Meet Mya, Our Newest Postpartum Doula!
Meet Mya, Our Newest Postpartum Doula!
As you know, when we bring a new person onto the Gold Coast team, we love to find out more about them and
share that with you!
Let’s find out more about Mya.
1) What did you do before you became a postpartum doula?
Before becoming a doula, I worked as a swim instructor, and as a head swim coach for young children in
Naperville, Illinois. After that, I went to Central Michigan University to earn a bachelor’s degree in science.
2) What inspired you to become a postpartum doula?
I’ve always been fascinated with pregnancy as a whole, after watching my family members, experience,
pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. I knew I would be the perfect helping hand for those who look like me,
which is what inspired me the most. I want other minorities to feel comfortable while giving birth, which is why I
pride myself on creating such a warm and open environment.
3) Tell us about your family.
My family has a very tight bond, we are quite a small family, because of this we spend lots of our free time
together whether it’s hanging out and enjoying each other’s company or traveling and going on new
adventures. Overall, my family is very loving and supportive, and most of all we love to have a good laugh.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
My favorite vacation spot is probably Barcelona Spain, the reason for this is because I’m a total foodie, and the
food there was beyond fresh and different from anything I’ve ever had before. Also, the architecture of all the
buildings were incredibly breathtaking.
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is a hard question, considering I enjoy listening to almost all genres of music.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
The best advice I have for families is to stick with their goals and values, just because they don’t align with
others in your community does not mean they are wrong, and also to give yourself grace and patience. Some
things take time to heal, and we must be mindful of that.
7) What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?
I believe my doula superpower is making people feel comfortable and empowered, no matter what the situation
is. Growing up looking different from most of my peers I know how it feels to be in uncomfortable situations.
This is why I pride myself on being able to make others feel both comfortable and confident in all environments.
8) What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is tacos, I could probably eat tacos every day for the rest of my life.
9) What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Since I’m not a Michigan native, I absolutely love going to the dunes, we don’t have anything similar to that in
Chicago so it’s always a fun treat.
10) What are you reading now?
Self-care for new moms
11) Who are your role models?
I would say, my mom is one of my biggest role models, she’s taught me how to be kind, empathetic,
independent, and resilient.
Mya serves day and overnight postpartum and infant care clients in West Michigan, SW Michigan and Northern
Meet our new Postpartum Doula, Jene’e!
1) What did you do before you became a doula/consultant?
For many years, I primarily have been a “domestic engineer”, a stay-at-home mom. Although in some of those years, my family has owned a few restaurants, and I helped there when I was needed.
2) What inspired you to become a doula/consultant?
Becoming a mama at a very young age, to two boys, and the birthing experience I had with them started my journey to want to make others mamas experiences more empowering and filled with better memories and support. Because of my birthing experience with them, for a long time I wanted to be a labor and delivery nurse, or an OB nurse practitioner, but that was not my life path.
I now have 7 beautiful children, and each one of those birthing experiences was different. It was not until my 6th child that I became more aware that I have a choice to a have different birthing experience. Now I want to empower mamas to know that they can too.
3) Tell us about your family.
We moved here to the Traverse City area at the end of 2020, from Henderson, Nevada. We would visit family here every summer, and loved the area.
We are a very outdoor family. Love the beach, paddle boarding, fishing, soccer, snowboarding, sledding, all fun activities
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
I absolutely love Hawaii. The beaches, the warm water, the smell, the culture. It is my Happy place.
Traverse City use to be one of our favorite vacation spots every summer also, until we moved from Las Vegas.
Now Las Vegas is one of my favorite vacation spots, so I can see my son, my amazing friends, and my previous village.
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is really hard to answer. I really think it depends on intention, mood, and the time of day.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
There is so much “best” advice to give! Give yourself Grace, time to heal and rest, do what is best for you and your family even if that means setting boundaries, and do not feel the need to follow the western culture to “bounce back”.
7) What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?
From what I have been told, is that I bring great, empowering, safe energy when I walk into the room
8) What is your favorite food?
I love raw sushi and Mexican food
9) What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I love Empire, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Glen Arbor, & Traverse City
10) What are you reading now?
The First 40 Days
11) Who are your role models?
I love to listen and surround myself with empowering woman and friends.
Top 3 Yoga Poses for 3rd Trimester
Cervical checks aren’t quite the crystal ball some providers make them out to be. The truth is, we don’t know how your birth will unfold. But by preparing your body you are creating balance in your pelvis and enhancing your baby’s chances of a smoother, more efficient birth! As a labor doula and prenatal yoga teacher I have witnessed how effective body balance work is for my pregnant clients.
Here are my 3 favorite yoga moves to do to get your body balanced for birth:
Thoracic movement with 360 breathing:
Super simple and often overlooked. Opening the ribs makes space for baby and organs to move up which releases tension in the pelvic floor, the back, and ultimately helps the sacrum have mobility to move out of the way during delivery. Breathing down feel baby lift, ribs expand, heart space lift, and back body widens.
Rocking Cat / Cow with a kickstand:
These poses can release tension in the lower back and help maintain mobility of the spine and pelvis. The extended leg is gaining length through the adductors which connect to the pelvic floor – lengthening and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. From a table top pose extend one leg to the side, rock forward into cow, inhale, and back into cat (almost childspose) exhale.
You can do this with a book, yoga block, and even a curb. This pose helps release tension in the psoas muscle. The psoas plays a big role in how labor can progress. Since the psoas runs behind and cradles the uterus, tightness can cause an imbalance of the uterus and encourage pelvic misalignments. This would interfere with the baby’s position and descent, and could possibly lead to a longer and more challenging labor. Standing with one foot on an elevated surface, allow your free leg to swing back and forth gently and dangle. Allow the hip to drop.
You will never regret doing the work that may give you and your baby the best chance at a more functional birth with less interventions. Where do you want to spend your time and energy- in the delivery room or in the yoga studio?
FOUNDER | MAMA |FERTILITY, PRENATAL, POSTPARTUM YOGA CERTIFIED | DOULA
Heidi is a yoga teacher, a doula, a wife, and most importantly, a mama.
Her goal is to create a community space for you that feels safe, supportive, and empowering. She holds certifications in Fertility Yoga, Prenatal Yoga, Postpartum Yoga, and Children’s Yoga. She is also a certified Postpartum and Infant Care Doula and a Labor Doula. She is one of two Yoga Alliance Certified Registered Prenatal Yoga Teachers in all of West Michigan. This is the highest credential in the field of Prenatal Yoga.
IG & FB: @mindbodybabyyoga
Meet Our New Birth Doula, Jordyn!
What did you do before you became a doula?
I have worked in the mental health/crisis industry for the last 8 years. I started with 2-1-1, helping people find local resources, and then the suicide prevention hotline. Over the previous 6 years, I have worked in the EAP world, assisting with coordinating crisis response teams around the country.
What inspired you to become a doula?
I have been fascinated with birth since I was a young child; my babysitter would set me up in her room so I could watch TLC’s Baby Story every day while the rest of the crew watched cartoons. I took every family science class in high school and went to Western Michigan University for my degree in Family Studies. After having my own son, my passion was reignited.
Tell us about your family.
I come from a large family, who are very important to me. My partner and I welcomed our son on our 4th anniversary; not sure anything will ever top that gift! He is now a toddler who enjoys chasing around our 2 cats, Shade & Storm.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
The Upper Peninsula! I love road trips, getting into nature, and star gazing, so the UP provides the ultimate experience. A stop at Clyde’s for a burger, taking scenic M-2, and chasing waterfalls are some of my favorite things to experience each trip!
Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is a tricky question, as music is my love language. If I had to choose: Kings of Leon, Led Zeppelin, Miranda Lambert, Young the Giant, and Fleetwood Mac.
What is the best advice you have given to new families?
I don’t like to give unsolicited advice; parents definitely get enough of that! However, I’d tell parents to trust their gut and don’t compare!
What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?
I am empathetic and a great listener. I know how to de-escalate stressful situations and have been called the calm in the middle of chaos.
What is your favorite food?
Another hard question, as I love to cook and try new things, but a big plate of pasta is the ultimate comfort.
What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Holland State Park reminds me of the family reunions we had every summer at the beach.
What are you reading now?
I am an avid reader and always have a few books in rotation. Currently, I am reading: The Hidden Feelings of Motherhood by Kathleen Kendall-Tacket and Real Food for Pregnancy by Lily Nichols.
Who are your role models?
My grandmother, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Brene Brown.
Meet our new birth doula, Lisa.
What did you do before you became a doula/consultant?
I had a 20+ year career as an Occupational Therapist. Much of my career as a therapist, was at Mary Free Bed Hospital working in the wheelchair and custom seating department. Approximately 7 years ago, I completed my master’s degree and became an academic advisor. I worked at Aquinas College and Grand Valley State University until the initial months of Covid. At which time, I resigned due to family needs.
What inspired you to become a doula/consultant?
I have always enjoyed professions that allow me to help others. I knew I wanted to do something that would feed my soul a little more, and I also knew that I had a desire to be involved with helping women and children. The doula profession has been on my radar for a while now and the time seemed right to go with my heart and pursue this career.
Tell us about your family.
I have a blended family that consists of four children from my husband’s previous relationship, two children from my previous relationship and one child together. All our children, with the exception of the youngest (15 y/o), are adults and most have families of their own.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
My husband and I love to travel and have many favorite spots! I would say that we enjoy traveling internationally and South Africa was one of our favorite trips.
Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
I really enjoy music, particularly live music, and I find it hard to name who would be my top 5. I can say that I have three artists that I have seen live a few times and every time it has been so fun! The first artist is U2, that I have seen two times. What I love the most about U2 is how they always fill me with hope. A couple other artists that I have seen a couple times is OAR and Michael Franti. I have seen both of them at Meijer Gardens and both artists put on a fabulous show!
What is the best advice you have given to new families?
To always lead with love. At the end of the day, we all make mistakes or can think of something we wished we would have done differently, but I firmly believe that it is always going to be ok if you lead with love.
What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?
I am not completely sure, but I think it would be my ability to anticipate what someone needs in the moment. I have always been good at reading or sensing when someone needs something and responding appropriately.
What is your favorite food?
I am a real foodie! I like just about anything that is local and fresh. However, I do have a real love for ethnic flavors and in particular Mediterranean.
What is your favorite place on West Michigan Gold Coast?
I have two favorite places on the west coast. Saugatuck holds a very special place in my heart because my husband and I were married there! We also love Petoskey, not only is it beautiful, but we have an annual camping trip with friends there every Labor Day. So, we have wonderful memories in both spots!
What are you reading now?
I am a voracious reader! I typically have a stack of 3-4 books at any given time that I am reading. I am in two book clubs, one that primarily focuses on non-fiction and the other fiction. The last couple of books I just read was Brene Browns Atlas of the Heart, love her so much and everything she writes! I also, just read The Sentence by Louise Erdrich.
Who are your role models?
I have always admired and tried to emulate women who have weathered the storms and did what needed to be done. I believe there is nothing more formidable than a woman who is doing what is right and necessary for those she loves.
Meet Alyssa Zapata, Certified Birth Doula!
Alyssa used to work with us as a placenta encapsulator and is now back with Gold Coast, this time as a birth doula!
What did you do before you became a doula?
I worked in the hospitality industry at restaurants, B&B’s, and assisting wedding planners. I also became a momma to my oldest who will be 7 in October!
What inspired you to become a doula?
Having an empowering unmedicated birth at Butterworth with a wonderful doula, Chasity, who is now a midwife student in Georgia.
Tell us about your family.
My husband of 6 years, Adam, works in IT at Herman Miller in Zeeland. We met through one of his friends at Hope College when I was going to Grand Valley State University. We have made it through a surprise pregnancy of our wonderful son at the beginning of our relationship, through multiple pregnancies/losses, a wedding, a dog, and 3 moves. He works very hard, keeps me grounded, and reminds me to slow down when I need to.
Our son, Joaquin, will be 7 in October; heading to 1st grade Spanish Immersion at Innocademy in Zeeland in the fall. He loves building things, making crafts, and playing soccer.
Our daughter, Valerie, will be 2 in October. She is very strong willed and always on the go!
Currently she loves gymnastics class with me and Minnie Mouse.
Our pit bull, Daisy, who we adopted when she was a little over a year old, and is now 5 years old. She loves people and running around our backyard.
We also have 2 angel babies in heaven.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
In Michigan, Harbor Springs where my family cottage is because I have so many wonderful memories there.
In the US probably the Smokey Mountains in Tennesse. It is so peaceful and a beautiful place to hike.
In the world, Florence, Italy. Italians know how to enjoy life and live slowly with beautiful art surrounding them.
Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is hard!
Anything by Lin Manuel Miranda. It’s unique and I’m a musical theatre nerd.
Eagles, my parents often listened to them when I was growing up. They remind me of times at the cottage.
John Legend because he is one of the only artists my husband and I agree upon. Beautiful heartfelt lyrics.
Lady Gaga because she is a great live performer and stands for inclusiveness.
Queen, you just can’t beat the sound!
What is the best advice you have given to new families?
That you are the parents meant for this baby, don’t let other parents or advice cloud your own instincts.
What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
I have a passion for evidence-based procedures and educating clients of their choices.
What is your favorite food?
Fresh made guacamole.
What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
What are you reading now?
The Whole-Brain Child
Who is your role model?
My mother. She was the breadwinner in my family growing up and worked in the
male-dominated field of finance within a major corporation. I may not align with that type
of work or be analytical like her, but she taught me how to work hard and not to let
anything stop you because you are a woman.
Audra’s Birth Story: Podcast Episode #105
Audra Geyer, Gold Coast’s newest birth doula, tells us her birth story and how birth support from her doula was a game changer. She also took HypnoBirthing classes and went from being afraid of labor to looking forward to it! Her experience with Gold Coast let her to become a doula herself! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Audra to talk about her birth and HypnoBirthing experience. Welcome, Audra!
Audra: Hi. Thank you!
Kristin: So tell us a bit about yourself. I know we met at the Baby Expo in your early pregnancy stages.
Audra: Yeah. I live in Alger Heights with my husband and our two dogs, and we have a seven-month old daughter, Charlie.
Kristin: This was your first pregnancy. So tell us about how you planned for your birth.
Audra: So initially, I had no plans for my birth. I just envisioned that it would not be an enjoyable experience, and I just had to get through it, and it was just part of what the process was for having a baby.
Kristin: And how did you get that information? Was it from movies or friends, or what made you sort of fear birth?
Audra: I think just society’s view on birth. You know, everyone I had talked to, I had just heard horror stories about their own personal experience. And, yeah, watching movies, TV shows, everything just shows that this is a terrifying, awful experience, and so that’s just — I was just preparing myself for that.
Kristin: And I think people tend to share negative stories more than they do their positive birth stories with friends and family. That just feeds into it. So you took some classes with us in early pregnancy, and also used both birth doula support as well as postpartum. So tell us a bit about that preparation and maybe how it changed your mindset.
Audra: Yeah. So I went with a friend to the Baby Expo, and I had heard about doulas before but just assumed they were for natural home births. So we just started talking, and I heard about HypnoBirthing. I remember the first question I asked you guys at the Baby Expo was, can I still get an epidural? And they were like, oh, of course. Whatever birth you want, we’re just there to support you. So I went home and just did a ton of research, and I was like, holy cow. There’s this whole world of doulas and support for women that I never knew about.
Kristin: Yeah. There is a misconception that doulas are only for home birthing, unmedicated birthers, and, you know, especially at Gold Coast, we pride ourselves on judgement-free support, and we have clients who want an epidural the second they get to the hospital, clients who are planning a surgical birth and they want support emotionally and with resources for that birth. So, yeah, doulas are definitely for all birthing persons, not just unmedicated birthers.
Audra: And my whole life I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression, and my husband and I knew that would be something we’d have to keep a close eye on while I was pregnant but also postpartum, and to be like, oh, I could have this support right away, and just knowing that I will have someone in my corner and someone to support my husband, too. It just provided us both with a lot of comfort.
Kristin: Yes! So tell us about HypnoBirthing and what you learned in that class.
Audra: HypnoBirthing was amazing! First off, we just learned so much about the birthing process and what happens to our bodies in labor. Stuff we’ve learned, but I’ve never really taken a deep dive into it and thought about it. And just a big focus on labor and delivery and pregnancy — our bodies were meant to do this. We learned a lot of medication, breathing techniques, but it was also a big focus on bonding with your baby, bonding with your partner. Every class we left, I just felt so connected to my baby, to my husband. A lot of positive affirmations and just really starting to envision my pregnancy, my labor, delivery, as such a beautiful experience no matter what happens. And what a gift I’d been given to be able to go through this.
Kristin: Right. Exactly. And what I love about HypnoBirthing is it’s, as you said, it’s more like that mind-body connection versus just positions and some physical techniques you can do to reduce the perception of pain. So it’s just — there’s such an emotional connection to birth and your partner and your support team, and of course breath and using positive language in birth and taking the fear out of it. It’s a huge aspect of HypnoBirthing.
Audra: I remember my husband was like, sure, I’ll do this with you. And when we left our first class, he was like, that was nothing like I imagined. He thought we were going to be in a gymnasium with pool noodles on the floor in different positions, and I think he just felt really empowered, too, that look at what I can do to help support my partner and be just as involved in the birth.
Kristin: Right. Beyond HypnoBirthing, I know you took some other courses through Gold Coast. What else did you do preparation-wise?
Audra: I took the Saturday Series course. So Comfort Measures, Breastfeeding, and then Newborn Survival.
Kristin: And what were your takeaways from that one day series?
Audra: It was just so nice to have information, and I just felt so much more calm and educated and kind of knowing what to expect and knowing that there’s no right or wrong way.
Kristin: Right. It’s what right for you. I think all of us, you know, emphasize that in our classes, whether it’s Alyssa’s Newborn Survival or the Comfort Measures that I teach, and certainly Kelly’s breastfeeding class is eye-opening in so many ways and shows how a partner can be involved in feeding, as well.
Audra: Yeah, and I think with the breastfeeding, it really just prepared me, that if that’s the route I choose to go, it’s going to be hard, and it’s okay that it’s going to be hard. I think I had an idea that, oh, no, breastfeeding is going to be so easy. She’ll latch right away. We’ll have no issues. But to know that, yep, you’re not alone. This can be a struggle, and again, you have to figure out what’s best for you and your family.
Kristin: Exactly. Now we’re getting to your birth phase and working with birth doulas and so on. I know Katie was your doula. Tell us about that experience.
Audra: Oh, it was amazing. I went from initially, “Of course I’ll have an epidural,” to, nope, I’m going to do this all naturally, thanks to HypnoBirthing, to at 37 weeks finding out I needed to be medically induced.
Kristin: Lots of changes with that. Tell us how Katie supported you in pregnancy and then leading up to the induction. A lot of people don’t really understand the role of a birth doula through pregnancy and labor.
Audra: Yeah. I had — the minute I signed the contract with Gold Coast, I had Katie’s support. Through the phone; I could text her with any questions, anything I was worried about, anxious about. She would respond, provide me with resources. A lot of what I needed was just reassurance that things were going how they were supposed to go, that I was okay, baby was okay. And especially as a first-time mom and first time being pregnant, your body does a lot of things that you don’t know would happen.
Kristin: Right. There’s a lot of, “Is this normal, or do I need to call my provider?”
Audra: Exactly. And so just knowing I had someone there, nonjudgmental, you know, just supporting me — because, you know, calling your provider, you don’t always get to talk to them, or they’ll just yep, yes or no, give you a short little information, and then they have to move on with their day. So having someone who can sit down and really just talk through your options, talk about how you’re feeling, checking in with you emotionally.
Kristin: So when you found out you needed to be induced, how did your doula support you through that process before she supported you in the hospital?
Audra: So I left my appointment with the doctor sobbing in the car, just absolutely terrified about getting induced. So the first thing I did when I got home was text Katie. I just expressed all my fears to her and what I was feeling, and first and foremost, she reassured me that the medical team I had chosen were going to take the best care of me. My baby was going to be safe and healthy. I had blood pressure issues, and so I was just terrified of what could happen if my blood pressure gets really high. She encouraged me to write out a list of questions to ask my doctor. Like, if this happens, then what do we do, or what would this step be? What would this look like? So I could have more of an understanding of what potentially could happen at the hospital. And then also she really encouraged me to write out some affirmations, because I love writing affirmations and I use them all the time, and so I was able to write a list of affirmations that I would use while I would meditate to just help calm me down and center me, focus me, and let me still enjoy these last few moments of being pregnant.
Kristin: That’s fantastic. So you were able to have conversations before the induction started, and you got the answers you needed to feel empowered. So tell us about some of the induction process and when your body started to kick in and when you felt like you needed in-person support and how that went.
Audra: We knew it was going to be a long induction process, just because I was 37 weeks and my body was not near ready for labor. So between Katie, myself, and my husband, we were basically in constant communication through text message, just how I was doing, how I was feeling, what the next step was. And Katie actually came the first night we were at the hospital just to check in, see how we were doing, letting us know whatever we needed, she was there and ready for us. And things were going pretty stable at that point; nothing that we needed a lot of support. We were just resting. So she went home, and said, I have my phone with me. Anything you need, call, text, reach out. And things were slowly progressing. It got to the point where I did end up getting an epidural, but I was just pretty relaxed. And then the next day around noon, my water broke, and things started to pick up pretty quick.
Kristin: Yes. It intensifies everything, for sure.
Audra: We reached out and said, hey, you know, I think we’re ready for you to come. Labor has officially started after 24 hours of being at the hospital. And so by the time Katie got there, my epidural had kind of worn off a little bit. So I was in a lot of discomfort. I was not feeling well, and I just remember her coming in and with her and my husband, they were both just supporting me as I would breathe through my surges. And I actually — Katie has two sons, and I remember at one point looking up at her, and saying, I just need you to tell me what you love about being a mom, in between, so that I was able to focus on the things I had to look forward to as I was in some of these deep pains and discomfort. And it was just so amazing to hear. You know, I had my husband on one side telling me the birth affirmations we’ve written, and then I had Katie on the other just sharing these amazing things that I knew I would soon be experience.
Kristin: Yes. I love it!
Audra: With that, I was able to just relax, surrender, and just — I felt so calm despite being in one of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve ever been in.
Kristin: That’s great. So things intensified. Did Katie help you move into different positions?
Audra: Since I had the epidural — because I finally got some relief — she would help with the nurses, with moving me, and I think the biggest thing for me was just the reassurance she was giving me, that I was doing great, my body was moving along, this was where I was supposed to be, helping me feel excited. And I think for Rob, too, she just was an extra support for him because he was supporting me so much, and it helped me to know he was taken care of as well.
Kristin: Yes. That is a huge part, because we do support a couple as a whole and make sure that the partner has gotten rest if needed with inductions or had a chance to get food or to step out and take a break because it can be intense when they’re pouring everything into you and are trying to be that supportive partner. We don’t want them to be depleted at the time of pushing and meeting their baby. So I’m glad that he felt taken care of, as well.
Audra: Yeah. And once I finally felt relaxed and got a lot of relief, Katie encouraged us both to take a little rest. And there’s actually a picture of us, with me in the bed sleeping, Rob on the couch sleeping, about an hour before I gave birth, and it’s just one of my favorites. The last few moments of us resting, just the two of us, and that moment was able to be captured.
Kristin: And then did Katie offer support after the birth? Like, how did she help after your daughter was born?
Audra: When Charlie was born, she came very quickly and ended up needing to be on CPAP pretty quick after she was born. So as a new mom and just already very anxious, I was terrified. Like, what is this looking like? Is she okay? Is this normal? What are they doing? And I had just given birth and my body — you know, I was just in this tremendous amount of emotions in general, and she was able to support both my husband and I. She encouraged Rob to go stand by Charlie and then was able to be there with me while the doctor was finishing up with me and just kind of keeping us informed, educating us about what was going on and that things were okay because the nurses and doctors, they’re all talking to each other and saying terms we didn’t understand, and just encouraging me to ask questions if I had any and validating that, you’re doing a good job advocating for yourself, Audra, and just — yeah, it was nice knowing my husband could be with Charlie for that brief time, and I had someone right there with me, as well. And so then after Charlie was able to be off of CPAP, we were able to do our skin to skin. She helped us with latching and, again, I was just very anxious. Is this supposed to be happening? Does she look okay? Is she breathing okay? And just, like, bringing me back to focus of, look, you just gave birth, and you have this newborn baby in your arms.
Kristin: I love it. Did she follow up after she left to see how you were doing when you were still in the hospital?
Audra: Yes. She would follow up to see how feeding was going, and then we did — I would say about a week after Charlie was born, she came to our house to just follow up and see how things were going, and she got to see Charlie and hold her. And it was just so nice to have her support and to have — like, that she was such a part of this experience to us, where I was so vulnerable, but yet it was such a beautiful, emotional experience that I feel just so connected to her now.
Kristin: Yes. I feel that way with my doulas. It is vulnerable, and a time of reverence. So, yeah, you end up feeling like your doula is part of your family for that journey, whether it’s a birth doula or a postpartum doula. And, of course, you delivered pre-COVID, but your postpartum phase was during COVID. So that’s changed your initial plans as far as postpartum doula support went.
Audra: Yeah. So we had — I’m trying to think. Maybe a couple weeks before COVID hit, being at home and being able to use our postpartum doula. And I remember initially being like, okay, what do I do? How can I entertain the doula? Like, I need to clean the house. I need…
Kristin: You’re a helper, obviously!
Audra: I need to look presentable! And Jen was our doula, and she came over and was just like, oh, my gosh, Audra, like, you can relax. I have Charlie. Don’t you worry. And I would go take a nap. I would rest. I would come downstairs, and the house would be tidied. She’d have a snack waiting for me. My pump parts would be clean. The diapers bag was packed and ready to go.
Audra: Yeah. Less things I had to worry about or to focus on later that day. And I like to talk and talk through experiences, so a lot of times, too, we would just sit and talk, which is what I needed at that time.
Kristin: And we are there to process the birth with our clients as far as postpartum doula support and then help you heal and talk to you emotionally. I feel like friends and family ask more about the baby and don’t check in enough with the birthing person and how they’re doing and how they’re feeling. Everyone wants to hold the baby and give gifts for the baby, and there’s not enough attention to the birthing person.
Audra: Yeah. The amount of times I got asked, how’s the baby sleeping? You know, it was never, how are you sleeping? How are you doing? It was, oh, how is she sleeping? And I also got a lot of, oh, I’m glad that’s going great now, and you just wait until you see what happens. And I’m like, my body is still healing from this crazy experience. I’m keeping another human alive. What about me? I need help, too.
Kristin: Exactly. And in traditional cultures, women are supported for 30 to 40 days from friends and family, and they aren’t expected to do anything. And in our culture, it’s like, okay, get back to work. Get back in shape. You should be feeling great and don’t complain.
Audra: Keep the house clean!
Kristin: Right. Be perfect! And that’s not how it should be. So we’re trying to bring back some more of that focus on the birthing person. So you are now a doula with us! So tell us how you became interested in becoming a doula after your experience and a bit about why you are drawn to this work, because you obviously have another career.
Audra: Yes. So like I said earlier, I went from not knowing a lot about birth, just expecting, you know, this to kind of be a terrible experience, and through my education and through the help of having doulas, I was able to make my birth one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve gone through, and I found myself, after giving birth, wanting to talk about birth a lot, and I was doing a lot of research, reading a lot of books, reading about postpartum, and right now, I’m a speech language pathologist. I work with people who’ve either had a stroke or a brain injury. So I’ve always worked with people, helping people. That’s been a passion of mine. And just realizing the lack of knowledge, especially in the United States, of the postpartum experience, the birth experience, and what a doula is. And I just thought, wow, if I could help give other women the support I had and help them through this journey, help them have the experience and support that I had, that would just be so fulfilling and just — it makes me sad when I think about all the people I know who look back on their birth and their postpartum and it was — they felt like they had no support and they felt so alone. And that shouldn’t be the norm.
Kristin: Right. Yeah, they feel isolated, especially now during COVID, and we’ve been working all through COVID. Some of our postpartum work had halted, and some hospitals weren’t allowing doulas in, so we offered virtual support only, but I feel like now more than ever, because of the isolation with COVID, doula support and that connection is so essential and providing information, as you said, so couples can make informed decisions about their birth and their postpartum phase and planning out what they want to do after baby or babies are born and how they can accept help from others or hire help, like postpartum doulas or a housekeeper or a meal delivery service, whatever it may be.
Audra: Yeah. And even the comfort of knowing you guys have a sleep consultant, and if I ran into issues, you know, I had 12 weeks off for maternity leave, and a big area of anxiety was, what is it going to look like when I go back, with sleep? And so I always knew I had Alyssa if I needed her. Thankfully, Charlie got on a good sleep routine on her own, but just knowing the amount and the diverse support that Gold Coast had, I knew I was going to be taken care of, and I knew I was in good hands.
Kristin: So what did you learn — obviously, you worked with doulas, but then you recently took your birth doula training. What opened your eyes that you didn’t know before about the doula role? Tell us a bit about your training.
Audra: It was so amazing. Just learning about nonjudgmental support. No matter what someone is thinking, feeling, we are just really there to support them. And, obviously, as we go through our own births and raising our own kids, we can develop our own feelings, but putting those aside and saying, we are there to support you, and no matter what you choose. So it was nice to just learn about all those different strategies and how I could go in and help a woman in any situation, no matter what. I would feel confident doing that.
Kristin: Right. And your particular training through ProDoula — and I’m also trained through ProDoula — you realize you don’t need all the things as a doula, and you have that instinctual knowledge, and you’re able to just serve; again, without judgment, and an open heart, and a brand new doula can be just as effective as someone who’s seasoned like myself.
Audra: Yeah. And, again, before I knew much about doulas, I always thought, oh, they have the birthing balls and they’re in the tub and, you know, all these other knick-knacks that you have to have. And it’s really just yourself being there. That’s all you need.
Kristin: I mean, I have a birth backpack that is filled with things, but outside of, you know, my bosu and a couple other things — like, I like the LED candles to put in the bathroom if a client’s in the tub or shower, but I don’t use everything I bring. Other than snacks for myself, and that’s key. Got to keep going! But, yeah. So we’re excited to have you on the team!
Audra: Yes. I’m so excited!
Kristin: And I know you have plans eventually to become a postpartum doula, but you are available for hire for labor doula support.
Kristin: So we’re excited to begin that process with you. Thanks for sharing your story, Audra!
Audra: Yes. Thank you for having me! I love sharing it and talking about my experience.
Kristin: You’ll impact so many families, not only from listening to the podcast, but when they begin working with you. And we will include a link to your bio in our podcast notes and the blog. Thanks for listening to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. These moments are golden!
Acupuncture for Anxiety: Podcast Episode #105
Kristin Revere, Co-Owner of Gold Coast Doulas talks with Vikki Nestico of Grand Wellness about acupuncture to help relieve stress, tension, and anxiety. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Vikki from Grand Wellness to talk about how acupuncture can help with anxiety, both in pregnancy and after delivery. Welcome, Vikki!
Vikki: Thank you for having me! It’s awesome to be here again.
Kristin: Yeah, it’s great to have you back! We spoke about acupuncture and fertility last time. So I’m excited to delve into anxiety. A lot of our clients struggle with anxiety, both in pregnancy and after giving birth. So I’d love to hear a bit about you personally and also your practice before we begin.
Vikki: Well, I moved here from New York City about six years ago and was so happy, because I do love it here — it’s such a great city — but really exciting to bring — I wouldn’t say I brought this medicine here, but, you know, I’m one of handful of people that do acupuncture in West Michigan. And in New York, every corner has an acupuncturist. So it’s wonderful to be a part of the crew that can — that really gets to share this medicine for the first time to so many people.
Kristin: Right. Yeah, it is definitely all about education, and we feel the same way about birth support and certainly postpartum doulas. Everyone has a doula in New York or Chicago or in other markets, and so both of us in our practices have the challenge of educating the community on the benefits of our services. So it’s great to partner with like-minded professionals like yourself and refer clients and know that you’re a trusted referral source. You know, we tend to refer a lot of our clients who are either struggling with pain in pregnancy or are trying to induce labor or have a baby who’s breech, for example, and they’re trying to do everything they can to flip baby. So we appreciate how much you’ve helped our clients.
Vikki: Oh, thank you. I love working with women and with women in the process of getting pregnant and working through pregnancy, giving birth. There is nothing more exciting than to get that note from a client with a beautiful picture of their baby on it.
Kristin: Yes! That is the best. And then if you continue the relationship, that’s also quite lovely, to follow up and see how they’re doing.
Vikki: Absolutely, and usually when you get in — you know, obviously, with doulas, you then work on next pregnancies and sometimes around that. For us, it really opens our clients’ eyes to what acupuncture can help with. So if we’ve helped somebody through fertility and through pregnancy, we’ll often see them down the road for the beginning of other conditions. You know, they’ll pop in and say, you know, you helped me with this. Before I have to go in and, you know, take maybe a certain medication, you know, can acupuncture help? And so it’s really wonderful to, exactly, continue on and help them throughout other struggles they may have in the future.
Kristin: So, Vikki, tell us how acupuncture can help a birthing person with anxiety during their pregnancy.
Vikki: Well, first of all, we are all aware when we’re pregnant that the body is making these huge changes. And with that, we are increasing our blood supply. We are just making this little human. And that amount of added blood in our body can really affect how smoothly our circulation flows and how smoothly our energy flows. So when we look at things like anxiety, in particular, you know, we want to make sure that we are helping somebody have everything circulating through their body with ease. But why things may struggle: there can be a whole host of different reasons why, and so with Chinese medicine, we — for those that have never had it, there’s not just one answer to a condition. So there’s not just — you know, say somebody is having struggles sleeping. There’s not one pill or one herb or one item for the whole idea of insomnia. And the same way with anxiety. If we’re having a client who’s struggling with anxiety, we need to ask a lot of questions and go through a lot of our diagnoses to find the pattern and to help unravel that pattern. So we do — we ask a lot of questions. We want to know things like, have you had anxiety before? Or is this something new due to the hormonal changes in pregnancy? Are you eating differently? You know, we change our eating habits when we’re pregnant, and sometimes we’re craving things, maybe more items that are hot and spicy, or dairy, or fried foods. That can affect anxiety. Being depleted because we’re working at home or at the office a lot can, you know, cause some fatigue in the body. That can add to anxiety. But then also we want to know the physical symptoms of what they’re feeling.
Kristin: Sure. And if someone’s had back to back pregnancies, there can be a lot of depletion with that.
Vikki: Absolutely. Absolutely. So we just take all this information that we get during our conversations with our clients and through our own diagnoses or tongue and pulse diagnosis that we do. You’ve had your tongue looked at before, so you know.
Vikki: It gives us a lot of really objective information.
Kristin: I felt like your intake session was very thorough and, you know, even getting into the supplements that I take and how that affects my mood and energy level and so on. Yeah, it was very thorough.
Vikki: Yeah, and then that gives us, you know, how are we going to release this anxiety; how are we able to cool the body if it’s more of a racing anxiety; how are we going to be able to bring that down and allow our clients to take this big, healing, deep breaths. And acupuncture’s really helpful for that.
Kristin: Yes! And so as far as this session — and you describe sort of the intake process, but for clients who say they have a fear of needles or are uncertain on, you know, what a session would look like, and you mentioned that it’s relaxing, and I would definitely agree with that — can you take — walk our listeners through what a session would be like during pregnancy?
Vikki: Yeah. I totally understand that it seems really odd that it could be relaxing, until you’ve had it done. And I see a lot of clients that come in who are very hesitant because they’re very — they may be fearful of needles. And so I work within their capacity. Here, we’re very gentle, and as I always say to my clients, you’re in control when we’re in the room. The importance for me is to help the patient find comfort so when they are resting with the needles in, then they’re able to really relax. So treatments usually start by a lot of talking. You know, our first treatments are about 90 minutes, and that’s because we do a good chunk of talking to unravel where this pattern starts so I know how I’m going to approach the treatment. It also helps our clients get comfortable with me or Corey, who’s the other acupuncturist here. And know that this isn’t a rushed treatment. What we do here, we take our time, and we always make sure that our client is comfortable. And then after we chat for a while, we do that tongue and pulse, that diagnosis, which is, you know, just how we can objectively see what’s going on in the body. And then we choose the points that we’re going to use to right the imbalance, and the client gets to lay for about 25 minutes or 30 minutes with the needles, which, again, sounds like it wouldn’t be relaxing, but you don’t even know they’re there.
Kristin: Right. I would agree.
Vikki: And it’s a very deep rest. A lot of times, people are surprised how deeply they nap when they come in for acupuncture. Very relaxing.
Kristin: Now, after baby’s born, walk us through how that can be helpful if a listener is struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety or OCD after giving birth and how you can level hormones and so on.
Vikki: Acupuncture’s a really wonderful and natural way for women to build their strength and to heal after birth. First and foremost, it’s a great therapy for restoring energy and boosting that immune system, and that is not just, you know, after — for women after they’ve given birth. That’s for clients going through cancer treatments. That’s for people struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome. Acupuncture is just a really great therapy to bolster our energy of our body and really direct it to helping us heal and be stronger. But specifically to helping after a baby is born, acupuncture helps to rebuild blood that was lost during childbirth, which can bring on other conditions. It helps you increase circulation that will speed up wound healing and helps stop pain. It helps with women with breastfeeding issues, increasing milk production or healing mastitis.
Kristin: That’s amazing. I didn’t realize. I knew that the milk supply would be affected, but mastitis healing — fantastic.
Vikki: I know I see people that, you know, come in and we have certain points that really help to increase that milk supply but also helping our body just to use our body fluids correctly and to create that breastmilk. It’s wonderful to see women be able to get some support, not with the aspect of how are you positioned and how is the baby breastfeeding, but internally, how your body is actually dealing with the milk supply. We also, after the baby’s born, we help a lot with emotional issues. And, you know, like you said, it’s not just anxiety and depression. It’s worry. It’s grief. I see women that aren’t breastfeeding and maybe they couldn’t for some reason, or they chose not to, and after they made that decision, they’ve been feeling grief about it. We are here to help; we help them process that.
Kristin: Right. Or grieving the birth that they wanted that didn’t happen. There’s so much.
Vikki: Absolutely. You know, I always — I often say that in China, women have a whole month where their job is to rest after giving birth, and, you know, they take — the baby is brought to them. They feed the baby; they cuddle the baby. But for the most part, their family is there to take care of that baby and to take care of that mom and feed her great food and get her energy and her blood back to normal so she’s at full capacity when she’s back, when she’s clicked into really taking care of that baby. And we don’t do that here in America.
Kristin: We don’t, unfortunately.
Vikki: Yeah. And so it can take longer for us to heal physically, for us to heal emotionally, because, you know, we don’t — we haven’t nourished ourselves and been able to rest as much and to have as much self-care time.
Kristin: And you describe what we do as postpartum doulas, like in that role of what a family member would do in other cultures, making sure that they’re nourished and they’re taking care of their house and bringing baby to them and encouraging them to rest or take a shower or have a cup of tea. And so, yeah, so we love that role. It is such a depleting time, and I feel like our culture is so rushed. I do love the first 40-day concept of healing and rest and care.
Vikki: Absolutely. As I say to my clients when we talk about working with doulas, during that time — in a lot of these traditional countries, villages, our families were so close that we didn’t need all this, you know, this other — we had somebody that was coming. There was somebody in the village coming. But now, we don’t have people in the village coming. We don’t have our families right there. We need our doulas. We need our acupuncturists. We need our advocates or people that listen to us. Therapy, I often will say, is a wonderful thing, because we don’t always have the support here.
Kristin: Right. Exactly. And a lot of people move here for work and don’t have any family to help care for them and, you know, it’s so needed to take that time. And like you said, that 30-minute session is a time away from family and responsibilities as a mother, and you can just rest and relax and have someone take care of you.
Vikki: And in that 30 minutes, that 30 minutes isn’t even just the whole treatment. That is just the 30 minutes that you’re laying and resting with the needles in. You’ve already been able to share your truths, to share what’s going on, and we can begin treatment, but then you get that time in just a safe, healing environment, with gentle music, to just relax and let the body just take full control of healing and making some really great, balancing changes.
Kristin: I love that. So, Vikki, tell us how our listeners can get in touch and payment methods. I know you take health savings and flex spending and some insurances and so on.
Vikki: Yeah. So we are happy to work with our clients when it comes to billing, in many ways. First off, if their health savings or FSA does cover acupuncture, we definitely take it, and we definitely supply people with superbills that needs them for insurance reimbursements if they’re unsure about reimbursement. We do bill insurance directly for those that do have benefits for acupuncture. And we also have loyalty programs where we, for our clients, we offer the tenth treatment complimentary, and that is a mix of many of our treatments here from acupuncture to reiki to massage. We understand that, you know, the Western world hasn’t really gotten on board to the preventative medicine, and so insurance doesn’t cover everything. And we love to be able to help in ways that we can. So, you know, that’s how with insurance and that. But they can get in touch with us from our website, and on there is a whole bunch of information. You can also book online there. Otherwise, clients can call the office directly and make appointments with our front desk, and the number there is 616-466-4175. I often encourage people that are unsure to schedule a complimentary consultation with myself or Corey, the other acupuncturist who works here, who’s awesome. And, you know, we’re happy to really answer questions and for people to hear our voices and to be able to have some conversation about them directly to help with their comfort level as to whether or not they feel like this is the right therapy for them.
Kristin: That’s fantastic. Do you have any parting words for our listeners?
Vikki: You know, when it comes to dealing with changes in our mood, especially around the times of pregnancy and giving birth, these times are just really a struggle for us. It’s what makes us as women so powerful is the ability to be able to roll with these changes and to experience what is amazing about our bodies. But it doesn’t mean that everything goes smoothly, and I often see people get caught up in — you know, women seeing other mothers who just effortlessly fall into being a mother and gave birth and just the ease of raising children. And I can usually guarantee most women that that is — that we all struggle. We all struggle. And there are many options for help, and acupuncture is a great one. It’s not the only one, but it is a great therapy for supporting women during these times and just unraveling the stressors and emotions that we struggle with during that time.
Kristin: I love that. Thanks for sharing!
Acupuncture during Pregnancy and Postpartum: Podcast Episode #103
Dr. Carrie Dennie, ND speaks with Alyssa about the benefits of acupuncture during pregnancy and postpartum. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast. You are listening to Alyssa Veneklase. I am the co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today, I am so excited to be talking to Dr. Carrie Dennie, a naturopathic doctor at what was Grand Rapids Natural Health but is now the Michigan Center for Holistic Medicine. Hello!
Dr. Dennie: Hi, Alyssa! Thank you for having me!
Alyssa: I want to know, do you prefer Dr. Carrie or Dr. Dennie?
Dr. Carrie: Dr. Carrie is fine.
Alyssa: Okay. Dr. Carrie. So I have some questions for you. You started out this path, and you became a naturopathic doctor, but then I was reading your bio. You had one acupuncture treatment and just fell in love with it and then went on to acupuncture school and graduated the valedictorian of your class?
Dr. Carrie: I did.
Alyssa: That’s amazing!
Dr. Carrie: Thank you.
Alyssa: That makes me wonder what happened in that treatment of acupuncture that just made you fall in love with it so much.
Dr. Carrie: So it was interesting because my school has both programs, and we get free access as students to go and have free appointments. And so I had never had it, you know. Heard about it, and so I went and tried it. And it was just — I think the — my favorite part about acupuncture is that it’s so relaxing. I don’t care what you’re coming for, if it was pain, if it’s some sort of an organ dysfunction. Nope — well, yes. That is important, and you can get relief, but also, the relaxation. It just — it’s so amazing. It’s just so invigorating. A lot of my patients will say that they feel gentle sensations when they’re in the treatment. And, again, everybody leaves feeling just relaxed and they end up sleeping better that night or even several days afterwards. Like, there’s just so many different ramifications that can occur as a result of one acupuncture treatment. So that’s why I loved it.
Alyssa: So I’ve only had one, so I’m not very experienced in acupuncture, but what exactly — what is it doing? You know, I know I have these little needles poked in. I would imagine that it’s doing something to my nerves, which then send signals to my brain to do something else?
Dr. Carrie: That is correct. So that’s how we understand it from a conventional medical perspective, is that you have nerve stimulation. The nerves release chemical messengers that can go to the brain, the spinal cord, the muscles, the organs, and then affect change from that point on. Also in general, acupuncture can reduce inflammation. It is a stimulator of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers, so obviously can help relieve pain. It can improve blood flow and circulation. And, again, like I said, it is just relaxing and has an overall mood-boosting affect. One other thing that I will say is that I had a patient recently who was undergoing chemotherapy currently, and they were unable to get their treatment because their white blood cell count was too low. So they came for an acupuncture treatment, and after one, the numbers went up enough that this person was able to get his treatment the next time. Again, it’s so amazing how these little needles can affect great change in the body.
Alyssa: Yeah. So this is kind of a strange question that just popped into my head right now, but what’s the most amount of needles you’ve ever had in someone? Or is it typically, like, only a dozen or so?
Dr. Carrie: So I try to keep it around let’s say 15 or 16, and again, it just all depends what they’re coming for. But the most, I think, that I’ve ever personally put into someone was around 30, and the reason why is that their concern involved their fingers and toes. And so I had needles in between fingers and toes, which is about 18 needles in total, let’s say. And so the rest of the other body points add on top of that. Like I said, normally, I try to keep it less than that, but again, it just all depends. This person who I did all these needles in, they felt benefits afterwards. I love it.
Alyssa: And that’s the point, right?
Dr. Carrie: Exactly.
Alyssa: So how do you integrate the two, then? As a naturopathic doctor, how do you integrate that medicine with acupuncture? Is that a silly question because you’re like, well, they just go hand in hand? The benefits of both?
Dr. Carrie: It’s not silly, but you’re 100% correct. They definitely go hand in hand, and it all depends on the patient. So as a naturopathic doctor, for your listeners who may not know, I am trained as a primary healthcare professional, and I am trained to emphasize prevention, treatment, and optimization of health using natural therapies that are safe. And most of the time, research has proven them to be effective. And so primarily my goals are always to identify the root cause of disease, to reestablish the foundations for health, which basically is diet and lifestyle changes, and then again to support the body’s natural ability to heal itself. And that’s the piece right there where acupuncture just fits in perfectly. Again, tiny needles being applied in random places, if you don’t understand the theory behind it, but it, again, it just has so many different effects on different systems. And so like I said, I was in school for naturopathic medicine, but once I had that treatment, I had to add on my acupuncture degree because it just didn’t make sense to leave without this awesome therapy.
Alyssa: For you, it was just a no-brainer. It was like that missing piece of the pie to what you were already doing?
Dr. Carrie: Yes. And it was interesting, what I was learning, because it just makes so much sense when you really start to dive into the theory and why they are — you know, why this person or these people decided to do these things. It’s just so interesting. And it’s natural. Again, the Chinese developed this over 4,000 years ago. They didn’t have MRIs or X-rays but they were able to ascertain functions of the organs in an — you know, almost in the exact same way that we do in western medicine, but there’s some tweaks. But again, it was just amazing, so I had to do it.
Alyssa: I love it. So, you know, for our listeners, most of them are either pregnant or in this postpartum period. If someone were to come to you pregnant or newly postpartum, would you have to treat them differently, or what would treatment look like for them?
Dr. Carrie: So treatment for anyone is initially a two-hour long appointment, and we talk about everything, especially if they’re coming to me for naturopathic medicine. If they’re coming to me for acupuncture, the initial appointment is an hour and a half, and again, we’re still talking for at least an hour in both sessions. But I’m not just focusing on their chief concern, whether it’s, you know, having lactation issues, or I’ve just got this nausea all of a sudden. You know, it’s more than that. I want to know everything because your health is influenced by so many different factors beyond just the physical. You know, what is your mental emotional state? Do you have any religious or spiritual beliefs? Are you walking in those beliefs? Are you using — are you living those principles? All of that affects your health. But then also, too, we talk about the things that you do and the things that you eat and what comes out of your body every day, and hopefully people are looking at the things that come out because, again, these are all…
Alyssa: It’s important!
Dr. Carrie: Yes! These are clues towards your health. And so we talk about all of those things, and then, you know, the thing that I love about naturopathic medicine and that I incorporate with acupuncture is that I want to heal your whole body. I want to care for your whole body so that you can have the best life that you have because your whole is as well as can be. And so that’s usually how it starts is a two-hour treatment. If it’s acupuncture-based, after we talk, then I start the acupuncture, and I have a whole process, especially for people who don’t or who have never had acupuncture before, and I kind of walk them through it. But then they just get to relax afterwards. And if they like heat, there’s heat therapy that can be provided. Music, you know. Essential oils. It’s just relaxing while you lay there. And you can either focus on your breathing, or if you’re a person that prays, you can pray while you’re laying there or you can meditate. Or you can just, again, invite in relaxation and good vibes and sent out the bad ones while you’re resting and not thinking about all the things you have to do afterwards and the nuances of life that tax our systems.
Alyssa: I think that maybe the relaxation part that people who have not had an acupuncture treatment before might not realize is that you put the needles in, and then — is this the case for you? Do you leave the room and then they have time to relax?
Dr. Carrie: Yes.
Alyssa: And that’s what I didn’t know when I had mine is, oh, I just get to sit here in this beautiful room with the noise machine going. But yeah, that sounds lovely. Heat therapy and essential oils. It’s kind of like you get a massage and then you still get to lay there for a little while.
Dr. Carrie: Yes. You get to bask in stillness, you know, and hopefully, you can let go of all the things that are plaguing you for those moments while you’re laying there and just let your body heal itself. You know what I mean? Let your body do what it can do for you when you’re not under stress all the time.
Alyssa: So are there certain areas of the body, then, that you probably couldn’t work on for a pregnant person? Like, you know, certain spots that might activate labor?
Dr. Carrie: Correct. So with pregnant women, we do not — we’re trained very strictly on this. There are several points we do not do during the pregnancy, and even with my patients that are trying to conceive, depending on what’s going on, I may or may not do them, either. But, yes, we’re trained very much not to do those, unless the woman is in the third trimester. Maybe she’s trending towards her due date or she’s past her due date. She wants to try to avoid an induction process in the hospital. Then we would do those points because we are trying to promote labor.
Alyssa: Yeah. That’s a great point because early in pregnancy, you want to avoid them, but you’ve got this mom who’s 38, 39, 41 weeks, and she is in there for the complete opposite reason. Help me get this baby out!
Dr. Carrie: Exactly.
Alyssa: That makes sense. And then what about postpartum? You know, a newly — you know, there’s all sorts of things with healing and then mental and emotional wellness. Is there anything specific in the postpartum time that you would do for a parent?
Dr. Carrie: Totally. So moms, being a new mom or a new parent in general, is overwhelming. Now there’s a whole other human or humans that you have to care for, and it can definitely be an around-the-clock experience. So the first thing that I would suggest for anyone looking to acupuncture to help is for that relaxation piece, to alleviate anxiety; to relieve stress. For the parent to have, again, that moment, time where they don’t have to worry about the baby or babies or their spouse. They can focus on zenning out, relaxing. So that’s number one. Specifically for new mothers, you know, postpartum depression can be a huge obstacle to battle during this time, and so acupuncture, again, would promote serotonin and dopamine production, and these are the happy hormones. So, again, boosting mood. It can improve sleep and boost energy, which are very much important things to have when you have new babies. But beyond that, again, like you said, there’s healing and rejuvenation that needs to happen after a birth, and acupuncture can definitely assist with that. Another thing that people don’t think about is milk production. Acupuncture can definitely help boost lactation so that, you know, that’s one less thing that mom has to worry about.
Alyssa: So where in the body — I’m picturing nipples or needles in the boobs. Where do you — is there another spot on the body for anyone who might say, oh, that sounds interesting, but I don’t think I could handle a needle in my boob. Where does it go?
Dr. Carrie: Totally! Again, all depends on how they present. But you’re 100% correct. There are points in the chest area where I could put needles. I would not, though, and that’s the beautiful thing about acupuncture, like you said, is there are other places that you can put needles, and the answer is yes. So some are — one is on the shoulder area or in the — yeah, on the shoulder area, and then there’s other that are kind of, again, on the limbs that I could use to boost milk production.
Alyssa: That’s really cool. We have two lactation consultants, and I wonder if they’ve ever recommended acupuncture to anyone who’s struggling with milk production. That’s an interesting idea.
Dr. Carrie: Something else, though, that I want to mention, too, as a naturopathic doctor, is I don’t just think in one lens. I have both on, hopefully, if my brain is working correctly. But I would also be thinking about naturopathic therapy. So as we know, labor is a trauma to the body, and depending on — even if it goes smoothly, or even if there are some complications, like you said, healing reformation needs to be done. But you also need to know the state of your body, and a lot of times, bloodwork is necessary or recommended after labor. And so think of things like just the general CBC in case the person is anemic; looking at the thyroid, because there is a connection between delivery or pregnancy and thyroid dysfunction afterwards. And then simple things like vitamin D. Depending on the time of year, you may have been inside for the majority of your pregnancy because it’s cold. What’s your vitamin D status? And so a lot of these, if there are dysfunctions in these areas, it can mimic depression. And so those are things that you want to look at, also, or consider looking at, but then also other lifestyle things. I know that having new babies is overwhelming, like I said, and so are you taking care of you? Are you going outside if it is nice enough to go outside? If you can go outside, you know, I always recommend people go out for 30 minutes. Take the baby for a walk. Hopefully, the rhythm of the walk will put the little one to sleep, and then you can tuck them in the bed when you get back and hopefully have more time. And especially if you live around nature, if you can go into nature, it’s been proven that being in nature is calming. And so those are other things that I suggest. And then the walk is exercise, and that we know is beneficial to the body, as well. You know, it’s just so many different aspects of being that I look at when people come to see me. And so you likely will hear me say things that are naturopathic tips in my acupuncture appointments, and I definitely recommend acupuncture to the majority of my naturopathic patients, unless I know they don’t like needles.
Alyssa: Right. Well, I think even someone who doesn’t like needles, you could put, like, a sleepy blindfold on them or something, because you can’t even feel them. I was so surprised because I was watching, and I was, like, I didn’t even feel that. That’s wild.
Dr. Carrie: It’s so true. A lot of the times, I do hear from people that they don’t necessarily feel certain points. But I won’t lie and say that there aren’t times where you definitely feel the needle go in. But it’s instantaneous, you know what I mean? It’s not like a lingering pain. You’re not going to lay there in pain for 30 minutes. No. You’re going to be relaxed. But you’re right, and they’re very thin. The needles are almost as thin as a strand of hair. It’s totally different from what people think when they’re normally thinking about getting their blood drawn. That’s a huge needle.
Alyssa: I agree. Totally different. Totally different. You know, that makes me wonder, how young — can you take children? Can you do acupuncture on children or even babies?
Dr. Carrie: Yes. Technically — I wouldn’t say babies, but in China, they do acupuncture as young as one year old. But with children that young, the needles are not in for an extended period of time. It’s more of a stimulation of the point and remove the needle and move on to the next point sort of a thing. With children, I think the youngest person that I’ve done acupuncture on was 14. And so for kids, especially us in America where this is not our culture — it’s the norm to have acupuncture as a therapy that they can readily go to. I would say if you’re children can’t be still for, I don’t know, 10 minutes, let’s say, then they probably shouldn’t come for acupuncture. Again, you have to have the mental capacity to be still and be able to relax and not move.
Alyssa: Right. And that’s why it doesn’t work on babies because they’re flailing their arms all around, and if anything, they’re going to hurt themselves more than heal.
Dr. Carrie: Exactly. Right.
Alyssa: This has been enlightening! Is there anything that you wanted to cover that we didn’t cover?
Dr. Carrie: So I just want to mention, for women who are pregnant, definitely, acupuncture is safe and an awesome way to relieve any of the common symptoms that they have at any stage or that they may have at any stage of pregnancy. During the first trimester, if you are having nausea, vomiting, or you’re just extremely fatigued or you may be constipated or have diarrhea, this is an important way to kind of support those systems and just, again, rejuvenate the body. During the second trimester, a lot of times aches and pains occur or start occurring. That is another great reason for acupuncture. Again, if sleep is starting to become uncomfortable, acupuncture is awesome for insomnia. And then even like hemorrhoids or complications from GI dysfunction can be addressed through acupuncture. And then like we were talking, in the third trimester, if they are close to or beyond their due date, labor induction or labor promotion, I should say. And then one thing that’s really interesting that women may not be aware of is that if your baby is in a breech position and the doctor is talking about a C-section, you can come to an acupuncturist and we can do a sort of heat therapy, and it’s really interesting. It’s over your toe, your pinky toe, and it’s amazing. Again, the woman — it’s ideal if she comes at 36 weeks if she finds this out, but we do this heat therapy, and I send them home with the heat therapy so they can do it at home, but a lot of times, the baby will move into the correct position.
Alyssa: That’s incredible. Is there a statistic on how often that actually works?
Dr. Carrie: I don’t know any off the top of my head, but I know that it’s definitely been studied.
Alyssa: Yeah. I’ve heard of it before.
Dr. Carrie: Yeah. The therapy is called moxibustion.
Alyssa: Say that again?
Dr. Carrie: The therapy is called moxibustion.
Alyssa: Moxibustion. Huh.
Dr. Carrie: It’s basically burning a dry cone of Chinese mug wort over the toe, and it sends this, like, smooth, warming sensation deep into the body. We use it for other reasons as well, but that’s — again, you just get it over the toe, and baby flips over the majority of the time, in my experience.
Alyssa: That little baby pinky toe sends some signal all the way into the womb, and tickles that baby right around?
Dr. Carrie: That’s right.
Alyssa: Wow. Well, thank you so much. If somebody wants to find you specifically, I mean, we’ll link to your website and stuff, but why don’t you tell us how people can find you?
Dr. Carrie: So you can definitely find me on Facebook. I’m Dr. Carrie ND on Facebook, and you can also find me on Instagram. But all of this is available on our website.
Alyssa: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for all of that information. I’m sure everyone will love this, and I have learned so much more about acupuncture!
Dr. Carrie: Well, thank you again for having me. I really appreciate it.
Saturday Series of Classes: Podcast Episode #102
Kristin Revere, Kelly Emery, and Alyssa Veneklase talk about their Saturday Series of classes offered through Gold Coast Doulas. Each goes in to detail about what their classes cover including Comfort Measures for Labor, Breastfeeding, and Newborn Survival. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I am Kristin, and I’m here today with Alyssa and Kelly, and the three of us teach our Saturday Series of classes. So we’re going to talk about what each of our classes are and a bit about what we’re doing during COVID. So welcome, Kelly, and welcome, Alyssa.
Kelly: Thank you.
Alyssa: Hey. So, yeah, we could kind of talk first about why we — so we used to teach all of our classes separately and have different days and different times, but then we had clients who were taking a breastfeeding class and my newborn class, and they would be on separate days, separate times, and we know how hard it is for people to coordinate their schedules. So doing them all at once in a series on Saturday, and then Kristin adding on her comfort measures — you know, having three classes — it’s hard to find three nights in a week that either a pregnant person or a couple can both get off to take these classes.
Kristin: Right, and some of our clients work nights, and if they have other children at home, childcare has been easier to find on a Saturday than a weeknight. So that’s part of why we adapted to this format, and it’s also helpful that the Saturday Series is ala cart, so a client or student could sign up for just Kelly’s breastfeeding class or, you know, just the newborn class or all three. Or they can take them at different times, since we offer the classes every couple months. A client could take a class in September and then down the road later in the year take breastfeeding, for example, as it gets closer to their due date.
Alyssa: And for the students who do choose all three and do them on the same date, it can definitely be a long day. When we were doing the classes in person, we had a lunch break and then another break in between. But the feedback we’ve gotten so far is that people really like knocking these out one after another. And then because of COVID, they’ve been virtual, so that’s actually been kind of nice. They don’t have to leave their sofa. They can feel a little bit more relaxed, grab snacks. So that’s worked out well, too. But our next series is in September, and we plan on doing it in person for the first time since COVID, but that could change at any minute, depending on…
Kristin: Right. And our office is in Eastown, and we’ve talked about having a smaller class size and how we’re going to pivot due to COVID and all of, you know, the sanitation that will need to be done. But our Zoom classes have been going well. I wasn’t so sure about the fact that Comfort Measures is so hands-on, how that would work virtually, but the students seem to enjoy it, and they were hands-on as I instructed virtually. So it went over pretty well the first time.
Alyssa: Same with breastfeeding. How does that — you know, you had said, Kelly, that it was going well virtually, but were you a little bit nervous at first about, you know, like, how do you show a position and, you know, what a proper latch might look like, through a computer?
Kelly: Yeah. Yeah, that was something — speaking of pivoting, we had to do pretty quickly because people were still having babies and they’re still learning to breastfeed. That is not something in life that can just stop. So, yeah, getting up and going on the Zoom and all the technology was rapid, and it was — it’s pretty slick. You know, what I do is just like in the in-person classes, I show videos, and so I can share my screen. I show videos, clips of things that — it will make more sense when they actually have their baby, but I think instead of me just talking about it, showing a visual and the videos and all of the pictures that I have. I have just a slew of pictures over my 20-some years of doing this, so it’s able — the people are able to really see what I’m talking about better when I share my screen. So it’s all actually working out, and the parents love it. And, you know, they love being together in a class together, but also I’ve gotten great feedback about the Zoom classes, that they love that they can just sit on their own couch in their pajamas and eat dinner, you know, or eat a meal and have Dad be right there with them, as well. So it’s all working out.
Alyssa: Well, Kristin, do you want to talk about — so the series kind of starts with the Comfort Measures. Then it’s Breastfeeding, and then Newborn Survival. So you want to maybe in that order talk about each of our classes and what they’re about?
Kristin: Yes. So Comfort Measures is a hands-on class that the couple is encouraged to attend, but certainly I’ve had the birthing person attend without a partner, as well. And so we go over breathing, relaxation, and it definitely doesn’t replace a traditional comprehensive childbirth class. I’m not going to cover the stages of labor in two hours. But it’s more about different positions that will relieve discomfort, both while they’re at home, if they’re birthing in the hospital, in the early stages of labor, or positions to utilize further along in labor in the active stage as well as the pushing stage. And we do cover breathing, as well.
Alyssa: So is it more to have the partner understand what’s going on and allow the partner to offer these comfort measures?
Kristin: The partner does learn how to do some of the different measures. Hands-on massage, light touch massage is covered. We go over hip squeezes and a lot of the doula tools, just a variety of positions, like hands and knees and leaning up against a wall and dancing, sort of rocking in labor, as well as, you know, using the birthing ball. And then we talk about different positions that they could consider pushing in, like squatting and sidelying. And I answer questions, and there are some handouts that they use to just get a comfort level for where the partner and the birthing person are at as far as what their expectations of birth are and how comfortable they are supporting a partner. So there’s a lot of communication in the short class, as well.
Alyssa: And Kelly, what about your class?
Kelly: It’s called Breastfeeding: Getting a Strong Start, and it’s a lot about — my goal, anyway, is to get the mom and her partner comfortable and feeling confident about at least starting out. You know, I think it’s sometimes overwhelming. It is a three-hour class, so it is a long time, and a lot of content is covered, but my goal is not to, like, overwhelm the parents with, like, what to do over the next, like, two years of breastfeeding or whatever, like that. Because I think people in this moment when you’re pregnant, especially, you can take little chunks of information that are going to be relevant to you in the moment. And so just getting off to a strong start, at least to get you through those first early days and weeks, you know, of breastfeeding, and then let you exhale a little bit and kind of find your answers as they are relevant to you is something that I’ve found over the years of doing this, honing, about what moms really want to know and what they need to know in the beginning. So I might go over — I’m a really strong proponent of going over anatomy in the beginning, just because I think if moms know how their breasts work and how their babies work, they can figure out — they can put a lot of these dots together and make it make sense for them in their situation. So, for instance, one of the first things I talk about in anatomy is, like, in our middle school health ed class, we skipped right over the breasts, I’m quite sure. You know, they talk about your periods and, you know, maybe some birth control. I don’t know. I don’t even remember what they all talked about. But I don’t remember talking about lactation or anything about the breasts other than that they get bigger, and then you wear a bra. That’s about it. And so I’m like, wait, wait, wait. This is an incredible two glands we have here that sustain life. They have so much to do and so much to contribute, and they’re kind of a natural next stage of being pregnant is lactating. So it’s kind of all jumbled up together there, and I feel like in our society we kind of — as women, we’ve kind of not learned a lot about our breasts. So I talk about what’s happening while we’re pregnant, what happens in the first couple days after delivery, and then how lactation and how their breasts change and make milk and all these other wonderful things that they do in the days and weeks, you know, after delivery. Yeah. So I’m big on helping women know about their bodies and then seeing how it works, and then I think it’s less of a mystery when things unfold because we just — you’re like, oh, yeah, we talked about. That’s what I’m supposed to be doing, or that’s what my breasts are supposed to be doing. Those little bumps on my areola, they mean something and they do play a role.
Alyssa: What do those mean?
Kelly: Those are your Montgomery glands, and they enlarge, you know, when you’re pregnant. They secrete a couple things. One is — it’s almost like a self-cleaning oven. One is that they secrete the substance that kind of — it’s an antimicrobial, so kills bacteria. It kind of keeps your nipples clean and your areola clean so you don’t have to scrub them. A long time ago, like back in the ’50s, we used to think you had to scrub your nipples, and believe it or not, we would put alcohol on them before the baby would — like, we would sterilize your nipples, like we did with bottle nipples, before we would put the baby on you. Just ridiculous. And come to find out, you know, Mother Nature’s already taken care of that with those Montgomery glands. Another thing that they do is they secrete — it’s an exocrine gland, which means it excretes something, you know, kind of like a sweat gland. So they also secrete something that kind of keeps your nipple from drying out. Keeps it kind of supple and moist.
Alyssa: Kind of lubricated a little bit?
Kelly: Yeah. So all of those things — and one of the reasons I mention that is when moms think, oh, I have to buy some lanolin or some nipple ointment, those things are fine if you want to use them, but just use them just on your nipple. You don’t have to smear it all over your areola because they can — if you smear up too much, they can block off those Montgomery glands, and then they can’t do their job. So that’s one of the first things I talk about because it’s one of the most visible things you see when you get pregnant is your areola gets the little bumps on them, and then they darken and, you know, all of these things happening. And then the next thing, the other part, huge part of the class, is getting the partner involved. The baby’s other parent is going to be a huge part of breastfeeding, and I go over the research of how statistically, whether breastfeeding works or not has a lot to do with the mother’s partner and the worth that they feel and that togetherness. And I joke that, you know, they’re going to be with you at 2:00 a.m., not me, and they’re the ones who know what motivationally you need to hear in the moment. You know, what gets you — what makes you feel better. What kind of cookies do you like? What do you need in that moment? And the partner is more tuned into that than I am, of course, you know. So I can give some technical advice if I’m working with you postpartum to help with breastfeeding, but the partner is going to be there to be the other really important team member, and so that’s why I super, super encourage them to come to the class. The in-person class or the Zoom class, any kind of class, so there’s four ears listening to all of this and not just two. For the mom to have to listen to it and then go back and regurgitate it all, you know, it’s another burned on her, and she may forget things. And I spend a lot of the time giving advice about what dads and partners can do to be helpful because I think they feel like they’re on the sidelines and they can’t be a part of breastfeeding. And so I totally dispel that, and I give them lots of things, you know, concrete things that they can do that can be very helpful to breastfeeding.
Alyssa: I know that everyone who’s taken your class has told me they love it. They think you’re just so knowledgeable, and they had no idea about all these things, and they definitely go into it feeling more confident.
Kelly: Awesome. That’s my goal.
Alyssa: Was there anything else you wanted to say about your class?
Kelly: Well, I just want to say that I love being part of this entire series because knowing that I’m part of blending it together, like the big picture — like, the labor feeds into the breastfeeding. The breastfeeding really ties closely with the newborn survival. They’re all so well-interwoven that I think it’s great for the parents to have all of this information at once or, you know, dole it out as they need to, but just to have all of the information because then they get a sense of the bigger picture, I think. It just makes total sense when all of these are taken together. So I’m happy to be a part of this series, for sure.
Alyssa: We’re happy you are a part!
Kristin: So at what stage in pregnancy would you suggest someone take your breastfeeding class? And I’ll also ask the same question of Alyssa and then answer that myself.
Kelly: I would say the seventh month. I wouldn’t wait to the last month because there’s a lot going on, you might go early, blah-blah-blah. But, you know, you can take it in your ninth month, for sure. But, yeah, I would say the third trimester would be good, start of the third trimester.
Kristin: Alyssa? What would you say for Newborn Survival?
Alyssa: You know, I would say third trimester, too, just so that this all is fresh in their heads. The only problem is waiting that long, we do go over some items that are — you know, like baby registry items. And by that point, usually they’ve already registered or had baby showers and gotten everything. So that makes that a little bit irrelevant. We still go over it, and I tell them, you know, keep things in packages with tags on. If you don’t use them, you can always return them. So we still go over it, but I think to do it any earlier, you’d kind of forget all of the stuff we’ve gone over.
Kristin: I would say ideally the third trimester, though I’ve had students take it in the second trimester and still retain the information and practice the hands-on techniques that they learn. A lot of my students also have doulas within Gold Coast or are working with me directly, so, of course, the doula is a great reminder of the different positions and comfort measures for labor and also some of the relaxation techniques that we learn. And, certainly, you know, as far as who should take the class, we are also quite different from other childbirth education classes in that many are suited — just like Bradley method, for example, just for one type of birth. Like, for those seeking an unmedicated birth. For Comfort Measures, I have clients who want an epidural as soon as they get to the hospital or, you know, are having a home birth or are seeking an unmedicated hospital birth, so a variety of situations. And, Kelly, I know that you have students who want to pump, and you do, of course, have the pumping class, the back to work pumping. But it’s not for one type of parent or birthing person. I know, Alyssa, you have everyone from attachment parents taking your newborn class to those who are more mainstream in parenting style.
Alyssa: Yeah. You kind of have to be open to all of the options and all of the parenting styles. I would say, you know, for yours, it’s important. Kelly, you know they’re going to breastfeed if they’re taking your class, or at least going to attempt it. And I don’t know in my class, so I go over if they’re not breastfeeding. We’ll go over bottle feeding. Maybe they want to just pump exclusively and bottle feed. I go over it very briefly. Sometimes I can completely skip it because they’ve also taken your class, Kelly, and I don’t need to go over anything.
Kelly: I think with my breastfeeding class, you’re right, there are some moms who just want to pump and bottle feed, and we do go over working and bottle feeding and how to combine all of that, for sure. But even the part about the anatomy that I was telling you about, it’s good for the moms to know the anatomy of how, also, to maximize that with a pump, because there are ways — the ways that some of our hormones work with a baby, trying to also trigger those with a pump takes a little bit of knowledge, you know, and a little bit of practice. So even if you’re not going to breastfeed, knowing about your breasts and how they work would benefit you even if you’re going to be pumping, because then you can work with a pump to work with your anatomy and how all of the pumping and maintaining your milk supply goes together.
Alyssa: I feel like I should sit through your class. I haven’t sat through yours, and I always love having a refresher on breastfeeding because when I’m working with sleep clients, we talk about feeding a lot. So I feel like I should put the next September Series class on my calendar to sit in yours.
Kelly: I know, and I should — I want to learn more about your sleeping, too, because that’s a big question when it comes around to breastfeeding. They are so intricately tied together.
Alyssa: So my Newborn Survival class, I started or I created because, you know, working as a postpartum doula — I don’t anymore, but when I did, you start hearing the same questions and same concerns from the parents over and over. If only someone had told me this! Why didn’t I know that? How come nobody told me that this would happen? When you start hearing the same things over, then I’m like, yeah, I had these same concerns and questions and fears when I was a new mom, too. So I just kind of started compiling all these things and talking to experts and put this Newborn Survival class together, and it has real-life scenarios. Like, things that happened to me, things that happened, you know, in my work, and how do we deal with these? And then it’s very — you know, we do talk about, hey, has anyone changed a diaper? If they haven’t, we’ll show them. But that’s probably the most surface level type stuff. I want to get into, hey, babies cry. There’s no way around it. How do we minimize that? What do we check for? And how do you communicate? Like, you and your baby are a team, and from a very, very young age, they are communicating with you, and you need to figure that out. So just giving them really pragmatic steps to — you know, the first few weeks, your baby’s just going to eat, sleep, poop, pee. That’s about it. But once, you know, six weeks rolls around, there’s kind of this schedule forming. You probably have a pretty good idea of when they want to eat. Maybe you start to see some sleep patterns forming by six to nine weeks. And then if they’re crying, what does that mean? What causes that crying? How do we stop that crying? What happened when the crying started? And then talking a lot about feeding. People usually want to ask me a lot of sleep questions, even though this isn’t a sleep class. We go over sleep. But a lot of it’s, well, you know, if my baby’s not sleeping well, do I just let them cry? Never, never, never is my answer; never. No. We don’t just let them cry. But if they’re not eating enough, no amount of letting your baby sit in that crib will do any good because they’re hungry. So we talk a lot about feeding, whether it’s breastfeeding or bottle feeding. And then we go over things like, you know, common skin issues. Like, everyone always gets weirded out by cradle cap and baby acne and maybe some rashes, diaper rash. And then like I mentioned, we go over some things that are not worth spending your money on. Here’s some things you really need. And then talking, too, about the partners keeping communication open and setting goals and expectations for each other ahead of time, because once that baby comes, you don’t have the time or mental wherewithal to be dealing with that in the moment at 3:00 in the morning. So if you have these expectations set ahead of time, it’s really important. And then obviously talking about, you know, letting them know that there are resources available. They don’t have to go through this alone. There are — you know, Kelly’s a lactation consultant. She can do an in-person or a Zoom visit. We have postpartum doulas who work day and night. All these resources are available to them. And then we go over a lot of soothing methods. I show them my swaddling methods. And we talk about bathing, too. Bathing is a big one for parents that they’re usually kind of freaked out about. But yeah, it’s just kind of how to survive those first few weeks or months home with a new baby because it’s a little bit scary when you walk through that door for the first time holding a human that you have to keep alive.
Kristin: Great summary! So let’s talk a little bit about — again, we mentioned breaks within the format and a little bit of the timing structure of each class. So the Saturday Series usually starts off with my Comfort Measures class. We have switched our schedule a few times, but my class is two hours from 9:00 to 11:00, and then there is a lunch break. And then we get into Kelly’s class. And, Kelly, you mentioned your class is three hours. And then there’s a short break, and then Alyssa has an hour and a half for Newborn Survival.
Alyssa: Yeah. I think there’s a half an hour break to grab a snack, go to the bathroom.
Kristin: Right. And then as far as the fee for the class — again, the classes are a la carte so you could purchase one class or all three, and each class is $75. And traditional insurance does not cover the Saturday Series, but if a student has a health savings or flex spending, most plans do cover childbirth classes.
Kelly: And I would add, Kristin, on the same for breastfeeding classes. As part of the Affordable Care Act, breastfeeding support and supplies and education should be covered, and I provide a superbill for my class as well with all of my codes and my tax ID number and everything that they would need to self-submit.
Kristin: Fantastic. And, Kelly, did you want to touch on your pumping class that’s separate from the Saturday Series?
Kelly: Yeah. I have a class for moms who want to go deeper into just the pumping. During my Saturday Series, I will go over some pumping and working and everything, but to dive deeper into that of what that looks like on a professional level and an emotional level, like leaving your baby, what that’s like, and if I have to travel, and how do I maintain a milk supply and what if my milk supply goes low? Lots of little details swirling around. If you’re still having, you know, after this class, if you’re still having questions about that, or if you want to skip over the whole breastfeeding class and just do the pumping and working one, I have a class, and you can just go to my website and you’ll see. It’s called Work Pump Balance, and it’s an almost-three hour class in and of itself. It’s self-paced modules that you can go through, and it’s myself and then a — my friend Mita, and she pumped for a year for both of her kids and worked full time. She had a very demanding career in a very male-dominated industry, and she made it work. She gives a lot of insight about how — you know, a lot of the laws have changed since she’s done it, so that only benefits moms even more. But how to logistically travel and calling clients and work around this when you’re really the only female in the whole — it’s a big company, but you’re the only female around. So, yeah, we dive deeper into that.
Kristin: Fantastic. And Gold Coast also offers a private multiples class for any of our clients or students who are expecting twins or triplets. So we do offer each of the individual Saturday Series of class privately, since our Series is offered every couple of months. There is the option of taking just breastfeeding privately through Zoom and/or, depending on COVID, in person. So did each of you want to — I know, Alyssa, you just recently taught a newborn class on Zoom.
Alyssa: Yeah. We just did a private one because they were being induced this week. So we just did it last week. Yeah. It’s great. It kind of allows the couple an opportunity to ask the questions that they might be afraid to ask in front of other people, although I feel like with my class specifically, I make it very clear that there’s no such thing as a stupid question, and I think most of the students do feel very comfortable asking anything. But it’s just a little different when it’s just me with one couple. They can ask whatever they want freely. And I do get told that it’s nice for them to learn the same techniques together so that it’s not, you know, one person saying, well, I think we should do that, and I think we should do that. You know, they can kind of take all the information I’ve given and make their own decisions from there based on what they’re comfortable with. So I’ve been told several times that they like that they’re hearing the same information together and not different information from different people at different times.
Kristin: That makes sense, and yeah, it is nice that if someone wants to take a class last minute or wants the individual attention. My students have enjoyed just being able to customize the comfort measures based on what their birthing goals are.
Alyssa: Yeah. So if anyone wants to register, they can go to our website and register for, like we said, one, two, or all three. We also have the Multiple class and a HypnoBirthing Series. And you can always reach out to any of us with questions.
Kelly: I appreciate you doing this, and I’m looking forward to the next class in September.
Kristin: Thanks for listening to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. You can find us on SoundCloud, iTunes, and on our website. These moments are golden.
Fertility and Acupuncture: Podcast Episode #101
Today Kristin talks to Vikki Nestico, R.Ac of Grand Wellness Acupuncture. We learn a lot about fertility and how acupuncture supports the nervous system, reduces stress, and increases blood flow to the reproductive organs. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Hi, Vikki!
Vikki: Hi, how are you?
Kristin: I’m good. Good morning!
Vikki: Good morning.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Vikki from Grand Wellness to talk about fertility and acupuncture. So welcome, Vikki!
Vikki: Thanks, Kristin! It’s good to be here.
Kristin: So tell us about yourself before we begin.
Vikki: Well, I am an acupuncturist, and I own a holistic care clinic here in Grand Rapids called Grand Wellness. And we’ve been here for about six years. So it’s been wonderful being here. Previously, I had moved here from New York City where acupuncture is used very often, and so moving here, it’s been wonderful to see it growing and holistic health in general just growing every year by leaps and bounds. So it’s been really wonderful.
Kristin: And I think we met when you first moved to Michigan through a mutual friend.
Vikki: Yes. Absolutely, yes. That was quite a while ago.
Kristin: Yes. It sure was! We’re glad to have you here, and I love seeing how well your practice is doing.
Vikki: Thank you! Yeah, so we work with a lot of different conditions here at the office, but, you know, a group that I really enjoy working with are couples who are trying to conceive. It’s very rewarding to work with these women and men who are trying to conceive naturally or maybe they’re using IVF or anywhere in between.
Kristin: Sure. Take us through the process of how a couple would work with you as they’re trying to conceive, whether they’re using natural methods only or if they are going through a fertility center, for example, and want a mix of holistic and medicine.
Vikki: Yeah. So we really meet each couple or mother at whatever place they’re at. So, you know, optimally, you know, as soon as they have a little glimmer in their heart that they would like to start a family, that’s when we love to start seeing them. But that doesn’t always work out. A lot of times, we — and we see people after they’ve been trying for a while. We see probably our greatest group of couples when they’re working with a fertility clinic. So we do a lot of work with the local fertility clinic here. I think they know our smiling faces over there. But we really meet them where they’re at, and we’re able to help in all aspects of preparing both the women as well as the men, and I think that working with men is an aspect of fertility that people don’t think about.
Kristin: I’d love to hear more about that! Do you work with the man surrounding his emotions or just basically to repair him biologically?
Vikki: I guess the easiest way to explain is to really explain how acupuncture works in the body. There’s a couple different ways to look at it. There’s through the eyes of Chinese medicine, and then there’s through the eyes of our scientific knowledge, right, of how the body works. So I’ll sort of walk you through, maybe, the scientific knowledge, since that’s what most people think of when they’re trying to figure out what’s going on with their fertility. So acupuncture really is great at calming the nervous system, balancing hormones, and increasing blood flow. Blood flow, blood flow, blood flow. I can’t say it enough when people come in for treatment. And the reason that acupuncture can help and is so helpful is because, first off, if we look at just increasing the blood flow, we’re focused on having that blood flow reach the reproductive organs. And so in that way, we’re looking at it to improve the function of the ovaries, to nourish and help grow these healthy, ready eggs, to send more blood to the uterus to create this thick and healthy lining. And those aspects are, you know, obviously extremely important when we’re looking at ease of getting pregnant. Another way that acupuncture helps is by reducing stress, and I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, right? Stress can really cause a lot of problems for us across the board, but when we’re looking specifically at fertility, it’s easy to see how it can cause a problem. I always explain stress by using my little prehistoric story of a woman. She’s sort of walking down the street, and this saber tooth tiger jumps in her path. And at that moment, her body clicks, the sympathetic nervous system. And all the blood and all the energy in her body is getting out to the muscles so she can run fast, so she can be strong. To her eyes, so she can see. Opening the ability to bring in more oxygen, to breathe more, to be fast. And that’s great in that situation, but at that time, the blood is not in your reproductive organs because it’s not necessary there. And so nowadays, we’re in this time where we’re overloaded by work. We’re overloaded with family obligations. And so we have this ongoing chronic stress that can be overreacted to by our bodies. So our reproductive organs just aren’t thriving in that environment. So having acupuncture be able to click us back into that parasympathetic nervous system, where we breathe, where we get more blood to our organs and can really focus on healing our body and nourishing eggs and all of those things – it’s extremely important. And especially when people are trying to get pregnant, they add that much stress because they’re always stressed about whether they’re pregnant.
Kristin: Yeah, and for our clients who started out their journey with The Fertility Center, there’s a lot of stress with that, or clients who had loss in the past and their worry about experiencing loss again. I can see how emotionally it would be great in preparation. Our clients who had an easy time getting pregnant the first time and then struggle with secondary, and they come to me wanting resources and help, and I do bring up acupuncture, but I’m learning so much with you today about the whole process and the benefits. It seems like even if it’s years away that preparing their bodies well in advance would be beneficial for couples.
Vikki: Absolutely. And even when we look at males in this way, they’re doing research, and there’s research out there showing, that stress can reduce the amount of sperm, healthy sperm, that a male has. It can alter the shape and reduce its ability to be a great swimmer and all the things we need to make sure we’re making some good quality and in some cases quantity, depending on what we’re working with, embryos. So really important for males to be in on that. And I say this to all of my women that come in: a third of fertility difficulties lie with the man. And I don’t think we as women always understand how high that number is.
Kristin: A lot higher than what many women think. It’s surprising.
Vikki: In fact, I think that what the research states is about a third of difficulties are on the female side, a third are on the male side, and then a third are somewhere in between.
Vikki: Very interesting. And I think we take on the burden as women that it must be ours. And many men just assume it’s a problem, you know, with the female side. So it’s great to know that men can really help out and be a part of increasing success. A couple other things that acupuncture is great for, especially when we’re working with IVF, is it can prevent uterine contractions. So the way that we work with the nervous system, we can calm that nervous system, which connects to that smooth muscle tissue, and — yeah, so when we do embryo transfers — or when we work before and after embryo transfers — the after treatments really are focused on eliminating uterine contractions as much as possible, and that really helps to have successful implantation.
Kristin: So if any of our listeners or clients have yet to experience acupuncture, can you describe what a fertility session would be like and how many visits a male and female client would have? I don’t know if you work with the partner in a certain number of sessions ideally and then the expecting person? Is it different as far as the number of sessions or what that would look like?
Vikki: Ultimately, we like to work with them on a course of 12 treatments, and it’s not an arbitrary number. Three months of acupuncture helps to create good healthy eggs and is about the time of how long it takes to regenerate sperm. So it takes about 90 days for this egg to mature to be ovulated. And so we can get to working with the woman right away. We can get more blood flow. Inside that blood is all these nutrients to really impact the health of that egg and, equally, the health of the sperm. And so that’s why optimally we’re looking at three months, though I will always say to my clients, three to six months because we want to make sure we’re working over, you know, a couple of cycles in that capacity with healthy eggs.
Kristin: That makes sense. And would that be a session a week? An hour long session? What would that look like?
Vikki: So all the sessions are an hour long. The first one is usually longer, so probably about 90 minutes, because we do a pretty lengthy intake, lengthier than if you went to the doctor. We ask a lot of questions, and a lot of the questions, people can’t possibly understand how they would connect with their reproductive strength, but we look at the whole body. And so we’re using a tongue diagnosis, pulse diagnosis. If somebody brings in their BBT charting because they’ve been charting their basal body temperature, we use that information. And we put together this story. You know, where does the imbalance lie? And we work to change that as well as helping to just move that blood to where it needs to go. And so they’re about an hour after the first one, and we like to do them once a week.
Kristin: And I know you have a male acupuncturist, as well, for those who prefer.
Kristin: So that’s a great option. And do you treat — do you ever do dual sessions, since you have multiple acupuncturists?
Vikki: We’ll do them at the same time. We can book people at the same time. We don’t do them in the same room. For the session itself, you know, people come in and we talk. We assess. And I put together my point prescription, choosing the acupuncture points that I’m going to use. And it seems like it wouldn’t be extremely gentle, but it actually is. I mean, ultimately, my goal is for people just to feel very relaxed. I treat a lot of people that are very afraid of needles, and they’re always happy when they’re done that they came to treatment because it’s very relaxing. Many have gotten over their fear of needles. It’s nothing like going and having a blood draw.
Kristin: Right. I would agree. I just had a session a couple weeks ago, and I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was very relaxing! I enjoyed it.
Vikki: It’s a great way to be treated, right? To walk out and be like, ah, the relief, the relaxation. It leaves us feeing very balanced.
Kristin: Agreed, yeah. And I can see how some people would, with a fear of needles, would have a challenge, but if they’re going through traditional fertility methods, they’re dealing with needles in a different way.
Kristin: So maybe that could help their fear.
Vikki: You know, it does. And it’s funny because I’ve had clients who don’t have the support, maybe, to do some of those needling, and so while I can’t do any of that, the needling from the fertility clinic for them, sometimes I’ll sit and I’ll just support them and just be, like, you’re doing good. You’re doing good. So we’ll do a treatment before, and then they get that support. You know, we really help our clients wherever they are with whatever tools we have.
Kristin: I love it. So how do our listeners find you?
Vikki: We have a great website. It has a lot of information on it, and they can make an appointment on there. They can also call. I always do — so does Corey. We do complimentary consultations, you know, just so people can really talk, because everyone is approaching this from a different place. And sometimes the need to just check it out and say, you know, is this right for me, is important. And so we always love people to have the option to really talk to us, so see how they connect with us, and to ask their questions before treatment starts.
Kristin: Thanks for being on! Do you have any parting words for our listeners who are struggling with fertility?
Vikki: You know, I think it’s important to remember — and I say this to all of my clients — that when you’re told or see that infertility is your condition, that it’s not a word we use here because my clients aren’t necessarily unable to conceive. They just haven’t conceived yet. And I think it’s really important for us to keep that in mind because our nervous system, our brain, our heart, really can make change in many different ways in our body. So coming at it knowing that we can do this, you know, and your body can do this, is a great way to approach your future.
Kristin: I love it. Words matter. We believe that with HypnoBirthing. Just changing the language and the imagery can make a big difference in getting the fear out.
Vikki: Absolutely, and to know you’re supported.
Kristin: Exactly. You’re talking some doula language there, about just telling them that they’re doing great and being there emotionally as a support person. So it’s great to have a big team supporting you, especially during this time of uncertainty with coronavirus. I love that you’re a great resource for our families and listeners.
Vikki: And we also offer — we have a couple of conditions that we know are big struggles, and we like to treat people for a certain amount of time. Because of that, we have some programs that we do offer, and fertility is one of those programs. So on our website under programs, you can see the different programs we put together to give a little financial help to those going through this struggle to make it a little bit easier.
Kristin: That’s wonderful. And I know you do take most health savings and flex spending; is that correct?
Vikki: We can give receipts, and it really depends on if your health savings and flex spending covers acupuncture. But if it does, yes. And more insurance companies are starting to cover acupuncture, but it really depends on if they cover it and what they cover it for. But we’re happy to give super bills to everyone and anyone so they can, you know, get reimbursement if that’s applicable with their insurance.
Kristin: Thank you! It was great to chat with you today, Vikki, and we’ll have you on in the future to talk more about pregnancy and acupuncture.
Vikki: Fabulous! That would be wonderful. Thank you for having me!
Podcast Episode 100!
It’s the 100th episode! Alyssa and Kristin, co-Owners of Gold Coast Doulas, talk about what the past two and a half years of podcasting has looked like, how the podcast has changed, how the business has changed, how services have pivoted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they are playing their part in supporting other local businesses. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to the 100th episode of Ask the Doulas Podcast! I am Alyssa, and Kristin’s here via phone because it’s COVID-19. We can’t even see each.
Kristin: Right. It changes everything!
Alyssa: I know! We haven’t seen each other in forever, and I actually came into the office for the first time in weeks, and it feels so good to be not working in my house.
Kristin: Yeah, it certainly changed so much about the way we do business. But 100 episodes — I can’t even believe it, Alyssa!
Alyssa: I know. It seems wild that in two and a half years, we’ve done 100 episodes. What is that even — I should do the math on that. Let me do it real quick while you talk.
Kristin: Yeah. I mean, we started this podcast as a member of the Radio for Divas team. It’s a radio show with women experts in the community. And then we transitioned to the podcast format, wanting to really keep our clients as the central focus and information that they would want to hear, and then also thinking about what other listeners, whether it’s regionally or across the US, might be interested in. Capturing more information from experts on anything related to pregnancy and newborns to even toddlers and parenting in general.
Alyssa: So the math, by the way: two and a half years is 130 weeks, so in two and a half years, there have only been 30 weeks that we did not put a podcast out.
Kristin: Wow! Yeah, I know when we started out, we had more frequent podcasts and then have slowed it down a bit. And Alyssa is the editor and producer. How has that changed for you?
Alyssa: It’s a role that I don’t particularly love, but I think, actually, COVID has increased because — you know, I think for the first year and a half of it, I was cranking these out once a week, and then it slowed, just because it is so time-consuming and so much work. We covered a lot of topics already, and we had a lot of changes in the business happening and I wanted to focus on other things, other than the podcast. But now that we’re home, the last few weeks I’ve actually been putting one out every week. And the fact that I can’t meet with someone in person — it’s kind of easier to do it over the phone. The sound quality obviously isn’t as good, but it’s allowed me to — you know, I’ve got three podcasts recorded now with Laine Lipsky, who’s in California and is a parenting coach, and we’ve had just a ton of stuff to talk about. But the virtual, like able to do that virtually, it doesn’t matter that she’s in California. She can coach a parent in Michigan, and same with my sleep. I can do sleep consults for families anywhere.
Kristin: Yeah, it’s been amazing to see the locations that some of your sleep consults have been from.
Alyssa: Yes, my last ones from Colorada and New Orleans, I think, and then somewhere in Florida were my last three. So they haven’t even been local.
Kristin: That is one thing with COVID. We’ve taken things more globally as far as now offering classes online and being able to expand our base outside of the 50-mile radius that we serve. And your work hasn’t changed much because a lot of what you do is virtual anyway, so you haven’t had to pivot all that much as a sleep consultant.
Alyssa: Right. I just don’t do it in person, obviously, but everything else is exactly the same. And then we can’t offer postpartum doula support. Well, I mean, I suppose we could for a newborn, but I’m not doing sleep consults for a newborn, so that doesn’t come into play, either.
Kristin: So, Alyssa, let’s talk about some of the episodes and highlights of what we have gone over in the last two and a half years that we have been producing the podcast.
Alyssa: The topics have been all over the place. You mentioned a few, but I know you in particular, you like to reference a few of them for your birth clients, like the episode, #54, What to Pack in your Birth Bag that you did with Dr. Rachel from Rise Wellness. You know, a lot of our topics, we choose because they’re questions that we get asked often, so why not do a podcast on it, give them all the information, and then just allow them to reference that all the time. So it’s a lot of the reason why we choose certain topics.
Kristin: I also love the dad perspective. We’ve done a couple podcasts of what it’s like to work with a doula and how a partner feels about their role in the birth with having another support person in the room, and even some of our students in the classes we’ve talked, talking about their person experiences, have been really fantastic because it’s a better testimonial to hear it from someone outside of our agency than us telling, you know, our audience all of the features and benefits of everything we offer.
Alyssa: Right, and I think for somebody who doesn’t quite understand the role of a doula, even after researching, sometimes just hearing the personal story from one of our clients makes something click. We love hearing personal stories of clients. Like you said, either birth support, postpartum support, any of our classes. We’ve done a lot on nutrition and diet, babywearing, pelvic floor stuff. You know, that’s a big question for parents after a baby is born.
Kristin: Especially because we happen to work with a lot of athletes, especially in the birth doula role, and they want to be able to get back to running marathons or whatever their particular sport is. So, yeah, pelvic floor therapy and physical therapy in general has been very helpful for our clients.
Alyssa: Right. And then our friends at Rise have given us lots of information on different chiropractic topics. Obviously, I’ve got quite a few on sleep. I love talking about sleep.
Kristin: And tongue ties and lip ties and working with breastfeeding.
Alyssa: Yeah, breastfeeding.
Kristin: Yeah, a lot of breastfeeding-related questions and feeding in general. And certainly anything related to mood disorders and postpartum depression with different experts.
Alyssa: Pediatric Dental Specialists of West Michigan is one of our partners, and Dr. Katie has been on a few times to talk about, you know, her special laser beam for tongue ties and lip ties. And she just had a baby of her own! We should probably check in with her and see how they’re doing.
Alyssa: Cesarean births; we’ve talked a lot about Cesareans and what is a doula’s role within that, and we’ve got some actual birth stories about what that looked like for the birthing person and the family.
Kristin: It’s been a lot of fun to have different guests in and try to find new and fresh content. I mean, after 100 episodes, there are only so many topics you can cover, so…
Alyssa: I know. You kind of have to redo topics with different people. But I’d love for our listeners to email us, too, and just let us know, like, what haven’t we talked about, or what did we talk about but you would like more coverage on? Or do you know somebody who would be a great person for us to speak to?
Kristin: And recently we’ve done some COVID-related podcasts, but that is ever-changing with policies in the hospital and specific states, of course. We have had personal client experiences, birthing during COVID, as well as how our agency has adapted to this time and what precautions we cake.
Alyssa: Maybe we can talk — do you want to talk a little bit about, just in case people aren’t up to date? So as of May 21 when we’re recording this, 2020 — what the role of a doula is right now, like how we can work in hospital settings, and our postpartum doulas.
Kristin: Yes. So for those of you listening in other states, in the state of Michigan, we are following the governor’s stay at home orders. So as Alyssa mentioned earlier, we’re not in our office working together, and we are seeing our clients and students virtually. So all of our classes are done virtually via Zoom, so still very interactive. We recently had our Saturday Series class, which is interesting, because for me, the comfort measures class that I teach is so hands-on and interactive. To do that virtually without even a helper or model to demonstrate positions, I’m trying to describe things and show diagrams and videos and how to do a hip squeeze and counterpressure, for example. So that’s been really interesting, and I know you taught your newborn class several times virtually. And our lactation consultant had the breastfeeding class.
Alyssa: Yeah, I think it’s hard for her, too, the breastfeeding, because to show different positions and — I mean, same with me. Mine’s not as interactive as yours, but even moving the computer into the right spot so I can show my different swaddling methods or, you know, paced bottle feedings, things like that. It works, and I always ask, did everyone see that okay? Is everyone getting it? Do you need me to do it again? It’s just different. I miss being able to meet the students in person. But it’s just where we’re at right now.
Kristin: But at the same time, it’s more convenient for them because they can be at home and, you know, not have to travel. It gives everyone more time in their day, but as far as how we’ve adapted, other than classes, right now with the stay at home order, our lactation visits are all done virtually. So, again, for our two registered nurses and IBCLCs, that has been different than hands-on or more engaging support. But our clients have found it — I’ve had personal birth clients that I’ve worked with who have told me that Kelly was very helpful virtually, so that’s been going better than we had hoped. And with birth support, things are, you know, ever-changing for us, but we’re doing all of our prenatal visits and even the initial consultations before hiring and certainly the postpartum visits after the birth — all of that is done virtually. And different hospitals have different policies related to whether or not a doula can be in the hospital. We’re fortunate that our governor has an executive order that includes a doula and a partner in the hospitals. The doulas are not considered visitors, and we have access. But every hospital, again, has the ability to make their own policies surrounding doulas, and we are right now working in Spectrum Butterworth and all of the regional Spectrum hospitals like Zeeland and Gerber and Pennock and Hastings and Greenville, and so that has been really fantastic. St. Mary’s Mercy Health is currently not allowing doulas but encouraging virtual support, and Metro is allowing doulas. Holland Hospital is not. I was just informed that Mercy Muskegon, who was not allowing doulas up until very recently, and as of — I want to say it was this week — doulas are now being admitted to the hospital and able to support birthing persons. So that has been fantastic since we do serve a 50-mile radius of Grand Rapids. So as doulas, we are monitoring our symptoms, and if we have any symptoms of Coronavirus, then we send in a doula who is symptom-free. Right now, all of the hospitals in our area are requiring doulas to be certified, so if a doula took a two-day or four-day training and chose to never certify, they are not able to work during this time. And if a newer doula is working toward that, then that would be an option in the hospitals. They could certainly attend homebirths. So that has been interesting. We worked with our lawyer and consultant to work on a COVID questionnaire and have included COVID language in our contracts that our clients sign so that our doulas are able to feel comfortable and confident, as well as our clients, in potential exposure during stay at home and what each household is doing as far as going to the grocery store versus having groceries delivered, or is a partner working outside of the home as an essential employee. And then our clients and doulas are able to choose each other. Some of our doulas are not working during COVID or only working with completely isolated clients. So we’ve done a lot of focus internally on what our team wants to do and how we’re able to pivot during this time. So we’ve been able to, you know, have conversations with the governor’s office and make sure there are no gray areas in the doulas role during stay at home and got some confirmations about what a postpartum doula can do, because a lot of that language was focused on our work in the hospital. During the stay at home order that is set to expire at the end of the month — it may or may not be extended — we are only offering essential postpartum support. So since we are working with clients normally through the first year, and they don’t need to have an urgent reason to have us there — they don’t need to be struggling with postpartum depression or a mood disorder — and they don’t need to be healing from a birth. We can work with them until their child is one year old or until their multiples are. So we have stopped working with some of our existing clients during the stay at home and plan to resume work with them. We’re focused only on those first six to nine weeks of healing, depending on the type of birth that our client had, or those struggling at any point in their postpartum time with mood disorders or depression.
Alyssa: So, to clarify, before this, we worked with people up to — we worked with families up to a year old, but now we can only do essential work which is, like you said, the six to nine weeks after someone just had a baby or with someone suffering from a perinatal mood disorder.
Kristin: Yes, or if they don’t have a partner, that is essential, if they need support, since obviously grandparents cannot be involved during this time. Families that have other kids are not able to take them to daycare if they’re not essential workers, so that has been interesting. Obviously, we can work with triplets and multiples because they need more of a hand around the house especially during healing.
Alyssa: So the moral of the story for postpartum is, we can’t just work with anyone right now until the stay at home order lifts, but we can work with you if you have a newborn, if you are suffering from a mood disorder, and/or have had multiples; twins or triplets.
Kristin: Exactly. Yes.
Alyssa: And we can do day or overnight, and that would involve you, again, virtually meeting the doula. You would both fill out this COVID-19 form that we created so that you and the doula both know what your risk, your exposure risk, is. Who’s leaving for the grocery store? Is someone in the home leaving for work? And as long as you’re both comfortable with it, you can work together.
Kristin: Exactly. Yeah, and our doulas are taking every precaution and following what the family wants as far as, you know, sanitation and wearing gloves. We’re all wearing our own cloth masks in the home, but if a client wanted surgical masks and has those or needs us to get them, then we work around their needs, and our doulas are bringing in a fresh set of clothes and taking their shoes and any coats that they may be wearing off immediately. So that has been a pretty seamless process transitioning over for the doulas who are comfortable working with our clients. And we’re so busy in postpartum pre-COVID. You know, that has been some growth that we’ve seen since we started the podcast and very intentionally focused on educating our community and what a postpartum doula is and the benefits of it. But now that is obviously slowed during COVID. But we’ve seen an increase as far as, you know, our students, and being that many hospital classes have closed or not all educators are offering virtual classes, and certainly our birth clients have increased more recently. It slowed for a bit initially because, you know, some doulas in our area are not offering in-person support, and we are. So that has also been a change in our business. Focusing on supporting local businesses is so key. So for any of our listeners, support the local shops in your community. I know, Alyssa, you order from Rebel, and I’ve been getting juice from different local businesses, whether it’s delivered to me or pick up, and just trying to keep our local businesses afloat, because as Local First members and a B-corporation business, we know the importance now and don’t want to see more businesses close down due to COVID.
Alyssa: I know. It’s so sad. What’s the statistic; like, 50% of small businesses aren’t going to make it through this? And luckily, Gold Coast will. We’re doing what we can. We’ve changed our business model a bit. We’ll be good; we’ll make it through this. It’s going to be a tough couple of years, I think, for everybody, but we’re going to do what we can in the midst of this to continue to help other small businesses and to keep all of our subcontractors. They’re their own small businesses. We want to keep them working and support them as much as possible, too.
Kristin: Yeah. And it’s been really sad even seeing other doula agencies that started at the same time as Gold Coast, which we’re nearing our five year anniversary. You know, they’re closing their doors in bigger markets than we live in, and it’s due to COVID. And that’s been very sad for me because they were peers of ours. And so, yeah. If you can support your local service and retail businesses and restaurants, do your part and think local. And just thinking of our stores like EcoBuns with online ordering and Hopscotch, that we often partner with. Supporting them, and the nonprofits. We’ve actually given more during COVID since a lot of the fundraisers we would normally attend and support for some of the hospital foundations have been canceled. We’ve given money to Mercy Foundation and we’re looking at what we can do within Metro and the Spectrum Foundation. And we are analyzing what we can best do to help Nestlings Diaper Bank because let’s not forget that diapers are needed now more than ever, and it is not covered by your basic government assistance programs. So that is something to keep in mind if you’re looking to help; if you have extra diapers or you’re looking at giving somewhere. Nestlings Diaper Bank is in need, and they are running low in diapers.
Alyssa: Yeah, the need is probably greater than ever right now, I would imagine.
Kristin: Yes. So, yeah. Thanks to everyone for listening all of these years and supporting our podcast. We would love to know what topics would be of interest to you and where we can go from here.
Alyssa: Yeah. Please let us know. You can find the podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. We also have on our website a blog section. If you hover over that, we actually have a listing of all the different podcasts. There in order by date. I don’t think you can search by topic, but you can probably Google it and find a certain topic. But we appreciate you listening, and obviously, if you can subscribe, if you can like it, if you can rate us. We’ve never really asked people to do that. It kind of started out as just like — I don’t want to call it a hobby, but, you know, something fun to do to give our clients something; a resource for our clients. But the more people we can educate, the better.
Kristin: We’ve gotten some recognition in Grand Rapids Magazine about being a local podcast, and also through a national organization that rated us in the top ten podcasts that are birth-related. So that was pretty exciting!
Alyssa: Thanks for listening, again!
This post was written by Lauren Utter, a ProDoula trained Birth and Postpartum Doula with Gold Coast Doulas.
Finding out you are pregnant can bring an array of emotions – planned pregnancy or not. Maybe you’re excited because you have been waiting for this day. Maybe you are surprised because a baby wasn’t on your radar. Maybe you’re fearful – of what your pregnancy will be like, how you will look, if the baby is going to be okay, or how you’ll feel.
All of these feelings are normal. Being pregnant causes your body to change. Not just a growing belly, but new hormones, cravings, thoughts, and illnesses. 70-80% of women suffer from morning sickness. At least 60,000 cases of extreme morning sickness, also known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), are reported (the number of cases is actually higher as many are treated at home). Perhaps you wonder if this is how all pregnant women feel or is it just you? Or maybe you question your ability to handle nausea and pain. Do you feel as though others minimize how you are actually feeling- giving you tips that you have relentlessly tried?
Morning sickness is difficult to deal with; it’s exhausting and frustrating, but there are many differences between HG and morning sickness. Women with HG lose 5% or more of pre-pregnancy weight. Morning sickness doesn’t typically interfere with your ability to eat or drink, whereas HG often causes dehydration from the inability to consume food or drinks. Morning sickness is most common during the first trimester, while HG lasts longer – sometimes through the whole pregnancy. A woman with HG is more likely to need medical care to combat symptoms.
HG is often described as debilitating, making everyday activities like working, walking, cooking, eating, or caring for older children hard to do. Not only are women having difficulties eating and drinking, but taking their prenatal vitamins is often difficult, too, which results in a lack of proper nutrition. Because of severe dehydration and insufficient nutrients, headaches, dizziness, some fainting, and decreased urination can present as greater symptoms of HG.
On top of all the physical signs of HG, secondary depression and anxiety may also be present. There are potential complications that arise when HG is present. We talked about malnutrition and dehydration, but some others include neurological disorders, gastrointestinal damage, hypoglycemia, acute renal failure, and coagulopathy (excessive bleeding and bruising). Fortunately, with effective treatment these complications can be managed or even avoided completely.
While there is no cure for Hyperemesis Gravidarum, there is a variety of treatments including medications and vitamins, therapies (nutritional, physical, infusion), bed rest, alternative medicine, chiropractic care, massages, and more. Not all women and cases respond to treatments in the same way. Caregivers typically believe early intervention, even prevention, is most effective.
Medical providers work with each woman to discuss which treatments work best for them. Common medications offered to women suffering from HG are antihistamines, antireflux, and metoclopramide. Because HG can be traumatic and highly stressful, 20% of mothers experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). Early intervention proves to be effective, and your OB/GYN, primary care doctor, or a mental health specialist are fantastic resources for mothers experiencing symptoms of any mood disorder. Along with medical professionals there are many forms of support and resources. There are several Facebook groups of women who are suffering or have suffered from HG. This is a great way to feel supported by knowing you are not alone.
The website Hyperemesis.org is equipped with resources, facts, and blogs from other sufferers and their organization, HelpHer, are leaders in research for HG. The HER Foundation puts on events throughout each year for women and their families to come together.
Another great support system is hiring a doula. Doulas offer support through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Through pregnancy we can be there for bed rest support, informational, and emotional support. We provide you with evidence-based resources, and factual information. With this information, women suffering from HG can self-advocate for proper testing and treatment that best suits their pregnancy journey. During the postpartum time, not only do doulas help with infant and family care, but doulas are trained to notice signs of PMADs and will provide you resources that can assist you through recovery.
Doulas want to see you be successful, confident, comfortable, and healthy. I know I can’t be the only one who pushes aside her feelings, physical and emotional, and says “Oh, I’m fine” or “It’s nothing.” Our bodies are designed to “tell” us when something is wrong. Here is a tip: start logging your symptoms, from a single headache to daily nausea and vomiting. This will help your medical provider reach answers. Trust your body and trust your intuition, strive for testing that you believe is necessary, and find your people.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
Adult Separation Anxiety: Podcast Episode #99
On this episode, Alyssa and Laine begin by talking about parenting anxiety and the distance that parents can sometimes feel as their babies and children grow and seem to need them less. The conversation takes some interesting turns to talk about having clear boundaries for kids, pivoting our expectations of children as they grow, and learning how to figure out who you are as a parent. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hello. Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas. I am Alyssa Veneklase. Super excited to be talking to Laine Lipsky again. How are you?
Laine: I’m good. How are you doing?
Alyssa: Good. So we had a couple great podcasts, and I had an idea last week about another topic to talk about because I have a lot of clients who — so, they come to me and they want something specific, right? They have a specific sleep goal. Maybe that’s to stop nursing to sleep. Maybe it’s to stop bed sharing. It could be any number of things. But when those things happen, they struggle with feeling distance from their child because now they’re not cosleeping, and they’re not nursing to sleep anymore. So I just wonder, you know, from your end as a parenting coach, what kind of, I don’t know, tips or tricks do you have, because it kind of seems like the classic motherhood scenario, right, where our babies are going to grow up and we always have these feelings of — I don’t know. It’s almost like grief. You’re, like, grieving the loss of one stage of this child. But, of course, we want them to grow up and we want them to become strong, independent little humans, but we grieve the loss of that, especially if maybe you’re only having one child. So, yeah, I just kind of — like, that was an idea I had. So let’s talk about it.
Laine: Yeah. It’s such a good topic, and you’re right, it does sort of permeate all phases of parenting, right? Like, no matter how old your child is, you’re going to be experiencing — you’re moving through life and life stages, so there’s going to be transitions, and transitions are — they have loss as part of them. That’s part of the deal of a transition. You’re starting something new. You have to let go of something that you had before. And I’m sure with the clients that you’re talking about, when they’re looking to move out of one sleep phase, it’s because it’s not working for them, right? And they want to move into this new thing, but once they have the new thing, it’s like this sort of romantic, you know, notion. But there is this real separation thing, and I think that’s where the pain point is. It’s interesting talking about it. I think that what comes up for me when you first mention this topic was that I received a card when my son was born, and I think it’s a — I don’t know; maybe you’ve heard the phrase before, but it was something — I might get it a little wrong. But it was something along the lines of, “Motherhood is the understanding — or the agreement, maybe — of having your heart walking around outside of you for the rest of your life.” Have you ever heard that one before?
Alyssa: Yeah, I’ve heard that, and it’s so true.
Laine: Yeah! So hopefully I didn’t butcher that too badly. But it is really like — it’s such a good quote and concept because it really is, in a nutshell, saying about — this other person that’s really a part of you and really needs you is going to be separate from you. Right? In different times of life. And I think that, you know — I think that when — it’s like a confusing time when you first have a baby because you’re literally enmeshed with your baby, right, when you first take them home or you’re an adoptive parent and they’re first brought home. They’re so reliant on you and dependent on you for their survival, if you have an infant on your hands. Right? And it creates this — I mean, it creates this codependence, really. It’s like the ultimate enmeshment of a relationship. And I have always seen motherhood, like early motherhood, as being like this accepted form of enmeshment, and then the process of it kind of tearing and tearing apart. And that, I think, is the pain of it, is this process of separation. I hear a lot from people that they get afraid of, like, oh, my child won’t need me anymore. And I think that — I mean, I think we all go through that. I think we all have that fear of, like, being so needed and then not being needed. It’s like this overwhelming capacity of being needed and then flipping over to not needed anymore, and we get so identified with that need, that early need that our kids have for us. I think we identify with it really strongly. That’s, like, an interesting place to start talking about it.
Alyssa: Yeah, and it seems to happen so drastically. So, you know, this infant needs you 100% of the time. You’re sustaining its life. It needs you to live. And then you have a toddler who still needs you quite a lot, and then all of a sudden, you have this young — you know, maybe at age 8, 9, 10 — they’re just so independent that it just stops. And I think that’s what’s really hard for, maybe especially us as mothers, is we go from, “Hey, Mom. Hey, Mom. Mommy, Mommy, Mommy,” like all the time, to, “I go this.” So I think, you know, when my clients with their babies are going through this, it feels very severe, like it just happened so suddenly. And they really struggle with that feeling of disconnection. So I try to find, you know, what’s a way that we can bring that feeling of connectedness back without getting you back to a place of sleeplessness.
Laine: Yeah. What comes up for me when we’re talking about this is really the backing up in that process. Like, even before somebody is lamenting the loss, right, like, it’s almost like — when you lament losing something, when you grieve something, it’s almost like I didn’t get enough of it, or maybe I didn’t do it — I didn’t get enough out of it when we were going through it, and I’m not ready to let go of it yet. And one practice that I feel really strongly about in parenting, and I think this applies here, too, is the concept of practicing mindfulness. And one of my favorite definitions of mindfulness is actually savoring. When you savor moments with your kids, what you are enjoying about each phase in the moment — I believe there is a natural sense, because I see it with parents and I know with myself, there’s a sense of completion of a phase, and it’s not as hard to let go of because you’re not like, oh, I’m trying to grasp back to that. So, for example, I remember — I remember actually sitting — it was with a friend and her toddler. We were at a play date together, and the moms were sitting in one room, and the kids were supposedly playing in the other room. And the toddler kept coming up to her and asking for her attention. And she kept shooing him away, saying, go, this is your time to play with your friends. Go play with your friends. I mean, all he wanted to do was sit on her lap. He didn’t even — he wasn’t even that demanding, right? She kept shooing him away and shooing him away. And finally she, like, couldn’t fight the fight anymore, and she let him sit on her lap, and she was so much happier about it, and she was obviously so much more at peace. And, you know, the other moms were sitting there, and I was like, you know, this time is going to pass so quickly. Embrace this time that he’s seeking your attention because before you know it, he’s going to be off. Peace out, Mom. I don’t need you anymore. And that — I think that when we fight what’s happening in the moment, we kind of lose out on getting our fill of it. Does that make sense?
Alyssa: Yeah. I almost wonder if you hit the nail on the head there with my sleep clients, because let’s say it’s a two-year-old that I’m working with. Maybe they — because of sleep deprivation, they feel like they’ve lost out on so many moments, because as we’ve talked about before, it inhibits your ability to parent, and then with a sleep-deprived child, they’re not themselves, either. So maybe they feel like these months or years of sleepless nights and dealing with a crying child and tired and screaming, they feel like they didn’t get all those moments or get enough of those moments; that they’re not ready when it does end. I’m not sure.
Laine: That’s interesting. There’s also very intense bonding that happens. I had a child who was not a good sleeper, and there’s very intense bonding that happens at 3:00 a.m. And it’s like you love this being and you’re there for this being and you’re comforting them or you’re trying to comfort them in whatever way, and it’s so primal and it’s so intense that I think there is a loss of that, like, bonding experience. How are we going to bond? If that’s been our bonding up until now, as crappy as it was, as hard as it was, if we don’t have that thing, how we do it now? And I think that gets to more the real, like, heart of how do you interact with your child. How do you interact with anybody when the problem has been defining the relationship, right? Anybody, really. Like, when you have a friend and, like, all you’ve been doing is, like, talking about what hasn’t been working, let’s just say, in your friendship, and then suddenly you resolve that thing. It’s like, wait. Do we even know how to interact with each other? Or like with parents whose kids then leave the house. This whole — I know you’re far away from this, but it does happen. Kids do eventually, you know, leave the house.
Alyssa: And then the parents are like, hmm, what do we talk about?
Laine: Yeah. Like, so I still like you? Who are we without this thing, this elephant in the room? Or not elephant; we’re actually talking about it. Maybe it’s not the elephant. And, like, I think that there’s some fear there, and I also — which I get. I get it. How do I actually mother now? If my child doesn’t need me for this essential need, this basic physical thing of sleep — okay, so what are the other levels I can bond on? Maybe it’s the physical because it’s about kissing them, you know, their boo-boos when they fall down. It’s about feeding them. It’s about making sure their diapers are clean or whatever. I’ve got the physical thing. But it starts to kind of move into this more emotional realm where I know for a fact that most people feel very uncomfortable. How do I actually interact with my child? Especially — I don’t know if I told you this in one of our other podcasts, but it does bear repeating. When I Googled how many people were raised in a dysfunctional home, do you know what the percentage was?
Alyssa: I’m sure a lot higher than I think.
Laine: It’s staggering. 96%. Some sort of dysfunction. Not, like, fully crisis level, but some sort of — and the way that it was encapsulated, at least in the article that I read, was around the ability to talk about emotions. The emotional functionality of families. So maybe there’s something going on. I’m just riffing here, but maybe there’s something going on. If we’re moving out of the physical realm, I don’t know if I’ve got the chops to handle the emotional stuff that’s coming. I thought that maybe the physical piece of it is ending. Maybe there’s something there. I think a lot of people get really nervous about, like, what else am I — if you’ve been nursing your child, if I’m not the nurser, then what do I have to offer here?
Alyssa: Yeah. It’s like learning and relearning who you are and who your child is and then rebuilding that relationship, maybe even from the ground up, if that’s all you’ve known for months.
Laine: Yeah, or I would say more like pivoting. Right? Pivoting from being one thing; okay, now I’m this other thing. Okay; now I’m going to be this other thing. And that’s a process that doesn’t stop, right? Like, my kids are 12 and 14 now, so, you know, you’re the comforter when they’re born, and then you’re the playmate and the early teacher, and then you become the — you continue to be your child’s teacher, but you keep pivoting as they grow, depending on what they need, and developing a sense of what is sort of normal levels of need and what the fair expectations are at each stage. I think it’s a really useful thing. Like, I don’t want my 14-year-old coming to me with every single issue that’s going on. You know, I want him to have some agency in the world, right? So at this point I will, like, sometimes purposefully put him into an uncomfortable situation. Like, you order the food for the family over the phone, or you make the appointment for the doctor. That kind of thing. And, again, he’s older, but that’s where we’re headed with them, right, to teach them real-life skills. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t need me anymore. It just means that it’s like handing — it’s like you have the reins, and then you slowly start handing the reins over to your child. It’s a process.
Alyssa: Yeah. I like the idea of pivoting. Because it’s true; at every age and stage from birth on, it’s this constant shift of, now I have to do this for my child. Now I don’t need to do that, but guess what? She has a new need. She doesn’t need this one anymore, but she needs me in this other way, and helping parents to understand that.
Laine: Totally, and what sucks about it for parents is that just as you’re getting good at one stage, those kids go on and they do something else, and you’re like a rookie all over again. Even if you’re on your second or your third child, your second or third child isn’t going to be exactly the same as your first or your second child. It’s like, I’ve never been a mom to — to my 12-year-old, I’ve never been a mom to a 12-year-old you before. I’ve never been a mom to — even though I was a mom to a 12-year-old before, it wasn’t to you. Which is a very useful phrase for me to teach people to have in their back pocket. You know, I’ve never done this part for you before, with you before. And staying flexible and flexible-minded is the key to it, for me, anyway, and what I try to teach people. Something else along the lines of mindfulness and savoring each stage is letting yourself grieve a little bit at each stage. I think it’s a really — like, what a useful practice. You know, to recognize that this piece is ending and not try to talk yourself out of being sad a little bit. You know, I think anytime we try to overshadow — did you see the movie Inside Out with your daughter?
Alyssa: Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Laine: I mean, really. Such a good movie. We just watched it again as a family the other night. And it’s just brilliant, right? Anytime you try to overshadow sadness with joy, it just rings false. And it doesn’t hold the truth to it. And so you asked me for tips and tricks. One thing that I will share that I do around grief is I have a really simple candle lighting thing that I do, which is when I’m feeling grief about something — could be anything, but even parent-related — I just have a little candle that I light, and I say, like, I grieve this thing. You know, I grieve the end of this stage. I grieve that I didn’t get to do this. I grieve, you know, we’re in Corona times right now, so I’m grieving that I don’t get to see my friends, and honoring that grief because any time we try to convince ourselves and “joy” our way out of something, we’re not going to get the full experience. It won’t be satisfying, and it won’t feel authentic. And as a parenting coach, I will say: our kids pick up on it. Whenever we are acting from a place of inauthenticity, that’s when they start to smell the blood and the fear in the water. So they’re going to start acting out more. They’re going to start — because they’re reacting, not always entirely, but a lot of times, they are reacting to the energy, the emotion, that we are emitting, even if we’re not saying it out loud. They’re feeling it, especially the young ones. Like the kids of the parents that you mostly deal with — those kids are all about, you know, the limbic part of the brain, which is all that, like, mammal-kind of stuff, which is, like, I’m just going to feel how I’m feeling. I’m not going to talk about how I’m feeling. I’m not going to reason how I’m feeling. I’m just going to be in the feeling 100%. Right? And so they pick up on — no matter what we’re saying, no matter what our tone of voice is, they’re going to pick up on what the feeling is. And so we’ve got to get right with ourselves around it. So I say welcome it. Don’t disrupt your sleep over it, right? I mean, please.
Alyssa: Right. Just own it. Do whatever you need to do, whether it’s a candle or writing or a meditation. But own it; leave it, and kind of move on, because it’s true. Even at a few months of age, these kids — you know, you’ve probably seen those studies where, based on a parent’s face, how a baby will react. And even just facial expressions can change how a baby feels and reacts. So if you’re stressed, they feel it. They notice.
Laine: They do, and I think as much as it’s a good training ground for the infant to learn how they’re reading our face, it’s great training when our kids are infants for us as parents to be, like, I’ve got to get myself right around this. Whatever this pain point is — it feels enormous because we’re all emotional and we’re all tired, and it’s all very, very sensitive and raw and new. But in retrospect, the infant issues are going to seem very small, you know? And when your kids get older, they will seem very small. So we want to use these moments when our kids are babies to train ourselves. How am I going to get right about this feeling? What are my practices around talking about this? Who’s my tribe? Who are my trusted mentors? What is my trusted source of information? What are the practices that actually work for me? You know, we’re so vulnerable as new parents to taking in all the information that’s out there. It can get really overwhelming, like a tidal wave of information coming at us. And it’s such a great time to learn how to slow down and just be like, hmm, what feels right for me? And that takes some work for most of us, you know? We want to do everything right, but really, there’s no — I’ve said this before. There’s no one right way to parent, but there’s a right way for each of us, and we’ve got to find that way. And the only way to do that is to get right with yourself. So the other thing I was going to add in is that — you know, it’s interesting, because when people talk to me about sleep stuff, they’re often talking about their children — you probably hear this a lot, too — delaying the sleep by one tactic or another. When they’re a little older, right? I need another drink of water. I need another book. I need another song. I need another whatever. And what I find is really helpful for parents to know is that for children, this is a time when most kids and parents are at odds, right? Children are not wanting to separate. They’re looking for more connection. But the parents are looking to separate because they need a break. They want to connect with their partner if they’ve got one. They’re tired themselves. They’ve got dishes; whatever’s going on. And so they become sort of at-odds, and so evening can become this really tense time, right? And what I would — what came up for me as you were talking about your clients with this issue is, like, perhaps the parents are also experiencing some inner feelings about that separation. Maybe they’re experiencing it as a separation as well, you know? And so with separation comes a little bit of anxiety, not just about what it means, but the actual act of separating. So I never thought about it as, like, creating anxiety for the parent. I’ve always thought about it from the child’s perspective and thinking, like, well, this is — it’s an anxious time for them, and the more you can settle in to helping them, the better it will go overall. But maybe there’s something going on there for them, too.
Alyssa: I’m glad you mentioned that, the bedtime routine, because that’s the one time I tell them, really focus on that time to bond with your child then. So that means it’s just you. There’s no phone. There’s no TV. It’s just you two, and you’re not thinking about anything else. You’re focused. Because 30 minutes, which is the perfect bedtime routine, so it doesn’t — another drink, another book, another song – can turn into an hour or two easily. So if you focus on trying to stick within 30 minutes, but 30 minutes of focused, dedicated time on your child is like hours to them. So they’re going to struggle at bedtime if you give them 30 minutes but it’s half focused on them. You’re checking the phone; you’re having them brush their teeth; you’re helping another kid, and then you’re telling them to go to the bathroom, and you’re never focused on just them. If you have older kids, stagger it, so that the youngest, you’re putting to bed first, just them. Then you do the next, and it’s just them. If you can dedicate that time to them, it’s huge. And then you can also feel — you know, even if you’re not nursing to sleep anymore, just those cuddles and sweet kisses and songs, you know, and holding the little stuffed animal, that can be still such an amazing bonding experience before bed. I think it just takes focus.
Laine: It does, and mindfulness, too, like that savoring. You’re talking about exactly what I was mentioning before. It’s the same thing. Take it in. Smell their little clean head. You know, like enjoy their breath before it get stinky, you know? Give them a few years. You’re not going to want to do that. Touch their skin; hold their hands. That’s all mindful practices which is, like, just take it in. Breathe it in. Which is really hard. I just want to, like, give a shout-out to the parents out there whose kids, first of all, you know, bedtime is not a pleasant experience. That’s a very real thing. And also a shout-out to the parents whose kids are not neurotypical. So if you have a child who’s really challenging who’s, like, very strong-willed; a child who had a really hard time settling themselves down, and so bedtime routine is longer than that half-hour and it seems like the more attention you give them, the more they want, and the more they seem to crave — that is going to require something different on their part, too. Because it’s not — I mean, 30 minutes, I would say, is ideal, but, like, I’ve got a child who is not neurotypical, and I would have loved half an hour. Trust me. But, like, that was not in the cards. And so, again, recognizing what your reality is and accepting that and identifying where it doesn’t feel right. Okay, I can make a tweak here. Where it does feel right, I can embrace that part of it. But really taking it all in and recognizing, like, this is your team. You don’t swap out kids. If you’re a coach on a team and you show up that year, these are your players. You make the best of what you have, no matter who you have. And everybody has their strengths, and everybody has their challenges. I think that so often, parents whose kids require more, who demand more, start doing the, like, I wish it was this way, or so-and-so’s kids are so much easier. This would be so much better if. And rather than that grass-is-always-greener kind of thinking — that’s a real mindset shift that parents — that I do, I work with parents on all the time, of, like, who do we have? Forget the ideal child. Forget the ideal whatever; sleep routine or whatever. We got to figure out what works for you. You know? And I think that a lot of — back to your original thought around, like, why — how parents grieve and the separation that they feel and the loss that they feel, you know, there’s a lot of fantasy thinking around, oh, it was supposed to be this way, or I was supposed to be this way. And it’s like, you know, I have clients who have older kids, and they’re like, you know, I really am sad that now things are this way. Maybe they would have been different if I would have parented differently when they were younger. I mean, it doesn’t end, right, unless you end it. Unless you end that kind of thinking, and you’re like, you know what? Starting today. Starting right here, right now, this is how I’m going to do it differently, whatever that different thing is. The only mistake I really call parents out on is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. That’s the only mistake that’s really going to bite you in the butt. Other than that, if you’re trying different things, and you’re being mindful about it, and you’re being honest with yourself and getting really aligned with what feels good for you and lines up with your values — I mean, this is all — everyone’s a rookie. Everyone.
Alyssa: I love every piece of this.
Laine: I don’t know that I have anything else to add. I think that’s a lot. That’s a lot of, like, essential, basic stuff. You know, recognizing what you’ve got, leaning in to what’s true for you, tuning out the noise, having trusted people in your huddle. You know, there’s a great body of information out there for parents right now and a lot of people delivering it and figuring out who’s your person is really essential. And I love how you talk about creating specific plans for people. Like, parenting is not one size fits all. You work with a body of information. And sleep is not one size fits all, right? You work with a body of information, and then you have to pick and choose what works for you. And the more — I just think the more support you can get for getting more and more aligned with yourself — that is an approach. That’s not even a tactic. That’s, like, a strategy. That’s an approach for parenting that lasts a lifetime. Because then no matter what, you’re, like, I’m good here. I’m going to try these different things. You know, one of these things is going to — all of them are going to blow up in my face. This one thing is going to work, but that doesn’t mean — you know, that three minutes where I tried something new and it totally blew up in my face and my kid lost it — that doesn’t define me as a parent. Right? Like, I am defined by what I — I call the shots in what defines me as a parent. Nobody else gets to do that for me. And the more we can operate from that place of strength and confidence, which most people lack because they end up saying things, doing things, that they swore up and down that they wouldn’t say or do, but that’s what comes out in moments of stress. And parenting is stressful. It’s really stressful. Our emotional back is put against the wall every day, most of the time. Especially, again, shout out to parents who have kids who are not neurotypical or who are challenging. You’re going to get stuff blown back at you every day. And so if you don’t have your running shoes on, you’re not going to be prepared to run that marathon. I just want people to — like, if I had one dream for all parents, it would be, like, get right with yourself. You know? And then, like, the rest — the rest is going to flow how it’s going to flow. There are going to be bumps and turns and curves and sharp U-turns all along the way. It doesn’t end. But the calmer you can be, the more centered you are as a parent, the better off the whole family is going to be. And that extends from early infancy. It’s a great training ground, and all the sleep stuff and the feeding and all of that stuff to forever. It’s not easy. This sounds really easy, like I’m saying things that make it sound really easy, like get right with yourself. Okay, Laine. What does that mean? Done. Check. Right with myself. No. It’s really, really hard. And, again, that statistic of, like, how many of us grew up in some sort of dysfunction is real. It’s so real. And so, you know, I always say about parenting: it’s probably the most important job that any of us will ever have. It’s certainly the most important job I’ve ever had and ever plan to have. It makes it really stressful. It makes it really important. I really care about it. And I didn’t get any training for it, except for how I was raised, and that’s true for everybody.
Alyssa: When you put it that way, it’s pretty scary, when you think about it like that.
Laine: How else could you think about? I mean, put it in the context of playing tennis. If you were taught how to play tennis, and then you were in a position to teach somebody else tennis, you can only teach them what you know. Right? I mean, so what would you do if you wanted to do it differently? You’d get a coach. You’d get help. You’d get a consultant like you. You would, like, start off learning how to do it differently so that you can give it to your children. You can’t give your kids what you yourself don’t have, and I know for a fact that every person who I talk to about being a parent wants their kids to grow up to be a few things. They want them to grow up to be successful. Usually, actually, it’s happy first. I want them to be happy. I want them to be successful. And I want them to be independent. And sometimes kind is thrown in there. Usually it is, eventually. But it’s always happy, successful, and independent. And what do you need to be those three things? You need to have a sense of confidence. And where do you get that from? You know, well, you get it from your experience, and you get it from your parents. And if you didn’t get it from those things, then you go to therapy and you work it out, and you figure some stuff out, and you try to bring those things in as an adult. But wouldn’t it be a wonderful world if, you know, we could raise our kids who did not have to recover in one way or another from their own childhood and just grow up with this confidence. And the only way we can do it is by giving it to ourselves first, which is awesome.
Alyssa: Yeah. It’s great. I mean, it’s great relationship advice, and no matter what age, right? I always say you can’t be a good partner if you don’t know what you yourself need and want. But it’s good training ground for children. I’ve heard it before in the aspect of a partner, but it relates to being a parent.
Laine: Yeah. I always — there are a few things I say a lot, and one of the things that I say a lot is, you know, I teach parenting, but really, what I’m teaching is relationship, like human relationship skills. It just happens to come out in full bloom with our kids because, you know, they bring it out in us. They bring out all the stuff that’s unhealed, that’s unsettled, that’s ungrounded. You know what that feels like, when your child says something or does something that you’re like, oh, no. Oh, that’s a no. Right? And you’re so clear about it. Like, that interaction with her goes away. I don’t know how it goes in your house. It can go all sorts of ways. It doesn’t mean it goes any better. You just know, no. I’m not going to give in on that one. Whereas when you’re not clear, and you’re like, well, I don’t know. It’s, like, blood in the water. You know, they smell it, and it’s like they just feed off of the uncertainty, off the anxiety, and it makes them feel unsafe, too. It really does. It’s like if you’ve ever driven over a bridge. They have those guardrails there for a reason — for many reasons, but imagine driving over a bridge and it didn’t have the guardrails up. You’d be like, oh, my gosh. I could totally take one little wrong turn and fall. Boundaries are the same way with kids. I know we’re touching onto another topic here, but boundaries operate like that. They keep kids feeling really safe. And so when we know what our boundaries are, it makes our kids feel safer, too. And so often we don’t know, and so, again, this comes back to getting more and more clear about where we stand as people, as humans, as women, as mothers, as parents, whoever, before we start trying to impose boundaries on our kids because some of those are going to fall really flat. And even with — I’m sure you bump against this with the sleep consulting, right? Like, parents don’t really know how they feel about it.
Alyssa: Yeah. I mean, especially with the older ones. You know, what are your boundaries? And you do; you find out these kids are just trying and pulling all the tricks because they don’t — some days it’s yes. Some days, it’s no. Some days, they let them cry. Some days, they let them stay up. Some days, he sleeps on the sofa. Some days, he sleeps in their bed. One night, he’ll sleep in his room. It’s just that there’s just no — zero boundaries, usually, so you just kind of have to slowly rein them in. But yeah, in that instance, I am coaching the parents more than the child because they have to decide. And I ask them: what are your goals, and what do you want your boundaries to be, because you both have to stick with it. It’s a two-parent home. You both have to agree, and you have to be consistent 100% of the time. Because like you said, blood in the water. They sense that Mom will do one thing, but Dad will do another, and they’re like, okay, I’ve got you. I know what I can get from both of you. So, yeah, consistency is key, too.
Laine: Yeah, I was going to add, it can be that. It can be that I can get away with this, right? Certainly, when they’re older, I can get away with this. They’re more conscious of it. But I caution parents against thinking that way because then they get resentful of their kids for trying to take advantage of them, and I think, coming from where I sit from a boundary perspective, I actually think that kids are looking to find out where the boundaries are by testing those limits because they want to feel safe. They want to know what the boundaries are. So they’re not doing it — I’m just flipping what you’re saying a little bit — not doing it to get away with something. They’re doing it to find out where the edge is because they’re actually not feeling safe about it. Do you know what I mean?
Alyssa: Yeah. No, I like that.
Laine: I think that makes parents feel a lot better and more confident to set a boundary when they’re like, no, this is actually going to feel good. It might not feel great at the beginning, but it will feel better for everybody when they know what the rules are.
Alyssa: Yeah, and I think you said it better than I did, but I tell parents that if you have different styles, absolutely fine. Your boundary might be a little bit different than your partner’s. As long as your child knows that there are boundaries, and there’s got to be a little bit of give, but your boundary can’t be here and your partner’s boundary can’t be here because then there will be fighting. So a little bit of wiggle room, but I like that: making them understand that their child wants and needs these boundaries, and they’re not just testing them to be, you know, malicious or cunning or conniving. They just — at all ages, right, they want to know what they can get away with.
Laine: And they want to know where the edges are. They want to know where they’re going to be safe. It’s like the rails on the bridge. It feels very unsafe to not have those rails up, even if they don’t like it. If they seem to not like it on the surface, kids do better — research tells us again and again that kids who do better in life are kids who grew up with boundaries. You know, not enforced in some militant kind of way, but fairly enforced boundaries that are clear; clear rules. And very few kids, very very few, can operate without clear rules and kind of figure them out on their own. It’s kind of an unfair ask of kids to figure that out. It’s really on us. Part of the deal with parenting. So to your parents who are feeling a loss over not bed sharing anymore, I would add this, as maybe a good place to wind down: what are the rituals that they can put in place to make, like you suggested, bedtime really meaningful, and also wake-up time; the reunion time. People put a lot of emphasis on the separation; like, oh, we’re going to have this sweet goodbye. Even if a parent is traveling, right? We’re going to do this when they leave; we’re going to do that when they leave. And there’s so much anxiety around the separation, for kids especially, and like I said, sometimes with parents. But if we flip it and we start focusing on, what are we going to do around the reunion time, it is actually something to look forward to. And you don’t even have to talk about it very much with little kids. You just start doing it. That’s the beauty when they’re little. You just start doing stuff and try it out. How does it feel when you walk into the room after a night of being separate? Check your own emotional baggage at the door. Leave it. Like, that was hard for me, but you walk in and you’re like, maybe there’s a special song you sing in the morning. Maybe there’s a special dance you do while you’re lifting up the shades. I mean, it could be anything. It doesn’t matter what it is. It matters how it’s done. So rituals are so powerful for kids, and it’s something that is really soothing in them developing a rhythm in their life and in their heart and helping their brain develop a sense of safety and the sense of connection and that, you know, awareness for a parent can help put their minds at ease, as well. Like, oh, I’m looking at how happy she is when she’s waking up, you know, and like really focusing on that reunion part. But, again, not to diminish the sadness. And then once you — having inner sadness, it’s kind of like having a child who’s really demanding your attention, like that mom I talked about at the playgroup, you know. Once you let that sadness in, you let that child who’s demanding your attention on your lap, and you kind of welcome it and embrace it, it kind of loses its power. So perhaps all the sadness around the grief is actually the fighting the grief, and if we welcome it — if they learn how to welcome it, they’ll feel more at peace about it and be able to let it go a little more easily.
Alyssa: I love all this so much. I’m going to be referencing this podcast to a lot of clients, I think.
Laine: Well, excellent. And, you know, I’m here for them. I’m happy to help out however I can.
Alyssa: Tell them how to reach you, and then I’ll tell your people how to reach me.
Laine: Sounds good! Probably the best way to find out more about me and to reach me is to just go to my website. And how can my people reach you when they need a guru for their sleep needs?
Alyssa: At our website, and then there’s a section for sleep. And we have a blog listing on there, too, with a lot of stuff about sleep and anything pregnancy, birth, and parenting-related. And then this podcast is called Ask The Doulas.
Parenting and Sleep: Podcast Episode #98
Laine Lipsky, Parenting Coach, talks with Alyssa today about the negative effects of sleep deprivation on children and parents. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hello and welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa Veneklase. I’m excited to be back with Laine Lipsky, parenting coach. How are you?
Laine: Hi! I’m good. How are you doing?
Alyssa: Great! So when we talked on the phone last week, we talked a lot about sleep, and we didn’t intend to talk about sleep, but I told you that I was an infant and child sleep consultant, and then you were like, oh, gosh. The way sleep deprivation affects some of the families that you’re working with — it kind of created some interesting thoughts. I’d love to hear some examples of how some families you’ve worked with and how sleep deprivation has affected that whole family, because I see that when I work with — I’m hired to help children sleep, but obviously, these parents aren’t sleeping, either. That’s why they’re calling me. And then sometimes even when I get the children sleeping, these parents are, like, I still can’t sleep. It’s like if they’ve been two years without a good night’s sleep, they have to retrain themselves. So even though I’m not an adult sleep coach, there’s still a lot of rules from children that apply to us as adults that I kind of have to remind them of and tell them to be patient with themselves, just like they had to be patient with their child to get them into this new rhythm.
Laine: Yeah. It is such a big issue, and I can speak from personal experience. I have, hands down, the champion worst sleeper ever. He is now a teenager, so for anybody out there who thinks that they could take me on, like, my kid on, when he was a baby, I challenge you to a duel, a sleep duel. A sleep-off. Whatever you want to call it. My son — so I’ll just start by saying my son — he would go to sleep. We did all the “right things” for sleeping, and when we would put him down at night, he would go through the night and wake up every 45 minutes. And I was a nursing mom and I was not intending to cosleep, but because of his wake cycle, and nobody — nothing could get him back to sleep. He had something called silent reflux. It was really hard to diagnose. It was really concerning. We ended up cosleeping, and I — we had to out of absolute necessity. So every 45 minutes — so literally, when I would put him down — and that’s in heavy quotes; “put him down” for the night, I would start weeping because I knew that there was just this huge thing ahead of me called “night” which was going to be really, really painful and difficult. And you and I said we both know that, you know, sleep deprivation is a form of torture in prisons and there’s — I firsthand have been through it, and I work with people who have been through it. So I just want to start off by saying, like, I feel anyone’s pain who’s walking around feeling like their body hurts, their eyes burn, they’re short-tempered; they’re not making clear decisions, and especially on top of it, we’re recording this podcast during this COVID lockdown time. All of that stuff is just on, you know, steroids right now because we’re also stressed out about the uncertainty that surrounds us. So my heart goes out to anybody who’s struggling with sleep right now, and it’s so widespread. The impact of a parent being sleep deprived and maybe both parents being sleep deprived is just such a trickle-down effect. And so, yeah, I can tell you a lot about clients who I’ve had, but I just wanted to start off by saying that I have total empathy for somebody who is going through that. It’s a really important issue.
Alyssa: Yeah. You almost forget how bad it is, and then you have one night of bad sleep, and you remember. Oh, my goodness; how did I do this for weeks, if not months? And some of my clients, for years. You know, for two years. It’s devastating to relationships to where I –you know, they’ll say — or even six months. Six months old; I had a long maternity leave. I need to go back to work, but I haven’t slept in six months. Or I went back to work after three months, and I have not been productive at work for the last three months. It affects everything.
Laine: Right, or people driving to work totally sleep deprived. That’s dangerous.
Alyssa: It’s worse than drunk driving. I mean, statistically, I think there are more driving deaths related to sleep deprivation than drugs and alcohol combined. Combined!
Laine: I didn’t know that. So I say a lot, joking not joking, in my practice, if parents were able to get on top of sleep early on in their families that I’d be out of a job because a lot of what I see are behavioral issues that are stemming from a lack of sleep. And you just think about how you feel when you are tired, when you’re cranky, when you — you know, when you feel that way as an adult, you’re able to sit down. You’re really able to say, I’m feeling really — at best, you’re able to say, I’m feeling really cranky. I’m just really tired. You’re able to maybe take a nap somehow, magically. You’re able to have a cup of coffee. When we think about our kids — or, you know, maybe people have a glass of wine to take the edge off. There’s no taking the edge off for the kids. They don’t have that. Maybe it’s nursing. I guess that would be the closest thing. But there’s no edge — they’re just edgy all the time. And so in a family system, what I see is that when kids are not rested and parents are not rested, we’re not dealing with the actual people. We’re dealing with the tired versions of those people. And so one of my very first questions when I speak to people about their parenting is, how is your sleep.
Alyssa: That’s great.
Laine: It’s that essential. And because I shared a few minutes ago about my own son and my own sleep struggles: we defied the parenting books at the time to schedule our day or create a schedule around feeding. I was, like, forget feeding. Who’s going to eat when they’re tired and cranky? Like, does eating feel good when you’re tired? That’s not a solution. The solution is sleep. And so we quickly learned — and I don’t know if this is what you teach, but you’re so flexible. You teach a lot of different things to people. But had you been my sleep coach at the time, or sleep consultant, I would tell you that we were scheduling our day around our son’s wake-up time. Like, that’s what we — we’re scheduling our day around his sleep needs. His feeding seemed to be fine, but his sleep was just crazy off the charts. And I think part of that is temperament. I think a lot of it is. And to this day, he doesn’t — well, to this day, he is a teenager, so he sleeps crazy amounts, but up until he started that whole sleep routine as a teen, he still needed less sleep than everybody. He still needs less sleep than me. And that’s where I see in families the real — when it’s upside down, when a parent has high sleep needs and a child has lower sleep needs, that’s a red zone for me as a parenting coach.
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s really hard because in the podcast we previously recorded where you said there’s no one parenting style; there’s no practice style — but the same with sleep. There’s no one — or there are some best practices, but there’s no best parenting style. Same with there’s a lot of sleep methods, but there’s no one right sleep method for everybody. So when I give someone a sleep plan which says, you know, based on your child’s age, this is what a child typically — what a nap schedule typically looks like or a feeding schedule typically looks like. Most parents want to go by the — just down — and I have to remind them, we’re not watching the clock. We’re watching your baby. Your baby’s cues tell us, how long is their wake cycle? Can they stay awake for an hour and a half before they get tired, or can they stay awake for two and a half hours before they get tired? That will determine feeding and sleep schedules, not this list, not the clock. So they just want me to hand them this guide that miraculously works, and it’s just not that easy. We really have to watch Baby’s cues to understand what your baby needs, because if a typical baby needs 15 hours and yours only needs 14 hours, what does that mean? Let’s try some things. What is this going to look like? A later bedtime? An earlier wakeup? A shorter nap? Troubleshooting together is why I think finding a good sleep coach is the only way to be successful because you can’t just read a book because then you are looking at this sleep guide in a book saying, okay, oh, my gosh, it’s 2:03. I’m three minutes late. You should have been down for a nap. But your baby’s not tired. So then what? Who answers that for you?
Laine: Yep, and to have somebody help you watch that, because just like with parenting advice, you know, the old adage is that — the old whatever you want to call common wisdom or whatever that you might get from your own parents often doesn’t apply. Sometimes they do. Like, if you’re lucky, you know, like a baby will sleep when they’re tired. Well, not if you have a baby who’s really high-strung, temperamentally speaking, or who’s overtired. Their form of being really tired is wired, which is the case in my kids. Right? He didn’t get that dreamy, dazed-off look when he was tired.
Alyssa: He didn’t give you the sleep cues of yawning and rubbing his eyes? Mommy, I’m tired.
Laine: There was no book that fit my child, and so to your point, I had to learn to read him and I had to stop reading the books. And I didn’t do it perfectly. You know, I still don’t do it perfectly, but just even that shift in my mindset of, like, oh, I need to read my child, not the books. It’s the same thing that I say to parents about parenting, which is, learn to read your child and take in the information but, you know, information overload is overwhelming and we’re just being inundated with it now, and it’s conflicting information. It’s like, you know, I’m a sports coach by training. Then I apply all of that to parenting. If there are too many voices in your huddle, right, the team gets off track and doesn’t know what they’re doing. You need to have one clear voice in the huddle and for each parent, it’s going to be them. Their family is their huddle, and the more clear that the leader can be, right, the captain — you’re the captain of your team — the better everybody is going to respond to that, or at least you’re going to know whether it’s working or not. So what I find is happening with parents is they get in their, you know, best-meaning selves, they want to be informed. They’re getting, like, flooded by information and they don’t know how to parse that out and to make it work for their child. So is that something that you — how do you talk to parents about that? Like, how would you help — that’s what I hear a lot from parents is, like, I don’t know what to do. How do you handle that?
Alyssa: A lot of the times, parents will come to me and say, we’ve tried it all. We’ve done all of the methods. All of them, even ones that I don’t agree with, right, like just crying for two hours. But they’re so desperate. They’re, like, this is what my pediatrician told me or this is what the book says. I’m just going to try it. Well, there’s so many methods, but they can be done incorrectly, and maybe that method’s not the right one for your child. So if they’ve come to me and said, I’ve tried Method X but then I read through their intake form and I’m like, well, no wonder that didn’t work. Here’s what we’re going to try. Or we get into something and they’re like, hmm, but my sister has a baby who sleeps really good, and this is what they did, and you’re not telling me to do that. I’m like, well, that’s their baby. So you do. You have to tell them — like, I love the coach analogy. I am your coach. We’re a team. We’re doing this together. I’m not coming in and just telling you what to do. I’m doing this based on your family’s needs. And then I educate you so that you can go and do it yourself because I’m not with you everyday for the next several months or years. So I educate them so they have the tools moving forward to do exactly what they need to do. And I also love the coaching analogy, the sports analogy, because for older children, I explain to them sometimes that it’s even with the emotional aspect. You know, we talked in the last podcast about how we can’t just make our kids happy all the time. Experiencing a wide range of emotions is normal, and we need to help them learn how to cope with those. This comes into play a lot with sleep because you hear your child cry when they’re tired, and it’s this automatic — we just feel this distress. But sometimes those same cries during the day — you take a toy away or you have an overly tired child who just wants to cry about everything — you can ignore them during the day a lot easier than you can at night. But we need to help them cope with these emotions. So it’s — what do I say to them? You’re not in this to play the game for them. You have to help teach them how to play the game themselves. Right? Like, we can’t hop in and do it for them all the time. With sleep, we’re coaching them. That’s my basic — I forget where I was going with that, but…
Laine: You were talking about how coaching as an analogy was working for — yeah, for helping them learn how to do it and being — I think you said it; like, not doing it for them but coaching them to do it, and that the older they get, I think you were talking about, that maybe that was a piece of it, too.
Alyssa: Yeah. I mean, a baby needs a lot more help and it takes a lot longer. When you have a two-year-old, it’s a lot different than a six- or nine-month old.
Alyssa: You know, they’re talking, walking, moving. They’re a little bit more — they’re smart. They can be tricky. They know how to get you to stay in that room a little bit longer. There’s no thirstier child than one you’re trying to get to bed. Mommy, I’m thirsty. Mommy, I’m hungry. Mommy, I need this.
Laine: Yeah, so does that — does your advice for parents change depending on all the things? You know, the child and the parent, whatever — because that’s a classic one that comes up for people. Like, my child has all the excuses and can crawl out of their crib and can crawl out of their bed or whatever. Do you have some wisdom to share with people who are really —
Alyssa: Bedtime routines. Bedtime routines are so important.
Laine: For the kids who don’t — for the parents who are like, we have a bedtime routine, and it involves bath time and books and me putting my child in bed, and then my child’s coming out of bed, like, a zillion times before they stay in bed. That’s the bedtime routine, and they’re sick of it and they don’t have any recourse. And I’ll tell you something, Alyssa: some of my clients have gotten some of the worse advice from pediatricians, including people to, like, lock their child in their rooms. That’s come straight out of the mouth of a pediatrician, and just, like — I want parents to know that if advice that you’re getting from a source doesn’t feel good, then it’s not good. It has to feel good to be good, and it should be something that is aligned with your values, something that’s aligned with your personality and also that will work for your child’s temperament because it just breaks my heart to hear people on the phone, and I hear it all the time, people crying; well, I did this and it felt terrible, but my pediatrician told me to do it, so I — you know, thinking that they were doing the right thing.
Alyssa: So when they work with me, I have them fill out an intake form for that reason. I want to know, what is your parenting style? What’s your child’s temperament? What have you tried in the past? What’s worked; what hasn’t worked? And what is your end goal? So I will make a plan based on that. Not what I think you and your child need to be doing, but what is your goal as parents? Maybe you have a one-year-old still breastfeeding exclusively, and you just to cut that down. You don’t want to eliminate all night feeds. Twelve months probably could sleep all night without a feed, but if you’re okay; you just want to have two feeds instead of five — okay. Let’s work our way back. Let’s eliminate a few of them and see how it goes. And typically, you know, at that age, we would probably end up eliminating all of them, but then it’s also the opposite. I might have a four-month-old client whose parents are, like, I need my baby to sleep all night. Well, okay. At four months, your baby probably still needs to eat at night, so let’s talk about what a realistic overnight looks like for this age. So sometimes the expectations aren’t quite — you know, they might be a little bit unrealistic.
Laine: Right. Same thing with parenting. We want our five-year-old, three-year-old, to set the table and then go up to bed by themselves. And I’m like, yeah, no. That’s not — that’s not a thing. Or it could be, but it’s very rare. So maybe you get this question a lot or this issue a lot that comes up; maybe this is a good place to overlap a little bit. I hear from parents a lot that they have some shame, like, a lot of shame that they don’t know how to parent, that they should know how to parent. Some people are more forthcoming and say, you know, well, I was raised by parents who I’m not looking to emulate. I want to be parenting differently than how my own parents parented me, and I don’t know how. There’s not so much shame there, but when people are, like, trying to do it differently and they can’t; they think that they should know how to do it naturally, and it’s not coming out the way — it’s like when you have a picture in your head and you start drawing, and it’s, like, nope, that’s not what’s in my head. Not at all. Right? I get that a lot. I hear that a lot from parents who are really struggling with this internal sense of, I should be able to do this. Do you get that with people who are — especially around sleep and in this culture of, well, just let them cry it out, or they’ll sleep when they’re tired. Do you find that parents struggle with that?
Alyssa: Yeah. It’s kind of like breastfeeding, right? We think it’s going to be this natural thing, and then when we really struggle with it, we think that there’s something wrong with us when nobody tells us as new moms that breastfeeding is really hard. Same with sleep. It’s just something that our bodies want to do naturally, and people tell you that newborns sleep all the time. Well, they do for a little while, and then they don’t. So when it hits the fan and you don’t know what to do, they start reading books. It’s this downward spiral of, well, I read this book and it didn’t work, so I gave up and now, like you, you just end up cosleeping if you don’t want to, and I have clients who have been cosleeping for three years, and the parents haven’t slept in the same bed for three years. Some families, that works. They do that by choice and it’s fine, but the ones who are calling me, it’s not because they love this situation. They’ve gotten there by desperation, and somebody’s not happy. So every family is so different, and I always warn people: if any sleep consultant comes in and says they have a plan and just one plan, or if it includes cry it out, you just say, thanks but no thanks. There is no one plan. If there was one way to do this, I could write a book and tell everyone what to do and be done. Right? And same with you. Every family is so different.
Laine: Well, what I see is that when people are willing to take a plan, kind of no matter what, it means that they’re actually going to start — they’re going to start walking down a path of, I’m going to do whatever works to get the behavior I want, no matter what. And that’s a path, from a parenting perspective, that’s a path of very authoritarian, very old-school parenting style. Right? Where it’s going to be harder if you’re not really showing flexibility; you’re not going into it with empathy. It’s going to be harder to develop those skills and that mindset toward your child and toward your parenting style as your child gets older. Right? So something that I think gets lost when parents are willing to pick up a solution — and I get why they do. Right? Like, I get why they pick up the, “I’m just going to let them cry and figure it out,” because they are at their wit’s end, and it’s overwhelming to think about it being a process. They want it to just be a simple solution. I get the temptation there. However, my cautionary tale to parents is, if that’s the way that you approach sleep, it’s likely going to inform how you’re approaching parenting in general, and that is — I rely on the science for this and I don’t come to this with judgment. The science absolutely tells us, and the research tells us again and again, that when you’re parenting with an authoritarian style of parenting of, we’re going to do this no matter what, and you’re lacking empathy in that, you’re going to get certain outcomes for your kids in the long term, and they’re never the outcomes that parents want. You know? Like, if I were to ask you, what are the outcomes you want for your daughter? What are your outcomes that you want for your daughter when she’s — push it out 20 years. She’ll be 27? What kind of woman do you want her to be?
Alyssa: I want her to be kind and successful and learning from me, right? Maybe running her own business. Yeah. I want great things for her. Right. Right.
Laine: Independent, right? You want her to be emotionally healthy?
Laine: Attract emotionally healthy partners?
Laine: Right? All that stuff; resilient, gritty. Right? All that stuff; self-assured. All that stuff are the outcomes that we know — we know that a certain type of parenting, a certain parenting path, gets. There’s not one right way to walk the path, but there is as path, and that’s what I call best parenting practices. Right? We know. The research is telling us again and again, and if you’re not walking that path, you are walking another path, which is to get insecure kids who are, you know, not as successful as they could be in the three big categories, which is work, school, and relationships. That’s just research. So I feel so passionate about having people start as early as possible making parenting choices that feel right to them to get the outcomes that they want. Never had somebody raise a hand in my course or my class or workshops that I run saying, I want my child to be insecure. I want my child to attract dysfunctional partners. Never, right? I would love to talk to that person. I think; maybe I wouldn’t want to talk to that person. But we don’t want that. That’s not our natural instinct, and it’s so — I like to think of the really early years of being a parent as training for the parents of how you want to be a parent. And then it sort of morphs into, how are we training our kids? How are we guiding and shaping them? But the early decisions, how we respond to them as infants, how we respond to them when they’re really little, when they’re preverbal, especially — that’s training ground for us. It’s essential training ground for parents for how we’re going to be. How are we going to listen? Are we going to ignore? Are we going to jump every single time? What is the sweet spot? What is the sweet spot for each particular parent? There is a sweet spot.
Alyssa: We talk a lot about that, and I like the term “sweet spot” because there are some parents who are fine ignoring, and then there are some who are jumping every time. And when you really talk about listening — they’re like, well, my baby’s just crying. What do you mean, listen? I’m, like, crying is communication. And they are — they can’t verbalize it, but there are different cries. Especially as a baby develops, those cries actually do sound different, and even before they sound different, take a look at what happened when your baby started crying. Was there something that you can actually take note of? A loud noise; maybe a dog barked and it disrupted something, or the sun moved just enough, and it’s shining right in their eyes. Taking note of what maybe happened to cause the crying instead of saying, oh, my baby must need food, or my baby needs to be held. Because some babies, as much as we want to hold them all the time, are a little bit — they just don’t need it. They need their own space a little bit more. And those are the ones who will cry. You know, grandma comes over and gets in their face and wants to pick them up right away, and then grandma feels bad, and I’m like, no. I call them space invaders. You just invaded the baby’s space. Move in a little bit slower. Give them time to adjust. My daughter was like that. She needs to assess everything that’s going on in that room before she decides where she wants to go and what she wants to do. If someone comes at her, game over. Babies are the same way. They have little personalities. I mean, it takes a while to figure them out, but —
Laine: But in those early stages, they’re little mammals, and they’re responding from that part of their brain and their being that’s the most developed, which is that limbic part of them, which is able to convey — like, my dog right now is conveying a message, right? She’s not using words, but I know what she wants. She’s sitting by the door. She’s having that little howl-cry, plaintive cry. I know she wants to go out. I also know that she’s already been out. She doesn’t need to go out, and when she does go out, she’s been super destructive lately. And it’s going to get louder, and she’s going to get upset. And if she were to — to be clear, because I never want to be at all misquoted or confused as saying kids are or should be treated the way that animals are treated — if she were a child, I do not believe in ignoring kids. I would be going over there. I would be getting down on her eye level, and I would say, oh, I know that you want to go outside and you’re so upset, and I see you’re so frustrated. And while leading her away, because if she’s not — while setting a boundary. We’re still not going outside. Let’s do something else. So it’s not just bait and switch, which I know that there’s a lot of parenting programs out there that are all about just redirecting a child’s behavior. But we’re not looking at just behavioral creatures. We’re looking at emotional, one day fully formed, human beings. Right? So the behavior is one piece of it, and to your point a moment ago about what parents are doing, it’s not just the what; it’s also the how. Like, how are you walking into your child’s room? Are you flinging the door open while they’re crying and being, like, oh, my gosh — because your babies are going to pick up on that energy, too. Right? So being responsible for our own energy before we engage with our kids, whether they’re crying or frustrated or being pissy or whatever it is, being responsible for our own energy is an essential piece to how they’re going to then react to us. How we respond to them informs how they react to us. It is a cycle, for sure.
Alyssa: Yeah. We talk about that. And, you know, they can pick up on our anxiety, especially around sleep. Like you said, you can go this whole day; you can drink your cup of coffee, have a glass of wine at night, but then all of a sudden you knew: it’s night. And you just feel this anxiety around sleep that you almost can’t help, but then your child senses that, which makes going to sleep even harder. But then you’re also sleep deprived, so of course you’re more anxious because you’re sleep deprived, and it’s just this vicious cycle. Probably 30 percent, maybe up to 50 percent of the parents I work with probably have some form of postpartum depression and/or anxiety, because I’m working with a lot of new moms. And that just escalates. That’s another vicious cycle. If you have it, sleep deprivation makes it worse. But even if you don’t have it diagnosed, maybe you have sleep deprivation, which is causing depression-like symptoms without being actually depressed. It’s just really hard.
Laine: But it doesn’t matter. If the symptoms are the same, it doesn’t matter what it is. You have to treat the symptoms, right? I was talking to a sports psychologist the other day, because I’m always curious about how sports training and sports psychology overlaps with parenting. It’s just this intersection that I find really fascinating, and it’s where I lean in with parenting. Let’s treat it like sports training, in the sense that you’ve got to be prepared for it. You’ve got to do some real training for it. There’s a pre-game. There’s a game time situation. There’s a post-game. You know, it makes sense to me because I grew up around athletics. But — oh, what were you just saying about —
Alyssa: Oh, depression and anxiety.
Laine: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Thank you. So this sports psychologist, who also now works with women who are postpartum and have postpartum depression and/or anxiety, she was, like, oh, sleep deprivation — it’s not only, like, tied to it; it can be the cause of it. You know, back to this thing about sleep deprivation being a form of torture: it can absolutely trigger anxiety and depression. And I just was, like — I mean, I knew that, so when she said it, it wasn’t earth-shattering news to me, because I’d seen it — but to hear her say that with such, like, authority — I was just, like, wow, yeah. That’s a real thing.
Alyssa: The hormone shift that’s happening anyway after you have a baby — like, it’s the largest hormone drop of any mammal, I think, when you have a baby. And then add sleep deprivation on top of that, which as a human species, we can handle a little bit of it. Our bodies are made to handle a little bit of that after having a baby, but not months. We just can’t handle it.
Laine: And certainly not years. So what would you say to somebody — like, what would be advice that you would have for somebody who is struggling with sleep during this particular moment in time; the COVID situation; the unique time that we’re all going through around sleep, because, you know, people wonder, you know — they worry. They worry and they wonder, and I remember that feeling of, like, I know sleep is the most important thing. My baby’s brain is growing, and I have all this information about it, and I was definitely one of the more anxious people around sleep. I was like the sleep police. And I was also facing people who were saying, oh, it’s no big deal. It’s no big deal. So I felt like I was fighting the other side of it, which made me more vigilant. So it was hard to find that balance for myself. But I’m wondering, like, what would you tell somebody who is feeling like, I know sleep is super important, and I’m in this, like, bizarre situation at home where I’m working from home and there’s, like — there are noises around. There’s not quiet. It’s not ideal. So I’m struggling with sleep, and we’re in this bizarre time. Like, can you put anybody’s mind at ease? Like, beyond saying, like, well, your child’s not going to die. You know, they’ll survive. For people I work with, that bar is too low. You know? They want to be raising thriving, really healthy — like, optimizing their child’s childhood experience. Right? So do you have any just blanket wisdom or anything that could help them have their minds put a little bit at ease?
Alyssa: Yeah. I mean, you said it. Sleep is so important, and I think especially right now with a worldwide pandemic with this virus, proper sleep helps build our immune systems, so let’s try to get proper sleep. And even though we’re working from home — you know, like we said in the last podcast, let’s change your perspective. Instead of saying, maybe my kid won’t sleep enough because I’m here and I’m working and there’s all these noises. Let’s shift that and say, well, I’m home. I have a lot more opportunity. I don’t have anywhere I have to be at a certain time. Let’s focus on sleep. Instead of letting my kid say, oh, you don’t have a schedule and you can stay up until 10:00 now, let’s continue a pretty consistent bedtime routine, especially for kids — you know, you have teenagers; different story. For babies and toddlers — even my daughter; she’s 7. We walk back there at 7:30 at night. We brush teeth, put PJs on, we read a book, and I walk out at 8:00. So a 30-minute routine is pretty good. It gives you plenty of time to do kisses and cuddles and, you know, that’s plenty. But it’s so important because someday school will start again and work will start again, and it’s going be really, really hard on these parents who have to get back into a rhythm. So if you’ve gotten out of that rhythm, maybe you can slowly work your way back to getting them. And it’s hard. Like, here it’s summertime, which means at 8:00 when I leave her room, it’s still light out. But she’s still tired, so I just make it as dark as possible. But try to keep a consistent routine, and that’s a wake up time and a bedtime. And then if you have a younger kid who’s still napping, sound machines; make it dark in that room; crank the sound machine, and do what you can to keep the house as quiet as possible. And then you had mentioned some of your clients have kids who are crawling out of cribs. If you can wait until a kid is 3 to take them out of the crib, that’s better, because developmentally, they’re — before 3, they don’t really understand that this is a bed and I shouldn’t crawl out of it, and then you’re kind of having to shut the door and lock them in the room, which nobody wants to do. You’re essentially making — I tell parents who have to do that, consider the room now a crib. So you have to look at everything in that room and make sure nothing can fall on them; they can’t — there’s no — nothing that can hurt them, and you’re essentially turning the room into a crib. But before 3, it’s really hard. But there are some tricks. If you have a 2-year-old who’s crawling out of a crib and you’re afraid they’re going to hurt themselves, and if they wear a sleep sack and they can unzip it and crawl out of it, flip it around so that the zipper is in back. Maybe they can’t reach that zipper. If they’re really smart and can get at that zipper, put it on backwards and then put a little T-shirt over it. They would have to really work. They have to pull the T-shirt off. Just try to make it as hard, but it’s hard to climb out of a crib with a sleep sack over your feet. I have had some Houdini babies who even that doesn’t work, but for most, even just having the zipper in back, they — even if they can touch it with their hand, they can’t get it all the way down. So that’s one trick.
Laine: Houdini babies. That’s hilarious.
Alyssa: But make sleep a priority. Instead of saying, oh, I can’t — I just can’t — there’s no way I can get on a sleep schedule or get my kids back on a schedule. If you make sleep a priority and have some sort of routine — we need routines as adults, and kids especially need some sort of normalcy and routine.
Laine: Does it have to be to the minute? Bedtime is 7:30?
Laine: What’s your take on that?
Alyssa: No. Give yourself some flexibility, especially for younger babies. Thirty minutes on either side. So let’s say a working parent; they need to be up — they need their baby up at 7:00 in the morning because they have to get baby fed and out the door. Now, on the weekends, let them sleep in until 7:30. If you go past that, you’re really messing with the natural rhythm of the baby’s sleep cycle that we’ve worked so hard to put in place, that they can sleep, you know, 7:00 to 7:00. You don’t want them to some days be able to sleep until 9:00 or stay up until 9:00. Even as adults, every hour of sleep that we lose, it takes us about a day to recoup. So time differences; if I fly to Seattle and visit my friend, three hours different, it takes me about three days to adjust. And I can deal pretty well with that, but for a baby, it’s really hard; really hard to deal with.
Laine: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And parents get really nervous about traveling with babies, and how do I do this? And, again, this comes back to being aligned with what your values are. It’s okay to not travel with a baby. Even though you see people on planes with babies all the time, it doesn’t have to be you. Just getting really clear about where you stand and what’s important to you and why you’re doing what you’re doing. What’s your why? Is it because you feel guilty or is it because you feel jealous, or is it because you feel like you really, really need to go visit your mom? Those are all really different answers to the same question.
Alyssa: Yeah, I get asked a lot about travel. People want to travel with their kids a lot, and sometimes it’s just not conducive to have a three-hour time difference with a baby because you’ll probably have to go to bed really early or get them in bed really early, and that means you can’t go anywhere, unless you have the resources to hire a nanny or you’re visiting parents and they’ll stay. You know, you can put them to bed at home while you leave. You know, my client right now, they like to go camping. Before we part ways, how do we camping with this baby? And we talk through that. What does that look like? Go hiking after the nap; come back at lunch; put the baby down again.
Laine: Again, I think kids are so different. They come just so different. You don’t get to — it’s like getting a dog, right? If you want to, you can thumb through a book and find your ideal breed, and you can pick the type of dog that’s going to have, likely, like, 99 percent sure, you’re going to have the kind of behavior that you want from that dog, right? If you go to the pound and you’re going to get some sort of mix so you don’t know exactly what you’re getting, then you have to work with what you have. And that’s what parenting is. Parenting is, you work with what you have, and you don’t get to pick. And so I really — one of my favorite things to caution parents against is comparing other people’s outsides to their insides. Right? Like, what is your reality versus what you’re seeing somebody else in that moment having? If you’re somebody who wants to go camping with your baby, if you have the type of baby that can hack that, there’s nothing inherently wrong or bad about taking a baby camping, unless you’re going to artic. You know, perhaps that is not a good idea, right? But if you’ve got an “easy” baby and sleep is not an issue, or you’re happy snuggling together, great. That’s awesome. But if you don’t have an easy baby or sleep has been a huge issue in your house, then you’re not the family who’s going to — if you want to have the shit show afterward, you know, and you’re willing to go and take that risk and then it’s a calculated risk — it’s just not fair to then be upset with the baby or be upset with your child for being cranky afterward. You just to be informed, know what you’re doing, know what you’re getting yourself into when you take those risks. And I think it’s one of the most empowering things that parents can do, to be really clear about what they are and what they’re not willing to tolerate. Just like in life, right? What are you willing to tolerate, and what is your happiness equation? What are the elements of your happiness equation? It’s really important for people to know that and to get right with themselves so that they can live their best family life. And it’s not going to be a blueprint from somebody else’s family.
Alyssa: Yeah. Realistic expectations, again. You know, it’s just maybe sometimes telling them, sorry; I have to let you know that your baby’s not going to — based on working together, this activity you want to do won’t suit your baby — but now. Maybe later. Don’t give up on this dream to go camping. It might just have to wait a couple of years until your child is down to one nap a day instead of three. And again, like you said, you talked about being fluid instead of, like, having this solid — it needs to ebb and flow. Be flexible. Realize that your baby is a human who has separate needs from you, and just because you want to do this, your baby might not want to.
Laine: Part of the deal of becoming a parent. There’s sacrifices, you know? And it’s funny; like, I think that we talk about that a lot, right? Like, there’s a lot of sacrifices in parenting, or there’s a lot of sacrifices in marriage, or there’s a lot of sacrifices in whatever. But when it really comes down to it, when that happens, when you’re confronted with the sacrifice, it’s a very hard thing. It’s a tough pill to swallow. And I just — maybe a good sort of point for us here is to talk about or to ask the question of, like, what is it that is important, you know, and where are you willing to sacrifice? What is the sacrifice that you face when you’re a parent, and what are you — how do you respond to that? How do you respond to the fact that you’re being asked to sacrifice stuff? You know, it’s a tough one. I don’t think people have a high tolerance for that, especially in this day and age.
Alyssa: Yeah. We want things to go our way all the time.
Laine: All the time. All the time. Well, it was definitely a good conversation.
Alyssa: Yeah! We covered a lot! Well, why don’t you tell people again where they can find you if they have questions about the parenting end, before we sign off?
Laine: Sure. I have my website. You can also find me on Facebook, and I have a very slim social presence right now because most of the stuff I’ve been doing in my life and my career has been live and in person, but I’m slowly building a social presence. So definitely go to my website. And feel free to check out my online course. It doesn’t talk directly about sleep, but it does talk about discipline and the issues that follow, you know, if you’re having trouble with getting kids to cooperate and you’re facing a lot of meltdowns. It will definitely, definitely help you. And some of that is probably because they’re underslept, but it will help you anyway.
Alyssa: But the two go hand in hand. You know, a lot of times, to help them get to sleep better, they need a little bit of discipline, and then once that — you know, with consistency and the right discipline for that family, the child will understand, this is the new routine. I can sleep better, and then you no longer need to discipline because then it just becomes part of their routine.
Laine: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, yeah, the course will be — the free class will definitely be of help, and then people can also book a free call with me. And those are the main ways to find me. And I want my listeners to listen in to what you’re about to say, too, because I want them to be able to find you.
Alyssa: Yes, you can find us at our website. We’re on Instagram and Facebook, and this podcast is called Ask the Doulas.
Laine: So good. Thank you so much for having this conversation today!
Alyssa: Thanks for joining me!
Laine: My pleasure. We’ll do it again soon.
Mental Health Awareness Month: Podcast Episode #97
Dr. Nave now works with queens through her virtual practice Hormonal Balance. Today she talks to us about hormones and how they affect our mental health, including the baby blues and postpartum depression. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hi. Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today, I’m excited to talk to Dr. Gaynel Nave, MD, and she works at Hormonal Balance. Hi, Dr. Nave.
Dr. Nave: Hi, Alyssa. Thanks for having me.
Alyssa: Yeah. It’s been a while since we’ve talked, but we were emailing a while ago, and we realized that it’s Mental Health Awareness Month in May, and then this week is Women’s Health Week. So you wanted to talk about baby blues and postpartum depression. So before we get into that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about Hormonal Balance because last time you talked with us, you worked for — you were at a different place. So tell us what you’re doing now.
Dr. Nave: Okay. Awesome. So as of this year, I’m in my own practice, as you said. The name of it is Hormonal Balance. And so I am an Arizona licensed naturopathic physician, and here in Grand Rapids, I operate as a naturopathic educator and consultant to women, with all gender identities, to basically reconnect to their — who they are and directing their own health, hormonal health concerns. And that’s the reason why I went with Hormonal Balance, because our hormones affect almost every single aspect of our health, including when we wake up, our mood, our sexual health, all of it. And for us who are women or female-identifying, the medical community sometimes doesn’t listen to our concerns or minimizes our experience, and so I want to be a part of changing that and, you know, helping women be advocates for themselves and learn more about their bodies, basically.
Alyssa: Yes. Awesome. I love it. And then you can do — so even though you’re here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you can do virtual visits, so technically, you can work with anybody anywhere?
Dr. Nave: Yep, yep, yep.
Alyssa: Cool. Well, we’ll tell people how to find you at the end, but let’s talk a little bit about the mental health aspect of, you know, bringing some awareness to it this month. And then, obviously, you know, baby blues and postpartum depression is something that we deal with on a regular with our clients. So how do you help your patients?
Dr. Nave: I call them clients.
Alyssa: Clients? Oh, you do?
Dr. Nave: Yeah, because here in Michigan, because my — there is no regulation for naturopathic physicians, even though I have my license. I function more as a consultant, so I call the people that I work with “clients.” And so the way in which I assist them is basically gathering information about their concerns as in-depth as possible because I’m not just going to look at you from the perspective of, oh, I’m experiencing this particular symptom, because nothing occurs in a vacuum. And so looking at you as a whole, how does what you’re experiencing affect you mentally, emotionally, and physically. And so we do the full assessment, and then a part of that is talking about and educating you on labs that are pertinent to you. So there are different types of hormonal labs that are available. There’s salivary. There’s urine. There’s blood. And so, like, making sure that the one that’s best and indicated specifically for you is what we talk about. It’s very individualized because each person has a different experience, even if we have the same diagnosis. Does that make sense?
Alyssa: Right. So you’re saying if somebody comes in, you do a pretty thorough — kind of like with my sleep clients, I do an intake form. Right? There’s no, like — you’re saying there’s no one blood lab for — oh, there goes my dog. I should have mentioned that we’re recording at home on speakerphone, and — okay. So what I was saying is with my sleep consults, I do an intake form because there’s no right answer for every family, so if somebody comes in and needs blood work done or — well, like you said, labs. Blood work might not be the right lab for them?
Dr. Nave: Yeah, because there’s — let’s talk about female hormones, for example. So the female sex hormones — and when I say female, I’m using the medical terminology for it, not like — so, like birth sex. You have ovaries — versus the gender identify. I’m still working through how to talk about these medical things and still be cognizant and respectful of the different gender identifies, so please forgive me if I say anything that’s offensive. So the female sex hormones — estrogen and progesterone — but these hormones don’t just occur in women. They also occur in men. So all gender identifies have these hormones involved, but specifically for those who can give birth, estrogen is involved in the building up of the uterine lining of the uterus so that implantation of a fertilized egg can happen. Progesterone is important for maintaining that uterine lining as well as maintaining healthy pregnancy so that you don’t lose the baby. Obviously, there are a lot more factors involved. These hormones, based on how the body breaks down balance specifically as it pertains to estrogen — we have three different types of estrogen, so it’s not just one form that’s in the body, and depending on what lab is done, you’re able to verify all three at the same time. The one that I’m thinking of right now is the urine test called DUTCH test. I really enjoy that one. I’m not promoting it right now, but I’m just explaining why I like it. So that particular type of analysis looks at all three of those types of estrogen in the body as well as how the body breaks them down. Is it able to get rid of it effectively, which gives information on the metabolic pathways. So there’s a lot more information that can be gleaned from — depending on what type of lab is utilized and depending on your specific concern and the way in which your symptoms are presenting; a more investigative or information-bent lab analysis might be indicated, and so being able to speak with someone like myself who is well-versed on the different approaches and all the different options can be really beneficial because then you don’t end up having to do multiple tests, you know, all that kind of fun stuff, or having to get blood drawn if you don’t have to.
Alyssa: Right. So what hormones are you looking for when somebody comes in and says, gosh, I think I have postpartum depression? Is it just hormonal, or do I really have — I guess, where do you as a naturopathic doctor, say, “I think I can help you with hormones,” versus, “I think you need to see a therapist”? Or do you do both?
Dr. Nave: So I will probably tell them to do both because postpartum depression, as with any mental health condition, is on a spectrum. So you have mild, moderate, and severe. Before we go into that, I think it would be important for us to define a couple things. Baby blues is feeling down or feeling a shift in your mood, like feeling more weepy, more exhausted, after giving birth, and this can last anywhere from a couple days up to two weeks. If it extends beyond that time or it’s interfering with your ability to function, then it would be classified as postpartum depression, and postpartum depression can occur in that same time frame as the baby blues, like soon after childbirth, within three to five days, up to a year after giving birth. And I’m going to read a couple of stats, so bear with me.
Alyssa: Go for it.
Dr. Nave: Just for a frame of reference. So postpartum depression affects up to 15% of mothers, and shifting to 85% of moms is that they get the postpartum blues, so that — these statistics may provide some form of comfort that you’re not alone. Please don’t suffer alone. If you’re feeling more down and you need more assistance from your family and friends, please reach out. If you’re a single mom, I’m sure that there are different groups, like single moms groups, or talking to your doctor or your friends who can be there to provide some emotional support for you during that time. Please, reach out to people. It’s not anything to be ashamed of. A lot of women go through it because our hormones, as I said previously, affect a lot of things, including our mood.
Alyssa: Right. I feel like mothers are getting a little bit more comfortable talking about how hard it can be and how maybe bad they feel or these thoughts that they’re having. You know, you talk to the older generations, like our mothers and grandmothers, who said, well, we didn’t talk about those things or we didn’t need help. And we’re slowly getting to the point where we’re seeing more and more families look for and seek out postpartum support, which is one of my favorite services we offer because they can work day and night. When a mom is suffering from any sort of perinatal mood disorder, having that in-home support that’s judgment-free can just be crucial to healing.
Dr. Nave: I totally agree with you. I’ve seen it in practice and the research back it up. Just being pregnant, much less giving birth, is hugely taxing on our body and increased your risk for feeling down. Some of it has to do with the hormonal changes. I’m going to go really science-heavy because I’m a nerd and I think it’s fun and interesting…
Alyssa: Do it! Teach us!
Dr. Nave: As I said, estrogen is responsible for the building up of the uterine lining, but it also affects things like our serotonin production, which you might know as the neurotransmitter involved in depression. Like, if you have low serotonin, then you might get depression. So the thing with estrogen is that it increases the production of serotonin by affecting a particular enzyme called tryptophan hydroxylase that is responsible for processing an amino acid that we get from our food called tryptophan into serotonin.
Alyssa: Isn’t tryptophan the one that makes us sleepy?
Dr. Nave: No.
Alyssa: Tryptophan isn’t the thing that we eat that makes us sleepy? What am I thinking? It’s in turkey and stuff?
Dr. Nave: Tryptophan is in turkey. Serotonin and melatonin have the same precursor in terms of amino acid but the thing about their bodies is they use similar substrates or building blocks to make stuff, and just because we have the same building blocks doesn’t mean that we’ll get that particular product. Does that make sense?
Alyssa: Kind of, I guess. In my sleep work, I talk about serotonin and melatonin a lot just for, you know, sleep cycles and feeling alert and then feeling sleepy, but I didn’t realize that a lack of serotonin can cause depression. I’m trying to, in my brain, you know, the science of sleep, then — it makes sense, then, that people who are depressed sleep a lot, right? Am I going down the right path here? Because if you don’t have enough serotonin to make those hormones makes you feel awake and alert — sorry, I’m getting you totally off track by asking these questions. Sorry!
Dr. Nave: No, no, no. I don’t think you’re going off track because sleep is very much an important part of the postpartum depression process. If Mom isn’t sleeping, she’s at a greater risk for experiencing postpartum depression, and we know that the hormonal changes affect our sleep. Also having a baby, a newborn baby — if the baby’s up crying, and they’re getting their sleep regulated; you’re adjusting to waking up and feeding the baby, feeling exhausted during the day, and your sleep is thrown off in terms of it not going or being matched up to when the sun rises and the sun goes down. You’re more trying to sync to the baby, and that can lead to fatigue, which then exacerbates your mood, which makes you then more susceptible to feeling more down. And then it’s like — one of the things that they mentioned is that babies who have a hard time sleeping — there seems to be a relationship between moms who have postpartum depression — so the baby isn’t sleeping; Mom tends to have a higher likelihood of having postpartum depression, but then the opposite is also true. So if Mom has postpartum depression, it seems that the baby also as a result has a hard time regulating their moods and being more colicky and all these other things. So taking care of yourself also helps the baby; it’s important to support Mom, which is why I’m so grateful that you guys have the postpartum doulas, and you guys do a lot of work with supporting moms post-baby. Sometimes people focus so much on the baby that they forget the mother.
Alyssa: Oh, absolutely. It’s all about the baby.
Dr. Nave: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So the hormonal mood connection is very complex, and it’s not just A + B = C, you know, because, yes, estrogen influences serotonin production, but there are other factors that then influence, you know, the mood. Does that make sense? Specifically, when it comes to the mood changes or the hormonal changes in early pregnancy and postpartum – early pregnancy, we see the estrogen or progesterone levels are shifting because you’re now pregnant, so the body doesn’t have to produce as much of those hormones. And when we have lower estrogen, which is what happens when you get pregnant, and since estrogen is responsible — or, rather, plays an important role in serotonin, which helps you feel calm when it’s at the normal level — if it’s particularly high, it can lead to anxiety-type symptoms. If it’s really low, depression-type symptoms. During those times when the estrogen is lower, there’s this lower mood that can also be accompanied by it. Are you tracking?
Dr. Nave: Yeah. So that’s the estrogen portion. So estrogen affects serotonin production and also directly affects the neural networks in your brain. Now, we have progesterone. So progesterone: I like to think of it as our calm, happy hormone. And so when you’re just about to have your period, usually it helps you sleep. It helps you remain calm. But if it’s really low, that can lead to insomnia, feeling really agitated and grumpy, and those kind of symptoms can also happen postpartum and early pregnancy. And so that’s how the hormonal fluctuations can then manifest with the depression. For the reason, at least in the postpartum stage, that these hormones might drop is that you give birth. There’s a huge change because the body doesn’t have to maintain the hormones to keep the baby inside. The baby is now outside of you. And it really drops off really quickly, and that huge shift can then lead to the baby blues. Then if it prolongs, your body having a hard time regulating, then that’s when we shift from the blues to the depression. In terms of what I would do, I would assess what exactly is going on for you. Do you have physical and emotional support? Do you have a history of depression or any mental health condition prior to being pregnant? Have you had postpartum depression before? How is your sleep? You know, sleep is really important. If we can get you sleeping, I think that goes a long way. Good quality sleep.
Alyssa: You’re preaching to the choir here. I think it’s one of the most important things!
Dr. Nave: The other thing that they mention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is that if Mom has any feelings of doubt about pregnancy, that can also influence her feeling depressed because it can get, like, amplified during that time.
Alyssa: So you’re saying, like, maybe doubting if they wanted to become pregnant?
Dr. Nave: Maybe, or doubt that she’s capable of being a good mom, because there’s a lot of pressures on moms, you know? Like, oh, someone will mention, like, oh, my baby’s sleeping through the night, or my baby — you know, they started eating at this time. So there’s a lot of pressure to meet certain milestones that are from society, and that can amplify feelings of inadequacy that Mom might have had prior to becoming pregnant. And so addressing that piece with a therapist or someone like myself will be a very important part of supporting her with the postpartum depression and getting her out of the state. For some women, medication might be what they need to do, and their healthcare provider will be able to assess that. But it’s not the only thing that’s available. There’s therapists; there’s hormonal intervention, because if it’s a hormonal issue, if you address imbalance, then women get relief pretty quickly. There’s having a doula, if that’s something that’s accessible to you, or if you have family members who are close by, asking them to help out some more. Having people provide meals for you so then you don’t have to cook; having your partner be a part of taking care of the baby and asking them to step up some more to give you additional support. Basically, asking for what you need is — I know it can be really vulnerable and scary if you’re not used to asking for help, but that can really be important in terms of getting what it is that you need because no one is in your exact position and knows exactly how you need to be supported. Does that make sense? Because I can talk about, like, a doula and a therapist and a naturopathic doctor, but you know what you need, and I want you to trust yourself in that knowledge. You know what you need! And here are all these different options to provide that.
Alyssa: So you mentioned something a bit ago, and I don’t know what made me think of this, but how — let’s say a mother came to you pregnant and had postpartum depression before and knew that she — you know, her hormones are all over the place. How much can you actually do in regard to hormones while pregnant? Is there any risk to Baby? You know, risk of miscarriage? What does that look like for a mom who’s pregnant but knows she needs some help from you?
Dr. Nave: So in terms of working with me specifically, I wouldn’t want to mess with her hormones during that time. I would employ other tools, one of which is homeopathy, which basically supports the body’s own ability to heal and regulate itself. As well as putting a plan in place — basically, working alongside her other healthcare providers to create a plan to support her and make sure that the transition is as smooth as possible. What does she do if she notices that she’s trending from green and happy, healthy, thriving, into, I’m not doing so hot — what are the resources available to me when I’m at that place? Who do I reach out to? Who do I talk to? What supplemental intervention needs to happen? Do I need to talk to my doctor about starting me on medication? There are so many different options, and prevention is always better than cure. We would talk about what her issues — so she’s coming and she’s had it before — we would talk about what was her previous pregnancy like; when did the symptoms start to occur; what did they look like; what sort of things — what sort of red flags occurred during that time; what was the intervention utilized at that time; what were her hormone levels like? What else; what were any medications that she was on; what medications is she on presently? And, basically, maybe even talk about how that pregnancy is different than this pregnancy. Like, does she feel more supported now? What were the things that weren’t present in the previous one that she does have presently? You know? And basically coming up with a plan.
Alyssa: Yeah, I like that. So it’s kind of like what we do, you know, throughout birth. It’s talking about all those what-if scenarios and what plans do you have in place for if any of these happen. And then, like you said, once Baby comes home, nobody plans for that. They’re so worried about the pregnancy and the labor and delivery part that they come home and go, oh, shoot. What do I do now? So it sounds like that’s a really healthy way to plan during pregnancy, if you do have any sort of mood disorder, to find a professional like yourself to sit down and say, hey, let’s go over all these things and put a plan in place, and then I’ll be here for you postpartum. And then we’ll talk about what we can do then. I like that.
Dr. Nave: Right, because, as I said, there’s so many different options. For one woman, maybe hormones, just giving her the hormones, is what she needs, and then I would, you know, work with her other — because I can’t prescribe hormones at the level that would be therapeutic, but I would be able to recommend, okay, that’s what you need. Let’s talk to your doc. Hey, Doc. This is the plan. If this happens, this is what we’re going to do so that she doesn’t have to suffer. You know? Or maybe it’s something else. Just being able to work with someone who — again, like myself — who is savvy on that in terms of knowing — yeah, it definitely needs a collaborative approach, which is what I’m about. In my head, in my dream, everyone would have a health team, you know? People, health professionals, who are all in communication with each other who are just there to support you and help you thrive. But I think to wrap up, it would be sleep, health, get your hormones evaluated. If you’re thinking of getting pregnant and you have any mood disorders or any mental emotional concerns, as part of your pregnancy plan, you should be working — ideally, you would be working with a mental health professional as well, just to insure that you have the support that you need and you’re processing stuff effectively, because those concerns, those mental health concerns, can be substantially amplified once you become pregnant, as well as after giving birth. If you have a mental health condition or if you’ve had postpartum depression before, you are at significant risk for developing it again. And this applies to — postpartum depression can also occur if you have a loss of a baby, so it’s not just if you’ve given birth, but any form of baby loss can also result in postpartum depression.
Alyssa: Yeah, I can imagine it would probably be even amplified with that because you still have the hormonal shift, that drastic hormonal shift, and then grief on top of it. So it probably takes it to a whole new level. Well, thank you for all of your expertise. I always love talking to you. I would love for people to know how to find you at Hormonal Balance, if they want to reach out.
Dr. Nave: Yeah. I am on Instagram and on Facebook as @drgaynelnave. I’m in the process of getting my website up, so I’ll update you on that afterwards, or you can call my clinic at 616-275-0049. If you have any hormonal or mental health concerns and you want to optimize your health team, you want a second opinion, or you just want some additional support — that’s what I do!
Alyssa: Thank you! During this Covid pandemic, can you see people in person, or are you choosing to do virtual only right now?
Dr. Nave: I’m choosing to do only virtual at this point. I see clients virtually most of the time Wednesdays through Fridays, actually, from 8:00 to 5:00 p.m., and in person at 1324 Lake Drive Southeast, Suite 7, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506.
Alyssa: So once the stay at home order lifts and things get a little bit more back to normal, you’ll be seeing people in person again?
Dr. Nave: In person, yes. But for now, we will see each other virtually!
Alyssa: Thanks for your time! Hopefully we’ll talk to you again soon!
Parenting During Covid-19: Podcast Episode #96
Today we talk with Laine Lipsky, parenting coach, about some best practices for parenting during the COVID-19 pandemic. She gives us all some great tips on how to manage stress and deal with out children no matter what age! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hello and welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast. My name is Alyssa Veneklase, and today I am talking to Laine Lipsky, a parenting coach. How are you?
Laine: Doing great. How are you doing?
Alyssa: Great! So we kind of met online and talked, what was it, last week, and then just realized we have a lot to talk about and a lot of similar clients. With my sleep stuff — we’re actually going to talk about sleep on a separate podcast, but that kind of is what got us started talking about your parenting, coaching with parents, and then thinking about how does that relate right now to this pandemic that we’re all, you know, going through together. Myself included, we’re stuck at home with a kid, and I know personally, I think about my frustrations, but I forget that she’s also going through this. I don’t want to forget about, how is she handling this and how do I best talk to her, and how do I maybe help with some of the frustrations that I’m having, which are normal and to be expected, but maybe I could find better ways to cope with those. And then we got talking about the weather earlier, and the weather even affects all this. So let’s just kind of — you know, I would love to hear some ideas that you have on best ways to parent our children right now.
Laine: Yeah! Well, let me first start by saying, I’m really glad to be here and having this conversation, and of course we met online, because how else are people going to be meeting these days, right? Like, it’s classic. But that — and I’m going through this, too, and my kids are older. They’re 12 and 14, so there are different considerations, but I am in the same boat as everybody else, and I never pretend to be, you know, something that I’m not. But they still need parenting, so no matter how old your kids are — and I think your clients have younger kids, typically — but just know that, you know, whatever parenting style you’re using now is training ground for as they’re getting older. Whatever we practice when they’re younger becomes our habit as they grow older. And what I see really from the parents who I talk to, and I’m just reaching out a lot these days and just trying to ask a lot of questions — you know, what are people struggling with? I want to say that, in answer to your question, you know, the best way to parent, I wholeheartedly believe that there’s not one right way to parent. There isn’t. There’s great information out there, but there is a right way that’s going to feel right to you, Alyssa, right? Something that’s going to feel right to me. We may be working with the same body of information, but it’s going to sound different for you. It’s going to look different in your family because your family system is different than mine and from everybody else. We each have our unique thumbprint in our family, our unique voice, our unique soul-print, and our kids are all different. Different ages, different temperaments. So I really resist the idea that there is a best way or there’s one right way to parent. What we do know is that there are, just like in medicine when they talk about best practices, there are definitely best practices that are supported by ample research and, you know, certainly in my world, supported by the clients who I work with and in my own experience by what I see with my own kids. And there are just a few fundamental things. Uusually when you cover the basics in a really healthy, thorough way, you’re kind of covering the essential ground, and I think the word essential is really — it’s just so fitting for this time, right? Like, there’s essential business. There’s essential — you know, what is — this question of “essential” keeps coming up, and so I think a really good place to start in figuring out the best way to parent is to ask. And so I’ll throw the question back to you: what feels essential in your parenting?
Alyssa: Right. Right. So, I mean, right now, I feel like we’ve got so much extra thrown at us. I’m not a teacher, which I’ve never had to be a teacher before. So right now, her education is essential. But I also own a business, and that business is essential. And I’m also a wife and maintaining that relationship when we’re both home together and can potentailly be driving each other nuts, right? So I feel like there are a lot of essential aspects, but I also feel like the short temperedness of, you know, just I’m not meant to be home with a seven-year-old all day long, seven days a week.
Laine: Certainly! Certainly not while you’re also trying to run a business and also trying to do all the other things, right? If you were locked in and homeschooling, yes, you would be meant to do that, right?
Alyssa: Yeah, and I’d probably — yeah, I would have found a rhythm by now, and maybe that’s what it’s going to take is just, you know, maybe in another month, I’ll have a really good rhythm. But yeah, I guess essential for me right now is the happiness of my family unit and keeping my relationship with my husband whole, as well as my daughter happy. She’s seven and silly, and I’m just not as goofy as her classmates, and she’s got to get all these sillies out, but I’m in the middle of, you know, writing a sleep plan, and so her silliness is annoying to me. It’s just this, you know, on and on. And I feel like this is one small — and I have one daughter. So families who have three, four, five children — like you say, there’s no one way to parent, and even within the same family unit, each child might have to be parented a little bit differently because of their temperament. But, yeah, I think getting down to the core of what’s essential for your family and then going from there is really helpful.
Laine: Yeah. And I think what — a few things popped up for me as you were talking. Number one, I think parents feel — loving parents like you, right, well-meaning, best-meaning — you want the best for your kids — fall into this parenting trap of, like, I just want my child to be happy. Right? And I call it a trap because what happens when we witness our kids experiencing unhappiness or some sort of discord is then that triggers us. If we have this belief of, I just want my child to be happy, even if it’s unconcious, right, it filters into everything that we do, and when we witness them having some sort of difficulty or challenge, our instinct becomes to swoop in and, like, fix it and make them happy. If we change that inner — and I’m all about self-talk and, you know, what is our intentionality in our parenting — I want you to be happy, too, but there’s a trap in saying that as the goal, to be happy. If we find a different frame for that, a different word for that, a rebranding, if you will, right, of what we’re really after for our kids, it can take off a lot of pressure from us as parents. So I’m not saying there is — what the replacement word is. I can give you some examples or some ideas, and sometimes I can just see in parents, like, their shoulders go down a little bit, right? One word that might be a little less loaded than “I just want my kid to be happy” is, “I want my child to learn how to be resilient.” You know, how to bounce back from things. So, for example, if we were to go with that word as the intention, then what happens is, when you’re seeing your child struggle, when you’re seeing your child have a difficult time, it’s not — the instinct doesn’t become, how do I swoop in and fix this to make her happy? It’s, how do I sit with this and help guide her through an opportunity to become resilient. Right?
Alyssa: And that sounds like the perfect word right now because even as adults, we have to be resilient through this unknown for an unknown period of time.
Laine: Totally. And so how do we model resilience? As your child gets older, it becomes — and I have lots of clients with kids who are older, and sometimes we start when their kids are older and, you know, I say, it doesn’t — it’s not a lost cause if your child’s already 12 or already 15. It’s harder, but our brains are so plastic and our brains are resilient, naturally, that if we train in a different way, we will develop new habits. It’s totally possible to teach old dogs new tricks when it comes to parenting. It is. So I’m a full believer in Pavlov’s psychology in that way and training. Right? I mean, it works. So when you are — as your kids are getting older, it becomes more and more important for us as parents to be modeling for them what it looks like to be that thing that we want them to be because I guarantee you by the time your child is seven, maybe even younger — if you were to ask her in any particular moment, what am I going to say to you right now? You’ve said that thing, whether it’s time for bed or it’s time to brush your teeth or it’s time to, whatever, get your shoes on — I guarantee you, she will know what you’re going to say, in 99% —
Alyssa: Oh, she already does that to me. Absolutely. She’ll tell me before she asks a question — she already knows my response, so she’ll preface it with my response.
Laine: I know you’re going to say no —
Alyssa: Right, right.
Laine: I know you’re going to say maybe, but I’m going to ask. Right? So, good. That means you’ve been doing your job of being consistent and a consistent messenger. Consistent salesperson of your values and where you stand. So she knows where you stand. That’s awesome. Then what becomes a slow but steady and sometimes really challenging journey for parents is to just start modeling these things and to start shifting the focus back to ourselves, which is very counterintuitive because we spend so long so enmeshed with them. Right? Parenting is, like, the ultimate enmeshed relationship, slowly untangling so that we find the boundaries between us and them so that they’re actually seeing what we want them to be receiving. Does that make sense?
Alyssa: Yeah. They can sense our anxiety and our nervousness and maybe our fears with what’s going on right now. So I like that. You know, take a step back and say, how am I going to react to this because I know she’s watching or they are watching. They’re learning how to react by watching us react.
Laine: Right. And so another level to the answer of your question, how best to parent, would be, how are you parenting yourself right now? What are the messages and all the things that go into it, right? What’s your self-talk and how you’re handling your own stress? What is your self-care? These are the pillars of what I teach. Right? Self-talk and self-care; self-regulation. Right? And then having the outer skills to be actually helping your child navigate some of these things. But if you’re just saying the things and you’re not doing the things that you know are going to be helpful, then it’s going to fall flat and will fall on deaf ears eventually. So an example; let’s talk about your — you know, that you can’t be silly; you’re trying to work, right? And she’s trying to be silly and it’s, like, probably annoying to you. Right? If we’re going to be honest. And it gets frustrating because you’re trying to get stuff done, and you can’t feed that need that she has to be silly. Right? Well, what happens around that? Right? Let’s call that awareness building. Like, do you start saying to yourself things like — a lot of — I’m not trying to, you know, coach you here necessarily —
Alyssa: I’ll be an example. It’s fine.
Laine: — a lot of parents who will say things like, you know, well, that starts a whole series of self talk in my own head which is, like, I’m a bad mom or I can’t do this or I wasn’t cut out for this or, you know, oh, I just — things have to be different now, when they actually can’t be different, and it just sort of drives that negative thinking further and further into feeling solid, and it stops us from feeling fluid. Right? So — and it closes us down to what is possible. I always ask, like, what is possible? What’s possible for time that you can set aside to be silly. If you’re not the silly mom, maybe that’s just not your thing. That’s not your style of parenting. So where can she get the sillies out? Is it — you know, could she — then that’s a new conversation, right? How do we address that need without putting the burden on ourselves and having to figure it out for them. Oh, I see she’s got a need to be silly, so can she perform something? Could she put on silly clothes? Could she — the possibilities there are kind of endless, but what I’m trying to do, and I feel like my particular skill with parents, is to change the upfront question so that then we can open up different doors of possibility. Right? It’s not, like, how do I get her to be entertained. It’s, like, how do I figure out how to meet that need or get that need met for her? And I might not be the best person. Maybe it’s — sometimes it’s the partner. Sometimes it’s crafting or sometimes it’s a different outlet, but it doesn’t have to be you, and that’s one option. Another option is could it be, or could you be open to that possibility of being, like, I don’t know, I’m not naturally the silly mom, but, like, I’m being called to this in this moment. Could I, you know, put some boundaries around work and explain to her, you know, once I finish this — or maybe try to be silly first. Maybe her silliness, her call, her invitation to be silly, will actually help your work. What about that? What if you — like, this is how I’m just — like, I get playful with this stuff. Right? Like, what if you were, like, I’m going to — like, I’m going to really commit to being silly here, and I know it’s, like, for us intellects, it’s like, okay, I have to, like, decide how to be silly. I’m going to make a plan for being silly —
Alyssa: I have to schedule it in my day. Silliness at 2:00.
Laine: I need to put on the silly makeup; I’ve got to find the — okay. So you do that thing. You get silly. You have a frame around it, so 20 minutes. I’ve got 20 minutes. Let’s be super silly. And you just, with reckless abandon, get silly, and you hold a boundary at the end of it, and there’s an end to it. Maybe you film it. Maybe she watches it on the replay. You know, there are lots of options there. And then I’d be curious — this is genuine curiosity — I’d be curious how your work was then informed by that.
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s a great idea.
Laine: What lightness would be brough to it? What fun — what more fun would you bringing to work, and how would that manifest itself in the outcome of your work itself? How much more fun would you have working if you just had, like, a half-hour playtime beforehand?
Alyssa: And it truly — that’s all it takes. Twenty to thirty minutes is a lifetime to kids. You know, they don’t know if 20 minutes is any different than 2 hours. I mean, granted, she’d love to hold me — hold my attention for 2 hours, but, yeah, 20 minutes —
Laine: Held hostage!
Laine: I hear that a lot.
Alyssa: Close to it.
Laine: Well, better for her to hold your attention or hold you hostage in a positive way than having her hold you hostage in a negative way, because unfortunately, that’s what ends up happening with a lot of parents is they don’t dive in fully with both feet for the 20 minutes, and then for the — instead, what they get for the rest of their day is their child or their kids clamoring for their attention in negative ways. And kids are going to — I worked with kids for years before I started working with parents. I know this one for sure: that if kids don’t get it in a positive way, they’re going to seek it in any way they can, and at the end of the day, they don’t care how they get your full attention. So they’re going to do whatever it takes to get it, and if that means that the only time that you — and I say “you” as a universal you, not you, Alyssa, but you — the only time you put down your phone and you look at them is because you’re so mad and you’re so frustrated that that’s the only time you are making full eye contact with them, putting your full attention on them — I guarantee you, that is going to feed their association with, “this is how I get Mommy or Daddy’s full attention.” Does that make sense?
Alyssa: Yeah. It does. So for a parent with four children, that just means they might need to take some time, you know, depending on the age of the children, I would imagine — you know, 20 minutes each? Or maybe if there are two that are similar ages, you give 20 to 30 minutes to those two at the same time, but that just maybe takes a little bit more planning for somebody with more children to try to give them some dedicated time each day?
Laine: Yeah, and so it’s — this is a really unique time to be figuring all this out, and I kind of get resistant about being, like, “schedule this, then schedule that and schedule that,” and I’m really more of a fan of having rhythms in the day. So, like, sort of a play time, and then there’s a down time, and then there’s a, you know, an alone time, and then there’s a together time. But figuring out what rhythms. Some kids want to be alone in the morning. Some kids want to be alone later in the day. You really have to know your kid. When it comes to having multiples, so let’s just say you’ve got two, three, or four kids. Right? I mean, but — or twins. I said multiples, so it could be twins, too. I have found that it’s easiest for parents to think about spending, like — dividing and conquering in one of two ways, either going by age — so you take the two olders and do something that’s sort of that age-appropriate, or you take the two youngers and you do something that’s sort of age-appropriate for them. Right? That’s usually how people do it. But another way to think about it is to take them, if you can, by temperament. So if you’ve got two kids who are really high-energy — could be an older one and a younger — if you have four, could be your oldest and your youngest, but they’re both super high energy — it might be easier on the parents to take them as a pair, and if your middle two are quieter and more sedentary, to pair it that way.
Alyssa: Yeah. That’s a great idea.
Laine: So a lot of different ways to — I call it just dividing and conquering, and tag-teaming. If you have — if you have a partner and the schedules are aligned and you can make it happen, you know, a lot of us feel guilty when we don’t have this perfect notion of, like, everybody’s spending family time together. Family time doesn’t have to be everybody all together doing the same thing in the same place. Family time can be very, very well spent separating, tag-teaming, I call it; dividing and conquering, whatever, doing your own thing; doing what feels best to each pairing; having the parents flip around from time to time is a good idea, too; mixing it up, and then all coming together, and then suddenly you find you’re sitting at dinner, and you’ve got more stuff to talk about, you know? Even if the afternoon playtime session is, say, you know, 20 minutes, and one parent takes two, and the other parent takes two, and you watch something different, or you’re doing a different puzzle. At least there’s been a different kind of experience and you’re not all in the same experience at the same time, because then there quickly becomes nothing to really — nothing novel to spark the conversation or to keep the energy new.
Alyssa: Yeah. I like that.
Laine: It’s like the same people at the party. Same people at the party all night long. It’s fun when new people arrive.
Alyssa: Yeah. You can talk about what the other group did, and then you’re not — you can actually enjoy the time in segments together but apart because you’re not constantly trying to round and wrangle this one kid who doesn’t want to do the puzzle, who wants to play outside and just becomes this chaotic — more of a hassle.
Laine: Yeah, and I think that anytime we can look at getting back to this idea of “essential” and what is best parenting, right? What is really — like, what is the value that you hold? So — and then sort of letting go of how that has to be, how that has to happen. Going more after the what and letting go of the how. So one example: a client of mine, she’s like, “I just want to have family meals together,” and her kids were older, and she was so upset that, you know, they’re — one child had this, you know, violin practice after school, and another child had team practice in the evenings, and she had things going, and they weren’t having dinner together, and she was so upset about it. But she was missing out on the fact that every morning, her family was having breakfast together. And I was like, where — like, the idea of having a meal together once a day — why does it have to be dinner? Let’s let go of the how, right, and let’s look at the what. And she was, like, oh! We have a meal together every day! But nothing changed in her reality. It was just looking at it differently. She was, like, oh, dinner is our sort of chaotic — you know, she started calling it the dinner dance, and she was, like, we’re doing the — and just everything lightened up around it, and before that, she was just feeling so, so heavy about it. And sometimes all it takes is, like, a reframe and a perspective shift about what’s going on. So getting back to what is really essential; what is your value, and where are you getting that? And, you know, I’m not somebody who, like, sprinkles sunshine all over the place, but I do believe in looking at what is really going on and what is working as a starting point and moving from there to, okay, what do we need to tweak, because sometimes if you go into something, this just isn’t working, it’s like you miss out on the pieces that are working. You think you need a total overhaul when in fact you don’t. You might just need a few tweaks.
Alyssa: Right. So we talked a little bit before about weather — because we’re on opposite ends on the country and how weather can play, and you’ve lived all over, you know, and we — I was telling you that we just had one of our most beautiful weekends in Michigan in a long time, and it’s spring and gorgeous, and it’s been so cold that everyone was so happy to get outside, whereas you have kind of beautiful weather all the time. So it’s like you take it for granted and these little things. People are like, oh, my gosh, it’s raining. Will we ever see the sun again? And you’re like, yep, tomorrow. We’ll see the sun tomorrow. But weather plays a huge factor in our mental health. You know, when we have a week straight of dreariness, it is really hard, and then tack on quarantine with that, right; we can’t go outside. It’s too cold; it’s raining; it’s muddy. Now you’re stuck inside and you’re not getting vitamin D, and you just feel it; you feel it in your core. It’s almost like this heaviness just sets in. But the sun, you know; the sun seems to relieve it for us in Michigan, anyway.
Laine: Yeah. Yeah, I think that’s a really real thing, and, you know, another way to — I spoke to somebody — I have lots of family — I’m from New York City, so I have lots of family back east, too, and sometimes — at least, this was a week ago — maybe two weeks ago, so things change, you know, as we’re going through this. It’s like what felt okay two weeks ago might not feel good now or feel okay now, but at least what they were saying two weeks ago was, well, when it’s raining, at least I’d be inside anyway. You know, when it’s crappy out, at least I’d be inside anyway, so there’s not this pull to go outside to be rained in. I think that — look, I don’t have, like, a magic answer for that. I think the more anybody can get outside, the better. I think that, you know, that’s just science. That’s not me even talking. What I also know about our own well-being: getting our kids outside and getting fresh air — they don’t care if they’re cold. If you bundle them up — you know, my brother lives in Seattle, and he’s a big fan of saying, there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.
Laine: You know, so you bundle up properly; you get the right rain gear on, you know. I went on a — I did a 30-day mountaineering course a long time ago in a mountain range in Wyoming, and, you know, we were suited up for whatever came. So, you know, we did whatever we did, whether it was raining or snowing or, you know, whatever. So I believe in that, too. And, you know, so I think bundling them up and getting them outside — you may not want to be out in it. I totally get that, but let them go out; let them breathe some fresh air. For the adults, there’s lot of science around this concept of getting some benefit, some of the same benefit you would get if you were to go outside by just looking outside. So if you position yourself near a window, if you have a view — you know, I know people like my family in New York City, sometimes the view is a brick wall. Like, that might not feel so good. But watching a nature video is not the best, but it’s better than nothing. You know, there’s a reason why they play a lot of those nature videos in waiting rooms and doctors office, right, to just, like, have people chill and relax. Listening to nature sounds on your, you know, your radio station or your Alexa or whatever you’ve got going on in your house and just having that as the backdrop for your home can be a very soothing thing to do. And, again, it’s not — I’m not saying that will solve the issue, but it’s better than nothing.
Alyssa: Well, I think this is really helpful stuff. Is there anything else that, you know, just a parent right now going through this, that you would love for them to hear or know, and then tell them how to get ahold of you, too. I mean, even though we’re on opposite ends of the country, I feel like virtual support is just kind of the thing right now, so we can support people anywhere.
Laine: For sure. And I have an online course designed for just that. Yeah, I think what I want to tell parents is to remember that you’re not alone, and as trite or as cheesy as that may sound right now, it’s really important to remember to universalize what you’re going through and just pay attention to how you’re talking to yourself, what you’re saying to yourself, because that’s the stuff that will sink in and eventually will come out at your kids. So just keep your self-talk top of mind. Right? Be really, really aware of what you’re saying to yourself. So, you know, I’m going to just practice self-compassion; kindness. You know, make sure you’re doing your best to talk to yourself the way you would talk to a really good friend or the way you’d want a good friend to talk to you, and if that’s a totally foreign concept to you, that is a practice that can be learned. It’s something that I teach. And as far as getting in touch with me, you can visit my website, and I’ve got a free course there. People can watch that and certainly get a lot of great information about discipline without breaking their child’s spirit and without losing their own mind, which I think is essential right now. And if anybody listening to this knows — I just want to give a special shoutout to people who are, like, yeah, I know parenting is hard, but, like, my situation, it’s, like, really hard. Like, they’re really struggling. Then I just invite you to book a free call with me. And that’s a free session, and I’m happy to have a conversation, a parenting conversation, and see how I can help people. Happy to do it.
Alyssa: Well, thank you so much for joining! We will have another podcast after this. We’re going to talk about sleep and parenting.
Laine: Awesome. Sounds great. Can’t wait!
Alyssa: Thanks for listening, everybody!
Virtual Birth Support: Podcast Episode #95
Sam & Justin recently had their baby boy, Judah, in the hospital in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. They describe their experience in the hospital as well as how beneficial birth doula support was throughout pregnancy and then during labor and delivery, even though support was virtual instead of in-person. You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hi, welcomes to the Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast, and today I’m talking to Samantha and Justin, who recently had a baby at a hospital in this midst of this Coronavirus pandemic. We’re going to talk to you about what that was like. Gold Coast is not attending births after Governor Whitmer’s declaration that we have to stay at home, and we don’t know when the order will be lifted. So we kind of just wanted to get a sense of what it was like for you two to go through this whole process. How far along were you when you hired us?
Samantha: Pretty early when we found out. We knew when we were trying to get pregnant that having a doula was something that was really important to us, as well as a midwife and just trying to go that more natural route. So the minute we found out we were pregnant, it was kind of getting things in plan. So I would say after the first trimester after we kind of told everybody.
Alyssa: So you hired pretty early, and that was before all this crazy virus stuff happened. And you worked with Kristin and Ashley as your birth doula team. Even before all this stuff happened, what did support look like through the majority of your pregnancy?
Samantha: It was wonderful. Being a first time mom, obviously, you have a ton of questions, and I just didn’t want to be the person to be blowing up my midwife all the time, plus it’s hard to get ahold of them. Our midwife was through Spectrum, so obviously you can’t just pick up the phone and call her. It’s not as easy. So being able to have a team of doulas that, any question I had from — I had artisan cheese one day and freaked out thinking I did something wrong. So to be able to text them things like that and just have that reassurance all the time was awesome, as well as after every appointment, they wanted updates on what’s going on with baby, so it was just that extra support and knowing that they’re there no matter how stupid the question was.
Alyssa: Well, and as a first time mom, I think we feel like all of our questions are stupid. Oh, I hear the baby! Hi, Judah! So, yeah, obviously, because of this, we’re on speakerphone, and they’re at home and I’m at my home because nobody can go into work. You guys are quarantined at home with the baby, which is probably kind of a blessing in disguise, maybe. You can actually kind of hunker down and just focus on bonding and feeding and all these great things without visitors. But like you said, Grandma comes over and she can’t see the baby! That’s so hard.
Justin: It’s been a blessing for dads, I think, especially because I would have had to go back to work today. I am working, but it’s from home and it’s slower, and I’ve got some time to help support Sam and build my relationship with Judah, too, so it’s kind of a blessing in disguise for — I mean, it sucks, but it’s been nice.
Samantha: And as a new mom, you’re hunkered down. I mean, I was planning on not leaving my house for a month, anyway, so it’s kind of nice, especially during this quarantine time, because you’re quarantined anyway with a newborn, so it gives you something to do and keep occupied with.
Alyssa: Right. Well, and focus on the positive, right? Like, there’s so many negatives that we can be focusing on, but you’re stuck at home with a newborn baby. Boohoo, right? This is what you’ve been looking forward to for nine months!
Samantha: Exactly, exactly.
Alyssa: So your support during pregnancy really would have been the same, Coronavirus or not, because it’s a lot of text and phone calls and emails, right? It’s all virtual, anyway?
Samantha: Yeah. Yeah, that wouldn’t have changed, and like I said, they were available pretty much 24/7, so it was just nice to always have them in our back pocket when we needed them.
Alyssa: Right. Tell me about the labor, then. What happened when you were at home, and how did that support, the actual virtual support after finding out that your doulas can’t support you in person, how did virtual support look then once labor began?
Samantha: So we came up with a plan that we would utilize anything that we needed. If we needed to do a video chat, we had my laptop ready to go to bring to the hospital. But once labor started, we kind of — before I went into labor, we talked over, you know, what are the signs, when we should contact them, how long I wanted to labor at home; all that stuff that we would have done anyway if it was just normal circumstances. So when I went into labor, it was the middle of the night, of course, and we texted both of them and ended up calling Kristin. She was the one who answered, and we told her how far apart the contractions were. She could hear, you know, how I sounded and could tell that they were ramping up. You know, you can just — moms — everybody says moms have the telltale sign of when contractions aren’t a joke anymore. So, yeah, she said, yep, sounds like you’re really getting in the swing of labor. She told me to get something to eat before I went to the hospital and kind of gave us some tips before we — as Justin was packing the bag and getting our bags in the car, some tips I could do before we headed out the door. And so we did that and then headed to the hospital, and from the moment we got there in triage, I had a couple — well, of course, birth is always unexpected, but I had a couple things come up that I wasn’t expecting to happen. So from the moment we were in triage, we were in constant contact with Kristin and Ashley, whether it was me or — it was actually mostly Justin.
Justin: Yeah. I actually took — like, I would step out of the room a few times just to call her. There was just a couple moments there when we were down in triage where she was uncomfortable, and the room is a little small. It was hard to get into that calm state of mind that we were looking for. So without trying to stress Sam out, I stepped out of the room and just called Kristin. I was, like, hey, you know, what are some things I could try to, you know, bring her back into this calm state of mind that we’ve been working on forever. It was great. She gave us some positions to try, some things to talk to the nurses about. Like, she knew there was a tub down in the triage area, so she said to go ask them to use the tub. So it was good to have them just there — just any questions we had, just to call real quick.
Samantha: Yeah. And we had a couple unexpected things, because I wanted to labor naturally, but we had some issues. I had a LEEP procedure a couple months ago. Well, not a couple months ago; about a year ago, but that caused some scar tissue that made my labor really difficult. So we had to have the conversation of having an epidural because my labor was so erratic and my body was under a lot of stress. So that decision we talked over with the doulas. And then having Pitocin brought in, which was also something that was on our “absolute no” list, but it was nice to be able to call Kristin. Spectrum was wonderful, too. I mean, the nurses and midwives were great as far as giving us all the information we needed and then giving us time to talk it over. But having Kristin there to be able to call and say, here’s what they’re telling us, here’s what we’re thinking — to have that reassurance from them was huge, especially because our birth plan changed so much, and it was upsetting for me, especially.
Alyssa: Right. That’s hard when we get into this mindset of, like, here’s my plan and I’m going to stick to it, and baby or your body says otherwise. To have an expert to ask those questions and give feedback that’s not — and I think that’s one thing a lot of people thing, that doulas are there to tell you what to do. It’s more about asking you the right questions so you can figure out what’s right for you.
Justin: Just having that — just having that information so that we can make our own decision. Just having them giving us all the proper information we knew everything that was at stake and we could make a better, informed decision. It was a huge help.
Alyssa: Right. Knowledge is power in this instance, for sure.
Samantha: Yeah, and even the positions. Once I did get the epidural and Pitocin, we still wanted to do a really low dose of Pitocin to try to have my body naturally ramp up contractions, so Ashley and Kristin sent us a bunch of pictures of positions we could try. They were always available for Facetiming and virtual, as well, but we never needed to. But to have that in the back pocket was comforting, as well, that if we needed to virtually see them face to face, knowing that we could do that was very comforting for me, especially.
Alyssa: So once you actually moved from triage to the labor and delivery room, you said you didn’t actually have to use Facetime or anything. Was it more of you, Justin, were in contact with them because Sam was in active labor?
Justin: Yeah. It was a lot of text messages and a few phone calls. If it was something we wanted to all talk out together, we’d call, or if it was just a quick question, I’d just shoot them a message real quick.
Samantha: And I definitely think if I didn’t need — if I wouldn’t have had the epidural, we definitely would have utilized Ashley and utilized some of our HypnoBirthing techniques to help me get through labor and probably would have used virtual face to face more, but just because things moved so fast as far as me needing some intervention, it again changed our plan as far as utilizing the doulas a little bit differently. But, yeah, it was constant contact throughout the whole labor process, and it was actually nice after I did get the epidural. I was able to then talk to them and tell them what’s going on and what kind of positions I can try and different things like that. So the plan changed a little bit, but staying in constant contact with them didn’t. It was pretty consistent throughout the whole labor process.
Alyssa: And what about when you got to the point where you were ready to push? Was there anything they could do to support you during that time?
Samantha: Well, we planned on having them Facetime for that, but my pushing went very quickly. I only pushed for about 30 minutes, and we didn’t even — when we started, it was — we texted them saying, oh, they want us to do some practice pushes, and 30 minutes later, we were messaging them saying, well, baby’s here! So, yeah, we had the whole plan set up for them to help — especially because I had an epidural, they were really going to help me try to breathe baby down, which is what we ended up doing, but to have them face to face so they could see what was going on. But it just ended up happening so fast that we weren’t able to do that. But after baby came, we were in contact with them, telling them his birth weight and all that stuff, and once we got up to the room, letting them know how latching was going as far as breastfeeding. So it was just the best experience possible, especially because I was so devastated, you know, being nine months pregnant and all this emotional — that’s emotional in itself, and then to find out your birth plan is completely blown to smithereens…
Justin: Two weeks before we even go to the hospital.
Samantha: Yeah, two weeks before the hospital. It was just terrifying, but to have them there in that virtual sense was everything because it would have been a very different experience if we weren’t able to have them at all, that’s for sure.
Alyssa: So let’s say a couple just found out they’re pregnant, and they knew they wanted a doula, like you, but then they have this worry. They’re going to do the hospital birth; they want a doula, but the doula may or may not be able to be there. What would you say to a family who’s kind of on the fence about hiring a doula because of the current situation?
Samantha: I would say, hire. Hire a doula because, yeah, the situation has changed, but I think even more in this time, you need that extra support more than ever, especially because, in my circumstance, my midwife wasn’t even able to be there. I had a totally different team because of the way they split up her team, so not only is your birth plan changed, but then my midwife who I’ve been seeing for the last nine months wasn’t able to be there. So just to have that team, that constant contact, still stay the same even though they’re not there in person, was just a huge comfort and relief for me. And especially for Justin.
Justin: I was going to say, for the fathers-to-be out there, I think it’s even more important for them. We went through a lot of the classes and stuff, and we had good knowledge going in, but you get in the heat of the situation, and you know, her surges and contractions were starting to really hurt her, and I didn’t know what to do in that situation. So we had this whole plan, and I was doing my best to stick to this plan, and when you get thrown that curve ball, having someone to turn to and just get that reassurance. I might have made the right decision in that situation, but just to have them say, “Yeah, you did,” or, you know, this is — “Yeah, you did do a good job there. This is what’s going to happen. Here’s the outcome.” Just having that extra sense of security in this very unsecure time is a huge benefit. Even though they’re not there, it was almost like they were, and it was very helpful, especially for the dads that sometimes might feel a little lost.
Alyssa: Right, which usually, most of them, I feel like, they do probably feel a little bit lost.
Justin: Especially the first time.
Samantha: Yeah, and it takes the pressure off, too, you know, just because I’m telling him one thing, and he’s trying to say, you know, it’s going to be okay, but for him to then reach out to the doulas and say, you know, here’s what’s going on, and for them to not only give me reassurance but him was a game changer, for sure.
Alyssa: And like you said, you’ve built a rapport with them throughout your pregnancy. I didn’t know that your midwife couldn’t be there either! So without your doulas, you would have not had your midwife either, and you would have literally been in a hospital with a bunch of nurses who you’ve never met, and that was it.
Justin: Right. Exactly.
Samantha: And thankfully, we had an amazing team. Our nurses and midwives that we ended up getting were amazing. But also, you’re going — it’s your first time. You’re laboring. It’s new. And then you have a whole bunch of strangers, so you’re throwing that mix in it. So having the doulas there that we’ve had throughout the whole pregnancy, virtually, even though they couldn’t be there, was such a comfort because it just — you had somebody to turn to that you know.
Justin: One more thing, too, is the hospital — I don’t know about other hospitals in the area, but Spectrum — it was like a fortress. It was so clean and locked down in there. We kind of forgot this whole thing we even going on until we left. I mean, I went down in the cafeteria a few times, and every time I went down there, a whole different section was being completely pulled out and cleaned. There was no visitors walking around. There was no one walking around. I mean, it really did feel like a fortress. Even getting into the building, we had to go through a couple security checkpoints, so if anyone was worried about the hospital part of it, I think that especially Spectrum, that I know of, I think they’re doing a very good job of keeping everything separated, and the sections of the hospital that need to be cleaned and all that.
Alyssa: That’s a good point. For those who maybe have that as a main point of fear for them, delivering in the hospital, they’re doing everything right. I mean, they obviously want to keep their patients safe and healthy. It’s got to be weird to walk through that hospital and hardly see anybody because there’s no visitors.
Samantha: It was weird pulling up because they have the whole security detail, and it was, like, “Why are you here? What’s going on?” It was very weird, but like Justin said, it ended up — I almost was sad to leave, just because you’re in this clean, sterile bubble, and like I said, we almost forgot about this whole Corona thing because you’re in — you are — you end up being in the bliss of having your baby, even though it’s such a scary time. But having — you know, right after he was born, we talked with Ashley and Kristin, and then it was just kind of that blissful — we went up to the room, and they’re doing a very good job. Obviously, things change, but I think they have it pretty locked down.
Alyssa: That’s great.
Justin: They’re definitely out in front of it.
Alyssa: So then you guys go home, and usually, they do a postpartum visit, but I’m assuming they did that virtually, as well.
Alyssa: Did you have that already?
Samantha: We did. From the moment we got home, too, we were in constant contact with them, from them asking how he was sleeping. I had a couple questions just as far as my recovery and what I could do for comfort as far as that goes, just because as a new mom, you just don’t really expect the discomfort. I kept thinking, you know, I didn’t have stitches or anything like that, so I thought, oh, I’m going to be good, but you don’t realize what you’ve put your body through. So it was just nice to have them there so I could say, I’m feeling — you know, what can I do about this pressure that I’m feeling? I’m having some pain and discomfort here. To have that support on the postpartum aspect, because, you know, this whole time leading up to the birth, you’re thinking pregnancy and delivery and labor and all that, but postpartum support is also huge, and they really, really helped with that, giving me ideas and tips of helping my milk supply come in. It was just — they’ve been wonderful. And we just had our virtual visit with them face to face, and that was great to be able to see them. They could see the baby. And then to tell them the birth story, since they weren’t there — I mean, they were there, but they weren’t.
Alyssa: They got bits and pieces but finally got to hear the whole thing. That’s great. Well, is there anything else that you wanted to add or that you think other parents should know?
Samantha: I just think if you’re on the fence, I mean, nothing — I had this whole — I thought I planned for even the most unexpected in pregnancy, and I definitely didn’t because pregnancy can change in an instant. But I think that’s why even more now in these times to have that extra support and to have a doula because we plan on having another child, and I’ve already said to them — I said, well, hopefully you guys will be there in person for our next baby! But I couldn’t imagine going through labor and birth and even through pregnancy and postpartum without having a doula and support, and I think Justin feels the same way.
Samantha: It’s like having your best friends to be able to talk to, and it’s such a comfort, especially —
Justin: But a best friend who’s also very knowledgeable!
Alyssa: Your best friend who’s knowledgeable and judgment-free and can give you all the best support.
Samantha: Yeah. And especially because my birth plan changed so much in the sense of having to have interventions, which I didn’t think I was going to, so that was even more unexpected, and to be able to — you know, you’re in the rush of the moment, and I was really upset, and, you know, you get down on yourself as a new mom thinking you’re failing in some aspect. To be able to have them — obviously, Justin can sit there and tell me all day that I’m doing the right thing, but to have somebody else who’s not only gone through that experience but seen other women and giving me advice and telling me what I’m doing and the decisions I’m making are right for me and my baby was such a relief and such a comfort because it’s such an emotional time, and when things aren’t going already as planned, and then you throw in more wrenches into the mix, it can overwhelming. So to have them as support was just everything to me.
Alyssa: Thank you so much for sharing! I wish that I could see little Judah, too.
Samantha: I know! I know.
Alyssa: It’s really hard! But, yeah, focus on bonding with that little guy. How’s breastfeeding and everything going?
Samantha: Breastfeeding is going good. We’ve had to supplement a little just because he’s such a peanut, but, again, they’ve helped with that, as well, just because that can be hard as a mom. You know, you think, oh, breastfeeding is going to be this simple thing, and it’s hard. Being able to talk it over with people — they’ve given me some great articles, and I had a virtual meetup with some new moms that Kristin suggested, a team that I should join in on, and that was really helpful. I got some great tips from that, and to not only see new moms who delivered around the same time as I had, and that was all virtual and really cool to be able to hear from them. You know, they might not be going through the same issues as I am, but to hear they’re also having questions and not knowing what to do was really reassuring because you can get stuck in this loop of, why is this not working for me? What am I doing wrong? Why is it so easy for everybody else? And you don’t realize other moms have, you know, if not the same issues, then different issues. It’s all different for each person.
Alyssa: Yeah. It’s not easy for everybody else. It just seems like it is.
Samantha: It does, and it’s easy to get down on yourself and think, oh, you know, woe is me, why is it not working for me? But to be able to have not only doulas but then give me other resources to be able to reach out to was also great, as well.
Alyssa: That’s awesome. Thank you for taking the time to share your story!
Samantha: Of course! Thank you
A Journey Unlike Any Other
To all of the couples who have had retrievals, transfers, and IVF schedules postponed or affected by the Corona virus outbreak my heart breaks for you. IVF is no small or easy journey; it takes a toll on your mental, emotional, and physical state. It’s beautiful and terrifying all at the same time. It’s expensive and stressful. It’s all the feels at once every single day.
My journey with the Fertility Center of West Michigan began after my son was born. I suffer from secondary infertility. My son was conceived naturally and born in May of 2012. I began doing hormone therapy to conceive again a year after he was born. Unfortunately every pregnancy I had resulted in a miscarriage. We did several months of hormone therapy and endured four miscarriages. Unfortunately we never made it to IVF, instead my then husband and I divorced in 2016. I remarried in 2018 and in January of 2019 my Husband, Matt, and I began working with the Fertility Center again doing the hormone therapy for 6-months, which again resulted in another miscarriage. It was time to step up our game.
After taking a break in April of 2019, Matt and I decided to travel and take some time away from the constant thought of trying to get pregnant. It had become a chore and that can be so hard on a marriage. When December rolled around we decided to get on the IVF list and signed up for March of 2020. During this wait I began doing something for myself, I started taking a close look at my own health and began to prepare my body for pregnancy. Starting IVF at 35 years old made me a senior citizen in this setting. My body had changed immensely since my first pregnancy. So I began working with my coworkers at Grand Rapids Natural Health to address my thyroid and hormone issues as well as my food sensitivities and stress. I began weekly acupuncture sessions that I planned to do all the way through IVF and into pregnancy. I was working out to build my body’s strength to carry a baby and to create healthy habits I could continue into my pregnancy. I also began sharing my journey with the world via Instagram.
Sharing my journey was very important to me. Working in the health industry I notice too often that these sensitive topics are not spoken about enough and I wanted to share my story in hopes that my own vulnerability might help others along their journey. I wanted to empower women to talk about their pain, their loss, and their sadness instead of hiding it from the world. I found once I started to share my journey that there were so many others like me out there. I didn’t feel that I was carrying that burden alone anymore which was incredibly comforting.
When February arrived they started me on birth control. During this time we did our mock transfer and Endosee. I was thankful for the mock transfer because it calmed my nerves and answered a lot of my questions in regards to how the procedure worked. Since I have undiagnosed infertility an Endosee was performed to make sure that my uterus looked healthy and had no underlying problems that may prevent me from getting pregnant. We then met with Dr. Young and our nurse who walked us through every detail of our care during this process. Since my problems weren’t about getting pregnant, but more about keeping a pregnancy, our plan was a little different than what they were use to seeing. They decided, because of my age and history of miscarriages, that they would transfer two embryos. Our chances of twins are now much higher since twins are on both sides of our family, my age, this being my second pregnancy, and because we are transferring two embryos. As scary as that sounded we took our chances and agreed to the two embryo transfer. From there we waited for my period.
During our wait I began getting myself organized, ordering medications, supplements, syringes and needles for injections, and sharps containers, all of which were provided by our pharmacy. I found so many wonderful resources along the way to help me organize and reduce the stress of injections. My favorite was My Vitro. My Vitro is a small business that have created organizational items that help make the process of IVF a bit smoother. I was so thankful for their Caddy and mat. It helped me organize everything I needed everyday in one place. They also offered the gel hot cold pads to use before and after injections to ease the pain of the needle pokes. They were a great resource for support since they were a couple who had also been through the IVF journey and created products they wish they had had when they were going through it.
When February 28th arrived I began my injections. I started with two evening injections. The Follistem and Menopur injections were used to increase the number of follicles and to help with the quality of the eggs. I did these every night between the hours of 6pm and 8pm in the belly, until I was instructed to stop using them on day 10. Alongside these injections I had blood work and Ultrasounds every other day to measure my progress and determine exactly when I would be ready for my trigger shot and retrieval. On day six of my cycle we introduced an injection of Cetrotide, which was also administered in the belly daily in the morning hours between 6am and 10am. Cetrotide inhibits the premature LH surge to prevent ovulation from occurring while the follicles are maturing. By March 6th my ultrasounds and blood work had become a daily routine instead of every other day. By March 7th I was done with my Follistem & Menopur injections, and by March 8th I took my last injection of Cetrotide and was instructed to take my trigger shot. The trigger shots consisted of two injections, hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadatropin) and Lupron, one in the belly and one in the muscle of the upper thigh. These two injections were used to trigger ovulation, help the eggs to mature, and make it easier to retrieve the eggs from the ovaries.
Monday, March 9th I had my last ultrasound and no injections that day which I was so thrilled about because I had a really hard time with the injections making me physically ill, causing migraines and vomiting. Everyone reacts differently to the medications and they all have different side effects. Some women don’t have any trouble with the medication, others do and that was just how my body reacted to them. Our retrieval was scheduled for the morning of March 10th and we were ready to rock. The procedure went beautifully with the successful extraction of nine eggs. Three of the nine were immature; six were mature and ready for fertilization. We did a two-day fertilization process and ICSI (Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection), a technique for in vitro fertilization in which an individual sperm cell is introduced into an egg cell. We were thrilled to hear they all fertilized beautifully.
Thursday, March 12th was our transfer date and our two little embabies transferred smoothly. After our transfer we would continue injections of Progesterone up to the day of our pregnancy test. If we were not pregnant we would stop taking the progesterone. If we were pregnant we would continue injections for 11-weeks in the muscle of the upper booty. Progesterone is the hormone that is needed to maintain the lining of the uterus and to help support a pregnancy. Now it was time to go home, rest and wait.
After our transfer was complete, our 2-week wait had begun but I had never anticipated what would happen next. That Friday morning, I woke up to the school closings due to the Corona Virus. Our State was gearing up to take action against the spread of this deadly virus that seemed to be doubling in cases overnight. By Monday morning I read with tears in my eyes a message from the Fertility Center of West Michigan that they were suspending initiation of new treatment cycles and strongly recommended patients consider canceling upcoming embryo transfers due to lack of data on the risk if pregnancy complications when COVID-19 is acquired during first or early second trimester of pregnancy. My heart sank. I was terrified for my embabies who just days earlier were tucked into my uterus, and devastated for all the mamas out there that I had met and connected with along my journey. They had supported me every step of the way, they had become sisters and friends throughout this time and now in an instant their worlds, hopes, and dreams came crashing down.
The same day that we were informed that the Fertility Center would be postponing future cycles and transfers, we found out we were pregnant. It was a bittersweet experience at first but I have decided to make it the light that has come out of these dark times. People are dying, losing jobs, and unable to hug loved ones but through it all I was able to finally create life amongst all the turmoil and that is the most beautiful thing in the world. I am taking this time at home and resting, accepting this time as an opportunity to bond with my son before he has to share me with another baby and that is such a gift. I am taking care of my mental, emotional, and physical health and working hard to create a healthy environment to grow a baby in. April 7th is our first ultrasound and my husband will not be allowed to attend it with me to keep down the amount of exposure at the clinic. As disappointing as that is, I am thankful that they are taking these precautions and count my blessings everyday that we have even made it this far because I know so many would love to be in our shoes.
So I ask you to be gentle with yourself, be forgiving, and be kind. Allow yourself to break down and cry, you have earned it. But also be strong, be safe, and be vigilant because your time will come. Take this time if you are able to show yourself some self-care. Eat healthy, exercise, and brain dump into a journal so you can sleep soundly at night. Reach out to me, or a friend along the way, when the days get hard because you are not alone and your story needs to be heard so that others do not feel alone in this time of isolation.
Jen Smits is the Office Manager at Grand Rapids Natural Health.
Coronavirus Update on Doulas: Podcast Episode #94
Kristin and Alyssa, Co-Owners of Gold Coast Doulas, give an update on doulas and the coronavirus. How is this affecting birth doulas in the hospital and postpartum doulas in the home? They also talk about virtual classes such as Mama Natural Online to help new parents stay prepared while social distancing. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes and SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to Ask the Doulas. You are here with Alyssa and Kristin, and today we’re going to talk a little bit about the coronavirus. I’m going to let Kristin do most of the talking just to kind of update our friends and clients on the current status.
Kristin: Yes! So we are happy to share the protocol within Gold Coast on how we are keeping our doula team, our childbirth educators, and our clients healthy. We are recording this on March 17th, so things are changing daily, and by the time you listen to this, the information that we’re giving you may be a bit different. But we did want to respond quickly and have notified all of our clients about our safety protocols. With birth doula clients, we are doing all our prenatal, our free consultations, and our postpartum meetings virtually. So our clients now know that they are talking to teams by phone or Zoom meetings or Facetime, whatever the preferred method is. We’re still giving you that same time and attention; just keeping you safe and healthy during this critical time.
We had been working with area hospital administrators and with the governor’s office to make sure that we were able to support our clients in person, and again, this may change by the time you’re listening to this, but we had a day yesterday where we were told birth doulas would not be able to support in the hospital. So we contacted all of our clients and made a plan to support in the home before and support virtually in the hospital. Through work with the governor’s office and area administrators, we were able to obtain entry into area hospitals. So starting today, that is not an issue. With the executive order from the governor’s office, a partner and a doula are allowed to admit into area hospitals. There will be a health screening, and we’re going through credentialing processes with every hospital having different requirements, but we plan to support our clients. This is as of today, and again, if the outbreak continues, we may need to rely on virtual support. Because Gold Coast has a big team of birth doulas, we will monitor symptoms of coronavirus and the flu, as we have always done, to assure that a healthy doula will be attending the birth. We’ll be doing the best we can to isolate our team. We’re staying home with our families. We’re not going out into the public unless we need to get provisions. Going from there to ensure that we’re able to support our clients during this time when they need the emotional and physical support of doulas now more than any time.
Alyssa, I know that in postpartum support, we have made some accommodations as well, and part of that is some of our clients had contracts that were about to expire, and we’ve talked to them about delaying support, and with our postpartum doulas, who our clients want us in the home, we are of course making sure that the doulas are healthy. We’re using sanitization methods. If we’re doing cleaning, we’re cleaning doorknobs and handles at our clients’ homes. We’re coming in with clean clothing, taking our shoes off, as we always do, and using whatever precautions our clients want us to in their home with caring for baby and caring for the mother. And, again, with our postpartum doula team, we have a lot of doulas. So if a doula has any symptoms of coronavirus or the flu or even a cold, we are sending in a healthy doula to replace the scheduled doula. Do you have anything to add to that?
Alyssa: No. I mean, nothing’s really changed in that regard. All of our clients get that same kind of care. It’s just extra — I guess maybe an extra added step at this point.
Kristin: And as a sleep expert, part of what we do as postpartum doulas, both daytime and overnight, is allow our clients to rest. Now, with your sleep certification, I know you focus on newborns and toddlers and so on, but let’s talk a bit about the importance during this time to keep your immune system strong and getting sleep for families.
Alyssa: Yeah, the problem with sleep deprivation is your immune system starts to decline, and more than ever right now, it’s important to keep your immune systems healthy. So that means still going outside and getting fresh air, getting exercise. But you also need sleep. And with a newborn and/or a toddler at home, that can really be trying. So the beauty of my sleep consultations is that I don’t need to do it in person. We can do it via phone and text. So if that is an issue, you can call me still for that. But regardless, you just have to focus on sleep. You have to get your required amount of sleep, and your kids need to be going to bed on time. I know this feels like a big vacation for them, but you need to have a set bedtime and awake time. I mean, if we’re going to be in this situation for three to six weeks, they are going to become sleep deprived. They are going to become little monsters. It’s going to make your days even harder, but then again their immune systems could start to decline.
Kristin: Right. And, again, we do offer sibling care, so we can help with snacks around the house, and we have noticed that a lot of West Michigan families tend to have family support of grandparents or other family members, and now with some of the guidelines for keeping the elderly safe and away from children, I know my kids are being distanced from my parents due to my father’s heart condition and so on. And so we can come in when you are relying on your family right now and take some of that burden off of you and your partner.
Alyssa: I have canceled all family functions. A birthday party, a sleepover. You know, my parents called and offered to help, and “thanks, but no thanks.” We’re stuck at home anyway. There’s nowhere I can go, nothing I can do. So, yeah, we’re just kind of laying low at the house.
Kristin: Yeah. And so people are obviously isolating, canceling things, and we’re able to — we do offer bedrest support, so we are able to do virtual bedrest support if that is something that a client is interested in. Or, again, support in the home with childbirth education. We can do mini classes virtually or in home and provide sibling care for our clients who are on bedrest and need to feed their other children, especially now that daycares are closing and schools are closed at least through April 10th, if not longer. And so we’re adapting as best we can and keeping our team safe. For clients who are not part of our current childbirth series that has now gone virtual, our Hypnobirthing class started out in person, and due to the coronavirus, we’ve turned that into an online class with our instructor. But we are an affiliate for Mama Natural, so we wanted to talk about that as an option for clients who are not able to take a hospital childbirth class or take Hypnobirthing or a different child preparation method. You can go onto our website and sign up for our online affiliate program through Mama Natural and take the class online. We’ve gone through the class. I personally went through the entire curriculum, and my clients have used it and have had success, so that is a great option during this time when we need to isolate and be at home and still want to prepare our clients and have our clients feel like they’re ready for this birth.
Alyssa: And Kelly Emery, our lactation consultant, also offers an online pumping class and a breastfeeding class.
Kristin: Perfect! So there are some things you can do, and again, things are ever changing, but as of right now, all of the area hospitals are limiting visitors to one support person, so your partner or family member and a doula who is credentialed in area hospitals. So in the postpartum units, you are not able to have siblings visit or family at this time. Everything is limited to protect the health workers and the patients. So it is good to have these conversations with family members. I always tell my birth clients at prenatals that now is the time to express whether or not you want visitors in your birth space, and now knowing some of these plans have changed, if you have family members flying in, you may want to delay, or if you have older family members or immune-compromised caregivers, then now is the time to have these discussions rather than having disappointment at your due date if you’re due this spring.
Alyssa: Yeah. They won’t even be able to come in, and probably family members can’t even fly in at this point. We’re getting close to that.
Kristin: Yes. Domestic travel is limited and could be delayed indefinitely. So we’re just taking things day by day. But we want you to remain calm and positive about this and go with the flow, so try not to take in too much negative media and use this time to focus on connecting with your baby. And if you have other children, reach out to us if we can help. We’re here for you.
Alyssa: I think it reiterates the importance of an agency like Gold Coast Doulas being professional and certified and insured and, like you said, credentialed so that we can get into the hospitals. The hospitals trust us. They have a list of our certified doulas’ names. They might ask for a federal ID number. They might ask for certification; proof of certification. These are all really important things to consider when hiring a doula anytime, but especially right now.
Kristin: Yes! Stay well, everyone !
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!
Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative: Podcast Episode #89
Today we speak with Katie and Becky from Spectrum Health in Grand Rapids about what it means to be a designated Baby-Friendly hospital. 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, co-owner, and I’ve got Alyssa here. And we’ve got special guests joining us today from Spectrum talking about the Baby-Friendly initiative. So welcome, ladies! Introduce yourselves and tell us about your background!
Becky: My name is Becky Crawford, and I’m a nurse manager at Spectrum. My background is in postpartum and labor and delivery nursing.
Katie: And I’m Katie. I’m the project specialist for women and infants at Spectrum Health. My background: I am an RN, and my background is high risk OB and postpartum nursing.
Kristin: Fantastic! Thanks for joining us! Tell us about what baby friendly means and why it’s such an intense process to go through certification. Fill us in!
Katie: The Baby-Friendly hospital initiative was actually created back in the early 90s, and it’s an international organization to promote, protect, and support breastfeeding practices. Spectrum Health Butterworth was designated Baby-Friendly initially in October of 2014, and we just went through the redesignation process and were redesignated at the end of May of this year. There are ten steps for Baby-Friendly that each support breastfeeding practices, and we can talk through some of those steps, as well. You have to be proficient in all of those ten steps to receive the designation, so you really have to show breastfeeding excellence, and it’s a really strict and rigorous process to go through.
Becky: I think overall, the way I describe it to patients is that we’ve created a culture that’s supportive of breastfeeding and of moms that want to breastfeed. So it’s not that we force anyone to breastfeed. Our goal is just to educate moms, support them, and help them be successful if that’s the option they choose.
Katie: Absolutely. As nursing professionals, part of our responsibility it to make sure that best practice and current research reaches our patients and that they’re educated on all of those best practices. Breastfeeding is best practice, but it’s also about informed choice and supporting our patients with whatever choice they make. While Baby-Friendly is primarily about breastfeeding and supporting breastfeeding, there is a formula feeding option there, and we support patients in that option, as well. It should never be about pressure. It should just be about education and informed choice.
Kristin: That is a question that I get from doula clients. If they choose, whether for medical necessity or personal choice, to formula-feed, how they can navigate the system with Baby-Friendly hospitals.
Alyssa: That’s what I was going to ask, too. Do you think that designation scares a mom who knows she doesn’t want to breastfeed? Does she think shes going to come into this hospital and you’re going to try to force it? What does that look like for a mom who doesn’t want to?
Becky: We do hear that feedback from moms that haven’t delivered with us, that they’re just nervous. Having to talk about breastfeeding, even, can be an uncomfortable conversation if they know that’s not the choice they want to make. So our approach with our staff is to educate the patient on all the options, let them choose, and then support. So it should be a one-time conversation. We’re going to talk through all your feeding options. These are the great benefits of breastfeeding. If you choose not to do it, okay. Then let’s talk about formula feeding, and we’ll focus our education there. So making sure they know their options, they understand the benefits, and then support.
Katie: And, you know, nurses educate on a lot of topics, right? It’s not just about breastfeeding. But the other topics we educate on, it’s the same sort of informed choice, right? Breastfeeding is such a personal decision. It’s such an emotionally charged topic. I think that while we need to educate our patients on breastfeeding and why it’s great, we also need to acknowledge the fact that it is a really personal choice, and it’s okay if you choose not to, as long as we’ve given you all of the information.
Kristin: And so your labor and delivery nurses, your postpartum nurses — everyone is specially trained to support the initial latch and continued breastfeeding through their stay?
Kristin: And that’s something that we always stress as doulas is that you have support from your nurses as well as the board-certified lactation consultants who do rounds in the postpartum time.
Katie: Actually, one of the ten steps is staff education. All of our nurses receive 20 hours of dedicated breastfeeding education. Of that, 15 hours are classroom education and then 5 of those is clinical, practical breastfeeding education hours. Every one of our nurses; it’s built into orientation for any women’s nurse, so everyone from labor and delivery to postpartum gets this education. There’s also a requirement for providers, so nurse midwives as well as physicians, to receive additional breastfeeding education, as well. Per Baby-Friendly, they’re required to receive three hours of breastfeeding education.
Becky: We also have a team of lactation consultants that offer further help for any mom that’s struggling, but I’m also bringing in more peer counselors, too, just to round on every patient and offer every mom some support, ever with those first few times they’re latching, just so they can hear that they’re doing a great job. It’s really just to address the breastfeeding concerns of all moms, not just the moms that are struggling, just to really walk them through it.
Katie: And we do have quite a few nurses that are certified breastfeeding counselors, so they have received additional education as well as the education that they received for Baby-Friendly.
Kristin: How are you able to support moms with babies that go to the NICU initially with their breastfeeding goals?
Becky: Well, actually, we get them pumping right away. If your goal is to breastfeed, we like to have them pump within two hours of delivery to start establishing that supply. Our nurses will come in and do education, and the lactation consultants will see them, also, and just talk about the importance of pumping to build up that supply. They’re also going to skin to skin. There are some lactation consultants that are dedicated just to the NICU and these moms, so there’s a lot of support there, too.
Katie: The providers in the NICU are very, very supportive of breastfeeding, and they encourage and educate moms on the importance of breastfeeding, as well, so there’s good collaboration between our OB teams and our NICU teams regarding supporting those moms in breastfeeding and being successful.
Kristin: That’s what my clients tell me, that they get a lot of support, even over at Helen DeVoss, as well as in their rooms with lactation. As far as other elements of the Baby-Friendly designation, what else encompasses those ten standards?
Becky: There’s a lot. We start right at delivery, with the golden hour after delivery. We place baby skin to skin immediately after delivery, and we avoid all unnecessary care for that first hour. Any exams or assessments would all be done while the baby is skin to skin on mom. We try to give them that time to bond and establish that first feeding.
Kristin: And if the mom can’t do skin to skin, I have dads ask me all the time about the benefits of them doing skin to skin with baby. So that’s something that’s encouraged, as well?
Becky: Absolutely. We’ve had lots of dads do skin to skin. We like to bring them in on the process whenever possible.
Kristin: That’s fantastic. And then delayed cord clamping is now a standard policy?
Becky: Yes. And we also room-in, so babies stay with their moms 24 hours a day unless mom requests otherwise. But that’s what we try to encourage and do all procedures at the bedside to keep the family together 24 hours a day.
Katie: I think that rooming in is another hot topic when you’re talking about Baby-Friendly and breastfeeding, and the literature does tell us that rooming in does help moms to be more successful breastfeeding. I think that it’s important that patients understand that we’re going to allow you to keep your baby with you. We’re going to be able to take care of mom and baby together. You’re going to learn your baby’s feeding cues. You’re going to learn all those little nuances. We’re going to help you learn that in the couple of days that you have with us. There is space where if you wanted your baby to go to a nursery, we could do that. We’re supportive of that, as well, but again, we are going to educate, and then we’re going to honor choice.
Kristin: And then there’s delayed bathing and other procedures beyond that?
Alyssa: What’s the thought behind all the delayed cord clamping, delayed bathing? Why? What are the benefits?
Katie: The delayed bath is sort of about the transition from being inside mom and then outside and regulating temperature. So we wait at least twelve hours. We like to wait closer to 24 hours to do that first bath. We’re, of course, not going to hand you an ooey gooey baby. We do a little wiping off, but it really does help that baby transition to life outside of mom and regulate. It also allows you to go immediately into skin to skin so the baby can help regulate not just the temperature, but the heart rate and the breathing. And, again, that’s evidence based. In fact, there’s a pediatrician out in Massachusetts who really pioneered the Baby-Friendly initiative in the hospitals out in Massachusetts, and she did a study on delaying the baby bath, as well. That’s the literature we have for it; it’s all about maintaining stability for the baby.
Kristin: That’s awesome, Katie.
Becky: For the delayed cord clamping, that just gives the newborn a little more blood volume, and, actually, it’s better for baby. There’s no reason to cut the cord any sooner, unless the baby is having a respiratory issue and would need resuscitation, so that would be out of the norm. But otherwise, we do wait and delay so the baby can have more blood volume from the placenta.
Alyssa: How long?
Becky: Our standard is a minimum of one minute. I know a lot of moms request —
Alyssa: So this isn’t like it’s for an hour —
Becky: We’re not saying 10 minutes or 20 minutes. Generally, the cord stops pumping within five minutes. So some moms request to please wait until it stops pulsating, and we can do that, too. Generally, we wait about a minute, and that’s probably close to when it stops pulsating. But we’re not talking about an hour or anything like that.
Kristin: Yeah, some of my clients want to see it actually turn gray and stop pulsating before it’s cut.
Alyssa: And I didn’t want to see mine at all.
Becky: I didn’t either, personally!
Alyssa: My husband did accidentally and was like, oh, my God, an organ just fell out of you!
Katie: I love all of that stuff. It’s so fascinating!
Kristin: As far as additional steps that you take to get recertified, tell us about that process and why it’s important.
Katie: You will see in our women’s and infant services department that OB triage is on A level, and then all the way up to the 8th floor in that tower, you’ll see the 10 Steps for Baby-Friendly posted. It’s just showing our support of those ten steps. We have to show that patients receive prenatal education in our clinics regarding breastfeeding. We have to show that all of our staff receive the education. The people that come out to do our survey — the interview staff.
Becky: And patients.
Katie: And patients and providers, so they will go in patient rooms to see that they receive the education about breastfeeding and that they’re being appropriately supported for breastfeeding. So they look at our exclusive breastfeeding rate.
Kristin: And then you have support groups, as well, when mothers go home and need additional support. They can go to free support groups and seek help through their OB or midwives or pediatricians?
Katie: Absolutely. I think a lot of our pediatricians have at least one pediatrician who is an IBCLC, so a lactation consultant, as well. I know that our DeVoss clinic has two pediatricians that are lactation consultants.
Becky: And our pediatrician who is an IBCLC actually oversees the residents, and so she’s the one working with them and training them. It’s kind of keeping that mindset forefront for all of them, too, and helping them learn the Baby-Friendly system.
Katie: So while nursing took this on and rolled it out, there is a lot of support from providers, as well. Of course, our nurse midwives receive, as part of their education, breastfeeding, but our pediatric providers are all very supportive of breastfeeding, as well.
Alyssa: Is there anything that you think is a misconception for this Baby-Friendly Initiative? Is there anything that it isn’t? You told it what it is, but what isn’t it?
Becky: Yes. I think the thing we hear most is that, I’m going to be pressured to breastfeed if I deliver there. And there is nothing further from the truth. Our goal is a culture supportive of breastfeeding, not a culture of pressure. So our goal is to educate, let moms make decisions, and support them. So there’s no pressure. I think the other big misconception is about rooming in. Sometimes you have a mom who, let’s say, has had a C-section and she’s exhausted, and she just needs support for a couple of hours. We will accommodate that. We’re all about supporting moms. So although we do encourage rooming in, and there are a lot of benefits to it, in certain circumstances when it’s not best for the family, we support what is.
Katie: I think that it’s the 80/20 rule. There’s going to be exceptions to every rule, and it’s just important that we support our patients through that. I think that Becky and I have probably both taken care of those moms that have had long labors or C-sections, and they come up to the floor, and they just need rest. You have to take care of yourself.
Becky: They’re crying. The baby’s crying. Everyone’s hit a wall. And it’s like, why don’t I just cuddle your baby for an hour. You take a nap, and then let’s try again. Sometimes just 45 minutes of sleep can change the entire situation.
Katie: I remember after my second one, I got two hours of sleep. Like, two consecutive hours. And it was the best two hours ever!
Alyssa: I’m thinking about my situation. It was fairly quick. Yeah, sure, I was tired, but I did choose one time in the middle of the night to have them take my daughter to the nursery so I could get — it was about two hours. But I felt so amazing. But I wasn’t in this dire circumstance. So today with — this was before the Baby-Friendly. So today, would I have to prove to you that I need the sleep?
Alyssa: It’s just, would you take her for a couple of hours? You’re not going to say, well, you don’t check these boxes, so she won’t go.
Becky: No. I think the goal is when moms come up to the postpartum unit to talk to them about, well, babies room in 24-7, and we keep you together and care for you together. However, if you have a need to send your baby to the nursery, we’ll accommodate that. So our goal is to not educate the mom at 2:00 a.m. who’s exhausted and crying about how she should room in with her baby. That’s not really the time to have that conversation, and it probably wouldn’t be well-received. So we want to educate them when they first come up so that at that point, at 2:00 a.m., if you decide to make that decision, it will be more like, okay. I’ll bring her back for her next feeling.
Alyssa: I didn’t think I wanted to, but now I do.
Becky: And that is common. Okay, I just need a little bit of a nap, and then I can keep going.
Kristin: Yeah, we’ve had clients hire us to help out in their postpartum room when their partner had to go home to tend to another child or had a job to get back to. We’ve loved that role of being in the hospital, as well as later on in the home, to support them and help them get sleep and also learn baby cues and feedings and help support breastfeeding.
Alyssa: Basically, be their postpartum doula in the hospital as well as at home.
Becky: We would welcome that support, definitely! I’m sure our nurses would love to partner with you on that!
Alyssa: For those moms who don’t want to send — maybe they desperately want the sleep, but they don’t feel comfortable sending their baby to the nursery. Your doula sits in the rocking chair and holds your baby.
Becky: What a great option!
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s been really kind of life-altering for a few of our clients who are a little bit more on the — you know, a lot of moms just have anxiety, especially first-time moms.
Katie: I think that so much of the focus goes to the baby, but we’re taking care of mom, too, and that needs to be in the forefront, as well. There’s two patients there.
Becky: And be aware of her self-care and her needs in the moment, too, because what I always try to tell my patients is, you need to take care of yourself so you can take care of this baby. And if that means a short nap, then I think we need to do that because it’s going to make you a better mom in the morning when you’ve had a little bit of sleep.
Kristin: Exactly. What other hospitals in the area within the Spectrum brand are Baby-Friendly? We have clients in a 50-mile radius of Grand Rapids, so we work with a lot of your smaller hospitals, as well.
Katie: So Spectrum Health Butterworth just received redesignation, like we talked about. Spectrum Health Zeeland.
Becky: They’re newly designation last September.
Katie: And then Spectrum Health United Memorial up in Greenville. They were designated five years ago, and they’re going through the redesignation process right now.
Alyssa: So is it every five years?
Katie: Yes. And then Spectrum Health Big Rapids is going after designation, as well. We have, as a system, Baby-Friendly requires us to have an infant feeding policy, and we have standardized that infant feeding policy across the system for all of our regional hospitals, as well. So you’re going to see a piece of Baby-Friendly in all Spectrum hospitals. And the reason for that is that it’s evidence based and it’s best practice, so even if they’re not designated Baby-Friendly, these are practices that we should all be doing.
Becky: Right. They’re probably practicing very similar to Baby-Friendly, even if they don’t officially have that designation.
Alyssa: That’s great. Anything else you want to share before we sign off?
Kristin: What resources, if any of our listeners want to learn more about Baby-Friendly or some of the work Spectrum has done — where can they go online to get more information?
Becky: I think just going to the Baby-Friendly website will give you a lot of information about the 10 Steps and about what we’re focused on as a Baby-Friendly hospital. So you can really start just researching Baby-Friendly, and we are following that to a T, so that will tell you how we’re practicing.
Katie: Our provider offices also have education and information about Baby-Friendly, and then —
Becky: Our childbirth education classes.
Katie: Yes, at Spectrum Health Healthier Communities. They have information, as well.
Kristin: So the educators can fill their students in with any questions they have?
Katie: Correct, yes.
Kristin: And then is there anything special with the hospital tours that our clients go on before delivery? Do you incorporate Baby-Friendly or answer questions based on that? I haven’t been on a tour in a while.
Katie: I don’t think that they specifically talk about Baby-Friendly, except that —
Becky: The practices, probably.
Katie: Yeah. They likely don’t highlight the nursery like they used to. Our nursery — we don’t have babies lined up in the nursery like we used to. They’re with their moms, so you can’t go to the maternity floor and look through the window of the nursery. There’s no babies there.
Becky: I do think they talk about some of our practices, about how you room in and we keep babies together. And I think the other thing is maybe some of the practices, like the skin to skin after delivery. Things that might be different than other hospitals, just so they know what to expect; that we would never supplement a baby unless it was medically necessary, and we’re not handing out pacifiers unless somebody requests it. So it might be slightly different than other hospitals that are doing deliveries in the area.
Katie: Our childbirth educators are pretty passionate about breastfeeding and supporting breastfeeding practices, as well as supporting natural birth. They give the whole gamut of the birth experience.
Kristin: Well, thank you for joining us and sharing so much!
For tips on how to make your hospital room feel cozy for birth read Creating A Cozy Hospital Birth Space in First Time Parent Magazine by Kirstin Revere.
Saving for Baby: Podcast Episode #88
Kristin talks to Paige, The Millennial Guru, again today about how to financially prepare for growing your family! 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, co-owner of Gold Coast, and I’ve got Paige Cornetet, the Millennial Guru, here with me for our second episode on financial tips. This one is focused on, once you’ve had your baby, how to really stock savings and plan ahead and make important financial decisions. So welcome, Paige!
Paige: Thank you! Thanks for having me on!
Kristin: Yes, it’s our pleasure! Fill us in, for those who missed the previous episode, a bit about what you do, and then we’ll get into your ideas for how our clients and audience can save.
Paige: Perfect, thank you. I started the business Millennial Guru, and basically, I do workshops and trainings focused on women as well as millennials. I’ve written a couple of children books focused on financial education.
Kristin: Fantastic. Yeah, I love your books, and you’ve got another one coming out?
Paige: Yes. This one’s called The Hen in the Pen, and it’s all about investments and understanding the difference when you eat your chickens, when you eat your eggs, and if you eat all your chickens, you don’t have anymore eggs left, so focusing on eating your chickens because they provide for your lifestyle and growing your flock of chickens.
Kristin: I love it! I can’t wait for it to come out. So tips — okay, so baby is here, and children are expensive?
Paige: What?! Yes, very!
Kristin: So let us know what you would recommend for our audience.
Paige: Oh, my gosh. I mean, that’s a good question; that’s a big question. I would say tips for moms: I think it’s really important to definitely have, like we talked about before on the previous episode — margin. So understanding that cushion of what it is, how much that you need for a rainy day fund, whether it’s an emergency or something that the baby needs that you didn’t know that you were going to need and they didn’t get it at your baby shower, whatever it is. Understanding what are the necessities, and then taking it even further, around the wants and needs. So understanding what is it that you need; what is it that your baby needs; what is it that your family needs, and then what is it that you want? What is it that your baby wants? And what is it that your family wants? Kind of differentiating those two, I think, makes a big difference.
Kristin: Sure. And they’re all the decisions of, do you leave your job and stay home with the baby, or do you look at in-home or a childcare center for daycare, and how do you maximize your income if you do return to work when all this money is going out for childcare, and what is the best situation for your family?
Kristin: Short-term and then long-term.
Paige: Well, and I think you have to be honest with yourself, as well. I have a lot of friends who are having babies, and they’re either going back to work or leaving work and figuring out what that is, what that means to them. And I think that, as well as, yeah, your personal desires on top of, you know, what is it that you can afford, whether it’s daycare, whether it’s staying home, and how does that look for you? But I think being honest is the first step with yourself. And then on top of that is, what is it that you want, and what is it that you need? How do you need to provide for that desire?
Kristin: Yes. And then planning for college and other expenses and even — I mean, my kids are in sports and other activities, like theater, and all of the activities get pricey. My daughter started dance at age two, for example, and so you think of those expenses, and are you going to limit activities for children? What are you willing to budget for activities, sports, and so on?
Paige: Absolutely. Well, it’s interesting you say that about activities. My family had a saying. It was called GUTS, and it stood for Golf, U Pick, Tennis, and Swimming. So those were the four activities that we were allowed to do, so golf, tennis, and swimming are things you can do until you’re 80, so they’re life-long sports. Even if you don’t play it, you still have to learn it and do it. And then the u-pick was just, whatever it is that you wanted. So I loved dance. I loved ballet; I loved jazz. And I had to do it. So even though it was u-pick, since there was four of us, my dad was, like, well, your sister has to do it with you, too, in terms of coordination and carpool and schedules. It’s time and money.
Kristin: That’s what it’s all about, yes.
Paige: My sister, Brooke, she didn’t love dance as much as I did, but she did love the vending machine that gave candy at the bottom of it, so I was able to convince her to do one more year because there was skittles and candy that we could get right after. Her want was candy; mine was dance.
Kristin: It’s all about compromise.
Kristin: And then looking at other things outside of kids’ activities and just — you had talked in the previous podcast about maximizing your time, talents, energy, and so on. So outsourcing your household things, whether it’s getting your groceries delivered by Shipt or having a housecleaner come in, or a postpartum doula, which I highly recommend! Get some sleep! What are your priorities? So tell us about some of your theories in maximizing and how to figure out what might be more beneficial to outsource.
Paige: Yeah. I think just the things that you mentioned are really great, but understanding what is it that takes you a lot of time and what are the things that you don’t like to do that you can outsource? So I would say, yeah, I love the grocery delivery. If you want to work out, too, who is going to take the baby so that you can be physically active, or is there a place like the gym that you can bring your baby to so that you can work out while the baby’s there? So I think figuring out what are your lists of goals; what are the things you need? Definitely sleep! Number one is sleep, and then we can talk about food and physical activity. It’s understanding that, what that is that you need, and then going, okay, so if I need sleep, let’s hire a doula so that mom can get some rest. Okay, now that I have the sleep — food. I need healthy food. Using outsourcing; people bringing food, meals. Communities, whatnot; Shipt.
Kristin: Yeah, special food delivery services that are local, as well as national, that you can get food delivered to your door, which is also a time saver, and if you can get specialty diet needs because a lot of people may need to cut out dairy or have certain allergies if they’re breastfeeding their baby and need to make some adjustments to their regular diet.
Kristin: So other than that, what are your other tips when you’re looking at — you’ve got this baby. I mean, there’s college, obviously. That’s a big one.
Paige: Yes. Well, I would say education, just in general, is an important one to be thinking about because, okay, they’re going to preschool. Now they’re in middle school. All those different levels of schooling, and what does that look like? Where do you live? For example, Michigan has a really great public school system. Where I grew up, Florida, does not. So what does that look like where you live, the state? What works for you? Would you want to send your kid to, like, a Montessori — I grew up there, so I’m a big fan of Montessori — and if you do, what does that look like? So I think education is definitely a priority and planning for that, as well as just, not only education for paying for that, but education for your child from you because you are a teacher, as well, to your children. And so are there things that you want to teach your child? For example, I just have coffee this morning with a good friend. She has a two-year-old, and she’s, like, what is education? I want my daughter to go to a great college and — but she’s like, but I want her to have access to a lot of experiences like they’re going to spend a month and a half in Hawaii with her brother to really understand — and she’s like, I’m bringing my daughter with me. I’m so excited because it’s important for her to see the world is bigger than just West Michigan where she lives. So education, I think, in the whole sense of the word, is definitely very important on many levels for your children.
Kristin: It’s not just planning for college. You’re looking at, will it be a private or parochial school that you need to reserve funds for, or is music education? You would lump that into the education category? Same as sporting activities, for example?
Paige: Yes, as well as experiences, too, right? So let’s say travel is very important to you and you want that to be important to your children. Are you going to be providing for those experiences that are very educational but maybe aren’t necessarily around schooling?
Kristin: So when you’re planning your family budget, how does all of that fit in?
Paige: Well, I think it depends on each family, of course. So each family has, you know, from different jobs, different means, different lifestyles, different priorities. But the one thing that we all have in common is time. So we all have that equally, and I think that understanding where is the time going and what is it that your children are going to be doing? For example, like you said, different sports; activities. What’s important to you? What’s important to the child? What’s important to give them exposure to? And then I think if you can do that and set that overarching as a bigger picture, it kind of will fall into place and you can start planning for that more strategically.
Kristin: So how can people connect with you individually if they want to set up a planning session or hear you speak? You have many appearances with your book releases coming out and so on.
Paige: They can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can call me and contact me at 616-443-1000. Or they can go to my website or any social media, Millennial Guru.
Kristin: Thank you so much for being on!
Paige: Thank you! Thanks for having me!