into amniotic fluid or into breastmilk at this time. However, if a pregnant woman became ill with the virus, additional precautions would certainly need to be taken at the guidance of your healthcare team. While on the topic of pregnancy, we can rest assured that healthcare providers and hospital staff are working diligently to reduce the risk and spread of COVID-19. While locally there has been visitor restrictions in place at the hospitals, your support person (as long as healthy) will be able to support you through delivery and hospitalization at this time.

Infants are also considered to be more at risk for not only COVID-19, but illness in general due to underdeveloped immune systems at birth. I would encourage all new parents to continue to practice not only standard precautions (including hand washing, cleaning surfaces, avoiding sick contacts, etc.) but also to continue to restrict visitors to the home after delivery to only members of the household. While this is certainly a time to celebrate your new addition, our primary goal is a healthy baby and family!

As for older children and teenagers, we know that this is very challenging time with the cancellation of schools or daycares and changes to routines and schedules. The risks for these age groups from coronavirus continues to be present, therefore as difficult as it can be to enforce and practice social distancing, it is imperative for parents to not only model this behavior but to also help our children understand why this is necessary. In a time of uncertainty, parents can continue to lessen anxiety in children by discussing together as a family, remaining calm, and continuing to offer love and support.

As a community we all share responsibility to continue efforts to reduce the significant risk from COVID-19!

Reputable Resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services 
World Health Organization

Megan Mouser is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner serving the Grand Rapids area since 2014.  Born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, she completed her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing through Northern Michigan University and went on to obtain her Masters of Science in Nursing through Michigan State University.  She has over a decade of experience working with infants and children in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, and most recently seeing both adults and children in her outpatient family practice office. She also volunteers her time teaching graduate students as an adjunct clinical faculty member with Michigan State University School of Nursing’s graduate program.  Megan is passionate about preventative medicine and creating strong relationships with her patients and families in order to provide personalized, high-quality healthcare. Megan resides in Grand Rapids with her husband Matt and two golden doodle rescues “Max” and “Marty”. In her free time she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, being in nature, cooking, and gardening.

 

Coronavirus Update on Doulas: Podcast Episode #94

Kristin and Alyssa, Co-Owners of Gold Coast Doulas, give an update on doulas and the coronavirus.  How is this affecting birth doulas in the hospital and postpartum doulas in the home?  They also talk about virtual classes such as Mama Natural Online to help new parents stay prepared while social distancing.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes and SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas.  You are here with Alyssa and Kristin, and today we’re going to talk a little bit about the coronavirus.  I’m going to let Kristin do most of the talking just to kind of update our friends and clients on the current status.

Kristin:  Yes!  So we are happy to share the protocol within Gold Coast on how we are keeping our doula team, our childbirth educators, and our clients healthy.  We are recording this on March 17th, so things are changing daily, and by the time you listen to this, the information that we’re giving you may be a bit different.  But we did want to respond quickly and have notified all of our clients about our safety protocols.  With birth doula clients, we are doing all our prenatal, our free consultations, and our postpartum meetings virtually.  So our clients now know that they are talking to teams by phone or Zoom meetings or Facetime, whatever the preferred method is.  We’re still giving you that same time and attention; just keeping you safe and healthy during this critical time.

We had been working with area hospital administrators and with the governor’s office to make sure that we were able to support our clients in person, and again, this may change by the time you’re listening to this, but we had a day yesterday where we were told birth doulas would not be able to support in the hospital.  So we contacted all of our clients and made a plan to support in the home before and support virtually in the hospital.  Through work with the governor’s office and area administrators, we were able to obtain entry into area hospitals.  So starting today, that is not an issue.  With the executive order from the governor’s office, a partner and a doula are allowed to admit into area hospitals.  There will be a health screening, and we’re going through credentialing processes with every hospital having different requirements, but we plan to support our clients.  This is as of today, and again, if the outbreak continues, we may need to rely on virtual support.  Because Gold Coast has a big team of birth doulas, we will monitor symptoms of coronavirus and the flu, as we have always done, to assure that a healthy doula will be attending the birth.  We’ll be doing the best we can to isolate our team.  We’re staying home with our families.  We’re not going out into the public unless we need to get provisions.  Going from there to ensure that we’re able to support our clients during this time when they need the emotional and physical support of doulas now more than any time.

Alyssa, I know that in postpartum support, we have made some accommodations as well, and part of that is some of our clients had contracts that were about to expire, and we’ve talked to them about delaying support, and with our postpartum doulas, who our clients want us in the home, we are of course making sure that the doulas are healthy.  We’re using sanitization methods.  If we’re doing cleaning, we’re cleaning doorknobs and handles at our clients’ homes.  We’re coming in with clean clothing, taking our shoes off, as we always do, and using whatever precautions our clients want us to in their home with caring for baby and caring for the mother.  And, again, with our postpartum doula team, we have a lot of doulas.  So if a doula has any symptoms of coronavirus or the flu or even a cold, we are sending in a healthy doula to replace the scheduled doula.  Do you have anything to add to that?

Alyssa:  No.  I mean, nothing’s really changed in that regard.  All of our clients get that same kind of care.  It’s just extra — I guess maybe an extra added step at this point.

Kristin:  And as a sleep expert, part of what we do as postpartum doulas, both daytime and overnight, is allow our clients to rest.  Now, with your sleep certification, I know you focus on newborns and toddlers and so on, but let’s talk a bit about the importance during this time to keep your immune system strong and getting sleep for families.

Alyssa:  Yeah, the problem with sleep deprivation is your immune system starts to decline, and more than ever right now, it’s important to keep your immune systems healthy.  So that means still going outside and getting fresh air, getting exercise.  But you also need sleep.  And with a newborn and/or a toddler at home, that can really be trying.  So the beauty of my sleep consultations is that I don’t need to do it in person.  We can do it via phone and text.  So if that is an issue, you can call me still for that.  But regardless, you just have to focus on sleep.  You have to get your required amount of sleep, and your kids need to be going to bed on time.  I know this feels like a big vacation for them, but you need to have a set bedtime and awake time.  I mean, if we’re going to be in this situation for three to six weeks, they are going to become sleep deprived.  They are going to become little monsters.  It’s going to make your days even harder, but then again their immune systems could start to decline.

Kristin:  Right.  And, again, we do offer sibling care, so we can help with snacks around the house, and we have noticed that a lot of West Michigan families tend to have family support of grandparents or other family members, and now with some of the guidelines for keeping the elderly safe and away from children, I know my kids are being distanced from my parents due to my father’s heart condition and so on.  And so we can come in when you are relying on your family right now and take some of that burden off of you and your partner.

Alyssa:  I have canceled all family functions.  A birthday party, a sleepover.  You know, my parents called and offered to help, and “thanks, but no thanks.”  We’re stuck at home anyway.  There’s nowhere I can go, nothing I can do.  So, yeah, we’re just kind of laying low at the house.

Kristin:  Yeah.  And so people are obviously isolating, canceling things, and we’re able to — we do offer bedrest support, so we are able to do virtual bedrest support if that is something that a client is interested in.  Or, again, support in the home with childbirth education.  We can do mini classes virtually or in home and provide sibling care for our clients who are on bedrest and need to feed their other children, especially now that daycares are closing and schools are closed at least through April 10th, if not longer.  And so we’re adapting as best we can and keeping our team safe.  For clients who are not part of our current childbirth series that has now gone virtual, our Hypnobirthing class started out in person, and due to the coronavirus, we’ve turned that into an online class with our instructor.  But we are an affiliate for Mama Natural, so we wanted to talk about that as an option for clients who are not able to take a hospital childbirth class or take Hypnobirthing or a different child preparation method.  You can go onto our website and sign up for our online affiliate program through Mama Natural and take the class online. We’ve gone through the class.  I personally went through the entire curriculum, and my clients have used it and have had success, so that is a great option during this time when we need to isolate and be at home and still want to prepare our clients and have our clients feel like they’re ready for this birth.

Alyssa:  And Kelly Emery, our lactation consultant, also offers an online pumping class and a breastfeeding class.

Kristin:  Perfect!  So there are some things you can do, and again, things are ever changing, but as of right now, all of the area hospitals are limiting visitors to one support person, so your partner or family member and a doula who is credentialed in area hospitals.  So in the postpartum units, you are not able to have siblings visit or family at this time.  Everything is limited to protect the health workers and the patients.  So it is good to have these conversations with family members.  I always tell my birth clients at prenatals that now is the time to express whether or not you want visitors in your birth space, and now knowing some of these plans have changed, if you have family members flying in, you may want to delay, or if you have older family members or immune-compromised caregivers, then now is the time to have these discussions rather than having disappointment at your due date if you’re due this spring.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  They won’t even be able to come in, and probably family members can’t even fly in at this point.  We’re getting close to that.

Kristin:  Yes.  Domestic travel is limited and could be delayed indefinitely.  So we’re just taking things day by day.  But we want you to remain calm and positive about this and go with the flow, so try not to take in too much negative media and use this time to focus on connecting with your baby.  And if you have other children, reach out to us if we can help.  We’re here for you.

Alyssa:  I think it reiterates the importance of an agency like Gold Coast Doulas being professional and certified and insured and, like you said, credentialed so that we can get into the hospitals.  The hospitals trust us.  They have a list of our certified doulas’ names.  They might ask for a federal ID number.  They might ask for certification; proof of certification.  These are all really important things to consider when hiring a doula anytime, but especially right now.

Kristin:  Yes!  Stay well, everyone !