Mary Rolinski Doula

Meet our new birth doula, Mary!

1) What did you do before you became a doula?
I left my career in marketing to be a full-time mom, and with my young family, I ended up
traveling for a few years to support my husband’s graduate studies in South Bend, Rome, and New York City. Since then, we’ve settled back in West Michigan, which has allowed me to focus on my work as a birth doula.

2) What inspired you to become a doula?
My first birth included a cesarean delivery and breastfeeding complications, and I desperately needed more emotional and physical support than what my healthcare team and family could provide. With a nursing background, I’ve always had a knack for bedside care, and when I was faced with challenges during my first birth, I saw an opportunity to exercise my talents in service to other moms.

3) Tell us about your family.
My husband and I live in Holland with our two young girls and Australian Shepherd. We enjoy playing outdoors, singing and dancing to music, and exploring Holland’s beautiful architecture.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
Hands down, New York City! I enjoy the many pleasures of Central Park, the aimless strolls, finding pockets of live music, the zoo, discovering hidden playgrounds and so much more! I also find vintage picking very relaxing and love to shop at flea markets in Fort Greene and DUMBO. The best view of Manhattan is from Brooklyn Bridge Park, lying in the grass or riding on Jane’s Carousel.

5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Jenny Lewis – Her casual lyrics and indie vibe always bring me back to So-Cal.
Adele – Undeniable voice.
Death Cab for Cutie – Soundtrack of my early 20’s.
Taylor Swift – I’ve followed her career from the very beginning and admire her for being herself. My daughter and I love to sing and dance to “Shake it off”.
Ryan Adams – My husband and I listen to DRA together. Some of our favorites include When the Stars Go Blue, Typecast, and his cover of T. Swift’s album 1989.

One last note on music… Our 4-year-old is named after Ben Folds’ song, Emaline, and our baby’s middle name comes from Magnolia Electric Company’s album, Josephine.

6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Gather your “village” to help you and your family postpartum, assigning household chores, pet care, and meal preparation to friends and family. As humans, this is how were meant to deal with the early days of child rearing. Using an online platform like CareCalendar keeps everyone involved, organized and updated with open tasks, all on your family’s timing. If more help is needed, consider hiring a postpartum doula.

7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
As a former practicing nurse, nurturing bedside manner has been my forte. I have a talent for anticipating a mother’s needs during childbirth and in the immediate postpartum period, always prepared to communicate her needs respectfully to the healthcare team.

8) What is your favorite food?
I really enjoy a healthy diet, but I have a weakness for FRIES!!! Steak fries, sweet potato fries, crinkle fries, curly fries, and smiley fries, remember those?

9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast? 
My hometown, Holland! I absolutely love Holland’s beaches, hiking, the farmer’s market, and enjoying meals outdoors.

10) What are you reading now?
Baby-Led Weaning: The Essential Guide to Introducing Solid Foods and Helping Your Baby to Grow Up a Happy and Confident Eater, by Rapley and Murkett.
This Isn’t What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression, by Kleiman and Raskin.

11) Who are your role models?
My husband, Nick. After the birth of our first daughter, he realized his true calling and returned to grad school to study architecture. As a new father with new responsibilities, he juggled (or at least tried to juggle) school, family, and part-time jobs, pressing on to join the profession that he loves. Nick wanted to lead by example, showing our children the importance of careful career discernment. Without his courage to change careers, I wouldn’t have found my own path of self-discovery, pursuing work as a birth doula and lactation consultant.

Renowned midwife, Ina May Gaskin. Reading her book, Ina May’s Guide to Natural Childbirth
​restored my faith in what a woman’s body is capable of during childbirth. It’s a must read for all pregnant mothers who desire a natural birth or just want to learn more about the birthing process and how to avoid unnecessary medical interventions often performed in today’s maternity care.


Meet our new birth doula, Mary! Read More »

Postpartum depression

Podcast Episode #19: Lisa’s Postpartum Journey

On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa talks with Lisa about her postpartum doula and how having a doula helped with her recovery.  You can listen to the complete podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud.



Alyssa:  Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase.  I am co-owner and postpartum doula.  Today we are talking to a client, Lisa, again.  Hello, Lisa.

Lisa:  Hello.

Alyssa:  Last time we talked about her and her husband’s struggle with fertility and how that looked for her.  Just to kind of recap, it took them about two and a half years, and then she ended up with an emergency C-section five weeks early.  So we’re going to talk about what her life looked like once she got home.  So Ethan spent five days in NICU, and you said you were ready.   You were ready after that; five days was enough.  Is that because it was scary having a baby in the NICU, or you just wanted to go home?

Lisa:  Everything is very medical and monitored, and it feels – there’s definitely a separation between the natural kind of mother-and-child bonding, I think, that happens in those early hours, those early days.  So for example, when I had the C-section, they wouldn’t actually let me go visit him until I was able to get up out of bed by myself and go to the bathroom.  So I ended up not being able to see him for the first 17 hours.

Alyssa:  You were like, “I will get up and pee by myself!”

Lisa:  If this is the last thing that I do, I am going to get out of this bed and go pee!  Yeah, so, that made me anxious because I was literally sitting in this hospital bed by myself in a room by myself because my husband was with the baby doing skin-to-skin, and I was counting the minutes.  When do I get to go meet him?

Alyssa:  So five days later, you get to bring him home.

Lisa:  Actually, eight days later.   Yeah, we bring him home, and it was so funny because as much as I wanted to leave the NICU, the minute we got home, he wasn’t hooked up to a monitor so you don’t know his oxygen saturation levels; you don’t know his temperature; you don’t know all these things that the machines are telling you.  And I literally was fearful that he was going to die in the middle of the night.  I’m like, “Well, he’s just going to stop breathing, and I’m not going to know because the beeper isn’t going to go off.”  And so then I had this anxiety about not having all of the faculties that you have in the hospital.  But luckily, we knew right from the beginning that – we had a birth doula who played a very different role than what I expected her to play in the beginning.

Alyssa:  Yeah, absolutely.  How did your birth doula end up supporting you with an emergency C-section?

Lisa:  She didn’t make it to the hospital in time because it was – it happened basically in 45 minutes, and so just with the distance, she couldn’t get there, but she sat with me in the room after I recovered for several hours, when I was coming down off the gas and stuff that you get.  Not gas; it’s an injection, but anyway, you know, when you’re really coming out of the stuff that they give you, and that was really helpful.  I’m glad that I wasn’t alone then.  But we knew that we also wanted a postpartum doula.  Neither of us had been around babies very much in our adult life, and we wanted somebody who was an expert with infants that knew the research and the range of – what are the options, when I have a question?  You know, about sleeping or whatever; that would be a great one because we did struggle a lot with sleeping.  What are the different approaches and why, and what are the pros and cons to each?  I talked a lot to my postpartum doula about sleeping and how to encourage sleeping, creating the right environment and all of that.  But otherwise, I didn’t know what I was doing.  I was also recovering from an abdominal surgery, and I just plain needed help, you know?  I was struggling with getting up and down stairs because it was still quite painful.  And so we had a postpartum doula come in every morning from six to nine through the work week and then on the weekends, my husband and I were together, so then we were able to kind of tag-team, and that was obviously different.  And then we also did have several overnight stays.  But even simple things the postpartum doula helped me with was, how do you get up with a new, new baby, at least get yourself in the shower, and eating breakfast, before you’re kind of down on the couch nursing them for the first time or for the first nap during the day?  And I think that would have taken me weeks to figure out.

Alyssa:  To figure out, like if I get up a half an hour early and try to get in the shower…

Lisa:  Yes!  And just a shower and eating before you’re starting the whole rigmarole of the day, especially when you’re breastfeeding, because I was really hungry – that makes a huge difference.

Alyssa:  Well, and most women, especially in the beginning when you feel like you’re nursing all the time –

Lisa:  All the time!

Alyssa:  And you’re so hungry and so thirsty, and then they tell me, well, I don’t have time.  You need to make time.  If you’re not drinking, you’re not eating, your milk supply is just going to start to slowly diminish.

Lisa:  Yeah.  And then I couldn’t do things like go to the grocery store; that was a big challenge, or do any type of meal planning.  So then our postpartum doula – we said, this is the food that we like, and so she basically created some meals, went to the grocery store, brought them back, did some or all of the food prep for the different meals, and that was just life-saving as well.   But mostly I think for me it was a trusted partner.  Like, who can I just ask anything to and it be just fine?  And maybe it’s lack of knowledge for me or just that I don’t know who else to ask this question to.

Alyssa:  Well, it’s overwhelming your first time.  You literally know nothing.  I mean, very little.

Lisa:  I didn’t even know how to swaddle.  I mean, swaddling was a big learning curve for me.  I never really got it tight enough.  In the beginning; I eventually did, but –

Alyssa:  He’d just kind of ninja his way out?

Lisa:  Yes, he did!  Yeah.  This person, this woman, this angel of mine, her name was Kate, and she was wonderful.

Alyssa:  Now, we should mention – we didn’t mention that you lived in Seattle at this point.

Lisa:  Right.

Alyssa:  So you were not in Grand Rapids.  When did you find out you were moving?

Lisa:  When our son was three months old.  He had just turned three months.

Alyssa:  Yeah, because you had just gotten here when he was about four months, right?  So you had a month to prepare.  How was that?

Lisa:  I think I was in a little bit of denial about how much needed to be done.  We decided to spend more money to push the easy button, so we hired movers to actually pack us for the first time as well as do the cross-country move, and that was worth every dime that we spent, even though that is not cheap.  It was really worth it.  And I just focused on my recovery and my baby and the bonding and just let all that other stuff go.

Alyssa:  So then you got here, and you had Judd’s family here.  You have no family here, and your doula in Seattle found me.

Lisa:  Right, so then I was talking to her, and I said, “You know, I don’t know what I’m going to do.  I don’t know anybody there.  How am I going to unpack into a new house, meet anybody?”  And she’s like, “Oh, well, let me just do some research.  I’ll do some looking for you today,” and she came back the next day, and she was like, “I found somebody.”  And it was Alyssa.  And I was like, “Perfect!  Perfect!  At least I have a doula that I can totally lean on!”  And that was you, and…

Alyssa:  We met, and the rest is history, right?

Lisa:  The rest is history.  And my husband’s family helped us move into the house, and that was unbelievably healthy.  Healthy?  Helpful!  I still have mom-brain.

Alyssa:  It never goes away.

Lisa:  I transpose these words and then it doesn’t make sense.

Alyssa:  It doesn’t go away.  It’s not pregnancy-brain; it’s mom-brain, for sure.

Lisa:  So at the end of the day, I’m really glad that we moved.  I think it was a really, really hard time.  I think moving may be – if you can wait until your baby is closer to one or something, that might be easier, an easier transition for the mom just because you’re so exhausted in the beginning.  But Grand Rapids is really family-friendly, and I’m just so appreciative of that, and I feel like it’s a good place to raise kids.

Alyssa:  We’re glad you’re here.

Lisa:  I’m glad that we’re here.  And I’m glad to have met you!  Thank goodness for you!

Alyssa:  Yeah, we worked eight months, maybe, seven months?  Off and on; it was a lot in the beginning.

Lisa:  Yeah, until he was about a year, yeah.  At a year, I kind of felt like, oh, the weight of all of being a new mom kind of lifted a little bit for me, and I just felt more confident, I guess.

Alyssa:  Well, and he was gaining so much more independence that it was almost – I remember one day you saying “It’s so great.  He’s sitting up and he’s doing all these things, but he’s not my little baby anymore.”  It was like this – I’m so glad he’s doing this because now he can play by himself for a little bit on the floor and I can actually go sit down and eat or do dishes or something, but you struggled with this.  He’s my baby, but he’s not my little baby anymore, and he’s doing all these other things.  And I think we all struggle with that.  Me, I only have one child, so every phase, every developmental stage, I just – good and bad, I love it.

Lisa:  Because that’s the only one you get.

Alyssa:  Yeah.  So I guess that’s a piece of advice I give, especially if you’re only having one –and you may end up trying for more; who knows, but you just – it helps you get through the hard times.  Even the sleepless nights; it’s all temporary because soon he’s going to be eight, right?  He’s not going to want to sleep with you, and he’s not going to want to wake up.  You’re going to have to wake him up!

Lisa:  That’s right.  I can’t even imagine that!  He’s still waking up probably three times, religiously, every night.  But it’s a lot better than what he was.

Alyssa:  You’re getting sleep.

Lisa:  Yeah, I’m getting enough sleep now.  I’m not crazy like I was; sleepless-crazy.  You know, an hour or 45 minutes of continuous sleep, all during the day, if that’s all you get, that is not enough for a person to have their wits about them.  It’s just not.

Alyssa:  No.  I think we’ll talk next time with Lisa about the effects of sleep deprivation and how – you know, a pregnancy journey that doesn’t go as planned along with sleep deprivation and an emergency C-section; all these things; how does that play in your brain.  So stay tuned; we’ll talk next to Lisa about that.  Thank you for sharing today!

Lisa:  Thanks.

Podcast Episode #19: Lisa’s Postpartum Journey Read More »

World Doula Week

World Doula Week 2018

Today’s blog is written by Kristin Revere, Certified Birth and Postpartum Doula and Certified Sacred Postpartum Mother Roaster.

As the end of World Doula Week nears, I feel I must speak my truth.

Before having kids my purpose was to support women in politics. I wanted more voices in office and wanted to run for office myself. I still do. I wanted women to feel confident raising money. I still do. When I was pregnant and busy working on a Governor’s race, I felt a loss of control. I was used to planning everything in life. Birth was something I couldn’t predict; even my pregnancy had twists and turns when I developed pre-eclampsia. I didn’t know what a doula was eight years ago, and I wish I had. The second time around, I did and we hired doulas before anyone even knew I was pregnant.

Why doula? I am a doula because I have the honor of truly seeing women when they are strong and when they are vulnerable. I have the honor of seeing their partners supporting them tenderly. I stand with women who struggle with loss and infertility. I stand with women who make hard choices. I support them, without judgment in their decisions, to prepare for unmedicated births, epidural births, cesarean births. I walk with them when they choose to breastfeed, exclusively pump or bottle feed. I acknowledge them when they choose to stay home, work from home or go back to work. I remind them to surrender and to breathe. I remind them to slow down. I remind my clients that this is only temporary and that they are strong. I still cry after every birth… mostly while sitting in my car. Mostly tears of joy and sometimes the tears are painful. You know those cries when your full body shakes? I have experienced my share of those, as well.

It was five years ago today that I took my family to Virginia for a four-day Sacred Pregnancy Instructor retreat.

That experience changed everything for me. I began to understand how to support women fully. I started teaching classes two weeks after my training. Soon after that, I took a Sacred Postpartum training in Georgia and then a four-day Sacred Doula training in Florida as I was asked to support my students at their births.

I sat in circles with my Sacred Pregnancy students for eight weeks and we were raw and real with each other. We stripped down our layers and expressed our fears and our dreams to each other. I believe that women need to connect with each other in that way. Women desire to feel understood and supported and to be fully seen and accepted.

I wasn’t sure birth doula was my calling at first. At my Sacred Doula training, I was seen as least likely to make it due to my fear of blood. I got over that fear quickly, by the way. Very few of the women in my training are still doulas. The average doula does this work for three years before burnout. A lot of this is because of the low pay, on-call lifestyle, the inability to predict how long you will be away from your family, the physical and emotional stress of birth work, and more.

I proudly hold two birth doula certifications and am a certified Postpartum and infant care doula. My next step is to become a certified childbirth educator.

I started Gold Coast Doulas with my business partner to better support families. Our birth doulas work in teams and therefore will stay in the field longer because of a better work – life balance; doulas who can give more because they aren’t always on call. They can plan for a vacation, a birthday party, or a camping trip and still take clients.

Our clients get the experience, support, and perspectives from two doulas throughout pregnancy, and if labor is long they will have a second refreshed doula at their side as needed. This model better supports our doulas as well. They have mentorship, support, and a place to grow. We take care of each other and honor the choices of those who step away from the work after having another child or for family reasons. They know they also can come back if circumstances change.

Gold Coast Doulas is made up of 15 birth and postpartum doulas, an infant massage instructor, a board certified lactation consultant (IBCLC), and a placenta encapsulator. We keep growing and adapting to the needs of our clients.

With the way birth support so strongly called to me, I never thought I would like postpartum doula work the way I do. Birth work is important, and I know now postpartum care is even more important.

There is a pressure in America to get back into skinny jeans, to get back to work, to be supermom. The focus after birth is always on the baby. Who is there to check on how the mother is coping? Everyone wants to hold the baby and bring gifts for the baby.

We need to acknowledge the mother.

We make sure she is nourished, rested, her house is picked up, we allow her time to shower or sip on tea on her porch. We acknowledge her fears and support their choices. We also help when the partner or mother is traveling. We help them manage the work, care for a baby, play with a toddler.

Doulas allow the client to breathe, and let them know that they are strong and that this is only temporary. We acknowledge them. We all want to be seen and we all want to be fully heard. That is why I do this work. We must support each other. We shouldn’t have to go at this alone.

This work is my true purpose. I see you, I stand with you, I walk with you. I am a doula.


World Doula Week 2018 Read More »

Lindsey Lupo

Meet Lindsey, our newest Birth Doula!

We are very excited to introduce you to Lindsey Lupo. She comes to us with a wealth of knowledge and an amazing background as well as a love for people that extends beyond words.

1) What did you do before you became a doula?
I worked in trauma for 7+ years at a local hospital, became a mom, and decided to pursue holistic living through homeopathy, naturopathy, aromatherapy, and herbology. I graduated with a biomedical sciences degree with a minor in psychology and emphasis in research from Grand Valley State University. I also had the opportunity to publish with Michigan State University on Renal Failure. Working with people has always be my primary fortee.

2) What inspired you to become a doula?
My 7 pregnancies with 2 living children, both of which were traumatic births. I want to offer bereavement support along with healing and empowerment to families that have experienced loss.

3) Tell us about your family.
My husband and I live in Rockford with our two children (4 & 2) and our little weenie dog, Maxwell. We homeschool and are very involved in our faith and community.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
Porcupine Mountains because I thoroughly enjoy camping, hiking, nature, and the beauty of the great outdoors. Minus being chased by a bear, of course.

5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Matt Maher- He facilitates a greater conversation.
John Mayer- Musically brilliant
Chris Tomlin- Inspirational worship leader
Jason Aldean – Sometimes a girl just has to get on a horse and cowgirl up.
Journey – One should never stop believing.

6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
You’re not alone. Some days are going to be better than others and that’s ok. That’s the reality of the beautiful mess we all live.

7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
I am a confident couch and support person. I have the ability to pass that confidence on to others when needed. People feel safe with me and that brings comfort and consistency.

8) What is your favorite food?
Coffee and Avocados – Not together of course.

9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Eastown – not for vacation but for everyday pleasures. Some of my favorite places are located here – Marie Catribs, Brewery Vivant, Global Infusion, and more.

10) What are you reading now?
Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth

11) Who are your role models?
Mother Teresa and Pope John Paul II.

“Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat” -MT

“There is no place for selfishness and no place for fear! Do not be afraid, then, when love makes demands. Do not be afraid when love requires sacrifice.” – JPII


Meet Lindsey, our newest Birth Doula! Read More »

Gina Kraft Postpartum Doula

Meet Our New Postpartum Doula, Gina!

We have another amazing postpartum doula to introduce to you! Read on to find out more about Gina and her family.

1. What did you do before becoming a Doula?
Before becoming a Doula, I nannied for two years until I had my first daughter. When she arrived I became a stay at home mom. A year later my second daughter was born. I’ve been home with my girls for almost 4 years.

2. What inspired you to become a Doula?
As soon as I became a mom, I absolutely fell in love with all things birth and babies. I loved labor and delivery and the new season of motherhood that I found myself in. I enjoyed all of the ups and downs of adding a new life to our family. I felt inspired to bring that joy into my Doula work. I want to support new parents in this incredible season of twists and turns. My heart is to come in and cheerlead parents and help them achieve their vision for what family life will look like for them.

3. Tell us about your family.
I have been married to my incredible husband, Daniel, for five years. He is currently studying to become a licensed electrician and works for Buist Electric. We have two amazing daughters, Nora and Estelle. They will be four and three this coming June. We love spending time together as a family. We especially enjoy going to parks and museums together.

4. What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
I love Traverse city. I love wandering in and out of all of the cute shops, going to the beach, and eating at all of the delicious restaurants.

5. Name your top 5 bands/musicians and what you like about them
I enjoy a mix of music. I like Adele, Mumford and Sons, John Mark McMillan, Amos Lee, Ben Folds. I love anything emotional, catchy, and beautiful. I like just about every genre.

6. What’s the best advice you’ve given to new families?
Trust yourself. You know your baby and yourself better than anyone else. Trust you instincts and intuition.

7. What do you consider your Doula super power to be?
Calming fussy babies and getting them to sleep.

8. What’s your favorite food.
I love breakfast food.

9. What’s your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast.
I love Holland!

10. What are you reading right now?
The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin

11. Who are your role models?
My mother in law, Gayle. She was a stay at home mom to seven kids. She is strong, loving, and consistent in everything she does. Also, my pastor’s wife, Ang. She is humble and a woman of strong character. I aspire to be just like both of these amazing women.


Meet Our New Postpartum Doula, Gina! Read More »

Julie Skripka Doula

Meet our new Birth and Postpartum Doula, Julie!

We’re excited to welcome Julie Skripka to the Gold Coast team as a Birth and Postpartum Doula! Let’s get to know her a little better.

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

Before starting my doula adventure, I was home raising and homeschooling my 4 children. I currently nanny and run the nursery at church. I went to Michigan State University and have an English degree with minors in Child Development and Communications.

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

I love babies and helping others! I want to empower and support women through this life change.

3) Tell us about your family.

I have been married to my husband, Nick, since August 2005. We have 4 awesome children, Harper, Hunter, Heath, and Hope. My family is my whole world!

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

We love going to the Silver Lake Sand Dunes. Sun, sand and fun! I grew up going there as a kid and it’s fun to bring my kids and make new memories.

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

Skillet: They put on an amazing show! I love how I can feel the power in their music and they sing about my hero!
Mumford and Sons: The mix of instruments this folk rock group plays gives them a unique sound. It’s hard to stop listening to them!
Jack Johnson: Things are always better together! His lyrics are smart and I love his acoustic folk sound.
Lauren Daigle: Lauren’s voice is beautiful and the messages in her songs always uplift me.
Toby Mac: His energy is contagious!

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

Do what works for your family and love on your babies often! They grow so fast!!

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

Calming babies and helping them sleep. I have been asked if I’m magic!!

8) What is your favorite food?


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

Any Lake Michigan beach at sunset is pretty sweet!

10) What are you reading now?

The Birth Partner by Penny Simkins.

11) Who are your role models?

My grandma is my role model! She had 7 kids. I admire her for her love of family and her huge heart. She taught me to spoil my people with love, attention, and gifts. To listen and remember what people say and to always check back in with them. She had a spunk for life I carry in my heart with me everyday. She encouraged me to be me and loved me unconditionally, and I want others to feel the way she always made me feel!

Meet our new Birth and Postpartum Doula, Julie! Read More »

Ashley Forton Doula

Podcast Episode #6: Dispelling The Goddess Myth

In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa and Ashley talk about The Goddess Myth and how it affects your birthing experience.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes. 

Alyssa:            Hi, welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I am Alyssa, co-owner and postpartum doula, and today we have Ashley Forton with us.

Ashley:           Good morning.

Alyssa:            She is also a birth doula and postpartum doula.  We both just recently read a Time Magazine article called The Goddess Myth, and it raised a lot of questions.  Ashley, what was your first – well, why don’t you give us a synopsis of this article?

Ashley:           Yeah, so the article kind of starts out talking about this “goddess myth” and how there’s this rise in natural birth, and how a lot of women are trying to achieve this image of being a goddess and having this perfect natural birth, and that they’re kind of blaming that on a lot of women feeling failure or feeling regret or feeling like they couldn’t live up to this perfect image that we’ve created.  And it kind of stood out to me that, that’s still possible.  If you want to have this beautiful, natural birth, bodies are capable of that, but it also brings up a lot of points that that’s not best for everybody.  And so I found it really interesting some of the things that they brought up about different women’s experiences and where their emotions went if it didn’t go according to that perfect plan they had in their head.

Alyssa:            Yeah, I’ve kind of thought that – you know, there’s all this knowledge at our fingertips.  You get pregnant, and you can just know so much.  And then you have this goddess myth, where you didn’t birth good enough if you didn’t do it naturally.  I’m glad that there’s an awareness about this and that women are asking questions and knowing that it’s a possibility to birth this way, but on the flip side, there’s so much feelings of guilt and shame and regret if you say, “This is the only way I can have my baby,” and then it doesn’t happen that way.  And then there’s all this mom-shaming of “Well, I did it naturally.”  Or, “Oh, you had an epidural?”  Or, “Oh, you’re not breastfeeding?”  There’s so many good things happening within the community and within the medical field with natural births, and I think it’s beautiful and amazing, but a Caesarean birth is also a birth.  If you had an epidural, it’s still a birth.

Ashley:           Absolutely.  And I think a lot of that – I don’t think the goddess myth or this desire for natural birth is the problem.  I think that part of it is us as moms, as women, who come into this new journey of parenthood; we try to compare.  I think comparison is the root of all this evil because what happens is when I compare my birth to yours, we’re not comparing apples to apples.  You bring a completely different emotional history; a completely different physical experience.  You have different genetics.  Our bodies are not identical.  So there’s no way for me to say what I think is best for me is also best for you because I don’t know the ins and outs of your life and your emotions and your physical experience and your relationship with your partner.  And all of that plays into birth, so when we have a baby, no matter how we have it, and we go sit down with our friends and we say, “Here’s how I had my baby,” we start to compare.  We start to say, “Well, this is how I did it.”  “This is how I did it.”  And none of those are greater or less than the other.  We all need to take a step back and go, “Do you feel good about that?  Do you regret anything about your birth?”

Alyssa:            Did you do what was best for you?

Ashley:           Yeah, and that’s a lot of why I became a doula because in the beginning, when I first got pregnant with my daughter, I thought natural birth was the only way and this is best for everyone.  And I started talking to my friends and talking to women who had different experiences, and going, oh my gosh.  My experience has nothing to do with your experience, and I can’t say what’s best for you.  And I wanted to start changing my own mentality to looking at it as, if you look back at your birth story and feel like you made great decisions and you love your birth, regardless of what those intricacies of that birth were, that’s what matters.  Because women carry their birth story with them forever, and you start motherhood with birth.  You start with pregnancy and your experiences that lead up to birth, and if you have regrets and you feel like a failure, that’s going to follow you the rest of your life.  But if you feel like you have made the best decision for you; not comparing it to anyone else, just the best decision for you in that moment: you can’t regret that.  You can’t look back and say someone else should have done it differently.  You made the best decision for you, and then you feel like you just conquered the world because you got – even if it was curveballs, you did the best for you throughout the whole thing.  And so you start off motherhood with this confidence rather than comparison and failure and feeling less than another mom.

Alyssa:            Yeah, it’s so important, because starting off that way just leads to continued problems, emotionally, physically.  And then the comparison starts, when, you know, “How is your baby sleeping?”  “Is your son potty-trained yet?”  It’s a non-stop battle.  You’re constantly comparing.  And you know what, stop.

Ashley:           Right, because every kid is different.  So I mean, having two kids myself, I can tell you there are so many differences just between my two children, who genetically – they share my genetics!  There should be something in common.  But so comparing to my friend, it’s like your kid’s way more different than my kid, so again, we should quit comparing.  We shouldn’t be comparing to each other, our kids to each other.  Yes, there’s a lot in common, but we need to start finding our own joys and successes on our own, not trying to get our success from being better than someone else.

Alyssa:            Right.  There was something else in this article, too, so after the article, looking at the magazine here, there was another little side article called The Well-Intentioned, Misinformed, Oversharing Pregnancy Experts.  And one line that I highlighted says, “When you’re pregnant in public, you learn quickly that everyone’s an expert.”  And this gal was talking about how she liked to enjoy her coffee still while she was pregnant, and the barista, this 20-something guy, would give her this look, and say, “Are you allowed to have this?”  And she’s like, it’s one shot of espresso in my coffee!  And everyone becomes this expert, and I think deep down, they’re well-intentioned statements.

Ashley:           Right.  They think they’re looking out for your health and safety, somehow.

Alyssa:            Yeah, but again, it becomes another form of mom-shaming.

Ashley:           Absolutely.  We talk about that a lot in hypnobirthing, where I tell my moms not to compare to others, like I already talked about, but I also tell them, when someone gives you advice, take it with a grain of salt because they do mean well.  When your mother-in-law says to you, “Oh, well, I did it this way,” she thinks that’s the best way, and she wants to help you.  It doesn’t necessarily come across that way, and you can kind of take it or leave it, but know that you get to make those decisions that are best for you.  If a cup of coffee is what you need, and you’ve cleared that with your ob., if you feel good about it, drink that coffee, girl!  You don’t need your barista’s opinion.  They’re not your ob.  They’re not your healthcare provider.  So yeah, it’s like, take everything with a grain of salt.  Know that it comes from a good place.  Instead of just getting super pissed off right away, which is easy to do, just know that, okay, they probably mean well, and you can still go do whatever the heck you want.

Alyssa:            So I think bottom line, we as mothers have to learn to build each other up and encourage each other and talk about our birth stories together because talking about it is imperative, but sometimes we don’t want to talk about it with our friends or neighbors or family because we know we’re going to be shamed.  So if we knew that we had a judgment-free person just to talk this birth story out with, it would be so beneficial for mothers and encouraging, and I think, bottom line, we just need to support each other.

Ashley:           Absolutely, and recognize that everybody is going to do things a little bit differently, and that’s okay.  And so recognizing that in others and in yourself, it takes practice to not initially come to a judgment.  It’s hard to look at something and not compare.  So it’s easier said than done for me to say, “Let’s quit comparing,” but I think we really do need to focus on that, and when a friend comes to you and opens up and says “Hey, there’s this thing that happened in my birth, and I do feel like a failure, or it didn’t go as planned,” give them the space to talk through that without reinforcing the judgment they’re already feeling.  Just be there for them and let them talk it out.  And if a friend comes to you loving their birth story and they did it completely different than you did, celebrate that joy with them instead of saying, “Well, I did it differently.”  Just let them share that joy with you.

Alyssa:            Yeah, I agree.  All right, if anyone has any questions, comments, anything about this episode or ideas for future episodes, email us at info@goldcoastdoulas.com and remember, these moments are golden.  Thanks, Ashley.

Ashley:           You’re welcome.  Have a great day.

Podcast Episode #6: Dispelling The Goddess Myth Read More »

Postpartum Doula

Podcast Episode #1: One and Done! Alyssa’s Doula Journey

In this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa shares about her birth experience and her decision to have only child, as well as her journey to becoming a postpartum doula.  You can listen to the complete podcast on iTunes.


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

Alyssa:            And I’m Alyssa.

Kristin:           And our topic today is all about why we decided to become doulas, so we’ll begin with Alyssa’s journey.

Alyssa:            Yeah, so I used to work in a male-dominated field.  I worked in the construction industry, and then I got pregnant, had a baby, and I think as with most women, they would say it just completely rocked their world.  The way I saw things changed, and I wasn’t unhappy at my job, but I knew I needed to do something different.  So I started to wonder, who’s helping all these women who are having hard pregnancies and they don’t have any support once they come home?  And the term “doula” is something that I knew, but I didn’t know what a postpartum doula was, and I remember, Kristin, meeting you, and you were the first one who actually said the term “postpartum doula” to me, and I was like, “Oh, my gosh, that exists?”  And I started researching it, and I’m like, that’s it.  That’s exactly what I’ve been looking for.  So I started looking into certification organizations, found one, and it fit well.  I took the course, and they give you 18 months to complete it, but I am a total bookwork and nerd, and I think it took me about six months.  I got all my bookwork, all my essays and reading and all the clients that I needed and everything that is supposed to take 18 months.  And then I just did it, and I just have always felt compelled to help women and children, and it was even stronger after having a baby.

Kristin:           We were in the same training together, which is pretty awesome.

Alyssa:            Yeah, so I’ve known you since the beginning of my journey.

Kristin:           Yeah, it’s so cool.  So it was during pregnancy that you sort of started feeling different about the woman’s journey and experience through motherhood.  What were your family planning options as far as future kids and how you handle your journey as a mother?

Alyssa:            It’s funny.  Family planning turned into a whole new concept because you spend so many years trying not to get pregnant, and then all of a sudden, you are trying to, and it’s more difficult than you expect.   And we ended up – I think I was 33 when I got pregnant and 34 when I had her, and that is by no means old, but something in me said that I don’t want to have kids past 35.  So I decided when we had her, when we had our daughter, we were going to give it a year, and then make that decision then.  But I kind of knew right away that we only wanted one, and it’s really strange because my husband and I both grew up with siblings.  And so as far as family planning, we didn’t really think about that during pregnancy, but knowing that we were kind of going into this being “one and done,” we had – yeah, that’s the first thing my midwife asked me at my six-week checkup is, “What’s your family planning?  How are you planning for your future family?”  And I don’t know yet.  I don’t know.  So yeah, we’re just good with one, and it’s been taken care of.

Kristin:           And do people, especially in West Michigan that’s so family-centered, ask you and your husband a lot of questions about whether you’re going to have another baby or have a sister or brother for your child?

Alyssa:            Of course they do.  You know, the second you get married, it’s – well, first you’re dating, and it’s, “When are you getting married?  When are you getting married?”  And it’s pry, pry, pry.  And then you get married, and it’s, “When are you having a baby?  When are you having a baby?”  And it’s all these prying questions with the best of intentions, and they just want to see you have a baby, but knowing what I know now and all the struggles people go through, it’s a really tough question to ask and an even tougher one to answer.  And I feel like when you have baby number one, trying for baby number two, it’s still the same.  Just because you had baby number one doesn’t mean it’s easy to have baby number two.  I have friends who are struggling and have struggled for years to have baby number two.  And it’s just not a question that should be asked, but I do.  I get it all the time.

Kristin:           It’s a very personal question.

Alyssa:            Yeah, when I say that I only want one, I get the, like, smack-across-the-face guilt.  “How can you only have one?  You’re doing your daughter a disservice.  She needs a sibling.”  You know, they know better than I do, apparently.  But we love our little family of three, and really, it just boils down to: it’s nobody else’s business.  It’s my family, not theirs.

Kristin:           Right, and you travel a lot, so it makes it so much easier with one child to have a very active life.

Alyssa:            Yeah, we love to travel, and she’s been on an airplane since she was nine weeks old, and she’s so easy and so good.  She’s our little world traveler.  Not that we couldn’t do it with two, but it would be a heck of a lot harder, especially when you’re paying for an extra plane ticket and then you need extra rooms when they get older.  So, I mean, part of it’s selfish reasons, right?  It’s easy for us; she’s great; she’s easy; we can travel.  We’re a little bit older.  Not too old; I mean, I have friends who are having babies right now that are 38, 40, 41.  It’s what’s too old for you?  How do you feel?  And for me, for some reason, it was 35.  Maybe because my mom was 35.  My dad was nine years older, so I saw that growing up, too, having parents who were older than the rest of my friends’ parents, and my father almost being their grandparents’ age.

Kristin:           Yeah, I’m one of the oldest moms on the playground, that’s for sure.

Alyssa:            I don’t mind it.  We’re older and wiser.

Kristin:           Yeah, for sure.  So do you love holding babies, since you’re not having any more babies of your own?

Alyssa:            I do.  I get my baby fix all the time.  I love it.  I absolutely love it.  And you know, honestly, I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if I had another kid.  It’s a lot of work.  One’s hard.  My clients who have toddlers and then a newborn are sometimes – they can’t even comprehend how much extra work that is.  And I wouldn’t be able to be helping and supporting clients the way I do now if I had more children.

Kristin:           You’d be supporting your own family.

Alyssa:            Right.  So there’s always a give and take.  I know my daughter would be an amazing big sister.  I know she would.  But there’s a give and take.  She gets 100% of my attention and all my love and gets to come everywhere with us, and she’s my little buddy.

Kristin:           And she has cousins, lots of cousins.

Alyssa:            Yeah, lots of cousins, lots of friends.  My husband and I going into this said we’re going to make a point to just socialize her.  She will go places with us; we will bring friends; we’ll be the family that says, “Pick a friend.  They’ll come to Disney with us.”  It’s still cheaper than having another kid to bring a friend places occasionally.  But there’s always a give and take, and ultimately, it’s each family’s personal decision, and it just kind of stinks that other people have to make you feel bad for what feels good for you.  We love our little family of three.

Kristin:           So what’s your best advice to a family or client who plans to only have one child and doesn’t know how to break the news to their family and circle of friends?

Alyssa:            It’s hard.  Based on personalities, I’ve heard people say flat-out, “It’s none of your business,” and I don’t go that route.  I don’t think there’s a need to be rude or brash with people, but you can say, “That’s a nice thought,” or “Maybe that works for your family, but this works for ours.”

Kristin:           Perfect.  I love it.  Well, thanks for listening, and we look forward to hearing your thoughts on this episode.  Remember, these moments are golden.

Alyssa:            And I will be interviewing Kristin next episode to talk about her journey and her story.  So stay tuned.

Podcast Episode #1: One and Done! Alyssa’s Doula Journey Read More »

Spectrum Health Natural Birthing Suite

Make Your Hospital Room Feel Like Home

Today’s blog comes from one of our past birth doulas, Courtney Garvelink. Her experience with birth clients, as well as being a licensed massage therapist and previous HypnoBirthing instructor, makes her an expert on comfort measures in the delivery room. See what she has to say about making your hospital birth feel more like home.

If you are preparing for a birth, you are getting your body and your mind ready for what may be the most important and wonderful experience of your life to this point. There are so many options and decisions to make leading up to the birth itself, one of which is where you will deliver; home, birth center, or hospital? Maybe, for you, it’s not a choice. Your finances or insurance may limit you to one option, usually a hospital. And some families just feel more at ease in a hospital. If you are among the many who will be welcoming your new babe in a hospital setting, there are still ways create a warm and comfortable atmosphere that reminds you of home during your stay.

I believe the environment you are birthing in can greatly impact your laboring time. Before we look at what you can do to make your hospital stay feel homier, let’s understand why that would matter. Your surroundings and birth environment can have a real impact on how you cope and progress during labor.  The way we feel and our perception of comfort during labor directly effects our hormones during birth. We are not much different than animals, in that when they give birth they find a dark, secluded space where they feel safe. This allows the hormones needed for birth to kick in and flow well, shutting down the fight or flight response that happens when we feel unsafe or uncomfortable. During labor, we want our body to produce all the oxytocin it can, keeping adrenaline at bay. Hospital rooms are often bright and cold, with visible equipment you may or may not need. They can lack the welcoming feeling you get when you arrive home, ready to relax. Here are several ways you can make your hospital labor room feel more home-like.

Dim the Lights
Giving birth is about as primal as you can get, so take a note from our animal friends. Hospital room lighting is adjustable, and it’s your room, so adjust away. You can ask the nurses to keep the lights dimmed down, they usually have no issue with it. If they need to brighten the room so they can see what they are doing, they will usually turn them back down for you when they leave.

Room Temp
There will almost always be a thermostat in each room. When you get there, adjust the temperature to what you would normally have it set to at home or maybe just a touch cooler. It’s normal for women to run a little warmer during labor. You are probably working harder than you ever will during your birthing time.

Turn on Some Candles
LED candles are great for setting up a relaxing atmosphere. Please don’t bring wax candles to burn, this is a fire hazard. If you like to burn candles at home for the aroma, my next tip can help with that.

Essential Oils
There are several essential oils that are safe during pregnancy and labor that can be beneficial for boosting your energy, easing discomfort and muscle fatigue, and creating a calm aroma in the room. You can mix some water with your favorite essential oil and mist the room or linens you’ll be using. Check before using a diffuser in the room, as some staff may have sensitivity to certain aromas or the hospital may not allow them. You can also dilute the oil and apply to the skin directly. Be sure to get good quality oils or find an aromatherapist who can help you decide which oils are best.

Bring Your Own Pillow/Favorite Throw Blanket
When you are ready for relaxation or sleep at home and you lay your head on your pillow, you are conditioned to relax and sleep. This will be comforting at the hospital when you’re laboring. Use your pillow as a cue to relax as you move through different positions.

Play Some Tunes
Create a playlist of your favorite music, whether it’s calm or upbeat. Music can help reduce stress and the perception of pain during labor. Start working on that playlist while you are in birth preparations by finding what genres or artists are soothing/relaxing to you. Listen to those tracks or stations throughout your pregnancy; it’ll be familiar during labor and help promote relaxation.

Bring Your Own Gown
Lets be real, no one likes wearing the standard hospital gown. They are dull and unflattering. They remind you every time you look down that you are in a hospital. Bring your own button-down gown or an oversized button-down shirt. The buttons will help give easier access for breastfeeding and skin-to-skin. You can also find cute birthing gowns online.

Pictures From Home
Do you have a favorite picture from home that makes you happy or brings with it a feeling of calm? Bring it to the hospital! Maybe not your large canvas print, but something you can pack in your hospital bag. Having a piece of home can be comforting and calming during your stay in the hospital room.

The Best of Both Worlds
Did you know Spectrum Health now has two natural birthing suites at Butterworth (pictured above)? If you are low-risk, it’s a wonderful option. The rooms have a queen sized bed, lamps for softer lighting, birthing balls, and a Jacuzzi tub. And they didn’t forget about Dad; the rooms also have a recliner, flat-screen television, free Wi-Fi, and a pullout sofa. You cannot bring oil diffusers or wax candles, but overall they feel much more home-like than most hospital rooms.

Hire a Doula
Okay this sounds great, but how will you remember all this when the time actually comes? A birth doula can be your best resource. Let them meet you at the hospital and get the room ready for you. Let your birth doula take care of creating a home-like environment as well as pain management techniques and encouragement along the way.

To learn more about Courtney and ask her questions about birth doula support, you can fill out a contact form on our website or join her at an upcoming “What is a Doula?” event at EcoBuns in Holland. 


Make Your Hospital Room Feel Like Home Read More »

Tricia Buschert Doula

Meet our new doula, Tricia!

Meet Tricia Buschert, our newest birth and postpartum doula. She is also our new multiples expert! Let’s learn a little more about her.

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

I’ve been a stay at home mom for the last four and a half years.

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

My kids were my biggest inspiration to become a doula. After I had my son, I knew I wanted work with families, but it wasn’t until after our twin daughters were born at 32 weeks, spent 6 weeks in NICU, exclusively pumped for 10 months and struggled for over a year with postpartum anxiety did I figure out exactly what I wanted to do: become a birth and postpartum doula.

3) Tell us about your family.

I’m married to my high school sweetheart, Zach. He is an accountant and is currently working on his Masters Degree in accounting. We’ve been married 6 and a half years and have three kids. Our oldest, Gideon, will be four in a couple weeks. When he was 15 months old we were surprised to find out we were expecting identical twins. Kira and Rosalind just turned two, and being a twin mama has been one of my favorite roles ever. We also have two cats named Shanele and Layla.

As a family we love to be outside, go bowling, and go to the zoo. Gideon also loves to play Super Smash Bros with Daddy.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

My favorite spot that my husband and I have traveled to is Myrtle Beach. The beaches were gorgeous, and we had so much fun exploring the city together. One day we would love to go to Europe and travel to Scotland, Britain, and Germany.

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

I grew up on country music and I still love it. It’s primarily what I listen to, but I also listen to some pop and rock. I love country because there is songs for all feelings- when I’m sad, when I need some encouragement, and when I just want to dance around. I listen to pop when I need to dance around the kitchen with kids and get my heart racing during a workout.
Carrie Underwood, Keith Urban, Rascal Flatts, Tim Mcgraw, and The Chainsmokers are some of thel bands/artists I listen to often.

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

A nurse in the NICU told me to find something positive in each day and I’ve shared it ever since. Even if it is “my meal was warm today” or “the baby didn’t puke on me” or “I got to snuggle the baby”. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Just to find one good thing in the day that made you happy. In the beginning, with three children under two, finding something positive made the 25+ diapers, the 6-7 hours attached to a pump, and the 2 hours of broken sleep a little easier.

I also tell new parents to ask for help. Raising children takes a village, especially when you have multiples, and asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength. You have to take care of you to take care of them.

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

The ability to encourage others.

8) What is your favorite food?

Currently its chicken ceaser salads. I’ve been really loving them lately!
I also love sausage and egg souflee, apples with peanut butter, and Mocha lattes with coconut milk.

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

I love the Rockford Dam. There are local shops nearby, food, and our favorite ice cream place. The trail is close by for our family walks, there are often activities, and it is a fun place to bring our kids. My husband also proposed to me there and so it holds a special place in my heart.

10) What are you reading now?

Sensory Yoga for Kids: Therapeutic Movement for Children of all Abilities by Britt Collins

11) Who are your role models?

My grandmas are my biggest role models.


Meet our new doula, Tricia! Read More »

Gold Coast Doulas

It’s our birthday!

Gold Coast Doulas is two years old today! There is so much to celebrate in this short time. Here are some highlights:

Gold Coast was a finalist for the 2017 Local First Local Motion Awards.

Gold Coast was a named a Top Women Owned Business by the Grand Rapids Business Journal in 2017.

GR Kids named Kristin Revere as the Top Doula in 2016. Ashley Forton was ranked number two doula. Ashley Forton was also ranked as the Top Childbirth educator in 2016.

Alyssa Veneklase was named a Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce ATHENA Young Professional Finalist in 2017.

Kristin Revere was named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan by the Grand Rapids Business Journal in 2016.

In August 2016, Gold Coast moved to a new office in Cascade to have space for classes and client meetings. We are excited again for a new move in early 2018. Announcements on that coming soon!

We held a diaper drive in 2016 for Nestlings Diaper Bank of West Michigan and collected 2,275 disposable diapers and 40 packs of wipes. Gold Coast also collected 127 cloth diapers and 71 inserts. Thanks to all who donated and at our drop-off locations. We also received a $50 cash donation. We just wrapped up our 2nd Annual Diaper Drive for Nestlings Diaper Bank and are eager to find out the results. We already know we’ve more than doubled what we collected last year!

Emily Richett of Richett Media mentioned Gold Coast in a Fox 17 spot on baby registries, talking up our postpartum doula services.

Erica Francis of Fox 17 did a great story on Postpartum Doulas and how we help new families.

We spent time giving back to the community as our members volunteered for the March of Dimes and the Healthy Kent Breastfeeding Coalition. We donated funds to support the work of Ele’s Place, Metro Health Foundation, and MomsBloom. Gold Coast was an early supporter of Mothership and three of our team members attended their inaugural training.

We worked with Simply Born Midwifery Services to bring “When The Bough Breaks” to the historic Wealthy Theatre. We had an engaged audience and a wonderful panel of experts to speak on postpartum depression and psychosis. We already are working on plans for the next film event.

Our team has grown tremendously from four doulas at the launch to twelve today. We also added a board certified lactation consultant who offers home and office visits. We expanded our educational offerings by including the following classes: Breastfeeding, Newborn Survival, HypnoBirthing, and Preparing for Multiples. Our goal is to be your home for everything from pregnancy through the first year.

Thanks for all who have entrusted us to walk with you on your unique journeys through pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum phase. You inspire us to do more good. You are the reason we exist and we will keep listening and responding to your needs. These moments truly are golden!


It’s our birthday! Read More »

Angel Schoof Birth Doula

Meet our new birth doula, Angel!

1) What did you do before you became a doula?
I have been a stay at home mom for the past (almost) four years. Before that I worked as a medical assistant in a few different areas, end of life care and a neurosurgeons office.

2) What inspired you to become a doula?
I was so inspired to become a doula by the amazing support I had with my two births. I was so greatly moved and spent the last four years saying I wish I could do that. And one day it hit me -Why not? Timing and opportunity aligned and I feel so fortunate to see my wildest dream coming to fruition.

3) Tell us about your family?
My husband Erik and I have been married almost five years. We moved to Rockford from Fort Myers, Florida two years ago. We have really been loving West Michigan, especially the weather! Our son Benjamin will be four in September and our daughter Hazel just turned one in February.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why? 
What’s a vacation? Ha! Kidding of course! We usually spend our vacation time in Fort Myers. We have lots of family there to visit and it’s always good to escape during the long stretch of winter!

5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
I am a lover of so many different kinds of music from old to new. I love Bob Dylan and Neil Young and the Backstreet Boys (please don’t judge my inner fan girl) and John Mayer! And don’t even get me started on Bob Seger.

6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
My favorite thing to tell a new mom, which was also told to me when I had my first is you’re the mom and you know best. Listen to your instincts, trust yourself and your judgement. You know your baby better than anyone else.

7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
My doula superpower would be my passion. I want every woman to have the birth she desires. My wish is to support women in every angle of birth. Physically, mentally, emotionally… I want to give well-rounded support and will dedicate myself entirely in order to achieve this with my clients.

8) What is your favorite food?
I love food with big flavors – Mexican, Indian, and Thai, but I’m going to be really honest here and tell you, I love a turkey sandwich. If you and I were at a restaurant together 9 times out of 10, I’m getting the turkey sandwich!

9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
How amazing is Lake Michigan? Salt free, shark free, jelly fish free! I grew up going to the beaches in South Haven, and I still have a soft spot in my heart for the pier there and sitting on the black river having a  bite to eat. Since we’ve moved back to Michigan we ventured out to Kirk Park in West Olive and I was blown away. Such a beautiful park and the water was so clear! Looking forward to more visits along the coast!

10) What are you reading now?
Right now I am reading Pushed: The Painful Truth About Childbirth And Modern Maternity Care by Jennifer Block. It’s pretty eye opening. Just questioning whether we are over-using medical technology to manage births at the expense of mothers and new babies.

11) Who are your role models?
My role models are the two women who were vital in helping me achieve the births I wanted so desperately for my own kiddos. My doula Jaci Seiben (out of Fort Myers) was amazing. Her energy was so calming and reassuring. She was exactly the person I’d prayed to have at my side during the birth of my son. For the birth of my daughter, my midwife Shannon Pawson blew me away. She was the definition of care. She was so knowledgeable, and empowered me to make informed decisions. We spoke about everything pertaining to birth before I was even in labor, so all she had to do was come, be a quiet presence and support me and my plan for birth. Both of these women have touched my heart and they are truly who I wish to model myself after.


Meet our new birth doula, Angel! Read More »

Jamie Platt Doula

Meet our new doula, Jamie!

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

I worked as a Medical Assistant for 10 years; most of that time was spent at the Pediatric Endocrinology clinic at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. My full time job for the past two years has been as a nursing student at Grand Valley State University. I will graduate with my Bachelors of Science in Nursing in December. Yay!

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

I have a passion for all things related to pregnancy, the birthing process, and postpartum care for mothers and their families. I feel that mothers are often overlooked after having a baby, especially if it’s not their first child. I wanted to become a doula so that I could help mothers in their homes with whatever they need. I want to change the culture of postpartum care, including the stigma that can surround postpartum mental health.

3) Tell us about your family.

I have 3 children:
Noah (13), Jacob (4), and Peyton (2).  We live in Byron Center.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

I enjoy any place that gets me out in nature and around water, which makes me feel alive and lifts my spirit up.

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

This is a tough one because I like almost all genres of music.  Right now I mostly listen to country, and one of my favorite artists is Dierks Bentley.  Several years ago I attended his concert in Vegas, and he brought me up on stage, sang with me, then as a joke left the stage and I was out there by myself.  It will always be one my favorite memories!

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

That sometimes you need to listen to your own heart and not what everyone else tells you. There is no one-fits-all manual for parenting and sometimes you just need to go with the flow! You will find your own routine and what works best for your family. Never be afraid to ask for help- it takes a village!

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

Since working in healthcare I have learned that I am an extremely empathetic person that can connect easily with others in their most vulnerable times.

8) What is your favorite food?

Mexican- chips & salsa, tacos, fajitas, taco salads…yum!

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

Holland State Park or the trails by Felt Mansion- I love being by Lake Michigan!

10) What are you reading now? 

I am in the process of re-reading 2 books from La Leche League International- The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and The Breastfeeding Answer Book.  I hope to be a La Leche League Leader soon.

11) Who are your role models?

My parents, grandparents, and other family members, who have shown me what it means to live in God’s word and always have faith in Him.  I admire Mother Teresa for her unwillingness to waiver in her convictions, despite so many naysayers. It can be difficult to find people willing to take a stand for their beliefs in the face of adversity, and I respect those who do.


Meet our new doula, Jamie! Read More »

Lynnette Nichols Doula

Meet Your Gold Coast Doula-Lynnette

We love asking our Gold Coast Doulas questions so you can get to know them more. Meet our infant care specialist and postpartum doula, Lynnette Nichols and learn about her inspirations and background.

1) What did you do before you became a doula?
Before I became a doula, I was the manager at Lemon Creek Winery’s Tasting Room in Grand Haven.  I worked there for five years.

2) What inspired you to become a doula?
I saw a segment that Gold Coast Doulas did on Fox 17.  Listening to them describe the role of Postpartum Doulas really moved me to want to learn more.  I have always loved children and supporting other moms; it really does take a village and I have been blessed to have some amazing people come into my life.  I am excited to take on this new career and support families during such an important time in their lives.
4) Tell us about your family?
I have been married to my very supportive husband, Kyle for 14 years.  We have three beautiful daughters; Brookelyn (18), Kaitlyn (17), Jordyn (14).  We are a blended family that has worked hard to make us the solid family we are.  We live in Grand Haven.
5) What is your favorite vacation spot and why? 
 My favorite vacation spot is Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  I am originally from Marquette and when I met my husband, I found out he also had a love for the U.P.  It is absolutely beautiful up there and every time I cross the Mackinac Bridge, I am ready for our next adventure.
6) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
I really don’t follow certain bands or musicians, but when I hear a song that moves me, I fall in love with it and listen to it over and over.
These are my favorite songs:

Thinking Out Loud~Ed Sheeran

Lost Stars~Adam Levine
Like I’m Gonna Lose You~Meghan Trainor
This Woman’s Work~Kate Bush

Change in My Life~Hope College’s 12th Street Harmony A Cappella Student Group

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

No one knows all the answers and no one is the perfect parent.

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

I don’t think I can answer that yet and look forward to finding out.

9) What is your favorite food?


10) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I live in Grand Haven and absolutely love it.  If I didn’t live here, I’d be here all the time.  If I am not spending time at the beach or on the American Legion deck, I love going to Grand Rapids and enjoying the great restaurants.

11) What are you reading now?

I am reading Eat, Move, Sleep by Tom Rath.  My daughter is considering going into kinesiology and nutrition; she recommended the book to me.

12) Who are your role models?
My role model has always been my Grandma.  She is God loving and humble, firm but gentle at the same time.  I soak in everything she says and hope that I am half the woman she is and that my children and grandchildren love and respect me as much as I do her.


Meet Your Gold Coast Doula-Lynnette Read More »

Alyssa Veneklase Doula

Meet Your Gold Coast Doula – Alyssa

We love asking our Gold Coast Doulas questions so you get to know them a bit more. Meet our co-owner, Alyssa Veneklase and learn about her inspirations and her travel adventures.

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

For the past 15 years I was in the construction/real estate business doing everything from interior design and marketing, to safety and human resources. My favorite part of what I did was working with people, both clients and employees. I also enjoyed my role as director of charitable giving. I’ve always had a heart for children and families, so serving on committees and boards was a top priority.

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

When I became pregnant I began to research everything. I became a wealth of knowledge and before I knew it, I was the one my friends and family reached out to for help, resources, and guidance. Once I had my daughter, I knew I wanted to help other mothers and other families during the prenatal and early postpartum stages.

4) Tell us about your family

I have been married to my husband, Bradley, for 5 1/2 years. We love to travel together and now have an almost 4-year old who loves to travel with us! She’s a beautiful, bright, witty, and sometimes sassy little girl who keeps us smiling.

5) What is your favorite vacation spot and why? 

Before having our daughter, my husband and I took a 3 week trip to Thailand. It was the most beautiful place we’ve ever seen (better than Hawaii). The people were kind and generous. The food was spectacular. The water was crystal clear and the beaches were stunning. We think of it often.

6) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
I have so many I don’t know how I will choose. So I’ll list the first 5 that pop into my head:
Leonard Cohen – His voice. I mean, come on. And his lyrics are beautiful.
Stevie Wonder – I can’t help but dance in my seat when his songs are playing.
Depeche Mode – My favorite band from the 80’s. I know all the lyrics and love singing them out loud.
Vampire Weekend – Again, when I hear their songs I just have to dance. They’re fun and make me smile.
Sia – She has the most incredible voice and uses it so creatively. She also has the best music videos.

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

The most recent example is suggesting a client and her husband make it a priority to have a date night. They always had excuses why they couldn’t do it, so I told them I would do whatever I needed to make it happen. They went on their first date night after having their baby and came back giggly and holding hands.

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

My super power is making people feel comfortable and at ease. Inviting a stranger into your home, your sacred space, is a big deal. I have the ability to listen, observe, and figure out the family dynamic and how I can best be utilized. I can tell when a mother needs me to jump right in and tell her what needs to be done, and I can tell when a mother just wants to sit for a while and have someone listen to her.
9) What is your favorite food?

Probably a good steak and some brussel sprouts.10) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?

My husband and I got married in Union Pier along the coast at a little resort called the Fire Fly Inn. I am very fond of that little town now.

11) What are you reading now?

Misconceptions by Naomi Wolf.
12) Who are your role models?
I have a few close friends that I adore and are positive and uplifting role models. My husband is always my voice of reason.


Meet Your Gold Coast Doula – Alyssa Read More »

diaper drive collection

Gold Coast Doulas Diaper Drive

Gold Coast Doulas is celebrating its one-year anniversary on Saturday, Oct. 1 with a giveback event at Nestlings Diaper Bank located at 650 Riley Street, Ste. L in Holland. We are laughing the diaper drive with a  free event is from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Children are welcome. There will be food, refreshments, a photo booth, kids’ activities and giveaways. There will be diaper wrapping activities from 10 to 11 a.m.

Diaper donations are welcome at the time of the event and throughout the month of September at Smedley Dental and the Howard Miller Library in Zeeland; Untangled Salon, Brann’s, EcoBuns and The Insurance Group in Holland; Hudsonville Congregational United Church of Christ, and Gold Coast Doulas LLC, SimplyBorn Midwifery services, Renew Mama Studio, Midwifery Matters Community Center and Hop Scotch children’s store in the Grand Rapids area. Visit goldcoastdoulas.com for more information. Dropoff days and hours vary by location.

The diaper drive coincides with National Diaper Awareness Needs week, Sept. 26 – Oct. 2. Diaper Need Awareness Week is an initiative of the National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN), created make a difference in the lives of the nearly 5.3 million babies in the U.S. aged three or younger who live in poor or low-income families. www.nationaldiaperbanknetwork.org.

Diaper sizes four, five and six the most needed sizes. Nestlings also accepts baby wipes, cloth diapers and open packages of diapers.

About Gold Coast Doulas
Gold Coast Doulas is the area’s first doula agency offering birth doula support, overnight and daytime postpartum doula support, bedrest support, HypnoBirthing classes, placenta encapsulation and babycare classes. They serve Greater Grand Rapids and the lakeshore communities. www.goldcoastdoulas.com

About Nestlings Diaper Bank
Nestlings was founded in 2011 and has distributed over 375,00 diapers in West Michigan. 75,000 of them were in 2016, which helped an estimated 3,000 families. www.nestlings.org.


Gold Coast Doulas Diaper Drive Read More »

Midwives and Doulas

Midwives and Doulas

Gold Coast Doulas is pleased to present a guest blog from Mandi Garvey  She is a certified birth doula, Masters trained health educator, and EMT serving families in West Michigan in both clinical and non-clinical labor support roles.  When she’s not at a birth in one capacity or another, she’s napping in preparation for the next one.

Doulas and Midwives

… but if I have a midwife, why would I want a doula?

Building the perfect care team to support your upcoming labor and delivery can feel daunting.  Do I choose a midwife or a physician?  Will my partner accompany me in labor?  Should my mom be in the room?  All of these questions race by while you try to sort out the best way to meet your needs, often without knowing exactly what the needs will even be once labor begins.  As doulas, we often hear the suggestion that those being attended by midwives or those laboring outside of a hospital would not benefit as much from the presence of a doula.  We think doula support can be beneficial in all scenarios from home birth to planned surgical delivery.  Here’s why:


  1. The Research Says So

Twelve separate randomized trials comparing outcomes between labors supported by doulas and those that were not found doula support significantly reduced the length of labor and the odds of surgical or medical interventions like cesarean section, forceps delivery, oxytocin augmentation, and pharmaceutical pain relief.  People in the doula supported group also rated their labors as ‘less difficult’ and ‘less painful’ than those in the unsupported group.  Doulas were also found to reduce anxiety levels, increase positive feelings about the birth, decrease rates of postpartum depression, improve self-esteem, and increase rates of breastfeeding success.  Evaluations of partner-only or other non-doula support person labors did not see the same results.  (Scott, Klaus, & Klaus, 2009)


  1. Doulas Have Only One Job

While midwife supported labors are awesome, and we adore their dedication to supporting safe and healthy labor experiences, their primary focus is not the same as a doula’s.  Your midwife is tasked with monitoring labor for complications, managing the physical aspects of delivery, and keeping the laboring person and the baby physically safe throughout that process.  This often means their hands, eyes, and attention are on things other than the continuous non-judgmental complete emotional support of the laboring family, and rightly so!  We love midwives for the excellent work they do, but in situations when you might need the most support, they are likely going to have to focus on your physical needs and those of the imminently arriving baby.  Doulas do not have this conflict.  We are there to devote 100% of our attention to you, your partner, and y our emotional needs.


  1. Doulas Are Not Healthcare Providers

Your healthcare provider has a sense, from their experience and training, about how they think labor and delivery should go.  Based on the risks in a given situation, and always wanting to keep the health and safety of all involved in mind, even the most inclusive provider has a way s/he would like decisions made.  Your doula, by contrast, has no personal preference in what decisions you make.  We support you regardless of how you decide to proceed.  We will not try to persuade you in any particular direction.  Your provider is always motivated by safety first (as they should be!!).  Your doula is motivated by you, first and only.


  1. Doulas Are All About Relationships

When you hire doula support from Gold Coast, you’re getting two doulas dedicated to getting to know you, your family, and your needs.  We work alongside you from that first meeting through the postpartum period.  You know our names and faces.  We make it our job to know your rhythms, preferences, and fears.  As a healthcare provider myself who works separately in both capacities, as a birth attendant and as a doula, I can say the experiences are vastly different.  When I’m working as a clinical provider, I often do not meet laboring families until the last hours of their adventure, sometimes skating into the birth space only moments before your baby arrives.  When I work as a doula, we spend weeks getting to know each other.  I know you really wanted to be the first to touch your baby when it emerges.  I know you prefer constant light touch for affirmation.  I know how scared you were a month ago, and how strong you feel right now.  While choosing a small practice of midwives often gets you a similar relationship to this, hiring a doula guarantees it.


  1. Doulas Are Great Team Players

There is seriously nothing better than a having a whole team of people ready to support you through your labor and delivery.  Doulas love attending births with midwives.  We love knowing the kind of excellent care and attention our clients will receive in the midwife-led model.  We love providing a complementary service in supporting laboring families’ emotional and informational needs while the midwifery team handles the rest.  The question should not be, ‘do I hire a midwife OR a doula?’, but rather, ‘how do I get both?’.


We love midwives.  We love the work they do, the care they provide, and the positive force for change they are in the healthcare system.  We also love doulas.  Their presence improves labor outcomes, regardless of who the healthcare provider is, and creates space for positive experiences for laboring families.  We think midwives and doulas collaborating to provide the best in practice and support can be a perfect combination for laboring families.  There’s no need to choose one.  You really can have it all.

* Scott, K., Klaus, P., & Klaus, M. (2009). The obstetrical and postpartum benefits of continuous support during childbirth. Journal of Women’s Health & Gender-Based Medicine, 8(10), 1257-1264. doi: 10.1089/jwh.1.1999.8.1257.

Midwives and Doulas Read More »

Ashley Forton Doula

Meet Your Gold Coast Doulas – Ashley

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

I have a bachelor’s degree in health sciences from GVSU. I have been a nanny, worked at an adult foster care home and currently work in the insurance industry..

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

When I was pregnant I had an incredible support system. That unconditional support made me feel like Superwoman! I felt confident and empowered. I want to be that type of support for other women and their families. Every woman deserves to feel like Superwoman as they become a mother!

3) Tell us about your family?

My husband, Joe, and I have been together for 11 years. We have two adorable kids. My daughter, Elliot, is a chatterbox and loves to make people laugh. My son, Colby, is determined to keep up with his big sister and is always on the move. We have a retired racing greyhound, named Maeby, who takes her retirement very seriously and naps more than anything but she also loves to be outdoors and always prefers to be wherever the people are.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

Half Moon Beach in Green Island, Jamaica(just north of Negril).  It is pure paradise. My husband and I were married on their private beach. The view is breathtaking. And what’s not to love about waking up to waves crashing just below the front deck of your private cabin?? Not to mention the delicious food!

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

This is a tough question! I love a wide variety of music and if you ask me next week my answers might be different 😉

Anything bluegrass- give me a string bass, mandolin, a fiddle and a banjo any day!! The tempo and variety of instruments gets my toes tapping

Adele- her songs have so much emotion. Belting out one of her ballads at the top of my lungs is just plain cathartic. My daughter especially loves belting it out with me.

Dave Matthews Band- I love jam bands in general but seeing DMB solidified my love for them

Lake Street Dive- I love the jazzy bass lines and the smooth vocals.

Most classic rock- reminds me of my childhood. My dad used to put on Dark Side of the Moon at night to help me sleep.

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

Trust your instincts. Parenting is incredibly rewarding but it is also a pretty tough gig. You can feel pressure from family and friends to do things a specific way. Weigh the options and make the decision that you feel is best for your family.

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

My sense of humor can ease tension and help women, and their birth partners, relax. I’m also upbeat and smiling is contagious 🙂

8) What is your favorite food?

Anything spicy, especially curries and Mexican dishes

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

Grand Rapids will always hold a special place in my heart. I love all the festivals, the sports teams, the museums, endless breweries and phenomenal restaurants. It has a small town feel with some big city perks and it is a short drive from the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan.

10) What are you reading now?

The Birth Partner.

11) Who are is your role model?

My grandmother, Eugenia Gould Huntoon. She will be 104 on April 24th and she is affectionately know as the Queen of Huntoon Harmony Hall and “The Longest Running Show Off Broadway.”  She was in multiple theater and musical groups and even went on tour to local nursing homes to play piano and put on sing alongs. She leaves every room full of smiles and laughter. She has always encouraged me to do my best and follow my dreams. I like to think I get my optimism, sense of humor and love for bright colors from her but I certainly didn’t get her musical talent or singing voice.


Meet Your Gold Coast Doulas – Ashley Read More »

Kristin Revere Doula

Meet Your Gold Coast Doulas – Kristin

1) What inspired you to become a doula?

Giving birth myself. It is a transformative and life-changing time.

2) What are your hobbies?

I love going on walks through the city with my family and traveling. We are also big music lovers and attend festivals and house concerts as often as we can.

3) Tell us about your family.

I adore my family. I have a talented and supportive husband who happens to be a writer and a poet. My 13 year-old step-daughter is the strongest person I know and is both goofy and kind in one just like her father. My 4.5 year old daughter is a born performer and loves to dance, sing and tell stories. My 3 year old son loves Spiderman and Jack Black. He also loves baseball. My family makes me laugh so hard my stomach hurts.

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

The Hostel in the Forest in Brunswick,Georgia was the best family vacation we ever took even though it was a working one for me. We slept in treehouses in the woods and swam in the most beautiful lake and natural pool with the beach just a short drive away. The staff became like family and my kids will have memories for a lifetime.

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

Wilco, Pearl Jam, Neko Case, Peter Mulvey, and the Beatles. I love The Beatles so much that my daughter was named after the Abbey Road album. I love a good songwriter. That is what draws me to a musician.

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

To give yourself grace as a parent.

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

I am great at sensing what my clients need before they tell me. I attune to each client well and act on my instincts.

8) What is your favorite food?

I love Thai food although I crave comfort foods after a birth.

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

Downtown Grand Rapids especially spending time on the Grand River at festivals and events.

10) What are you reading now?

Common Sense Pregnancy by Jeanne Faulkner, RN. It is really great so far.

11) Who is your role model and why?

I have many female mentors who supported me in all of my passions. I am forever grateful to them.

Click to learn more about Kristin


Meet Your Gold Coast Doulas – Kristin Read More »

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