doulas

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

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

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

Meet Mya, Our Newest Postpartum Doula!

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

Let’s find out more about Mya.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

New Gold Coast Doula

Meet our new Postpartum Doula, Jene’e!

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

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

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

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

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

3) Tell us about your family.

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

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

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8) What is your favorite food?

I love raw sushi and Mexican food

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

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

10) What are you reading now?

The First 40 Days

11) Who are your role models?

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

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Jordyn's Q&A blog photo

Meet Our New Birth Doula, Jordyn!

What did you do before you became a doula?

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

What inspired you to become a doula?

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

Tell us about your family.

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

What is your favorite vacation spot and why? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your favorite food?

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

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

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

What are you reading now?

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

Who are your role models?

My grandmother, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Brene Brown.

 

Birth during a pandemic

Birthing in a Pandemic

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

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

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

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

 

Jaclyn Geroux

Meet Jaclyn!

Meet Jaclyn Geroux, our newest postpartum doula! She filled out our questionnaire, so let’s get to know her!

What did you do before you became a doula?
I’ve spent the last 3.5 years as a stay at home mom. Prior to that, I was employed as an advocate for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and later as a nanny. Before my babies were born, I spent a lot of time traveling domestically and internationally.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I’ve always had a sweet spot in my heart for the care of girls and women, but my own transition to motherhood is what really launched my passion for this work. I experienced a lot of challenges and conflicting feelings when I became a mother. As I began opening up about my experiences, I met many women with similar stories. Once I understood more about the role of a doula, I believed it was an opportunity to channel even a small part of what I had learned to help others.

Tell us about your family.
I’ve been married to my husband, Dave, almost 5 years. Our son, Luke, is 3½ and our daughter, Ivy, is 4 months old. We have a sweet boxer, Selah, whose nickname is “the nanny”. She’s great with our kids!

What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
I love Northern Michigan, especially in fall when the leaves are changing. I like that it’s not too far, yet still feels like a getaway. Also, the scenery is just beautiful.

Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Most of the time, I prefer peace and quiet to music these days! When I am in the mood, I gravitate towards folk and singer/songwriter genres (John Denver, James Taylor, Gregory Alan Isakov), praise and worship (Steffany Gretzinger and Amanda Cook), and pop music. I’m a huge fan of Katy Perry.

What is the best advice you have given to new families?
You will ultimately discover what works best for you and your baby. It may not look like what you thought, or like what other people are doing, and that’s totally okay.

What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
A calming presence and intuition.

What is your favorite food?
Sushi!

What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I love Rosy Mound park.

What are you reading now?
Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Marc Weissbluth and Go Diaper Free by Andrea Olson.

Who are your role models?
Both of my grandmothers, who have collectively taught me so much about the importance of family and friendship. Blogger Allie Casazza, who pursues motherhood so intentionally, and my spiritual director Mary, who is full of grace and compassion for humanity.

 

Ashley Harland

Meet Ashley Harland!

Meet Ashley Harland, our newest postpartum doula!

1) What did you do before you became a doula?
Before I became a doula I did many things! I’ve done photography (and still do), started an eco-friendly farm, homeschooled my children, did housekeeping, and mentored special needs adults to name a few!

2) What inspired you to become a doula?
Having children of my own mostly, and not having that support, emotionally or physically for myself. I want to be the person for families that I wish I would have had. It’s truly essential!

3) Tell us about your family.
I have four children. My oldest, Marcus is about to be 15 and is on the verge of independence. Bryson is 12 and enjoys anything outdoors, especially fishing. My daughter Brayley is 11, and animals are her language. My baby just turned 7 and has become such a courageous young guy compared to a year ago. I love watching them evolve into their true identities.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
I absolutely love to travel! I would say currently my favorite vacation spot is a toss between Texas (because some of my closest people live there) or any woods in Michigan where I can get rustic and camp!  There’s nothing better than just you and nature.

5) Name your favorite bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
I love music so this is tricky, but I’ll go with what I’ve been listening to lately:

Trevor Hall – his words are medicine! Just like Rising Appalachia songs!!!
Matt Maeson – his lyrics are a little weird (just the way I like them) and his beats match.
Excision or Ganja White Night- some songs I get lost in their flow and they are great for dancing.
Nirvana or old school Tupac are always fun to travel back to on occasion! SEE! I love it all, so hard to choose!

6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
We are all doing our best, one step at a time. You are not alone.

7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
Hearing, truly hearing, what people are saying, and being creative with how to support deep needs.

8) What is your favorite food?
Cereal! I don’t eat it much anymore though so I’ll go with steak! Add in a sweet potato or squash and sauteed spinach!!! Oh no, wait….smoothies! Definitely smoothies. Food is like music to me. I love it all and it depends on my mood.

9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I grew up in Grand Haven but currently live in Muskegon….love them both!

10) What are you reading now?
I’m always reading! Currently it’s ‘The Fourth Trimester’ by Kimberly Ann Johnson and ‘Daring Greatly’ by Brene Brown.

11) Who are your role models?
So many people! Janne Robbinson for her authenticity. Randy Patterson for similar reasons and for her position in the doula world. I find things I desire to model in so many of the people I meet.

 

Audra Geyer

Meet Audra!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Savannah Tallman

Meet Savannah!

Meet Savannah Tallman, our newest birth doula!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jessi Heins

Meet Jessi!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Emma Stevens

Meet Emma, our newest birth doula!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you reading now?
The Birth Partner

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

 

Jessica Kupres, RN

Meet Jessica Kupres, BSN, RN, CLC, CBE – our newest postpartum doula!

1) What did you do before you became a doula? 
I was a labor and delivery nurse for 13 years, a nurse for the maternal infant health program for two years, a phone triage nurse at a pediatric office for almost a year, and am currently working as a childbirth and breastfeeding educator, as well as teach a sibling’s class and infant massage class.

2) What inspired you to become a doula? 
My mother was a doula, though only assisted friends and family. That’s how I saw my first birth at 14 that shaped my future career. I also feel families need a lot of support when a new baby comes home. Unfortunately, most mothers don’t get the help they need.

3) Tell us about your family. 
My Husband and I have been married for 6 years. We have two boys. Kaden is 5 years old and Carson is almost 2. We are a pretty close family, and grandma and grandpa are usually over several times a week. I love to do crafts with my boys.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?  
My favorite vacation spot is Disney World. Every year as a child my family went to Disney World, so there are a lot of very special memories. About every 5 years my family, including my parents and my siblings and their families go down to Disney World together. It is great to spend time with family in the most friendly and magical place in the world!

5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them. 
1) Justin Timberlake – He has catchy songs that make me want to get up and move.
2) Taylor Swift – I love her songs and she is great to her fans.
3) Imagine Dragons – Just like their music.
4) Ed Sheridan – I like his music and positivity.
5) Colbie Caillat – I like her positivity.

6) What is the best advice you have given to new families? 
Do what works for you and your family. Don’t worry about impressing others or doing what everyone else is doing. Keep life simple at the beginning.

7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be? 
Encouraging others and being calm and nonjudgmental.

8) What is your favorite food? 
Chocolate!

 9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I love going to the Fredrick Meijer Gardens with my kids because there is so much to do there.

10) What are you reading now?
Love and logic.

11) Who are your role models? 
My Grandmother – she was a strong woman, always spoke the truth, and was a great artist.

 

Jamie doula

Meet our new postpartum doula, Jamie!

We are excited to have Jamie join our team. As a yoga instructor, she brings a sense of calm and balance to a room that immediately sets you at ease. Let’s learn more about her!

What did you do before you became a doula?
I spent a glorious taco-and-sun infused 6-years in Austin, Texas, doing communications for the mother’s milk bank, traveling, and writing historical fiction for a start-up fashion brand, and later hustling as a project manager at a digital strategy agency. Now back in the mitten, I teach hot yoga at Yoga Fever and work part-time as the storytelling coordinator at Treetops Collective, a non-profit that supports New American women.

What inspired you to become a doula?
I’m passionate about supporting and advocating for women. I’ve babysat since I was “old enough” (which was 12 because it was the 90s…) and have always been fascinated with pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. So becoming a doula made perfect sense––empowering new moms in this amazing new stage of life. I want new parents to be confident in their innate skills as the perfect parent for their child—resisting the temptation to compare themselves to others, and ignoring the overwhelming opinions and conflicting messages that barrage them daily.

Tell us about your family.
My husband Chris and I met in Chicago 8 years ago and when he got accepted to grad school in Texas, I crazily agreed to move with him after only dating 6 months. We’ve been married for 4 years now, so it turns out maybe I wasn’t that crazy. We moved back to Michigan last year and bought a home in the South East End of GR and are eagerly expecting our first baby this summer. Until then, our two big dogs and 6-toed cat continue to keep us vacuuming.

What is your favorite vacation spot and why? 
The best vacation I’ve ever been on was to Peru this past spring. We got the city and coastal experience in Lima and the historic, mountain setting in Cusco, and topped it off with a bucket-list hike of the Incan Trail to Machu Picchu. The culture, landscape, people, food, and history of the country was beyond incredible––10 out 10 would recommend this trip.

Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Whew, impossible to choose! How about 5 albums I’ll never get tired of?
Lucius, Good Grief
Solange, A Seat at the Table
Prince, Purple Rain
Paul Simon, Graceland
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours

What is the best advice you have given to new families?
You are so strong. You are capable of so much more than you think you are. One day at a time.

What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
As a project manager at heart, I’m all about strategizing to meet goals. I love to help parents develop a plan for meeting their parenting goals––be it with developing a schedule, breastfeeding, sleep shaping, whatever.

My doula superpower kicks in when things get tough and sticking to the plan is overwhelming. I’m there as a calm and reassuring presence––even in the face of endless crying and sleep depravation—to support and encourage parents to keep at it and work towards success. It’s rewarding to watch these parenting wins—when they are reminded of just how capable they are.

What is your favorite food?
I love Indian food. Lately I can’t stop requesting my husband make us butter chicken in the InstaPot—with lots of garlic naan on the side (you’re going to want this recipe—just ask me for it).

What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I love the beaches of Lake Michigan––during my time in Texas, I really missed my Great Lakes. Growing up, our family spent many summer weekends camping in South Haven—going to the beach and eating huge waffle cones at Sherman’s Ice-cream so that gets my vote for nostalgia.

What are you reading now?
This book has been on my reading list since I had the opportunity to meet the author, Jessica Shortall, during my time at the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin, and I’m finally diving in: Work. Pump. Repeat: The New Mom’s Survival Guide to Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work.

And when I’m done with that, The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp is queued up on my nightstand.

Who are your role models?
I am inspired by strong women who support one another, follow their truth, and live their passion. My social media feed is full of amazing women who get me all fired up in the way they advocate for body positivity, social justice, equality, mental health—here are a few of my faves: Frida Kahlo, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Beyonce, Rupi Kaur, the fine ladies of the My Favorite Murder podcast, Karen Kilgarif and Georgia Hardstark, Ilana Glazer, Christiane Amanpour.

 

Kelly Wysocki-Emery

Meet our new IBCLC, Kelly Wysocki-Emery!

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

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

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

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

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

3) Tell us about your family.

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

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8) What is your favorite food?

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

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

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

10) What are you reading now?

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

11) Who are your role models?

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

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

 

Lauren Utter

Meet Lauren – our newest Birth & Postpartum Doula!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8) What is your favorite food?
French Fries!

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

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

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

 

Nestlings Diaper Bank

Gold Coast Doulas 4th Annual Diaper Drive

Gold Coast Doulas is holding our 4th annual Diaper Drive from September 1st to October 1st, 2019. Giving back is an important foundation of our business; clean diapers make a huge impact on the heath of new families.

Diaper need is something that goes almost completely unrecognized, but 1 in 3 babies suffer in dirty diapers and no government programs provide them. Food, shelter, and utilities are the only items covered by assistance. Diapers are expensive and many families make tough choices between paying rent and utilities, or buying diapers. Research shows that 48% of parents delay changing diapers and 32% report re-using diapers to make supplies last longer.

The Gold Coast Doulas diaper drive coincides with National Diaper Need Awareness Week, September 23 – September 29. Diaper Need Awareness Week is an initiative of the National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN), created to make a difference in the lives of the nearly 5.2 million babies in the United States aged three or younger who live in poor or low-income families.

Our drive specifically benefits Nestlings Diaper Bank and Great Start Parent Coalition of Kent County. Holland-based Nestlings has distributed over 600,000 diapers and helped over 18,000 families since 2011. Nestlings Diaper Bank also works with 31 partner agencies to distribute the diapers to the families in need.

We need your help! Our goal is to collect 40,000 diapers to support families in need in Kent, Ottawa, and Allegan counties to celebrate our 4th anniversary. We collect opened and unopened boxes and packages of new disposable diapers, used cloth diapers and cloth supplies, new cloth diapers, and new boxes or packages of wipes.

Diaper donations will be accepted from September 1 to October 1 at the following partnered drop-off locations:

In Zeeland:
Smedley Dental 133 1/3 E Main Ave
Howard Miller Library 14 S. Church Street

In Holland:
Untangled Salon 650 Riley Street
Brann’s 12234 James Street
Harbor Health and Massage 444 Washington Ave.
EcoBuns Baby + Co 12330 James Street
Great Legs Winery Brewery Distillery 332 East Lakewood Boulevard

The Insurance Group 593 Heritage Court

In Hudsonville:
Hudsonville Congregational United Church of Christ 4950 32nd Avenue

In Jenison:

In Ada:
Ada Christian Reformed Church/FIT4MOM Grand Rapids 7152 Bradfield Ave SE

In East Grand Rapids:
Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy 2000 Burton St SE, Suite 1

In Grand Rapids:
Mindful Counseling 741 Kenmoor Ave SE and 3351 Claystone St. SE, Ste G 32
Crossfit 616/BIRTHFIT Grand Rapids 2430 Turner Ave NW, Ste A
Pediatric Dental Specialists 2155 E Paris Ave SE, Ste 120
West End GR 1101 Godfrey Ave SW, Ste S440
MomHive 1422 Wealthy St SE
Hopscotch Children’s Store 909 Cherry Street SE
Grand Rapids Natural Health 638 Fulton St W, B
Gold Coast Doulas 1430 Robinson Rd SE, Ste 204
Rise Wellness Chiropractic   1430 Robinson Rd SE, Ste 201
Gemini Media will be collecting diapers at their office from September 1 to 13 and will be offering discounted tickets to the Grand Rapids Baby and Beyond Expo for anyone who donates a bag or box of diapers. 401 Hall Rd SW Ste 331

In Walker:
ABC Pediatrics 4288 3 Mile Rd NW

In Wyoming:
ABC Pediatrics 4174 56th St SW

We appreciate your support! Contact us at info@goldcoastdoulas.com with questions.

 

Jen Serba Doula

Meet our new doula, Jen!

 

Meet Jen Serba, our newest postpartum doula. She filled out our standard Q&A so let’s get to know her a little better!

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

I began my medical career 17 years ago when I became a Medical Assistant (MA) fresh out of high school. I was an MA in many settings including Internal Medicine, Family Practice, Radiology, Obstetrics, and Dermatology. I obtained my Associate’s degree in Nursing in 2016. During the nursing leadership rotation, I worked independently in Labor and Delivery at Spectrum Health and found that to be the most rewarding work and best fitting department. Since obtaining my nursing degree, I have been working in Interventional Radiology at both Metro and Spectrum Health Hospitals.

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

I was inspired to become a doula because I always enjoyed working in women’s health. I thought working one-on-one with woman outside and inside the hospital setting would further my appreciation and empowerment of woman’s healthcare. I especially enjoy talking with other mothers and sharing the emotional stories and the unique birthing experiences they had with their loved ones.

3) Tell us about your family.

I have an amazing and supportive husband along with four beautiful children ages 5, 7, 9, and 17. They are all funny, wild, rambunctious, young women, and the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me. I have been blessed with an amazing support system. Without the support of my family, I would not be where I am today! My husband and I have known each other since high school. We’ve been married for 7 years and we have been together for 13. We have a little King Charles Cavalier named Chevy who spends alot of time sitting around and taking it easy. As a family we love spending time outdoors, going to the beach, going on picnics, exploring fun new parts of the city as well as the state, baking, singing, doing yoga, and kayaking.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

My latest vacation experience was Pictured Rocks in the Upper Peninsula. I was amazed by the natural treasure we have here just a few hours away. You do not have to go too far to have a fun vacation in Michigan!

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

I love most genres of music but these are a solid five.

Fleetwood Mac is my top favorite since I have always listened to them. High school friends, love, freedom, car rides in the country, anything goes well with Fleetwood.

Elton John. I pretty much love Elton John for the same reasons as Fleetwood! My husband proposed to me with Elton on in the background along with a fun scenario I may tell you about if we get to know each other better.

Justin Timberlake. No explanation needed.

Led Zepplin. Their music and lyrics have a sound unlike any other band. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are the pillars of rock and roll, and anytime I am hanging out and doing whatever and Zepplin comes on, it takes me back to some fun times.

Lauren Hill. Her voice is so smooth and her music makes me really relaxed!! Enough said.

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

Accept help when it is offered and try not to hesitate to ask for help when you need it. In the beginning when you first have your child, hold them, love them, carry them. Find someone else to help out for you in the beginning and enjoy the time with your kids. You will be surprised by how much people love to help. Sometimes the people you least expect will be the most help.

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

I consider my superpower to be my ability to provide calmness, comfort, and confidence in any situation.

8) What is your favorite food?

Grilled salmon, redskin potatoes, and asparagus!

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

I really enjoy visiting Traverse city, MI.

10) What are you reading now? 

Brene Brown’s Rising Strong

11) Who are your role models?

I have many role models and can’t boil it down to just one. I’m inspired by women who are empowered by their beliefs and true to themselves. I am also inspired by anyone who stands up for what they believe in and also those who stand up for others.

 

lactation consultant

Meet our new IBCLC, Cami!

We are so excited to announce that we now have a Lactation Consultant on the lakeshore! Cami comes to Gold Coast with an amazing medical background and almost 20 years of experience as an IBCLC. Let’s get to know her a little better.

1) What did you do before you became an IBCLC?

I have been an RN for 28 years.  I worked many years in the Surgical Critical Care unit at Spectrum Hospital. Once I started my family, I switched to Labor & Deliver, Special Care Nursery, Postpartum Care and normal newborn nursery, mainly working Labor & Delivery and Special Care Nursery.   After my first child was born in 2000 I began helping in the Lactation Office, and became an International Board Certified Lactation Consult in 2001. After many years of working many positions on the birthing center, I began to concentrate on my skills as a Lactation Consultant. I have been working in the field of Lactation soley since 2010.

2) What inspired you to become an IBCLC?

While working on the birthing center, I found I truly enjoyed working with the mother baby dyad and their breastfeeding journey.

3) Tell us about your family.

I’m a single mom of two children. My son Jarek is 19 and just recently joined the Air Force. My daughter Skyler is 16 and is just finishing up her Sophomore year at Zeeland East High School.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

With a busy family life, vacations are hard to come by. My daughter and I enjoy horseback riding, feral cat/kitten rescue, hiking the lake shore, and hammocking. My son and I enjoy hanging out together watching movies, working on his car, and attending car shows.

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

I enjoy all types of music, however my go to music is 80-90’s Alternative. Bands such as The Cure, Smiths, Cranberries, and the Pixies.

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

My advice to new families is to be open to change, talk to your partner open and honestly. Enjoy every step, the good and the challenging because the days go by quickly.

7) What do you consider your superpower to be?

I find that as a Lactation Consultant I’m able to connect with families and help moms reach their goals. I love new families, and it shows in how passionate I am at what I do.

8) What is your favorite food? 

I love finding new fresh foods. I have Celiac disease and enjoy turning normal dishes that I grew up with into Gluten Free dishes. Italian food and desserts are my two loves.

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

Saugatuck Dunes is my favorite place to hike and to enjoy the coastline of Lake Michigan. I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy horseback riding on West Michigan beautiful beaches, enjoying summer rides, and even a few Christmas eve rides with the snow billowing around my horse and I.

10) What are you reading now?

I’ve recently been reading about and studying the Baby Friendly Initiative, and I have been involved with research over the years to help determine what can help increase the breastfeeding rates in MI. I’ve just joined an amazing group of woman on the lakeshore to form the first Ottawa County Breastfeeding Coalition.

11) Who are your role models? 

My Grandmother and Mother are my biggest role models. My Grandmother passed away many years ago, but she was a huge influence in my life, always showing love to anyone in need. She raised 12 amazing children.  My Mom has always been my biggest supporter and has the same spirit as her Mother. She has a huge heart and passion for life. She has helped mold me into the Mother and friend that I am today.

 

Gold Coast Doulas Team

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

 

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

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

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

Dr. Rachel:    Hey, I’m back.

Alyssa:  Tell us a little bit about Rise.

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

Kristin:  Love it!

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

Kristin:  Good question.

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

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

Dr. Rachel:  What classes do the doulas take?

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

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

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

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

Alyssa:  Yes!

Kristin:  Yes!

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

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

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

Kristin:  Yes, from the hospital.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  It’s an exam, yeah.

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

Dr. Rachel:  What’s a qualified birth?

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

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

Alyssa:  Maybe one of our doulas?

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Rachel:  That’s really awesome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Rachel:  thank you!

Alyssa:  Remember, these moments are golden.

 

sleep coach

Sleeping Through the Holidays

Right when you get your child on a good schedule something inevitably comes up that makes it difficult to stay on track. We just went through the dreaded daylight savings (the worst for adults too!). Right now we are in the midst of the holidays. Here are some sleep tips for keeping your children’s sleep schedules on track.

If you’re traveling and driving, try to time the car rides over nap times. For instance, if you have a three hour drive and you know little Johnny takes his afternoon nap from 12:30 – 2:30, hit the road at noon and do some singing or stimulate him for a while until he gets drowsy and falls asleep. Then when you are almost there, he should wake up!

If you are flying, naps can be tricky. If you have a baby, holding the baby to sleep usually works. But if you have an 18 month old, you might have to prepare yourself for a no nap situation that day. In this instance, be sure to get them down to bed a bit early that night.

What if you’re traveling somewhere with a time change? Ugh..every parent dreads this no matter the age of your child. If you’re only going for a couple days, keep the child on their normal schedule. That means if they go to bed at 7pm and there’s a 2 hour difference, you put them to bed at 5pm. I know this messes up party plans but you’ll have to think ahead. Bring a pack and play for your baby or a blow up mattress for your older child and put them to bed in a dark room with a sound machine at their normal bed time.

If you’re traveling and staying for an extended period of time, slowly move their bedtime back in 30 minute increments until they’re at a more reasonable bedtime. Then before you leave to go back home, move that bedtime back to the normal time slowly. If you wait to move the bedtime back until you’re home, just know that you’ll have 2-3 days of adjusting to deal with.

If you’re hosting a party in the afternoon during a normal nap time, let everyone know that your child will be sleeping. Don’t let them stay up just because Grandma wants to cuddle. They will have to wait until your child wakes up. During a party, that sound machine may need to be turned up a bit louder than normal.

Remember that sleep is a priority and stand firm when a friend or relative says, “Oh, just let him stay up.” Easy for them to say!

Happy Holidays and Happy Napping!

For a customized sleep plan for your family’s travel plans, contact me today!

Alyssa is a Certified Postpartum Doula, Newborn Care Specialist, and Gentle Sleep Consultant.

 

Kelsey Dean

Meet Kelsey, our newest Certified Postpartum Doula!

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

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

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

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

3) Tell us about your family.

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

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


8) What is your favorite food?

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

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

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

10) What are you reading now?

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

11) Who are your role models?

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

 

Katie Bertsch

Meet our newest birth doula, Katie!

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

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

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

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

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

3) Tell us about your family.

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

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8) What is your favorite food?

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

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

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

10) What are you reading now?

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

11) Who are your role models?

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

 

Jenny Chandler Birth Doula

Meet our newest doula, Jenny!

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

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

Hotel front desk receptionist
Church intern
Maternity center volunteer in Haiti

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

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

3) Tell us about your family.

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

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


8) What is your favorite food?

Mexican…Then always chocolate or a bubble tea!




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

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

10) What are you reading now? 

Gentle Birth Choices by Barbara Harper

11) Who is your role model?

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

 

infant massage

Infant Massage Is Only For Babies… Or Is It?

April 14 is Baby Massage Day, so in honor of this day, we have a special blog from Cristina Stauffer, LMSW, CEIM. Enjoy!

Infant massage is an age old practice that has many great physical and emotional benefits for babies and their caregivers; however, did you know that the basic techniques of infant massage can be used throughout the lifespan? Yes, it’s true! From newborn babies to teens and young adults, nurturing touch is good for everyone.

An introductory infant massage class typically focuses on babies who are not mobile yet – usually 6 months and under – but that does not mean that massage ends once a child starts to crawl. Although offering massage may become more challenging as babies grow, there are many creative ways to incorporate massage into everyday life with children of all ages.

Movers and Shakers (ages 6 months – 24 months) – Massage becomes more playful as children become more active and curious. This is a great age range to introduce touch through the use of songs and stories. Well-known nursery rhymes such as “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” or “This Little Piggy” can be used to engage a busy toddler. More physical games and activities such as playing “Head, Shoulders, Knees & Toes” or “The Hokey Pokey” can offer opportunity for gentle touch and to teach body recognition and awareness.

Lower your expectations for what a massage looks like with this busy age range. Massage is sometime only accepted in very small ways, but remember that some nurturing touch is always better than none at all. Techniques taught in an introductory class can be used with this age to help relieve tension in legs and ankles as babies begin to crawl and walk, to reduce teething discomfort and to alleviate congestion and sinus pressure.

Preschoolers (ages 2-5) – Songs and games become even more interactive and fun with preschoolers. Massage techniques such as “Building a Pizza” or “Planting a Garden” (typically taught in the second session of Gold Coast Doulas infant massage classes) make for great interaction and nurturing touch between child and caregiver. Taking turns drawing pictures or writing letters on each other’s backs and guessing the secret message becomes fun and exciting towards the end of this age range. Children this age also start to want to give massage to parents, caregivers, siblings and friends in addition to just receiving it themselves. So sweet!

Preschoolers might also start to experience growing pains as their muscles stretch to keep up with their rapidly growing bones. Using basic massage techniques for legs and feet or arms and hands along with a heat pack can be very helpful to ease these pains.

School aged children (ages 6-12) – School aged children begin to become more aware (and sometimes self-conscience) about their bodies. It can be increasingly challenging to find opportunities for nurturing touch and massage. Tailoring what you are offering to your children’s specific interests can be helpful. Offer a special sports massage like a soccer massage, dancers or gymnasts massage, or a swimmers massage. Not into sports? Artists, writers, videogamers, and computer geniuses need relaxing massage too.

This age range is also a nice time to encourage reciprocal massages. Take turns pampering each other by rubbing a scented lotion onto each other’s hands or feet. You might be surprised by how well your child engages in conversation about their day, their dreams or their challenges during a few moments of quiet massage.

Pre-teens, teens and young adults – (ages 13+) – Massage is about connection and comfort with this age group. Of course, your preteen may not want to play massage games any more or even willingly let you touch them some days. This is when we offer massage as pain or tension relief. It might go something like this – “Wow, you have been working so hard on that paper! Can I give you a little hand massage to help you relax”? or “You have had such a stressful day! How about I rub your shoulders for a minute?” or “You played your heart out on that soccer field today! Would you like me to rub your legs for a minute to help relax your muscles?” Teaching older kids to give themselves a slow, intentional hand massage with an indulgent lotion can be an excellent introduction to mindfulness practice as well. This is a great mindfulness practice for adults too!

It probably comes as no surprise that children who are massaged from a young age are more likely to accept massage as a teen or young adult as it has become a familiar, comforting practice for them throughout their lives. On the other hand, I will always advocate that it is NEVER too late to add nurturing touch and massage into your interactions with your children. What are you waiting for?

Check out our BECOMING A Mother course! It’s a self-paced, online series to help reduce fear and gain confidence in pregnancy, birth, and early parenting. With recorded video lessons, monthly live chats, and a supportive FaceBook community – it’s everything we wish we would have known before we had our babies! We’d love to see you there!

Kristin & Alyssa