birth doula

Emma Stevens

Meet Emma, our newest birth doula!

Meet Emma Stevens, the newest birth doula on the Gold Coast Team. Let’s learn a bit about her!

What did you do before you became a doula?
I am currently finishing up my Communications degree at Hope College where I was able to study abroad in Kenya and intern in a local maternity ward. I also work in assisted living to further my nursing experience.

What inspired you to become a doula?
Ever since I was little, I wanted to work with new moms and infants. My time in the delivery room in Kenya solidified my passion as I was able to comfort women when family members were not allowed into the room.

Tell us about your family.
I have my mom and my dad and two younger sisters. In addition, we have the two cutest wire-haired griffon puppies.

What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
Elbow Cay, Bahamas is where I hold the best memories with my family and friends. We visit often and I have made some great local friendships as well.

Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is always changing but right now it would be these 5:
1. Allen Stone- great driving music
2. Vampire Weekend- reminds me of highschool days and has remained one of my favorite bands since 3. The Mamma Mia soundtrack for singing and dancing!
4. Sauti Sol- My favorite music from Kenya
5. Fleetwood Mac- an oldie but goodie

What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Don’t be afraid to ask for help, do what’s best for YOU and YOUR baby.

What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
Inclusive and non-judgmental support.

What is your favorite food?
Italian food (Indian food is a close second).

What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
My home!

What are you reading now?
The Birth Partner

Who are your role models?
My parents, Rachel Hollis, and travel vloggers Kara and Nate.


Meet Emma, our newest birth doula! Read More »

Birth Photography: Podcast Episode #92

Photographers Kris and Autumn of The People Picture Company answer questions about birth photography, what a photographer actually does in the delivery room and how the process works for hiring a photographer and talking about birth plans.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Welcome to the Ask the Doulas podcast.  I am Alyssa Veneklase.

Kristin:  And I’m Kristin Revere.

Alyssa:  We are co-owners of Gold Coast, and we are here today with Autumn and Kris from The People Picture Company.  We wanted to bring you in because you do a lot of birth photography and a lot of our clients use you, but I know a lot of people are cautious or maybe don’t understand quite what the role of a photographer is in the delivery room, and I think it might be weird for people to say, you know, there’s going to be this stranger with a camera photographing my private parts.  Like, I don’t know this person!  Can you ease people’s fears and maybe tell us what the whole process looks like?

Kris:  Of course!  It all starts with a prenatal consult.  So this is where we get together and discuss your birth plan and what you want your birthing experience to look like.  This helps give us an idea; like, okay, are you doing a hospital birth or a home birth or a birthing center?  All of these things kind of factor into it.  We exchange phone numbers and all the information there, too, and then pick packages.  But it’s really a time for us to get together and to get to know each other because it is a very personal, private, intimate experience, and we’re going to be there with you, so we want to be able to know you and have you be comfortable with us.

Kristin:  It’s almost like when you do weddings and you have a shot list.  In your prenatal, I’m sure you go over, okay, this is what’s acceptable, and this is what I don’t want.

Kris:  Exactly.  We also go through and we show off some of the other births that we’ve done that the mothers have completely agreed that it is okay for us to show.  We have a couple of photos on our website, if you go into Maternity and Birth.  But when we go into a consult, you get to see a little bit more in depth.  These are ones that are, like, you know, actually during the birth experience.  So sometimes there’s nudity because you might get really hot when you’re giving birth to your child.  Sometimes people want that crowning photo.  I’m not going to put that online, but if you want to see what that looks like or a photo of your placenta where your baby lived for a while, then I can show you those during the consult so you get more of an idea and a feel of what you can expect from your birth photos.

Alyssa:  So it’s kind of like, if I were to say I want birth photos, but I don’t want any shots of boobs; I don’t want any shots of vaginas; I don’t want a butt.  Then you would know that going in, saying, okay, we need to crop this out or I’m not going to…

Kris:  Not going to photograph it.  If you want the photos of your child coming into this world but you don’t want that crowning photo, I don’t have to be right where the doctors are.  We can be right up by your shoulder.  In fact, that’s how it was with my photos.  I don’t have any crowning photos of my son coming out, but I have some great photos from over my shoulder, and you can see him just emerging into the world.  It’s so magical because you can ever see everyone that’s in the room and my husband and my doctors and everyone, and it’s just so magical.  Especially because most of that, I had my eyes shut, and one of my friends was, like, no, open your eyes.  Open your eyes!  You have to see this moment!

Autumn:  I think a part of it, too, is during the consult, you are getting comfortable with each other, and there’s a moment where you kind of think past the nudity, you know?  We’re basically capturing the emotional experience between you, your baby, your family.  That is something that is bigger than the nudity sometimes.

Alyssa:  Right!

Kristin:  And I love that you’ve also supported surgical births and shown the beauty of that as they’re getting prepped to go into the operating room and so on.  Some of those pictures are amazing.

Kris:  Yeah!  With the Cesarean births, we’re not allowed in the operating room for those, but we are allowed in the prepping areas and as you’re walking down the hallway or being wheeled into the operating room, we can do all of that and we can do the couple of hours after the birth, as well.  It’s just that for those we’re not actively allowed in those rooms for the surgical process.

Kristin:  I’ve loved attending births with The People Picture Company because you really do capture the emotions of the couple and the intimate experience that they have, as well as, obviously, meeting their new baby or babies for the first time and really, you have a way.  That’s why we have you photograph our team and a lot of the events we do.  You really capture that moment so perfectly and the beauty of birth, the raw and realness of all of it.

Autumn:  And no birth is the same, no two births.

Kris:  No.  But they’re all emotional.  I cry at every one.

Kristin:  For sure.  They are.  It’s an honor to be in someone’s birth space.  I don’t take that lightly as a doula.

Alyssa:  So you’re essentially on call; that’s why you exchange numbers.  So how does that work from your client’s end?  You exchange phone numbers, and then when the due date approaches, you just kind of — they know that your phone’s going to be on next to the bed all night?

Kris:  Yep.  My phone is on next to my bed all night.  It is turned up as loud as it possibly can be, and in case I’m asleep, my husband is a very light sleeper, so if he hears it, he’s definitely going to be waking me up.

Autumn:  You’re pretty amazing.  You wake up, and you’re there, and it’s magical.

Kris:  It’s so funny because almost all the births that I’ve been on have been in the middle of the night where we’re getting a call.  Hey, we’re starting to have some contractions.  Okay, great.  Keep us informed.  Let us know when your water breaks, and we’ll be there, wherever you’re going to be having your birth.  We’re very flexible, so if you were originally going to be doing a home birth and then something is weird and you need to go to the hospital, then just have someone let us know.  It doesn’t matter who it is.  Just put our number in your birth plan, and we’ll be there.

Alyssa:  That’s what a doula’s good for.  We can call you and let you know.  By the way, we’re headed to the hospital.

Autumn:  And the greatest part is we have a whole team, so during that time when Kris is on call and she needs to be ready whenever, anything that she has going on, we’re there to kind of help take care of that so we free up her time to be available to be at the birth no matter what.

Kris:  Yeah.  I block off your due date for sure.  That entire day is completely reserved.  I won’t schedule anything.  And then for a week or so before and a week or so after, because babies come when they want to come, I have those listed as on-call, which means that if someone else needs to take one of my other sessions that I have prebooked because you’re going into labor at that point, then they have that.  I have a bag packed and with me wherever I am, so I am ready to go and meet you as soon as I get the call.

Kristin:  Sounds just like what I do as a birth doula!  And most of my calls are in the middle of the night unless it’s a planned birth.  Or early morning; I sometimes will get a call.  They’ve been laboring at home in early labor, and then they want my support early in the morning.

Kris:  Babies just love coming at night.

Autumn:  They do!

Kris:  My son came right after midnight, and our birth photographer, Bree — she’s one of our team.  She actually doesn’t shoot anymore, but she picked up a camera for me.  I think I was her last session that she did.  And she came — she was so sweet.  She came at — oh, gosh.  I don’t even know what time.  She came pretty early.  Probably about 7:00, I think, is when my water broke and everything, and she was there until about 1:00 in the morning when I finally kicked her out.  You need to go home; you need to go to sleep.  We got our photos; we’re great.  We got our few things that we wanted afterwards.  Go home and sleep.  But that also leads me to the photos of after the birth, like how long we get to stay for that.  That’s actually a really good segue there that I hadn’t planned.

Kristin:  And I know some clients can hire you just for that first hour or that time of bonding and not the actual labor if their preference is to not be photographed during the birth itself.

Kris:  Definitely.  It’s still all the same thing.  We’re still on call and everything, and the way our packages work, we have two different ones.  They both include up to two hours of post-birthing, and that covers the first moments of your child’s life.  So if you want us in there for the birth, then that can include the cord cutting and such.  If you want us there for the first little bit afterwards, it can include the first time you’re nursing your child if that’s what you end up doing.  If you’re doing skin to skin contact; the weight, height, and head measurements, the footprints, and the first family photo of you all together in that blissful moment.  And then also if you have any family members that are coming to meet the newest addition, so if you have an older child that’s coming to meet the younger sibling for the first time, or you have some grandparents that are being grandparents for the very first time, we can be there for that, too.

Alyssa:  How does it work — let’s say a client gets induced and says, hey, I’m going to the hospital, but then it ends up taking two days.  How do you — or have you had a client like that where you’re there for a really, really long time?

Kris:  We’ve had one where we’ve been there for —

Autumn:  We’ve had to do switch shifts.

Kris:  Yeah.  I’ve done some switch shifts before where we kind of tag out.  Okay, I’ve been here for, like, 12, 13 hours.  I need a momentary break.  I need a little cat nap, but we don’t want you to have to worry about us missing it.  So then we just kind of tag out with one of our other team members, and then we swap for a little bit.

Alyssa:  So there’s no price difference?

Kris:  No.

Alyssa:  It’s just whatever birth you have, whether it’s two hours or two days?

Kris:  Yep.  Your kid comes in the time when your kid wants to come, and we’ve got to be flexible with that.

Kristin:  Right.  And even with inductions, there can be some sweet moments where they’re on the birthing ball or moving around the room, and you can capture – again, if it is a couple, you can couple the intimacy with the couple, or if there’s a doula supporting…

Autumn:  Well, the greatest part is it’s not just one single moment with the birth.  It’s the entire process, and being able to capture that for basically the entire family is so special because we literally see the moments before, where they’re on the ball and they’re trying to get them out, and then they —

Kris:  It’s the whole story.

Autumn:  It literally is the story.

Kris:  And going back to personal experience, I was induced for my son because he was a week late and didn’t want to come.  And there are times, because it was a long, emotional, hard birth, that don’t necessarily remember.  But because I had my photographer there and I made a book later on, I’m able to remember and to kind of — not necessarily relive, because I don’t remember the pain, thank God, but I do remember the joy, and I remember thinking – like, for me the birthing ball was bad, and all I can remember was saying, “Ball bad!  Ball bad!”  But I remember that because I have the photo of me with that ball and then the ball completely on the other side of the room because I didn’t even want to see it.

Kristin:  Listening to your body is key!  That’s what I say.  That’s part of it!

Alyssa:  So once you get into the labor and delivery room, what does that look like?  Are you kind of like a fly on the wall trying to stay out of — like, you don’t want them to even know you’re there, or are you talking to them and —

Kris:  It kind of depends on the couple or on the mom and what they want, and this is why we do the prenatal consult.  We usually try to help out if we can, like either be a gopher — like, so if mom is really sweating but doesn’t want her partner to leave and needs a wet washcloth or something, then we will do that.  If you need some ice chips or something, we can go and do that for you so that your people don’t have to leave, although of course if you have doulas, then they usually end up helping out that way, too.  So we help out where we can, but otherwise, it’s usually very intimate, and the couple is pretty much in their own world.  We just kind of capture that and stay out of the doctors’ way.  After you have your baby, we know that you’re really excited to show the photos of your new little baby to friends and family and all your loved ones, and so instead of sending cell phone photos that can look a little weird, we do sneak peeks so we’ll provide you with a handful of photos that are completely ready to send out to friends and family.

Alyssa:  Like the next day?

Kris:  Within 24 hours.  Usually less than; it’s usually one of the first things that we do when we leave the birthing room.

Autumn:  She gets really excited.  She gets back to the studio, and she’s, like, “I’m doing this!  I’m really excited!”

Alyssa:  You always do.  Every team photo, you’re, like, okay, give me a couple weeks.  And then two days later, you’re like, “They’re ready!  I was just too excited.  I had to go through them.”

Autumn:  Well, I mean, it’s our work, and we get so excited about it, and we can’t wait to show it off because what is the point of just sitting on it when we can share it with everyone?

Alyssa:  In my past life, I was a photographer, and it was the same thing.  While it’s fresh in my head, I wanted to go through them.  It’s exciting to see what you just created.  So I get it.

Kris:  You’ll get a handful of photos the same day, usually within a few hours, so you can send them out.  And then the final photos, we say two weeks, but it’s usually sooner.

Kristin:  And certainly, I feel like birth is a major rite of passage, and as wedding photographers, you understand how much time, money, and preparation is involved in planning for that rite of passage, but really, when you look at minor investments in the birth and postpartum time for a family, hiring a birth photographer or doing newborn shots doesn’t even compare to the investment in a wedding photographer, for example.

Kris:  Oh, yeah, no.  It’s a fraction.

Kristin:  Can you explain a bit about what your fees are so people who aren’t familiar with birth photographers — as you talk about being on call and longer lengths and so on?

We have a couple different packages when it comes to the birth, and they each include high-resolution images for you to share, to do whatever you want with.  And then you also get an album to create for our highest package, which is a 20-page lay-flat album.

Kristin:  You’re saying a digital album?

Autumn:  No, a photo album.  So you get digital files, high-resolution, and then our highest package, you get a 20-page album to share and have it on your table so you can show it off.  And plus like Kris said, you get to relive the moments because sometimes you just don’t remember, and having that printed album is so important because you can’t have all of your images live on digital because you don’t know how long they’re going to last.  We always want everybody to print things.

Kris:  Which is why we provide you with the high-resolution images, too, because those are good quality for printing.  So you’re welcome to print them yourself or you can print with us.  We have a la carte print packages, too.  So the first package, like Autumn was saying, it’s $850.  It includes everything: the prenatal consult, the on-call availability, the two hours after birth, and then 100 or more, however many, high-resolution images, and a 20-page 5×5 print photo album.  And then our second package, which is our base package, is $500, and that includes 30 to 50 high-resolution images, so that’s if you need just a little bit; just a little reminder, not the whole big coverage of everything.  And then because we want to see you guys again and provide you with a really good first family photo that’s not right after birth, we include 10% off your newborn session if you get either of these two packages because, yeah, your first family photo — yeah, it’s great to have one in the hospital, but let’s get one where your hair and makeup are actually done, too.

Kristin:  And I know you do documentary-style or more of the posed family shots, depending on preference and price and so on?

Autumn:  Absolutely.  We actually prefer doing newborn sessions in the home because it’s where you’re going to be the most comfortable, and then you also don’t have to worry about packing up the family and moving them to our studio, which can be a hassle sometimes.  Our goal is to make everything hassle-free, so we come to you, and we can document your entire family as you are, and we can also get some posed shots that would be printed and put on the wall.  The documentary style also work well if you do an album.  Plus, it’s more realistic.  It’s you in your zone.  It’s where your family is.  And if you have other kids, it’s also really fun to see how they interact with the baby, also.

Kris:  Some of the documentary ones that we’ve done are within your nursery, so if you’re changing your baby on the table or nursing them in a rocking chair or something like that and then you get a photo of the entire nursery in this environmental setting, too.

Kristin:  It’s nice.  You did that with a twin client of ours.

Kris:  Yeah.   They were so sweet.  They were adorable, and we had grandma in there, too.

Alyssa:  So if anyone is interested in birth photos or family photos or baby photos —

Kristin:  Or maternity photos.

Alyssa:  Yeah, maternity photos — what’s the best way for them to reach out?

Kris:  Probably our website would be the best.  We have all our packages listed on there.

Kristin:  And you also have a page on the Gold Coast Doulas website.

Kris:  We do, so you can just go to the Gold Coast Doulas website and go into Birth Photography and find us that way, too.  And then we have all of our packages listed and a handful of images to show you, just kind of a portfolio of examples to see if we’re your flavor of photographer or not.

Autumn:  And the best way to find out is just reaching out and setting up a consult to get to know us, really.

Kris:  Yeah.  You can do that straight from the website.  We have contact boxes.  You can email us.

Alyssa:  And probably depending on the time of year, as long as it’s not wedding season, you could do it last minute.  Like, hey, I’m 38 weeks and I just decided I want a photographer.

Autumn:  Oh, absolutely.

Alyssa:  As long as you’re not in the throes of wedding season, you might be able to say yes?

Kris:  You know, as long as you’re not a Friday or Saturday, chances are really high.

Alyssa:  Cool.  Well, thanks for joining us.  Is there anything else that we didn’t cover?

Autumn:   I did want to point out that another thing after birth – one of our favorite things to do is follow you through the first year.  What we have is a package that basically is dedicated to capturing your baby at several stages in the first year.  So then you can do the three, six, nine months and then the one year, so you can also print that out and get it on the wall to see how much they’ve grown.,

Kris:  They change so much in that first year.

Autumn:  They really, really do.  It’s amazing.  They go from literally —

Kris:  Tiny squishes to little humans.

Autumn:   Yeah.  It’s amazing.  And it’s really fun for us, especially somebody like Kris who’s there during the birth, probably the maternity session, and after with the newborn, and then we get to follow you through and literally watch your family grow.  It is so much fun.

Kris:  It’s awesome watching them grow.

Autumn:  Yeah.  Because our goal is to become lifelong friends, not just the photographer one day.

Kris:  Yeah.  We want to get to know you and become friends and tell your story.

Kristin:  I love that.

Alyssa:  That’s cool.  Thanks!


Birth Photography: Podcast Episode #92 Read More »

Birth story

When Your Baby Doesn’t Follow Your Birth Plan

Have you ever set out to accomplish something life-changing? How did you prepare for it? Did you research it online? Did you read a how-to book? Did you seek advice from those you trust? Would you ever show up for the big day without preparing ahead of time?

Back in November of 2017, I finally saw those two blue lines on a pregnancy test.  I was unbelievably excited, but yet filled with fear and anxiety. After over a year of trying to conceive and a devastating miscarriage, my husband and I were blessed with the opportunity to try it again.  For anyone that has experienced a miscarriage you know that each cramp, test, and Dr. appointment is filled with intense emotion and fear.

The fear and anxiety wasn’t completely gone after our 12 week ultrasound, but it definitely became a background noise that I could drown out with our baby registry, nursery decorations, and my efforts to create the perfect environment for my baby for the remainder of the pregnancy.

During my first trimester, I was gifted The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth by Genevieve Howland (highly recommended by the way, even if you’re not a super crunchy mama) by my sister who unknowingly would become the trail blazer that would go before me by about 12 weeks and share all her child rearing wisdom with me.  This was new for me as an OLDER sister, but her recommendations and personal experience were pivotal in creating an empowering childbirth experience for me.

Fast forward to the third trimester where it really started to sink in that I was going to birth this tiny human inside me.  This is the part of the story where I realized I was going to experience something life-changing that I knew very little about.  After reading the best books, talking with seasoned mamas and investing in a bomb childbirth course (Mama Natural’s once again!), I decided that my ideal birth plan was to have a vaginal delivery with as few medical interventions as possible.  I did the research to get the facts and my husband was very supportive (but also a rookie) so I wanted some reinforcement to help me achieve my dream birth story. This is the part where my very wise sister recommended talking with Gold Coast Doulas about how they could help me reach my goals.  She had just accomplished a successful, low intervention vaginal delivery so it didn’t take much convincing for me to call and get matched up with doulas that were a good fit for my birth goals.

At 41 weeks and 3 days, it became apparent that my son had not read my birth plan and despite my best efforts was coming out on his own terms.  In the midst of my research, I learned that induction could be intense, unpleasant, and ruin my plans for an unmedicated birth; unfortunately, my OBGYN had decided this was the best option for me. My husband and I walked into the hospital like a couple headed to Baby-Mart to pick-up our baby.  I had not experienced one real contraction to this point, was dilated to 1cm (I still think this was a pity centimeter) and I had shed many tears as I realized how little control I actually had over this birth experience.  I prayed God would help me surrender to His will for this birth.

As if this was the moment my son had been waiting for all along, I felt my first real contraction minutes after being hooked up to the fetal heart monitor before beginning the induction process.  I finally stopped feeling sorry for myself about my “ruined” birth plan and regained my confidence knowing this was MY birth plan and no matter how it ended, it was the perfect plan for me!

Contractions continued to come, and they recommended that I receive a dose of Cytotec to soften my cervix. Thankfully labor continued to progress on its own without any further doses of cytotec or pitocin.  Several hours after contractions started, I peed the bed… or so I thought. After 2 trips to the bathroom and continued “leaking” I realized my water had broken. My cervix continued to dilate and my husband was now recruited to help me through my increasingly more intense contractions.  My nurse was amazing and encouraged me to change positions by kneeling and leaning forward on the bed and rolling from side to side with a peanut ball between my legs to encourage continued progression of my labor. It’s funny because I knew this movement was important, but in that moment, all I could think about was how it made my contractions hurt worse and that I didn’t want to move at all. Turns out that’s the point! You want to intensify contractions, progress labor, and get that baby in your arms!

As the hours progressed my husband continued to ask if we should ask Mary, our doula, to join us (she’d been checking in with him periodically) and I continued to say no. I guess I had heard too many stories about long labors because I was convinced we still had a long way to go.  When my attentive husband noticed the signs of transition he quietly vetoed my decision and let Mary, along with family, know that we were getting close and it was time to come to the hospital. When Mary arrived they were wheeling in delivery equipment and it was go-time. She reminded me of the breathing techniques I had practiced and was available to help with whatever comfort measures we needed even when it was silence.

There was no mistaking when it was time to push as my fetal ejection reflex kicked in.  I was thankful that my provider let me stay in a side-lying position to push while my husband and Mary held legs and hands (focusing on my needs) allowing the doctors to focus on our son. My husband excitedly updated me that they could see his head, but he just didn’t seem to want to move past that point. Despite my best pushing efforts for about 40 minutes, our baby’s heart rate was dropping, and I was now needing oxygen. At this point, my OBGYN highly recommended an episiotomy to deliver my son quickly. This was not part of my birth plan, but I agreed knowing everyone’s goal was to deliver a healthy baby. As his head emerged and the OBGYN quickly freed him from the umbilical cord around his neck, he launched himself earth-side and to this day has not stopped moving and wiggling.

It’s crazy to think that at 8 pm on Sunday night we walked into the hospital with a space in our hearts we had no idea even existed and by 8:30 am on Monday morning our hearts were overflowing with love and connection with someone we had only just met.  Childbirth was unknown, exciting, and challenging.  The experience was so very empowering and the outcome was undeniably life-changing. My piece of advice for expecting moms is to go into labor and delivery prepared, supported and believing in yourself knowing that your body was made to do this!

Written by Dr. Nicole Bringer, DPT
Owner of Mamas & Misses Physical Therapy 


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Kelly Wysocki-Emery

Meet our new IBCLC, Kelly Wysocki-Emery!

We are thrilled to have Kelly join the Gold Coast Team. Many of our doulas have used Kelly personally for lactation consultations with their own children. She comes to us with years of experience and a trusted name in the community.

1) What did you do before you became a lactation consultant?

In a former life, I was on a path to become a counseling psychologist. I was working on grad school in Oklahoma when I had my first baby; my life course then changed dramatically. My undergraduate degrees were in psychology and education, which serendipitously helped in my final career choice as a lactation consultant.

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

I think it’s so true that we become what we wish we had. I was certified as a doula in the early 90s after having a difficult postpartum period with my first baby. I lived many states away from my family and friends, and felt the isolation and loneliness hard. I also had a rough time breastfeeding. As I crawled out the other side, I decided to help other women who were going through the same experiences I had been through. In the end, I gave up the doula role, went back to nursing school, and continued earning experience and education to become a lactation consultant.

3) Tell us about your family.

I have two adult children, girl and boy (or a woman and a man, now!), and four step-children; so six “kids” in our blended family. Although the kids are spread out over the country, we still get together throughout the year to enjoy each other’s company. My husband is an emergency medicine physician, who also works in medical education at Michigan State University. I am expecting my first grandchild in July of 2020, and am so VERY excited about that!

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

Anywhere I can be warm and near water, and not have to wear shoes or a coat! I’d have to say Greece, if I had to be more specific. I went to Greece to help pregnant/breastfeeding refugee women in 2017, and fell in love with the place so much that two years later I returned for a vacation there with my girlfriends. I definitely will be going back with my husband in the upcoming years. The climate AND the history/culture/people/food of Greece have won over my heart forever.

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

Patty Griffin – She sings the raw truth with her beautiful voice. Got me through my divorce intact.

Beatles – I discovered them in early college and connected immediately.

Eagles – A band from my childhood with so many songs that spark memories for me.

Eminem – Don’t ask me why. I just do. Don’t judge me.

Aerosmith – I have a secret thing for Steven Tyler. Again, don’t ask why. I just do.

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

Your baby is going to love you no matter what. Remember the big picture: Lead with love. You are not alone in what you are experiencing, and it can, and does, get better in time. Hang in there!

Oh, and you’re doing much better than you think you are!

7) What do you consider your lactation superpower to be?

I’m pretty good at getting babies off nipple shields. Not every single time, but often I can do it!

8) What is your favorite food?

Lately, I am really enjoying miso soup and sushi at Ando.

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

I’ve moved downtown and live by the Grand River now, so my husband and I really love walking or biking up and down the river, exploring the landscape, watching the fish and birds (the Osprey are our favorite), and seeing the city grow and change each and every year. We can really stare at the water all day and be content.

10) What are you reading now?

Just finished up Tongue Tied by Richard Baxter. Very interesting new research and helpful modalities for babies who are having trouble latching/nursing.

11) Who are your role models?

My mother, who taught me about unconditional love, loyalty, how to work hard and do things that you are afraid to do, how to make people feel welcome, and how to have fun.

My husband for his incredible work ethic and ability to plan for the long-term; I continue to learn so much from him about how to have a healthy relationship with money.


Meet our new IBCLC, Kelly Wysocki-Emery! Read More »

Perinatal Mood Disorders: Podcast Episode #91

Today we talk with Elsa, a therapist at Mindful Counseling in Grand Rapids, Michigan who specializes in perinatal mood disorders.  Learn what postpartum anxiety and depression look like, how they are different, and signs to look out for.  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 Elsa Lockman from Mindful Counseling.  She’s here to talk to us a bit about postpartum anxiety.  Elsa specializes in the following areas: perinatal mood disorders, which includes postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, grief and loss, eating disorders, and body image issues.  She also works with clients dealing with relationship problems, coping with medical illness, trauma and abuse, women’s issues and self-esteem, and mood disorders and anxiety.  So obviously, you’re a natural fit working with clients who struggle with everything from eating disorders to anxiety and depression, transitions in their relationships, and expanding their family or having their first child.  So today, Elsa, let’s focus a bit on the difference between postpartum depression and anxiety and what women can do if they’re interested in seeking treatment and getting help.

Elsa:  Yes, postpartum depression and anxiety can go together.  Sometimes women will struggle with anxiety with depression.  Sometimes it is separate.  Postpartum anxiety and depression can look very different.  People classically think of postpartum depression as mothers who don’t connect with their babies, moms who are checked out and can’t get out of bed all day.  That’s actually not always the case.  Often, women with depression are exhausted and often can’t stop crying.  They can’t look, maybe, on the positive side or think rationally.  As far as the anxiety, it can come out more in not feeling necessarily down but feeling like you can’t relax; feeling that something bad is going to happen at any time.  Having thoughts of something happening to your baby; scary thoughts.  Sometimes even flashes of images of very violent things happening or the baby falling, and moms often feel guilty for those, actually, and don’t tell anybody, but they’re actually really important to talk about.

Kristin:  I had a friend who was afraid of driving in her car or anyone driving her baby.  There can be a lot of, like you said, those intrusive thoughts.

Elsa:  Yes, and it’s obsessive sometimes and you can’t get it out of your head.  So rationally, you can say, I’m not going to drop the baby going down the stairs.  I have the baby in my hands.  But it keeps going; it gets hooked, the idea or the image, and then they’ll struggle with almost a loop where it just can’t get out of your head.  Or anxiety can present sometimes in something around sickness.  No germs.  Thinking that my baby is going to get sick; I can’t take her out to the store, and I can’t take her to this house.  And how far that goes; I mean, some of these are common sense, and you want to take care of your child, but then how far does it goes?  Does it prevent you from doing things that you want to do, or do others notice that maybe this is being a little unreasonable?  It seems to be causing you even more anxiety to be thinking some of these things.  Another part is that sometimes anxiety can come out as anger.  Feeling just angry and irritable; feeling tense.  That can come out, obviously, with partners, and they can notice it.  Being different, a marked change from before for women.  Those are some of the symptoms that come that people can notice with anxiety.  Another one would be sleeping; when moms can’t sleep when the baby is actually sleeping.  That’s another sign of postpartum anxiety for people to watch out for.

Kristin:  Sure.  That makes sense.  I know even with postpartum doulas in the house, some women still struggle with fully sleeping even though their child is being care for by someone else. And sleep is so essential.  There are so many studies on how, if you’re not getting enough sleep, it can lead to mood disorders and anxiety and so on.

Elsa:  Yeah, it just leaves women very vulnerable, and now it’s become so normalized that part of the postpartum world is just not getting sleep.  And I think it’s also expected that women are also just supposed to go on with their lives and do all the normal things that they’re supposed to do even when they’re running on little to no sleep, and this goes on for weeks or months.

Kristin:  Yes!  So what resources would you suggest if they’re looking for help?  Obviously, we can talk about how to reach out to you!

Elsa:  For sure!  You can definitely contact Mindful Counseling GR.  You can contact Pine Rest.  They actually have a mother baby unit, so they actually have therapists that have specialized training, like I do, to work with women postpartum.

Kristin:  And now Pine Rest even has the ER when you can —

Elsa:  Oh, the urgent care center?

Kristin:  Yes, the urgent care center.  They can go in at night and not have to go the hospital.

Elsa:  yeah, they can go to the urgent care center and get assessed and get attention or treatment a lot quicker.  OB offices have a list of therapists who are trained and specialize with postpartum or perinatal mood disorders, which includes anxiety and depression in pregnancy and postpartum.  So there’s a list that you can ask for from your OB, as well.

Kristin:  Great!  How do they directly reach out to you?  Are you accepting new patients, Elsa?

Elsa:  Yes, I am!  You can reach out to me by contacting me through our website.

Kristin:  Perfect!  Thank you for coming on today!


Perinatal Mood Disorders: Podcast Episode #91 Read More »

Rise Wellness Chiropractic

Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction with Rise Wellness Chiropractic: Podcast Episode #90

Dr. Annie and Dr. Rachel talk to Alyssa about Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction (SPD), how to prevent it, how to treat it, and things every pregnant and postpartum woman should be doing!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Hello.  Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa, and I’m talking with Dr. Rachel and Dr. Annie again of Rise Wellness Chiropractic.  How are you?


So I got asked by a client about symphysis pubis dysfunction, and I’m not even exactly sure what that is, but you knew.  Right when I told you, you knew.  So can you tell me?

So SPD — sometimes people think of sensory processing disorder, which is with older kids, but in relation to pregnancy, it’s symphysis pubis dysfunction.

And what the heck does that mean?

It’s a mouthful!  So basically, where your two pelvic bones meet in the front is called your symphysis pubis, so that’s where the two bones meet together.  There’s cartilage in between there, and that area widens for birth.  So usually late second to third trimester, we’ll see some women will start having pain.  That can be related to the relaxin that’s in their system that’s helping the ligaments loosen and helping that area separate, but what we usually find is it’s more due to pelvic imbalances.  Usually one side of the pelvis is higher than the other or something like that or it’s rubbing in a weird way.  That’s usually what causes that symphysis pubis dysfunction.

So it’s strictly for pregnancy?


And are there any ways to not get it?  Avoid it?  Treat it?

Get adjusted!

Yeah, just because if it’s caused from a misalignment —

Exactly.  Yeah, if it’s caused from pelvis imbalances, then that is directly a chiropractic issue.  It’s biomechanical.  That’s something that we can address through adjustments.  And then we also have stretches that you can do, and there’s also a Serola belt which is like an SI  belt.  It goes around your sacroiliac joints, and it’s just a low belt.  It doesn’t really do anything in terms of — it’s not like a belly band or something that you would wear to support the baby, but it does help to support the SI joints and keep everything together.  Really, it’s hypermobility in that joint that’s causing that pain.

It’s too mobile?

It’s too mobile.  Yeah, so we usually see it with not first-time pregnant moms but usually second or third, especially if they’ve had some kind of fall or something like that while pregnant.  They can injure their pelvis, and that’s usually what brings those things up.  I actually had a patient a couple weeks who came to us for SPD, and under care, she was doing great.  All her pain went away.  But she had fallen during her first pregnancy, and then during her second pregnancy, she started having all this pain and stuff come on. 

So falling during pregnancy; it’s not just like a random fall at any time in your life that could affect this?

It could be.  Pregnancy is really good at exacerbating existing issues or past issues.  Like if you’ve had any pelvic imbalances in your past and then you’re pregnant, just that relaxin is going to kind of flare things up.  Typically, what we see is pain with putting weight on one leg.  Climbing stairs is when your pelvis is moving the most, so that’s usually when a lot of the pain is flared up.

Walking; something that you don’t have to do very often.


Sounds horrible!

But sitting is not good for it either.  It’s one of those things that nothing is good for it.

Laying hurts; turning while you’re laying.  Like that’s not already hard when you’re in the third trimester!

Does it actually cause any more pain or discomfort during labor and delivery?

It can.  It depends on really, like, what the pelvis — because if you think of the pelvic bowl, if there’s imbalances in the pelvis, it’s not just affecting the bones.  It’s also affecting your pelvic floor muscles.  It’s affecting all of your stabilizer muscles.  So it can potentially affect how things go during labor.  I don’t know if it creates more pain, necessarily, or if it would be, but any pelvic imbalance is going to effect, probably, the efficiency of your labor.

Plus, it doesn’t necessarily clear up after.

That was my next question.

Yeah, it’s not like you deliver the baby and then it’s gone.

Because you still have that imbalance?


Exactly, yeah.

So then what do you do for that?  Just keep getting adjusted?

Well, it should clear.  If you’re getting adjusted, it should help clear it up while pregnant.  So I guess what we’re saying is, you should get checked if it’s happening.

I mean, it’s definitely like you have to retrain that pelvic imbalance somehow, and you do that through chiropractic adjustments or through exercises, through physical therapy, sutff like that.

Yeah.  PT floor rehab, yeah.

Probably a combination of both, right?

Right.  If you do it all, then you probably have best outcomes. 

Yeah, I don’t think we understand how important the pelvic floor is, and all we’ve learned is Kegels.  That’s not necessarily even a good thing to think.  When I saw a physical therapist for pelvic floor issues specifically, I was, like, that makes so much sense!  Even just the way we breathe; I didn’t know that my diaphragm was part of — what would that be?  The top?  The diaphragm is the top of your pelvic floor?

Yeah.  It’s the top of your —

Like the space?  I guess I can’t say top of the floor.  Your pelvic floor is the floor.

Your intrabdominal space.  So it’s like the lid, and then your pelvic floor is the bottom.  But it’s a big airtight balloon, pretty much, so when you breathe, it affects everything.  But pelvic floor is an issue that we don’t talk about, really, with women in birth, but it’s a huge thing.  Every woman who pushes out a baby has pelvic floor issues.  Every woman who has a C-section has pelvic floor issues because those are attached to your abdominals, too.  So, really, every woman should be getting some kind of rehab on pelvic floor after birth.  That’s my soapbox!

I’m in these group exercise classes, and every woman is, like, oh, jumping jacks.  I’m going to pee my pants!  I had one friend who was, like, I was working out and I didn’t know if it was sweat or I had peed my pants!  Yeah.  I get it!

Well, pelvic floor and core strength, too, are both things that get overlooked with women after pregnancy, and then we see women with back pain later, and it’s because their core is so weak.  So, really, we’re just promoting physical therapy pelvic floor rehab.  It’s what needs to be done.

And chiropractic care.  Retraining all that neurology is important.

I think even just learning about it!  I’ve done yoga classes forever, and they will say, like, during this pose, tighten your pelvic floor.  I’m, like, what the hell are they talking about?  What?  How do I do that?  But now after learning that even breathing is different and the feeling of — I hate saying Kegel because it’s not even what it is, but I guess that is the feeling of what you would do to stop your pee, but doing that during certain exercises is a whole different feeling, but I think now that I’m conscious of it, I’m, like, oh, that makes sense.  Oh, I can do that here.  Okay.  It’s gotten a lot better, but I still can’t do jumping jacks.

See?  The jumping jacks!  I don’t do them either.  They’re like, do jumping jacks to warm up, and I’m like… No.

I do the ones where I just put my hands up.  I just kick my leg out.  I’m fine with it!

It’s what everyone’s doing!  They call those jumping jills.

Is there anything else pregnant or postpartum women need to know about symphysis pubis dysfunction?

It’s not something that you need to suffer through.  There’s a lot of chiropractic studies where it helps in a lot of case studies, but also, biomechanically, it makes sense.  You don’t have to feel like you can’t walk up the stairs or sit or that you have to be in a lot of pain when you’re trying to sleep.  Find out you’re pregnant and get under care.  That’s really what we tell people. 

Tell people where to find you!

We are in East Town in the Kingsley Building right next to Gold Coast Doulas, or you can find us at our website or on Facebook and Instagram.  You can message us on those platforms.

Well, as always, thanks!  We’ll have you on again soon!


Symphysis Pubis Dysfunction with Rise Wellness Chiropractic: Podcast Episode #90 Read More »

certified doula

The importance of certification – Why Gold Coast Doulas are different!

Did you know that in the State of Michigan you (yes, you) can call yourself a doula? There is no licensure, training, or certification required. That’s scary. How do you, as a consumer, know you’re hiring the best doula you can?

At Gold Coast Doulas we believe in elevating the standards of doula support to the highest level possible. That’s why we require every single doula on our team to take a training, complete all of the required coursework, support the required amount of clients, and become certified within the time-frame given by the certification organization. If a doula cannot complete these requirements, they do not work with us.

We don’t believe a training is enough. If you’re looking for a certified doula, don’t be afraid to ask if they are actually certified, and not just trained.

We don’t accept hobbyist doulas. We only bring on those that are motivated, professional, and will adhere to our standards of judgment-free support. We are not activists. We support every type of birth ranging from unmedicated, to epidurals and cesarean births.

At Gold Coast Doulas we have always been transparent with the level of training and certification our doulas have. For instance, pre-certified doulas have taken the training, are working through their coursework, and working through the required amount of qualifying births or postpartum clients. Each doula’s bio will tell you where they are at in their certification process. It takes an average of two years to become certified.

Gold Coast also takes professional development one step further and requires each doula on the team to form their own LLC, carry their own insurance, and complete a minimum of two in-person continuing education trainings per year. We believe that elevating the standards of doula care is critical for the health and support of each family, the sustainability of our business, and the respect of the medical community.

Now, the hard part is deciding which Gold Coast Doula is right for you! We have an amazing team and will work with you personally to find the right fit.

Written by Alyssa Veneklase & Kristin Revere, Co-Owners.


The importance of certification – Why Gold Coast Doulas are different! Read More »

Lauren Utter

Meet Lauren – our newest Birth & Postpartum Doula!

Welcome Lauren Utter to the Gold Coast team as our newest birth and postpartum doula. We are so happy to have her!

1) What did you do before you became a doula?
I was a preschool teacher, event coordinator for a camp for children with various needs, and a nanny.

2) What inspired you to become a doula?
I accidentally discovered doula work. For a while, I knew I wanted to work with families transitioning into parenthood but I did not know how specifically. Initially, I thought I would be a lactation consultant but with more research the term “doula” kept coming up and it was exactly what I was looking for. I am excited and eager to begin supporting families as a doula.

3) Tell us about your family.
I come from a large family. Five kids and I am smack dab in the middle. Our house was loud, busy, and always on the go. We are all very close now, and I am proud to call them some of my closest friends. Also, we ALL have our own dog so you can imagine how wild holidays are.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why? 
I have not traveled as often and far as I hope to one day, but my favorite so far is Hawaii. It has some of everything; beaches, mountains, volcanoes, and culture.

5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Surprising to most, I do not listen to music often. If I do it is normally the radio or on shuffle. However, a couple current favorites are Leon Bridges and Desi Valentine, and am a big fan of songs that make you want to move!

6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Parenting is not one size fits all. It looks different for every individual and family.

7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
Connecting with timid babies and toddlers, and babies experiencing stranger danger.

8) What is your favorite food?
French Fries!

9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Ludington is one of my favorite places in West Michigan’s Gold Coast because my family and I always went in the summers growing up. It is a family favorite.

10) What are you reading now?
The Whole-Brain Child By; Dr. Dan J. Siegel, and Nurture By; Erica Chidi Cohen.

11) Who are your role models?
I have loads of role models but a few are Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama, and Ellen DeGeneres.


Meet Lauren – our newest Birth & Postpartum Doula! Read More »

HypnoBirthing Story

Maddie’s Birth Story: Podcast Episode #83

Our listeners love hearing a positive birth story.  Today Maddie, a previous HypnoBirthing and Birth client, tells us all about her labor and delivery as well as her experience in the hospital right after having her baby.  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 my former birth client, Maddie, and we’re here to talk about her personal birth story.  Welcome, Maddie!

Maddie:  Thank you.  I’m glad to be here!

Kristin:  So we talked a little bit about why you chose HypnoBirthing in a previous podcast, so tell us about your birth story.  How did you know you were in labor?  Give us all the details.  I was lucky to be there!

Maddie:  Yes, it was wonderful to have you there!  I went into work on a Wednesday, and I was due July 18th, and it was July 13th.  For some reason, I just kind of thought, oh, I’ll know.  It’s not going to happen yet.  I went to work; I had a normally-scheduled weekly appointment with my midwife.  I went at 10:30, and I had been kind of grouchy all day and just felt a little off but did not think about it at all.  I’d been having practice labor for a few weeks, so I really wasn’t noticing anything different.  I went to my appointment and sat down, and she said, how are you feeling?  And then I started bawling. I said, “I just feel so confused by my body!”  And she was like, well, let’s just take a look.  How about we just take a look, and so she did an exam, and she said, girl, you’re six to seven centimeters!  And I was like, what?!  And I started crying again, and then I said, but what does that mean?  Even though I’d been through HypnoBirthing; I knew what it meant, but it was just so unexpected.  I was so far along already.  She was fantastic; she was so wonderful, and she said, well, it means you’re going to have a baby today.  Go have some lunch.  So I called my husband.  He was working, and I told him I was six to seven centimeters, and he said, well, what does that mean?  And I called my mom who was coming, and she said, but wait; what does that mean?  So we were all pretty taken off guard because it wasn’t like I had woken up and said, oh, you know, I think something’s happening.  No one was really prepared.  Hey, I’m six to seven centimeters.

Kristin:  Right, I couldn’t believe it when I got the call.  I was like, what?!

Maddie:  Yeah!  I went and got some lunch and drove myself to the hospital and parked on the fifth floor of the parking structure and waddled in.  You showed up; you were the first one, and we went up to the room.  Fortunately, since I’d already had the exam, I didn’t have to go through and wait for 20 minutes for them to monitor me or anything.

Kristin:  That’s so nice to skip triage and go right up.

Maddie:  We went up the room, and it was not bad for a really long time.  You know, my body was doing a lot of the work as far as maybe turning the baby or getting more effaced.  Having done HypnoBirthing, I knew that dilation is not the only factor that you need to pay attention to, so I was able to just kind of relax and say all right, it’s going to happen when it happens.  You were there; you did a lot of hip squeezes for me, which was really fantastic for that counter pressure, because I was having back labor.  My husband is not able to do those with his wrists, so that made a huge, huge difference.  And we just kind of hung out, and I listened to my HypnoBirthing, and I listened to some relaxing music.  My appointment was at 10:30, and he wasn’t born until 10:45, so it was a while, but…

Kristin:  But for a first-time mom, it was pretty quick, and it’s one of the few calls I get in the daytime hours.  Most of the time, I get a call at 2:00 AM or 11:00 PM.

Maddie:  Right!  Things started to get ramped up some, and then I started noticing it more, but none of it was overwhelming.  One thing that we talked about in HypnoBirthing was breaking the amniotic sac.  That’s protection for baby, so I didn’t want to do that; didn’t really feel like there was any reason to.  The contractions really weren’t bad.  The surges weren’t overly painful or overwhelming, and so my midwife worked her full day at the office and then came in.  She checked me again quite a bit later, and then she did accidentally break the amniotic sac, and then after that, things got pretty intense.

Kristin:  Yeah, that can intensify a lot!

Maddie:  Yeah! I think from the time my water broke until the baby was born was about 2 hours and 45 minutes, so doable.  I spent a lot of the time in the tub, and that felt really great.  My husband was able to just use the hand shower, and having that, the different points of pressure, I think kind of helps take your mind off of it to some extent.  The water makes it a little less intense.  I really liked to be in there.  Then we got out, she said she wanted to check me, and I was Group B Strep positive, so they wanted to do another round of antibiotics.  That had been one thing that, when I found out, I was super devastated, because I wanted to labor at home for as long as possible.  I didn’t want to have to come in before six centimeters, and we had me the plan that if I came in and I wasn’t six centimeters, I didn’t want to know what I was at.  But I would just not go home.  You could know; my husband could know, and then we could make the decision.  Let’s walk around a little bit or just not be admitted.  But because I was already six to seven centimeters, when I was checked, we went right in after I got lunch.  We went right in and got admitted, so I was able to get those antibiotics in.  Once she checked me again and broke my water, it got intense.  It was really just — I felt very internal.  You know, it was not a lot of talking, and it was — I think right after it broke, I kind of got to that point where I was like, oh, no.  I can’t do this!

Kristin:  Which most women go through with unmedicated births.  Transition!

Maddie:  Right.  However, as soon as I had that thought — I have a distinct recollection of, oh, no, I can’t do this.  No, wait – that means I’m really close.  That means I can do this.  And so then I really tried to just focus on my breathing, because we’d talked about that and learned and practiced about getting those breaths in.  And I did end up struggling with that, but having you, having my husband, having my midwife all saying, all right, this is the birth you prepared for.  You can do this.  Just take those big breaths.  Breathing and focusing on those voices helped me to kind of get back on track, get it under control.  We tried a lot of positions for delivery, which that was one big thing.  I had changed providers pretty early on from an OB who said you’re only allowed to birth on your back, and I said, I want the freedom to do whatever position feels comfortable for me and for my baby and my body.  And so I ended up doing a lot of my laboring and pushing leaning over the back of the bed on my knees, and that definitely felt like the best position for me.  We tried on the side with the peanut ball.

Kristin: I remember trying a lot of different positions, and it’s all about listening to your body.

Maddie:  Right, and my body was saying, this does not feel good!  Don’t do that!  So I spent a lot of time there, and then I got to a point where I just remember feeling so hot and just, you know, put as many ice-cold washcloths on me as possible.  I was so hot, but I was just kind of getting right there to the end.  It was right at the end, and then my midwife had said, okay, I want to check you after this next surge, and so I want you to roll over.  And I already knew I was crowning, but I couldn’t really explain it at that point.  I’m like, no, no.  He’s there.

Kristin:  Right.  I feel him!

Maddie:  He’s right there!  So I did end up flipping over, and that was okay on my back, and that was fine.  What was helpful was the nurse that was there; she had said, do you want a mirror?  And I had said no, no, I don’t want a mirror.  And then she said to reach down and feel your baby.  When I could feel — he’s right there.  More than just oh, I feel it with my body, but actually touching it with your hand — he’s almost here!  That kind of gives you a little reinvigoration.  I’m right there at the end!  So I was able to catch my baby and put him right on me and do optimal cord clamping.  It was fantastic, just beautiful.  He was born on July 13th at 10:45 PM, so about 12 hours from when I figured out that I was in labor until he was born.  And it was being just relaxed about the whole process and recognizing it’s going to happen when it happens, and your body is going to do it, and trusting your body.

Kristin:  Exactly, trusting your baby and your connection with your own body and your baby, because it’s the two of you working together along with, of course, your partner and support team.

Maddie:  The very first thing I ended up saying after Charlie came out was, good job, buddy!  He was a part of it, too.

Kristin:  Exactly, babies work so hard!  They have to turn in the canal and — yeah, they’re exhausted.  You’re exhausted.

Maddie:  Exactly, there’s a lot happening.  It was beautiful!

Kristin:  It really was.  It was an honor to support you.  How did it go with the skin-to-skin time and breastfeeding as a first time mom?  Let’s talk about some of that and how you felt bonding in that first golden hour.

Maddie:  That was fantastic that I could do skin-to-skin right away.  I didn’t feel pressured to stop.  That was super important.  I did have some postpartum bleeding, and so while all of that was being taken care, not being separated from my baby was so big so I could just focus on him.  That part was wonderful.  We got all cleaned up.  The breastfeeding definitely was more difficult.  I have one side that’s inverted normally, and so baby really struggled to latch on that side, but he also struggled on the other side.  I was fortunate that Spectrum has IBCLCs on staff 24 hours a day, and so they were able to come in at 3:00 AM and focus on what’s going on, why is baby not latching.  We did end up using a nipple shield, and that was pretty demoralizing for a while.  We used it until six weeks, and I went to some Le Leche League meetings and things like that.  It really was important to have those contacts ahead of time and know where the meetings are; know when the meetings are; know an IBCLC that’s recommended in case you are having those issues so you’re not having to try to figure that out when you’re exhausted and you’re feeling downtrodden and things aren’t working.  It’s really hard to try to find that when you’re already struggling.  So having figured that out ahead of time, I was able to go to a meeting, go meet with a lactation consultant again.  We did stick with it, and then at six weeks, which is pretty common, he just kind of got it.  We got in the tub where it was warm and kind of womb-like and got rid of the nipple shield, and it worked.

Kristin:  That’s amazing that you were so persistent and it paid off!

Maddie:  Yes!  We just weaned at 2 years and 11 months.

Kristin:  Oh, congrats!

Maddie:  Yes, that was exciting.  We had a fantastic nursing journey.  If you really stick with it and arm yourself with that support system, you can do it.  I feel like so many women don’t have that support system.  My mom nursed; my sisters nursed all of their children.  Having that support system makes a huge, huge, huge difference.

Kristin:  Yeah, and like you said, just taking advantage of lactation while you’re in the hospital, even for moms who have a great first latch, to just have someone see your holds and answer any questions you might have — it’s a resource that I highly recommend anyone take advantage of, if they’re birthing in the hospital, of course.

Maddie:  Right.  That was important that they did come in.  They came multiple times to check on us and did work on holds and really understanding, you know, here’s another technique.  Here’s another hold to try if this one isn’t working, so you have those skills in your toolbox to pull out.  Okay, this isn’t working; let’s try this.  That definitely was helpful for me, as well.

Kristin:  Great!  Well, thanks for sharing your story!  Do you have any parting words?

Maddie:  I would just say to do your research.  It’s easy to just say that my doctor is going to do what’s best for me.  This is what happens.  This is how it goes.  But it doesn’t have to be.  You can be such an advocate for yourself, and you can surround yourself with other people to advocate for you so that you can get the type of birth that you want so that you have the support that you need.  Even if you have a partner that’s not able to be there in the way that you need, you can get a doula.  You can have a midwife who births in the hospital.  It’s really not different.  I know people that really think, oh, they’re not a doctor.  That’s totally different.  Just really doing your research and asking other moms who have been through it.  Moms are very willing, good or bad, to give you their advice, so get as much information as you can so that you can make your own informed decisions.

Kristin:  Yes!  Thank you for sharing your story because other women want to hear personal, especially positive, stories.  I feel like when it comes to birth, you here the dramatic or tragic.  Everyone likes to tell negative stories, and there aren’t enough positive, and a lot of women in pregnancy want to surround themselves with light and positivity.  We really appreciate you coming in!  Thanks so much, Maddie.  Thank you, everyone, for tuning into our podcast.  Remember, these moments are golden.


Maddie’s Birth Story: Podcast Episode #83 Read More »

HypnoBirthing Story

Maddie’s HypnoBirthing Story: Podcast Episode #81

Today our former birth client and HypnoBirthing student, Maddie Kioski, tells us her personal pregnancy journey using HypnoBirthing and how it helped her feel excited about labor and delivery instead of scared.  You can listen to this completed 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 Maddie Kioski.  She is a former HypnoBirthing student of Gold Coast and also my birth client.  Good to see you!  It’s been a while.

Maddie:  You, too!  It’s been so long.  We just had the third year birthday for Charlie, so three years!

Kristin:  That is so amazing!  I love following all of your adventures on Facebook.  So, Maddie, let us know a little bit about your HypnoBirthing experience and why you chose HypnoBirthing and what it did for you.  We’ll have another episode coming up about your actual birth story, but this is focused on the class.

Maddie:  I’m lucky to have two older sisters who were very instrumental in that they both researched natural birthing and all of that, so before I ever got pregnant, I was kind of familiar.  The middle sister took a HypnoBirthing class in Atlanta, so when I got pregnant, I knew I wanted to go for a natural birth, so I started researching in our area.  I found you guys, and I found speed-dating with the doulas, and so I was like, oh, perfect.  And I saw you guys did the HypnoBirthing classes, so once I came and met you guys, I was sold.  I knew for sure this is what I want to do.  So my husband and I did the weekends class, so we had just longer weekend classes.  When we started, he was not totally sold on it, but he said, well, if you want to do, then of course we’ll go and we’ll do it together.  I actually really enjoyed having the weekend class.  For me, it was a long period instead of the shorter periods; you could really focus on it and really get in depth.

Kristin:  Did you do any preparation knowing that it was a very time-intensive class versus being spread out for five weeks?  Did you read the book in advance?  Did you do any preparation?

Maddie:  I didn’t.  We came to the class, and then we would read after class on the way home; we’d read on the way to class, and then we’d do some in the interim before the next week.  I just knew this is what I wanted to do.  I can’t remember; I think I was maybe five months when I started.

Kristin:  That sounds about right.  Yeah, I remember there was some time before your due date.

Maddie:  Yeah.  So we started listening to the rainbow relaxion every night.  It was weeks before I even knew there was a rainbow in it; I just fell asleep every time.  But my husband listened to it every single night, so he was pretty familiar.

Kristin:  It’s good to fall asleep to.  It means that you’re getting in that fully relaxed state.

Maddie:  Right.  So I think what was really, really helpful for me in the classes was reframing how you think about birth.   That was really helpful for me.  Instead of saying Braxton-Hicks, it was practice labor.  This is natural and normal and healthy; really understanding that trusting my body to do what it needed to do; trusting my baby, that he was going to be able to do what he needed to do.  Reframing all of those words was really, really helpful for me.

Kristin:  Yeah, I’m all about the impact of language.  Even the contraction; you think of it being intense and tightening up, but in labor, you want to be relaxed or it’s just going to be more uncomfortable and take longer, so calling it a surge, for example, and viewing the wave-like motion of labor.

Maddie:  And I also think what was really helpful for me is understanding what’s actually happening with your body and the different phases and knowing — I felt very internal when I was going through it, and so knowing what was going to happen and having learned about all the physical physiology, hormones, and all of that — I felt was really helpful to just kind of put my mind at ease and feel more prepared about what was going to happen and what I could expect.  And I think being able to relax and feel more relaxed about it also let me feel a little free with, if something doesn’t go exactly how I want it to go, that’s okay.  We have another plan.  We know if it’s an emergent situation, things are going to have to change, but feeling more relaxed about the birthing process allowed me to feel relaxed about letting go of exactly how things were going to happen.

Kristin:  Right.  And there are some misconceptions about HypnoBirthing only being for home birthers.  You birthed in the hospital?

Maddie:  Yes.

Kristin:  And you were able to apply what you learned in class?

Maddie:  Absolutely.  I took an old phone with me and I had my rainbow relaxation, and I had some other music on there and the affirmation track, and so I was playing those while I was at the hospital.  Even just something like keeping the lights down low to allow a more relaxed atmosphere, to allow your hormones to really react to the calm environment rather than bright lights and people coming in and out.  I mean, you can change your environment when you have the knowledge of what it should be to help your birth go more easily.  So that was helpful.  And I was fortunate to go to Spectrum Butterworth, and you can labor in the tub there and all of that, and they have a lot more training as far as helping women through a natural birth.

Kristin:  Yeah, your provider makes a difference; a supportive hospital and their policies and procedures make a big difference in being able to achieve HypnoBirthing in the hospital.

Maddie:  What was helpful as well: I did do a lot of research as far as who I wanted as a provider and selecting a provider that you guys have worked with a lot and a lot of other moms in the area have recommended, so they were more familiar with HypnoBirthing, too, and they understand it more and understand what a natural birth looks like.

Kristin:  And it can be much different to observe someone who is internally focused if a provider is not familiar with HypnoBirthing.

Maddie:  Right, exactly, and not feeling forced to respond and explain what’s happening and just allowing your body to do the work that it needs to do, allowing your baby to do the work that they need to do.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Was there anything from the class that didn’t sit with you?  I always say, take what you like from a class or experience and then discard the rest.  Was there anything that didn’t resonate with you immediately?

Maddie:  I responded well to a lot of the self-hypnosis kind of techniques, but we didn’t end up really using those a ton when we were actually going through the birth process.  We did a lot of focusing on breathing because that’s where I really ended up struggling was just calming down and getting those deep breaths in and having my husband understand what needed to happen; understand I needed to be breathing to get that oxygen in for baby, too, and help calm my body down.  He was a fantastic birth partner.

Kristin:  I remember that about your birth, for sure.  He’s a very supportive partner.

Maddie:  He was really involved, and we felt really connected after, so that was beautiful.  And I know some people did a fear release, and for me, that didn’t really work, I feel like, as well for me.  I think it would be really helpful for some people, but my main concerns were that I get migraines, and they’re really bad, and I’ve had kidney stones and they’re really bad, and so I felt like, oh, man, if I can’t handle those, am I going to be able to do a natural birth?  So I think what helped more was just understanding how the birth process works, and then I talked with some other moms who also struggled with those same health issues, and they were able to help calm my fears, as well.  Understanding that your body is putting out all that love hormone; you’re not going to be getting a migraine.  Your body is protecting you from that; it’s focused on what needs to happen.  So the actual fear release part, I didn’t really use that as much.

Kristin:  And one thing about the HypnoBirthing class that’s helpful is you work on your birth preference sheet or birth plan.  Was that helpful in having discussions with your providers during your pregnancy?

Maddie:  Extremely helpful.  I think it was almost more helpful for my husband and I to kind of give us a guideline of what we need to focus on.  With HypnoBirthing, we had informed choice, really; here are evidence-based articles that you can read about these certain preferences that you can choose from.  That was helpful for us to talk about.  My providers were so wonderful, though; I just kind of was like, well, here’s my sheet, and they were like, yep, these all look great.

Kristin:  Whatever you want!

Maddie:  So that was helpful.  But I would say I had a shift change, and so I think what would have been helpful that I didn’t realize was making sure, when we did that shift change, that the other nurse made sure to read the birth preferences.  I had put on there that I didn’t want coached pushing, and so when she came in, I don’t think that she had really read it necessarily, and so then they were pretty focused on that.

Kristin:  That can be challenging, the timing.

Maddie:  I was just trying to block that out.  You were helpful, and the midwife and my husband were all talking about breathing and getting those breaths in, and that was helpful.

Kristin:  Great.  Any other tips or advice for anyone considering HypnoBirthing?

Maddie:  I think it was so helpful and such a bonding experience that I feel — I felt prepared and I felt excited to give birth.  I think so many women go into it feeling scared and saying, give me drugs; they just feel from the beginning that I’m not going to be able to do it.  And after going through HypnoBirthing and really understanding the process, understanding and getting to a point where I trust my body and trust my baby; it’s natural; it’s normal; it’s healthy.  I was so excited!  I was so excited to go in and give birth.

Kristin:  I could tell that; I could see it and feel it.

Maddie:  And you can know, okay, it’s not going to be a walk in the park, but it was beautiful, and I feel so fortunate to have had such a wonderful first birth experience.

Kristin:  Do you use any of the breathing or relaxation techniques in general life or parenting?

Maddie:  I do, actually, do a lot of deep breathing when I feel frustrated and I need to take a step away and focus internally; do some breath depths; focus on a relaxing color.

Kristin:  I do that with my kids.  I get them to use HypnoBirthing and the birth breaths and the relaxation.  For me, I have a fear of the dentist, so I’ve used it at the dentist!  Yeah, it’s very helpful.  Well, it’s so good to have you on, and we’ll talk about your actual birth story shortly.

Maddie:  I’m excited!

Kristin:  Thanks for listening to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas!  Remember, these moments are golden.


Maddie’s HypnoBirthing Story: Podcast Episode #81 Read More »

Jamie Platt

Jamie’s Breastfeeding Experience: Podcast Episode #76

Jamie Platt, Birth and Postpartum Doula with Gold Coast Doulas, tells us about three completely different breastfeeding experiences with her three children.  This podcast was recorded over a year ago, and Jamie is now a certified lactation counselor.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa, your host for today, and today we have a special guest, Jamie.  Hello!

Jamie:  Hi!

Alyssa:  Thanks for coming!  So we were talking the other day, and you’ve had three really, really different experiences with breastfeeding with your three children.  Tell us a little bit about your three kids and how breastfeeding went differently for each of them.

Jamie:  Sure!  So I have three children.  My oldest son, Noah, is 14.  And then my two younger children are five and three.  So I was a young parent and gave birth to my oldest, Noah, when I was 21.  My breastfeeding journey with him was very short and limited.  I knew I wanted to breastfeed, and I received a manual pump, I remember, at my baby shower.

Alyssa:  Did you even know what it was?

Jamie:  No!  No one ever showed me how to use it.  I knew what it was for, and that’s it.  And I remember in the hospital, no one ever gave me any tips about breastfeeding.  It was expected that I was going to breastfeed.  My mom breastfed all three of us for over a year.  It was challening not knowing what to do with breastfeeding.  The funniest story I remember from that journey was, since I was young, I went back to work right away.  I was coaching volleyball at the time, and I went to a tournament and coached all day.  I didn’t bring a pump; I didn’t know that I was supposed to be pumping this whole time.

Alyssa:  That’s what this whole manual pump was for!

Jamie!  Yes!  And I looked down during a break at a game, and my shirt was all wet!  I had leaked through my shirt, so I had to put a sweatshirt over me, and of course, it was so hot in the gym all day.  And shortly after that, I stopped nursing.  I don’t recall how old my son was, but it had to be within a month or two.  And so I wish, looking back, that someone had sat down with me, shown me what I needed to do to nurse and to pump, but that didn’t happen.

Alyssa:  Do you think that it lasted such a short period of time because — I mean, did your milk supply just dry up because you were back at work and not pumping?  Or did you just say, I’m so over this; I’m just going to stop?

Jamie:  It’s hard to remember the details.  I just remember stopping.  I was in school at the time and working, and just one day, I stopped.

Alyssa:  So a lot of things all mixed together, I’m sure.

Jamie:  Yeah.  So when my second child was born — he’s five now — I knew I wanted to do things differently.  I was older and wiser; knew a little bit more about breastfeeding, but still not enough to know what to do in certain situations.  I nursed him until he was about 18 or 19 months old.

Alyssa:  Wow!  So you learned a lot more, then.  I mean, in nine years time, to go from one month to 19 months.

Jamie:  True.  There were just a few different barriers along the way.  I was a single parent, so I went back to work when he was around three months old.  However, he wouldn’t take a bottle at the time, so with that situation, my sister came to my home and was watching him for me, but she would bring him to my work, or I would quick drive home on my break just to feed him, and that lasted a good one or two months.  And I knew what to do at the time, as far as I was trying different bottles, but I did feel quite alone trying to figure this out.  And then while working, I pumped for over a year.  Another obstacle I had to overcome was with coworkers.  A friend of mine told me that a coworker complained to my manager that I was still pumping, and my child had reached a year old, so I shouldn’t have these pumping breaks anymore.  And the manager never said anything to me, but I had heard this through the work grapevine.  I also had an experience around the time he was a year old with his pediatrician at the time.  We went in for his one year well child check, and they ask you if you have any questions.  And I asked about nighttime feedings.  I think that’s a popular topic.  He was still feeding through the night, and it didn’t bother me, but at the time, I thought it was something to bring up.  The pediatrician told me that I had to stop nighttime nursing immediately, that she had done it with her kids; he’ll be fine, that he was going to get cavities — which we know from research that that is not true.

Alyssa:  Cavities from breastmilk?

Jamie:  Yes, during the night.  That’s still kind of a popular myth that’s out there.  And the big thing she told me was that he wouldn’t be potty trained by the time he was eight, and that sticks into my mind because she chose the year eight.

Alyssa:  Okay, that’s really confusing.  If you breastfeed your one-year-old at night, they won’t be potty trained when they’re eight?

Jamie:  Yes.  So this wasn’t our usual pediatrician; she had stepped in.  And immediately after she told me these things, I wanted to leave.  I stayed, but she could tell that there was a problem because I was silent.  She asked me if there was anything wrong, and I said yes, I don’t agree with anything that you’re saying!  The visit ended shortly after that.  I was kind of angry that she was telling me these things because I knew better.  So I called my dentist’s office, and I asked them about the cavities with breastfeeding.  I reached out to other individuals that I knew were very knowledgeable about breastfeeding and asked them different questions, and I ended up looking up scholarly articles, anything that had to do with research, that I could bring back to her and tell her that she was wrong.  I ended up calling the office a few days later.  I had all my stuff in front of me when I called.  I spoke to the manager, and I ended up speaking to the pediatrician.  I remember telling her that I felt sorry for her patients that believed everything she told them.  I said, “I am an educated person, but some people might not know as much about breastfeeding or they don’t know to do the research about it before making a decision, and they would go along with what you said.”  And she apologized.  She said she had no research to back up the potty training claim.

Alyssa:  Oh, wow.

Jamie: And she did end up sending me something in the mail, as well.  Ever since that encounter is when I became passionate about breastfeeding and being up to date on the research about it, sharing with others about it.

Alyssa:  And you joined several lactation support groups, correct?  You belong to a couple now?

Jamie:  I am on a couple of local Facebook groups about breastfeeding, and I talk to a lot of my friends about breastfeeding.  I just really want to educate people more about it, after that encounter.  So that’s just when I really started to delve into researching more about breastfeeding and the benefits that it has for both mother and baby.

Alyssa:  So what happened after the pediatrician visit and you realized that information was wrong?  Did you continue nighttime feeds?

Jamie:  I continued nighttime feeds.

Alyssa:  No cavities, and he potty trained?

Jamie:  No cavities, and I left that office and found a new pediatrician.  He’s a healthy, happy little boy.  He did end up weaning on his own because I was pregnant with my youngest at the time, and I could tell that had something to do with that.  But I was the working, pumping mom.  I brought my pump to work every day.  And it is a lot of work to pump at work, making the time to take those breaks.  I worked in a busy medical office, and it is hard to say, “I need to do this for my child,” when you know that other people are picking up your slack for a little bit.  But I think if, as a culture, we all realize that breastfeeding is good for mom; it’s good for babies; it’s good for our society.

Alyssa:  And aren’t there studies that say that women who breastfeed actually overall have a better sense of self-esteem, better sense of self, almost?  Like, they are actually more productive, even though we like to look at them and say, oh, well, I have to pick up your slack while you’re pumping?  Well, you know what, because you’re pumping, you actually are more productive when you are working.  Does that make sense?  I swear I’ve read things about that.

Jamie:  I’m not sure about that, but I do know that research shows that mothers miss less work because their babies are sick less and they’re not taking their kids to the doctor.  So it’s better for the economy overall.  We actually save millions of dollars; the United States saves millions of dollars every year through moms breastfeeding, so it’s important that you support your coworkers if they’re nursing.  It’s for a relatively short time in the grand scheme of things, and it’s great to also find those breastfeeding buddies at work.  I had other moms that nursed.  I had my nice, double electric pump, and it hurt when I pumped, but I never could figure out why, and finally I complained about it to a coworker who was also pumping.  She was a little more experienced mother, and she helped me realize that part of my pump was too small.

Alyssa:  Were the nipple shields too small?

Jamie: The flanges were too small, yeah, so I had to buy new ones, and that made a world of difference.  So it’s really helpful to find a more seasoned breastfeeding friend who can help you along your journey, because there’s lots of little things that you may not know about.

Alyssa:  Or a lactation consultant, right, if you get into those serious binds?

Jamie:  Yes.  Thankfully, I’ve never had mastitis or a clogged duct, but if I did, I definitely would have called a lactation consultant for help.

Alyssa:  So tell us about your third child.  I think your youngest has been a little bit longer, so tell us how that journey went.

Jamie:  Yeah, so my daughter turned three on Halloween, and I am still nursing her.  So this is definitely another new experience for me.  I would never have imagined I would be nursing a child for this long.  I have realized that I did have some preconceived notions about extended nursing; maybe some judgmental thoughts about it, as well.  And I honestly still struggle a little bit with those internally myself as I’m still nursing, thinking, man, you know, you should really stop; you should be done.  And while I would love to be done, I do want my daughter to wean on her own.  I tell myself I am decreasing my risk of ovarian cancer every time I nurse!  Even when you nurse your baby longer than the one or two years, it’s still healthy for Mom and it’s still healthy for Baby, and it’s been a very different experience doing this.

Alyssa:  So tell people what it looks like.  Having a three year old; it’s not going to be nursing every three hours.  Is it a nighttime feed kind of thing, or when she’s sick or tired?  Is it more like a comfort thing almost at this point?

Jamie:  It is more of a comfort thing.  She nurses at night.  However, I’ve been on three or four extended trips, and by extended, I mean I’ve been gone for four to six days at a time at conferences, and thinking every time I leave, this will be our last nursing session, and I come back and I don’t bring it up, but she still wants to nurse.  So it is usually just at night; if she’s feeling sick, then she’ll nurse a little bit more.

Alyssa:  And you don’t lose your milk supply after six days of being gone with no nursing?

Jamie:  I did not.  The first time I went away, she had just turned two, and it was the first time I had ever been away overnight from her, actually, when she was two.  So I did bring a pump with me, but I didn’t produce a lot when I pumped, so I knew that for my next trip, I wasn’t going to bring a pump with me.  But I still have a supply, and I was lucky enough with her, as well, to stay home with her for almost the first full year and nurse, and that was just a blessing.  I hadn’t been able to do that before with a child, and it was so nice not to have to pump for that time!  And then right around a year is when I started nursing school, and so I would pump when I was away from her.  And I finally decided to stop pumping.  Pumping is so hard!  If you’ve done it, you know!  And we’ve just been nursing ever since.

Alyssa:  Well, it sounds like a lovely plan.  You know, you say you had maybe judgments about nursing for that long.  What still bothers you that you think shouldn’t, or what have you had to tell yourself to get those thoughts out of your mind?

Jamie:  It’s still hard to get over the way our culture thinks about breastfeeding.  That you shouldn’t breastfeed in public; Mom should cover up; anything over a certain age is gross or weird, or why are you doing that?  Once they have teeth you should stop; once they start talking and can ask for it, you should stop.  All these different things our culture tells us about breastfeeding is a little backwards.  We know, if we went to a different country or a different culture, that things are definitely different than they are in the United States, but it’s just the media that always sexualizes breastfeeding as well, and you grow up with that.  So you’re growing up in this culture that sexualizes breasts, when we know that you use them also to breastfeed your child!  And so for me, it’s just getting past those thoughts that I’ve had growing up about breastfeeding and just telling myself this is normal and it’s okay to do.  It’s not hurting anyone.  It’s my decision as a mother.  It’s been a really neat and wonderful journey that I never though I’d be on.

Alyssa:  Well, and I imagine nursing a three-month-old and a three-year-old, you’re probably not going to attempt to breastfeed your three-year-old in public.  Or have you?

Jamie:  I don’t, but she doesn’t ask to, either.

Alyssa:  So it’s almost like you guys have this unspoken thing; that it’s something in private that you two do together, and I’m sure it’s still this amazing, beautiful bonding experience, just like it is with a newborn.

Jamie:  Definitely a strong bond, and again, I as a mother and a parent and working, I did reach a time where I wanted to be done.  I’m like, okay, we can be done with this now!  But I’m just letting her take the lead with it, and I can tell you that I do hope she’s done relatively soon!  I have another week-long trip coming up in three weeks.

Alyssa:  Maybe that will be it?

Jamie:  Yeah, we’ll see if that’s the end of our journey.

Alyssa:  You know, I wonder culturally, too, if it was a son who was three, would it be different, because of the sexualization of breasts?  Would it be different if it were a boy?  I don’t know; can they remember that at three when they get older?  I don’t know.  Just a thought that I wonder if that would make a difference.

Jamie:  I’m not sure.  I’m sure that for some people, a boy versus a girl breastfeeding is different.  I’ve had people very close to me tell me I should stop breastfeeding.  This was with my middle son when he was around six months.  I was still nursing, and I got asked, when are you going to stop?  He’s six months old!  And I tried to throw all the evidence-based research at them to show them that this was still okay; the AAP and WHO, all these big organizations say you should breastfeed until one.  And so then I got to one, despite people telling me to stop.  I just pretty much ignored them because I can be stubborn like that, and when he turned one, I got the same comments again.  When are you going to stop?  And it’s funny that once I just plowed through all the negativity and judgmental comments, I haven’t had those same comments with my last child, because I think those people know — well, obviously, she’s three now, but when she was younger, they knew I was going to continue breastfeeding her for as long as I wanted to.  So people may not talk about it a lot, but I have had the challenges at work with comments from people; I’ve had people very close to me have very negative comments about breastfeeding, and you see all the big media stories that just happen to pop up because social media is so prevalent now.  It is everywhere, but there’s all those things that women that you know may be experiencing but they don’t talk about it.  It doesn’t reach the news.  And so we really need to support everyone in their own breastfeeding journey because you don’t know what someone may be going through.

Alyssa:  Right, and I think as postpartum doulas, we have a unique experience and a unique opportunity to deal with this with new moms right when they come home with their babies, to really help support them.  Maybe we are that one person who’s cheering them on, in the face of everyone else who’s saying, why in the world would you do that?  Or isn’t that weird?  I remember having friends saying things that were trying to make it sexual when it’s not at all!  It’s something you can’t even describe to someone who doesn’t understand, this crazy bond.  And I get that.  Like, you so want to quit; some days, you’re just like, God, when is this going to be done?  But then when it finally is, you don’t get that back!  And then you actually kind of miss it.  It’s like you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.  And I do; I think back on it.  My daughter just turned five, so it’s been a long time since she breastfed, but I think back to those days, and there’s nothing like it.

Jamie:  One of the things that I really love about being a postpartum doula is the fact that I get to help mothers with breastfeeding.  That’s something I really enjoy, especially — they may have gotten some help from the lactation consultant at the hospital, but when they get home, that’s another ballgame.  Problems can start to arise.  They don’t feel confident anymore.  They think their milk’s not coming in.  So it’s really a blessing to support them.

Alyssa:  That’s one of the biggest fears for moms, I feel like, who are breastfeeding, is how do I know that the baby’s getting enough milk?  How do I know that the latch is right?  How is this supposed to feel?  There’s just so many questions about this thing that’s supposed to be so natural.  Like, we have boobs to breastfeed and it should be so natural, but it’s sometimes one of the most frustrating and difficult parts of having a baby, I feel like.

Jamie:  Definitely.  I would strongly recommend, if you are having problems with breastfeeding, there’s a lot of community support right in our own area.  There’s breastfeeding support groups from the hospitals; Le Leche League; we have wonderful lactation consultants in our area that will go to your home.  So it’s really important to utilize the resources that you have and reach out for help.

Alyssa:  Shira is our in-house lactation consultant, and having that consult in your home: it’s quiet; it’s one-on-one.  There’s nobody in the hospital coming to check your blood pressure and poke and prod you.  She spends two hours with them at that first visit, and she really gets to know you and what’s going on and figure out a solution.  So I feel like, yeah, that’s — I wish; if only I had known Shira four and a half years ago!

Jamie:  She’s very knowledgeable!  I do have lots of friends who ask me questions about breastfeeding, but I have sent her a quick text to say, hey, this is out of my scope of knowledge; can you help me with this problem?  And she helps me out.

Alyssa:  I think it’s great to have the support of postpartum doulas, and you have even more extensive knowledge than I do because of all the groups you’ve been in and the research you’ve done.  I’ve breastfed one child; you’ve done three.  I feel like we can do only so much for clients, though.  It’s good to know that they have a resource beyond our scope, to really help with the hard things.

Jamie:  Definitely!

Alyssa:  Well, thanks for sharing your stories!  If anyone has questions about breastfeeding or more questions for Jamie, in particular, you can always reach us at  Remember, these moments are golden!


Jamie’s Breastfeeding Experience: Podcast Episode #76 Read More »

Trusted birth team

Your Trusted Birth Team

We all know that becoming a parent is difficult, but most first time parents don’t really have a full understanding of how hard it will be until they’re in the midst of it. They may encounter fertility struggles or miscarriages; they realize that planning during pregnancy takes a lot of work; they have to find an OB or midwife they trust; they may hire a doula; and it takes time for new parents to put a postpartum support network in place.

Add on to that the stressors of guilt, living up to “social media standards”, unwanted advice from friends and family, fear of failure, and lack of confidence. It’s overwhelming and can leave parents feeling defeated before they even begin.

With information at our fingertips, how do we discern what’s evidence-based and what’s junk? What’s worth worrying about and what’s not? How does a parent today make an informed decision?

Luckily, our West Michigan families have so many great health care professionals to choose from and tons of options for support. We’re going to tell you how to begin this journey on the right path so you don’t go through this alone. If you are supported by a trusted team throughout, you are more likely to have a positive birth experience.

Let’s talk about some myths. It’s important to talk about the misconceptions the public has on every area of the support team. Let’s debunk those!

Doula Myth #1: Doulas only support home births.
At Gold Coast Doulas, over 80 percent of our births happen in a hospital. Our clients are seeking professional, experienced doula support in the hospital setting.

Doula Myth #2: Doulas only support parents who want an all-natural delivery.
Gold Coast Doulas supports any birth and respects all birth preferences.

Doula Myth #3: Doulas catch babies.
Definitely not! We are not a replacement for any medical staff, we are an added member of your birth team, there to offer informational, emotional, and physical support throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery.

Doula Myth #4: Doulas only offer birth support.
We have antepartum doulas that offer support for mothers on bed rest, are high-risk, or for any reason need additional help while pregnant. We also have postpartum doulas that support families once a baby, or babies arrive. They offer in-home care, day and overnight. They are like a night nanny and infant care specialist rolled into one!

Hospital Birth Myth #1: You can’t have an unmedicated birth in a hospital.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of our birth clients prefer an unmedicated birth in the safety of a hospital setting. Our West Michigan hospitals have many different options for a laboring person.

Hospital Birth Myth #2: An induction leads to a cesarean.
This is not always the case. In many cases, labor induction leads to a successful vaginal birth.

Hospital Birth Myth #3: You can’t move around during labor. 
As long as you don’t have an epidural, movement is encouraged. Even with an epidural, there are many possible position changes in bed that your birth doula can help you with. You won’t be lying on your back the entire time. Most hospitals have walking monitors for those who wish to move around during labor.

Midwife Myth #1: Midwives only support home births.
We have many local midwives that do support home births, one midwife that delivers in a birth house, and there are plenty of Certified Nurse Midwives that practice in hospitals! There are midwives in West Michigan for any kind of birth preference you have.

Midwife Myth #2: Midwives only support women during pregnancy and birth. 
Many midwives also offer well-woman care (annual exams).

OB Myth #1: They aren’t supportive of vaginal births after cesareans (VBAC) and it’s best to attempt one at home. 
This is often based on the hospital’s policy rather than preference of the doctor. Many hospitals are supportive of VBACs.

OB Myth #2: They do not work with doulas.
This is not the case. Many of our clients see an Obstetrician and most are very comfortable with professional doulas. Our team is always willing to accompany clients to a prenatal appointment if the provider is not comfortable with working with a doula.

OB Myth #3: They don’t like birth plans.
While this may be partially true just because many “birth plans” are eight pages long. Many things patients put on their birth plan are already protocol at most hospitals (skin to skin, delayed newborn procedures, etc). Knowing that providers have to see many patients in one day, it’s important to keep in mind that they cannot read through an eight page plan. Give them the information that is specific to you. “I want dimmed lights and music.” “I don’t want to be touched when I’m laboring.”

Millennials are over 80 percent of the pregnant population right now and they want answers! They want a relationship, and they want a team they can trust. Our parents and grandparents had one doctor who did everything. They trusted anything the doctor said and definitely didn’t go searching for answers on their own.

Medical care is different today, and families expect a different approach to their healthcare. Oftentimes they don’t even realize they need something more until they are expecting a child. It’s probably one of the biggest unknowns to ever happen in someone’s life. Having a trusted team by your side through the entire process can relieve the stress, pressure, and oftentimes unnecessary anxiety that comes with planning and preparing for pregnancy, labor, and postpartum.

If you are pregnant or even just thinking about starting or growing your family soon, reach out to us. We can offer local resources and our doulas are here to be your guides when you are ready.

In the meantime, here are some trusted online sources we recommend. Try your hardest not to get information from individuals online (mom groups, Facebook, etc)!

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

March of Dimes

Evidence Based Birth


Your Trusted Birth Team Read More »

Budgeting for a doula

How Much Does a Doula Cost?

With all of the expenses that accompany pregnancy and—eventually—parenthood, it’s natural to be concerned about your budget when considering hiring a doula.

So, how much does a doula cost? Prices vary widely and depend on the specific role of your doula, since there are both birth doulas and postpartum doulas. Their hours, rates, and responsibilities are very different from each other, so you’ll first need to determine which service you’d want by your side during these two distinct phases of your journey.

You can expect an investment of around $1000 to $1400 for either a birth doula or a postpartum doula through Gold Coast. This is a much lower range compared to average doula costs in the United States, which can run you up to $3k, and we even had a recent client comment on how cost-efficient our pricing is for everything that we offer.

To be honest, we certainly agree with him! Doulas like ours are on-call for clients 24/7 from the moment you sign a contract with us. But maybe you’re still wondering, what exactly does a doula do?

What Doulas Do

If you’re thinking about hiring a doula, it’s important to decide which of the two doula types you’d benefit from the most. A lot of first-time moms and dads find solace in hiring both a birth doula and a postpartum doula, while those who have had kids before might prefer hiring a birth doula but forgoing a postpartum one (or vice versa).

Birth Doula

The primary goal of a birth doula is to ensure that soon-to-be mothers have a safe, memorable, and empowering birth experience. Working in pregnancy and birth support, these doulas provide the following resources.

  • Prenatal expertise: Following an initial consultation, they’ll design an individualized birth plan after taking the time to get to know you and your partner.
  • Labor and delivery: During the actual labor and childbirth, your birth doula will be right there with reassuring and tangible comforts such as calming massages, breathing techniques, and position recommendations.
  • Medical advocacy: Behind the scenes, a birth doula connects with hospital or birth center staff to communicate your wishes and needs throughout the process.

Postpartum Doula

Perhaps less commonly known are postpartum doulas, who strive to create a fulfilling and comfortable support system after the birth. Postpartum doulas assist moms and dads with the complex yet exciting adjustment of bringing home a new baby.

  • Newborn care: Lactation and breastfeeding help, sleep consultations, diapering tips, infant hygiene—there are so many moving parts involved in newborn care, but with a postpartum doula in your corner, you don’t have to go it alone.
  • Emotional encouragement: There will be ups and downs as your family adapts to a new normal postpartum, and that’s why a doula who specializes in this transition is so invaluable, as you’ll have a supporter who knows what you’re feeling.
  • Household maintenance: Handling light chores is the last thing on your mind as a new parent, and a postpartum doula lifts that stress off your shoulders so that you can focus on what really matters… bonding with your baby!

Cost of a Doula

How much does a doula cost? Well, that can be a little unpredictable, but for doulas, unpredictability is part of the job. Some births are two hours long and others are multiple days in length. At Gold Coast Doulas, packages start at $1000 with payment plans available.

Doulas miss holidays and birthdays, and we’ll usually plan our vacations around client due dates; we’ll often add the “unless I’m at a birth” clause to social invites. We love this work, but it does take an emotional and physical toll.

Because it’s such an intensive profession, the charge for a doula tends to reflect that intensity, but as we’ve said, our Gold Coast Doulas team is worth much more than our current rates, for a very important reason: we want a teacher, or a caregiver, or an artist to be able to hire us without causing a huge financial strain.

All of our clients are so special to us, so our pricing is meant to keep this crucial resource accessible for everyone.

Ways to Pay For Your Doula

  • Out of Pocket– Conventionally, doulas are paid for by expectant parents out of their own pocket. Unfortunately, standard insurance doesn’t cover doula support in Michigan at this time, though we hope that changes in the near future. With that said, there are self-funded employer plans that you can look into like Progyny or Carrott Fertility.
  • HSA and FSA– We’re thrilled that most HSA and FSA plans now consider birth doulas a qualified medical expense. Many Gold Coast clients choose to allocate their HSA or FSA funds to pay for doula support.
  • Gifted– We’re finding that more and more grandparents or friends are gifting postpartum doula support or classes to our clients (we can make custom baby shower inserts and create gift cards for any of our services!). We’re also on the online and in-store baby registry at Ecobuns Baby & Co. in Holland, MI. Why not reduce the baby shower clutter and ask for a postpartum or birth doula instead?

Payment Plan Option

Gold Coast is proud to offer payment plans for most of our services once the standard deposit is made; we accept credit cards, cash, money orders, and checks. We’re a professional business and as a result do not barter for chickens or canned goods, although we do believe in supporting our local farmers with our own money.

We also have packages available if you purchase one or more classes or services, as we want you to feel supported and prepared as you start or grow your family. This makes adding on services more affordable and gives you the birth and/or postpartum support that you deserve.

Why Gold Coast Doulas Is Different

At Gold Coast Doulas, we go above and beyond to make our clients feel like VIPs because they are. We’re there for you 24/7, with a team of experienced and caring people who are eager to help you become a parent and thrive while doing it. Even with our exceptional service, clients frequently ask us how we can make doula support work within their budgets.

With Gold Coast, you don’t have to worry about how to pay for the care you need. Our extensive payment options (plus HSA/FSA funding and improvements in insurance coverage) minimize the hassle and maximize the support. We stand out among the rest because we truly love our clients and what we do, so providing the best possible birth and postpartum doula care is essential to meeting the standard we’ve set for ourselves.

We’re happy to customize any options just for you. Please reach out and email us ( with any questions or fill out our contact form. We’re here for you.


How Much Does a Doula Cost? Read More »

Gold Coast Doulas Team

Response to Article About Illinois Doula That Suppored an Unassisted Homebirth

There has been a lot of talk in the birth community lately about the recent case of the doula who pled guilty after attending an unassisted homebirth where the baby died. Our team is saddened for the family and for the doula community as a whole. Birth doulas do not take on a medical role, period. We offer emotional, physical, and informational support. Nothing more, nothing less.

Gold Coast Doulas works hard to maintain firm boundaries with clients. We never attend unassisted births. If we are supporting a homebirth before a midwife makes it, or are at the client’s home before heading to the hospital, our clients know we will not “catch the baby”. Our clients are informed at the prenatal that we will call 9-1-1 and will follow instructions. We don’t even try to read the monitor at the hospital. We aren’t trained to do that. 

We carry professional liability insurance for the agency and we stay within our scope of practice.  We are not trained to deliver babies or to offer medical advice to the birthing parent. We are your support team not a nurse, doctor, or midwife. We have so much respect for medical providers and the work they do; we would never assume we are able to diagnose or take on a medical role. We love working as a team with other care providers during labor and delivery.  

The doula who was convicted in this case presented herself as a certified birth doula and a certified Bradley Method instructor. She does not hold either of those certifications. You can trust that our certified doulas maintain their certifications including CPR and AED. We are always focused on continuing education and growing our skills as birth doulas.  We wear name tags with our credentials on them during births and meetings so medical professionals know who we are. Our pre-certified doulas have two years to complete certification requirements or they need to leave our team. Professionalism matters to us and it matters to our clients.    

Most doula trainings range from two to four days in length and take up to 2 years to complete. Doulas have readings, essays, an exam, and client and medical provider evaluations as part of their certification requirements. Many birth doulas also take a full breastfeeding class and a childbirth class. Not all doulas who practice in the community choose to certify or have even attended a formal training. At Gold Coast Doulas we know training and certification matter and allow us to better support our clients with experience and professionalism.

What we will promise our clients is that we will be honest and trustworthy. We will always work within our scope of practice. We will refer medical questions to medical providers. Gold Coast Doulas will support you without judgment through your pregnancy, birth, and immediately postpartum. You can count on us to do the right thing because it matters and so do you.  


Response to Article About Illinois Doula That Suppored an Unassisted Homebirth Read More »

Two babies holding hands while being held by their parents

Doula Support for Adoptive Families

Most parents probably don’t think about hiring a doula if they aren’t pregnant. They think of a birth doula only supporting a laboring mother, but that couldn’t be farther from reality. Birth doulas can support any parent. Postpartum doulas can support adoptive families by helping them to prepare for baby’s arrival and in-home after baby arrives. There are so many ways doulas can support families that are adopting!

At Gold Coast we are focused on educating parents. We offer several prenatal and postnatal classes to help new parents navigate this new territory. We offer a Newborn Survival class that goes over essentials of surviving those first few weeks and months home with your baby. Real life scenarios and raw topics are discussed to help parents feel confident in their roles.

We also offer a Prenatal Stress class. This is designed for any parent, pregnant or adopting, to understand the affects that stress has on a developing child’s brain, not just throughout pregnancy but through their growing years as well.

Infant Massage is a great way for adoptive parents to bond with a new baby. Our instructor offers classes as well as private in-home instruction. Another great way to bond is babywearing. We have a certified babywearing expert that does in-home instruction and can show you how to safely use your carrier(s).

For parents that might be bringing multiples home (twins or even triplets) we offer a Preparing for Multiples class, and we have a postpartum doula that is a mother of twins herself. Her in-home support, expertise, tips, and tricks are invaluable!

If grandparents will be primary care givers, we offer a class called The Modern Grandparent that updates them on the latest safety information as well as informs them about today’s parent and how parenting styles differ from generations past.

Our lactation consultant can help adoptive mothers induce lactation and can also offer advice about chest feeding.

At Gold Coast, our postpartum doulas are available day and night. Daytime support includes help with baby bonding, newborn care, help with older siblings, meal prep, and evidence based resources. Your postpartum doula is your trusted guide for anything baby related. Overnight support allows parents to get a full nights rest while the doula takes care of the baby through the night. The doula will feed the baby, burp, change diapers, etc allowing the parent(s) to get as much rest as possible knowing there is an experienced professional caring for their child. 

A postpartum doula is an amazing gift idea for baby showers! We can create a custom insert for your shower invitations and you can also register online for any of our services at EcoBuns Baby + Co online.

We also offer Gentle Sleep Consultations. Sleep is critical for adults and babies. Babies needs proper sleep for brain development and physiological growth. Parents need sleep to help manage the day to day obstacles of parenthood as well as for basic health and wellness.

We also have doulas specially trained in grief that can help you through loss.

Some of the trusted resources we suggest to families are:

Kelly Mom Athough there is alot of information about breastfeeding on this site, there are some relevant parenting and adoptive parenting tips as well.

This link features several apps our clients like.

The Baby Connect Tracker App is also popular with our clients.

At Gold Coast Doulas, we pride ourselves on being the premier doula agency in West Michigan. We offer judgment-free support to all families regardless of their parenting styles. We are here for your family, wherever you are in your journey.


Doula Support for Adoptive Families Read More »

Gold Coast Doulas Team

Podcast Episode #55: What Sets Gold Coast Doulas Apart?


What sets Gold Coast Doulas apart?  Today Dr. Rachel of Rise Wellness asks us why she should refer her clients to us.  She already knows she loves us, but why should everyone else?  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Kristin:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I’m Kristin, co-owner.

Alyssa:  And I’m Alyssa.  Today we’re talking to Dr. Rachel again of Rise Wellness Chiro.  Hey!

Dr. Rachel:    Hey, I’m back.

Alyssa:  Tell us a little bit about Rise.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, so I am co-owner of Rise Wellness Chiropractic with Dr. Annie, and we specialize in prenatal chiropractic care and pediatric care.  So we see a lot of pregnant women.  We are out in the community talking to a lot of pregnant women, teaching some different classes, and whenever we talk to anyone or any patient, we always recommend they have a doula at their birth.

Kristin:  Love it!

Dr. Rachel:  Yes, so we love you guys, obviously.  I used you guys.  So I just thought maybe you could tell us more about why we should refer to you.

Kristin:  Good question.

Dr. Rachel:  Because there’s a lot of doulas out there now.  You see it a lot more now, I feel.

Kristin:  Yeah, it is becoming more popular than when I became a doula about five years ago, and so we set ourselves up to the highest standards of care at Gold Coast.  As many people know, doulas are not regulated.  There’s no board certification.  So anyone could call themselves a doula, but our doulas are all trained or working towards certification.  It takes about two years to get certified for birth or postpartum, and our postpartum doulas are also current with all of the CPR, heart saver, AED certifications.  And so in order to work with us, you’re at that higher level.

Dr. Rachel:  What classes do the doulas take?

Alyssa:  DONA and ProDoula are two of the biggest certifying organizations.  Those are what most of our doulas come from.  There are a couple others.

Kristin:  Yeah, we have some Cappas, and we have doulas in other training programs, so we don’t select certain ones.  We do prefer that our doulas have had an in-person versus an online training, and the trainings can vary from two to four days, depending on the certification organization.  And then depending, again, on what program they’re going through, oftentimes an OB or a midwife would need to sign off on a certain number of births, as well as nurses in the room and clients.  And then there’s hospital research that needs to be done.  Books need to be read and essays and exams, and there’s a whole process, and it is different for every organization, but yet pretty similar in the structure.

Alyssa:  So a lot of our doulas are certified already, and the ones that are trained and working towards certification have a certain amount of time, and if they don’t fulfill those obligations within that 18- to 24-month period, then when it expires, they have to leave.  So we’re really, really adamant about that because if we’re saying that we’re a professional, experienced agency and these are our requirements, we have to stand by that.

Dr. Rachel:  So you guys offer a lot of other things besides just having a doula here at Gold Coast?

Alyssa:  Yes!

Kristin:  Yes!

Dr. Rachel:  Which I think is cool, because then you have your doula but then you’re also – then you can refer out to, like, oh, you want placenta encapsulation or help with breastfeeding or all these other classes.  So tell me about those.

Kristin:  Yeah, and with everything, again, trying to have the highest standards of care, there are a variety of lactation consultants, and our lactation consultants are the highest standard, so IBCLC, and they go through years of training in order to do that.  And HypnoBirthing; our childbirth education instructors are certified and maintain those certifications every two years, and our placenta encapsulator has gone through a certification program and is certified and keeps current with bloodborne pathogens and all of the other exams you need.

Dr. Rachel:  And weren’t you just telling me the other day that she comes and pick up the placenta?

Kristin:  Yes, from the hospital.

Dr. Rachel:  Which is nice, because not all of them do, right?  Sometimes you have to bring home the placenta?

Alyssa:  Sometimes, probably, but all of ours will come pick up at the hospital or home if they’re having a home birth.

Kristin:  One of our doulas is a certified placenta encapsulator, and her certification only has her do in-home, so some of our clients like to have that prepared in home and they actually bring the placenta home and then she does all of the encapsulation right there in front of them.

Alyssa:  The majority tend to want it picked up at the hospital and brought to the encapsulator’s work space and just dropped back off to them when it’s done.  But I think the reason we offer so many things is, you know, you find out you’re pregnant, and where do I go?  Who do I ask all these questions to?  And to know that you can come to Gold Coast and get evidence-based resources and talk to experienced professionals is invaluable.  Our response time is quick; we’ve noticed that if you don’t respond to somebody right away, they just assume that you don’t care or that to be unresponsive just gives a new mom a bad feeling.

Kristin:  Yeah, we work seven days a week.  We answer the Gold Coast line seven days a week and respond the day of, if not immediately.

Dr. Rachel:  How does it work?  So they’re, like, hey, they reach out to you, whether email or call, but you have 18 doulas; is that right?

Kristin:  Yes.

Dr. Rachel:  So how do you get matched with your doula?

Alyssa: Sometimes people ask for somebody specific.  “I was on your website, and I really love so-and-so.”

Kristin:  Right, or it could be location-based.  We have some lakeshore doulas, so we try to pair them with clients who are delivering in the hospital, but are Grand Rapids doulas, of course.  We serve a 50-mile radius, so we will travel, and some of our clients – Alyssa can attest to this – will only want a certified doula, so that would limit the pool, or are looking for a lower rate, and we do offer different pricing structures for birth based on where a client is looking for a certified or a pre-certified doula.   And so if they are looking for a reduced rate, we would give them our doulas who are experienced, but also working towards their certification.

Alyssa:  Right, even if they’re trained and working towards that certification, they could be twelve months in, and they could have had several clients and have done most, if not all, of their coursework.  They just have to get all of their clients.

Dr. Rachel:  Is there a test at the end or is it just –

Kristin:  It’s an exam, yeah.

Alyssa:  Yeah, and lots of reading and lots of clients.  And for births, they have to be qualifying births.  So they could have attended 20 and only 1 qualified because they went too quick or any number of reasons.

Dr. Rachel:  What’s a qualified birth?

Kristin:  It depends on the organization.  Most organizations require three signed-off births.  But again, it depends.  If you had three Cesareans, only one would count, or if it was a quick birth, it needs to be at least ten hours for some organizations in order to count.  And then again, with my first doula certification, Sacred Doula, before I went through the Pro Doula birth certification, I needed to have doctors.  So I might have gotten the nurse to sign; I might have gotten my client to sign, but if I couldn’t reach that doctor immediately after the birth to get he or she to sign, then that one didn’t count.  A lot of the birth trainings require auditing a full childbirth preparation class, so that could be anywhere from five weeks to twelve weeks, and also sitting in on a breastfeeding class so you understand how to support a breastfeeding mother.

Dr. Rachel:  When I took your breastfeeding class, I think someone was sitting in on it.

Alyssa:  Maybe one of our doulas?

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, I took it through Shira, yeah.

Kristin:  So yeah, there’s a lot of preparation outside of that, and with my first certification, I also needed to take a business class, so I took a social media marketing-focused class as well to build my business.

Alyssa:  And one thing we haven’t mentioned is we are fully insured.  I know a lot of doulas aren’t, but we as a company are, and we have done background checks for clients or we can do drug screenings.  Anything that a client might need us to do, we’re able to do for them.

Kristin:  Yes, so we have – obviously in our classroom space and office, we have the full professional liability, but then we have the doula agency covered, and some of our clients have asked us to see our insurance.  And then we’ve also, for clients who are concerned about vaccinations, we’ve shown immunization records.  If they want doulas to have the flu shot, for example, then we would give them doulas and be able to prove that they have the current flu shot.

Alyssa:  And we keep all that information on file, readily accessible, so I know if a client calls and says I want to see someone’s immunizations; I want them to also have a flu shot, and I want to give them a drug test and a background test, I can look at my chart and be like, okay, this person, this person, this person.

Dr. Rachel:  That’s really awesome.

Kristin:  Yeah, especially for overnight doula support, they want to know that if you’re caring for their child, their baby, when they’re sleeping, that they can trust that individual.  So I feel on the postpartum end of things, the background checks, the screenings, are more rigorous than, say, for birth.

Alyssa:  Anything else you think that clients have questions on when you say you should hire a doula because you’re pregnant?

Dr. Rachel:  No, they probably just ask why.  I tell them because you don’t know what you’re doing.  You don’t know!  I mean, yes, your body can do it naturally, but if you’re not prepared for birth… I tell them to take a birthing class, too.  And have a doula there; they know what to do.  Like I said, when I sat down with you and Ashley, I was, like, oh, good.  You guys got this handled!  I’ll just listen to you!

Kristin:  Right!  We’ve got you covered, and we can also support the partner equally, and you know, regardless of how you’re preparing, whether it’s taking a hospital class or HypnoBirthing or Lamaze or Bradley, then we’re able to support and reaffirm what you learned in class and regardless – again, we pride ourselves on judgment-free support, so birth doulas, postpartum doulas – however you parent, however you choose to birth, it’s cool with us.  So if you want to get an epidural the second you walk in the hospital, let me make you comfortable and try to help things progress.  If you have a planned Cesarean, then we’ll help you along that way, as well as, obviously, an unmedicated birth experience.  Some doulas prefer to only support unmedicated births or only home births, but we will support everyone equally, and we’ve done specific trainings that are beyond the scope of a doula training to make us even more…

Alyssa:  More inclusive.  You know, we’ve had diversity training, an LGBTQ training.  We’re just looking at this community, saying, whoever approaches us and asks for support, how do we best support them?

Kristin:  Yes.  So we’ve done an empathy training.  A lot of our doulas went through the Mothership Certification program, which is a weekend-long training.  And also our lactation consultant and infant massage specialists, they both went through the training with me when it was first launched, and so that’s about empathy, working with healthcare professionals, with clients.  And so we did that training.  We did a disability training to be able to support clients both in birth and postpartum with various disabilities, and that was so helpful and nothing I ever learned at a doula training or a conference.  I go to conferences every year and some very specific niches, so we’re able to, again, serve more communities.  And one thing that Gold Coast does is that most of us work in the partner model.  How did you feel about hiring two doulas versus one doula?

Dr. Rachel: Yeah, it was great.  It’s nice to know that you always – well, it’s just nice to have two people to bounce ideas off, or like you said, once you hire your doula, they’re there for the whole pregnancy, so when I would text a question, you both would answer.

Kristin:  Right, and we have different backgrounds and experiences.  Ashley was your HypnoBirthing instructor, so you had her knowledge as well and my long-time experience, so yeah, that’s a benefit.  We only allow the option for certified doulas on our team to serve as a solo doula, and they still have the benefits of the team within Gold Coast if there’s an emergency or if the doula has the flu or if two clients deliver on the same day.  They would have a backup within our team, but they prefer to reduce their client load and focus on that individual connection.  So for a client who doesn’t necessarily feel comfortable with a team, we give that option, but most doulas in this area work in a solo model with a backup, and you may or may not know who that backup is.

Alyssa:  That’s why most tend to like our team approach.

Kristin:  And then in the postpartum time, we have some clients who want a lot of hours in a package, and so they may be working with five doulas or they may have one doula.  So Alyssa handles a lot of that scheduling.

Alyssa:  Yeah, that’s another thing that sets us apart, I think, is when you’re working with just a doula who does postpartum work, she’s limited in how many hours she can do.  But we have enough that when we have clients call and say I need somebody day and night for two months straight, we can cover those shifts.

Kristin:  It’s nice to cover inclusively with our team and their different skill sets.  Some of our doulas are also CLCs, so basic lactation consultants, so if they’re in the home postpartum, they’re able to support with basic breastfeeding needs.  If there are specific issues, we can bring our IBCLC there.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, it’s probably just nice to be, even as a doula at Gold Coast, to be able to reach out, like, oh, I have this going on; do you have any advice?

Kristin:  Yes, we can bounce situations or an induction question or how do you navigate this or trying to get baby in a better position.  So we have the whole team to run things by, and they can always call me if it’s a birth issue and a doula is uncertain how to handle a situation.  And then we’re so fortunate in that our infant massage instructor is also a licensed therapist and specializes in postpartum mood disorders and working with women in that time, and so we’re able to use her as a reference and a referral source.  She’s helped us process some experiences we’ve had where a doula sometimes needs therapy, needs help dealing with some of the emotions surrounding what we are holding space for.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I think our team – we can rely on each other.  We have a private Facebook group where we can ask all these questions of each other, support each other, give each other accolades.  We have meetings.

Kristin:  Yeah, and yearly, I set up a birth doula skill share, so we all spend half of a day together and go through just different comfort measures and things we’ve learned at conferences and other trainings, and just reaffirm each other and, you know, increase our skills.  If you don’t practice, then you lose it.

Alyssa:  Yeah, we’ve got a large enough team that we can cover everybody.

Kristin:  Yeah, we say from the moment a woman conceives through the first year of a child’s life, we’ve got most everything they need, and if we don’t, we have referral partners like you, like if baby’s having trouble latching and they need a chiropractor or they need to go see a pediatric dentist or they need to get some PT done during pregnancy.  Could be a variety of things.  We know everyone in the area as far as related practitioners to be able to refer them out.

Alyssa:  Well, if there’s anybody pregnant listening, why don’t you tell them how to find Rise, and we can tell them how to find Gold Coast.

Dr. Rachel:  You can find us at our website.  We are in the same building at Gold Coast.

Alyssa: We’re in the Kingsley Building in East Town, so we’re right above the restaurant Terra.

Kristin:  And besides our website, we’re also on Instagram and Facebook.  You can pretty much find us anywhere online.

Alyssa:  Thanks for joining us again, Dr. Rachel.

Dr. Rachel:  thank you!

Alyssa:  Remember, these moments are golden.


Podcast Episode #55: What Sets Gold Coast Doulas Apart? Read More »

Kelsey Dean

Meet Kelsey, our newest Certified Postpartum Doula!

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

I have always secretly been a doula, just in other facets. Before becoming a doula, I ran a mental wellness day center in northern California, and I also worked at an emergency youth shelter looking to reduce rates of domestic violence, child abuse, and human trafficking.

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

I have an educational background in both holistic healthcare and Western medicine, and when I learned about doulas, I considered the role a bridge between the two worlds. I was taken with the concept, and the doula community was supportive as well as informational about how to get involved.

3) Tell us about your family.

We are spread far and wide throughout the country! I’m fortunate to have nearby friends and a community with whom I am very close, including living with two elementary school teachers who I’ve known since college. I’m an only child, raised by my father after my mother died at an early age.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

Toss up: I recently rediscovered my affection for the desert (think Horsheshoe Bend, Antelope Canyon, Zion), but I think my ultimate retreat is intruding upon the silence of the redwood forests.

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

  1. Nahko & Medicine for the People: While I enjoy also his style of music, he’s my number 1 because his message is deeply aligned with many of my personal visions and values.
  2. Maps & Atlases: They’re one of those bands that has stuck around with me through the years; I enjoy their unique sound and style. While I don’t listen to them much anymore, they’re like coming home to distant family.
  3. St Paul and the Broken Bones: One of my favorite memories is dancing to them live at a music festival in Napa Valley. They are such a fun and lively bunch of humans, and they are willing to go into those deep feelings with levity at heart.
  4. Tank and the Bangas: I guarantee if you watch their NPR Tiny Desk concert (it’s on YouTube), you will understand.
  5. Miguel: He might not actually be one of my all-time favorites, but his music just gives me all of those lovey-juicy-gooey feels and I’ve been really enjoying dancing to it lately while unloading the dishwasher.
  6. Bonus: To be transparent, I believe I have to admit here that my guilty pleasure shower singing go-to is Ariana Grande.

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

Pace yourself. I definitely didn’t come up with this pearl of wisdom myself, but I think it’s a very important reminder to new parents. There are voices coming from so many different directions, asking how soon things can happen, and it can be distracting (and sometimes disheartening). When that ungrounded feeling begins, it’s important to notice it, sit with it, and take a step back so as not to lose ourselves in the rush of transition.

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

Being a communications jedi! It can make all the difference in a conversation when another person is present to listen and reflect back; I think doulas bare the gift of being able to pull out deeper truths in many conversations because they are reading how you say things as well as what you’re saying.

8) What is your favorite food?

Favorite?! I could never! I like Indian, Thai, Lebanese, Spanish, Eritrean; whatever I can find. After living in a co-housing community for a few years, I also came to appreciate cooking like an American farmland hippy.

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

Grand Rapids, though I’m still exploring! I lived in Allendale when I went to Grand Valley, but moved away quickly after graduating. Upon my return to the Gold Coast this fall, I’ve noticed an abundance of growth and development throughout the city; I love exploring all of the neighborhoods’ new-to-me treasures.

10) What are you reading now?

“Natural Health after Birth” by Dr. Aviva Romm. I have much admiration for Dr. Romm’s newsletters and podcasts, and her postpartum information does not disappoint! I find her information is based in both holistic healthcare and Western medicine.

11) Who are your role models?

Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Alan Watts, Paul Hawken, Elizabeth Davis, Amy Gordon, Elizabeth Gilbert, Alex Atala & my Sonoma County doula sisters.


Meet Kelsey, our newest Certified Postpartum Doula! Read More »

Birth Doula

Podcast Episode #42: Building Your Birth Team

What should your birth team look like?  What kinds of questions do you need to ask and who should you be talking to when you find out you’re pregnant?  We answer these questions and more on today’s podcast with Rise Wellness Chiropractic.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud


Alyssa:  Hello, again.  Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa, your host, and I’m talking with Dr. Annie and Dr. Rachel again of Rise Wellness.  So we had the idea of talking about building a birth team and what that might look like for new parents as they start this journey because there are obviously a lot of options.  And we can talk about doulas and we can talk about chiropractic care, but we can also ask you, Dr. Rachel, as a fairly recent mom.  Your twins are how old now?

Dr. Rachel:  Ten months today.

Alyssa:  Ten months.  So you’ve fairly recently went through this whole process of, like, who do I need to talk to?  What does my birth plan look like?  What was the first thing when you found out you were pregnant?  Like, I need to call – who?  Your OB?  Your husband?

Dr. Rachel:  I need to tell my husband!  Yeah, my OB.  That’s who I called first, probably.

Alyssa:  So did you have an OB already that you liked?

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, my gyno, yeah.  I liked her.

Alyssa:  And she’s also an OB?

Dr. Rachel:  Yes.  There was the thought of, do I want to go this route?

Alyssa:  Is she the right one?

Dr. Rachel:  Yes, is she the right one?  I met with a midwife.  Yeah, so I guess I did do all that.

Alyssa:  For birth clients, their providers don’t often change, but I think once you wrap your head around this plan of what you see as ideal, you might realize that your current healthcare team might not be the right team to achieve those goals, and we have to tell people that it’s okay.  They’re working for you; you can interview around and pick a new one.  Why not?

Dr. Annie:  Ultimately, you want to figure out what your ideal birth looks like and what that team looks like that’s going to support you through that process.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, and encourage you, and not question you on everything you want to do right.  I feel like I didn’t get that a lot from my OB, but I know a lot of our patients do.  I feel I didn’t get it because I was a chiropractor.  She kind of left me alone.

Alyssa:  So do you think that meant she knew you already did your research?

Dr. Rachel:  Yes.

Alyssa:  You’re an educated mom.

Dr. Rachel:  Yes.

Alyssa:  So they’re assuming these other moms are not?

Dr. Rachel:  Yes, because I have friends that also had her, and they would get a lot of pushback.

Alyssa:  Like got the third degree?  Interesting.  I wouldn’t ever think about it that way because I think a lot of our moms do get that pushback, but I think being educated in the biggest part of that, right?  If you know your stuff, if they can say, well, why do you want that?  If they do give you pushback, then you say, well, because –

Dr. Rachel:  I’m sure there’s some moms out there way more educated than I am or planning to be a mom and really have thought about it more than I did.

Dr. Annie:  I think that’s where an organized birth plan comes in, too, and having support and people that support you like doulas helps you with that pushback, if you do get pushback from your OB or from your midwife or whoever; your family.

Alyssa:  It can come from all directions.

Dr. Rachel:  I mean, the first thing I did – well, I knew you, so I talked to you and met with Ashley and Kristin, and I was like, cool.  You guys have this handled.  I don’t have to worry about anything anymore.  You’re going to get me through all of it.  I am no longer worried; you know how to get me through labor; you know how to do everything.  So I highly recommend doulas.

Alyssa:  Doulas will help with it, but they won’t write your birth plan – did you have a birth plan?

Dr. Rachel:  Yes, I did.  I took your hypnobirthing class.  So that’s another thing; you should decide what kind of birthing class you want to take.  I would also highly recommend that.  It was awesome.

Alyssa:  Which helps with that whole education piece, that you’ve done your homework and taken childbirth classes.

Dr. Rachel:  And with hypnobirthing, they kind of help you with a birth plan of what you want.  Ashley goes through that with you.

Alyssa:  And they don’t do it for you, but they will explain some things and answer questions and ultimately, you know, we want, and doulas in general, at least at Gold Coast, want you to be informed and educated to make your own decisions.  Parents will call us and say, well, I want you to advocate for me, and that’s not what we do.  We will empower you to advocate for yourself because you’re educated and have fact-based resources that you were given to make those decisions.  But we don’t sit there and tell people what to do on your behalf.

Dr. Rachel:  No, and I think what happens, and what even happened to me, is you get there and they really – you can have a birth wherever; home birth, hospital birth.  I ended up having a hospital birth, but they scare you into doing what they want to do, so it’s really important to be educated but also have people that are there supporting you and empowering you that no, you know the right decision and what’s best for you.  So stand up for yourself while you’re there.  And it’s hard to do.

Alyssa:  Right.  And that too; are you’re going to have a hospital birth?  Are you going to have a home birth?  Are you going to call the one birth center in Grand Rapids?

Dr. Rachel:  Are you going to do a water birth?

Alyssa:  Yeah, and even if it’s a hospital birth, are you interested in the natural birthing suites that are available?  Are you limited to a hospital based on your insurance?  Finding out all these things and going from there.

Dr. Rachel:  Do you want an epidural?  Do you not want an epidural?

Dr. Annie:  Do you want a midwife or an OB?  That’s another big question.  A lot of people are uncomfortable with midwives because they don’t think they’re as trained or they’re scared that something might go wrong during the birth, so I hear that a lot from people who are interested in home births and want to have a midwife and want to do the crunchy natural thing, but are like, what if something does go wrong?  And I think one of the biggest things that most midwives would tell you is that they’re so trained to recognize flags before they’re even red flags that if, for some reason, anything would go wrong, so many of them are so experienced, and they know exactly how to handle that situation.

Dr. Rachel:  But also, “going wrong” is so different in a midwife home birth.

Dr. Annie:  That’s true.

Dr. Rachel:  Compared to in the hospital.  You know, “going wrong” in the hospital is anything.

Dr. Annie:  Oh, levels of intervention?

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, where you have to think, this is just natural.  Your body is doing what it needs to do at home, so it’s just…

Dr. Annie:  Midwives come from more of the philosophy of supporting the woman rather than taking control of the birth, too.  There’s this great quote by Ina May Gaston that I wrote down.  “Most women need encouragement more than they need drugs,” and I think that’s true throughout their pregnancy.  That’s true throughout the birth process, and really, that’s true for most people throughout their lives.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I was going to say even postpartum and beyond, right?  Just tell me I’m doing a great job and then maybe I won’t be so down on myself, you know?  Those little things, little pieces of encouragement from family and friends.

Dr. Annie:  Trusting the natural process and knowing that your body is capable of doing what it’s supposed to do, what it’s designed to do.

Alyssa:  Well, and the beauty of this, too, is that there’s so many midwives that work in hospitals.  So you can get the best of both worlds.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, if you are scared of something going wrong.

Alyssa:  Yeah, and a lot of times, it’s the partner who might be a little scared.  You know, Mom might say she wants a water birth at home, and Dad says heck, no.  No way; that’s not safe; blah blah blah.  Well, how about a midwife in a hospital?  Maybe the natural birthing suites?  And as long as you’re low risk, it’s a pretty beautiful option.

Dr. Rachel:  Let me just tell you, those hospital beds are uncomfortable.  I cannot believe they are putting pregnant women in those.  So I would totally opt for – if I didn’t have a twin pregnancy and all these things, I would have wanted it done at home, too.  I would have done the natural birthing suite at Spectrum.  Don’t you get a normal bed there?

Alyssa:  It’s a king-size bed, I believe.

Dr. Rachel:  It’s better than what I have at home.

Alyssa:  I mean, you don’t get to stay there after delivery.  You walk in there and you go wow, this is amazing.  If you could stay there for two days… it’s literally like a beautiful hotel room.  But unfortunately, they have to move you for the next lady coming in.

Dr. Rachel:  You can just – even to lay in that bed, gosh.

Alyssa:  We’ve had a few couples who have delivered in there, and it’s just kind of happened where Dad was sitting against the back of the bed and Mom was kind of between his legs, so he got to support her and talk into her ear, which is kind of a nice thing you can do in that sort of environment that you can’t in others.  So what else was in your process when you found out you got pregnant?  You found your OB first.

Dr. Rachel:  I found my OB.

Alyssa:  You obviously knew a chiropractor…

Dr. Rachel:  I knew a chiropractor.  Check!  Yeah, met with you guys.  Just taking classes, like I said.  I’m a chiropractor; I can adjust someone and educate them on what they should do and support them.  I know how to do all that, but I never had a baby before.  So yeah, I took your lactation class.  I took the hypnobirthing class.  I tried to do whatever I could.  I read books.  I would say find a lactation consultant, one that you like.  I would do that beforehand, also.  I would take that class and I would find one you trust because you think you’re going to have these babies and they’re just going to breastfeeding, and that shit is hard.  And the people that just show up in your hospital room aren’t the nicest, I’ll be honest.

Alyssa:  Yeah, they have a lot of people to go see.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, so find someone you like beforehand.  I would definitely put that on there.

Alyssa:  Well, and like you said, if you take the breastfeeding class with our lactation consultant, Shira, you kind of already know her, and then to have her come to your home for a consult, you know, the day you get home…

Dr. Rachel:  You feel comfortable; you don’t feel judged.

Alyssa:  You know her; she spends two hours with you alone, and not, hey, I’m here for 15 minutes until I get to the next patient.

Dr. Rachel:  Yes, I would recommend that also.

Alyssa:  What other parts about the birth plan that you created in hypnobirthing?  What else would be important for people to know?

Dr. Rachel: For new parents to educate themselves on?  Deciding if they want interventions; do they want an epidural?  Do they want to hydrate themselves?  Do they want to be on an IV?  These are things I don’t even think, if you have a hospital birth, that you realize you have a choice about.  Like, no, I’m going to hydrate myself; I don’t want to be hooked up to an IV; I want to be able to walk around.  I would say do the hospital tour, also, so you feel a little bit more comfortable about where you’re going.  They have lots of options for you while birthing.  But if they hook you up all of a sudden, you can’t do anything.

Alyssa:  Right, unless there’s something that calls for it, right?  Like if you really need it.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, if you have to.  That’s also when you ask questions.  Like, that was a big thing about HypnoBirthing; they teach you, am I okay?  Is Baby okay?  And if we’re okay, do we really have to do this right now?  And then what do you want for Baby once Baby’s born?  Do you not want them to clamp the cord right away?  Do you want to do the vitamin K?  Do you want the hepatitis B?  Do you want the drops in the eye?  There’s all these things.  And they ask you.  They do ask you.  I was surprised I was asked.  Even though I had a birth plan, they’re still like, do you want this?

Alyssa:  Yeah, and for new parents who don’t even know what this stuff is, again, you research it.  You figure it out.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, you figure out what’s best for you.

Alyssa:  And as doulas, and I’m sure as chiropractors, too, you don’t judge them based on the decisions they’re making as parents.  You work with them where they are and figure out the best solution for them at this time.  What about chiropractic care?  So you find out you’re pregnant; does chiropractic care change for you?  You have Dr. Annie working on you because you can’t work on yourself.  So does that change or does a mom who doesn’t see a chiropractor – what would she need to know?  Like, okay, now I’m pregnant; I need to do this?

Dr. Annie:  I think for somebody who’s been under chiropractic care, what happens as your body’s changing and as your baby’s growing, we focus more on pelvic alignment and making sure that everything is in the right spot; making sure all the bones are moving together the way they’re supposed to and making sure that the joints are really not super mobile, but we want them to be able to move the way that they’re supposed to for the birth process.  So it helps remove that tension in the pelvis; helps the nervous system communicate the way it’s supposed to because your brain needs to tell all your reproductive organs what to do.  And it removes tension on the uterine ligaments, too.  So a lot of women with babies that maybe aren’t in the right presentation, like if the baby is breech or posterior, sometimes that’s caused from intrauterine constraint, and so there’s specialized chiropractic techniques, like Webster technique which we’re certified in, to help with the ligament tension so that the uterus can balance within the pelvis and then the baby can get into the right position that it’s supposed to be in.

Alyssa:  Yeah, because if you think when you’re growing a baby and you gain, 20, 30, 40, 50 pounds, that’s got to put straight on your muscles.  Well, you had twins… do you want to say how much you gained?

Dr. Rachel:  I think I gained 60 to 70 pounds.

Dr. Annie:  It puts tons of strain on your muscles, but also you have relaxin in your system, so your ligaments are softening, anyway, so those muscles try to stabilize everything that’s going on.  So a lot of women will have low back or butt pain, like sciatic symptoms, just while they’re pregnant because all of a sudden, they’re carrying so much more weight in the front of their bodies.  So chiropractic can help with that, too.  We’re good with that.

Alyssa:  I saw on Instagram a guy with a watermelon duct-taped to his belly, and the wife was like, now you know what I feel like!  But it was kind of true, you know, like imagine walking around all summer with a watermelon duct-taped to your belly.

Dr. Annie:  Oh, yeah.  And within a couple of months, you’re gaining a lot of weight; your body’s changing very, very rapidly.

Alyssa:  It’s got to put strain on your back.

Dr. Annie:  Exactly, and strain on your nervous system, too.  But yeah, chiropractic care; there’s been a lot of studies that show that there’s less intervention, which is awesome for moms and babies, especially if that’s part of your birth plan.  Less emergencies; less birth trauma, things like that.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, because you have to realize whatever you’re given during your labor and delivery, the baby’s getting, also.  So I don’t think a lot of people realize that, either.

Alyssa:  Depending on what the intervention is, it can affect breastfeeding.  You know, mom can be groggy; baby can be groggy.  A lot of weird side effects, right?

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah.  For healthy pregnancy, staying fit is important.  So what kind of fitness do you want to be doing?  Prenatal yoga, or there’s Fit for Moms and they do a lot of prenatal classes.  That’s important; finding what you feel comfortable doing while you’re pregnant.

Alyssa:  Yeah, and what about the mom who doesn’t work out, finds out she’s pregnant, and says, oh, boy, I better get on this train now?  You know, I’ve heard doctors say that – and none of us are medical doctors so we shouldn’t give advice, but I’ve heard them say whatever you’re doing before you’re pregnant, you can continue it as long as it seems right for your body, but you don’t want to just start lifting weights after you get pregnant.

Dr. Rachel:  I’m going to go to CrossFit now!

Alyssa:  Right, I’m going to do CrossFit, bootcamp, start running.

Dr. Annie:  If your body’s used to it, then you can usually continue it, unless there’s issues that your MD tells you not to lift heavy weights anymore, things like that.  But typically, you don’t want to start anything too vigorous if you haven’t been active.  Walking is amazing.  Prenatal yoga is great.  Those are all good choices, and I think that’s one thing: most women find out they’re pregnant and are like, I want to be fit for my baby; I want to look at my nutrition because I want to make sure my baby’s healthy.  I’m going to stop drinking; you know, anything like that.  But I don’t think a lot of thought goes into, necessarily, the birth plan and their birth team and stuff.  So that’s a really important piece, too, especially if you need advocates to help you.

Alyssa:  And it’s funny you say that because we’ve gotten more and more phone calls, like, hey, I’m 34 weeks.  It’s almost like the oh-my-God mark; this is for real.  I’ve been so focused on other things, and now this baby is going to be here, and I need to start thinking about the real stuff.  They get scared, and they call us and say, is anyone available?  I think I need a team.

Dr. Annie:  We get that a lot, too.  Especially a woman who’s 37 weeks and is like, my baby’s in the wrong position; can you help me?  We can do our best to balance your pelvis; we can help relax those ligaments so your baby has the best chance of turning, but that’s not a guarantee, and really, chiropractic throughout your whole pregnancy would set you up for a way better experience.

Alyssa:  And a higher success rate.   It’s the whole preventative thing; why wait until something’s already happened?

Dr. Rachel:  Same with doulas, though.  I mean, I probably met with you guys very early on, and they were like, yeah, text us whenever; ask us questions about anything.  And I would!  I’d be, like, do you guys know any good daycares?  I wasn’t planning this!  I know nothing!

Alyssa:  But that’s the benefit of, again, hiring early, instead of coming in to a chiropractor at 37 weeks or calling us at 34 or 37 weeks.  You hire literally sometimes at six weeks when they just find out, and you’re through the whole pregnancy with them, for the same price!  The whole pregnancy, you have that support, which can really affect outcomes.

Dr. Annie:  Helps reduce stress.  You don’t want too much stress when you’re pregnant, either.

Alyssa:  We have that prenatal stress class, too.  You guys should pop into that one time.  It’s really good.

Dr. Annie:  Is that one new?

Alyssa:  It’s newer.  We’ve only taught it a couple times.  Deb from Simply Successful Kids; she teaches it, and it really great.  I think no matter what age your kid is, it’s beneficial.  Whether they’re one, ten, or forty.  It’s pretty intense.  So you have your baby, and you go home, and I think this leaves parents in this period of isolation, especially for moms if their partner has to work, and I don’t think they know that that healthcare team can expand into the postpartum phase.  So like you; you had doulas, and a birth doula team at Gold Coast will give you one postpartum visit.  They’re going to come follow up with you; how did everything go?  How’s breastfeeding going?  But then beyond that, our postpartum doulas can come and work with you in your home for extended periods of time.  So I think understanding that your team doesn’t have to disappear the second you have your baby.

Dr. Rachel:  Yes, that was nice.  And I did have postpartum doulas come, and I’m very much like, I’m good, I’m good.  I don’t need any help.  But it was so nice, and there’s no judgment.  No one’s there judging you, and it’s just nice to have people there to support you and I think they would just take care of babies.  And you just feel comfortable with them.  They’re here; they know how to take care of babies; you guys got this and I would go work out in my basement.  It was nice.  Take a shower!

Alyssa:  Yeah, and that’s the thing; you don’t get to do those normal things anymore, and then when you have anxiety as a first-time mom about somebody caring for your baby, to know that, okay, they’re professional; they’re trained; they’ve done this, not only with their own children, but with several other families.  They know what they’re doing.  I can feel confident to walk out of that room.

Dr. Rachel:  They make you feel like a good mom, like you’ve got this.

Alyssa:  And that’s part of it, too; as much as the parents think you’re there to take care of that baby, we’re doing just as much for Mom, and sometimes Dad, too.  And sometimes all it takes is, “How are you feeling today?” And then Mom bursts into tears, and you’re like, all right, we need to sit on the sofa; let me make you some tea.  Let’s talk for a little bit.  I’ll hold the baby; you sit and drink this tea.

Dr. Rachel:  It’s hard at first.

Alyssa:  And then chiropractic, too.  I mean, you don’t have your baby and quit.  Your body just went through all these changes during pregnancy, and now you just delivered a baby.  And I think we expect oh, I’m going to be right back; bounce back at this.  Well, it took nine months to change and get here.  It’s possibly going to take nine months to get back to where you were before.

Dr. Annie:  Absolutely.  I mean, with any injury, they say six weeks, like if you roll your ankle.  But if you’re giving birth, that’s a huge stress on your body, so I mean, yeah, you can expect probably another six to nine months recovery.

Dr. Rachel:  I would say a year.  I’m still recovering from that pregnancy!

Dr. Annie:  Yeah, I mean, it takes a long time, and chiropractic, again, is great with that, making sure everything goes back in its place where it’s supposed to and works and functions the way that it’s supposed to and really helps your body and brain optimize your healing.  We also do home visits for new moms because it’s so hard to get out of the house.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, we’ll come and visit new baby.

Dr. Annie:  Especially if that baby’s having any latching problems and stuff, too, we can work with your lactation consultant.  But adjustments for babies are really good, too, especially after they’re born when their head and neck are so compressed coming out of the birth canal or if they’re being pulled out by their head and neck, which happens whether you have a vaginal birth or a C-section birth.  That can cause misalignments in their neck, which can lead to issues feeding or issues with stress, like colicky babies will often have that, too.  So we try to just approach that very comfortably and easily.  Our adjustments are super gentle for infants, but have amazing results.

Alyssa:  I saw you give the twins adjustments when they were a day old!  It’s very gentle, and they did not cry; they did not fuss.

Dr. Rachel:  I mean, babies might cry during an adjustment, but that’s just because they’re mad we’re putting them in a position they don’t want to be.

Alyssa:  Right.  Why are you moving me here?

Dr. Annie:  And we’re new, strange people.  But we had some pretty amazing outcomes with a ten-day old that I did a house visit for.  He was having a really hard time latching and it was super painful for Mom, and I adjusted him while he was breastfeeding, and then he was able to latch three times with no pain for her.  Totally fine at finding the nipple, and did a really good job.

Alyssa:  Really?  While breastfeeding?

Dr. Annie:  Yeah, and that was with one adjustment, which is not always the case, but with infants, it’s pretty minor, what we have to do.  And it’s not like this huge intervention.

Alyssa:  Because it’s not the years and years of stress that we’ve put on our bodies.  They’re only days or weeks old.

Dr. Annie:  Yes, their bodies are super adaptable; they’re constantly learning what’s going on.  We see those really good changes.

Dr. Rachel:  We see that a lot, and we see the tight necks from the delivery.

Dr. Annie:  Usually that muscle tension is because of that upper cervical misalignment.

Alyssa:  Yeah, we had a physical therapist on, a friend of mine, Jessica Beukema from Hulst Jepson, who specifically does torticollis and plagiocephaly, and she’s really good for beyond your chiropractic care, like if physical therapy is needed.  So I think bottom line for parents, they need to be kind to yourself.

Dr. Rachel:  That’s what I was going to say.  Be so kind.

Alyssa:  Be kind, and give yourself some grace.

Dr. Rachel:  It’s really, really hard.  So you sit down; you find out you’re pregnant; you’ve done all the things.  You get your people in your corner; you get your birth team; you write your birth plan.  And I guarantee you, nothing’s going to go the way you want it to.  It just won’t.

Alyssa:  Maybe some things, but…

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, some things, but it’s just not going to be what you envisioned.  Maybe; I’d say maybe your second time around, it might, but if you’re a first-time mom, you just have to be flexible and know you’re doing your best, and then yeah, just be not hard on yourself afterwards.  That’s the hardest thing is not being hard on yourself.

Alyssa:  These birth plans just become a plan and it’s set in stone, and if it doesn’t go that way, I’m a failure, and that’s, I think, the negative side of empowering mothers.  You’re walking a fine line there.

Dr. Rachel:  I think you have to just go in and be like, okay there’s my plan, but I might have to waver from it, and that’s okay.

Alyssa:  But I tell moms this is good.  This is your first test because once you have this baby, nothing’s going to go as planned.  Your schedule’s not your own anymore.  This timeline for going to sleep and waking up for the first several weeks; nothing.

Dr. Rachel:  Going to sleep and waking up is still not on my time, I’ll tell you that!

Alyssa:  I need to talk to you about that.

Dr. Rachel:  They’re doing better, but they’re still… I’d rather not wake up at 7AM if I didn’t have to!

Alyssa:  Well, that’s pretty normal.  7AM’s a pretty normal wake time.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah… still not my time!

Alyssa:  But I mean, heading to Target on a whim doesn’t happen for a while, especially if you’re breastfeeding, because you have such a small window in between the breastfeeding sessions.  And then you change their clothes, and then the second you get them strapped in that car seat, they have a blow out, so you take them out again and change the diaper…

Dr. Annie:  I would say probably just give up on running errands.

Alyssa:  For a while, yeah.  And that’s okay, but having those realistic expectations.  I thought I was going to go on maternity leave and be making gourmet meals for my family.  What was I thinking?

Dr. Rachel:  That’s another thing to think about in your birth plan is a sleep consultant.  That’s a real thing!  People should look into that more and set aside from cash for it.

Dr. Annie:  And maybe your own gourmet chef.  Have somebody come to your house and make your meals!

Alyssa:  Well, we have the Life Fuel.  It has saved me.  So my delivery just came last night, and I just keep ordering more and more and more because it’s just so convenient.

Dr. Rachel:  Convenient and so good.

Alyssa:  Yeah, and healthy.  Like, I can’t cook this healthy for this price and make it taste this good.  I can’t.  But sleep, too, like I – and people think it’s really, really, expensive, and it’s not that bad.  I even have a really small fee where I just say your baby’s not ready to sleep train yet; this baby’s not ready to sleep through the night.  But I will have a conversation with you about some help; let’s start some healthy sleep habits.

Dr. Rachel:  Sleep is a really big strain on relationships.  Because let me tell you; dads usually don’t hear babies crying.

Alyssa:  Well, and there’s two different theories.  Dads will say just let them cry, it’s fine, and Mom’s like, I can’t.  We’re still partially attached by the umbilical cord; I can’t listen to my baby cry.

Dr. Rachel:  I think that’s a big one people need to think about and don’t.

Alyssa:  And I think just starting off, not sleep training your three-week-old, but let’s talk; let’s get some things in your head and start doing a few things with sleep cycles and patterns and how we want to shape this so that at the twelve- or fourteen-week mark when most babies are ready – I mean, they’re ready, and it’s not hard, and it’s not this week-long struggle.

Dr. Annie:  Which is so great that you guys do that, because there’s so much conflicting information out there about sleep and letting your babies cry it out or whether you should nurture them.  There’s a lot of conflicting information.

Alyssa:  It is conflicting, and you can’t just read one book and think that – well, that’s worked for my neighbor or my nephew.  That’s why for every consult, I talk to them for an hour, sometimes two, and I get a really good sense of what that family is like and what they do and what their goals are; what their values are.  If one of their values is co-sleeping, I work that into the plan.  There is a happy medium for everybody, and I don’t believe in letting your kid cry in the crib for two hours.  That’s not healthy for parents or the baby, and it means they need something, so we’re going to figure out how to work them out of that.  But yeah, there’s not just one right answer.

Dr. Rachel:  That’s a good point, and I think a lot of people think that.

Alyssa:  You can’t read a book and figure it out.  You might get lucky and the first one you read works…

Dr. Rachel:  I had a friend, and it was interesting.  She did; she read this book; here was the plan; she did it; it worked for her first kid, and so she swore by it and told everyone.  And I was just like, oh, my gosh; it didn’t work for me.  There’s something wrong.  And then she had a second kid; doesn’t work on him at all.

Alyssa:  Because it’s a completely different personality!  Well, there’s two things going on there; the kid is a different personality and different temperament; could have a medical issue they don’t know about, right?  And she also has a baby and a toddler, and that toddler throws the biggest wrench in these plans because now you have to figure out; I have a screaming newborn, but I also have to get this toddler to bed.  And that’s the good thing if you have a toddler who’s already on a sleep schedule:  so much easier to then get that newborn into the mix.

Dr. Rachel:  Sleep’s important!  Sleep is important for babies, and sleep is important for parents.

Alyssa:  For growth, for health, for development.  I mean, we just don’t put enough emphasis on sleep.  I love sleep.

Dr. Rachel:  Same.

Dr. Annie:  We all do!

Alyssa:  And babies need it!  They need it!

Dr. Rachel:  We’ve gotten way off topic here, but I think it stresses out parents a lot when we’re like, I know you need to sleep, and you’re not sleeping; you’re not napping.  And then you’re crazy and now I’m crazy!

Alyssa:  I think it stresses out the parents, and then Baby reacts to that stress and becomes more stressed, and when they reach that peak, there’s almost no consoling them.  It’s difficult.

Dr. Rachel:  And that would get a sleep consultant on your birth team!

Alyssa:  Yes, that would be a great part of a birth team.

Dr. Rachel:  Babies, please sleep!

Alyssa:  Two at once, or maybe three!

Dr. Rachel:  I can’t imagine.

Dr. Annie:  That’s why you need a team.

Dr. Rachel:  That’s why you need a team.  That’s what we’re concluding here.

Dr. Annie:  It takes a village.

Alyssa:  Well, for the parents who are looking for their team, tell them where to find you ladies.

Dr. Annie:  We are in the Kingsley building, right next door to you.

Alyssa:  And where’s the Kingsley building, for those who don’t know?

Dr. Annie:  It’s right on the corner of Robinson and Lake, where Lake is shut down right now because of construction, so come down Robinson if you’re coming here.  Right in East Town, Grand Rapids.  Second floor.

Alyssa:  So the restaurant Terra is right below us.

Dr. Annie:  Also shout out to E. A. Brady’s.

Alyssa:  Right, E. A. Brady’s, Wax Poetic, all sorts of really good stuff.  I always tell people if they’re coming to our classes, come early because you can eat at a restaurant; you can go make a candle, grab some jerky.

Dr. Rachel:  Get a cupcake!

Alyssa:  And then work out.

Dr. Rachel:  And then hit up a spin class.

Dr. Annie:  Get your hair done.  What else is around here?

Dr. Rachel:  Get a therapy session.

Alyssa:  Well, there’s Rebel’s down the road, too, which is a really fun gift shop.  It’s just a really fun area.  We love being here.

Dr. Rachel:  Oh, yeah, I love being here.

Alyssa:  Again, we’re getting off topic…

Dr. Rachel:  But here’s all the things you can do in East Town!

Alyssa:  What’s your office hours?  Are you gone Wednesdays now?

Dr. Rachel:  Annie’s here now.

Dr. Annie:  Yeah, just a couple hours, but our office hours are all on Google, too, and Facebook.

Dr. Rachel:  We have late hours if you need them.  Annie’s here until 7:00.

Alyssa:  Would it be best to go to your website?  For new patients, what would you prefer?

Dr. Annie:  Website, Facebook, Google.  Our website is  If you just look up Rise Wellness, it will be the first hit on Google, too, if you’re in the area, and that will take you to our website.  We have links to our Facebook and Instagram on there, too.

Alyssa:  And you can schedule right through there, too, I believe?  That’s what I do.

Dr. Annie:  You can schedule through there.  You can see all of our cool events that we’re doing, like our Baby Bumps and Beer Bellies thing at the end of the month at Brewery Vivant.  We sold out our tickets in less than a week.

Alyssa:  Good job!  I had no idea!

Dr. Annie:  So we’re thinking about maybe doing another one in a couple weeks if we have the interest.

Alyssa: That’s awesome!

Dr. Annie:  Yeah, so we’re super excited about that.  That will be the first one, so it will be a trial run, and we’re just excited to talk about, again, the benefits of chiropractic care during pregnancy and how important it is at helping you through that pregnancy and all those changes that your body’s going through.

Alyssa:  So if people are interested, they should just watch your Facebook page for the next one?

Dr. Annie:  Absolutely.

Alyssa:  Cool, and then hopefully we’ll be involved in that one, too.  Thanks for talking again.  I always love seeing you girls.  You can always find us at, and you can listen to this podcast, Ask the Doulas, on iTunes and SoundCloud.  Thanks!

Podcast Episode #42: Building Your Birth Team Read More »

Katie Bertsch

Meet our newest birth doula, Katie!

Say hello to Katie, our newest doula. As always, we asked her some questions so you can get to know her a little better. She met her husband in 3rd grade at a spelling bee, how adorable is that?!

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

I have the joy and privilege of staying at home with my 11-month-old son, Raymond. Before he was born, I was a nanny for 4 years to two awesome kiddos who I still get to babysit pretty frequently. I was also a preschool teacher for a year.

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

I loved being pregnant and my whole labor and delivery experience. My husband was supportive, encouraging, and so involved through the whole thing! We read the books, attended the classes, made the birth plan, and then one thing led to another during labor and it didn’t go a thing like we had “planned”. But I look back on the experience in a completely positive light because I was informed, I was able to make my own choices, and I felt empowered, safe, and loved. But I’ve heard such a different story from so many other Mamas about how they felt out of control, helpless, and alone. So I looked into how I could help them during their pregnancy and delivery; a time that can feel so vulnerable, but also a time that is beautiful and where they should feel empowered, safe, and supported. I learned about the doula’s role and was hooked! I was trained through DONA International and now I’m so honored to be able to enter into such a special space with my birthing Mamas!

3) Tell us about your family.

My husband, Mike, and I met in 3rd grade at a spelling bee and grew up together as great friends. We were high school sweethearts, attended MSU together, and got married the summer after we graduated. We’ve been married for 4 years and last year we had our beautiful baby boy, Raymond David. He’s named after two of our Grandfathers who hold a very special place in our hearts. We’ve also just begun the process of becoming licensed for foster care and hope to be able to open our home to young children soon.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

My parents are from Great Britain and all of my extended family still lives over there. Growing up, we were able to visit my Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, and cousins every summer for a few weeks. It was never about sight seeing, it was always about spending as much quality time with our family as we were able to squeeze in before we had to leave for another year. The trips are much less frequent now (because plane tickets are a doozy!) but Mike has been able to come twice to meet all of my family, and we hope to be able to share those beautiful countries with our children too.

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

I’m one of those people that can never answer this question because I just don’t listen to music very often. I like listening to the radio when I’m driving but I don’t pay much attention to the artist or song title. I generally listen to country music and love when I can roll down the windows and blast the radio in the summer. Mike loves the oldies, like The Beatles and The Eagles, and we do enjoy putting their records on our record player!

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

The best advice I can give is the same advice I was given: give yourself grace upon grace upon grace! The transition back into “normal” life after you’ve had a baby (whether your first or your fifth) can be challenging because everything is going to be gloriously different. Try not to put huge expectations on yourself to get back to your old normal; Instead, embrace your new normal with open arms and give yourself ALL the grace!

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

I am a cheery and positive person, which I can remain as if that is the presence a Mama wants in the labor and delivery room. But, in serious or uncertain or trying situations, I am a strong, steady, calm, and focused person who will go to bat for whatever you need!

8) What is your favorite food?

I’ve spent a lot of time in Guatemala on mission trips, so a dish centered around beans, rice, and corn is my favorite!

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

I love the Traverse City area! As a family, we love wandering around the little towns, visiting Fish Town in Leland, driving along Mission Point Peninsula, camping, and especially seeing all of the gorgeous Fall colors.

10) What are you reading now?

I am currently checking off books on my required reading list for certification through DONA, so I’m reading The Birth Partner: A Complete Guide to Childbirth for Dads, Doulas, and Other Labor Companions.

11) Who are your role models?

My role models are the everyday Mamas that I get to do life with! My sisters and my friends who are doing their best as they love the Lord, love their husbands, love their children, and love the people around them. I’ve been so blessed to have a strong community to partner together in marriage and parenting, and I look up to these incredible women immensely.


Meet our newest birth doula, Katie! Read More »

Amber Brandt Coziness Consultant

Podcast Episode #38: Amber’s HypnoBirthing Story

We love hearing birth stories, especially from our clients.  Listen as Amber tells us her birth story and how HypnoBirthing helped both her and her husband through 23 hours of labor.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.  You can sign up for our HypnoBirthing classes here


Alyssa:  Hello!  Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner and postpartum doula.  I also am a gentle sleep consultant, and I teach our newborn survival class.  We are here with Amber again.   We talked to her before; she’s The Coziness Consultant, but she’s also a past client.  She took our HypnoBirthing series with her husband, Kyle, and I wanted to ask you a little bit about your journey through HypnoBirthing and then how that relayed into your birth.

Amber:  So I became familiar with HypnoBirthing through, specifically, a friend who had a horrible experience with her first birth.  She didn’t do any preparation.  She kind of just went into it thinking everything would work smoothly and she would do what the doctor said, and she had a very traumatic experience.  So when she got pregnant with her second baby, she decided she was going to educate herself and prepare.  So she went through HypnoBirthing and just sang the praises of HypnoBirthing, so then we decided to do that because I felt really strongly that I wanted to go into it educated.  I didn’t want to feel like I was unprepared.  And I didn’t just want to focus only on breathing.  I knew that I was determined to have as natural a birth as I could, and I wanted some skills and some tools.  So that’s how we ended up coming to HypnoBirthing, and the experience for us, honestly, at the end of the day, was the difference between making it through the birth unmedicated and following the birth plan that we really wanted.  I wasn’t so married to my birth plan.  I knew if some extenuating circumstance happened and I ended up with a C-section, that was going to be okay, too, but my goal – what I could control was to be as prepared as possible, and HypnoBirthing really allowed us that opportunity.

Alyssa:  For somebody who’s never heard of HypnoBirthing or maybe has but doesn’t understand it, what would your elevator speech be to a new parent thinking about HypnoBirthing?

Amber:  So it’s much less New-Agey than it sounds.  It’s basically just kind of an approach to having a framework to understand that your body is designed to give birth, and so when you go through HypnoBirthing, you learn how each of the muscles are working; how each surge, they call them, or contraction, is actually progressing you toward having a baby.  And then it’s tools and techniques designed to help you get in line with that, to understand what your body is trying to do and try to get out of the way and allow your body to do that thing.  In HypnoBirthing, they talk about this cycle that you feel discomfort and so you’re fearful, and then you’re fearful so your body tightens up, and then you feel more discomfort, and you can’t get out of it.  So HypnoBirthing gives you the opportunity to get out of that cycle, to be able to think through what is happening in your body and breathe and relax.  They give you some really practical ways to do that, to work with your body instead of fighting it.

Alyssa:  So tell me, what did that class look like for you and Kyle together, since couples take this class together?

Amber:  So we showed up weekly; sat down together, and our instructor talked about – well, she always showed a video of someone actually delivering through HypnoBirth, and they were all very different.  Their reactions were all very different, but all inspiring.  And then we would learn about the body, learn about the stages of labor, and each week kind of built on the last.  But we were also given these techniques of how to practice.  So every week we learned a different style of relaxation, a different way to – something to visualize or whatever.  So as a couple, I would notice, like, okay, so this week, I didn’t really resonate with that, but then the following week, there would be something that I would be sitting there and realize, like, oh, I’m holding a lot of tension in my face.  Every time I go to take a deep breath or do the things she says, I realize I’m holding my shoulders up by my ears.  And so it really created an awareness for me of my own body and my own tendency towards holding tension.  And so then I could turn to Kyle and say, “Okay, when we’re in labor, these are the things I know about myself.  I need you to remind me.  If you see me furling my brow, I need you to mention that – gently.  Really kindly.  If you see my shoulders, that I’m holding my shoulders, please bring my attention to that.”  And so then when it came to the actual delivery, it was one contraction at a time, just taking one at a time, and him being aware of those things we had talked about.

Alyssa:  And what would he do?

Amber:  So that first – you know, if you’ve ever had a baby, if you’ve ever been in labor, you know that contraction is coming, and it’s like amping up, and then it kind of hits that initial intensity.  And he would just be talking right in my ear: “Amber, okay, relax.  Let your breath out.  You need to breathe.  You’re holding your breath.”  And it’s like talking me through that initial peak of each one so that then I could get my head back in the game and relax my body through the remainder of the surge.  My water broke, and my daughter was born 23 hours later, so we had a LOT of practice going through those surges together

Alyssa:  So tell me how HypnoBirthing – you said it was kind of the make-it-or-break-it.  It was such a long labor and all that practice.  Did you want to give up?  Why didn’t you give up?

Amber:  I think I’m pretty stubborn, so I was really determined.  And I also knew we were giving birth in the low intervention suites at Butterworth, so I knew if I decided that I wanted meds, I had to move to a different room.  I knew going into it that there was some pressure on me to stick to this, and I really wanted to anyway.  But I think the difference for HypnoBirthing for me was leading up to it – one of the things that you learn in HypnoBirthing is that they give you scripts and you get some audio clips that are basically different things that you can listen to, to relax to.  They’re kind of like guided medications.  So I created my own and had it recorded, and I listened to it every night leading up to my birth so that I got used to and in the habit of relaxing, first in my head, then in my shoulders…

Alyssa:  You came up with the scripts that worked for you?

Amber:  Yes, and then I practiced to it.  So we listened to it every night, and he would always fall asleep during it.  I never would; I would listen all the way to the end, of course.  But so then when it was go time, we had it there, and a lot of the hours that passed, I spent listening to that and relaxing to that because I had practiced to it.  And so then when it was game time, it was like I could pull it out and just work through it.  And there were certain parts I would listen to over and over because I had written it in a certain way knowing that I hold tension in my face; I hold tension in my shoulders.  So for us, it was a combination of me listening to the audio that I had practiced to, the two of us listening to it, and then also him reminding me, using the things we knew.  And even when I got to transition – and that was the one time I shed a tear.  I just let the tear fall, and I was like, I don’t think I can do this.  And Kyle said, “This is what we learned.  We know when you start to say, ‘I don’t think I can do this, I’m giving up, I can’t do anymore’ – this is when we’re almost to the end.”  And so having someone there that knew, that had heard all the same things I had, had heard it in a different way, and was able to access that when I couldn’t, was the difference for me.  I really don’t know what would have happened if he hadn’t been there and if we didn’t have the tools.

Alyssa:  It sounds like he was a much more involved part of the process because of the HypnoBirthing classes.

Amber:  He was, and he took it seriously.  I think for some guys, scenarios like that are really uncomfortable, but he just saw the entire things as a team event, that we were doing this together, and he was just as much as part of it as I was.  And so it was really cool because we were alone – I was in the tub laboring when I had to push, and it’s one of my favorite memories because it was hilarious.  It was like, “Oh, I think I need to PUSH!”  And he was like, “Okay, I’m going to go find someone to help us!”  But then I’m pushing, and they transitioned me to the bed, and we hadn’t discussed it, but the midwife said, “Okay, Kyle, you jump up and put your back against the headboard.”  So he had his back against the headboard and his legs out in front of him, and then I sat in front of him and leaned against him.  And it was such a payoff to deliver that way after laboring that entire way together.

Alyssa:  Which you couldn’t have done in another room?

Amber:  No.  And it was so beautiful because we didn’t talk about that.  That was kind of a gift that – I’m sure they do that with a lot of moms, but that was a surprise to me, and it was just a really sweet thing.  But even then, as I’m pushing and as I’m laboring, in that last, intense couple of hours, he’s right there in my ear – you know, literally.  His face is right there, and it was just all the difference in the world to have the support and have the reminding because yeah, it’s hard to keep your head about you when it’s all happening.  You need a teammate to help you remember and to feed you those solutions and help and options to get your brain out of the intensity of what’s happening.  So it made all the difference for us.

Alyssa:  Awesome.  We should get Kyle in here sometime to talk about it.

Amber:  Yeah, his side of the story is that – the part when I had to push, he always says, “I just had to go find an adult.  We needed an adult in that room.”

Alyssa:  Well, thanks for sharing.  It’s a lovely story.  I love hearing HypnoBirthing birth stories.

Amber:  It was great.

Alyssa:  If you have any questions about HypnoBirthing, email us:  You can always find us online, on Facebook, and on Instagram.  Thanks, Amber.

Amber:  Thank you.

Podcast Episode #38: Amber’s HypnoBirthing Story Read More »

Mothership Certified Doulas

Mothership Certified Health Service Providers

Many of our doulas are Mothership Certified Health Service Providers. Sounds cool, but what does that mean? Here’s a simplified breakdown of what we learned in our training and why it’s so important.

The training involved learning the difference between empathy and sympathy. We understand that empathy never starts with, “At least…”. Here’s a great video that demonstrates the difference between the two.

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It’s important to allow a client to feel their emotions, and sometimes the best thing to do is to let them talk and not say anything at all. It’s okay to just be with someone. We don’t need to try to fix the person or the situation.

Storytelling is a great vehicle for release. Maybe it’s the release of a fear or anxiety. Maybe it’s the release of a traumatic birth experience a client hasn’t talked about yet. It can also be very uplifting. Sharing a personal story of redemption with a client can help calm fears. It can also make you more relatable if you open up and show some vulnerability.

We understand that everyone holds a certain level of bias, but knowing where those bias’ come from and how to eliminate them is critical. Being aware is the first step, the identifying them, and acting according to our values. But the best thing you can do to eliminate bias is constant exposure to diverse situations. To feel comfortable outside our bubble, you need to get outside your bubble!

Our training also talked about stress and shifting the way we think about stress. Maybe those fight or fight responses are there for a reason! Our bodies are preparing us to handle the situation at hand.

After our training we pledged to the following:

  • To better understand ourselves by reflecting on our strengths and challenges by practicing self-care, so that we an give the best care to our clients (because having compassion for others starts with self-compassion). We will actively work on understanding and challenging our personal biases which can affect how we deliver services.
  • To better understand our clients by thinking about our clients in the context of their lives, considering how we can best serve them given their circumstances, feelings, challenges, and strengths. We will look for nonverbal emotional and cultural cues so we know how to best approach our clients when delivering services.
  • To build better connections and promote empowerment by being intentional in how we project our nonverbal communication cues, and by our choice of words.

Mothership was inspired based on their own experiences and the experiences of friends and family. They started with values and a vision, and then spent about a year researching how they could best serve families in their important role as parents. Using a human-centered design approach, they listened to moms, dads, other caregivers, and various health care providers like nurses, lactation consultants, doulas, and peer counselors to better understand family needs, health system constraints, existing initiatives, and opportunities for making an impact. From there, they developed their mission, guiding principles, and programs.

At Gold Coast Doulas, we believe the client and health partner relationship should be emotional and relational. It’s a parent-centered relationship where we guide you and help you feel confident in our role. You will be seen, heard, and valued without judgment. We will listen to your unique needs and understand your unique situation.

To see which of our doulas are Mothership Certified Health Service Providers, look for the seal on their website bios.


Mothership Certified Health Service Providers Read More »

rise wellness chiropractic

Podcast Episode #31: Rise Wellness Chiropractic

Dr. Annie and Dr. Rachel of Rise Wellness Chiropractic in Grand Rapids talk about their approach to helping mothers and babies, as well as how and why they decided to start their own practice.  You can listen to the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.


Hello, and welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner and post-partum doula at Gold Coast.  Today, I’m so excited to be talking to Dr. Annie and Dr. Rachel of Rise Wellness.  Hello, ladies.  I want of hear about your new business venture together, Rise Wellness.  We knew you when you worked for a different chiropractor’s office, and what made you both kind of venture out on this alone?

Well, we worked together, so when you work for another chiropractor, you’re kind of under their whole umbrella of their philosophy, their vision, which works for a while until you get to a point when you’re like, this isn’t my philosophy and vision, and there’s other ways I want to help people.  And so we talked about it, and we’re like, let’s open our own.


And we talked to you.  You were like, I got a great space for you.

Yeah, I did.  We’re neighbors.  We’re both in East Town now.

Yeah, it definitely helped facilitate that once Dr. Rachel went on maternity leave to have her twins.  We kind of changed our whole philosophy and our focus to wanting to work more with pregnant moms and babies, too, and we realized that was a huge subset of the population that wasn’t receiving the care that we felt like they needed.  So that’s where we wanted to focus.

Now, most people would get pregnant, and especially pregnant with twins, and not say, “Hey, let’s quit my job and start my own business right when I have these twins.”

It just seemed right.

But you did, and how did that work?  I mean, I know you said timing-wise, it worked because you went on maternity leave and then –

Yeah, I just never went back.

Like, you’re done.

Yeah, it worked out well for that.  I mean, I’m lucky I had Dr. Annie as a partner because she honestly did a lot of it.  And I’m lucky I have a husband that has an MBA and knows how to set up a business and has an accountant.  It really wasn’t that difficult, and it worked out for, like, how am I going to be a mom still but still work and do what I love doing.  And when you work for someone, I really didn’t have the option of working my own hours.  So it just made sense; I’m going to go do my own thing now.

Yeah, that was a big driver for us.

Yeah, that was a big driver.  Okay, I can work the hours I want to work, but I can still stay at home with the girls when I want to be home with them.

And you are my chiropractor, so I’m in your office quite a bit.  And I loved that you have a dresser filled with diapers.  And it’s not just because you have a lot of babies in there, but tell me what you said, Dr. Annie, when I was like, oh, why do you have all these diapers?

Oh, accidental blow-outs.  So after babies get adjusted, their nervous systems are working better, and so their digestion sometimes kicks on right after an adjustment.  And we just want to be prepared and have a space for moms so they don’t have to rush home or rush to the bathroom or anything.  It’s like we can just be available right there and make it easy.  We have a diaper genie, so you don’t have to worry about it stinking up the office or anything.

Yeah, it’s a very baby-friendly space.

Yeah, we want to be accessible and available for everyone who wants to come in, especially moms with kids and stuff.  We know that can sometimes be hectic and messy, and we want to make it as safe an environment for them as possible.

Yeah, I brought my five-year-old in with me last time, and she of course loved the coloring books and the dolls.

Oh, did she come in?

She did, yeah.  She missed you.  I’ll have to bring her in again.

I had my girls in on Saturday, and of course they pooped while we were there.

Which is another nice thing about owning your own space, right?  You owning your business; if you need to bring your daughters in, who’s going to yell at you?

Annie, I guess.  No, just joking.

I would never yell about having them in there!

Tell me about the different approach.  So you were NUCCA chiropractors before, and now you’re doing something completely different.  Can you tell me about what you’re doing now?

Yeah, so we’re definitely focused more on pediatrics and pregnancy care.  We still see everybody, but that’s where we definitely wanted to focus, and we’re both doing additional training in that.  Before we were at an upper cervical practice, which is the top bones of the spine, so we were focused on that.  And we just had a little different philosophy.  We felt like the whole spine was just as important, so we wanted to take what we had learned from the practice that we were at and still say, okay, this is really important, but we’re also going to focus on other areas of the spine and see where changes need to be made there, as well.  So now we’re scanning and checking everything and making sure that everything is lined up and working the way it’s supposed to.

Yeah, with kids and moms and stuff, kids definitely – it’s important to pay attention to the upper cervical area because a lot of things can happen there from birth trauma, but there’s also a lot of things that show up in other areas of the spine, too, especially in kids as they’re starting to pull themselves up and falling down on their butts.  The sacrum is going to be a big one that we’re going to be checking, too, especially if there’s any digestive issues or things like that.

Plus with NUCCA, it was very structural-based.  Like, what’s the structure of the spine.  It’s here; we want it here.  And you had to x-ray.  And obviously you’re not going to be x-raying pregnant women, and with children, you don’t really want to x-ray as often, either.  So there just had to be a different approach, and we use a different exam and we checked the functionality of the nervous system to really look at how is your body functioning?  Not just, well, are you in pain; are your legs level?  It’s like, is your nervous system functioning at its optimum?

Right.  I mean, structure is great.  Posture is great.  A lot of chiropractors use that, but we definitely wanted to take more of a functional approach and say, like, okay, we can actually look at how your nervous system is functioning, how your body’s adapting, how your body’s developing and growing, and saying, we can make that better?  And that to us is more important than is your posture perfect or is your head sitting right on top of your shoulders.  That’s really important too, but if we can actually dive into the nervous system and see how your body’s functioning and adapting, that seems way more powerful and way more –

That’s what changes lives.  It’s not like, oh, my head is –

Yeah, exactly.  At least I look good with my good posture, but is your body functioning right?

So tell people about the scans.  I had never seen anything quite like that, and when you did that to me – do you do that to kids too, the same thing?

Yeah, so that’s relatively new in chiropractic, those scans are.  And it’s really cool.  So we look at thermography, which is the temperature of the back, so we run it along the spine and see what the temperature differences are.

And to let people know, it’s like a tiny little handheld thing with rollers, right?  Is it rollers that I felt, up and down my spine?

Yeah, and then the EMG, which is electromyography.  That’s measuring the energy that the muscles are using to hold you up, so it’s measuring the electricity there.  And that one is just like sensors that go along your spine, as well, at different levels.  And then we do HRV, which is heartrate variability, so kind of similar to measuring your heartrate with a fitness monitor; this is looking at variations in that heartrate.  That’s been used in medical research and literature as a longevity outcome measure, too, so it really shows us how your body’s functioning and how it’s adapting and how your overall health and well-being is.

I’m going to live forever.

You are!  Yours is the best we’ve seen!  It’s better than Dr. Annie’s.

Well, I just – you know, we just opened a practice!

Yeah, it was a really interesting process.  I guess I didn’t really know what I was getting into when you did it, but it was really cool to see the different levels.

Yeah, and the cool thing is when we do those scans, it’s not putting anything into the body.  It’s just measuring what your body’s already doing, so there isn’t any radiation or anything like that.  And that was something that we really liked about doing this approach, more so than taking x-rays.

A pregnant mom can do it.  What about a baby?

Yeah, babies – I mean, it’s difficult, but you can.  It’s just my girls are so squirmy.  So they’re a little more –

Yeah, so thermography’s the easiest thing to do on an infant or on a child.  EMG is a little harder because they have to hold still because, again, you’re measuring what the muscles are doing.  And then for the HRV, instead of putting their hand on the reader, there’s an ear clip that we can use.  So sometimes they don’t like that either, but we just get as much information as we can so we can make the best clinical decisions.

Well, we’re so excited to have you next to us.  It just makes so much sense.

It’s a match made in heaven, right?

Yeah, we’re excited, too.

We know; we happen to know pregnant women.  You can help them.  So what would you like people to know about your practice?

I’m Webster-certified now, and I’ve gone through all of the modules for the full pediatric certification.  I’m just working through my exam right now, so by the end of the summer, I will be fully specialized in pediatrics and pregnancy care, too.  I think there’s maybe two others in Kent County or something like that, so that’s –

Not many.

Yeah, within the city of Grand Rapids, I’ll be the only one, which is just – I think it’s awesome, and I’m excited that I get to specialize in that and work with pregnant moms and kids because it’s so much fun to see those changes in their development and stuff.

Yeah, and kids love it.  Once they start getting adjusted, they know it makes them feel good.  They can tell, and they love it.

And pregnant women, too.

I wouldn’t have made it through my pregnancy.  Guaranteed, I would not have made it through if not –

As long as you did.   I mean, you did amazing.  You went, what, 38?

Almost 39 weeks, yeah.

Almost 39 weeks!  And then gave birth to two eight-and-a-half pound babies!  You did a really good job!

Yeah, and I worked out until about the end there.

And what pregnant mom doesn’t want an easier pregnancy and a quicker, easier labor?

Right.  Well, and I know from my daughter’s perspective, she doesn’t like the cracking kind of chiropractic.  That scares little kids, so yours is very gentle.

It scares a lot of adults too, yeah.  So we use a really kind of unique adjusting tool.  I don’t think a lot of people around here use it.  It’s called an activator.  We have a couple other adjusting tools that we use, but they’re so easy and it’s just really easy for the body to take.  And it’s, again, no twisting.

Yeah, really gentle; really specific.

So if you had to tell a parent who’s never had chiropractic care, if you had to tell them one thing, either about their bodies or their kids’, what do you think people are missing out on?

Optimal health.

Optimal health, yeah.  I mean, that you really – what is that saying?  You live your life through your nervous system.  I mean, your nervous system controls everything.  Everyone thinks chiropractors and they think bones; they think cracking; they think neck pain; they think back pain.  Those are a small piece of it, and the results you get from chiropractic care, like you feel better, but really, we’re dealing with the nervous system, and the nervous system controls everything; everything that goes on in our body.

Yeah, well, and it’s sensation for everything, too, so everything that we perceive in our environment, the way kids – they have tactile exercises and stuff like that for kids, so they want tactile toys and they want a lot of colors.  All of that sensation is helping their neurodevelopment, so that’s every sensation that you have, every emotion that you have, every experience that you have, is all run through your nervous system, and then your body takes that information and decides what to do with it, and then that’s your response to it, too.  So really your entire life experience is run through your nervous system.

And so what chiropractic really does is we remove any interference that might be from the outside world to how you’re interpreting –

In that communicating system.

So we remove it through adjusting the spine and so you really can just live optimally, then.  Your body can function optimally.

In the very, very most basic form, like, our brains run our body, right?


And that’s the center for the nervous system?


It’s where all the nerves come down, and if like you said, everything from a traumatic childbirth to some neck injury from walking and falling on their bums, to 18-year-olds – you know, like how many times did I fall snowboarding?  Who know what I did to my body, right?  All those little tweaks adjust how your nerves —

How your brain’s communicating with your body.   But not just that, but also toxins that we take in or being really stressed out.  That’s also going to show up in your nervous system, so not just trauma.  We call it the three Ts in chiropractic: toxins, trauma, and thoughts, yeah, are causes of subluxation, and so that’s what chiropractors specialize in is removing that interference and restoring that normal communication in the body.

Very well put. 

You can tell we’re pretty passionate about what we do!

Well, you guys should come check out their space.  So they are just a couple doors down from us in the Kingsley Building.  We’re in East Town.  The offices are on the second floor.  You guys are in Suite 201.  Would somebody – if they just wanted to drop in and say hi?  Because you’re there —

Yeah, please.  They can come check out the giraffe table, yeah.

Please stop in.

We’ve got LaCroix and bottled water, coffee.  Come hang out.

And then if they don’t want to stop in, tell people how to find you.

So our website is  We’re also on Facebook and Instagram at Rise Wellness Chiro, or you can call us.  Or phone number is 616-258-8480.  Otherwise, wave to us on the street.  I usually walk to work, so you’ve probably seen me in my Rise and Shine shirt.

We wear our shirts all the time.

I’ll get a picture of you in your shirts.  Awesome.  Well, thank you both for being here.  I love what you’re doing.

Thank you for having us.

Thank you, yeah.

And as always, you can find us on our website,, and we are also on Facebook and Instagram.  You can listen to our podcasts on SoundCloud and iTunes.  Thanks.  Remember, these moments are golden.

Podcast Episode #31: Rise Wellness Chiropractic Read More »

Jenny Chandler Birth Doula

Meet our newest doula, Jenny!

We are so excited to announce Jenny Chandler as the newest birth doula on the Gold Coast Team!

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

Hotel front desk receptionist
Church intern
Maternity center volunteer in Haiti

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

I was in Haiti at a maternity center and loved being with women during active labor. I loved being the one they went to for support and encouragement. Soon after, I had a lightbulb moment when I realized that’s part of what a doula does. I started my training and came home a couple months later as a labor doula!

3) Tell us about your family.

My husband and I just got married in May, 2018 after being together for 2 years. We love to longboard downtown Grand Haven, volunteer at church youth group, we’re both singers, photographers, and play guitar. We like to kayak, spend time with our families, and chill at home with our cat, Gus, watching Parks and Rec.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

I like cruises! They’re all inclusive and you basically don’t have to think much once you’re on the ship, which is a vacation for me! There’s food and entertainment all the time so you can be busy or chill in the sun. We’ve stopped in Puerto Rico and it was so cute and fun. We went spelunking and walked downtown old San Juan and it was such a cute town with all the pastel buildings, I loved it!

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

Mutemath..We had our first dance to one of their songs because it was meaningful to us during our relationship!

Vertical Worship Band & Bethany Dillon: Great meaningful songs that remind me of my purpose and focus!

Pandora’s Pitch Perfect station…Since I like to sing I just belt out those songs and they’re just fun and make me happy 🙂

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

Encapsulate your placenta and you could have a lot less to deal with as far as depression, emotions, and lack of energy.

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

Couples teamwork and education. He knows her and I know birth so together we can be a great team. A client said they had better teamwork because they had a doula.

8) What is your favorite food?

Mexican…Then always chocolate or a bubble tea!

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

Downtown Grand Haven, the boardwalk and pier, especially in the summer it’s so busy and festive!

10) What are you reading now? 

Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper

11) Who is your role model?

My mom. She stands firm on what she believes, has pushed through really hard life situations, and puts God and her family first.


Meet our newest doula, Jenny! Read More »

Cesarean birth

Podcast Episode #23: Amber’s Cesarean Birth Story

On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Amber shares how her Gold Coast Doulas supported her through her C-section experience.  You can listen to this complete episode on iTunes and SoundCloud.


Alyssa:  Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner and postpartum doula, and we are talking to Amber again.  We talked to her last time about her story of hiring a doula, and we learned that after planning for a natural delivery and using hypnobirthing techniques and going through that course together, you found out that you needed a C-section.  So tell me when you found that out.

Amber:  At 37 weeks.  So I have midwives, and I had not had an ultrasound since 20 weeks, and we definitely thought he was in position.  We were getting ready to go to Chicago for the weekend to our friend’s cabin and just had a quick little visit with our midwives and we did an ultrasound during that, which I thought was obviously going to be super routine and just a little quickie, and then received the information that he was breech.  So he was actually sitting across my pubic bone.  It was shocking, to say the least.  I thought with all the appointments that we had that he was face-down and ready to go, and that’s just what I knew and what I was comfortable with, and it definitely took us for a little bit of a roller coaster.  I was a little bit in shock when I found out, and then as we were walking out, I just started bawling in the parking garage because it just really hit me.  In the hypnobirthing class, one of the things that you do to release fear is just write down all of the things that you’re scared of, and the biggest thing that I was scared of was having a C-section because I’d never had a surgery before.  I was emotionally and relatively physically prepared at that point for a natural birth.  I was 37 weeks; I had done all of my classes; I had my doulas; I had my midwives.  This is what was going to happen, and so it kind of flipped all of that upside down a little bit.  It was difficult pill to swallow at first.

Alyssa:   So what happened then at 37 weeks?  You just said okay, it is what it is?  Or what did you do?

Amber:  Oh, no.  No, not with my personality.  At the ultrasound, my midwife definitely – she knew what we were doing.  She knew that we were preparing for a natural birth.  She knew that we had doulas, and I think she could see it on my face that I was relatively devastated by the news.  She told me that we still had time, still three weeks to try to flip him, and it’s totally possible.  So she did give me a little bit of hope in it, but then also did explain that I was relatively far along, and I didn’t have as much amniotic fluid for him to flip naturally and it was going to be a little bit more of a challenge.  But I didn’t lose all hope at that appointment.  I think that it just took me a second to, I guess, digest the news.  Then with my personality, I just started Googling everything I could about breech babies and how to flip them, and I remember one of the first things I did was text Ashley and Kristin, and I was like, what can we do to get this baby down into position?  So I did a little bit of a roller coaster of being sad and then almost getting a little bit obsessed, I think, with turning him.

Alyssa:   So tell me some things you did.  What did you try?  What didn’t you try?

Amber:  Oh, my God.  What didn’t I try?  So we had gone to our friend’s cabin that weekend in Chicago.  I spent a lot of time in the water.  I did a lot of headstands, which was just absolutely hilarious, this huge pregnant woman doing a bunch of headstands in the water.  People were like, what is she doing? So yeah, spent a lot of time in the water, did a lot of headstands.  I did some inversions.  I looked up a lot of stuff on spinning babies, so I did a lot of inversions.  We did Moxa, a Moxa stick, burning it by my feet, which in Chinese medicine is supposed to help.  I did acupuncture.  I did chiropractic work.  I did literally everything, and there were a couple times – I was so in tune with my body at that point because I was like, “I know I’m going to be able to feel him when he flips,” so everything that he did, I was like, “Oh, he just flipped.  He just flipped.”  I just kept talking myself into the fact that he was, and then I went in for a couple ultrasounds during those couple weeks, and he didn’t.  So our last-ditch effort – I did an ECV in the hospital with Sara LaGrand and my OB, Carrie, and Ashley was there to support us.  I went in and I was like, “This is it.  He’s totally going to turn.”  They had a really good success rate in doing that, and oh, my God, they tried, for a good 15 minutes, and he would kind of get sideways, and then he would just snap back up into position, and it just got to a point where Carrie was like, “I just don’t think that this is going to happen today.”  And then there was just another huge letdown because it’s like, I really put all my eggs in one basket for that, and that’s just such a dangerous thing.

Alyssa:   How far along were you when this happened?

Amber:  I was 39 weeks.

Alyssa:   So you knew you had exhausted all possibilities at this point.

Amber:  Yeah, that was it.  That was it.  We waited so long because there’s a good chance that you can go into labor after that.  Your placenta can detach.  It’s a pretty aggressive form of trying to flip them, but it’s what I wanted.  I was willing to do anything at that point because I just had such – in my mind, I had really gotten obsessed with the idea of laboring, and of laboring with my husband and just having that really intimate experience together, and I think that was a really hard thing to let go of because while I know that C-sections are completely routine, they happen all the time, it is not what I wanted.  And how is this fair?  So many people go into birth not doing any type of research about what kind of birth they want or any education and end up having successful births, and it’s just like, how did this – why?

Alyssa:   You did all your homework.

Amber:  Yeah, so once again, I kind of got into a little bit of a funk, and I was like, at this point, my C-section was scheduled for the next week on his due date at 40 weeks.  And I just knew the chances of him turning at this point – he’s just not going to.  You know, if he wasn’t going to turn with two grown women waling on him from the outside, it’s just not going to happen.  And so I was sad, of course, and I allowed that.  And I had this conversation with Kristin one night.  I was just really emotional, and I very much wanted to bring my son into the world and be in a really good place with what was going to happen, and I just wasn’t.  I really needed to do some work on myself emotionally to get in a good place to just accept what was going to be.  And I think that the whole situation was a huge learning experience for me because birth is really out of your hands at the end of the day.  You can do whatever you can do to try to set yourself up to have the birth that you want to have, but the reality of it is he’s going to come the way that he’s going to come, and there’s nothing that I can do to control that.  And so I was really sad one night, and I called Kristin, and we just had a really real conversation about me and where I was at with it, and I just got such amazing advice from her and the fact that this is still your birth story.  This is not a situation where you have lost all control.  You still do have control over this.  It’s still a birth; it’s still what you want it to be.  And so she really empowered me to kind of take the reins back a little bit and think about what kind of experience we wanted to have in the OR.  And I feel, honestly, so blessed about the team that I did have.  Because of Gold Coast, actually, like really early on when we brought you guys on, I was having second guesses about the practice that I was with just because it was a really big practice, and I did want something so specific, and I just didn’t think that I was completely aligned with the OB that I originally had.  She was absolutely wonderful, but I don’t think she really participated in a lot of natural births, and she didn’t work with doulas a lot, so that was just kind of something that I had a gut feeling about.  And I was relatively far along at that point.  I was like, I don’t really think I can switch, and because of conversations that I had with Kristin, I did end up switching to Advanced OB, and that was the best-case scenario.  I just think about all these little pieces that kind of fell into place, and I had Breck and Sara as my midwives and absolutely loved them.  Obviously, they could no longer really have me after I found out that I was breech, so I ended up being switched over to the – there’s only two OBs in that practice.  It’s Carrie Roberts and John LeGrand, and I remember my first meeting with them.  They knew I was super upset about it, and they didn’t do a lot of C-sections in that practice, either, and they were so open to just a lot of conversation around it.  They heard my fears around it.  I felt so supported already in the fact that this isn’t what I wanted, but they’re going to make it as good as they possibly can for me.  So after that conversation with Kristin, I decided to write a birth plan that night.  I was like, what do we want?  So we created a playlist and had a playlist playing when he was born.  He was born into the most amazing, beautiful song ever; I still cry every time we hear it.  We did immediate skin to skin.  They did delayed cord clamping.  So many things that were on my original birth plan still happened.  And I think another big thing that came out of that conversation with Kristin that night is I actually wrote a letter to Parker, and that was really cathartic for me because I just told him that I trust him, and I trust that he was in this position for a reason and that we were still going to work together as a team and have a successful amazing birth, and that was – I just felt like I got a little bit of power back, I guess.

Alyssa:   I think that’s what people don’t understand.  The support of a doula through a C-section, even if it’s a planned C-section, that it’s still a birth, it’s still your story, and you can still have a plan put together that makes it feel like your own and that you do have choices still.

Amber:  Yeah, I mean, I had the two OBs in the office there during my C-section, and Sara LaGrand, my midwife, showed up too.  She did not need to be there, and she took video of my entire birth.  She took a lot of pictures.  When I watch my birth video, even though it was a C-section, I feel so – I cry every time.  I feel so emotional, and it really came full circle.  I was sad; I had to digest that; I had to allow that.  I had to feel in my heart that I did as much as I could to have turned him, and I did, and I was at peace with that, and then I was like, how do I want to show up in this?  And I did.  I did my emotional work; I did what I felt I needed to do to be in a good place with it, and I could not have had a better experience.  And I thank the doulas for that.  I thank Ashley and Kristin so much.  Ashley ended up giving me scripts of hypnobirthing for C-sections, and so I still felt super supported in that, and then my midwives and Dr. LeGrand and Carrie Roberts were just the most amazing team.  And I didn’t feel like it was a surgery.  I didn’t feel like it was just a routine thing, like they were concerned about my experience and really wanted me to have as good of an experience as I could, and I did.  And I’m so blessed to say that, and I just don’t think that it would have ended up like that if I was anywhere else.

Alyssa:   Well, thank you for sharing.  It’s a really beautiful story, and I know it’s emotional, but it’s lovely to hear stories like that, and I think you’re really going to help some other women.  A lot of women don’t process it the way that you did, and I think it’s really healthy and really good that you were able to do that.

Amber:  Thank you so much.

Alyssa:   So if anyone has any thoughts about that, feel free to email us at  And you can find us on our website,; Facebook, Instagram, and then obviously you can listen to our podcast on iTunes and Soundcloud.  Thanks again, Amber.

Amber:  Thank you.

Podcast Episode #23: Amber’s Cesarean Birth Story Read More »