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Nutrition for Breastfeeding: Podcast Episode #185

Kristin chats with Katie Timbrook of Athena’s Bump about the importance of nutrition for breastfeeding and pumping moms.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Katie Timbrook today.  Katie is the chief nutrition officer at Athena’s Bump.  She’s a registered dietician, and as I mentioned, the chief nutrition officer.  Athena’s Bump allows Katie to share her passion and knowledge working to make a difference in the health of pregnant people and their families.  Welcome, Katie!

Katie:  Thank you so much.  It’s so exciting to be here.

Kristin:  So our topic today is focused on nutrition for breastfeeding and/or pumping individuals.  So I would love to start there and see where our conversation takes us.  So as our clients are either during pregnancy and wanting to prepare for breastfeeding and/or plan to exclusively pump or rely on pumping while at work – what are your tips, first of all, during pregnancy to prepare for breastfeeding and pumping goals?  And then we can talk about the postnatal phase and how nutrition would vary between pregnancy and the postnatal phase.

Katie:  Yeah, great.  That’s a great place to start.  So this is kind of why I really like what you guys do.  So we often – we’re in this pregnancy phase, and then once postpartum comes, there’s a baby, and you have to take care of it, and sleepless nights and things like that.  And there’s not really that preparation or kind of planning that goes into that postpartum phase.  So I kind of take it from the approach of, just as much as you were preparing for the baby when you are pregnant, kind of continue on that postpartum, making sure you’re having the nutritious foods and trying not to skip meals and staying hydrated and getting as much movement as you can.  Obviously, too, while you’re pregnant, preparing for that breastfeeding.  It’s not necessarily innate.  And I’m sure you guys teach this.  There is that learning curve, so trying to prepare yourself realistically really helps, obviously.  So then like I said, moving postpartum, setting yourself up for success.  And sometimes, too, you plan on breastfeeding, and sometimes that doesn’t work out.  Or you get into it, and you’re like, well, maybe this isn’t for me.  But learning as much as you can and preparing and setting yourself up for success, I think, is really kind of that third trimester mindset.  And whether that’s asking someone to help you prepare meals for afterwards or preparing those nutrient-dense meals and freezing them, or having those snacks on hand, or making a plan.  Hey, I’m going to have this water bottle with my electrolytes or make sure I have those fruits and vegetables there with me in my breastfeeding station or in my wherever you are with baby.  I think making sure you set yourself up for success, I think, is the biggest thing.

Kristin:  Exactly.  We talk about that quite a bit as postpartum doulas.  Even our birth doulas, about having that station to snack, because we often forget to eat when we’re feeding baby and we’re running on low sleep.  So it’s so important for success in breastfeeding to not only be hydrated, as you mentioned, but also well-nourished.  I think your program sounds like it would be a fantastic baby shower gift.  Are you working in that market quite a bit?  What are you seeing as far as preparation and asking for support from family and friends besides your typical meal train, which may not be nutritionally dense?  It might just be comfort food that isn’t really going to help you succeed with breastfeeding.

Katie:  Yeah, so I guess I’ll start with the helping – you know, having family members help.  I think take the approach of realistic nutrition counseling.  So yes, as a dietician, I kind of preach that – so kind of starting from the point of, if you did ask your family members to help give you food and it wasn’t quite nutrient dense, sometimes some food is better than no food.  As a dietician, I’m very realistic with my coaching.  Obviously, I want everyone to eat as many fruits and vegetables and protein at every meal, and mostly plant based, but a little bit of mix of animal in there.  But really, I kind of have to bring myself down to reality.  You know, when I’m preaching about, you know, eat these foods with these B vitamins or vitamin D or whatever – people don’t eat nutrients.  They eat food.  And from day to day, you want to enjoy your meals.  You want to enjoy the taste of it.  And sometimes, just asking someone to eat one vegetable each meal, not necessarily – the ultimate, I say, you know, half your plate, non-starchy fruits and vegetables; a good source of protein at each meal.  Stay hydrated throughout.  But sometimes that’s not reality.  So it’s getting those nutrient dense foods where you can, where it makes sense.  So if you have someone that brings over maybe just like macaroni and cheese casserole, maybe it’s adding a little bit of broccoli and mixing that in.  Something like that to where you’re still not – I hate food waste.

Kristin:  Same here, yes.

Katie:  So maybe trying to make those foods that someone brings over a little bit more nutrient-dense, kind of taking it from that standpoint.

Kristin:  Great tip.

Katie:  We could talk all day about nutrients that help breastfeeding.  Definitely want to have vitamin D.  Sometimes that’s supplementation.  You know, vitamin D is not very common in our foods.  Fatty fish, salmon, mushrooms if they’re exposed to UV light.  But it’s not much.  There’s vitamin D added milk, but sometimes there’s that need for supplementation just to make sure that you’re getting enough vitamin D so the baby gets enough vitamin D.  There’s B vitamins that you want to have enough of.  That will actually – some of them have been proven to help with mood.  So preventing risks of postpartum depression, things like that.  And really, when it comes to that, your body is so depleted in pregnancy.  So, so, so depleted.  So remembering that you have to not only replenish from that pregnancy, building an entire human, but your body is still taking nutrients from you to make that breastmilk.  So it’s having that same mindset that the baby is still – you know, you’re still providing nutrients for that baby.  So continuing on your prenatal or continuing that same kind of mindset of, like I said, nutrient-dense foods.  That’s how I counsel there.

Kristin:  So as far as – you know, you had mentioned pumping as well as breastfeeding.  Are there any tips for our listeners and clients who are returning to work and how to make sure that they’re getting nutrition throughout the day, something that’s easy to snack on?  They do have, obviously, dedicated pumping rooms by law, but what are your tips when time is short in the office to ensure that you’re able to, again, have less depletion?

Katie:  Yeah, that’s a really good question because regardless of pumping and breastfeeding in the workplace, it gets tough, right?  Sometimes you just get so busy throughout the day and you forget to drink water or whatever fluids you’re drinking.  You forget to eat.  You forget to take lunch.  I feel like in America we’re very work-centric.

Kristin:  We are.  There’s no doubt.

Katie:  So yeah, so I would say – it’s funny.  I was just talking to a dietician friend of mine, and she was telling me what she did when she was breastfeeding and working and things like that.  And she was like, I was so thirsty, and I was drinking all of this water and then I felt like I was drinking too much water, like flushing out electrolytes.  So it’s remembering, hydration is important, but electrolytes are super important, and there’s, like, a million products for electrolyte packets.  Or you could get it from food.  I think whatever makes sense to you.  Sometimes those electrolyte packets – you know, they’re a tool to use.  They have the calcium, sodium, magnesium.  Also, those foods.  So it’s coconut milk; very high in potassium.  Berry food, if you can tolerate berry, is full of tons of electrolytes.  There’s potassium-rich foods.  Juices, I’m a little hesitant about.  Juices can be okay, but I feel like they’re just extreme concentrated version of sugar.  So instead of orange juice, thing an orange; things like that.  Even avocados, snacks like that.  So if it’s a quick snack, red peppers and avocado, or even an avocado toast or those little energy balls that are made with nut butters and oats.  Add some chocolate chips in there; who cares.  If it tastes good.  But just remembering, you want the protein.  That will help keep you full.  That will help keep you alert.  If you do have just a snack of a 100-calorie granola bar, it’s probably not going to last you very long.  Just remembering that your body does need those calories, and it needs a lot of them.  And some nutrients are needed in an even higher amount than even in the third trimester of pregnancy.  So like I said, it’s keeping that mindset of, I am still providing for my child.  I need to also make sure I have enough for myself to make it through that workday, to make it through the whole night, right?

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  I know, again, your plans are very customized.  We happen to work with a lot of twin and triplet families, so I’m sure their needs are much different when you’re coming up with meal plans.

Katie:  Yes.  So to talk a little bit about what we have going on in Athena’s Bump, just because we haven’t done that yet – so it is a startup.  It is basically the founder, Claudia, she knew that she wanted to provide education around nutrition, around pregnancy.  She had two children a little bit earlier in life, and then recently – I think her little girl is three or four.  I don’t know.  She’s going to say I should know this.  But basically, there was a huge gap in between, and when she went to the doctor, what they were telling her nutritionally was about the same.  So she’s like, wait a minute.  You know, nutrition research has advanced.  Why are we still saying just take a prenatal and make sure it has folic acid?  So she knew that there was a gap, and when she started going into it, she’s like, wait a minute.  I need an expert.  So she reached out to me, and we’re kind of – you know, we’re still in the startup phase of where do we fit; where can we truly make a difference.  So we created our website.  Right now, you go onto our website, Athena’s Bump.  You can take a quiz.  Right now, it’s all free just because we’re in the beta version, but we basically take a quiz.  I tried to gear the questions on what I ask my clients and how I kind of customize meals for them.  So we kind of created this intelligent system of, based on your answers, we provide you specific recipes that your body needs.  So hopefully that can develop and improve.  We did talk about having it be, like you said, a gift, like a postpartum gift or pregnancy gift, so we are in the workings of that.  But we’re also in the process of creating a training program for birth professionals for nutrition specifically.

Kristin:  I heard that.  That’s so needed in this space.

Katie:  Yeah.  So we heard from doulas.  We heard from midwives.  And they were like, you know, actually, there’s not a lot of scientific based nutrition education around this time for us.  So we’re trying to give you guys practical information that you can then pass on to your clients.  And then on the back end, you’ll be able to use our recipe database and all that.

Kristin:  And you do have a community as part of the service, and it sounds like people can hire you directly versus through Athena’s Bump if they want customized consultation then, correct?

Katie:  Yeah, I do limited.  Yeah, so I do have a full time job, a day job, and this is my side job.  So I have limited availability, but I think one day, we will expand on that, once we kind of grow our network, maybe get some counseling.  Because that’s kind of truly my heart is it’s counseling.  It’s working with someone specifically.  It’s finding out their needs and how to kind of help them on their journey, meet them where they are.  And that’s kind of what we’re trying to do with Athena’s Bump.  But person to person is the best.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  So I know we talked quite a bit about, again, nutrition postnatally, but as far as some of these customized recipes and so on for anyone who has some medical concerns, like signs of preeclampsia or gestational diabetes, what are your tips for them, or how does working with your resources look different for individuals who have different medical conditions?

Katie:  Good question.  So we do have some questions in our quiz about that.  Are you at risk for gestational diabetes?  Have you been told you have that?  Same with preeclampsia.  So we try – my biggest thing is don’t restrict further than you have to, so that’s kind of like my goal.  So as far as gestational diabetes, we make sure that the recipes, the meals, are nutrient dense, but a little bit less carbohydrates.  A person with gestational diabetes shouldn’t be afraid of carbohydrates, but it’s really just about that food pairing.  You know, you can have carbohydrates.  You can have pasta.  You can have white bread.  All of that is fine.  You can have a dessert.  But you just don’t want to have too much at one time, and you want to make sure there’s enough fat and protein with those carbohydrates to kind of slow down that rise in blood sugar.  The biggest thing about gestational diabetes, and preeclampsia, too, it’s learning your body.  It’s being that detective of what can my body handle.  So whether it’s checking your blood sugar after different types of meals or really recognizing how you feel, checking your blood sugar, making sure you’re following that medication protocol if you are on that, talking with your doctor.  But every single person is different, and everybody’s body handles food differently.  So it’s really just making sure you are that detective for yourself.  Don’t rely on the doctor to know your body.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Yeah, I had preeclampsia late in pregnancy with my first, and my kids are 21 months apart, so I worked with a naturopathic doctor to really help me get the nutrients I needed and focus on minerals and so on.

Katie:  Definitely minerals, yep.

Kristin:   Yes, and I avoided preeclampsia the second time.

Katie:  That’s awesome.

Kristin:  I did have signs though, but I did not develop preeclampsia.

Katie:  Yeah, I mean, it can be a scary thing, and if you’ve never been through it before, and if you read anything about it, it’s very scary.  It can be pretty serious.  So yeah, I mean, I’ve heard – so I always – like, there’s the science, right, but then there’s anecdotal, like what works for everyone.  So, you know, it is making – it’s those electrolytes, making sure that you do have enough sodium, hydration, things like that.  It’s weird; it’s counterintuitive, but I’ve read some studies that say, you know, because of the increased blood volume, because of the more fluid in your body, your body does need those electrolytes.  It does need sodium.  We’ve always been told to cut back, cut back on sodium.  But during pregnancy, it’s really about that balance.  You know, I don’t say go eat a ton of processed food, a ton of chips, because that doesn’t make any sense.  But if you’re staying hydrated, if you’re eating those nutrient-rich foods, with a little bit of sea salt, I think that’s fine, if you’re having the potassium to balance out the sodium.  It’s really about that balance.

Kristin:  Yeah, and there’s been so much that has come out since I had kids, and you mentioned vitamin B3 and that is certainly a great preventative for preeclampsia.

Katie:  Yes, there’s tons of research about that, for sure.

Kristin:  So any final tips for our listeners, Katie?

Katie:  Really, just be kind.  Be patient with yourself.  You plan to eat all these meals, and I’m going to be great and I’m going to do this; I’m going to drink this much water.  And if it doesn’t work out, it’s okay.  Your next change is only one meal away, so it’s trying to meet yourself where you are, like I try to meet my clients.   Just be patient.  We’re all learning.  We’re all trying to do our best.  It’s tough.

Kristin:  Beautiful advice.  Thank you.  So how do our listeners find you?  I know you’ve got a website, and you’re on social media.

Katie:  Yeah, really, you can start at Athena’s Bump.  We have all of our links there.  We have TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook.  So, yeah.  We’re putting out tons of information.  Interact with us.  We love talking with our followers.

Kristin:  And they can sign up for your newsletter if they check out your website.  I know you’re also on LinkedIn for those listeners who don’t use social media.

Katie:  Yes, yes.  We try to hit all avenues.

Kristin:  That’s perfect.  Well, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, and it was lovely to chat with you today, Katie.

Katie:  Thank you so much.

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

Grandparents as Caregivers: Podcast Episode #184

Kristin chats with Kristin Morter of Gold Coast Doulas about the important role grandparents play as caregivers and how they should prepare themselves for taking care of a new little one.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, this is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am here today to chat with one of our own doulas, Kristin Morter.  Welcome, Kristin!

Kristin Morter:  Thank you!  Thanks so much for having me.

Kristin:  Happy to have you on.  So our topic today is all about supporting grandparents in today’s modern world with so many changes from when they were parents themselves.  Everything from safe sleep standards to feeding to car seat safety – all of it is much different.  So let’s get into it!

Kristin Morter:  That sounds great.  I’d love to.

Kristin:  Let’s start with a bit about your background, Kristin.  I know obviously you teach our Modern Grandparents class, but tell us a bit about your work as a doula and what led you to want to teach grandparents.

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, so I actually have a background also in early childhood education and development, and I’ve loved kids my whole life.  In become a doula, I just really found a passion in helping people just really get educated on what the best practices are and just making sure that they feel capable and knowledgeable about moving forward as parents.  And then the wonderful world of becoming a grandparent is just such an exciting time, and people want to be involved.  I think it’s amazing that our grandparents have the capabilities to be even more involved now than ever before and just making sure that there’s no conflicts between children and grandparents and making sure it’s a smooth transition into grandparenthood and just giving them all the tools they need.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So obviously, your course is available virtually to any grandparents who are out of state.  We are located in West Michigan.  And you also offer in person options, correct?

Kristin Morter:  Yes, that’s correct.

Kristin:  So it’s been great to introduce grandparents and especially during the pandemic times, we’ve had so much gifting of day and overnight postpartum support, even if they are able to come in to help in the first couple of weeks or are able to help out in the daytime.  They’re also realizing that they want sleep overnight to be able to help care for grandkids during the day, so that’s where gifting postpartum doula support comes in.

Kristin Morter:  Absolutely.  I don’t think that staying up overnight gets easier as we get older, so I definitely think that there is a huge benefit of hiring a postpartum doula so everybody can be energized and ready for the daytime because you never know what’s going to happen in those hours.  So I definitely agree that gifting postpartum doula hours overnight is an extra special way to bless your kids.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And certainly with your skill sets, since Gold Coast is launching our baby registry program, you’re one of our registry experts, and so you’re also able to walk them along any presents they want to gift, again outside of services, but baby gear products, really walking through baby carriers, understanding safe baby wearing, safe sleep, and so on.

Kristin Morter:  Yeah.  It’s incredible how fast things change, too, with all the baby stuff.  Even since I’ve had my kids, there’s so many cool new gadgets out there, and it’s impossible to try to keep up to date on all of it if you’re not living in it every day.  So I think it’s definitely a great way for me to be able to support grandparents and parents in keeping up to date on what’s been recalled, what is the best product for each individual lifestyle.  Yeah, it’s really been an awesome thing.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And certainly for grandparents who are caregiving in their own homes versus their children’s homes, understanding baby proofing and really how to set their house up for caregiving is also an important individualized concept that you cover in the class.

Kristin Morter:  Absolutely, yeah.  We don’t want people to be pulling out their pack and plays from the 1990s and bringing them back out for baby, so just making sure that everything is up to date and ready for baby to use and super safe.

Kristin:  Yes.   Let’s talk car seats, since so much has changed with car seat safety.  Give me your top tips as far as choosing the correct car seat and making sure it’s installed properly in every vehicle that is using a car seat and what you’ve learned not only as a postpartum doula but also as an educator.

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, so there’s really two different types of car seats that you can get for newborn infants and then growing up into early childhood stage.  There’s the baby carrier, like the bucket car seat that has the base that can be snapped in and out of the car.  So the base gets put in the back seat, and then you can clip the car seat in and out.  Also, you can just use the seat belt to put those bucket seats into the back seat.  Those are really convenient because you can remove baby.  You don’t have to worry if baby is sleeping.  You can just take the whole car seat out without waking them.  A lot of times now, there are strollers that can adapt to the individual’s car seats, so you can easily take the kiddos into the store with you or to a playground or a park.  The other kind is one of the transitional type of car seats that grows with the baby from infant all the way up to toddlerhood stage.  These are great because you don’t have to get multiple car seats, but the one downside of it is you’re not going to be able to remove it from your car for easy transport.  But I think depending on your lifestyle and where you’re going and what you’re wanting to do, you really have to take that into consideration when you’re picking out a car seat.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  And as you mentioned, there are many of the multiuse where you can clip it into a stroller, and my suggestion for clients is always to, if you’re going to be utilizing the same car seat that has a base, to make sure that each car that is going to be transporting baby will have a properly installed base versus trying to reinstall every time you’re transporting the baby.  Again, safety is so important.

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, and it’s really great to get it checked out, too, by a certified person who does car seat checks, whether it’s somebody from the police department or somebody in your local community.  There’s tons of resources out there and ways for you to be able to find who can check your car seat for you.

Kristin:  Yeah, usually no matter where you live, there are certain fire stations that have certified car seat safety technicians, but not every fire station does.  You need to look online.  And then locally, we have Secure Quest that can be found on a national registry for certified car seat safety technicians.  So you can certainly Google those options, but it is a good recommendation to have it properly installed.  Even the most modern ones that have the buttons that show, you can find that you didn’t exactly install it correctly once you have a tech look at it.

Kristin Morter:  Yes.  I remember when we were first putting in one of our car seats, we had a friend who was a car seat safety technician, and he came in, and we did not have it installed properly.  I’m so glad that he was able to catch that.  So it’s very important to get it checked out.

Kristin:  Yes.  And certainly feeding has changed so much, and there are obviously very modern pumping options.  Milk storage and formula feeding is much different now than it was.  What are your top feeding tips for grandparents who want to be involved in caregiving?

Kristin Morter:  My top feeding tips are just to make sure that you’re as supportive as possible with whatever feeding style your kids choose for their baby.  Absolutely, I love the whole method of pace feeding with babies.  It reduces gas, reduces colic.  It helps really mimic breastfeeding for breastfed babies but also reduces all of the air intake, too, for bottlefed babies.  I love the Haaka.  That’s one of the best feeding friends that you can have.  It’s like a breast pump that you can attach while you’re nursing and it catches the milk from the other side, too.  So it’s a great way to keep your breast milk from leaking out just into a breast pad or something else.  So it’s definitely a gift that a grandparent could buy for their daughter or daughter-in-law or for anybody breastfeeding.  Another thing is just to make sure that your kids aren’t having to transport bottle things back and forth.  Try to have a bottle brush and soap at your house available for bottle cleanings so you can send home clean bottles with your grandbabies, just so that parents aren’t having to pack up their entire kitchen to bring to your house.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And then certainly formula feeding for grandparents who are involved in formula feeding, following directions on the package because it is, again, much different.  As doulas, we follow the directions to a T.

Kristin Morter:  Absolutely.  And I’ve been noticing that there have been a lot more European brands of formula out there.  A lot of American brands are one scoop for every two ounces of water, and the European brands are one scoop to one ounce of water, so it’s very important to make sure that we’re following all those rules, making sure that the bottles are clean and sterilized before we use them.  And sterilize – normal dish soap can usually get the job done.  You don’t need to have a sterilizer in your house.  You can use a steam or UV light sterilizer, but it’s not needed.  But yeah, just making sure that you’re also using purified water to make those bottles and make sure everything is just really clean and neat.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So let’s move along to safe sleep.  Again, things have changed so much from when our parents raised us, so what are your top tips for grandparents to make sure that any sleep surface that baby is in is safe?

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, so oh my goodness, it definitely has changed.  I remember my mom talking about sleeping on our bellies and kind of being shocked.  Like, what, I was a tummy sleeper?  Then you had the side sleeping for a while, and then you had all these baby positioners in the cribs.

Kristin:  And bumpers and blankets and toys.  Everything was in the crib back then.  Not so much anymore.

Kristin Morter:  Right, we’re not even suggesting mobiles really just because it can be a distraction during sleep and you never know if it’s going to fall in.  So just making sure that you have a nice, firm mattress so that babies aren’t rolling over and getting their face plowed into the mattress that’s too soft.  Really tight fitting crib sheets are excellent.  You don’t want to have a lot of give in the material.  And then no bumper pads.  We don’t do that anymore.  We know that it’s not safe inside of the crib.  And back to sleep is best, so do everything that we can to put baby back to sleep.  Obviously, when they start rolling over that’s a different story, but just wanting to make sure that we’re trying to provide the safest area for them to sleep in.  Another great thing that’s been coming out has been the nests and the baby sleeper thing that you can put on the couch or the floor.  They’re not really safe for sleeping in.

Kristin:  You’re talking like a Dock A Tot?

Kristin Morter:  Yes, the Dock A Tot.  I couldn’t remember it for a second.  They’re not great for sleeping in for long periods of time.  It’s okay for short periods of time when the baby is being very supervised, but not for them to sleep in.  I know they get really cozy and sleep better in those sometimes, but it’s just not as safe as a nice firm mattress in a crib.

Kristin:  Yes.  They’re a station that you can set baby down in to be hands free for a moment with supervision, but just as you mentioned, they’re not safe sleep at all.

Kristin Morter:  Right.

Kristin:  So let’s move along to other topics that you cover in the modern grandparents class.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, so one of the things that we’ve been going over, too, is the generational differences of how we got our information.  So ways that they received their information when they were raising their kids was usually their doctor or a book that they had read, and nowadays, we really are a Google people.  If we need to know anything, we are researching it, and we are trying to figure out what the best practice is right away.  That can get overwhelming for people, too, so I think one of the nice things especially that we offer is those classes.  I think in-person classes have become a big thing probably since I’ve become a parent, at least.  I know classes were a big deal in the early 2000s, as well.  I think it’s been a huge asset to parenting just because you get to see other people’s opinions and their expertise and just really figure out for yourself how your family should move forward as far as parenting styles, breastfeeding, anything that you want to learn about.

Kristin:  Yes.  And any tips – you mentioned parenting styles – again, to be supportive when you’re talking with grandparents about how to support their children’s unique parenting style?  And again, we’re making sure that the advice you’re giving and the advice that our postpartum doula teams is obviously safe, but we support all parenting styles and utilize judgment-free support, so how does that apply to your class and really getting some acceptance with different parenting styles?

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, so I think a lot of times, there is a generational difference between how our parents raised us and how we’re raising our kids.  So that can cause a lot of tension in relationships and cause unnecessary conflict.  So I just really encourage all the grandparents coming through my class to be judgment free, to really take their kids’ perspective into consideration.  The grandkids aren’t their kids, and things have changed a lot since when they parented.  So I do think that while their advice is very needed and necessary at times and probably wanted, sometimes we just have to really pull back and think, okay, is this good advice?  Is this true today?  Is this something that’s going to help or hinder our relationship?  So just taking all those things into consideration is very important.

Kristin:  Yes, so true.  And I know like with my own personal family, I have a big family, many siblings, and many of them are parents.  And they all parent much different than, say, I do.  So my parents have learned to, as far as their role as grandparents, really support the individual styles.

Kristin Morter:  Yes.  I always say that these children were born to you, and so it’s your job to be able to do with them the best that you possible can, and whatever that looks like is so different varying from family to family.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So what else can we take away from the modern grandparents class?

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, one other thing that we’ve been talking about is introducing pets to babies.  That’s been actually a bigger topic of conversation than I thought, and people are getting really excited about it.  A lot of grandparents have gotten puppies since their kids have moved out of the house, and just making sure that those puppies and animals are ready for a baby to come into their home is really great.  So a lot of times I suggest bringing something that the baby has worn into the home before you bring baby into the house, just for the animal to smell.  I suggest putting it into a calm space, so like the dog’s bed or somewhere that they like to relax and be peaceful.  Once they get to know that scent, they’re less likely to be as excitable when the baby comes into the house for the first time.  And then there’s also a lot of great dog training tips that you can get from your local dog hospitals or even training centers.  You can ask your local vet, as well, just for different tips and pointers on what you should do to get your dog ready.  Dogs are kind of like kid people.  They each have a different personality, so that’s why it kind of varies a little bit from animal to animal.  But just having a great new introduction is a great way to start.

Kristin:  Yes, and many dog training centers have that adjusting to baby class, not only for puppies, but also full grown dogs.

Kristin Morter:  Yes.  It’s a great way to get our fur babies involved.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So any other items that are important to cover?  There’s even such a difference in toys and green items and looking into just, again, keeping up with recalls and knowing where to look for those.  Certainly even registering items that are purchased in case there is a recall so you can get a full refund.

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, there are a lot of sites that you can actually get a recall notice from.  I believe that is one of them.  It will give you recall notices.  But also making sure that the toys that you’re providing at your house kind of go along with the parenting style of the parents of the kids.  So if your kids are going more natural and wanting to stay away from chemical things, trying to get those hardwood, natural, Montessori type toys more in your home.  Another thing that’s important that I don’t think we ever thought about in the past is offgassing.  All the toxins that are in our toys, our bouncy seats, different clothes that we have.  Making sure that you put it in a well-ventilated area before baby uses it.  And then just making sure that we’re washing everything properly.  I know I’ve seen a handful of grandparents that just open it from the package and give it to the kid right away.  Let’s clean it first.  Let’s give it a little wash.  Making sure that we’re aware of the chemicals being used in products.  We are a generation, too, that is very – a lot more knowledgeable about what’s coming into our bodies and aware of what we’re exposing our children to, so I think being aware of what we’re doing and helping our kids out with that is great.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Thank you for sharing so many wonderful tips and insights into the modern grandparents class.  The class can be found at the Gold Coast Doulas website.  We also have information on social media.  Kristin is our instructor and can teach virtually as well as in person.  The virtual class is $85.  The in-person class is $125, and the class is private, so you’re able to, again, ask questions and work around your own busy schedule.  I know this is a relaunch of the class for us, but when we held the class pre-COVID years back, it didn’t work to have group classes because everyone has different availability.  Some grandparents are still working, so the daytime classes didn’t work, and weekends tend to be busy, so it was difficult to get everyone to match up on times, so we decided to make it a private class.

Kristin Morter:  Yeah, and it’s been great having the private class, just getting to know the grandparents, getting to see how excited they are and just share in that joy with them.  It’s just been a huge blessing to me, and I’ve really enjoyed it.

Kristin:  And it has been interesting as grandparents, of course, have been gifting postpartum doula support and some of our other classes for their children, but we’ve also had our clients gift their parents a grandparents course, so it’s been sort of a full circle moment.

Kristin Morter:  Yep.  It’s so great.

Kristin:  Yes.  Well, thank you so much, Kristin.  Any last words of advice for grandparents who are listening to the podcast?

Kristin Morter:  Just enjoy every moment of that grandbaby.  They grow up so fast, and you get to spoil them as much as you can and just really enjoy it.

Kristin:  Love it.  Thank you.

Kristin Morter:  Thank you so much.

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

Finding the Perfect Childcare Option: Podcast Episode #183

Kristin and Jaynie Fawley of Michigan Nanny Solutions chat about childcare options and finding the perfect nanny.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Jaynie Fawley today.  Jaynie is the owner and founder of Michigan Nanny Solutions, which started in 2013.  Jaynie is a professional nanny herself, and she saw a need in the Kalamazoo area for someone who could establish realistic expectations and standards for what the nanny job and the nanny-parent relationship should look like.  Jaynie wanted to be able to provide education, advocacy, and empowerment to the local nanny industry.  Michigan Nanny Solutions exists today to be that resource for nannies and families.  Jaynie is a professional career nanny and certified newborn care specialist with 16 years of experience supporting families in Kalamazoo.  She has spent the last eleven years working as a nanny with the same amazing family, now doing before and after school support for them.  So she knows the relationship that nannies have with their families and families have, so she craftfully pairs families with the perfect nanny for them.  Welcome, Jaynie.  So happy to have you here!

Jaynie:  Me, too!

Kristin:  So we are going to talk about everything from childcare options for a family with a new baby or expanding their family to hiring the perfect nanny.  So let’s get into it.

Jaynie:  Awesome, yeah.  So we as an agency specialist in placing long-term, professional nannies who are really well educated, highly qualified, and they’re looking for long-term placements where they can stay with a family for a long time.  Yes, ten years is a lot, but the average, you know, a family is hoping to have a nanny until they no longer need them, and nannies are hoping to have multi-year placement.  But part of our intake process with new families is helping them determine if that’s even the right choice for the family.  With so many options out there for childcare, for everything from having a family member watching the child so using an in-home daycare, daycare centers, all the way up to having a nanny, there’s a lot to consider.  I would say the first thing is the affordability of each option.  So if we’re looking at a relative caring for a childcare, that might be free or very reduced cost because it’s a grandma or an aunt or something like that, where there isn’t any legal requirement for the family to be paying a certain amount.  And then if we don’t have a family member that’s available, then maybe a family starts looking at daycares.  And an in-home daycare is an awesome option for a lot of families.  There’s a lot of pros and cons for that, but it tends to be the most affordable.  It tends to be $30, $40, $50 tops per day per child.  And then if they’re using a daycare center where there’s more children, more caregivers, more overhead, and also more qualified individuals working there, it’s going to be a little bit more expensive, averaging $75 per day per child.  And then a nanny with the current average hourly rate being $25 an hour, that could be $200 a day.  That’s going from $30 a day to $200 a day.  It’s a pretty big range.  So families will then decide, can I pay $500 a week or can I pay $55,000 per year.  That is a huge difference.

Kristin:  Right, exactly.  And certainly, I mean, there are au pair options and other choices within that range, but I’ve found from an agency owner perspective that many of my clients in the last couple of years during COVID have really wanted a nanny versus a center to avoid getting any kind of illness for their child or their entire family.

Jaynie:  Absolutely.  That’s kind of the second consideration is what is the availability of this childcare option, and through the pandemic, we saw a lot of daycare centers having to fully shut down.  And it could be days.  It could be weeks.  But that is potentially hundreds of children who are not getting care that week, and families are scrambling for backup care while also being considered about, does that mean my child was exposed last week?

Kristin:  Exactly.  And then you need to stay home because your child, you know, may not have COVID but was exposed.  Yes, and then teacher ratios.  It just – it does create a lot of difficulty for professional families.

Jaynie:  Right.  And of course, that exposure to kids – you know, honestly, back in pre-COVID, we used to say that one of the pros of using a daycare was that your child was going to be exposed to more germs, which is hard in those first years where it seems like your baby always has a runny nose and a wheezy little cough, but they just showed that they had increased immunity over time and would get less sick less often as they got older, where children coming out of nanny care, once they start kindergarten and first grade, that’s when they start getting all of those sicknesses, those runny noses, and those wheezy coughs.  So it used to be something that we would say is a selling point.  Like, oh, your kid’s going to have increased immunity.  Yes, that means that they’re sick more often, and then of course, the downside of that is a daycare will not provide sick care for your children, so you have to have a backup option.  And nannies do provide care for sick children, so that is one of the big checks in a pros column, which we saw a lot during the pandemic.  Families are like, my child has a sniffle.  They can’t go to daycare.  But as long as they don’t have COVID, the nanny will come, right?  Like, yes.  As long as there’s no COVID, your nanny is going to be there if your kids are sick.  If you’re sick and you’re not going to work, your nanny is still going to come, and most nannies are going to work when they have minor illnesses and injuries, so they’re less than that childcare.  You don’t need to be taking time off or scrambling to find backup care as often for those sick situations.

Kristin:  Yes.  And then as far as nannies, especially because you are picking, you know, the best of the best nannies for your families, but what would a typical nanny background and training be compared to an in-home daycare?

Jaynie:  It’s a great topic.  So when daycares that are in-home daycares – it’s generally somebody who obviously owns a home and is opening their home to provide daily, full-time childcare.  So they have to get licensed through the state.  They have to get their home licensed.  Everybody who lives in the home is background checked.  But there’s no requirements for any early childhood education or really any formal education for the person providing daycare.  And in daycare centers, the lead teacher in every single room has to have a degree in early childhood education.  The assistant teachers don’t have to have a degree, but they often have what’s called a CDA or a child development associate’s, which is a certification program.  But every staff person in a daycare center has to do continuing education.  So that’s one of the big wins of an early childcare center or a daycare center versus having just a licensed daycare.  But then nannies, most of the nannies that we represent do have degrees.  Some come from completely unrelated fields, but we see a lot of early childhood education individuals, lot of elementary educators who are leaving the classroom setting to start working in early childhood.  But at minimum, we work with candidates who have at least three years of professional childcare experience and are prioritizing the individuals who have stayed in positions kind of long term.  That’s who we tend to find the most success with.  But whether or not a nanny is educated, their job description, at the most basic level, is to fully invest in the personalized care for each child that they’re watching.  So for any nanny that’s working with a child, they are going to be intentionally contributing to that child’s physical development.  So for an infant, it’s making sure tummy time is happening.  Working on sitting up, working on crawling, working on walking.  They’re also working on that verbal and language development, which sometimes starts with, like, baby sign and goes on from there.  They’re also intentionally working on educational development.  So for infants, it’s a lot of sensory activities.  Toddlers and bigger, there’s more challenging fine motor skills, gross motor skills.  Letter, number, shape recognition; that kind of thing.  They’re also going to be intentionally working on social development.  So where socialization is a big mark in the pros column for both daycare centers and in-home daycares, nannies have to kind of go out of their way to provide socialization, but they’re really good at it.  So that’s doing music classes, story times at the library, meeting other nannies at the children’s museums, seeking out opportunities to get those children socialized.  And one of the benefits of a nanny is that the child that they’re watching is not just socializing with their age group like they do in the toddler room at a daycare.  They might be hanging out with infants, preschoolers, and elementary aged kids, depending on what time of year it is.  So they kind of get a broader range of socialization with more children in different environments.  And then, of course, emotional development is a big part of what nannies do.  Nannies tend to use, like, a connection-centered or gentle, positive discipline approach, which is working on a lot of emotional resilience from when they start with those children.  So whether they’re doing, like, a planned curriculum every day or just making sure that all of their interactions with that child are meeting some kind of a developmental goal, that’s their job.  That’s what they’re there for, and they can personalize that attention per child, where in a daycare center, every child is kind of learning the same thing, and they’re not able to adjust activities to make them more challenging for one child or less challenging for another.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  So what is the difference – I guess my main question is, between, like, finding an agency, like Michigan Nanny Solutions for your nanny, versus going to or Facebook groups?  What do you offer that would be different than a parent doing a search on their own?

Jaynie:  That is a great question.  One of the things I say all the time is that I’m not doing anything through the agency that a family cannot do themselves.  But the agency provides a more streamlined process where we’re able to attract and identify and screen and train and orient the best of the best of the nannies who are currently available.  So that means that when a family hires us, they’re not spending those hours and hours on screening, going through those messages, trying to get resumes.  It can be a lot of time investment just wading through people they don’t want to meet.  Where as the agency, that’s kind of my time wasted, not theirs.  So they’re going to pay the agency, tell us what they want, what their budget is, what they’re looking for, what kind of goals they want to have met, what their own family culture is like.  And then our job is to identify two or three individuals we think are going to be a really good fit.  So the parents have just these three – we’ll say three individuals presented to them with letters of recommendations, with references checked, with letters of interest written, professional resumes, and they just get to pick the one they like the most, which is pretty incredible.  That’s very empowering to be able to say, here’s three people who are excited about the opportunity, who are qualified to do it, and I just get to pick the one that I viscerally think is the best fit for myself, my children, my home, and our future together.  So that’s the biggest benefit of using the agency is less time wasted and better quality candidates that are fully vetted.

Kristin:  That makes sense.  So Jaynie, if someone wanted to, as far as their goals, if they wanted to include household tasks or school pickups, if a family has older children, or specific newborn care goals or even a nanny share, you would go through all of the options with them and then help them work out part-time nanny versus full time and what they’re looking for exactly and then screen that again versus going on any of the online sites, including

Jaynie:  Exactly, yes.  We take in applications and they fill out their applications with us.  We ask all of those questions up front from the candidates, too.  So if a family comes to us and says, “We’re really looking for somebody who has experiencing teaching in a Montessori classroom, and we would prefer for them to be this, that, and the other thing,” it’s very easy for us to go into our database and kind of narrow down who we already have available who meets those metrics.  And then we also offer the parents that option of, like, would you hire somebody amazing and then pay for them to get a Montessori training because as an agency, we have those resources to share.  And lo and behold, there’s actually a Montessori for nannies training course.  So we help facilitate so that needs are met no matter what.  And we have to be careful about certain demographic or things that can be discriminated against.  We try to make really good matches based on culture and preferences that way, but of course, we can’t discriminate.  So there’s certain things that we are able to be like, you want a Mandarin speaking nanny?  I will do everything I can to find you a Mandarin speaking nanny.  But if there’s certain other categories that I don’t even have the option to discuss with nannies, then families have to be more willing to say, okay, let’s focus on the Mandarin speaking nanny and not worry as much about those other things.  But that’s one of the benefits, too, of using a nanny agency.  We can prepare the person that you hire to meet your needs, even if they’re not ready to do so within their current training.  So families that have newborns, we often recommend, since nannies don’t always have newborn care experience, since they’re usually starting after maternity leave, we’ll say, why don’t you pay for this newborn care training, and that will better prepare them to take care of your children or when your baby comes home.”  This is usually like the nanny’s been there with the 2-year-old since maternity leave, and now they’re having a new baby, and they’re like, oh, we actually need our nanny.  So what can we do to get her ready for this newborn to come home and be really effective?  So we’re kind of here for that journey for families even after they hire their nanny to make sure that the nanny stays current with their professional development to continue to meet those needs.  The needs of a family with a newborn and the needs of a family with a preschooler as far as that kind of day to day stuff changes.  But things that are commonly a part of every nanny’s job – we’re prepared to do transportation, driving kids to and from school, driving kids to and from summer camps, driving kids to and from music classes and swim class, it’s just a part of our job.  So generally the nannies are going to use their own vehicle.  The family will provide car seats for each of their children.  And then the nanny’s responsibility is to keep track of their mileage and get mileage reimbursement from the family.  That is part of the cost of having an employee.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And then of course there are live-in nannies.  Do you do a lot of placements for live-in?

Jaynie:  We do not have a huge demand for live-in in West Michigan.  Live-in nannies tend to be most popular in the major metro areas where the nanny can’t afford to live within a reasonable commute from where her employers live.

Kristin:  Makes sense.  So Detroit would see that more often than West Michigan.

Jaynie:  Exactly.  But if the nanny can get there reasonably within not having to use public transportation, then they will – most nannies prefer not to live in, but in certain major metro areas, there’s no choice.  If you want to be a nanny, you’re going to end up living with the family.

Kristin:  Sure.  So as far as hours, say a family did have a live-in nanny.  Then they would have time off and ability to leave the home.  I’ve worked with our overnight postpartum doulas and newborn care specialists.  We’ve had families have nannies during the day or live-ins who were not working overnight because they needed to be rested for the family during the day.  So I would love for you to get into families with other professional services working within the home, whether it’s a household manager, a doula, newborn care specialist, and how the nannies can work seamlessly with other caregivers in the household.  A cleaning service or a housekeeping service.

Jaynie:  We see that a lot.  Families that can afford to hire nannies can tend to afford to hire these other services, as well.  And we’ve done placements for families where they have a nanny there for childcare.  They have a private educator there to do virtual schooling, and then they might have a household manager there packing lunches and making dinner.  So it can be a working household.  I think the best thing is that mom and dad have to know how to maintain that communication and how to hold those scopes of practice for each person.  If each person knows very clearly what their job responsibilities are and what expectations they’re needing to meet, there shouldn’t be a lot of confusion or overlap or somebody getting upset, that kind of thing.  When you have somebody who’s highly specialized coming in, like a newborn specialist or postpartum doula, who’s there to do stuff like overnight sleep conditioning, I would say that kind of trumps what the nanny does during the day.  For that consistency’s sake, then the family needs to help the nanny understand this postpartum doula, this newborn care specialist is going to come in and help us teach our newborn to sleep, so this is the plan that they would like you to follow during the day.  It needs to come from the parents.  So as long as the parents are able and willing to maintain their employer status, which each of those employees are contractors, the rest of that situation is going to go really well.  And the consistency is really important, so it’s nice when the family, the parents themselves, are able to say, all right, look, here’s what I need you to do, and here’s when you get to kind of take back over.  That helps everybody kind of not have any feelings hurt or make any big mistakes or missteps that would cause any kind of tension.

Kristin:  Yes.  And Jaynie, you also do placements for newborn care specialists.  Can you let our audience know a bit about what that specialty includes and why it is so different than the role of a nanny or even a postpartum doula?

Jaynie:  So newborn care specialists are highly trained.  Many are certified.  And their job is to come into the family’s home when they have a newborn, and most either are working a strictly overnight shift of 10 to 12 hours, or they’re doing a 24/7 shift with a couple of days off per week.  But they’re specifically there to kind of take over the sleep and routine for that infant.  They’re going to come in and help create routines, a daytime routine, a nighttime routine, a response plan for when that baby wakes and what they eat and all of that.  But their overarching goal is to focus on creating a very safe and sleep-conducive environment for the baby to sleep in, creating those daytime and nighttime routines, and then their goal is that by the time the babies are three to four months old, they should be sleeping through the night.  I’m doing quotes on “through the night” because it’s only, like, a six to eight hour stretch sometimes.  If your baby is sleeping six to eight hours in that first stretch of sleep, that is what we would consider sleeping through the night.  Ideally, eventually, they’ll get to, like, a 12-hour stretch of sleep.  But by three or four months old, if you can get your baby to that point, mom and dad are going to get so much better sleep after that newborn care specialist time there is done.  I also like to – because people understand very well what sleep training is, but what newborn care specialists do is not sleep training.  They are sleep conditioning.  So where sleep training, the goal is to alter your response to a child’s needs so that they need you less.  A newborn care specialist is being so intentional in responding to a baby’s needs every time they need them that they just naturally end up needing them less.  So you are never letting the baby cry.  You are always responding to needs, but with that foundation that you’re doing intentionally with each wake up, they will eventually start waking up less, and it’s depending on their size and nutrition and all of that, too.  We are not expecting a three-week old to be sleeping six to eight hour stretches.  But just kind of setting those really good foundations.  I find that many people will hire for the first time they have a baby.  They don’t really know – they want the support.  They would rather kind of give an expert, professional, the responsibility to help them learn how to teach their baby to sleep.  And then on the second side of that, we have a lot of calls from families who say, I have a two-year-old at home, and when I had that two-year-old, I was sleeping when that baby slept.  That’s what everyone told me.  Sleep when the baby sleeps.  She goes, when do I sleep now, if I have a two-year-old and a newborn?

Kristin:  That is the challenge, for sure.

Jaynie:  It is.  So then they’ll hire the newborn care specialist to come for that fourth trimester, that three or four month period, just so that mom and dad are getting that full night of sleep.  They’re better able to be parents to both children during the day, and then by the time that newborn care specialist contract is up after that three- or four-month period, they’re only waking up once or twice a night, which is sustainable.  It feels sustainable for a parent rather than only getting an hour of sleep here or there.  And then I would say the other people that call us are the multiple parents, the parents with twins and triplets.  They just need help.

Kristin:  Exactly.

Jaynie:  They need help, and a newborn care specialist can be so effective, especially with multiple and especially with preemie multiple where a first-time parent of newborns is going to get super overwhelmed and not know what to do.  Having that newborn care specialist as your professional support is going to just make everything so much easier.

Kristin:  Yes.  And sometimes with multiple, one baby is in the NICU, and another is home, so there’s that stress and strain and back and forth.  A newborn care specialist or postpartum care doula can be a huge asset.  And, you know, again, they can be different developmentally and different needs with sleep and feeding and so on.  I agree, it is a big demand to have that expert help.

Jaynie:  And in our culture, we don’t always have family members.  Back in previous generations, it was moms were mostly stay at home moms.  And their mom and mother-in-law would be retired or stay-at-home grandmas and so you kind of had that built-in support network of people who are not working during the day and who can come and help you.  And with the current generation, even our grandmas are often still working.  So these moms just really don’t have as much even familial support that’s available.  Somebody might be able to come for two or three hours, but that’s not enough to make a big difference, to give that parent enough reprieve.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And then of course, you know, if grandparents are involved in caregiving, they may not be up to date on the latest safe sleep standards or understanding car seat rules and regulations and so on.  There’s a big difference in feeding and so many things compared to when they were parents themselves.

Jaynie:  And they are tired.  They’ve raised their babies, so they don’t want to stay up all night with a baby.  They may not know how to sooth effectively.  So it’s helpful – it’s awesome when you can have that help, but if you don’t have that help, you can hire it.  There’s just about a service for everything nowadays, and helping people take care of their babies and children is no different.

Kristin:  So true.  So any final tips for our listeners, Jaynie?

Jaynie:  I think of the childcare industry, and I am personally and professionally invested.  I have been working with the same family for almost 11 years.  The children that I nanny are 11 and 9.  The 9-year-old, I held the day she was born, hours after her birth.  So I am so invested in the beauty of the industry.  But I also know that there are not great options out there, so I would just encourage parents to find the best of the best option and to find something that makes you feel in your heart of hearts and your soul of souls that my child is safe here, my child is loved here, these people or this person are going to be communicative, they are going to support me, and I can feel supportive of them.  And whether that’s an in-home daycare or a daycare center or a nanny – the only way a parent is going to go to work and stop worrying is if they have full trust and respect in their caregiver.  So going on that foundation is going to be the best place to start, and finding a place that you can count on long term is going to be a benefit, as well.

Kristin:  Love it.  Excellent advice.  So Jaynie, let’s get into how our listeners can find you.  You have a website; you’re active on Facebook, which is Michigan Nanny Solutions on Facebook.  They can find you on LinkedIn also as Michigan Nanny Solutions.  So we look forward to continuing our conversations, and thanks so much for all of your time and work you do with families and nannies alike.

Jaynie:  Thank you so much.  It was such a pleasure.

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

Adrenal Fatigue and Gut Issues Postpartum: Podcast Episode #182

We talk about addressing adrenal fatigue and gut issues postpartum with Maja Miller of Maja Miller Wellness.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Maja Miller today of Maja Miller Wellness.  She is a metabolic health coach and clinical functional nutritionist.  Welcome, Maja!

Maja:  Hi!  I’m so excited to be here.

Kristin:  So I know our main focus is all about adrenal fatigue and gut issues in the postnatal phase.  So there’s so many buzzwords around adrenal fatigue and gut issues, and our listeners may not even really understand what that’s all about.  So fill us in!

Maja:  Well, adrenal issues and gut issues are often present also prenatally.  And I often see those kind of things get worse after the delivery of the baby.  So a lot of my clients are actually moms that are either stay at home moms or they are working moms, and they’ve had one, two, three plus pregnancies.  And I think what a lot of people don’t understand is that there is that – a pregnancy is one of three kinds of stressors you can put on your body.  Let’s kind of separate adrenal and gut issues.  I’ll first kind of talk a little bit about adrenal issues, but some people, some of your listeners may have heard of this as adrenal fatigue.  Clinicians essentially call it HPA axis dysfunction.  So the HPA stands for the hypothalamus, the pituitary, and the adrenals.  And the hypothalamus and the pituitary live in your brain, and your adrenals are these two kind of sugar cube sized organs.  You have two of them.  One sits kind of right above each kidney.  And the adrenals get turned on when your fight or flight portion of your nervous system, your sympathetic nervous system, gets turned on.  So back in the day, we would be out hunting or gathering food.  We would see a tiger.  That would be perceived as a stressor, and our adrenals would kick on.  The autonomic nervous system, specifically the sympathetic nervous system, would kick on, and there would be a cortisol surge in your body.  And cortisol is really great in small amounts, and it is a catabolic steroid.  Anabolic steroids build you up, and catabolic steroids build you down.  And the difference and kind of the problem between back in the hunter gatherer days where we would have an occasional saber tooth tiger sighting, right now our stress is off the charts, and stress is the number sixth leading cause of death.  Most people don’t understand that stress isn’t just a stressful day at work.  There are three different categories of stress.  One is a physical stressor, and labor, delivery, and growing the baby prenatal and postnatal, that is a massive physical stressor on a woman.  And then the baby comes, and then there’s a lot of biochemical stressors, so things like not getting enough sleep.  Maybe you’re not eating appropriately.  Antibiotic use, alcohol use, over the counter medicines, inflammatory foods, exposure to pesticides and insecticides, these are all biochemical stressors.  And then you’ve got that third stress category that I think a lot of people are familiar with, which are perceived or emotional stressors, which postpartum – it definitely fits into that.  Am I being a good mom?  Should I breastfeed or bottle feed?  There’s so many decisions that we make in that postnatal period that can be incredibly stressful.  So once you take a step back and take a broader definition or a broader view of what is a stressor, now all of a sudden you realize that the occasional saber tooth tiger sighting has turned into constant, chronic, acute stress all day, every day, which results in flooding your system with cortisol, which means that you’re being – literally, it breaks you down at a cellular level.  So that’s kind of one of the things that I think a lot of moms are kind of dealing with in the postpartum phase, and a lot of what you deal with in the postpartum phase is linked with what you do leading up to your pregnancy, as well.   So that’s the adrenal fatigue, the HPA axis side of things.  And gut issues is a physical – can be a physical stressor or a biochemical stressor.  There may be parasites.  There may be pathogens.  You can have a bacterial overgrowth.  You can have structural damage in the gut, which leads to a very low grade sepsis.  Essentially, that’s what leaky gut is.  And that is one of those stressors that can lead to cortisol being pumped through the body.  So all of these things are very closely related, even though they’re two separate topics.

Kristin:   That makes complete sense.  So someone may have adrenal fatigue, but no gut issues?  Or do they usually go hand in hand?  Or what if someone only has gut issues and no fatigue?

Maja:  I like to take a look at symptoms.  So what are you feeling like?  And I’ll describe a very typical client of mine.  Little to no energy, problems either falling asleep or staying asleep; bloating, gas, sort of GI upsets.  That could be constipation or diarrhea or a combination of the two.  Often, no or low libido, so not interested in sex.  That’s typical in the postpartum phase for other reasons, but we’re just assuming this person is not in the phase.  A lot of skin issues, and then a lot of neurological symptoms.  So brain fog, anxiety, depression, those kinds of things, like having a hard time remembering.  Like, you’re looking at your daughter, and you can’t remember her name.  You obviously know your daughter, but you’re having a hard time figuring out what is – remembering their name.  Oftentimes, when you see those types of symptoms, it’s rarely just one things that’s happening.  And I rarely see folks that gut is completely clear and hormones are on point.  Usually, it’s a combination of things, and gut and adrenals are very closely tied together because every time that cortisol stimulates mast cells in the gut – essentially, there’s a histamine response that happens.  So stress and gut are very closely related.  It’s rare for me – these days, when you have all of those symptoms, it’s almost always gut.  What most people don’t realize is that your gut is where 80% of your immune system lives.  You have more neurons in your gut than you do in your spinal column.  You’ve got five to ten pounds of bacteria in there.  The gut is where a lot of our metabolism is at.  So gut has a very incredible role in how you respond to stress.  It’s why a lot of doctors refer to the gut as your second brain.  A lot of the times if you have gut permeability, structural issues in the gut, there can be something called leaky brain, as well.  A lot of these GI symptoms are highly correlated and tied to neurological symptoms like anxiety, depression, brain fog, those kinds of things.

Kristin:  Interesting.  So I can definitely see why a lot of your clients are seeing you early in pregnancy versus waiting until they have their baby and they’re in the postpartum recovery phase.

Maja:  Yeah, I wish that more people kind of understood just how the body is connected and how stress especially impacts babies in utero.  It’s in utero where your child’s nervous system kind of maps to your nervous system, and you can kind of impact whether or not that child is going to be kind of prone to fight or flight, which is that sympathetic nervous system, or the rest and digest, which is the parasympathetic nervous system, and you want to have a good balance of the two.  I am seven weeks away from giving birth to my first son, so this is – I was so excited to talk to you, and I miscarried about a year and a half ago or so.  I realized that my body wasn’t ready to get and stay pregnant.  And so I really over the last year and a half, two years – I’d already been doing a lot of work with kind of taking a holistic approach to my body, and where are my minerals at?  Where are my hormones?  Where are my inflammatory markers?  Am I sleeping well?  How are my energy levels?  And I had an extreme period of stress.  I would say probably extreme – probably a two year extreme period of stress, but before that, I was burning the candle at both ends.  I was an entrepreneur.  I’d moved to a new state, started my own company.  And I just knew that I needed to kind of fix some things.  It took some time, but here I am at the end of my third trimester.  I had no morning system.  I had no energy issues.  I had no crazy cravings.  I craved healthy food, but didn’t have crazy cravings for sweet things or fast food.  I’ve had little to no swelling.  It’s been amazing, and my husband likes to remind me, because I’m like, this has been such an easy pregnancy.  He likes to remind me that it was a lot of work to get me to this particular point.  So I wish that I saw more clients a year in advance.

Kristin:  Pre-conception, like when they’re talking about having kids.  It makes a lot of sense.

Maja:  Yes, but oftentimes what ends up happening is I see them after they’ve given birth or after they’re kind of done having babies, and the having given birth triggered a lot of things in them.  Sometimes that physical stressor will have triggered an autoimmune disease in them.  I wish it was the other way around.  I’d say probably 90, 95% of the time, I’m seeing folks – I’m seeing mamas after they’ve given birth, and I wish it was the other way around.

Kristin:   Yeah, of course.  It’s all about education and awareness, so now our listeners know about options, for those who are not currently pregnant.  And even if they’re in late stages of pregnancy, I’m sure that you could help them make some progress.

Maja:  Totally.  It’s never too late to start, and there’s so many things that you can do just from a lifestyle perspective that will move the needle substantially.  What I do with my clients – I’m really allergic to kind of cookie cutter programs and cookie cutter coaches that say there’s one way to do things.

Kristin:  We’re all unique.  Yeah, cookie cutter doesn’t work.

Maja:  No, and bio individuality is a very real concept, and that simply means that your metabolism is as unique as your fingerprint.  There isn’t another metabolism or fingerprint out there just like yours.  And so I think it’s really important to get a baseline for what is happening in all of your systems.  What I do with my clients is I run – once I do a medical intake with them and kind of understand, what are their symptoms, what are their main complaints, what are their past diagnoses – just spend a couple of hours really getting to know them.  Then I say, okay, I feel like we need to run some baseline labs.  So I might do blood chemistry.  I might do a lab called the GI map, which is essentially a stool sample that maps your microbiome.  If you have a history of autoimmune disease, I might run the Cyrex Array 5 to see if there’s any other kind of autoimmune predictive antibodies that are popping up.  And with every single one of my clients, I run a mineral analysis.  It’s a hair tissue mineral analysis, because minerals are just as important as hormones.  So there’s a handful of labs that I’ll run, and then that paints a picture for me.  And oftentimes, I mean, on average, my clients have seen 12 doctors before they come to me, and all of those doctors tell them that everything is fine and that all of their labs are in range and normal.  And yet all of those symptoms that I described at the beginning of our conversation – their hair is falling out.  Like, all this crazy stuff is happening.  You’re like, that’s not normal.  So oftentimes I’m able to take a look.  Look at the labs through a functional lens versus a clinical lens, and I’m able to kind of connect the dots.  And I’m not just looking at one system.  I’m looking at what’s going on with hormones, what’s going on with gut, what’s going on with mineral levels.  There’s all sorts of labs that I can run that paint a picture that tell me, oh, okay, this is why you’re having the skin issues.  This is why you’re having some brain fog issues.  And then I’m able to use those labs to kind of create tailored protocols to reverse those symptoms.  And I think that’s really – that’s really the goal.  One of my clients that I’m kind of in the process of wrapping up with in the next month or so – she is one of the few where I’m working with her because having a baby is a goal, and when I first started working with her – this was probably in June – her main complaints were lack of energy and fatigue, often at a scale of 8.  So from a scale of 1 to 10, it was like an 8.  So pretty high, right?  Bloating and cramping on a scale of 1 to 10, a 7.  Periodic weight gain – she kind of ranked that as a 5.  Anxiety often at a 3.  Periodic stress was a 2.  And so one of the first things that I do – you take this test.  It’s a medical intake where I figure out what is your metabolic chaos scorecard.  And metabolic chaos is not good.  You want to have as low a score as possible.  When I first started working with her, her metabolic chaos score was 178, which is very high.  I just had her take it again, and she had a 60% improvement.  Her metabolic chaos score is now a 70.

Kristin:  That’s amazing!

Maja:  And there’s another kind of intake that I do.  It’s called an adrenal stress causes that tells me where is the majority of your stress.  Is it mental emotional?  Is it environmental?  Is it lifestyle?  Is there metabolism stress?  So she went from a 69 to a 41, so that’s about a 40% decrease in stress.  And the metabolic chaos score improved by about 60%.  So what I’m doing is decreasing stress and increasing vital reserve, which means that you’re more likely to be able to get pregnant and stay pregnant, which is kind of the goal that all moms have.

Kristin:   Absolutely.  That is impressive.  What a case study!

Maja:  Yeah, I’m super proud of her.  I just had a call with her today, so she’s very top of mind for me.  I’m super proud of her, and yeah, she wants to be a mom, and she wants – we as moms want to give our kids the best chance at having healthy productive lives, and if we take a look at the incidence of autoimmune disease in kids, allergies in kids, asthma in kids –

Kristin:  It’s so high right now, yes.

Maja:  It is, and a lot of this stuff is environment, right?  Like, genes take millions of years to change, and this is all changed very much within a generation or two.  Like, I am 44 years old, and I don’t remember any kids that have peanut allergies.  Maybe one kid in my class, grade school, may have had an inhaler and had asthma.  But now it’s rare if you don’t have some sort of gnarly food allergy.  A lot of that is environmental.  Nothing in our genes has changed to trigger that big of a difference within a generation or two, so a lot of this is, what can you do prenatally, but as you said, it’s never too late to start.  There are always things that you can do.

Kristin:  Yes, exactly.  And so what is a typical amount of time that you are seeing your clients?  I mean, I’m sure it varies because everyone’s unique.

Maja:  Yeah, I would say probably 70% of my clients, I work with for about eight months.  And there’s maybe 20, 30% of my clients, something like that, that I will work with for about a full year.  Very rarely, if ever, am I doing – I can’t even think of a client that I’ve worked with for really more than 14 months, I would say.  And so the way that I typically work with my clients is that we do a two-month engagement, and that engagement is all of the intake, getting to know you, figuring out what labs to run, running all of the labs, and then I kind of deliver an R&R, a results and recommendations.  It’s a couple hour call where I walk you through, here’s all of your results.  Here’s how these results impact to your symptoms.  And then this is how I would want to work with you, and that’s kind of, I say, okay, I think it will take another six months, or I think it will take another eight months.  And I kind of walk them through what the high level plan would be.  And so that’s typical, so I start with that two-month engagement, and then I work with folks in six-month chunks of time.  So yeah, that’s kind of how I work with people, and I always say, like, I always ask people, well, how long have you been kind of stressed out or burning the candle at both ends or maybe not working out or maybe not eating the best?  And people are like, three years; five years; ten years.  So I think it’s really important to set the expectation at the very beginning that this isn’t going to be like an overnight, 21-day challenge kind of thing because typically when you’re seeing those kinds of symptoms that I talked about today, they’re really impacting people’s lives.  I mean, one of my clients essentially said she didn’t remember the first year of her daughter’s life, which was devastating.  She was so stressed out, had so much brain fog.  She was just so unhealthy that she doesn’t even remember.  So she was getting ready to have another baby, and she was like, I just want to do it differently this time.  So there’s some very real consequences for some of this stuff, and it’s always nice to be able to do a lot of this work ahead of time.

Kristin:  Yes.

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Kristin:  So are most of your clients local?  I know you offer virtual services, so do you work with people all over?

Maja:  I have two clients – three clients that are local, and the rest of my clients are international.  Japan, the UK, and then in other – they’re also in other states.  I think COVID kind of changed the way that people like to work, and they like to be able to – you know, one of my clients lives in Austin, but she happens to be in Michigan with family for the holidays.  So it’s nice that I’m, for the most part, able to send lab kits out to wherever you are.  Sometimes if you’re in a weird international location, it may not be possible, but yeah, I have clients kind of all over the world.  I just wrapped up a few months ago with a client that’s in the armed forces in Japan.  So people are all over.  It’s pretty easy to connect.

Kristin:  Yes.  So Maja, as far as our clients who are newly postpartum, what would be the difference in your depletion and just that tired state versus having full on adrenal fatigue?  When should they reach out, at what point, if they’re seen their doctor and the doctor’s like, you’re fine; you’re healthy.  This is just normal postpartum recover.

Maja:  Yeah, I don’t think that a lot of the things that we are told is normal is actually normal.  And I think that a lot of the things that we experience as women – we are told that, oh, this is just part of being a woman.  This is just part of getting older.  This is just a part of being a mom.  I know lots of moms that have children that work that didn’t experience postpartum depression where their hair didn’t fall out, where they had fairly good energy.  But they had very different lead-up to pregnancy and very different recovery in pregnancy.  And so I would say that there is no such thing as, like, normal anxiety, normal diarrhea, normal depression.  None of it is normal.  That is not how our bodies are naturally wired to operate.  But I feel like a lot of this has been normalized.  I feel that if men gave birth, grew and gave birth to children, and they felt like so many of the moms I know feel postpartum, a lot of things would change.

Kristin:  Agreed.

Maja:  Family leave would change.  What we expect our moms to do would change.  How we feed ourselves and what we take on as women would change.  And so I always like to start there.  We are hard wired to have energy, to have mental clarity, to have solid, consistent bowel movements.  That is actually baseline.  And if you are feeling any of these other things, oftentimes I can point back to micronutrient deficiencies.  Those are your vitamins, your minerals, your amino acids, your essential fatty acids.  I can point to interruptions in sleep, which is just a part of the early phase of parenthood, I know, but I can point to lack of light exposure in the iris, so your circadian rhythm is off.  I can point to a lot of lifestyle things that we can tweak to make those symptoms either completely go away or never happen to begin with.  And so there are four stages of HPA axis dysfunction, so adrenal dysfunction.  And I’d like to say it – like, it’s important.  A lot of people call it adrenal fatigue, but because there’s that axis, there could be an issue with your hypothalamus signaling to your pituitary, or there could be an issue with your pituitary signaling to your adrenals.  And so that’s why I think a lot of clinicians will kind of talk about HPA axis dysfunction, but we can just call it adrenal dysfunction or adrenal fatigue.  But there are four stages of adrenal dysfunction in that HPA axis.  The first stage is you are thriving.  You’ve got lots of energy.  You’re able to go to sleep at night.  I’m not going to talk a lot about that because most of the clients that I work with aren’t there.  They’re not there.  But the first kind of stage of HPA axis dysfunction, it’s called the stress phase.  And you may feel edgy.  Other people may be, like, too slow, so that’s how others seem to you.  Like, man, they’re just not driving fast enough, or they’re not bagging my groceries fast enough.  It may be very difficult to fall asleep at night.  Your mental function can be kind of fast and scattered.  So that’s kind of the first phase.  We’ve got some acute stress that’s happening.  When that acute stress becomes prolonged, we move into the second and kind of third dysfunctional phase.  The next phase is called tired and wired, and it’s very much what it sounds like.  You’re exhausted, but you’re kind of wired, and you have a hard time staying asleep or falling asleep.  You may feel very overwhelmed.  Other people may seem kind of incompetent to you, and your mental function is just a little erratic.  You’re bouncing around from ideas.  You’re multitasking; where was I; what was I just doing.  You’re just kind of all over the place.  When the stressors still continue, you will end up in a crash phase, and in that, you feel complete, absolute exhaustion.  You can barely make it to the end of the day.  You’re crashing in the middle of the day.  You’re trying to make it to Friday so that you can sleep all day Saturday and Sunday.  You may be sleeping a lot, but you wake up and you’re like, did I – it’s very unrefreshing, and you’re completely unable to generate ideas.  There’s a lot of brain fog here.  Oftentimes can be associated with anxiety and depression, and you’re just in a completely exhausted state.  I think that it’s good to understand all three of these phases, and you have to know yourself.  Do you have a good balance?  There’s going to be times when we’re stressed out, as long as we know how to manage that.  But if you feel like you have had prolonged stress in your life, you’ve worked with a couple of doctors, everybody’s telling you you’re fine, or they refuse to run labs is a huge red flag for me, when doctors refuse to run labs that their patients ask of them.  It’s time to get a new doctor.  And then it’s time to reach out and it’s time to get some help, and the reality is, when we’re alone at night and the music has stopped, we know if we need help, when something becomes a little bit too much.  And I would say listen to that whisper because it doesn’t get better on your own.  It gets worse.  Stress just compounds and gets worse and worse.  So I would say – gosh, I mean, reach out if you’re having any of those symptoms that we talked about today.  Like, none of it is normal.  It’s preventing you from living a big, powerful life.  And that’s kind of the marker that I use.  Are you unable to do the things that you want to do in your life, whether that’s go back to work, whether that’s participate in nonprofit work, whether that’s fully participate in your child’s life, right, because you’re so dang tired.  It’s time to throw your hand up in the air and say, I need some help, and do something different about it.  Once you’re experiencing these symptoms, it’s very difficult to make change.

Kristin:  It makes sense.  And if people are telling you that’s just normal – yeah, you hear all these other stories.  Yeah, I was tired; I was in a fog.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Maja:  One of the things that I love – I’ve been doing a lot of podcasts, and one of the things that I am constantly hearing, usually from the podcast host, which are usually entrepreneurs or business people – they’ve felt like crap.  They went to the doctor, and the doctor would, like, run some labs, right, and then they would often respond with, “Your labs came back normal.”  I hear this with thyroid labs all the time.  So what I like to talk about is the difference between functional ranges and clinical ranges.  And if you take a look at – there’s two main companies in the US that run labs.  I think it’s LabQuest and CPL are the two main ones.  And let’s just take thyroid labs, like a thyroid panel, to begin with, so that we can talk about something very specific.  So what they do is they will – well, first of all, when’s the last time you’ve asked your doctor to run a lab when you’ve been feeling great?  Probably never.  It’s usually when you feel like garbage that you’re like, oh my God, there must be something wrong.  Doctor, please take some blood.  Tell me if you see anything.

Kristin:  Exactly.  That’s the only time I have.

Maja:  It’s the only time, right?  And so what CPL and Quest Diagnostics, what these companies do is they take a statistical average of all the people that, let’s say, had their TSH, thyroid stimulating thyroid, run.  And then they give you a clinical range of what is considered normal.  But what I like to highlight is that it’s just telling you what the average is of an increasingly unhealthy population, right?

Kristin:  Yes.

Maja:  So it’s telling you what’s common.  It’s not telling you what’s normal.  So if you take a look at the TSH clinical range, it can go anywhere between 0.5 and 6 or 7 or something crazy for some of these.  The lab ranges vary with the different lab companies.  Now, when I look at TSH, my functional range, which tells you what is optimal versus what is common, is 0.52.  So if your TSH came in at a 4 or a 5, that is well within a clinical range.  That being said, you probably have some symptoms of hypothyroid, right?  And so I always like to educate folks on, okay, if your doctor is saying that everything is normal, everything is in range, they are probably using clinical ranges that tell you what’s common, and I do not want to be compared to the average American in the United States.  We have, what, 80% obese and overweight rates.  I mean, type one diabetes, type two diabetes.  I do not want to be compared to what’s common in the US.  I want to be compared to what is optimal.  So when it comes to – that’s the first issue, right, with TSH.  Or I’m sorry, with running labs and the doctors being like, oh, it’s normal.  Well, the other things that they often do is just run TSH.  But I want to know what’s going on with your total T4.  What’s going on with your free T4.  What’s going on with total T3, free T3, T3 uptake, reverse T3, antibodies, TPG antibodies.  I want to know the ratio between total T3 and reverse T3.  I want to know the ratio between free T3 and reverse T3.  All of those, in addition to TSH, which is typically the only thing that a doctor will run.  They will not run a full thyroid panel.  And so that’s kind of the second issue that I find a lot, which is my clients say, okay, there’s no issue with thyroid, and I’m like, okay, well, what labs did they run?  Oh, just a TSH.  Okay, well, how about we run a full thyroid panel, and yeah, TSH was in range, but all of these other markers were not in range.  So if you don’t dig past the very surface, sometimes you don’t uncover some of the things that are an issue.

Kristin:  It’s all about being your own advocate and going deeper, yes.

Maja:  Yes, you have to be your own advocate.  I’m finding that right now.  Especially being pregnant, making some birthing decisions around what I’m doing, where I feel safe, and you do have to advocate for yourself.  And it’s a red flag if the doctor refuses to run the lab, and then red flag if you have symptoms and they tell you that everything is normal.  Because what they’re essentially saying is that you’re lying.

Kristin:  Yeah, and that’s hard.  So what’s your final tip?  You’ve given so many wonderful tips to our listeners, but if you were to give one final tip to our listeners who are either newly pregnant or in the postnatal recovery phase, what would that be?

Maja:  So I would say newly pregnant or postnatal recovery phase, I think that understanding what your mineral balance is like is mission critical.  I think that people do not talk about minerals as much as – ever.  I’ve never had a doctor be like, oh, I wonder what’s going on with your minerals.  And doing a hair tissue mineral analysis, I think, is one of the most powerful things that you can do.  This lab looks at mineral deposits in your hair.  And what I love about it is unlike blood work, which is a moment in time, this lab gives you a three-month snapshot into kind of what’s happening.  And so when it comes to minerals, there are primary, secondary, and tertiary minerals.  You want to kind of think about them like a triangle.  And at base are these primary minerals, so magnesium, calcium, sodium, and potassium.  If those four primary minerals are off, typically, there are a combination of other minerals that are off, because remember, they’re kind of at the base of the mineral triangle.  And minerals make up the earth, and they also make up our bodies.  And what a lot of people don’t understand is they help hundreds, if not thousands, of metabolic processes in the body.  So, for example, we talked about thyroid a little bit in our session today.  There are nine minerals that help in the conversion of T4, which is the inactive form of thyroid hormone, into the active form of thyroid hormone, which is T3.  So we can test T3 and T4 levels, but why am I not converting T4 to T3?  What most doctors and a lot of practitioners don’t understand is that there are minerals – there are cofactors that actually help in that conversion process.  And so I think minerals, understanding minerals, is the most important thing that you can do, and both prenatal and postpartum, it’s safe.  It’s calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium.  Those are all things that are in a typical prenatal, so it’s easy to kind of see what’s going on.  Magnesium is responsible for, like, RNA and DNA development.  I mean, muscle repair, some really, really important things.  And what I find in a lot of moms is that they have been – especially if you’ve been under stress for a really long time, you’re completely bottomed out.  You don’t have enough calcium, magnesium, sodium, or potassium.  And we don’t have enough time to get into why all of those are important, but they are very, very important.

Kristin:  Fascinating.  I could talk to you all day.  So much knowledge that you’re dropping.

Maja:  So I would say that is such a safe thing that you can do.  I’m not going to mess with hormones in pregnancy or really in the – most people shouldn’t mess with hormones ever, because hormones are rarely a problem.  They’re typically a symptom of the problem.  But there’s some things that we aren’t going to do when you’re in this delicate phase of growing a human or having just delivered a human.  But minerals is something that is so easy to do and easy – not easy to fix, but kind of easy to address.  That’s the one thing.  I’ve been on a big minerals kick where I just want to scream from the top of the mountains, like, check your minerals.

Kristin:  So how can our listeners find you?  I know you’re all over social media.  You’ve got a website.

Maja:  Yeah, I’m not a huge social media person, but you can find me on Facebook.  You can message me on Facebook.  I have a lot of content on my Facebook page around the labs and the work that I do.  But honestly, if you’re like, I want to talk to you, you can go to, and you can just fill out a quick little questionnaire and then just schedule a call with me.  I like to be really accessible.  I’m not going to pretend I’m inaccessible and you can’t talk to me.  Like, email me.  Go to and fill out that quick little questionnaire and set up a call, or you can message me on Facebook.  Messenger pigeon, smoke signals, whatever.  I’m really easy to get a hold of if you want to reach out.  And I know how hopeless and overwhelming a lot of this can feel because I’ve been there myself, and I’ve felt the disappointment of losing a pregnancy and really not knowing where to start.  People teach what they need to learn, so I was my first client.

Kristin:  I love it.

Maja:  So yeah, those are all the ways that people can get a hold of me.

Kristin:  Well, I loved chatting with you today, Maja.  Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with our listeners.  I hope you have a great day.

Maja:  Thank you so much.  Same to you.

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

Prenatal Body Balancing with Heidi of Mind Body Baby: Podcast Episode #181

Kristin chats with Heidi McDowell of Mind Body Baby about the benefits of prenatal body balancing.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Heidi McDowell today from Mind Body Baby.  She is the owner of the business, as well as an instructor of multiple classes.  So welcome, Heidi!

Heidi:  Hi.  Thanks for having me.

Kristin:  So you have such a broad background in everything birth, pregnancy, and baby.  So you started out, of course, as a postpartum doulas with Gold Coast and then got certified as a birth doula.  I was so fortunate to be your partner.  And then you opened this amazing business, Mind Body Baby.  You have such a broad background in yoga and very specialized certifications, and you also recently of course have gotten trained in this Body Ready Method, so I’m really excited to learn more about body balancing from you today.

Heidi:  Yeah, absolutely.  My background is just this obsessiveness about all things on the journey to motherhood.  So anything fertility, prenatal, postpartum.  I just recently finished my training with Body Ready Method with Lindsay McCoy, and that was so amazing.  I always knew that there was a piece kind of missing to all of the teachings that I’ve done, all of the certifications, all the trainings.  The big piece was always this anatomy physiology.  Even going through my yoga training, we talk so much about yoga, but we talk about it in the anatomy context of yoga.

Kristin:  Right, so different.

Heidi:  It is so different.  So when thinking about somebody who is pregnant or expecting, that birthing anatomy, as you know as a doula, changes so significantly that I knew that there was more that we could be doing in that pregnancy phase to be able to not only make pregnancy more comfortable but also to help with a more efficient birth with less interventions and perhaps even making that birth a little bit shorter, right, which then creates a better healing and postpartum, too.  It was really exciting to be able to dive in and really just sink my teeth into a new training.  I loved it so much.

Kristin:  Yes, and as a doula, we love to have shorter labors.  Our clients, of course, appreciate that.

Heidi:  Right, absolutely.  There’s not any person that is sitting there going, yes, I would love that long pain for labor.  As a doula, we don’t want that for our clients, and we know that they don’t want that.  We know that birth can unfold any way that birth is going to unfold, so it’s not about trying to hack the birth and make it go faster.  A fast birth isn’t necessarily what we’re looking for.  Nobody wants that, because that can be traumatic as well.  But just making it to be more physiological where it isn’t needing the interventions that the medical model quickly tends to put on top of it.

Kristin:  Yes.  So Heidi, I know when we shared birth doula clients together, you were doing quite a bit of balancing, and they had beautiful, quick births.  So I was just wondering if you could explain a bit about the prenatal preparation, what it looks like, for our listeners who are interested in finding a body balancing practitioner.

Heidi:  Yeah, absolutely.  So for me, body balancing is about being proactive versus being reactive.  So as a doula, I can walk in and I can bring my magic bag of tricks, and I can jiggle and release and reposition.  I can use my birth detective skills.  I can do all the things in the birthing room.  With my background in yoga and Spinning Babies and Body Ready, I can help to prepare the body during pregnancy.  So again, with that comfortable – more comfortable pregnancy, and then also getting to know the body ahead of time.  So what you can do during pregnancy, what you have available to you in terms of positioning, breath work, coping skills – that is the same that’s going to be available to you in the birthing room.  And so being able to work with people before gives us that opportunity to practice and prepare.  The idea, really, for me is that everything that we’ve done in this world – so everything from our own birth, every trauma that we’ve had, every habit, every pattern, is held in our tissues.   We hold a baby on our hip; we put a purse on our shoulder.  Those tissues have to modify, and those habits over time create an imbalance in our body.  Our bodies were so beautifully constructed to be able to naturally birth, but we don’t live in a world that supports a balanced body.  So we are asymmetrical humans.  Every single person is.  But then you add on top of that the pregnancy changes that come, and we’re now pulling the body out of alignment.  And that alignment causes different pulls and tensions in the tissue, and our tissues are what are creating the shapes of the pelvis.  So the pelvis isn’t a fixed entity, as you know.  It has different joints in it.  It’s got, like, four different joints.  You can change the shape of the pelvis.  The only way to change the shape of the pelvis, though, is by moving the tissue and moving the extremities connected to it.  If there is asymmetry, it’s going to limit the space for baby to navigate.  So baby will only navigate the space that you have provided.  And all doulas probably know, head down is really great, but head down isn’t the only thing that matters.

Kristin:  Right.  Absolutely.

Heidi:  The way that we’re looking at it is, how can we assess the body so that we can decide, okay, what part of your tissue needs to be lengthened, strengthened, released, relaxed, so that we can create more space, more movement, more function, to give you more comfort, give your baby more space, but then also be able to free that pelvis up so that when it comes time for birth, you can change the shape of that pelvis.  We can get that sacrum released.  Typically, a session with me looks like a one on one, and we go in, and I do a history.  So we’re talking about, like, tell me about any traumas.  Tell me about any injuries.  Have you played sports?  You’re thinking about, like, a one-side dominant, like a soccer or tennis.  Those are going to change our tissues.  Do you have kiddoes at home, that maybe those are compensating things as well.  I can get an idea. And then we do a physical assessment.  Let me look at your body.  Let me see what I can see.  In addition to all of my trainings, I worked with chiropractic offices for almost a decade before, so I also am very body-aware about alignments and understanding the way that the spine is connected.  So I’m looking at all of those things and being able to assess the way you sit, the way you stand, the way that you walk.  And just in that observation, that helps me to understand the way that your tissues are lengthened, which tissues are shortened, what is the tilt of your pelvis.  The tilt of your pelvis changes with pregnancy, but that also means that you’re turning muscles off.  Oftentimes the big one that gets turned off is going to be your glutes.  In the body balance and the yoga world, I’d say that glutes are like the pelvic floor’s best friend because that’s going to be our big helper.  So when we turn the glutes off, think like duck feet.  It’s like they use it or lose it with the glutes, so people go duck feet, and then the pelvic shifts forward with the weight of the growing belly.  Now the glutes are turned off, and the pelvic floor is like, whoa, where’d my friend go?  I am taking this huge load, on top of the growing the baby, the growing the uterus, the placenta, the amniotic fluid.  So you’re causing a lot of stress and tension to the pelvic floor, and it’s super, super loaded.  And you want to think about it in terms of, if you were to do bicep curls all day, and then you’re like, hey, bicep, could you just relax a little bit now?  And your bicep is like, no way, absolutely not.  I’ve been working so hard, so tensed.  That’s the pelvic floor.  So we’re asking your pelvic floor to relax and yield and get out of the way for the baby’s head to pass through for a vaginal birth, and the pelvic floor is like, no way.  I can’t.  You have been putting so much force on me.  So when we think in terms of balancing, we want to turn back on the muscles that need to be turned on to take some of the load off of the ones that we need to relax.  And it doesn’t always just mean stretching.  I think people think yoga, and they’re like, okay, I need to stretch.  I need to relax.  There’s so much more than that.

Kristin:  Focus on your breath, yes.  There’s a lot.

Heidi:  Yeah, so much more than that.  I could go for days.  But that’s kind of it in a nutshell.  It’s which ones need length, strength, relaxation, and knowing how to combine that for your body specifically to make sure that you are then getting what you need.

Kristin:  I love that it’s customized to each individual’s needs versus – again, I mean, a yoga class is wonderful and is great for the movement and the breath work and things that you can utilize during your labor, but combining that with balancing is key.  I know with the clients we’ve worked with, you saw them multiple times, and ideally, early in pregnancy.  Would there be a benefit for a listener who was very close to their due date to get balancing done, or is it optimal earlier, like second trimester?

Heidi:  Yeah, so it is beneficial at any point.  We see the most benefit when it’s done consistently because for lasting change to happen in the tissue, it takes time.  That’s really the ultimate goal.  We don’t want just a quick fix.  There’s a lot of releases and things that doulas can do in the birthing room that create short term – like, sidelying release.  That’s like a short term release.  So we want to think like long term tissue change.  So if somebody were to come to me, say, like, maybe we meet, like, first trimester, second trimester, third trimester, and then again right before birth, that would be like the ultimate, the most beneficial in my opinion to see.  But if somebody is gearing up towards their due date, I do what I call induction due date body balancing, the idea being, let’s look at what’s going on and see if we can’t help baby get a little bit more space, get into that head down, chin tucked, most optimal position; help you feel more comfortable so that the odds of moving through a more comfortable, shorter, more functional birth are possible for you.

Kristin:  I love that.  So for clients who have pending induction, that would be a good point to again get their body ready in a more natural way before the induction.

Heidi:  Yeah, and it’s not even just induction.  Like, due date just in general, just to help to prepare the body just before that guess date is coming up.

Kristin:  Yeah.  But certainly I know many of my clients are asking for natural options to ready their body if they know all along through pregnancy that at 39 weeks they’re going to be induced due to various medical issues.  Also, you had mentioned head down.  So if a student of yours or client has a breech baby, then what is your success rate, or what can you do positioning wise besides a doula, you know, sending their client to an acupuncturist or a Webster certified chiropractor?

Heidi:  Those are really great, super beautiful.  Combining – so we know Spinning Babies.  That’s probably the most popular and the most easily accessible for doulas and also for clients to find.  And I do a lot of that, a lot of the forward leaning inversions, but I couple it with the Body Ready Method, the body balancing.  So if I have a client who has a baby that isn’t in a great or the most optimal position, I will do all of the tissue releasing first.  So we want to think, baby isn’t in a great position because perhaps baby doesn’t have enough room or enough space.  So we want to create the space first, and then I’ll end it usually with the forward leaning inversion where we take baby out of the pelvis, so we’re giving baby all that space to come, to flip around, to do what baby needs to do.  And then now that we’ve made space in the pelvis, we’re going to invite baby back into the pelvis by flipping back up from that forward leaning inversion, and now the hope is that baby came back into the pelvis, has a little bit more space to move about, and can decide to get head down.  We know that these methods work.  We know that they’re only popular because they work.  So being able to help, I know that’s a big fear of a lot of clients, a lot of practitioners.  Baby’s not in a great position, or baby’s breech.  That can cause a lot of fear into the mamas.  So being able to help and assist and just to calm; we add in a lot of the nurturing yogic side, a lot of affirmations of trust for the body, knowing that your body is doing everything beautifully, that we just have to trust the process, and we can get there.  It’s just going to take a little bit of time, but we’ll get there.

Kristin:  Yes.  So you mentioned Spinning Babies, and many of our doulas are Spinning Babies trained.  I’ve benefitted so much from the two-day workshop.  It is definitely a reference for doulas, even if they haven’t been trained.  They send resources to clients about different positions to try during pregnancy, and then of course we suggest different positions during labor.  So what – you obviously combine both methods, but could you explain a bit about the concept of Spinning Babies for our listeners who are not familiar?

Heidi:  Yeah, so the idea of Spinning Babies is that there is an optimal medical model of how the babies could or should be born with the most ease, and that means that they’re positioned in a specific way within the belly.  And Spinning Babies has a lot of beautiful tools.  So they have, like, daily exercises that you can do.  They have different movements that you can do to help take baby and flip baby if they’re breech or to get baby into the most optimal position, using a set of different positioning tools, and it kind of works off the same idea, that the tissue release plus the movement helps to get baby into the most optimal position for the birthing.

Kristin:  Yeah.  And as far as just general searches for our listeners who are not located in West Michigan, where Mind Body Baby is located, how do they find a Body Ready Method practitioner near them?

Heidi:  So if somebody is Body Ready Method trained through Lindsay McCoy, you can go onto their website, and you can look for a pro in your area.  So once you get trained, you then get certified.  You have the option to want to be come an active pro with their site, and they’ll list you on there.  If you go on there, you won’t see me yet because I haven’t completed my listing, but I am a pro on there.  But that is where you can access a pro.  You can also find them on Instagram and follow along.  She’s got a lot of beautiful tips and tricks.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  Love it.  So do you have any stories to share about working with your students with this method, or any personal tips or tricks?

Heidi:  Yeah.  I mean, let’s think for a second here.  What’s a good one?  They’re all so good.  Some of my very favorite ones are still going to be some of my first ones because I think those are the ones that surprised me the most, going like, oh my goodness, it worked.  So I’ll give you, like, just a little quick backstory.  My own labor and birth, I needed to be induced.  I was 42 weeks, and my daughter was just not in the mood to come out of my body.  So we opted for an at-home induction with our midwife, and it ended up in a 52-hour labor where I then got a fever and needed to be – I needed to have a Cesarean section.  And it left me thinking and wondering, what else?  What could I have done to prepare my body more?  I was already a prenatal yoga teacher.  I thought I was doing all of the things.  But it left me wondering, what more could I have done?  What was going on in my body that wasn’t letting this baby drop, that wasn’t letting me dilate?  Was it just that it wasn’t – that was my birth that was meant to happen?  I don’t know.  Maybe.  But that’s where my deep dive came.  And so after that, I went deep, deep, deep into the hole of anatomy and physiology to try to figure out what else I could do to help other mamas so that they didn’t end up with a 52-hour labor.  So my first couple clients that I started integrating this with, my very first one, Logan, was amazing.  She worked with me.  We worked together biweekly, I think, for about four months.  We did yoga, body balancing, and really just helped her to get mentally and physically prepared, understanding that her birth goal was that she wanted an unmedicated, natural, vaginal birth with no interventions.  And she went into labor spontaneously with her first baby, and I think baby was born within maybe eight hours.  And for a first time mama, that was beautiful for me to see.

Kristin:  Yeah, that’s quick.

Heidi:  She knew exactly how to position her body, and I was able to be – I don’t want to say hands off, but because she knew what we were doing, and I didn’t have to use all my doula tricks.  I didn’t have to break out the big bag of stuff that sometimes I might need with somebody who hasn’t prepared their body during pregnancy.  So just like that proud mama moment for me where I’m, like, watching her be so strong and fierce because her body was just so ready.  She prepared.  She knew what she was doing.  And I was like, yeah, this is it.  It worked.  And I felt so happy for her to be able to get what she wanted.  It really just – I mean, that ultimately – as a doula, you can agree.  We just want to see them feel empowered and feel so strong and just transcendent birth.  That’s what they’re looking for.

Kristin:  Yes, for sure.  Even if it doesn’t go as they envisioned, knowing that they did so much to prepare and they understand the physiology of their body, and they’re working as a team with their baby.  It’s just – it is exactly what we want as doulas.

Heidi:  Yeah, so much.  It’s so amazing.  And that’s really the other part, too.  It’s not – this is not a guarantee, right?  Just doing the work isn’t going to say, like, yes, your baby will be born exactly how you want because you did the work.  We’re not setting expectations up for failure.  We don’t want anybody to think that this is, like, the end-all, be-all and it’s amazing and you have to do this or otherwise it won’t work for you.  But the idea is that you stack the deck in your favor.  So if you knew that you could do something that had a beautiful success rate in helping you to get that physiological birth with less interventions, and it would be more comfortable and less painful – like, would you want that?  If somebody would have said to me that this was available, if I would have known it was available, I would have been doing it.  I wish I would have known about it because then perhaps I wouldn’t have had a 52-hour long labor.

Kristin:  Right.  Well, thank you for bringing this method to West Michigan!  Tell us a bit more about your course.  Obviously, our listeners can work one on one with you, but you have a push prep course?

Heidi:  Yeah, we just started our third cohort of our course last night.  So my course is called Push Prep.  Push Prep – the idea behind it is that most if not all of the classes or courses that are recommended are childbirth ed.  They are more of an educational, mental preparation.  Even if somebody is doing something like a gentle birth or a HypnoBirth, those are beautiful.  This isn’t in place of that.  This is in addition to it.  Those are like, how do you mentally prepare the mind for what you’re going to come across, what to expect.  Push Prep is childbirth education meets physical preparation meets practice.  Thinking about the idea, again, that you have to find out what’s accessible within your own body before you hit the delivery space.  You have to understand your body.  We talk so much about alignment, posture, habits.  We go into comfort measures that you have within yourself.  Talk about breath work, different breath work that we’re now practicing pushing breath work.  We’re practicing labor breath work.  How you can create optimal birthing spaces.  It’s a lot of beautiful stuff.  And then we cover poses.  We talk about the different poses that are changing the shape of the pelvis and when those should be used.  So the inlet, the mid-pelvis, the outlet.  But then we’re actually practicing them and we’re kind of building atop that with yoga.  So each week, we have a different topic that we cover.  It’s a four-week series.  And we build each week using yoga as our base.  So it’s a little education to start.  We end with some yoga that ties into whatever the theme of the week was.  So we just started our third one last night, so I’m still on a big high from it.  I love it so much.  I think it’s so necessary.  It’s just been working so great, and I hear so much positive feedback from all of the students who have taken it so far, saying it’s just been their favorite, their best.  They felt so prepared and empowered no matter how it unfolded.  They knew they had those tools in their toolbox, and they definitely used them.

Kristin:  And I’m sure this is probably similar in prenatal yoga class, but your students are bonding.  They’re going through the journey together at the same time.  So that’s also a lovely experience now that things are back to in person.

Heidi:  Absolutely, yeah.  Community is such an important part.  That’s actually why Mind Body Baby exists is for community.  I went through my fertility journey feeling a little ashamed about it, not knowing anybody else who was going through that, and I was alone.  And then I became a mama in February 2020, right before the pandemic shut down in March, so I had a pregnancy that was all alone.  And then I gave birth in November 2020.  The world was still shut down.  I was all alone.  And I thought, oh my goodness, if there’s anybody going through this outside of the pandemic, if anybody feels isolated or alone, it’s completely unnecessary.  We need to have a space where people can come and they can feel supported and understood and seen and heard and they can just get all of their resources in one space, and it will grow with them.  And with a one-year-old and still halfway in the pandemic, I was like, you know what I should do?  I should open a business.  And it was a wild choice, but I knew that it was something that we needed so strongly in our community just for people to be able to come together and uplift each other and support each other and to just build those friendships.

Kristin:  And you have childcare, and many classes where baby’s involved.  So it is; you’ve built a lovely community there.  Thank you for everything you’re doing.  How can our listeners find you?  I know you have your website, and you’re on social.

Heidi:  Yeah, the website.  Social is Mind Body Baby Yoga.

Kristin:  I know you’re on Instagram, Facebook?

Heidi:  Yeah, Instagram and Facebook.  That’s where they can find us.  In addition to our in-person classes – so if somebody’s listening and they are not in the Grand Rapids area, we also offer virtual options.  So from anywhere in the world, you are able to join our virtual classes.  They are live, so time difference make a difference, probably, but you’re still able to join a class and be a part of the community and get what you need.

Kristin:  I love it.  So any final thoughts to share?

Heidi:  Oh, my goodness.  I mean, I’m just so happy to be able to do this work and to be able to be in this space and be in the company of other amazing birth professionals like you, Kristin.  And I just hope to be able to continue to educate and to learn and to help and to show up with the best bag of tricks that I can for everybody.

Kristin:  I love it.  Thank you so much for the work you’re doing.  It was lovely to catch up.  Have a great day!

Heidi:  Yeah, thanks, Kristin.  This was great.

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

Black Maternal Health with Shaelina Holmes of the Hello Seven Foundation: Podcast Episode #180

Kristin chats with Shaelina Holmes of Hello Seven Foundation about Black Maternal Health and why it is so important.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, this is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Shaelina Holmes.  Shaelina is the executive director of Hello Seven Foundation, and she has a passion for birth work and human liberation with experience leading organizations for social change.  Welcome, Shaelina!

Shaelina:  Hello!  Thank you so, so much for having me.  I’m so excited to be here with you today.

Kristin:  Yes, and it’s just perfect timing in that it’s Black Maternal Health Week.  I love that we’re going to be chatting a bit about the important work within Hello Seven Foundation but also just the importance of doula support and other caregivers like night nurses, a newborn care specialist, overnight postpartum doulas, and how do you all support Black women especially during pregnancy and in the postnatal phase?

Shaelina:  Yes, it’s such an important mission, and like you mentioned, we do have a focus on Black women because the disparities are alarming and atrocious and disgusting.  A new report just came out – I believe it was last week – that the maternal death rates for Black women are even higher due to the pandemic.  And so I’m really excited to launch into this conversation today.  We’re going to talk a little bit about the sad parts of the story, but we have some great solutions that I’m excited to share with you.

Kristin:  Fantastic.  So I would love to get a bit about your background.  I know you’re a doula?

Shaelina:  Yes.

Kristin:  How did this opportunity to direct Hello Seven Foundation come your way?

Shaelina:  It was such divine alignment.  I’m so happy to be here.  I have a seven year old, and I gave birth to my son in Miami.  And throughout my pregnancy, I was trying to find an OB-GYN that I felt comfortable with, and I just kept running into barrier after barrier with doctors just not giving me the support that I was really needing and looking for.  So I had recently become vegetarian because of health experiences that I had, and I went to three different OB-GYNs, and they were all pushing me to eat meat again and eat dairy, even though it made me sick.  I had people from the beginning trying to tell me I was definitely going to need a C-section, so what date did I want to give birth.  And I was not interested in any of that.  I really wanted to do it as naturally as possible.  And I was a young mom, a single mom, and so I also received a lot of shame about the situation with my partner.  I was being pushed to get an abortion.  I was given pharmaceutical treatments that just made the symptoms I was experiencing that much worse.  And I had a lot of questions.  I had one doctor tell me that I would need to go to medical school to understand the things that I was asking about and that I had a question limit.  I had reached my question limit for the visit, and I would need to come back for another visit to get the rest of my questions answered.  It was awful, and that’s when I just knew that there had to be another option.  So I did my research, and I discovered the world of midwifery and the birth center experience.  So I had found a birth center, North Miami Birth Center, and as soon as I walked in those doors, I felt a complete shift in the energy.  I felt like family.  I felt like, first of all, a human being, not just another number, another patient.  And I was really able to build a relationship with the same people who were going to help me bring my baby earthside.  It was amazing, and they sat there and answered all my questions, and that’s when I learned what a doula was.  So I couldn’t afford a doula at the time, but right after I gave birth, it’s like you experience that – all this pain; I had a 30-hour labor, so it was excruciating pain for 30 hours, but the minute my son came, it was like I was flooded with all the oxytocin and the wonderful love hormones, and all that pain went out the door.  And I was like, this is an experience that I need to support other women with.  Like, everyone needs a doula.  Everyone needs a doula.  It should not be optional.  My mom had kind of served as my doula at the time, in addition to the other birth center workers, so I was like, there’s a science and a system to this, and I was so hungry to learn.  So I had jumped into doula training after the birth of my son, but I was working full time at the same time, so I couldn’t really switch from a full time job as a single mom with a salary to the entrepreneurial life of a birth worker.

Kristin:  Right, the on call time, you don’t know how long you’ll be at a birth, and there are so many unknowns, as a mother and having a full time job.

Shaelina:  Exactly.  So I had just decided to volunteer as a birth doula for my friends and family who I really wanted to serve.  I felt honored to serve.  And they couldn’t afford a birth doula, anyway.  So it was a win-win where I got to be a part of these beautiful experiences with my friends and family, and it was a lot more – a lot less controlled where I could do it on my time.  I could take off time of work as I needed to take on the clients that I could take on.  And it was wonderful.  I was working at a nonprofit, a human services nonprofit, before I came here to Hello Seven just last year.  And when I saw this opportunity, it was just a match made in heaven.  I’m like, oh, this is perfect.  I’m a doula on the side, a volunteer doula, and now I get to lead an organization that is believing in this mission wholeheartedly where we give.  So the Hello Seven Foundation provides vouches to Black birthing people for birth doulas, postpartum doulas, night nurses, midwives, and childcare, so kind of covering the range of the whole perinatal experience, including postpartum, because the whole thing is so important, and we need a whole team of support to help this mother and baby transition into the world and into motherhood with the red carpet that they deserve.

Kristin:  Exactly.  I know the website is very comprehensive in that you’re able to accept donations, of course, from individuals and organizations who want to support Black birthing persons, but also you do some – you have applications for women who do want that assistance?

Shaelina:  Yes, on the website, you can read all of the eligibility criteria for our voucher program.  But yes, that means that 100% of the donations that we raise go directly to the folks who apply for a voucher.  So right now, for example, we have 55 families on our waiting list asking for about $110,000 in funding, and our goal is to serve every single one of them.  So far, since the inception of this Hello Seven Foundation, we have funded over 40 families with $100,000 of funding, including birth doulas, midwives.  We’ve also funded scholarships for Black birth workers to become certified doulas because that is another barrier and contributor, really, to the Black maternal health crisis, that there’s not enough providers of color and Black birth workers to serve families.  We’re really trying to find creative solutions to this issue.  The issue is really – it goes deep.  Black women are three to five times more likely to die of pregnancy-related causes, including up to one year after birth, than White women or really any other group.  And women of color at large have significantly higher rates, but when we isolate the race and we look at Black women specifically, it’s astronomical.  And about 60 to 80% of these deaths are estimated to be preventable.  Obviously, it’s due to systemic racism, but one of these ways that we can actively and immediately prevent negative outcomes, negative maternal health outcomes, is having a doula, and really any of the support people that we fund.  Doulas are statistically known to make a difference.  I’m sure you know this, but when mothers have a doula, they’re four to five times more likely to have a baby with low birth weight.  They’re less likely to experience any birth complication, less likely to have an unnecessary C-section, because sometimes they are necessary, and that’s our goal is to really to fill these gaps.  And doulas are out there.  There’s plenty of doulas to choose from, but the income disparity that we see when we break down the racial wealth gap, it makes it really, really difficult for Black mothers to afford these necessary, critical services.  So they need it the most, and they can access it the least.  So that’s why we’re really focusing on closing that gap, and I’m really proud of the work we’ve done so far, but we have so, so much more to go.

Kristin:  Well, we’re so proud to support.  I know when I received the initial email about the foundation from Rachel Rogers, I donated as quickly as I could, and we have made giving to your foundation part of our annual giving plan.

Shaelina:  Thank you!  Thank you so, so much.  We are so grateful for that.  Hello Seven is our parent company, so we operate kind of as the philanthropic arm of Hello Seven, and Hello Seven, which you mentioned Rachel Roger; she’s our CEO, and she is the author of the bestselling book, We Should All Be Millionaires.  And her company, Hello Seven, is dedicated to helping historically excluded entrepreneurs build wealth and teaching them; not just helping them build wealth, but teaching them the skills to be able to, like she says, make a million.  That’s why it’s called Hello Seven, because we can all see seven figures in our bank account.  When we do start to see five, six, seven figures in our bank account, we can actually make a difference in the world around us.  We can see the issues.  We’re victims of the systemic oppression that is pervasive here in the US and around the world, but once we have access to wealth and capital, we can put our money where our mouth is and we can make significant change pretty quickly and quickly easily.  So that’s why she started the Hello Seven Foundation.  She had her own adverse birth experiences with all three of her children, and she realized that because she had built wealth for herself and her family, she was able to access these resources that saved her life.  Changed her life and saved her life and gave her kids the best starting foundation that she possibly could give them.  And so she really felt the need to make this accessible to other women who just aren’t there in their wealth-building journey yet.  And then when you look at the data, it’s a no brainer.  This is a solution that is highly, highly necessary for funding.  And I will say that there are other organizations out there, like, for example, Medicaid reimburses for doulas in certain states, I believe.  But we see even with that, that there’s a gap in the funding in terms of – like, we’re considering helping to close this gap through a partnership, which we’ll talk more about that later, but we’re seeing that doulas are reimbursed at significantly lower rates through Medicaid than they would charge for their private pay clients, for example.  And Hello Seven is all about historically excluded entrepreneurs building wealth, and so we believe that they deserve a livable wage, right?  It’s extremely important, necessary work for half price, you know.  They need self-care and resources, too.  So we pay up to $2000 for a birth doula voucher, and you can see the other breakdown of the value of the vouchers on our website.  But that’s something that we really truly believe in is making sure that the resources are given and provided to everyone that’s part of this equation.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  Yes, Medicaid just came to Michigan in January, so it’s been a big learning experience.  And just as you mentioned, for my agency, the doula subcontractors on my team were not interested in taking the lower wage, so we decided to work with a different group, Doulas Diversified, who does matchmaking with doulas who are Medicaid qualified.  And then of course, as a certified B-Corp, it’s all about giving back, and our focus is low income women and children.  And so I want our team to be well-compensated while still focusing on making a difference.

Shaelina:  Exactly, exactly.  That’s a beautiful system, and we’re hoping to kind of join in on that effort with you and make sure that we can fill those gaps wherever possible.  That’s why fundraising is so, so important, and it’s a wonderful cause, and it’s the greatest feeling in the world to call a mom who’s applied and let her know that she’s good to go; we’re paying for her doula.  I mean, the lives – you can see the whole energy shift in her eyes in that moment, and getting those pictures of the babies being born – it’s like, we’re doing this work one family at a time.  It feels really small sometimes, but when you see the results in front of you, you know how big it really is, even if it’s just one doula and one family at a time.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And as you mentioned with Medicaid – I mean, Medicaid covers birth doula support in certain states and then some postnatal visits, but you are also again providing vouchers for postpartum doulas, newborn care specialists, night nannies.  And I am so personally passionate about support in that postnatal phase.

Shaelina:  Yes, it’s so crucial.  I was just listening to a Good Morning America interview that came out this week for Black Maternal Health, and they were highlighting that a lot of the postpartum deaths are due to postpartum depression, and these are – if we have a community of support for the mom and the baby after they are earthside, we can prevent a lot of these really traumatic and unfortunate experiences.  And I feel like it’s our responsibility and our duty to do that.  Sometimes we focus on the mom when she’s pregnant; we throw the baby showers and give her all the support, and then the baby’s here, and it’s all about the baby.  Sometimes we forget about the mom needing to be mothered, as well.  So postpartum doulas, night nurses, and even the childcare support that we fund is really, really crucial to helping the mom fully recover from childbirth, which is – it’s a lot.

Kristin:  It is, definitely.  And the sleep deprivation adds up, so whether you get support during the day to take a nap or, again, overnight to try to get some good rest in between feedings, it’s so important.

Shaelina:  Yes, exactly.  And the folks who are serving as night nurses, postpartum doulas, nannies, as you mentioned, are also able to see the signs of postpartum depression.  I had PPD, and I didn’t realize that I was experiencing it until way after.  So it’s like – it seems subtle sometimes or you may not know how to classify it, and if no one’s there supporting you and knowing the signs of it, it can go undiagnosed, and it can get bad.  It’s really important to make sure we have the community wraparound support that a mommy needs.

Kristin:  Exactly.  I know you have an exciting fundraiser coming up that I am already registered to attend.  Fill us in about the Black Rodeo.

Shaelina:  Yes, the Hello Seven Foundation is hosting our first in-person fundraiser, which is so, so exciting.  Our CEO, Rachel Rogers, lives in Greensborough, North Carolina, and last year, she threw this amazing party for her 40th birthday called the Black Rodeo.  So we decided to kind of rinse and repeat and do it again this year, but make it all about a fundraiser for the foundation.  So I’m really, really excited.  It’s going to be an amazing time.  It’s going to be on Friday, May 12th, at Summerfield Farms in North Carolina, and we are going to have – there’s going to be a great VIP guest list, millionaire entrepreneurs in the room, Hello Seven clients who really care and are passionate about this mission, and we’re going to have a great time.  Dinner, drinks, dancing.  We have a dance instructor who is going to teach us how to do some line dancing.

Kristin:  So fun!

Shaelina:  It’s going to be so fun, and the fashion is going to be amazing.  And the best part about this is that Rachel and Hello Seven are covering the cost of the party expenses completely, so that means that for folks who buy a ticket, 100% of the ticket cost will go directly to a family in need.  And as I mentioned earlier on this call, we have 55 families who are waiting for funding right now, and we’re prioritizing families by their due date, so we do have a couple who are ready to give birth in the next couple of weeks, and so we’re really trying to raise as much money as we can so we can fund these birth services for these families who are waiting.  Every dollar that’s raised for the tickets and during the event – we’re going to have a silent auction.  We’re going to have some amazing raffle prizes.  Every dollar raised is going to go directly to a family, and so we’re really, really grateful for Rachel and Hello Seven’s support and all of our donors who are going to be there and have a great time.  We think we can have a really fun time while making a huge impact on the world.  That’s what entrepreneurship and philanthropy is about.

Kristin:  Well, I’m so thankful that Rachel’s covering the cost because having worked in the nonprofit sector, so much of the donations go to event costs.  And being a B-Corp, we directly give to organizations versus attending events.  So I get the best of both worlds, thanks to Rachel.

Shaelina:  Exactly.  It’s going to be a great time, and I think the networking piece is going to be a really attractive aspect of the event for our donors who will be in the room because it’s just a lot of wonderful minds and people who are really caring about – like I mentioned, people who really care about this mission and want to make an impact and a difference, and that – I just can’t wait to feel that energy in the room, especially after not being able to do in-person events for a while.  This is going to be such a great time.

Kristin:  Yes, I can’t wait to meet you in person.

Shaelina:  Likewise, likewise.

Kristin:  So let’s talk a bit about Black Maternal Health Week.  I know we have shared a lot of information as an agency, but how are you participating in this important awareness week?

Shaelina:  So we are – there is so much information and there are so many wonderful organizations that are doing such great work in honor of this week, and we’re here for the party.  It’s like if you go on social media and just look at the hashtag Black Maternal Health Week, you can get a wealth of information about the entire spectrum of Black maternal and infant health and awareness and solutions to these issues.  So we’re here for the party.  We are learning.  We are sharing information.  We are actively fundraising and excited to keep talking about this mission and keep the energy and the momentum going all year round.  There’s World Doula Week that’s coming up.  There’s Black Breastfeeding Week.  A lot of other holidays that we’re excited to keep riding the momentum of because this mission is really, really important, and we take, of course, advantage of every opportunity to join in on the trending hashtags on Twitter and get our word out and spread the word of our mission.  But it’s really an all year round issue, right, and we’re taking new applications for funding every single day.  Some of the stories that we hear on our applications are just heart-wrenching.  It’s horrible.  Women who have lost babies already because of just being dismissed; their pain and their symptoms being dismissed in the hospital setting.  And I do want to say that not all doctors and not all hospitals are bad.  We have great relationships with OB-GYNs and hospital care providers and midwives and doulas who work in hospitals.  It’s really, really important for our birth workers in all of the realms that they work in to work together cohesively to serve our populations wherever they choose to give birth, whether it’s at home, in a birth center, or a hospital.  So I just wanted to make sure that that point is made because sometimes it feels like there’s a bit of a war between the home birth centers and the hospitals, but there is a place for everyone, and we have to come together to solve this issue because it’s too pervasive.

Kristin:  I completely agree, Shaelina.  So what are your top tips for self-advocacy for women in pregnancy knowing that – I mean, time is so short with prenatal appointments, especially with OBs versus a homebirth midwife that may take much more time or even a certified nurse midwife within the hospital system.  If you have ten minutes, you know, what are the key points discussion-wise with your provider?

Shaelina:  This is a good question.  Let me think about this for a minute.  Intuitively, I want to say use your intuition, and I think what was really important for me when I was searching for different providers was feeling a sense of comfort and support and communicating my desires and my needs for my birth experience and my pregnancy experience and making sure that I was feeling heard and respected in the birth room or in the doctor’s office or with your midwife or with your doula, whoever it is.  And I would also say it’s important to speak up if you are feeling any kind of inconsistency, any pain, anything that doesn’t feel right.  Say something.  We don’t know – or a lot of moms, especially new moms, don’t know that not every single examination or test or procedure is necessary.  So as a doula, one of the biggest tools that I have still used, not just in the birth work space, but in almost every decision I have to make, is a tool called use your brain, and it’s an acronym, BRAIN.  Are you familiar?  I’m sure you are.

Kristin:  Oh, yes.  We use BRAIN all the time.  Amazing.  Please explain to our listeners.

Shaelina:  Sure.  So B is for benefits.  So any time you’re considering whether or not you should do something – for example, a test or a procedure related to your pregnancy – use your brain.  What are the benefits?  That’s the B.  What are the risks, R?  What are the alternatives, A?  What does your intuition tell you, which is one of my favorites.  What’s your I?  And what happens if you do nothing?  And I think that is one of the most powerful tools that I got from my doula training, and I love to empower other moms with because you’re going to use that not just in your pregnancy and birth experience but for every aspect of motherhood from here on out.  Especially for moms who’ve never had a baby before, you don’t know what to do.  And I don’t want to say you can’t trust everyone, but it really helps to be able to outline your informed consent.  It’s classic informed consent.  You have all the information that you need, and you can make a decision on how to move forward given all of those factors laid out on the table.  And so I would say always, always, always use your brain and make sure that you’re being listened to.

Kristin:  Right.  Because without informed decision making – of course, emergencies are a different situation, but birth just ends up happening to you, and that’s when my clients may feel some shock, some perinatal mood disorders may creep in.  They just felt like it wasn’t in their control, and even talking through things for any potential intervention make a huge difference.  And of course, that continuous support of a doula, regardless of outcome, also helps improve satisfaction with the birth experience.

Shaelina:  That’s so true, and you made me think of how important it is for the emotional state of the birthing person to be as calm as possible.  And that’s why I think having a doula in the room with you is so, so important because you immediately feel this sense of security.  It’s like a sister, if you will, in your birth experience, like a big sis or a mom, and having that informed decision-making process just calms the fear.  We’re so scared of the unknown, and it’s really hard to give birth to a baby if you’re in fear.  Your body is not able to open and allow the baby – allow your body to do what it does, allow your baby to pass through, because you’re tense and tight and scared.  So using these tools and having a doula in the room and having the support postpartum, just the ease that it gives you as a mother is – it’s underestimated, I think.  Undervalued.  It’s so important.

Kristin:  I agree completely.  So how can our listeners connect with you?  I know you mentioned you’re all over social media.  You’ve got an amazing website.

Shaelina:  Yes, please follow us.  We’re on Instagram and Facebook @hellosevenfoundation.  I would love to connect with you on LinkedIn, so please find me a, just my first name.  And please visit us on our website.  We have, like I mentioned, the Black Rodeo coming up, which is going to be a great opportunity to network and meet in person.  We’re in the process of planning a gorgeous gala in Atlanta later this year, so stay tuned for that.  On our website, you can sign up for our mailing list.  And we are cooking up some really fun and exciting ways to partner with doulas and other birth support providers with donors, with historically excluded entrepreneurs, with all of the populations that support our work and care about our mission.  So sign up for our mailing list so you can stay tuned and get alerted when those opportunities come through.

Kristin:  I’m here for it.  Thank you so much for all of the important work you’re doing.

Shaelina:  Amazing.  Thank you so, so much for having me, and I will see you in about a month.

Kristin:  Yes, can’t wait!

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

Plus Size Pregnancy: Podcast Episode #179

Kristin chats with Jen McLellan of Plus Size Birth, about the misconceptions surrounding pregnant plus size women.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, this is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I’m here to chat with Jen McLellan today.  Jen is a published author, founder of Plus Size Birth, and host of the Plus Mommy Podcast.  She helps people navigate the world of plus size pregnancy, shares tips for embracing your body, and laughs her way through the adventures of parenthood.  With over seven million page views, Plus Size Birth is the premier plus size pregnancy resource trusted by parents and professionals alike.  As a public speaker, Jen has featured at numerous events, including presenting at the National Institute of Health.  Jen’s also a certified childbirth educator, wife, and mother to a charismatic 12-year-old.  Welcome, Jen.  So happy to have you here.

Jen:  Hi, Kristin.  Hi, doulas.  Hi, listeners.  Thanks so much for having me.

Kristin:  You are my go-to resource for clients who want evidence-based information when they’re navigating the healthcare system with everything from figuring out how to handle interventions or VBACs or connecting with the right provider.  So I am excited to chat with you and see where this goes!

Jen:  I’m so touched.  Thank you so much.

Kristin:  So how did you decide to specialize in such a niche area as a childbirth educator?

Jen:  I think for many of us birth professionals, our story begins with our own births, and that’s my case, too.  And as a plus size person, when I found out I was pregnant in 2010, I went on to Google.  I mean, I called my partner.  Then I went on to Google.  He was at work in the middle of a work review.  Then I went on to Google, and I’m like, “plus size and pregnant.”  And it was like, doom and gloom.  And it was really depressing.  There wasn’t much positive information.  It was really hard to find clothes that would fit my body, plus size maternity clothes.  And I just read that I would have poor outcomes.  But I hired a doula who introduced me to the midwifery model of care, and I just assumed I was having a high risk pregnancy because of my size.  And she was like, nope.  And switching from the obstetrical model of care to the midwifery model of care five months into my pregnancy was one of the best decisions I ever could have made in my life, including hiring that doula, because I had a completely healthy pregnancy as a plus size woman, and I gave birth on my knees in a hospital and was forever transformed.  I could no longer hate a body that had done something so magnificent, and it helped to rewrite all these myths and misinformation I had just believed about myself for so long.  So when my son was four months old, I started blogging, having no idea what that was, and it took over my life, and it just blew up.  And that’s when I became certified as a childbirth educator, and the rest is history.

Kristin:  I love it, and I agree with you as far as searching Google.  There is so much fear-filled information.  So when I came across your website first and later your podcast, it really – I am all about giving my clients uplifting, positive information, as well as, again, the evidence-based facts so they can make their own informed decisions for their care.

Jen:  Right, yes.  There wasn’t information on how to have a healthy pregnancy as a plus size person.  There was just like, “If you get a pregnant in a higher BMI, you will encourage gestational diabetes, preeclampsia,” all these things.  And then because of the internet and weight bias, it was also comments, like “You’re a horrible person for wanting to be a parent in a larger body.”  And I was just like, wait, no, what?  What is this?  So I really worked to create all the resources I struggled to find.  And then becoming a certified childbirth educator gave me a lot of the knowledge and ability and working all the time on continuing education, but also the ability to walk through doors, and I’ve traveled the country speaking to care providers about confronting weight bias in maternity care, and how do we treat people with evidence-based compassionate care?

Kristin:  So important.  And I’m thrilled that you’ll be training my team of birth and postpartum doulas.

Jen:  Yes!  I’m so excited.  Thank you for bringing me on.  Talking to doulas and student midwives is like my favorite thing in the whole wide world.  So often, these people are hungry for this information and want to learn more, and it’s an amazing experience.  And then I get a little more nervous talking to labor and delivery nurses and other care providers.

Kristin:  I feel the same way about nurses, yes.

Jen:  Wonderful.  I love nurses.  Anyone listening, I love you, but you intimidate me a bit.

Kristin:  Yes.  Because, again, we’re nonmedical and getting into – just having that line clearly drawn.

Jen:  Oh, yeah.  I always stay within my scope, and I talk about consumer perspective of what it is like to be plus size and pregnant and the obstacles faced, but also, you know, sharing tips and tricks on things that can help support people throughout pregnancy, labor, birth, postpartum.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So I would love to get into some of the misconceptions, Jen.  I know you mentioned some of them, one that you would need to see an OB and be labeled high risk.  So let’s tackle that one first.

Jen:  Sure.  The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, ACOG, does not state that because someone has a higher BMI, and that would be a BMI of 30 and above, that they are classified as high risk.  However, this is very care provider specific, as well.  So we see, and there’s this common misconception, that people with a BMI above 30 are high risk.  And they will be labeled so, and they will have to have additional screening and testing and oversight.  And unfortunately, there are states, the state regulations around home birth and birth centers that do have BMI restrictions, so it’s really important that you look into your own community and your own state regulations.  There are also a lot of rural hospitals in areas that aren’t as populated that don’t have an anesthesiologist on staff 24/7 that have BMI restrictions.  So it is – that’s why there’s a lot of misconceptions, because you’re like, wait, but I’m not high risk, but I really wanted to go to this birth center, and they have BMI restrictions.  Or I really heard there’s this great OB, and they have restrictions.  So it’s really important as professionals to be aware of BMI restrictions.  I always say that doulas are the gatekeepers of their communities, and they know so well.  Like, who are those fantastic home birth midwives who have worked through all biases around racism and supporting the LGBTQ+ community and people of size, like working through so many layers of biases and know who are those go-to recommendations for those wanting a home birth or what birth centers have BMI restrictions, what don’t.  Those things are so important.  And hospitals, too, right?  Like, we know hospitals two miles apart, three miles apart, can have very different Cesarean birth rates.  All of that is so important for clients of all sizes, but especially clients of size.

Kristin:  And as you mentioned everything as far as restrictions vary state to state, and the midwifery model of care and so doulas are up to date on your options, both in and outside of the hospital.  And you mentioned that you worked with midwives within the hospital system.  So some of our listeners may not be familiar with the role of a nurse midwife.

Jen:  Yeah.  I mean, a nurse – so the midwifery model of care is more individualized care.  It’s a bit more holistic care.  These are highly trained care providers who are trained in birth and postpartum and also wellness care, as well, and often in a hospital setting, there would be – not often; there is in a hospital setting an obstetrician, an OB-GYN who oversees things.  But when I switched from the obstetrical model of care to the midwifery, I was fully with midwives, and it was such a dramatic change from these 15-minute rush, oh, we’re glad you’re 30.  We’re just going to keep an eye on – you know, you’re younger, but you’re bigger, so we’re just going to keep an eye on things.  To, like, 45-minute long appointments where I felt as a plus size person that my midwife was really the first care provider to touch my body with compassion, to empower me to know that I am healthy and was having a healthy pregnancy.  And I remember being like, I read online.  I have big hips and big girls make big babies.  And she’s like, yeah, you have big amazing birthing hips.  Like, you can birth your baby.  It was just so affirming, and it really changed my whole perspective on accessing healthcare as someone in a larger body because for so many people, and those listening, too, who exist in larger bodies, and there might be some topics that we talk about that can be triggering, so please take good care of yourselves.  But for many of us, we have cumulative trauma.  We’ve experienced a lot of weight bias in healthcare.  And so to go into birth and pregnancy, something that most first time people don’t know a lot about, right?  Like, our bodies do this.  It’s amazing.  But we don’t have a lot of education around it, and even if you take a childbirth ed class, like, a bit, but it’s not everything.  So we’re so heavily reliant upon our care team, and that’s why doulas are just such an amazing gift to help provide that education and that emotional support and then that physical support during labor, as well.  So I highly encourage people to look into the midwifery model of care if they’re wanting more of that individualized, holistic approach.  And just because I had an unmedicated birth with midwives in a hospital doesn’t meant that you have to.  In fact, that’s not the norm.  Most people in the hospital setting do have a medicated birth and can still work with midwives, so that’s another misconception, too.  Like, you can have an epidural in a hospital and work with midwives.

Kristin:  Yes.  And again, depending on your insurance and where you are location-wise, nurse midwives may not be an option, or you might have other medical issues that you put at a high risk status that would need to be seen both obstetricians as well as maternal fetal medicine, for example.  So let’s get into how to connect with size friendly care providers and if you have an OB-GYN that you’ve been working with throughout your journey as a woman, you don’t necessarily have to have the same provider for your birth experience, for one thing.  Many people think that just because their yearly appointments, they have an OB, that that is a person that should deliver their baby.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Jen:  Correct.  I mean, there can be some comfort of, oh, you know, I go to this person, and they’ve seen it all, so I might as well work with them through pregnancy.  But like Kristin just said, that’s not always the case.  I think when researching for a size friendly care provider, you want to start by reaching out to your plus size friends who have had babies.  Like, did you like your care provider?  Did you have a positive experience?  Join – even if you’re not a parent yet, join a local moms group, and if you feel comfortable posting, “Hey, any fellow plus size moms here?  I’m a mom to be and really want to find someone who’s size friendly,” you’ll often get many recommendations.  And then do your research.  Google that care provider, whether it’s an OB-GYN, a midwife, a nurse practitioner.  Like, Google them and research.  And then when you’re setting up your appointment, ask if there are any BMI restrictions because unfortunately, that’s not something that is screened for, so often I hear from people that are like, “Oh, I was really excited to go to this birth center, and then once I was there and paid my copay and had my initial experience, I was told I was too big to be seen here,” and that just makes you feel kind of crummy and not the way you want to start off things.  So definitely ask if there are BMI restrictions.  Ask if they see people of all sizes.  Ask if they have larger blood pressure cuffs.  Like, ask those questions, and then when you go for your first appointment, assess.  Are there chairs without arms?  Can you sit comfortably?  Were you provided options for being weighed, including a blind weight where you’re not seeing the number?  You can also stand back on a scale, backwards on the scale.  You can also say, I don’t really want to be weighed right now.  I mean, knowing those things and feeling supported in those things is really important.  And then paying attention to how you’re talked to.  Is everything related back to your BMI, or are you provided with that individualized care looking at your whole health and possibly your birth history and really trusting your intuition and trusting your gut is so, so important.

Kristin:  Right.  And I’m all about having a simple birth preference sheet or plan and using that as a talking point to get on the same page with your provider.  Because, I mean, instead of waiting until you go into labor to have that discussion, so really making sure that you’re being heard, that your questions are answered, and having that conversation with a simple birth plan, and many hospitals can provide a sheet with checklists that are very easy for nurses and providers to read, and I feel like that is such a good point to begin some of those difficult conversations about, say, inductions and again, like you talked about, BMI; any restrictions that you might have for labor.

Jen:  Yeah, and I think specifically for plus size people during that first prenatal visit, because you’re likely not talking about your birth plan during the first, but I think like you said, it’s really important to bring up anything that’s very important to you about birth that may – you know, you can ask your care provider their birth philosophy if you want to connect with someone who’s very medically minded.  That’s great, too, and you want to know that.  Or if you want to connect with someone that’s more holistic and is going to be open to you giving birth in multiple positions – like, I gave birth on my knees in a hospital.  You can give birth in different positions.  You don’t always need to be on your back.  But that might be a preference of your care provider.  And so those are good questions.  But I think really important for people of size is to ask, are there any specific tests or recommendations you’re going to make because of my BMI, and you can point blank at that point ask them, are you going to recommend induction based only upon my BMI?  So you can kind of assess, and for some people, and I’m sure Kristin is the same way, like, you make your own decisions.  We will provide you with evidence based information, but I will support you if you’re like, yeah, there is some evidence to show a lower Cesarean birth rate for people of size who are induced at 39 weeks, and there’s a study I can provide to put in the show notes.  I have a lot of questions about that study, and I think people should ask questions and ultimately make their own decision, but there is some small evidence there.  So if you are comfortable with that, then that’s great, and you want a care provider that might be more hands on.  But if you’re like, actually, I really want, if I’m having a healthy pregnancy, there doesn’t really seem to be another reason to induce.  I want my body to go into labor on its own as long as I’m within a time frame that’s comfortable for myself and my care team.  So those can be some really good questions to kind of assess in the beginning that will give you a really good idea.  Like, will you be labeling me high risk based only upon my BMI?  If they say yes, then if that is not what you want, then you say bye.  Those are important things early on.

Kristin:  You have options as a consumer, for sure.

Jen:  Yeah, yeah.

Kristin:  And so how did you know?  You said that you switched providers later in pregnancy.  What was your point?  Was it a conversation of just not being on the same page?  How challenging was it for you to make a switch?  Because, I mean, some of my clients don’t like confrontation, and they would rather just go through with everything as it is and not have the birth that they wanted than to have a difficult situation or switch providers.

Jen:  I feel that, and I totally cried.  I don’t like to disappoint people.  I don’t like to break up with people.  So I cried when I did, but I now would have handled that situation different.  So why did I switch?  It was when I was five months pregnant, and my doula came for my first – I think it was just even her interview to see if she was the right fit for my family, and she was like, okay, you want an unmedicated birth, but you’re at this posh OB-GYN clinic that has a very high Cesarean birth rate.  Like, you should have a home birth.  And I was like, what?  I just didn’t even think that my body – you know, that I was healthy.  And I was like, okay, well, I know I want unmedicated because my mom had an unmedicated birth with me and my sister and had always talked about it.  I honestly as a big person just was really afraid also of people having to move my body for me and not having control.  So I wanted unmedicated, and I was very – like, that is what I wanted.  And so I was like, all right.  I totally respect people want a home birth, but I just don’t – I didn’t trust my body at the time.  And she’s like, okay, well, then I’m really going to encourage you to interview with these two hospital midwifery programs.  And we went for our first one at Denver Health, which is a county hospital, and I assumed in my naiveness about birth that, oh, this posh place is probably the best.  I don’t know that I’d want to give birth at the county hospital.  And while the county hospital had plastic chairs instead of fluffy couches, it’s one of the best places to give birth actually in the nation, Denver Health.  I don’t know current statistics, but for a very long time, they were one of the lowest Cesarean birth rates in the nation.  Like, it is an outstanding facility to give birth.  So don’t judge, right?  So many misconceptions about birth in general.  It’s really about becoming educated about the facility and the care providers.  And so we interviewed with this one midwife, and we just knew.  It’s like you meet the one, right?  My husband and I knew that we didn’t even need to go to that other interview.  We wanted to be with this midwife because she just immediately made me believe in my body’s ability to birth my baby and just made me feel so empowered.  So then – what I wish I would have done is just called my OB-GYN’s office and been like, “Cancelling.  I’m going to switch care providers.  Have a nice day,” and let the receptionist know.  But I went to my next appointment and let them know, and what was interesting is they said, “Can I ask you why?  Because we’ve had a lot of people been switching care recently,” and I know now, oh, yeah, that would be a red flag.  I’m glad I’m switching, but at the time, I was just like, I’m sorry and I just feel like this is better for me, and I never needed to put myself through that stress.  I could have just called.  So for anyone listening, I feel like we’d know if our care providers are just like, eh, maybe they could be okay.  I mean, we can feel comfortable getting a pelvic exam, but are they making us feel empowered?  Are they giving us time to ask all of our questions?  Are they really listening to our questions or rushing us?  Yes, there are often time constraints, but there’s a balance with that.  And so never, ever, ever be afraid to switch.  And I know there are obstacles and I know it’s not easy, but switching changed my whole life, and I feel like the outcome for my pregnancy and birth.  I am forever thankful that I switched, and I don’t know what would have happened had I not and had I stayed with that other provider at that other facility where she “only allowed” people to give birth on their backs.

Kristin:  Right.  Yeah, and movement is key, and again, doulas support whatever decisions our clients make and however they want to birth, whether it’s at home, in the hospital, medicated, unmedicated.  You had mentioned that earlier about providing the information but being supported.  So I appreciate that.

Jen:  Oh, yeah.  My doula would have been like, you want an epidural?  Great.  It would have been whatever I wanted.  But especially because she knew I wanted unmedicated.  She knew I existed in a larger body.  And when we do, our Cesarean birth rate is pretty astronomical.  I mean, there are a lot more obstacles.  And I think a lot of it is care provider bias against people of size, and we have new studies finally to confirm what anecdotally people have been saying for a very long time.  In 2020, we finally had studies that came out about weight bias specifically in maternity care.  We’d had plenty of studies showing weight bias in health care, but not in maternity care.  So that has come out, and it has really confirmed everything.  And interestingly enough, it’s not just weight bias for people of size.  It’s weight bias for people of all sizes, feeling shamed about their weight, but we see poor outcomes and more things happening to people of size that are just completely unacceptable.

Kristin:  Yes.  So let’s get into VBACs when it comes to – again, you had talked about Cesarean rates and surgical births and BMI potentially being a factor for a lot of decision making.  What are you learning about plus size patients and their VBACs?

Jen:  Yeah, for vaginal birth after Cesarean for people of all sizes, it’s connecting with a supportive care provider.  And interestingly enough, I’ve found especially through talking to other people like Jen Kamel of VBAC Facts that specializes in vaginal birth after Cesarean that care providers that are VBAC friendly tend to also be size friendly because they’re evidence based, compassionate providers.  Not everyone, but more often, that they’re not – we look at it like oh, the fears and the concerns and the increased risks via VBAC.  Yes, but they’re really small, and yet some care providers are like, I’m not supportive of VBAC at all.  And you’re like, but if you look at the evidence, our increased risks are relatively small, so why wouldn’t you at least support someone’s ability to have a trial of labor for a vaginal birth after Cesarean?  So again, it’s really key to connect with a care provider that is size friendly and also supportive of your VBAC.  We can look at the VBAC calculator, and BMI does play into it as something that shows not as strong outcomes.  But also I think it’s important that we look at the evidence, that we know that it takes people during the first stage of labor, people of size, longer.  It takes longer to labor.  We have the evidence to prove that it takes longer.  But the pushing phase can actually be shorter.  So we know now that people need more time.  But often when you’re in a medical setting, there’s a real eye on the clock and not giving people enough time to labor.  So it’s pushing for that extra time.  And all of these things, like, okay, we’re not progressing.  Let’s have the Cesarean.  Let’s go.  As opposed to pushing, like – actually, there’s evidence to show I just need a little bit more time, but when you’re in the middle of labor, that’s not what you’re possibly going to be able to vocalize.  Your doula can talk to you and remind you, but it’s hard to be able to have those conversations in labor.  It’s far better to have these conversations early on with a supportive care provider who wants to support your decision to have a vaginal birth after Cesarean.

Kristin:  100%, yes.  So any other misconceptions that we should address?

Jen:  Oh, gosh, I mean, just the societal bias is tough, right?  Like, we have this idea that only thin white women with perfectly round D-shaped bellies are pregnant, and that’s so far from the truth, right?  And it’s really common for people in larger bodies to have bellies that are shaped more like Bs than Ds, a B belly.  And that’s really common.  It’s common to have an apron belly or a belly that hangs, and that can be common, not just for people of all sizes, but for people who’ve maybe lost a lot of weight or had multiple pregnancies.  I feel like we live in this – we think it’s secret that we’re different, and we’re actually quite common.  We look statistically, and about 60% of women in their childbearing years are classified as overweight or obese, and I hate those words, but that’s the classification for the BMI.  So 60%, that’s a pretty high percentage, and of that, about 36% are in that BMI category over 30.  So these are big percentages, so know that you’re not alone.  Know that you are deserving of evidence based care, and you’re deserving of a maternity dress if you want it, and you’re deserving to babywear if that’s important to you.  And you’re deserving to have a nursing bra that fits if you’re planning to breastfeed.  So all of these resources are available, and I have lists on my website.  They are harder to find, and it is more difficult to have those in store shopping experiences, but know that there are maternity clothing available, and I even have lists that go up to 6x and even 7x options.  So just know that they are out there because I think that there is something so affirming about wearing a belly band, even if you’re not showing yet, because it can take longer to show when you exist in a larger body.  But having some of those items just really helps you to feel pregnant.  So I think body image, how our bodies look, setting healthy boundaries with loved ones and family members who might have well meaning “concern” about your health that just maybe makes you feel icky if they’re like, oh, well, you’re going to get gestational diabetes.  You can let them know, actually, unless you already are prediabetic, the odds are in your favor of not incurring gestational diabetes, and that’s something that can happen to people of all sizes.  There is no one thing that only plus size people incur during pregnancy.  So you can reassure them.  I’ve got a great care team.  They’re focused on my health.  I’m focused on my health, and I just need you to support – love and support me.  And set those boundaries.  People of all sizes; set those boundaries.  They’re so important.

Kristin:  Again, communication during pregnancy versus having difficult conversations day of delivery about who’s in the room with you, if there are restrictions due to the pandemic, who is on the same page because, you know, even in the postnatal recovery time and just that nesting time with your new baby or multiple babies, it’s important to have your family and friends who want to be involved, to have a conversation about boundaries.

Jen:  Yeah.  My motto is boundaries are sexy.

Kristin:  Yes, I love it.

Jen:  Because boundaries are so hard, right?  And they’re confusing, and what are boundaries?  But when you say boundaries are sexy, it just feels affirming.  Like, I am prioritizing myself and my family, and that’s sexy.  So I just make it fun because it is hard to say, I’m not going to have this conversation, or let’s talk about something else.  Like, it can be hard.  But when you remind yourself, hey, I just advocated for myself, and that’s pretty sexy.  Like, that’s how I got over my fear of boundaries.  I’m like, okay, this is my new motto because it is so empowering to put ourselves first.  And I think going back to our whole conversation so far about finding a care provider that’s the right fit for you and needing to advocate for yourself – you’re going to be doing that for your baby, right?  Like, you’re going to want to find the best pediatrician, and if a pediatrician were to make a recommendation that didn’t make you feel good or wasn’t evidence based, you likely wouldn’t go back to that pediatrician.  So care for yourself the same way you’re going to care for that baby because you are caring for that baby while caring for yourself.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  So true.  So Jen – I could talk to you all day, first of all.

Jen:  I could talk to you all day, too.

Kristin:  It has been so helpful, and I love your website for resources.  So again, you mentioned

Jen:  Yeah, that’s for anything plus size, trying to conceive, pregnancy, birth, postpartum.  A lot of postpartum resources, too, like where do I find a breastfeeding pillow that’s large enough to fit my body and all of those things and tips around breastfeeding and pumping for people in larger bodies.  That’s really helpful, as well.

Kristin:  Yeah, my team can’t wait to talk to you about feeding options.  And you’re also on social media.  You’ve got your Facebook page, Instagram?

Jen:  I’m everywhere.  So for everything pregnancy, it’s Plus Size Birth.  But I also am the host of the Plus Mommy Podcast, so my main social following is Plus Mommy.  But you can find me wherever it fits.  For Plus Mommy Podcast, the tagline is: From bumps from bellies, we talk about it all.  So there’s a lot of great birth stories and interviews with experts, but there’s also really fun interviews with people who I admire, like some contestants on America’s Got Talent and The Voice and just amazing humans that are out there living their best lives, existing in larger bodies, and who inspire me.  So it’s a lot of fun, and I hope you’ll tune in.

Kristin:  You’re such a charismatic host.  I love your podcast.

Jen:  Oh, thank you.  Thank you so much.

Kristin:  Thanks so much for your time, Jen, and I appreciate everything you’re doing in this space.  You are amazing.

Jen:  Well, I appreciate you and every doula and every birth professional out there for the work that you do because my life would not look like it does now if it wasn’t for that care and compassion I receive.  So for everyone listening, if you’re a parent or parent to be, doulas are just amazing, so definitely consider.  That was one of the greatest gifts my parents ever gave us was helping to fund our doula fund, so it’s a wonderful thing you can ask from your loved ones, as well, because trust me, you don’t need 14 swaddles.  You do need a doula.

Kristin:  Exactly, I love it.  Thanks, Jen!

Jen:  Thank you!

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

Informed Pregnancy with Dr. Berlin: Podcast Episode #178

Kristin chats with Dr. Berlin about the Informed Pregnancy Project.  The Project aims to utilize multiple forms of media to compile and deliver unbiased information about pregnancy and childbirth to empower new and expectant parents to make informed choices regarding their pregnancy and parenting journey.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas.  I am joined today by Dr. Elliot Berlin, and for those of us in the birth working world, Dr. Berlin is a legend.  I’m so excited to have him on.  He’s an award winning prenatal chiropractor, childbirth educator, labor support body worker, and cofounder of Berlin Wellness Group in Los Angeles, California.  Dr. Berlin graduated summa cum laude from Life University of Chiropractic in Atlanta, Georgia and the Atlanta School of Massage.  His separate schooling in massage therapy, body work, and chiropractic formed the backbone of his innovative pre- and postnatal wellness care techniques.  Unique chirosage sessions soothe and relax tight, painful muscles and restore motion to restricted joints.  These 30 to 45-minute treatments effectively address most pregnancy aches and pains in just a few visits and promote a healthy, comfortable, and functional pregnancy and an ideal environment for labor and delivery.  Dr. Berlin’s Informed Pregnancy Project aims to utilize multiple forms of media, from podcasts, YouTube series, documentaries, and online workshops to compile and deliver unbiased information about pregnancy and childbirth to empower new and expectant parents to make informed choices regarding their pregnancy and parenting journey.  Dr. Berlin lives in LA with his wife, perinatal psychologist Dr. Alyssa Berlin, and their four fantastic kids.  Welcome, Dr. Berlin!

Dr. Berlin:  Thank you so much, Kristin.  Thank you for having me, and thank you for the amazing work that you do.

Kristin:  Thank you.  And you are also a doula, correct?

Dr. Berlin:  I am a doula.  It’s an interesting, circuitous route to how I got there, but I am one of the few doula guys.

Kristin:  Male doulas, yes.  I love it.  And I know you from a lot of your filmmaking.  The Trial of Labor, Heads Up, and you’ve done so many film projects related to pregnancy and birth.  That is also amazing.  As I mentioned with your podcast, as well.  So I love that you’re tying all of your work together.

Dr. Berlin:  Yeah, I mean, it’s all – it really is one big bundle that it all complements.  Like, if you’re going to support people in modern day, especially America, in pregnancy, birth, postpartum, parenting, then all the pieces are kind of necessary for holistic support, not just hands-on work, not just focused on body, but also mind and also empowerment through information, which is hard to get sometimes.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And it is nice to have so many online options compared to when I had kids.  So my kids are 10 and 12, and there were very few online programs and options.  You had to find support in your community.

Dr. Berlin:  Yeah.  And thankfully, on the local level, there are communities growing through services like the ones that you offer and communities like the ones that you build.  The village is coming back together.  We had village support, and then we moved away from our villages and had no support.  And things got a little dicey, but slowly as a team, all of us are trying to bring that back.

Kristin:  We sure are.  It’s so important.   So how did you decide to specialize in prenatal chiropractic care, out of all of the different specialties you could have focused on?

Dr. Berlin:  I originally – medicine was my jam.  I was going to do everything medicine.  I pictured myself doing groundbreaking surgery and all sorts of interesting things like that.  From the time I was very little, I was – I saw a CPR class happening, and when I found out that you could use your body to be somebody else’s heart and lungs for a little bit, I decided I wanted to use my body to help other people.  And I pursued at first very basic things like CPR and first aid and lifeguarding, responding to emergencies.  But then as a teenager, I studied emergency medical technician training and started working in ambulances and emergency rooms.  I kind of came to a halt when I was 19 and my father passed away, partially from a medical mix-up.  And I still love medicine very much, and I respect it, but I wanted to be in healthcare on the more natural side of things, supporting the body in other ways, preventing perhaps the need for reliance on drugs and surgeries.  So I took some time off.  I studied complementary forms of healthcare, and I fell in love with the combination of chiropractic and massage, working on the musculoskeletal system from both sides.

Kristin:  That is amazing.

Dr. Berlin:  Yeah.  You don’t have a muscular system that’s in a vacuum from the skeletal system.  They’re deeply intertwined.  So I went to school for both separately, and I squished them together to sort of make the peanut butter and chocolate of holistic healthcare.  And that was the first step.  That really kind of pointed me down this path.  In terms of pregnancy specifically, my wife, who you mentioned earlier, is a psychologist also working in this space.  We were in grad school together, and we were finishing.  We thought, this is a great time to have a baby.  And no matter what we did, no baby would come.  We tried all the natural things.  We tried all the medical things.  Heavy interventions.  And for reasons nobody can explain, they were just like, we don’t think it’s ever going to happen.  You should explore other pathways to parenthood.  And we couldn’t because we were just broke.  Not just financially broke, but our relationship was on the rocks.  Our physical, mental, and spiritual health was gone.  It was quite the roller coaster, and we were young.  We were, like, 25 and 27 years old.  So we decided to just take a little time and heal, to work and not give all the money to medical treatments, to spend time together and find that spark and rekindle the relationship and to work on our health.  We started doing Chinese medicine, meditation, yoga, better nutrition.  And over a period that turned out to be ironically nine months, really ended up in a much better place in every way possible.  And that’s when we moved to Los Angeles, and when we got here, we started to think, what alternative ways to parenthood are there?   But it was a short discussion because we found out we were pregnant.

Kristin:  I love that.

Dr. Berlin:  Me, too.  And then, yeah, every couple years, another baby came.  It was like we couldn’t turn it off.  So we opened our mind body practice, and we had – it was for general health and wellness, but there was definitely an eye on boosting natural fertility.  And the first year, we had a couple babies come through.  And then every year after that, it just snowballed.  There were babies everywhere.  Our patients wanted to continue care with us, and although I didn’t know that much about pregnancy at the time, and certainly pregnancy care, there was nobody else here in Los Angeles that seemed to be working on pregnancy.  So I did as much as research and homework as I could on the providers who came before me and felt confident that I could provide chiropractic care and massage care without harming the mother or baby, and that’s how we got started.  And then once we did enough pregnancy care, then you get a lot of questions about things that I didn’t know answers to, so I’d research the answers, and after having those same questions and answers over and over and over again, decided to put it to paper and write a little blog that became a magazine that we published for several years, and then that eventually turned into the podcast and also our newest project, which is a video streaming service.  So all the different things.  And even attending birth kind of organically rolled.  I’m doing massage and chiropractic right up until the last minutes of labor, and then someone’s in labor, and if it’s going on for a long time or there’s back labor or anything like that –

Kristin:  You can adjust them during the birth and provide hands-on support.  I love that continuity of care.

Dr. Berlin:  Yes, exactly.  And once I was being called to births on a semiregular basis, I thought it would be helpful for me to have additional skills here.  So that’s when I did doula training.  My wife did it with me, actually.  She’s also a doula, and as a psychologist, she would serve as a doula for people who needed a little bit more expertise with either anxiousness or OCD or things like that.

Kristin:  Yeah, past trauma, other medical occurrences.  That makes a lot of sense.  So you likely don’t have much time to do doula work anymore with all of your projects.

Dr. Berlin:  Right.  I never really meant to be a doula.  It’s just that as part of the training, you have to do some births.  Once I started doing birth, people were like, wait, I want the doula who’s going to massage me the whole time at my birth.

Kristin:  I certainly would have, yeah.

Dr. Berlin:  So it kind of spread, and then I was like, wait a second.  I can’t be doing these births all the time because I’m in the office for ten hours a day, and I have a family.  And so I ended up kind of scaling down from being a doula to just doing body work for an hour, two hours, three hours, whatever was helpful.  And then after the pandemic, so many people here decided to do a home birth or out of hospital birth, and many of them not really out of hospital birthers by nature, just not wanting to be in the hospital with everything that was going on.  And so –

Kristin:  Of course, and the visitor restrictions, yeah.

Dr. Berlin:  Yeah, and the masking.  Just so many restrictions.  Really can’t walk around anywhere anymore.  So they were giving birth out of the hospital but not all that comfortable with it, and so they would want a larger cast of support characters.  I was getting invited to a lot of births, and it’s kind of – I would be in the office during the day, birth at night, come back to the office and sleep on the massage table for an hour, get back to work.  So I’ve kind of scaled back from that, too, more recently.  And once in a while, I still end up at a birth.  I leave it to the universe if somehow I’m going to be extremely helpful, I’m sure I’ll end up there, and if not, I won’t.  And I think that works best for everybody.

Kristin:  Yeah.  And it makes sense.  I mean, I feel like there are more and more inductions now after the pandemic, and so if my client has an upcoming induction, I try to get them into their Webster-certified chiro and look into acupuncture and other sources to get things going if their body’s not ready.  So I’m sure you get a lot of those last-minute calls to come in for an adjustment, and then especially with the massage work that you do on top of the adjustments.

Dr. Berlin:  Yes.  So a lot of it is labor preparation with pelvimetry.  There’s this idea in obstetrics that we can measure how big the baby’s head is and how big the pelvic opening of the mom and sort of guess whether that baby is going to have an easy time coming through or the baby’s going to get stuck.  And it goes back many years, all the way to when they would measure with calipers to when they would take the 37-week X-ray, until they realized that was doing harm.  And even today, we still try to guesstimate.  But the American Academy of Family Physicians recommendation currently is not to even measure because the only way you can tell is to try.  And the reason pelvimetry, I think, is so ineffective as a predictor is because it’s looking at structure, anatomy, and not function, physiology.  A baby’s head is a bunch of bones not fused together, so they can mold and come through a space that’s smaller.  If you have a 14-centimeter head, it can mold in and come through a 9-centimeter space.  And the same with the pelvic: a properly functioning pelvis is not one big bone.  It’s a bunch of bones connected by ligaments and cartilage, and there should be movement.  There should be fluid movement in those bones, especially at the end of pregnancy when the body facilitates that with relaxation hormones.  But if where the bones of the pelvis come together, there’s lack of movement, there’s restriction, or the soft tissues that connect those bones, muscles, tendons, and others have excessive tightness and dysfunctional shortening, stiffness, then it’s not going to have the function it should have.  But if it does have the function, it should be able to expand and contract and it should be able to help the baby rotate into all the great positions and move through the body smoothly, even if the baby is on the bigger side, because it can open up bigger than its typical space.  Then afterwards over the first year the baby’s head starts to fuse together, and over the first couple of months, the hormones all dry up, and the stability comes back into the pelvic bones, and they can’t open up as much.  But pelvimetry just looks at the size, but not what it can do.  Can that larger head mold in and become smaller?  Can that smaller pelvis open up and become larger?  They’re designed to do that, but there’s no way to measure how well they’re going to be able to do that.  But one thing we can do – we can’t do much about the head – we can make sure that that musculoskeletal pelvis is as functional as it can be.  And whether you’re giving birth spontaneously or being induced, that is a key component in the functionality of birth.

Kristin:  Yeah, and I’m a big fan of prenatal chiropractic care and movement during labor is so key.  But you’re right, as far as inductions, the big baby is one of the most common, other than advanced maternal age or, obviously now with COVID, having COVID during pregnancy is one I’m also seeing.

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Dr. Berlin:  I also think the ARRIVE trial did a big disservice.  It’s one of those examples where a particular study comes out, and a major shift takes place on the ground based on that one study before we even fully understand the way the study was done and what the results mean.  And this happened with the team breach trial in 2001.  They did a study of breach babies born vaginally versus by Cesarean, and the study found there was a small but statistically significantly better outcome for breach babies who were born by Cesarean versus vaginal birth, and immediately the United States and Canada and then the rest of the world followed in suggesting that all breach babies be born by planned Cesarean.  And it wasn’t until two years later that the same group of researchers in Canada, Mary Hannah and group colleagues, found out that there was – by looking at the two-year-olds now, there was no long term difference in health among them.  And then two years after that, another researcher named Glazerman sort of picked apart the way the original study was done, showing that you can’t necessarily take those results and apply them to everybody, meaning some babies are better candidates and some women are better candidates for vaginal breach delivery than others, but there wasn’t a real selection process in the study, and some facilities and practitioners have better equipped staff and machinery to support a breach birth than others.  And so those are just some of the – there are many issues with that study.  And so then in 2006, the United States sort of changes the language.  ACOG says that, okay, maybe vaginal breach birth is a reasonable option for some people if you can still find a practitioner who’s skilled and comfortable doing it.

Kristin:  That’s the thing.  There are so few in my area.

Dr. Berlin:  Yeah, around the country, because once we stopped doing it overnight, how does anybody train on it?

Kristin:  Exactly.

Dr. Berlin:  And without training, who’s going to feel comfortable doing it?  And so it’s sort of a disappearing art, which is what prompted us to make our film, Heads Up: The Disappearing Art of Vaginal Breach Delivery.

Kristin:  Yes.

Dr. Berlin:  And also prompted some of the sort of old timers who always did breach and still do break to start trying to teach others, in particular Dr. Stuart Fischbein, I think kind of got an RV and started driving around the country.

Kristin:  Yes, I heard about that.

Dr. Berlin:  Teaching as many people who want to listen who are still curious.  Midwives, obstetricians, and others all about breach birth.  So there’s an effort to maintain or restore the choice, but it’s an uphill battle.

Kristin:  Yeah, for sure.

Dr. Berlin:  And the same is true with the ARRIVE trial, which essentially had the hypothesis that if we – since babies are fully cooked at 39 weeks.  They’re just getting bigger.  There’s nothing new developing.  And sometimes after 39 weeks, bad things happen in pregnancy.  What if we just got them all out at 39 weeks?  The contrary thought is, well, what kind of harm does that intervention do?  Maybe it will push us into doing a lot more Cesarean births that was unintended, unnecessary, and might have other consequences.  And then the results were a double surprise.  The induction at 39 weeks did not statistically significantly improve morbidity and mortality among babies, and the other surprise was, in that particular study, the induction group at 39 weeks had a lower Cesarean rate than the managed care group, the people who just waited to go into labor or to need intervention for some other reason.  I do a very complete analysis of that study on our podcast, Informed Pregnancy with Dr. Emiliano Chavira who is a maternal fetal medical specialist and OB-GYN, and we really break it down for you to see.  The results were not super clear.  But for many medical practitioners, it has become the sort of Bible of how to manage all pregnancy regardless of age and other factors, that all babies should be out by 39 weeks, by induction, by Cesarean, or other means.  So I think we’re doing a lot of induction for that reason, and it may not be the best idea.

Kristin:  Yeah, I mean, again, that cascade of interventions and unplanned surgical births, which have a long recovery time, and other issues.  So we did talk a bit about informed choices and decision-making, and obviously, all of the resources that you’re compiling are a great way for our listeners to start doing research on their own and being prepared for discussions with their provider if any interventions are discussed or induction is brought up.  So what are your tips for making informed decisions throughout pregnancy and during labor?

Dr. Berlin:  I think the most important thing is to have the right providers around you, the right obstetric providers.  They wield a lot of power.  They wield a lot of knowledge.  But there’s a wide spectrum of approaches to care, especially during pregnancy and everything that follows birth and postpartum.  And some people really do like a paternalistic doctor who will come in and tell you, this is what we’re going to do and not really give you very many choices.  But those patients want someone else to take all the responsibility and make all the decisions, and there are great practitioners like that who are amazing for that.  However, there are also some people who like to be very much in control of every decision that’s made, or at least have sizeable input, and if you’re with that type of practitioner, you’re going to end up being very unhappy.  So there are medical doctors; there are midwife, and in Los Angeles, we sort of have this weird circumstance where you can have almost anything.  We have OBs that are delivering at home.  We have midwives who are delivering at the hospital.  We have birth centers.  So there are a lot of choices.  But you sort of have to know yourself a little bit.  Am I more medical in general?  Am I more natural in general?  Do I like to be more involved in the decision making or have decisions made for me?  And then once you know all of that – and not everybody has this luxury, but if you do take advantage of it, find out who the practitioners are, and do some interviewing early on.  See from that pool of practitioners who are likeminded to you, who do you have the best chemistry with?  And that’s important.  I could see every day, people come out of their OB appointment.  Some of them are ecstatic, like, oh, so uplifting to go there and check in and reassure me.  And other ones come out almost crying every time, either from the way they were spoken to or the way they’re sort of being pushed down an alley that they don’t want to go down.  And that becomes really sometimes dangerous at birth because if you’re not on the same page as your practitioner and they start to recommend interventions, you don’t know, is that because they like intervening, and that’s the way they’re comfortable delivering babies, or because you really need that at that moment?  And when you’re in doubt, then it becomes dangerous.  That’s not a good time to be doubting your practitioners.  So to the extent you have the luxury, it’s nice to be able to know yourself, know the available pool of practitioners, and then find somebody who’s on the same page with you.  I think that’s the greatest, single most important thing for having a good experience, no matter how it goes.

Kristin:  Right.  And I’m a big fan of a birth preference sheet, a birth plan, and having that conversation with your provider, even though that provider may be sharing call with a large practice and may not be the one attending, but having in my experience as a doula, having the okay from the primary provider is helpful.

Dr. Berlin:  Absolutely.  The reason we sort of compile so much data and try to find different forms of media to deliver it in because today there are a lot of choices, and all of us as medical professionals are pulled in many different directions.  There is – you know, if there are going to be two options for you as a patient, and one of them takes all day for me, and one of them takes an hour, and they pay the same, there’s motivation for me to really want to do the one that’s going to take the hour because it pays 24 times better.  And I don’t necessarily have time to do the one that takes 24 hours.  That’s certainly not for everyone.  So I have motivation.  And we’re just human.  I’m not saying that doctors are bad; I’m just saying we’re human.  We all have decisions to make.  And there’s a lot more where that came from.  You know, what will your insurance cover versus not cover?  Sometimes our hands are sort of cuffed by the insurance companies.   They’ll say we’ll pay for this procedure but not that procedure, or this medication but not that medication.  We’ll pay for 2 visits or 12 visits.  And then there’s our insurance, which is looking out for liability, which is risk to the provider, not necessarily directly related to risk to the patient.  Certain procedures may be more liability, more risk of lawsuit or other things like that.  For example, if you go against the community norm, which right now for breach is to do C‑sections for all breach babies, if you’re one of those practitioners who says, you know, it’s your baby, your choice if you want to do a vaginal birth.  You look like a great candidate.  Let’s do it.  That automatically gives the practitioner more risk, more liability.

Kristin:  Absolutely, or VBAC.  I mean, you’re right.  They’re taking on a lot more liability.

Dr. Berlin:  Totally.  And so it’s not as simple as it used to be.  I mean, at some point, I just picture the doctor.  When someone was sick, a family doctor would come over and always have a little black bag.  Inside, there was probably some alcohol, some aspirin, and a thermometer, and that was it.  They took your temperature, and if they thought you were going to live, they’d give you some aspirin and alcohol to keep you comfortable until it happened, and same if they thought you were going to die.  Now, it’s a lot more complex.  And so with doctors and hospitals and everybody really being – any practitioner being pulled in lots of different directions, it’s important to know what the choices are so that you have a voice representing you specifically.  Not that the providers won’t want to represent you; they also have other factors to consider, and some of them may or may not be in your best interests.  And that data is sometimes hard to come by, so the podcast – now in our tenth year, we have 350 episodes.  Some of them are just – each episode, we have one on umbilical cord.  What’s a normal umbilical cord?  How is it formed?  What’s the typical anatomy and how does it work?  What are some things that can be a variation from typical anatomy, and what kind of problems might they cause or not cause and how to mitigate them?  Same for placenta; same for amniotic fluid; same for gestational diabetes and so on and so forth.  And a lot of them are just birth stories where people come, and the ones that are most popular are before and after birth stories where we’ll interview somebody during their pregnancy about pregnancy and their plans for birth, and then on the other side, how did it go.

Kristin:  Yes, I love those.  I send my clients to your podcast for the birth stories.

Dr. Berlin:  Oh, thank you.  I actually like going back and listening to some of them, too.  And really it’s like them processing, what did they learn from the experience that they couldn’t have known otherwise, and what can we as a result learn from that as well?  But more recently, we made two documentaries, one that we talked about, Heads Up.  And I made another one about vaginal birth after Cesarean called Trial of Labor, and it’s four women who share their stories.  They all had previous birth only by Cesarean and now are pregnant again, and they’re hoping for a more empowered experience.  And we had no idea how these births were going to end when we started the project.  We had very little time, and we just recorded and sort of gathered as much information about the process as they were going through it.  And they shared these very personal stories because they want to help you.  They want to help other people.  They want to – the subtitle could be, How to have your second birth the first time around.  How to avoid the mistakes that maybe were made.

Kristin:  Really, that’s what it boils down to.

Dr. Berlin:  Totally.  And you can, but it takes work, and it takes information.  And after we made these films, there was a huge, like, batch flare where we had screenings and online sort of virtual presentations, and we brought it to conferences and festivals, and there was a lot of activity around it and momentum and impact, which was the most important thing to us, and then afterwards, it kind of sort of fizzled out like a match does, and I realized the only thing I know less about how to make a documentary film is what to do with it once you have it.  And I started to talk to other filmmakers in the space.  There are some very, very powerful films, and it was similar for them.  It would come out.  There would be some noise around it.  It would be – you feel really good.  People get information.  And then it would just sort of peter out.  So I had this idea, what if we could take all these iconic films and put them in one place where you can access it online.  You can access it through apps like Apple, Android, Roku, Apple TV, and just consume what you want to consume and leave what you don’t.

Kristin:  It’s ideal because it’s so hard to search for things and to have the convenience is absolutely worth it.

Dr. Berlin:  And they’re all just on different platforms, some of them really obscure, so you’d have to sign up for each one to see it, and some you can only do on your phone, some you can do on other devices.  So that gave birth, so to speak, to this newest project, Informed Pregnancy Plus, and if anybody has way too much free time on your hands or lots of extra money, I recommend starting a streaming platform because that will solve both problems very quickly.  It’s my new baby.  I invest everything I have into it every day.  We have a very small team here, and we are gathering the content, licensing the content, streaming the content, and also producing new content.  So we have iconic films on there like The Business of Being Born.  We have Orgasmic Birth.  We have The Mama Sherpas¸ Breastmilk, The Milky Way, which is also a lactation film, great film.  We have a very fascinating film from Japan called Prenatal Memory, which is a doctor who’s been researching for 40 years now what babies remember from their time in the womb.  And we have a movie called Sick: The Battle Against Hyperemesis Gravidarum, which is an important conversation that doesn’t happen enough.

Kristin:  I haven’t seen that one.  That’s a very important conversation.

Dr. Berlin:  It’s a British film.  We have two that are on the sadder side, but also extremely important, I think, to see and share and talk about.  One is called You Are Not Alone, and it’s a documentary series from Australia about miscarriage.  And another one called Still Loved from England which is about stillbirth.  And our films, Heads Up and Trial of Labor, and another beautiful one called Beautiful Births.  There’s a lot of great exposure and information through those films, and then there’s web series that are just coming in hot and heavy.  Some that we produced, like the real midwives of Los Angeles.

Kristin:  Awesome.

Dr. Berlin:  And a bunch of other web series that are just full of practical information.  We started to put up a mind and body section with medications, with yoga, with fitness workouts.  It’s just growing every day.  And there’s workshops on there.  One of my favorite things is my wife’s workshop called The After Birth Plan, and that is how to prepare your relationship for a baby, how to still like each other after you have a baby together.  All of it’s in one place.  All of it is very easily accessible.

Kristin:  So how do we sign up, Dr. Berlin?

Dr. Berlin:  So online, you can go to and sign up that way, or Informed Pregnancy Plus has apps on Apple, Android, and Roku channel.  We’ll soon be expanding to more platforms.  But you can sign up on any of them.  Everyone gets a free trial, a three-day free trial, so you can go there, browse around, see the content, and then it’s subscription after that.  It’s around $6 or $7 a month or $60 a year, and you have unlimited, unfettered access.  And notifications as new material comes out and new content is being added all the time.

Kristin:  That’s so exciting.  So our listeners can also find you, of course, at your Informed Pregnancy Podcast, and you’re on quite a few social media channels, and of course you’ve got your website, as well.

Dr. Berlin:  Yes.  So our website has access to everything that we do.  And on social media, I’m primarily active on Instagram but also Twitter @doctorberlin.

Kristin:  Awesome.  Any final tips for our listeners?

Dr. Berlin:  No, I think that we’ve discussed a lot.  I think taking advantage of a local resource like the ones that you offer, Kristin, and also creating your own little community, your own little village.  It does take a village, and I think that when we lived on the village, in the village, on the family property, you were exposed to childbirth all the time.  You were exposed to breastfeeding all the time, and in fact the women of the village would gather around each other and support each other when it was their time.  And when it was your time, they would gather around and support you through the entire process.  And now that we don’t have that anymore, it’s all these new professions have popped up to try to replace that.  You know, we need childbirth educators because we don’t know.  Labor doulas, baby nurses, postpartum support doulas.  This is all the village.  But there’s other things that you can do to build village.  Sometimes you meet them through your doula, through your childbirth educator, through your prenatal yoga or fitness classes.  And then there’s online resources as well that kind of connect you together.  And there’s now more and more online information and online resources that you can use to consume information however you consume it best, by reading blogs or some of the great books.  One of the things we’re doing on Informed Pregnancy Plus is book reviews of baby books and parenting books, little five-minute video book reviews so you can get a lot of information, see which books might appeal to you most.

Kristin:  I love that.

Dr. Berlin:  But you can listen to it on audio.  You can read it in print, and you can now watch it on video.  It’s important to not wait until the very end when choices are being made for you but instead to empower yourself early and be an active decision-maker, be in the driver’s seat.  One final thing I’ll say is – and it doesn’t only have to be this way, but as observations as a male doula at many, many childbirths is, the difference between home birth and hospital birth for me, observationally – and we’ve had both, too, my wife and I – but in the hospital, when I’m observing birth, it’s always the laboring person is asking these questions.  “Can I go to the bathroom now?  Can I have this drink?  Can I have this snack?  Can I walk around?”

Kristin:  Right, because they’re the patient in the hospital.

Dr. Berlin:  They’re the patient in the hospital.  And the system is set up that, you know, almost as if you do what we tell you, like you work for us.  And at home, it’s the exact opposite.  If there’s any asking, it’s like, hey, mama, do you mind if we use this towel?  Is that okay?  Can we go in here?  It’s just a total opposite of empowerment, and even for your laboring at home for a while.  But these are some of the things that you see, like orgasmic birth is something that most people laugh at, like what?  It’s childbirth.  It’s supposed to be the most painful, horrible, and terrible thing ever.  Orgasm seems like the exact opposite.  But when you watch it – this film is an older film that is, I think, finally coming into its time because women are taking the empowerment back.

Kristin:  Yes, I agree.  It’s a great film.

Dr. Berlin:  And realizing like, we have this.  We can do this.  This can be a powerful and empowering experience, but only if you have the right chemical – only if you have the right ingredients, and now those ingredients are more available than ever.

Kristin:  Yes.  Love it.  Thank you, Dr. Berlin.  I could talk to you forever.

Dr. Berlin:  It’s mutual.

Kristin:  Appreciate you so much.

Dr. Berlin:  My pleasure.  Thanks for having me, Kristin.

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

Infertility Challenges and Options: Podcast Episode #177

Kristin talks with Dr. Amy Beckley, Founder and CEO of Proov about infertility challenges and options.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am excited to chat with Amy Beckley.  She is the CEO and founder of Proov, and Amy is also a PhD scientist.  So welcome, Amy.  I’m so excited to chat with you about both your professional journey and your personal infertility journey.

Dr. Amy:  It is so good to be here.  Thanks for having me.

Kristin:  Share a bit about your professional background, and let our listeners know more about Proov.  And then we’ll get into your personal journey.

Dr. Amy:  Yeah, sure.  So I am a scientist.  I started off thinking I wanted to go to med school, and I volunteered in an ER.  The first time I had to hold the hand of a poor man getting stitches, I about passed out.  And so I decided that maybe that medical field was not right for me.  But I still loved science and how things work and biology, and so I went to school to get a PhD.  I studied pharmacology, so it’s like how things work.  How different body systems communicate to each other, with a special focus on hormones.  So I did things like stress signaling, like cortisol hormone.  I did breast cancer signaling, so what happens when the breast metastasizes to the lungs and how that happens.

Kristin:  Fascinating.

Dr. Amy:  Yeah.  So I just really love science and just wanted to kind of make an impact in the space.  I always wanted to do something – they call it in the field translational, which means take something out of the lab into the world where people can actually use it.  And so that was really my goal, to create something that had an effect, right, like an actual product that was actually changing lives and creating an impact.  There’s so much really cool research that’s done within universities and companies that never comes to light.  So I always knew that I wanted to create that impact.  I couldn’t be a medical provider and do patient-facing care.  I wanted to provide tools for the medical professionals to do their jobs better.

Kristin:  I love it.  So was Proov your first business, or did you have other concepts that you brought into the world before Proov?

Dr. Amy:  No, it’s my first and only.  After I got my PhD, we do what’s called a post-doc, which is like postdoctoral training, kind of like a residency for the medical field, but for science.  And during that, I had gotten married, and I had moved into a nice house and a new, nice neighborhood with a good school.  And we’re like, okay, let’s just have kids.  How hard could it be?  And we struggled and struggled.  And then we got pregnant, and we lost that pregnancy.  And then we got pregnant, and we lost that one again.  It just became very clear to me that it wasn’t easy.  Physicians were missing it.  Here I was, this educated, scientific-minded person: could not get pregnant.  And it was – my diagnosis was unexplained infertility, which is the most common diagnosis you can get.  I was like, man, this field needs – we need to figure this out because we just don’t have the right tools and diagnostics.  My personal journey was I had – my first child was an IVF child.  He is now 12.  It was basically like, we don’t know what’s wrong with you, Amy, and since we don’t know what’s wrong, really the only thing that’s going to work really well is IVF.  It’s kind of like that medical band aid that just kind of fixes everything that could possibly be wrong.  So I went through that IVF process.  Then when we went to try again for our second child, I was like, I really just – I don’t want to do IVF.  I’d rather figure it out.  I mean, I have all these tools and knowledge, and I was connected to a really amazing reproductive endocrinologist and really talented doctors.  Let’s put the science and the medicine together.  Let’s figure this out.  And we came up with this diagnostic where we look at the hormone called progesterone after ovulation.  So progesterone is the pro-gestational hormone.  It is what keeps a woman pregnant, and it prepares the uterus for implantation.  And we weren’t monitoring this hormone enough in that you can’t just go and get a blood test and be like, oh, yeah, everything’s fine.  Just like you can’t go get a blood test for a single glucose.  It doesn’t make sense.  You have to track trends, and you have to make sure that hormone remains elevated.  So we created a urine-based test where we look at the metabolite in urine of progesterone across the entire implantation window, and we look, is it sustained?  Is it elevated?  Does it come down too early?  We can really talk about this idea of a healthy ovulation, and we can look at, are there possible ovulatory disorders?  Because my problem wasn’t timing.  It wasn’t that I wasn’t getting pregnant.  It was that I wasn’t able to stay pregnant.  It was something not to do with timing.  It was something to do with implantation and maintaining a pregnancy.

Kristin:   It’s amazing that you have personal experience that probably just elevated your passion for this work.

Dr. Amy:  Yeah.  I mean, through the course of my journey, I’ve had seven losses.  And I just – at the end, I kind of – I say coming out of the closet, for lack of a better word – but I just kind of – you know, you go through it, and you just don’t want to tell anybody.  You feel like less of a woman.  You feel ashamed.  You’re like, what is wrong with me?  I can’t even conceive.  I mean, look at everybody else.  Look at all these kids.  I closed myself off.  And then after my family was complete, I opened up, and I was like, this is what happened.  This is what I did.  And I just had so many women, friends, privately message me, like I’m going through the same thing.  What did you do?  What can I say?  And I would just educate them one on one on questions to ask, what kinds of tests did they need, things that they could try.  And then finally, one day, one of my good friends that also went through IVF, she called me, and she said, we have to do something.  We have to at least try to fix this because no one else is doing this.  No one else is creating these tools.  Why don’t we just do it?  So we did.  We just bought a bunch of reagents and went down to my basement and kind of – okay, all right, so the literature says we can do this.  All right, I can make some prototypes.  I can get this to work.  Okay.  We launched a crowdfunding campaign and presented it to women, to couples.  Hey, if we built this, would you buy it, and they did.  And so we made it.

Kristin:  I love it.  So you’re getting a response before you’re fully to market.  I love crowdfunding, especially for women-owned businesses because it’s so hard to raise capital.

Dr. Amy:  Yeah, definitely.

Kristin:   So as far as – I mean, obviously, the IVF process is not only expensive, but there are disappointments, the hormone fluctuations.  There are just so many issues when taking that on, and so it sounds like your solution is not only simpler, but more economical for families who are trying to conceive.

Dr. Amy:  Yeah, absolutely.  So as part of IVF, you retrieve the eggs, and then you transfer the fertilized embryo back in, and then you support the luteal phase with progesterone.  It’s usually a big, fat needle, straight to the butt.  It’s not fun.  It’s really painful.

Kristin:   That’s what I hear, yes.

Dr. Amy:  But I asked my doctor – I was like, let’s just skip the IVF part, and I would just like to support my luteal phase with progesterone because I just don’t think I’m making enough of it after ovulation to really support that pregnancy.  And so that’s what I did for my daughter, who’s now nine.  I monitored ovulation.  I timed intercourse.  And I started the progesterone, and I just kept taking it, and then I got a positive pregnancy test, and I continued taking it throughout the entire first trimester, and that was it.  That’s all I did was just add progesterone.  It was like that missing piece because there was no diagnostic out there to tell you that somebody didn’t have enough progesterone to support pregnancy.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  So what does the investment look like for a family?  At what point should they be reaching out to you?

Dr. Amy:  I really like making fertility diagnostics affordable and accessible.  So we are actually FDA-cleared for home use, and so these women can buy these on their own.  They’re on Amazon.  They’re on our website.  We’re launching in a major retailer in a couple months.

Kristin:  That’s so exciting.  I saw you could get them from your website, but yeah, it’s very accessible.

Dr. Amy:  I mean, what’s more accessible than the Amazon truck?

Kristin:  Exactly.

Dr. Amy:  I’ve seen it, some women, they get it the same day.  Two hours later, they show up on their doorstep.  It’s really cool.  Our base kits are $29, so we try to make them really affordable, as well.  And then if you do find an issue and you need a treatment, the medications that typically come in order to treat these types of issues are, like the ones that are covered under your $10 copays through insurance.

Kristin:   Perfect.

Dr. Amy:  Yeah.

Kristin:  That’s so affordable and accessible and simple.

Dr. Amy:  Yeah.  It’s just – we didn’t know that this was an option, so it goes from trying ourselves straight to IVF, and we really want to create that kind of middle ground where it’s like, all right, we’ve been trying a while.  It just hasn’t happened.  Before we go see and RE or think about IVF, why don’t we try Proov, see if we can identify any issues.  And then you’re kind of armed with that knowledge, that if you do identify an issue, your OB can treat you.  You don’t have to go to an RE.  And it really just cuts down that time.  Also, absolutely hated these arbitrary time limits where it was like, you’ve got to try 12 months or have 3 losses to go seek care.  And I was like, what?  Come on.  That’s ridiculous.

Kristin:   And some people if they are delayed, they don’t have that much of a window to conceive, if they’re older.

Dr. Amy:  Yeah.  If we arm them with that knowledge, and it’s like they come in there with, hey, I’ve identified this issue, that speeds up that clock.  You don’t have to do these arbitrary time limits.

Kristin:   I love it.  And so you’re bringing information, then, to your OB.  So tell us a bit more about why it’s important to be self-empowered when managing your own personal healthcare journey, especially with, obviously, pre-conception and conception.

Dr. Amy:  I mean, I just – I think it’s really important to self-advocate for yourself and do what you feel is right.  There is no right or wrong answer.  It’s what right for you and what’s right for your family.  Like, we have a traditional health system that tells you, you have to wait 12 months, and then you have to go to an OB, and then you have to deliver in a hospital.  And like, all these different things.  It’s like, no, you don’t.  If that’s not right for your family, then you don’t have to do that.  Just knowing that there are these resources.  The other thing I like to say is you’re hiring these people to be your care providers.  And if you go in to a medical provider, a doctor’s office, whatever, and you’re not getting the support that you need, you’re getting brushed off, they’re telling you things that you’re like, eh, I don’t know if that’s right for me – fire them.  Go find somebody else.  The best care that you can get is when you have an active conversation between yourself and your medical provider, and it’s a two-way street because you are the expert on you, and that medical provider is an expert in medicine.  And when you put the two minds together, that’s when you see the best treatment outcomes, the fastest, cheapest, best thing for you.  And so if you can’t have that open dialogue and that open conversation with them, you’re going to struggle.  You’re either going to spend too much money or you’ll be going around in circles.  You’re not going to have a good experience.

Kristin:  Agreed.  Trust is everything.  We relay that to our doula clients all the time.  Wonderful advice.  Do you have any other tips for our listeners who are silently struggling with infertility?

Dr. Amy:  Yeah.  One thing I’ve learned is that, like, a mother’s intuition is very, very real and correct a lot of times.  And so if you feel like there’s something wrong, if you feel like they’re missing it, they’re not listening, you should follow that and you should again kind of search for that and think about it because a lot of times, it’s true, right?  People go, oh, well, I don’t know if that’s right.  Maybe I’m just crazy.  It’s like, no, you have those thoughts because there’s a reason.  And so bring them up to your provider.  Think about them.  Try to get solutions based off of that.

Kristin:  I think planning is everything with the appointments being as short as they are.  Just having some talking points written down to make sure you cover everything during your appointment.

Dr. Amy:  Yes, that is a big one, too.  Every time I go into those appointments, I would just get nervous and then they’d say something, and I’m like, okay, and I’d leave.  And I’m like, darn it.  There’s all these things I wanted to ask.  Another really big tip was I had a little post-it note, and I think now we could probably do, like, notes on your phone or something, where as soon as you get a question, you just write it down.  And then when you’re sitting there face to face with your provider and they say, anything else, you go yeah, and you bring out your post-it note or your phone notes, and you go through the questions, and you make sure everything is addressed because you do get – you forget in the moment, and then you don’t ask, or you feel nervous or whatever.  So if you write them down and just read them out, you can get a lot of those answers.

Kristin:  Great tip.   So any other trusted resources to share with our listeners as they’re either struggling with infertility or planning future babies and they’re in that early stage of just talking about wanting to get pregnant?

Dr. Amy:  Yeah, I would say getting involved sooner than later has always been better.  So, for example, the couples that are like, okay, I’m struggling, but I’m just going to wait – they tend to spend more money on fertility treatments than the ones that are more kind of proactive.  I call them the Type Aers.  Like, teachers are huge Type A.  They’re like, all right, I have to get pregnant in this month because then that coincides with summer break.  They’re planning everything out.  So that I suggest.  We at Proov have a lot of information about fertility and resources and testing.  We don’t just do the female side.  We do a male side, as well, so we have a test for looking at modal sperm to make sure he is also functioning correctly because a lot of infertility is the male, as well, and we as females kind of put it all on our shoulders.  We’re the one tracking and using the apps and all this stuff.  And a lot of times, we just forget that it does take a sperm, too.  It’s an egg and a sperm to conceive.  There’s a lot of miseducation out there, as well.  The biggest one is ovulation test.  This is incorrect.  It’s not an ovulation test.  It’s not telling you if you’re ovulating.  It’s telling you, do you have this hormone that spikes before you ovulate, but it’s not actually telling you that you are ovulating and you have a healthy ovulation and you can support implantation.  And so there’s as lot of just misinformation out there that can be very frustrating to women.  Period tracker apps is another one that’s kind of a love-hate relationship where they use calendars, and they don’t know your unique body.  We have couples come in where they’re like, yeah, I’ve been timing intercourse off of my period tracker app for 12 months.  I’m so frustrated it’s not working.  I’m like, well, yeah, because it’s missing your ovulation.  It’s missing the fact that you’re not having intercourse on the right days.  Maybe you’re not even ovulating.  Like, your app doesn’t know your hormones.  It’s impossible to know.  And so I get frustrated with the lack of information or wrong information, but we just – it’s not helpful.  It’s actually harmful sometimes because people think, oh, it’s fine, and then they go straight to IVF because they’ve done everything they can possible do, and they timed intercourse, where it’s just the tools that you were using are just not as accurate as you thought they were.

Kristin:   Yeah.  And their friend may have used IVF with success, so it’s the only option that they know of.  So with this information, I mean, the more options you have, the better.

Dr. Amy:  Yes.

Kristin:   So how do our listeners and doula clients find you?  I know you have a website.  You’re on a lot of different social media channels.  What are the best ways to learn more, to connect, to order?

Dr. Amy:  Yes.  The best place is our website.  There, you can sign up for emails.  We have a bunch of educational content.  There’s a bunch of blogs.  All that stuff is free.  You can do a quiz to see what kind of tests are available that might be right for you.  We have a lot of educational content on Instagram @proovtest.  It’s a great place where there’s scientific tidbits of information.  We really try to educate women and couples to understand these ins and outs of fertility because it can be quite confusing.  We have a really amazing group of users on Facebook.  We have a user and support group on Facebook.  It’s about 10,000 women right now.  You go in, you learn about the products.  You can go in there.  You can talk about the products, what it means.  You can get support.  And then we have – once you graduate, we have a pregnancy group where women who’ve used Proov to get pregnant can talk about their pregnancies in a safe spot.  Those are both on Facebook.  You can also buy it on Amazon, so if you just search Proov Test on Amazon, there’s a variety of different tests and kits that we offer.  We don’t just do fertility testing, but we also have products that support a healthy cycle.  And so we have a couple of supplements that we offer that can really promote healthy hormones and a healthy cycle.  Those are the best places to find us.

Kristin:  Excellent.  Thank you so much, Amy.  It was lovely to chat with you, and I look forward to hearing some success stories from our clients and listeners.

Dr. Amy:  Awesome.  Well, thanks for having me.  I really appreciate it.

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

Prioritizing Your Needs Without Any Guilt: Podcast Episode #176

We talk with Elizabeth Andreyevskiy, a stress coach for moms and founder of Emotionally Healthy Legacy.  Elizabeth also has some free downloads for Ask the Doulas listeners!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am joined today by Elizabeth Andreyevskiy.  She is the owner and founder of Emotionally Healthy Legacy.  She’s a stress coach for moms and is also a podcast host of the Emotionally Healthy Legacy podcast.  Elizabeth is a mom of four and is super passionate about mental health and emotional wellness and motherhood.  She helps overwhelmed moms reduce mental stress so they can respond with patience and calm toward their kids.  She teaches proactive ways to be less stressed, prioritizing mom needs without guilt and ways to regulate emotions when feeling triggered.  Welcome, Elizabeth!  I’m so happy to have you here!

Elizabeth:  Thank you for this opportunity!

Kristin:  I would love to get into prioritizing your needs as a mother or a mom-to-be for our listeners who are newly pregnant without feeling any guilt.

Elizabeth:  So that is a big one that so many mamas that I talk to, they struggle with feeling guilty for taking time for themselves.  And before we get into that, I think it’s really important to understand what’s going on in our brain when our needs are not met and how that affects our emotions and emotional regulation.  So we have, like, three main parts of our brain that kind of we use when it comes to our emotions and thinking.  So right behind our forehead, it’s our frontal lobe.  It’s the prefrontal cortex.  I call it the thinking brain because that is where we make positive choices, logical thinking, we problem solve, we learn new skills, we mature.  That’s when we – if we’re in that part of the brain, when we’re in a conversation, we are making good decisions in the sense of the way we communicate and stuff like that.  And that’s you and me right now in that part of the brain.  And when our brain senses some sort of threat, it shifts us first into our emotional part of the brain, which is right kind of in the center of our brain.  And what happens is when we shift there, when we sense some sort of threat or a trigger, the emotional part of the brain lights up, and it shuts off the thinking brain because the thinking brain is not necessary for survival, and so our brain just starts to shift us to the emotional part of the brain.  And in the emotional part of the brain, this is when it comes out in our kind of – our brain senses some sort of threat, and it comes out in our words and in our tone and our behavior.  And so that is when – let’s say you have a conversation with your spouse.  You don’t feel seen or heard, and let’s say they ignore something that you’re saying.  That’s a threat to you, right?  And then it comes out into a rude tone, and you’re being disrespectful.  You start raising your voice.  And when it builds up enough, it’s going to shift you to the survival part of the brain, which is our fight, flight, or freeze.  That is where our brainstem is, and that’s definitely when your thinking brain is shut off.  This is when we’re having that big meltdown.  I don’t know if you’ve ever had moments like this, but when – this is when you’re, like, freaking out as a mom.  Like, not just like, oh, I’m frustrated; raising my voice a little bit.  That’s your emotional part of the brain.  Your survival part of the brain is like, everybody hide.  Mom is losing her marbles.  Like, you’re losing your cool completely because it’s the stress buildup with so much in your brain.  There is so much threat response, and so it’s like a toddler having a meltdown, right?  Like, you can’t teach them anything in that moment.  You’re not teaching them ABCs.  Same thing for you.  Like, you literally can’t think logically when the stress has built up so much in your brain.  And the key to all of this, to say more in your thinking part of the brain, is to help your brain feel safe.  And how do we do that?  And I start out with my mamas, because so many mamas prioritize everyone else above themselves, with simple things, such as sleep and eating meals, right?  We take care of our kids.  We give everyone food.  And then we somehow skip our meals.  And we make sure everybody goes to sleep at a reasonable time, and then we stay up so late scrolling on our phones and have poor quality sleep.  Also, sometimes you have a little one, right?  Like, you get poor quality sleep.  And what happens when – those are like the basic needs we all have, right?  Eating and sleeping; resting.  Like, basic.  And when those needs are not met, it creates a threat in your brain, and it will shift you to that emotional part of the brain, and you will be more reactive.  So I’m sure you’ve noticed: when you’re hungry and when you’re tired, you say and do things you wish you didn’t.  Like, if you’re driving on the road and you are so tired and exhausted, and you’re hungry, the person that just cut you off is pissing you off a lot more than if you just had a great time with your girlfriends, you ate a great dinner, and your emotional tank was full, right?  And your needs were met.  Same thing with our families.  Oftentimes, moms are reactive.  They’re raising their voice.  They’re yelling.  And they literally just have unmet needs.  And I always start out with the basics.  I’m like, are you hungry, or are you physically exhausted and tired?  Because if you are, you will be more reactive.  And then we kind of build off of that.  What are other unmet needs that you’re experiencing, right?  Maybe you just literally don’t have enough support.  You’re pulled in too many directions at the same time.  You have too much on your plate.  And so when we don’t take care of ourselves, even with the basics, you will be more reactive.  And then that creates a cycle of mom guilt, right?  Then we go down the spiral of, oh, I’m such a bad mom.  I’m yelling at my family.  I’m yelling at my kids.  Why am I always angry all the time?  And it’s not because you’re a bad mom.  It’s because you’re truly struggling.  You literally have unmet needs.  So that’s kind of the basic foundation I always start out with my mamas.  I’m like, we need to understand this, and then we build off of that.

Kristin:  Yeah, and especially in the postpartum time, whether it’s baby one or baby five, really, that focus on getting rest and nourishment and asking for support.  I feel like as moms, we feel like we need to do it all and be super woman when it’s important to ask for help, and moms often feel a little isolated and left behind when visitors and family members want to hold baby and the focus is on the baby versus the experience the mother just went through.

Elizabeth:  Yes, and I think – so I have four kids, and my youngest one is 16 months old.  When I was pregnant with her, my sister-in-law created a meal train for me for postpartum, and it was for six weeks long, for postpartum.  And I had people bring me meals for six weeks, three times a week.  Obviously, there was leftovers.  I did not have to cook for six weeks.  I think I made rice once, just a pot of rice.  I didn’t have to cook at all.  That is one thing that was off my plate that made life so much easier.  So here’s the mindset shift: you can try to do it all.  First of all, you won’t succeed because we can’t do it all.  You can try to do it all.  You’re going to get overwhelmed.  You’re going to get stressed out.  And it’s pulling from somewhere, okay?  That energy – you have a limited amount of energy, and it’s pulling it from somewhere when you’re trying to do it all.  It’s either pulling it from your physical wellbeing, from your mental wellbeing, or your emotional wellbeing.  Something is suffering, okay?  You’re not going to be able to do it all.  You might for a season, for a little bit, but it’s pulling from somewhere, and something is suffering because of that.  And most likely, it’s you, and then it’s negatively spilling into the rest of the family, right?  You know when Mom is in a bad mood; like, want it or not, it seeps into the rest of the family.  It just does.

Kristin:  Right.  You can be resentful to your partner because you feel like you’re doing more with the feeding needs and wake-ups and so on.  But if the mother’s not asking for help, then there are certainly some easy, actionable ways a partner can help.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Elizabeth:  I think that’s the biggest thing is shifting the mindset and being like, I’m asking for help to support myself and to make things easier.  That’s the reason.  I could do it all, but I’m choosing not to.  I’m asking for help to support myself and to make life easier, and have that conversation with your spouse or family members or friends that are around you in your life.  And here’s the thing.  Oftentimes, we have these conversations with our partner when we’re already overwhelmed, when we’re already stressed out, and we’re super heated.  And we’re like, you never help me with anything.  You always spend time on your phone.  That’s when we’re emotionally charged, right?  Our thinking brain is shut off, and we say things we regret.  So my suggestion for you is to have a conversation with your partner outside of a heated moment and be like, hey, look, I really need extra help and support right now.  Would you please take over with the other kids and put them to bed in the evenings?  Or would you please take over with the meals and make dinner?  Whatever it is.  Actually, I heard this from a marriage book – not “could you,” because, yeah, I could or I could not, but would you please support me and help me out.  I feel overwhelmed and stressed out.  I feel like I need a little bit of extra rest.  Otherwise, I’m yelling at everybody, and I don’t want to do that.  I don’t want to be that mom.  Would you please help me out?  And give them a tangible thing to do because people are like, okay, how can I help you, and I’m like, okay, you can take my kids out to a park.  You know when people postpartum ask you, like, oh, reach out it you need any help.  I’m like, here’s the meal train.  You can sign up over here.  You can bring me a meal, and you can take my kids out to a park next week.  Which day works best for you?  Like, I am always – if somebody offers help, I’m going to take them up on it.  Why try to push through and overwhelm myself and stress myself out if I can make things easier?  And my kids are going to have a great time at the park versus being, like, stuck at home, probably watching screens or something when you’re dealing with postpartum.

Kristin:  Exactly, and taking care of the baby and dealing with nap time.  It’s wonderful.  So I feel like friends and family members want to help, but unless they’re given specific requests, then they feel like they’ve made an ask, and they’re waiting.  Otherwise, yeah, you’re just feeling isolated and overwhelmed.  I love your focus on really setting up some strong communication between couples.  How do you – again, as you’re working with coaching clients, what are your tips for pregnant moms to really ask for help before baby is born and they’re in that overwhelm stage?

Elizabeth:  Yeah, I think that is really important, to ask for help before even the baby is born.  And you can either create a meal train yourself or you can ask a close friend or a sister if you feel weird doing it for yourself.  You can have them create that, and when anybody asks you when the baby is born or even like at my baby shower, people signed up for the meal train, and they just put their email down, and then my sister-in-law sent them a link with the meal train to sign up.  That is one of them.  And I think for me with other kids was having somebody take care of the other kiddos and taking them either for a sleepover or taking them to a park.  I’ve had people ask, hey, can I come over and clean your house?  I’ll be like, yeah, sure.  Come over, wash some dishes so I can sit there and hold my baby.  I know people tend to want to hold the baby postpartum, but that’s not really what I need help with, unless you have a colic baby who screams all the time and you actually do need a break.  Typically, you want to cuddle with a newborn who’s so sweet and precious.  Oh, it makes me want to have another one.  They’re so cute in that stage.  I absolutely love it.  I actually had a postpartum doula with one of my births, and it was really helpful.  She was able to just do some basic things around the house.  She ironed some of my husband’s dress shirts because he used to be a flight attendant, and he was gone a lot.  So that’s one of the things she helped with, ironing the shirts.  She washed the dishes.  She went outside and played with the other kiddos.  It was super helpful for me.  And she was even there for that emotional support, that I could talk to her and just literally share my birth story or talk about how I’m overwhelmed.  Just having someone to listen to you; that’s it.  Just being there.  so that was also super helpful for me.  Yeah, just getting over the mindset block, that it’s a weakness asking for help, and seeing it as a way to support yourself and to make things easier on yourself.  You can also do Instacart pickup or delivery, right?  That’s easier than going to the grocery store.

Kristin:  Exactly, especially during COVID and flu and RSV season, to take a newborn to the grocery store.  Definitely get the delivery service.

Elizabeth:  Yeah, why put yourself through that?  Why do that, if you can make things easier?  And my mom would be like, oh, I’m going to Costco.  Do you need anything?  I’m like, yeah, can you grab these three things, and then Venmo the money or give her cash next time I see her.  So it saves you a whole trip.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Great tip.  And I’m all about registering for services, again, like a postpartum doula that you mentioned or a meal delivery service having premade meals, a housekeeper.  Just some actionable thing, the diaper services, whatever it might be.

Elizabeth:  And those are amazing gifts for new moms, by the way.

Kristin:  Yes, because then you don’t get – I feel like people tend to shop off the registry, or you register for things you don’t need until a baby is one or beyond and in the walking or crawling stage, so then you have extra clutter and things in your home that you don’t necessarily need.  So I’m all about services and things that can make a difference versus having more things to clog up your house.

Elizabeth:  Yes, for sure.

Kristin:  So as far as working with you, what would that look like for our listeners?

Elizabeth:  Yeah, thank you for asking.  So I have a coaching program.  It is called Be Less Stressed.  And in my coaching program, we start out with figuring out the root of your stress, like getting down to the basics first.  Why are you stressed out and overwhelmed, and learning how your external behavior is actually mirroring internal struggle.  I teach you how to prioritize your needs without having any mom guilt.  We talk about how to release stress out of your body because stress collects in our body if we don’t release in our mind.  Healthy ways to release stress and process stress, how to say no to things that drain you, how to delegate to save energy.  How to reduce the stimulation that causes sensory overload, importance of calming your nervous system, because when our nervous system is overloaded, that’s also another reason why we tend to react.  Sometimes we do have met needs; our needs are met, but we just have so much sensory overload, and our nervous system is so tense.  So teaching the strategies, how to calm your nervous system and lift your mood when you’re in a funk and you’re just feeling kind of low.  Rewiring your brain to respond in a positive way.  So many times, we just react in a certain way.  We’ve been doing it for years, but we notice that that’s not how we want to be with our kids anymore or with our spouses because our kids are starting to repeat our patterns, right?  And so we want to respond in a more positive way; just to rewire your brain to respond in a positive way when you’re triggered, when you feel like you’re about to blow up.  Like, what do you do in moments like that?  And communicating your emotions and your needs with your family members and asking for that support.  A lot of my program is shifting the way you think and creating healthy habits that support you in your life right now, in your season of life right now, that support your mental and emotional well-being so then you can show up as that best self for your family.  And yeah, that’s what my coaching program is for, and I’m your support system.  I’m your mentor.  I’m your guide.  I’m making sure I’m checking in with you; you’re doing the work and not just listening and not implementing anything.

Kristin:  Love it.  And they can find your course on your website, correct?

Elizabeth:  Yes, on my website.  It has the details on it, how to work with me, how to reach out to me.  And I also made a special page for your listeners.  There’s three free downloads that you can download.  One of them is positive affirmations for you.  If you lost your cool with your kids and you feel so guilty, it’s a recording of positive affirmations that you can listen to, to remove that mom guilt and see that you’re just struggling in that moment.  You weren’t trying to explode on your family on purpose, right?  And then there’s five strategies to reduce overwhelm quickly, to calm your mind and body when you feel super overwhelmed.  And then if you want to feel in general less triggered as a mom, just in general, I have a training for the mamas, as well.  It’s called Be Less Triggered.  So check that out, and if you want to reach out to me, I hang out on Instagram @emotionallyhealthylegacy.

Kristin:  Nice!  And then tell us a big more about your podcast.

Elizabeth:  Thank you for asking, yes.  So same title, Emotionally Healthy Legacy Podcast.  You can listen to it on any podcast platform, and it’s all about proactive things that you can do to lower your stress, how to respond better, ways that you can support yourself in motherhood and literally just make mom life easier.  It could be practical things or mindset shifts to release some of that stress and let go of things that are weighing you down.

Kristin:  Love it.  Any final tips or thoughts for our listeners?

Elizabeth:  Yes.  Nobody benefits when you’re running on empty and have unmet needs, and nobody suffers when you take care of yourself and prioritize your needs.

Kristin:  Love it.  Thank you so much, Elizabeth!  It was wonderful to chat with you.

Elizabeth:  Thank you for having me!

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

The Role of Caregiver for New and Expectant Moms: Podcast Episode #175

Kristin chats with Bre Boysel of Cariloop about the role of caregiver for new and expecting moms.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Bre Boysel today.  She is the director of coaching services for Cariloop, and Bre is a mom of four has a 14-year career in nursing and is also a health coach.  Welcome, Bre!

Bre:  Thank you!  Thanks for having me.

Kristin:  I’d love to hear a bit more about your background and how it led you to Cariloop.  I know you worked in both pediatric and geriatric care as a nurse.

Bre:  I did.  I spent a number of years in direct patient care, and through that experience really gained insight to the fact that it was one thing for patients to be receiving that direct care, but often questioning how much they were truly set up for success when they weren’t receiving that direct care and they were back home, whether that be from an illness or welcoming a new family member into their home.  And I encountered the opportunity to join Cariloop and their mission that is so near and dear, and here we are.

Kristin:  I love it.  I know Cariloop exists to relieve the stress and anxiety felt by caregivers and to give connections and resources, and you have a variety of coaches.  So would you fill us in a bit more about your model of care?

Bre:  Absolutely.  Cariloop is concierge support service that connects caregivers with a dedicated care coach.  We partner with organizations who provide our service to their employees as part of their benefits and wellness package.  And those caregivers come to us and connect via our web-based portal and are paired with their dedicated care coach, which as you had already mentioned, we have a wide variety of backgrounds in healthcare and caregiving to really be able to support our members, regardless of what phase or what type of caregiving journey they’re on.  And like you said, we believe no one should go through caregiving alone, and we really just walk alongside them and support them through all the twists and turns of what caregiving brings.

Kristin:  And Bre, can you give us some examples as far as caregivers outside of nursing fields?

Bre:  Coaches?

Kristin:  So health coaches, life coaches that deal with more of the medical aspect.  Would those be some –

Bre:  Sure.  So we have coaches with backgrounds in nursing, social work, administration, all of the different care settings as far as acute care, long term care, primary care, so that regardless of what that experience is, although those members are connected with their own care coach, we can also tap in to the wealth of expertise that we have from the whole depth of the coaching team, and they come from all settings.

Kristin:  So for medically complex issues, more of that concierge care to help navigate the system.  And also, as you had mentioned, just the employer benefits and understanding how to best navigate that.  So I do love that you’re dealing directly with employers to enhance the experience of their employees.

Bre:  Absolutely.  It’s so funny that you mention that.  It is open enrollment time, and it’s one thing when we’re going through those elections for our benefits as those things are fresh in our mind, but when you are going through a caregiving journey, oftentimes the first place that we think to go isn’t always the benefits that we have available to us through our employer.  So we positioned where we are as coaches and to be able to really dive into all of the avenues a caregiver has to explore to receive the support that they need, whether that be their employee benefits or employer benefits, rather, or their insurance or support within their community.  Oftentimes, I’m doing everything that I can.  Are there other things out there that I don’t know about or that I’m missing that could be helping my loved one or myself?  And so to be able to outline that for these families and those caregivers so that they feel empowered and encouraged and informed in making the decisions that go into caregiving daily is something that we really love to be able to do.

Kristin:  I think I could use a coach for navigating my benefits program and insurance and understanding all of the options.  It’s overwhelming.

Bre:  Yes, yes.  It very much is.

Kristin:  So you’re also a certified B-Corp, and that is very impressive, as Gold Coast is a B-corp.  There are very few healthcare focused B-corps, so I was so excited to see that you went through the very rigorous process to become certified.  Tell me a bit about why that is important to you as a company.

Bre:  I think it’s so important to us as a company because we are reinvesting into our communities, and to really be able to create the global standard for the way that we support caregivers, families, and each other, a huge part of that is walking the walk, so to speak, and so to be able to go through the process of becoming a B-Corp and to really be able to highlight that as an organization to show what we are doing to invest in our community and the cause that we are so invested in is really incredible.

Kristin:  I love it.  So let’s get into navigating all of the changes with expecting families as becoming a caregiver for the first time or with baby number four.  I know the first year is very overwhelming and so many changes.  So I would love to hear your tips on best tools and resources for families as they’re navigating caregiving for the first or as I said, the fourth time.

Bre:  Yeah.  I think one of the biggest things is first to just recognize that they are caregivers.  So often when we are connecting with and supporting families, it’s not often that people self-identify as caregivers, unless they are in a situation where maybe they are caring for someone who has had an acute event and are ill or maybe an aging loved one.  But it’s so important to recognize that beyond being a sister and a spouse and an employee, being a parent is being a caregiver.  And I think that’s one of the biggest things that I can encourage parents to do is to recognize that they’re caregivers, too, and to really create a community of support around that.  As you said, that first year is a lot of guaranteed change as they’re going through pregnancy and bringing baby into the world and adjusting to being a family of three or being a family of six.  And so I think that would be the number one tip is just to embrace the fact that they are caregivers.

Kristin:  I know as far as options, it can be – especially for a first-time parent, you really don’t know what resources in your community or across the country would be available to you for support.  So how does someone navigate not only their system within their employer as far as benefits package and leave times, but really, again, getting that community of support?  Some great options to look into outside of Cariloop?

Bre:  I think starting with their provider is a great place.  Every family’s journey is different, as are our desires for our experience, and so starting with their provider and having conversations about what their hopes are for their pregnancy and their delivery and really having that open line of communication with their provider as a starting point to explore then from there what best resources there are within their community as far as classes that may be offered by the hospital or getting the better understanding of what delivery options they have by taking a tour at the hospital, all the way to then connecting with the hospital on the providers that visit there as far as when the baby comes.  There’s just so much to unpack through that journey that starting with your provider is a really, really great place.

Kristin:  I love it.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  And then as far as support groups, I think the pandemic has opened things up to have a lot of online support available, whether it’s breastfeeding groups or perinatal mood disorder support groups.  So obviously, like, really understanding what options are, and I also think figuring out the benefits plan of, like, what would be self-pay and what would be something that your insurance or flex spending or health savings would cover.  Navigating budgets and priorities.

Bre:  Yes, absolutely.  And connecting with your employer is a great place to start there, especially when bringing a baby into the family.  That then creates the opportunity to make those changes in benefit elections, as that’s a life event.  And so even exploring; maybe a family hasn’t used a flexible spending account before, and looking into how the change in dynamic of their family, how that may be better suited for them as their family grows.  And so connecting with their employer to see what options they have through that avenue, and again, the pandemic has opened so many doors as far as virtual support groups and ways to create that community of care and be connected.  I just always encourage families – trying is the first step, and especially when you are seeking our resources that are so personal, and as we talk about intimate things within our family dynamics of growing our families or life stressors or finances, all of those things that kind of compound together to create each of our own unique scenarios.  Finding the right community and the right support as far as those support groups or counselors or peer groups, even, within our community.  It’s really important to take that first step and try because that’s often the scariest part, and then you’re able to really just connect with people who understand and can support you as navigating all of the changes in that first year in particular.

Kristin:  And also, you know, getting that plan early, not only with childbirth classes through doula companies or a hospital and hiring additional support, but thinking about childcare and what you’re going to do for that plan.  Again, how much paternity leave is offered?  How much maternity leave?  And then starting with either a postpartum doula or a nanny right away to help that adjustment, and I know that childcare centers with newborns are very challenging to get into right now.  And so getting on that waitlist if that’s important or finding in-home daycare or a nanny share or working with a newborn care specialist.  Like, finding that right type of support for your family.  And of course, some families rely on grandparents.

Bre:  Absolutely, and I think that brings up such a great point, just that it can be really challenging for caregivers to be in the present and enjoying this experience of growing their family and bringing a baby into the world and also planning ahead, and as you said, we have seen with the aftermath of COVID and since COVID started, that availability of childcare in that many families are having to get on waitlists and start to explore what those options are going to be a year in advance, oftentimes as soon as they find out they’re expecting.  And that can be really challenging to try to be present and also plan and prepare.  And again, I think in supporting these families and these members and these caregivers, it’s important to kind of give themselves some grace in that it is stressful, and it is a lot to unpack as they’re exploring what options are best suited for them.  But again, I would just encourage them to connect with those services with any that kind of speak to their situation and what they feel may be helpful for them, and just have the conversation because, again, as we talked about before, a lot of times some of the biggest stressors come from just questioning, is there something else out there?  Is there more?  Am I missing something?  And by reaching out and connecting with those services and those options for different support after baby comes or as you’re returning to work and needing childcare, having those conversations and exploring those different avenues is really empowering and encouraging in really feeling like a family is making the best decision for their family and where they are in their journey.

Kristin:   I love it.  So, Bre, some of our listeners may not fully understand what the role of a certified healthcare life coach would be.  Could you explain a bit about the coaching role to our audience?

Bre:  Absolutely.  So as care coaches – again, we have the honor of connecting with families and supporting them through their journey to – with the goal of relieving the stress and anxiety that we feel as caregivers.  And that looks different to each family.  In some instances, that can look like finding those childcare providers or a doula as a family prepares to deliver their baby and bring baby home.  It may also be, again, navigating those employer benefits that they have access to or their insurance.  Oftentimes, we have expectant families come to us and share that their provider has informed them that they have until a certain number of weeks to pay a certain amount based on the relationship that their provider has with their insurance company.  That’s oftentimes a new concept to families, so that global maternity billing, to be able to connect with a family and explain to them what that is and what it means for them and what will happen if maybe they don’t end up getting delivered naturally and how that will then change.  And then on to preparing, and receiving support in breastfeeding, or families who maybe nursing didn’t work out and they are facing the formula shortage; what to do there if they’re having trouble accessing the services and the things that they need for their family.  And so a coach just joins them there and connects with them to identify the things that are causing them stress so that we can take that off their plate and navigate that for them, so that then we can come back to them after doing that legwork and kind of outline what their options are or what information we’ve been able to gather for them, again, so that they can make a really informed decision and feel empowered in doing so with all of the unknowns that they face.

Kristin:  I love it.  And I’m sure if they’re navigating medically complex newborns or bedrest, it could be even more helpful to get that support early on, if they know they’ll have a NICU baby; expecting triplets, for example.

Bre:  Absolutely.

Kristin:  So any tips as a mom for our listeners?

Bre:  Oh, as a mom of four, there are a lot of days that I feel like I am winging it, and it took a long time for me to work through some of that mom guilt that I think so many of us face in trying to juggle it all.  And so I often have to remind myself to extend myself a little grace and also to delegate and be comfortable in sharing what it is that I need to balance being a mom and a spouse and a daughter and all of the things.  So I think as an experienced mom, that would be what I would really encourage other moms to do for themselves.

Kristin:  I love it.  So, Bre, how can our listeners find you?  I know you have a website for Cariloop and you’re on quite a few different social media platforms.  Share away.

Bre:  Yes, they can find us on LinkedIn, on Instagram by searching Cariloop, and they can also visit our website.  We have options there for them to connect us with their employer, to discuss that.  And then we also have contact information there for them to reach out to us directly.

Kristin:   I love it.  Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, Bre.  It was wonderful to meet you.

Bre:  Same to you.  I appreciate you so much.  Thank you.

Kristin:   Have a great day.

Bre:  You, too.

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

Reclaiming Our Feminine Energy As Mothers: Podcast Episode #174

Kristin chats with Dr. Laura from Mind Your Soul about supporting and reclaiming feminine energy in motherhood.  Dr. Laura is the author of “You Are the Most Perfectly Perfect You.”  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I’m here today to chat with Dr. Laura.  Dr. Laura owns Mind Your Soul, and she is a clinical psychologist who specializes in supporting women who feel they’ve lost their vibrancy within the transition of becoming a mother, which includes preconception and well into the motherhood journey.  Clients that resonate with Dr. Laura’s approach are high achieving, open minded, curious explorers with a propensity towards holistic health and attachment style parenting.  Welcome, Dr. Laura!

Dr. Laura:  Hello!  I’m so excited to be here!

Kristin:  I’m so happy to chat with you!  I know our focus today is going to be on supporting the feminine energy to be reclaimed, rediscovered, and unearthed.  So as we get into that, I’d also like to touch on – for our listeners who aren’t familiar with attachment parenting, what that really entails as far as an approach.

Dr. Laura:  Sure.  So maybe we’ll start with the attachment parenting.  Maybe that’s a little bit more tangible than this whole concept of feminine energy, which can get a little woo-woo, so we’ll try to keep it grounded and connected for everybody.  So what I mean by attachment based perspective is really these concepts that we come in as human beings, and we have these two kind of opposing forces.  One is that we really need to attach, right?  We’re not going to survive if we don’t attach to another human.  We’re not actually physically equipped to do so.  And the other part is this drive to be autonomous.  This idea comes from a Canadian physician, and I’ve kind of taken that and expanded it a little bit and really brought it into my own perspective is what I mean.  I think the obvious of needing to be cared for when we’re an infant is pretty obvious.  This other part of needing to have autonomy – you know, we all have basic needs, and so that’s really where the autonomy comes in, meaning this need to express ourselves, to feel like we matter, that we feel like we belong really unconditionally.  I know that can be a very loaded word, unconditional, but really that we truly live within our tribe, and that’s not only meant for the immediate family nucleus but kind of that radiating out, that we belong, without any conditions.  We don’t have to be a certain way or do a certain thing or perform in a way to be good girls or good little boys or any of those things.  So that’s my perspective of attachment, needing those two things and allowing both of those two things to flourish simultaneously.  And now because we’re human, they often don’t, right?  And again, that’s said without any blame or any shame.  You know, when we’re able to just look at something for what it is with that detachment, from my perspective, that’s where we can really thrive.  That’s where we can grow.  That’s where we can expand and say, what is this here to teach me.  So I’ll pause there because I know there might be some questions or want to dialogue a little bit about what I just said.

Kristin:  Yeah, I love your definition.  So most people define attachment parenting as basically a crunchy mom who wears her babies and never – you know, feeds them immediately when they cry, doesn’t follow any schedule.  So I love your definition.

Dr. Laura:  Yeah, and to me, I think this actually weaves really well into, like, feminine energy, right?  Which isn’t only reserved for female anatomy persons, but in this concept, to be attuned, you can do all of those things, right?  You can have the no schedule; kind of attuned parenting is how I like to think of that.  And sometimes, you know, specifically as mamas, we can get a little unbalanced in that.  We can get – the side of the teeter totter can weigh heavily so, let’s say, attuned to our child’s needs that we forget about our own.

Kristin:  So true.  And depletion begins.

Dr. Laura:  Absolutely.  And that’s when that joy, that spark – and then, you know, eventually, it can over time kind of grow into this depression or resentment or shame like I’m not doing enough.  It can manifest in a lot of other things other than feeling really radiant in how you’re showing up as a person.  So when I say attachment, we kind of initially started it as starting with the parenting journey, but then that really transcends out really throughout our whole livelihood, right?  How do we attach to people – colleagues, partners, children.  How are we also mindful to being autonomous, and where do we get our needs met, and how are we showing up in our fullness and with our purpose?

Kristin:  Exactly.  Yes.  And I feel like there’s so much focus on the baby after birth, and the mother or birthing person often gets forgotten.

Dr. Laura:  And even I think sometimes in crunchy circles, there can be that – what is it, the 40-day sacred window?  You know, there can be.  I think there’s at least starting to be a slower movement to hold space for a period of time after a woman has given birth.  And yet this is why I love in your intro of me where you said really motherhood throughout the journey because the hard stuff doesn’t just stop after 40 days, like on day 41, you’re like, oh, I’m so great now.

Kristin:  We’re a mother forever, even when our children are adults.

Dr. Laura:  Exactly.  Exactly.

Kristin:  Yeah, that is beautiful.  And certainly, yes, mothering the mother and understanding a lot of the traditional cultures that do care for the mother while helping care for the baby and feed the mother and the importance of nutrition and, again, avoiding that depletion and the isolation that a lot of new moms feel.

Dr. Laura:  Absolutely.  And for the larger part, this is more of a cultural or specific to westernized societies, right?  We’ve moved so far away from the concept of village.  What you just mentioned where indigenous tribes would make sure that the mom wasn’t depleted, but also then somebody else was stepping in and taking care of a new mom; literally, the mom, but also the baby, right?  So you had this built-in support network.  And often, you know, we have to create that ourselves because it’s not, let’s say, innately in our surroundings anymore.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So when you get into working with clients on reclaiming that feminine energy, is it a bit about the differences between genders and how we respond as parents, or can you define more of what that process to work with you would be like?

Dr. Laura:  Sure.  And of course, you know, my first snippet is going to be of course it’s going to be unique, right, because we’re all unique.  So my presence, though, or my perception is we all kind of come in, and aside from those kind of basic needs – we all have them – we also want to be, like, really seen and really heard, right?  Regardless of man, woman, and identifying as anything else.  So that’s really where I like to meet people at is, like, where are you – you know, because by the time you’ve reached me, you’ve identified something isn’t working, right?  Like there’s some sort of tension, and that’s usually when we go to any kind of doctor or a dentist, right?  Like, there seems to be a problem.  And I really want to, like, take away that talking to any kind of mental health professional indicates that there’s a problem.  I would say long before that, if anything, there’s already an imbalance, generally speaking, in our society, and so when you use any kind of counseling services or therapeutic services, my perspective is, like, that’s just good hygiene, right?  You know, that’s like going to yoga or going to the gym or our diet.

Kristin:  Get your oil changed.

Dr. Laura:  Exactly, right?  So that’s where I like to meet them.  And then it’s like really holding space for, okay, what is needing to be seen?  And it can be a rather – I don’t want to say slow like in the concept of time, but it’s an unfolding process, right?  Because sometimes for some moms, by the time I – or just people, really; just any people, not even mothers – by the time they see me, they’re so ready to, like, put down the heavy karmic backpack that they’re carrying.  It’s like the dam has broken and here we go.  For others, it’s like a soft unlayering of, like, what’s in there; how did that get in there; oh, I didn’t even know that was in there.  So it’s that unpacking and going moment by moment to what’s arising and then holding space and then coming back.  I mean, it’s quite frankly a process.

Kristin:  It is near the work of doulas.  Again, you’re talking about holding space, being open, allowing them to really identify their own individual goals and journey and just supporting that without judgment, and it sounds like that is a lot of your process.

Dr. Laura:  Absolutely.  And I think it’s just like me; like, if I talk to you, you can see holes that I can’t see in myself, right?  That’s kind of – but sometimes I can see them.  Maybe I just needed a mirror to look, right?  So it’s not about somebody being right, but it is just exactly like you said in your work as a doula or doula work, period.  It’s holding space and that attuned listening.  What is asking to be seen and heard right now?

Kristin:  Exactly.  So how did you get into this work, Dr. Laura?  Was it your own motherhood journey?  I mean, there’s so many paths you can take as a clinical psychologist.

Dr. Laura:  Yes.  I am the birth mama of two littles, and I’m a bonus parent to two adult kiddos, but before either of those situations happened, it was really obvious to me that my mom needed some support and didn’t feel like she had it, could ask for it, could get it.  So I think it was really this – I always say that I became a psychologist because that’s my person who just happens to be that title.  I’m so inquisitive and just curious of how things unfold in that way.  And so that’s kind of my own upbringing, just seeing that women need more care and support.  And it wasn’t anything that my mom did or didn’t do but just realizing how society, generally speaking, again, kind of treated women or maybe dismissed them or didn’t hold emotions.  You were just supposed to get over it, or not being able to be angry.  So that has – I mean, from an early age, that’s just colored my direction of where I wanted to go.  And then I’ve worked with a lot of kiddos, and again, that really highlighted for me just kind of some disconnections between – like, the unbalance, really, between what we give to our kids and what we don’t give to ourselves, and it’s usually the mothers.  Again, not always.  And then it’s just kind of unfolded in lots of different ways.

Kristin:  Right, yes.  Beautiful.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  So you’re also an author and speaker?  You’ve brought a book into the world?

Dr. Laura:  I did, and talk about – whoo.  I am also a Virgo, and what I realize about myself through the book writing – I was self-published, and it’s called You’re The Most Perfectly Perfect You: Reclaiming Self-Love, and it’s intended to just be a kind of a short little – it is a short little book, but it’s really just intending to, like, hold some space and some love.  It’s like this juicy little love bomb to you.  But in that process, like, realizing some of my shadows came out.  Or like this perfectionist, like, wanting to write it one time and be done, and then, you know, hiring an editor, and it’s like, uh, you might want to rethink this and this and this.  And I realized even – I’m going to go back and then link this all together, but you asked, like, what brought me to this work, too.  I think a big part of it is that when I step into this role, I’m also then holding myself, like, accountable, too.  Like, to kind of continually – I don’t want to say evolve as, like, a narcissistic hierarchy, but as a way to, like, expand and to grow because I’m also aware of how I want to show up for clients.  But then how am I showing up for me, right?  Like, how am I doing this work in my own personal work, right?  I don’t want to a person – it’s like walk the walk and talk the talk.  So I know for me, that’s part of it.  Like, offering these services also grounds me into that state of being.  So I saw that come full circle in writing the book and how I would want to just give my power away, right?  Like, okay, editor, you tell me what to write, as opposed to it being like a collaborative back and forth of, what am I trying to express here, and what is the best grammatical way for it to unfold.  And yeah, so it was a very interesting process.  A lot of growth.

Kristin:  Sounds like it.  Well, how – I feel like – okay.  The full self-care is overused.

Dr. Laura:  Oh, yes.

Kristin:  And it’s troubling at times because people think, oh, if I go and – you know, get a manicure or go for a walk.  But truly, like, I think you’re getting to more of the core in identifying who the self is, and we have so many roles as mothers, and that would be, you know, obviously, mother first and then partner and daughter to our parents and your role at work.  And so really defining who you are as a core because I feel like really, I mean, we often get lost in that primary mother role.

Dr. Laura:  Absolutely.  Absolutely.  Especially if we – you know, kind of how we started our talk, right, if we identify as that crunchy, attuned, attached parent doing all the things, making all the food, child-led learning aspects.  We definitely can overemphasize with that, or at least I know I can.  And I think as you’ve probably experienced, too, mothering has seasons, right?  So there’s moments when maybe the child or your children need more priority.  But that doesn’t meant that the mother is ever forgotten, right?  And so in my work, it’s reminding women that.  Because the longer that we forget about ourselves, then that tends to sort of snowball into other things.

Kristin:  Exactly.  No massage or manicure is going to make up for the isolation.

Dr. Laura:  Absolutely.  And what I always say about self-care, and I love that you said it’s so overused, because the concept of it isn’t wrong.  It’s that it’s become so overused that we just schedule these things as if they’re another checkbox to complete, right, as opposed to go in with intentionality.  So it’s not about eliminating the manicure or the bubble bath or massage or whatever it is that we’re doing.  But bring attention.  Like, why am I doing this?  Right?  So the manicure is because you want to go and have some chit chat with somebody and just, like, not think so hard about when your baby is going to next feed.  Like, cool.  Then just be really mindful that that is a little break for you to also reconnect and, like, connect with another adult, if that’s what it is for you, right?  And maybe it’s like you feel really pretty and empowered when you have your nails done.  Sorry that I’m stuck on manicures.  It can be any one thing that we pick, right?  It’s about just being really intentional with how we’re spending our time, period.  Like, why are we doing what we do ever?

Kristin:  Yeah.  And then how does the – as you get into, again, that self-care, but really getting into conscious parenting, partnering, and involving the partner in this journey to reclaiming and supporting feminine energy?  Because I know in your definition, again, you had mentioned it’s not gender-related, but how does the partner – how is their involvement in this process?

Dr. Laura:  Yeah.  So again, if you think of – or how I perceive things is the yin and yang, right?  The whiteness and the darkness, but together, that is sort of the completeness.  Now, to any kind of single parenting people out there, that’s not to say that you need a partner to make yourself complete.  That’s not what I’m talking about.  Not what I’m talking about.  But this idea that – for me, it’s this felt being that we all come in with some energy force, right?  And, like, where is our complement?  That’s all I mean by, like, the feminine energy and a partner, which could be an actual partner.  It could be kind of like a surrogate partner.  It could be a greater, like, community of network partners, right?  So it’s how do you recognize where your strengths are, and then what kind of – what energy balance is that, to feel like it’s more full and rounded?  Does that make sense?

Kristin:  It does.

Dr. Laura:  It was a little woo-woo, but you got it?

Kristin:  I got it.  Yeah, that’s very helpful.  Obviously, again, you mentioned the birthing persons without a partner and really asking for support.  I know that can be tricky to navigate, or if their partner travels and is gone and they’re feeling isolated, I’m sure this is a big topic for your clients about, you know, communicating their individual needs and having hesitation in asking for help because I think in our society, we’re expected to be super women.

Dr. Laura:  Absolutely, right?  Bounce back and just good to go.  Or take your 40 days and you’re fine, right?  So obviously, you know, we’re kind of combatting, let’s say, cultural expectations or cultural norms that are – I say norms, but they’re norms because that’s what happens.  It doesn’t mean that they’re self-sustaining, right?  So yeah, it is about knowing what your needs are and how to communicate what you need because we can get really good at, like, you know, kind of blaming, right?  Like, you’re gone all the time, and you don’t even know what I need.  And then it’s like the other person; what did you do?  It’s like a guilt trip, right?  So now you just made the other person feel bad for leaving because that’s just the way that they’re sustaining your family at the moment or whatever.  So part of it is accepting what is and then really advocating for what you need.  Now, sometimes we’re going to get that.  When we can get even clear and say, like, I need help.  It’s a collaborative effort to find some live-in help, or you get into a group around the corner that you feel that you have help.  But sometimes it’s not possible, right?  Sometimes it’s like, oh, I can’t afford that.  I live in a rural area; that’s not going to happen.  Or I just can’t even have the energy to search for this, right?  So sometimes, again, it’s about asking or identifying your needs without the expectation that they’re going to be met in a way that you think they’re going to get met, right?  This goes back to my concept of being seen and heard.  A lot of times, mothers or feminine embodiments just need to know that they’re heard.

Kristin:  Yes.  We don’t need to have things fixed; we just want to be heard.  Yeah.

Dr. Laura:  And that also goes back to the communication because the masculine energy is all about problem solving.  It’s all about, like, gripping into the now, and how do I make this work, which is a beautiful energy, and it’s so needed.  And sometimes, that’s where the miscommunication of the feminine – you’re saying, oh, you’re gone all the time for work, and then it’s the problem solving of, like, fixing it.  But really, it’s just saying, like, I miss this, right?  Like, I really wanted to parent more with you, or I feel like you’re missing it.  Right?  So you see how those are two different things of what you’re asking for.

Kristin:  Yes, completely different, and asking to have your needs met in a different way; they’re able to understand, like, hey, wouldn’t it be nice if we spent some time when baby’s resting.  Yes.

Dr. Laura:  Exactly.  So a lot of it is the communication, but it’s kind of this spider web untangling of what it is we even need.  What is it that –

Kristin:  There’s so many layers.

Dr. Laura:  So many layers.  And, you know, specifically for women, we’ve been really taught to sort of be – again, this is generally sweeping stereotypical in western society, right, is to be people pleasers and to not really rock the boat.  So I know what I’m saying sounds really easy, but it’s often incredibly hard to ask directly for what we need because for some of us, to some degree, we’ve been so far removed from even knowing what it is that we really need that we can’t effectively communicate in that way.

Kristin:  Yes.  So true.  So what are your top tips when you are again in the thick of it and feeling overwhelmed, to bring that joy and wonder into those early parenting days?

Dr. Laura:  Right?  So how I view it is always coming back to breath.  So, like, when we’ve gone off – we’ve gotten onto the hamster wheel, and we eventually stop it and we realize that it’s spiraled a little bit out of – we’ve spiraled out of control.  To whatever extent, we realize that, right, whether we’ve kind of thrown the full-blown tantrum or we’re catching up before, to breathe.  Take a breath.  Get centered.  And this is science.  When we take a breath or when we sigh, that actually is regulating our whole nervous system because usually when we get – and I’m sure you probably know this as a doula, right?  Like, in the birthing process, if you’re anxious, your body is not going to open.  So it’s the same.  It’s just not, or it’s going to be harder to.  I mean, the baby’s coming either way.  But same with kind of big emotions.  When we’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious or whatever it is that we’re feeling that’s not joy, that’s not open and relaxed – breathe.  Because somehow, we’ve given our nervous system the signals that we’re unsafe, and so everything gets tight.  And so everything is already, like, ready to conserve, either to fight or run, to flee, or it’s going to shut down.  And so that’s great for a survival mechanism, but that’s not the best place to problem solve or to really, like, be present, right, because our body has an agenda to keep us safe.  So when we breathe and take a few deep breaths, we are literally giving our nervous system and our whole internal organs the cues like, okay, this is not life threatening.  I can at least put those systems offline right now.  Like, I don’t need to worry about my survival.  Now I can just be here.  Like, now what is my next – what can I do next after this?

Kristin:  Wonderful advice.  Any other tips for our listeners as they’re navigating new parenting?

Dr. Laura:  I love mirror work, and I think sometimes it’s like, ugh, I don’t want to do that.  But looking in the mirror as many times as you can.  Usually, most of us are in front of the mirror brushing our teeth or combing our hair somewhere.  And make some simple “I am” statements.  And again, this isn’t like, again, that self-care, like checking off, but that we are really looking at ourselves, and we are saying whatever it is that we feel that day.  Like, I am beautiful.  I am doing the best I know how today.  I am feeling loved by – and then whatever.  I am a creative person.  I’m a kind person.  I am reacting calmly today.  Whatever we want to say, right?

Kristin:  Yes, applying it to yourself and your emotions versus reading a standard affirmation.

Dr. Laura:  Absolutely, right?  There’s no wrong way.

Kristin:  That’s beautiful.  So how can our listeners connect with you?  I know you’re on social media.  You’ve got your website, your book.  And they can also work with you remotely or in person.

Dr. Laura:  Absolutely, yes.  I presume you will have all those links, but yeah, I’m on Instagram and my website, and yeah.  I’m around.  Reach out.

Kristin:  Sounds good.  Well, thank you so much, Dr. Laura!  It was lovely to chat with you, and I hope you have a beautiful day.

Dr. Laura:  Same to you!

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

Navigating Parental Leave: Podcast Episode #173

Kristin discusses the ins and outs of navigating parental leave with Linzay Davis, Founder of The Park.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Linzay Davis today.  Linzay is the founder of The Park, and she is a mom of two.  The Park is a consulting agency which is focused on helping businesses create equitable and inclusive parental leave policies and programs that support women and keep them in the workforce after they become moms.  Six months after returning from her own maternity leave, Linzay quit a job that she loved because becoming a working mom of a newborn and a toddler in the middle of a global pandemic became too much.  She quickly realized the system for working moms in the US is broken, and so she started The Park to fix it.  Welcome, Linzay!

Linzay:  Hi!  Thank you so much for having me!

Kristin:  So what an awesome story to really see a problem and go ahead and start a business to hep make it more equitable in the workforce.

Linzay:  Yeah.  I mean, I had such a challenging time through my maternity leave and then getting back to work as a working mom, and I figured I couldn’t possibly be the only mom out there struggling with all of that.  So I created The Park to hopefully make it a little bit easier for all of us moms that are trying to make it all happen.

Kristin:  Yes.  So tell us a bit about The Park and how companies can connect with you.

Linzay:   Yeah.  So like you mentioned, I started The Park because I had just not a very pleasurable maternity leave situation.  It was unpaid.  I had no idea what I was doing.  I thought I had set myself up for success and my team when I went on leave, but I had such a small team, and when I got back to work, it just was like, this is – I never felt like I was going to get my head above water.  And if you live in a state – like, I live in California where we have state-sponsored leave, and it’s just so challenging to navigate.  And there’s so many nuances, and there’s so many parts of maternity leave that are historically holding moms back in the workforce.  And I saw the gender inequities, and so I decided that I needed to get that information out there.  So I started working with companies to help them make more equitable and inclusive parental leave policies so that they can have a more diverse workforce that includes moms because so many women leave the workforce after they have babies because it’s just too challenging, and maternity leave is a big part of that.  So I work with companies to make their policies better.  I work with moms to help them navigate maternity leave.  I make reels upon reels on Instagram just to help moms figure out how to apply for statewide sponsored leave programs, and how do you even write your out of office email when you go on maternity leave.  So that’s all to say, check me out on Instagram.  I’m @theparkconsulting everywhere.  LinkedIn, Instagram.  My email is linzay@theparkconsulting.

Kristin:  Awesome.  So, Linzay, let’s get into really understanding your options and rights and also just having that uncomfortable discussion with your superiors about, say, a pregnancy announcement, having that initial discussion and then really setting up your leave, any sort of temporary help that may fill your role while you’re on leave, and what it might look like coming back, whether it’s part time – I’m sure you do that with your consulting, of what’s the best for you and your family, coming back full time, part time, working remote a couple days and then in the office.  So how does that look for you as far as your consulting role?

Linzay:  Yeah.  Well, how much time do we have, because I feel like that’s such a loaded question.  I could talk for hours.  I’ll try to keep it short.  So, yeah, when people think about maternity leave, they think about this, like, golden rule of 12 weeks, and they go on leave, and they come back, and everything is perfect and fine.  But really, when I look at maternity leave and parental leave, I look at it so much farther.  It’s so much more encompassing.  It’s the weeks and months before you go on leave.  It’s the weeks and months that you’re on leave.  And then it’s the weeks and months that you return to your job, as this new person.  You’re a mom now.  Everything has changed, and society doesn’t really set us up to really accept that new person that we become when we come back to work.  So that’s all to say, I think that it’s so important to support moms, even before your baby is a glimmer in your eye, before you’re even pregnant, before you’re thinking about adopting.  Like, think about your options.  Consider your options.  What’s your parental leave policy at your office?  What’s the culture like?  Have people gone on leave before?  It’s not too late if you’re already pregnant or if you’re already in your adoption process to think about these things, but I encourage women to think about this far ahead of time so that they’re not pregnant and feeling like they’re up against a wall and have to figure everything out when their hormones are in flex.  I know for me, I was crying every day about everything, so, like, maybe think about it before you get to that point.

Kristin:  Yes!  In your family planning, yeah, include that, and also just your plan career-wise for moving up within the company you’re at or on to other jobs.  So, yeah.

Linzay:  Yeah, exactly.  We spend so much time at work, so make sure that it’s a place that you enjoy being at, because even especially once you have your baby, it’s going to be a place that is really pulling you away from your family.  So make sure it’s a good place to be and the culture is accepting.  But so going back to just the first things, like telling your boss that you’re pregnant, like I said, look at the culture.  What is it like?  Can you just go to your boss and be like, hey, I’m so excited to tell you I’m pregnant, and your boss is going to give you a hug and say, amazing, that’s awesome.  Don’t worry about anything yet.  We’ll take care of everything down the line.  Or do you have a promotion on the line, or do you have a review coming up in the next few weeks?  Legally, you’re protected when you tell your boss that you’re pregnant.  Culturally, though, that might not necessarily be the case.  And I don’t want you to be the martyr.  Unless you’re willing to be, but don’t – if you’re going to have a review or promotion that’s something that’s really important coming up in the next couple of weeks, maybe you wait just a couple more weeks and hide your pregnancy if you can.  But also remember that once you tell your boss, you’re now protected under several polices and protections through the federal government and likely through your state government, also, that make it so they can’t fire you for being pregnant.  Because we all know that used to be something that happens, and hopefully it’s not happening anymore.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So every state has different laws as far as breaks, but of course for breastfeeding and pumping moms, having the dedicated space to be able to pump and store milk and take those breaks is also a big part of navigating coming back to work.  How do you work with companies in that way and really making sure they’re set up, especially those that don’t have a lot of female employees?

Linzay:  Yes.  So like I said before, we go back to work at this magical 12-week mark – hopefully later – and we’re just supposed to go back to work like nothing has changed.  But unfortunately, a lot has changed, and you are likely – or there are a lot of moms that choose to breastfeed, and when you don’t have your baby at work with you, you’re going to have to pump.  And so legally, we are protected.  All new moms when they go back to work are legally protected to take break time to express milk whenever they have the need to do so.  And we also are legally protected to have a safe, comfortable space to do this.  And the safe, comfortable space is a room with no windows on it, or if there are windows, it has a screen on it and a door that locks.  So you’re not in the bathroom.  You’re not in, like, an office that people are going in and out of.  You legally have these rights.  So if you get any pushback from any of your managers or supervisors that say that you can’t take this time to pump, they are legally in the wrong.  So it’s so important to advocate for yourself and know your options and what you’re legally entitled to.  So just stand up for yourself.  Advocated for yourself.  And when you go back to work, you’re just this strong, badass mom, so, like, remind them of that.

Kristin:  Indeed.  And also, I mean, navigating childcare.  So you had a child during the pandemic, and it is more challenging to find a childcare center, licensed in-home childcares, like, all of it is so much more challenging during pandemic times than even before, and even then, you had to get on a waitlist as soon as you knew you were pregnant.  So navigating the times for pickup and drop-off and the sick policies and your own flex and vacation and sick days that would need to be used if your child was sent home from daycare, for example.

Linzay:  Yeah, it’s complicated.  Like, I was ten minutes late to our call this morning because I had to take my kids to the doctor this morning, and things just took longer than I expected.  If I wasn’t talking to a doula, maybe that would have been a little bit more complicated to explain, but it’s so important to – that’s why I was saying earlier to plan ahead.  If you’re at a workplace where you don’t feel like the culture is supportive of taking time off when your kid is sick or if you need to take them to the doctor, really evaluate where you are.  I’m not saying, like, jump ship and go get a new job right away, but that’s why I think it’s so important to think about not just your family planning and you having – when you and your partner decide to have a baby, if you have a partner, but also everything else that comes with it.  And when you go back to work, having someone trustworthy to watch your baby and having the time off to be able to watch your baby when that falls through or if they have a doctor’s appointment is so important.  So think about that ahead of time, and look at the culture of your company and see what they expect and what they’ve done in the past.  Stand up for yourself.  Maybe gather a team around you, if there’s other women in your office and the culture is not what you want it to be.  Like, maybe you can create an ERG, an employee resource group, and create one for moms and change the culture so that it is supportive and your manager does understand you can’t go to work because you have to take your baby to the doctor, or your daycare falls through.  There’s so many moving parts.  All the moms know.  I’m preaching to the choir here.

Kristin:  Exactly, and even if you have a nanny in your home, if the nanny is ill, then you need to stay home.

Linzay:  Yeah.  Backup plan B, plan C, plan D.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And hopefully your partner has a flexible schedule and vacation and flex time so the partner can also, you know, share in the load as far as just managing everything.  And when you have more than one child, it gets even more complex than just the newborn.

Linzay:  Yeah, I tell my doctor all the time when I take my kids to the doctor when they’re sick, like, I don’t know how people do this.  How do they have more than two kids?  Because I feel like we’re constantly sick and constantly at the doctor.  But we all make it work.

Kristin:  Exactly.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  And so now again with pandemic times, there’s a lot more remote working and flex working, so how are you navigating this with both employers and also your clients who are planning for their leaves, or if they are working from home, how to separate the mother role from their time on Zoom and deadlines and really trying to get back to where they were production-wise output?  That can be very challenging, even with a postpartum doula in the home or a nanny.  There’s still the cries that you respond to, things that need to be done, so distractions.  So I’m sure you do some coaching on staying focused and even setting some breaks within the schedule to see your children.

Linzay:  Yeah, so COVID was a really terrible thing that we all went through, but there were some silver linings, and one of those silver linings was everybody had to stay home and figure out how to work from home.  And there are definitely pros and cons to that.  Working from home is great because you don’t have your commute.  You can work in your pajamas.  Like, you’re there for – say if you have a newborn and your nanny is taking care of your newborn, and before you were going into work and having to pump.  Well, now you can just take quick little breaks to go breastfeed your baby.  But you’re at home, so you hear every single cry.  Every single whine, every time that somebody needs a snack, you can hear it through your office door.  And it can be so challenging.  So like you said, setting some really good boundaries and setting expectations with your managers, with your family members, with your caregivers.  It’s going to be the best path to success.  And also, setting yourself up for that.  Like, knowing that you’re going to be at home and you’re going to hear your baby cry, and it’s going to be okay because you trust your caregiver to take care of them and learn their needs.  We all know that mom knows best, and you can just go in there and swoop them off their feet and do whatever you need to do and then they’re going to be a happy kid, but then your caregiver is never going to learn to have those intimate moments with your child.  So that’s all to say, setting expectations with yourself and with everyone else involved; communicating with them.  Letting your boss know that you do have a baby on the other side of the wall, and if you really need to in the middle of a meeting, take a moment to go soothe them or feed them or whatever it is.  Let your boss know ahead of time so it’s not this thing that becomes a negative.  It’s just part of your work schedule that needs to get done every day.

Kristin:  Exactly.  We work with a lot of executive in Gold Coast that really do focus a lot on that planning during maternity leave and want to set themselves up for success when they return, so they hire either a sleep consultant and/or our overnight postpartum doulas to ensure that they’re getting rest, and then when they’re back to work, they have a system in place.  So they may have an overnight doula three nights a week.  So they have at least some staggered full nights of rest where someone is caring for baby and they’re able to, again, get back into their career without having so many bumps.

Linzay:  Yeah, I mean, that is one of the most important things for all parents, especially in the newborn stage, but it’s getting enough sleep to even function to go back to work.  This holy grail of 12 weeks that I’ve mentioned is just what we’ve been brainwashed into thinking is the perfect amount of time for us to be this well-rested perfect mom that’s ready to go back to work, but that’s just not the case.  And so having an overnight support system like a doula or your partner is a really good option.  So to share those responsibilities because if you have to go back to work, it’s – you’re not going to be a very productive employee, and you’re going to struggle to be that number one mom if you don’t have enough rest.  So pull in your support system.  Make sure you’re asking for help.  Set expectations with your partner.  When my husband and I had our children, we both decided that, because I had the milk, I was going to be doing the breastfeeding at night, and if the diaper needed to be changed, which it didn’t always need to be – we learned that the second baby.  You don’t always have to change the diaper every single time they wake up.  And then if the diaper needed to be changed, I passed over the baby to my husband, and he took over those responsibilities.  But even better if you can have an outside resource like an overnight night nurse or a doula to help you out with that process.  No shame at all.  You’re just getting enough rest so that you can be a functioning human during the day, especially if you have to go to work.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And again, being sleep deprived, it just adds up.  And if your partner is going back to work within two days or two weeks or whatever that leave is, and it really is falling on you, so they could be rested to again get back to work and have the regular pressures of everyday work life.  So I think really the importance of asking for help, whether it’s family, friends, hiring help, and then also understanding the signs of perinatal mood disorders.  Being sleep deprived is one of the biggest factors.  So I’m sure part of what you’re seeing is also, like with that plan, is if you’re dealing with a client who’s struggling, like how do they go to their employer about having a PMAD, whether it’s anxiety, depression?

Linzay:  Yeah.  Well, I have my own story that I can tell from this.  I had put together this foolproof plan, I had thought, of I’m going to take – in California, we can take four weeks off before our due date, so I did that.  And the I was planning to take six weeks of California disability leave if I had a vaginal delivery; eight weeks if I had a C-section, and then eight additional weeks through California paid family leave.  And that was the plan with my employer.  And I ended up having a C-section, so I got those eight weeks, and then I had eight additional weeks through paid family leave.  But I was struggling.  Like, even though I had that time off with my baby, my husband had to go back to work after, like, a week.  I was by myself.  I didn’t bond right away with my second daughter the way that I did with my first, and I just felt like something was wrong, like I was doing something wrong.  There’s something wrong with my daughter.  And I remember going to my doctor and just crying through the entire doctor’s appointment.  And she’s like, I think you have postpartum depression and anxiety.  And it was such a relief to hear that validation and hear that there was, like, something that was, like, described what I was experiencing.  And she gave me four more weeks of disability leave.  And my first thought was, how am I going to tell my boss, because I know they were waiting for me to come back.  They needed me to come back.  And I was having more anxiety because I knew they were waiting for me to come back.  But my doctor assured me that, like, this is okay, and it’s just going to take a little bit of extra time for me to get through this and for me to rest and recover and spend more time with my baby, and those four weeks will go by, and hopefully I’ll be feeling so much better and ready to go back to work.  And I just had to send a note to my manager, and I said, I’m having some complications and I need to take four more weeks off.  And they were super supportive, and legally, I’m entitled to that, so remember, if you’re in that situation, this is your legal right.  And it was fine.  And now I’m feeling so much better.  I have a four-year-old and a two-year-old, and I’ve seen the light.  But I had to get through it, and it was really hard, especially because I knew my job was waiting for me on the other end, like counting down the days until I got back.

Kristin:  Right, and you didn’t want to let them down, but you have to take care of yourself first before you can go back to your employer, before taking care of your children.  And so I’m so glad you said something to your doctor because many women hide it and try to mask what’s going on, and that just spirals even more.

Linzay:  Yeah.  And I did try – I mean, I didn’t necessarily try to hide it.  I thought I was doing better.  Like, I got into the appointment, and she’s like, so, how are you doing?  And I’m like, I know, I’m making it through.  And the triggering question for me is, she asked me – because she wasn’t there for my delivery.  She’s like, so you had another C-section, and I had done everything in my being to try to have a VBAC, and that’s when I just exploded with tears and couldn’t stop.  And I think there was a lot that came from me having a failed VBAC that aided in the postpartum anxiety and depression that just made me spiral even more.  So I’m glad my doctor asked me that question so that I could be more vulnerable.

Kristin:  Exactly, yeah.  To be heard and tell your story.  Yeah, there is that fear of failure, especially for VBACs.  There’s a lot of pressure, and you obviously work very hard to try to achieve that, so yes.  I mean, there can be some posttraumatic stress after a birth that needs to be resolved, and again, talking to a therapist or your doctor or a friend, writing out a birth story, can all be helpful tools.

Linzay:  Yes, very helpful.  They were very helpful for me.

Kristin:  So any tips on really understanding your rights and options in your own state and how to navigate the system?  Obviously, California has amazing maternity plans.

Linzay:  Yeah, well, amazing is – it should be the norm everything.

Kristin:  Compared to many states.

Linzay:  But yeah, so my first tip is, like I said before, plan ahead.  So before you’re pregnant, or if you’re already pregnant, look into your employer’s policies.  If you’re interviewing, ask about their parental leave policy.  Find out that, so that when you do get pregnant, you already know what your options are, and you didn’t get a job right before you got pregnant that doesn’t offer any leave, or maybe they offer a really great policy, but you have to be there two years, and you’ll have only been there a year.  So look ahead.  Find out what your employer’s policy is.  The standard for the United States, the federal law, is through FMLA, the Family Medical Leave Act.  That is not through your employer.  That’s through the government.  And that offers you 12 weeks of unpaid job protection, which is good, but not great at all.  Basically, your employer – if you qualify.  They have to have 50 employees and a few other qualifications.  They have to hold your job for you for 12 weeks.  But that doesn’t mean you’re getting paid.  So that’s when you need to look into your state options.  So if you live in a state like California, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, you are going to have something that you can take advantage of, a benefit that the state offers you.  And some cities even have additional laws.  Like, I just read Birmingham, Alabama, is offering 12 weeks of paid leave to all of their city workers.  And I know San Francisco has some really great policies that go above and beyond what California offers.  So look into what your employer offers.  Look into what your state offers.  And know that there’s going to be some general federal policies like FMLA that protect you, but you’re not going to get paid through them.  So look into other avenues like state, local, and your employer to figure out how you can get paid while you’re on leave.

Kristin:  Excellent advice.  And I love that you and The Park is focused on really helping companies retain their workforce, so you’re not only helping working women, but it is so hard to retain talent and attract new talent.  I mean, the workforce is so competitive right now.  So companies can work with you in order to not only retain their workforce, but also attract new.  And I feel like maternity plans are becoming more and more competitive.  Like, many companies are now adding doulas to their benefits, for example.

Linzay:  Yeah.  I used to be in HR communications in the Bay area, and I can tell you some wild offerings that some of these larger tech companies offer.  Anything from, like, fertility treatments to – some offer 52 weeks of fully paid leave for both partners, no matter what their gender is, and like, I look at those, and I’m just like, how is this – like, this is amazing, and how can we make this the norm for everyone?  Because we’ve been brainwashed.  The United States has no paid parental leave policies, and we’re the only wealthy country in the world to not offer anything.  Other countries offer lots of things for new parents.

Kristin:  Oh, yeah, a year paid?  For sure.

Linzay:  And we’re the only ones, and we just think it’s normal, but it’s not.

Kristin:  No, not at all.

Linzay:  Not at all.  So yeah, I work with companies to try and make their policies better, and I use better with air quotes because that’s going to be different for every company and what their employee population looks like.  I try to encourage all of my clients to create policies that are equitable.  So what that means, it’s the same for all genders.  So we’re not using terms like primary parent and secondary parent.  What does that mean?  Or even birthing and non-birthing because there’s so many different ways for families to start families these days, and we don’t want to leave out people or make people feel like they’re being singled out by saying birthing and non-birthing or primary caregiver.

Kristin:  Right.  With surrogacy, adoption, so many different opportunities.

Linzay:  Exactly.  And it’s so important for gender equity in the workplace for men to be taking the same amount of leave as women.  We’ve been historically, like, just told that women need more time than men, and men can go back to work after two, three weeks.  Maybe if they’re lucky, they get six weeks.  And the woman stays home for at least 12 weeks with the baby.  But what happens in that discrepancy, in those ten weeks?  That’s a lot of time that the man can be at work getting a promotion, getting a salary bump, while the woman is at home taking care of her baby and probably getting looked over for promotions.  Or maybe there’s this big travel opportunity that’s coming up, and women will just get overlooked completely because we just assume she needs to be home with the baby.  So I advise all of my clients to look at all of their policies from a gender equity lens to make sure that they’re not even not purposely saying things and doing things that could be setting women back in the workforce.

Kristin:  Yes.  You’re doing so much important work!  I really appreciate you sharing all of your wisdom with our audience, Linzay.  I could talk to you forever.  So let’s collaborate.

Linzay:  Thank you!  It’s been so fun.  I could talk about this all day long.  So if you ever want me to come back, I’m here.

Kristin:  Okay.  So, again, why don’t you share your social media links?  I know your website, and you’re on LinkedIn?

Linzay:  Yeah, LinkedIn, you can find us @thepark, but also if you want to follow me or connect with me, I’d love to chat if you have any questions.  I’m on LinkedIn as Linzay Davis.  I also post a lot of reels, like I mentioned earlier, about, like, how to take advantage of your state-sponsored leave programs or just how to navigate parental leave in general.  So you can find us on Instagram @theparkconsulting.  And if you have any questions, like even if it’s very specific to you, you’re not the only one that has that question, so DM me.  Ask.  And I can – if I don’t know the answer, I’ll find out for you, and we can share your question and answer with the world so that some more moms can get some help if they have that same question, too.  So don’t be afraid to reach out.  I love hearing from moms.  That’s my favorite part of my job.  So reach out.  I’d love to hear from you.

Kristin:  Thank you so much, Linzay!  Take care:

Linzay:  Thank you!  Bye!

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

The Secret to Creating More Calm and Joy in Motherhood: Podcast Episode #172

Kristin chats with Peg Sadie of the Resilient Mom Academy about self-care, joy in motherhood and so much more.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Peg Sadie today.  Peg is a trained psychotherapist and resilience coach.  She’s the wife of 19 years and boy mom times two.  Peg founded the Resilient Mom Academy to realize her vision and bridge the gap between therapy and thriving for struggling moms.  Peg has been featured in over 40 media outlets, including In Style Parents and Women’s Health.  Her own experiences with postpartum depression, anxiety, and overwhelm as a new mom ignited her passion to support other women in their motherhood journey.  Welcome, Peg!

Peg:  Thank you so much, Kristin!  I’m super excited to be here with you today.

Kristin:  And I am excited about the work that you’re doing in the motherhood space.  I feel like self-care is an overused term and not really understood, so I’d love your approach and I think we should start off a bit on, again, creating this joy in early parenting and motherhood and reducing the overwhelm.  So what are your thoughts on that?

Peg:  Sure!  Wow, I have so many.  Yes, this self-care – I 100% agree with you, Kristin.  Self-care has become this, I feel, fluffy buzzword as of late, and for so many of us moms with so much on our plate as it is, it kind of feels like one more thing to add on our to-do list.  Like, oh, great, now I have to practice my self-care.  When am I going to fit that in today?

Kristin:  Exactly.  It tends to be more of like a spa day or meeting up with friends; things that may not fit in that very early parenting lifestyle, or even in budgets, to be honest.

Peg:  100%.  I have, actually, a social media post that was very popular, and it’s called, you don’t need a bubble bath.  We have this idea that we need self-care as bubble baths and massages and pedicures and manicures.  And that is not the reality of self-care because if you’re struggling and coming from a place of true overwhelm and your resilience threshold is reduced as a mom managing all the things, it doesn’t matter how many bubble baths you take.  That is not a long-term solution to feel better.  It’s kind of like putting a band-aid on a broken arm.

Kristin:  Yes, exactly.  So what are your tips to really feeling confident in early motherhood, and again, not feeling that huge amount of overwhelm?  What are your top tips in your resilient mom group as your students are asking you questions?  I would love to hear what you’re hearing on a daily basis.

Peg:   Yes.  So we have a little bit of everything, and my personal experience, as well.  The most important thing to remember is your self-care journey and your routine doesn’t have to look like anybody else’s.  I feel like we see other people doing these certain things for self-care and think, well, I need to do that.  Why am I not doing that?  Now I have to fit that in my routine.  One of the best pieces of advice I would give to moms that are about to embark into motherhood is to, first off, have – because this is, I think, for me personally, with the birth of my first son – my kids are spaced almost a decade apart, and part of the reason was because I was – I did have such a traumatic experience with postpartum depression and anxiety and chronic overwhelm for years.  And it took me a really long time to get to a place emotionally where I felt ready to embark on that journey again.  I didn’t even know if I was going to get there.  And I didn’t do this with my first – to have a self-care and support system plan in place prior to the baby coming.  You think you’re going to be able to just go with the flow and manage and do all the things, but what happens is, our life drastically shifts.  Like, for me, I had decided I was going to stay at home with my child, and we all stay home for a short period of time; at least for maternity leave, right?  And it is – if you don’t have a support system in place, if you don’t have a self-care plan in place, it can be extremely overwhelming and isolating, and then if you’re like me, or how I was with my first, I wasn’t asking for help.  I wasn’t realizing that this wasn’t normal, for me to feel this way.  I kept thinking I was very hard on myself.  I should be able to do all these things.  Why am I feeling this way?  Why am I struggling with this?  And the second time around, I did little things like – well, I guess this isn’t little, but I was six months pregnant, and I hired a housekeeper.  I knew this was one thing that I didn’t want to deal with once my child came.  I wanted to reserve my energy, and I didn’t want to have to stress about the house.  I didn’t want to have to argue with my husband over who was going to do the dishes.

Kristin:   And you’re not supposed to be vacuuming or going up and down stairs anyway, so there’s that healing and bonding and feeding time.  So that’s ideal.  We talk about that in our Becoming a Mother class, of really prioritizing what’s important to you in the postnatal phase, and a housecleaning service or even some meal delivery service plans or things to make life simpler.  Even the thought, for certain personality types, of needing to entertain family members or friends when they come in to see the new baby, and then the house isn’t perfect.  So if you have someone to help or a postpartum doula, whatever it might be, to make life easier.  If that is one of your stressors, that you want a clean house at all times.

Peg:  100%.  You made such a good point there, Kristin, because, I mean, going to visit your friend when they’ve had a baby is not, like, helping.  Like, going and holding the baby for a couple of hours is not helpful because exactly like you said, depending on your personality type, like I am, I feel like I have to entertain.  I feel like I have to have food ready.  I feel like I have to have the house clean.  So people popping in that aren’t my mom –

Kristin:  Yes.  It’s different with family.

Peg:  Yes.  So make a meal.  Put it on the doorstep.

Kristin:  Empty the dishwasher; something.

Peg:  Exactly.  That is so huge.  And then for me, the second time around, I also joined a mom group, so I knew that I had other women going through the same thing, that I could get out of the house and be around other moms experiencing the same thing, because I felt so isolated and alone in my struggles the first time around.

Kristin:  Yes, and that can intensify postpartum depression and mood disorders if you’re feeling isolated and don’t have a support group.  I know with my first, having kids later in life, and my husband went right back to work as soon as I got out of the hospital.  So I would wait for him to get home and want to, like, connect and talk and tell him about my day, ask him.  And he’s trying to unwind, and so we really had to find our groove with that change because I was so used to my professional career and being busy, and my friends were all working.  So really, like you said, finding a mom group or Le Leche League and some in-person meetings.  And now that – I mean, the pandemic is still around, but it’s not as isolating as it was early on when mothers didn’t have the option of in-person groups.

Peg:  That’s so true.  And you touched on it earlier, too, Kristin, about knowing the kind of mom you are going to be.  For me, I realized, okay, my energy doesn’t support this lifestyle.  I am an introvert.  I’m an extroverted introvert, but for the most part, I’m an introvert, and I’m also an HSP, a highly sensitive person, empath, and so many moms come to me and they don’t realize that they’re an empath or highly sensitive, and you feel the energies of others.  You can feel touched out, and when your baby cries, it causes pain; like, physically causes discomfort for you.  It’s a much more different sensory experience for you as a mom than someone who’s not a highly sensitive empath.  And if you’re an introvert, you need that alone time to recharge.  That means away from your baby, too.

Kristin:  Exactly, because otherwise you feel like your baby always wants to be attached to you, or you’re waiting for that cry after a nap.  So yeah, as much as we tell our clients to rest when baby is resting, they don’t always take that advice.

Peg:  Oh, my gosh, you know what I had to do, Kristin?  I remember with my second one, I realized that this is something I had to do.  My husband was home.  I would say, “Okay, I’m taking a nap now,” and I would put earplugs in.  I knew if I heard my baby make any noise, that was it for me.  I’m up.  Because also as an empath, you feel deeply connected to your child on this crazy level, that you – it’s hard to relinquish control a lot of times when you are this way.  Trusting someone to babysit or even your partner to do things; you feel like even when they’re taking care of your child, you have to monitor and supervise.  That’s a hard struggle, as well.  Knowing your energy, knowing what you need, and taking the steps to kind of manage that, manage your expectations.

Kristin:  So true, Peg.  And I mean, really understanding that sometimes when a baby is upset, it’s because they’re getting your wired energy and know that you’re exhausted, and so babies feel whatever the caregiver, but certainly, especially the mother feels.  Even as a doula, I want to maintain a very calming energy when I’m with a new baby.  Sort of that balance and really understanding that you need to care for yourself in order to better care for your baby, and your baby may be upset because you are.

Peg:  100%.  I believe that it’s – I even have content with this title, and it’s titled, “It’s not your kids; it’s you.”  Because a lot of moms think, well, I’m so overwhelmed because of all the things I have to do for my child.  And I help moms understand that it is cyclic when it gets to this point because your nervous system isn’t regulated; you feel overwhelmed.  Just like you said, Kristin, our kids are little energy magnets.  That is how they connect with us, especially when they’re newborns, infants, even toddlers.  They don’t have that verbal capacity to communicate.  It’s a survival mechanism that they have.  They even have mirror neurons that mimic our emotions.  Not what we’re saying; how we’re feeling by our facial expressions.  So it is innate.  It is intuitive.  And if our energy is off, they’re going to feel that, and they’re going to respond to it, and they may be even more clingy because they’re feeling unsafe in that moment, if you are feeling riled up.  So learning how to regulate our own emotions and knowing what we need; intrinsically listening to our body, knowing when we’re anxious, when we’re overwhelmed, and addressing that is so imperative for moms who are struggling.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  And when is a point where the mother should identify that everything they’re doing as far as self-care and self-regulation is not working, and when do they – at what point do they need to seek help from a therapist or go to their provider and really share what’s going on?

Peg:  That’s such a good question, Kristin.  I love this.  It’s really – well, first of all, we want to make sure we are doing the things that we can that are in our control, the basics: physical self-care, making sure we are getting sleep, adequate sleep if we can.  Well, I call it survival years, 0 to 3, especially if you’re breastfeeding, and it’s very hard to get – you’re not going to get the seven, eight hours of sleep at night.  And to respond to that – so when we start to feel hopeless, helpless, when we start to lose interest in things that we typically would enjoy, something that we like to do, and we find ourselves not able to laugh and find joy in things that we would normally do, if we find ourselves pulling away and self-isolating from others, if we find ourselves either sleeping too much or not sleeping at all, if we’re having so much anxiety that it’s interrupting our daily functioning, if we’re waking up every 20 minutes to make sure our child is breathing in the middle of the night, you know, if we’re not able to leave our child alone with our partner, whom we should trust with our child, or our parent.  I’m not saying a stranger, but if we’re not able to for even a short period of time out of anxiety.  Or if things that are really minute that normally wouldn’t stress us are causing big, overwhelming, stressful situations in our mind, like, oh, my gosh, how am I going to make this decision, then it is time to maybe go to your provider and get a workup.  I say to all my moms, get a full panel done.  Get your hormones checked, blood level checked, have your iron, your thyroid.  It could be something simple to address.  As you know, Kristin, our hormones go all out of whack afterwards.  I have many moms who go through my program who are either diagnosed with postpartum depression and/or anxiety during the program or prior to it and then come into the program as a supplement.  Because that has to be addressed, whether it’s medication or a combination of medication and talk therapy.  So that is what I would suggest.  If you’re at that point where things – you don’t – you feel hopeless or helpless, and you feel like things are out of your control, then I would just go get checked out.  They’ll ask you some questions, and you’ll know if this is something that – for me, I waited way too long, and another thing I would like to share is that most moms don’t realize you can be diagnosed with postpartum depression up to age 5 of your child.

Kristin:  Absolutely, yes.

Peg:  So it is not just strictly after they’re born.  I recently had a mom who was diagnosed, and her kids are all toddlers.  So yes, I waited too long, and then it became a chronic condition.  So you want to just err on the side of caution, and go see your healthcare provider.  And then you can move forward from them.

Kristin:  And it’s also not known that partners can develop postpartum depression.  Husbands can suffer as well, which can then impact the baby and the marriage.

Peg:  So true.  And another thing, which is nice to do prior to the baby coming, is have your partner at least – educate your partner and maybe any other support team that’s going to be around you – your mom, mother-in-law – on the signs to look for of postpartum depression.  Because I like to say, at least it was for me, it’s hard to read the label from inside the bottle.  Even as a therapist myself, it was hard for me to recognize what was happening with me because I couldn’t differentiate what I should be feeling versus thinking, oh, I can get myself out of this.  It will just go away.  But someone on the outside looking in can be like, okay, this is a sign; this is a sign.  We need to go to the doctor and just nudge them and help them take that first step.

Kristin:   Yes, and the six week appointment can be much too late, so talk to your pediatrician.  Those pediatrician visits are quite frequently, and if there are concerns, they may be able to give you resources.  There are plenty of postpartum support groups out there, in addition to, of course, calling your midwife or OB-GYN and letting them know what’s going on, or your primary physician.

Peg:  Yes, absolutely.

Kristin:  I feel like people just want to wait for that six week visit, and you can get so much help before then.

Peg:  That’s true.  I feel like the first – the baby blues is very typical, as well, right?  The first few weeks.  Usually, that will subside.  But postpartum depression can onset any time thereafter.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So, again, sleep, the lack of sleep really just escalates everything.  Focusing on sleep, self-care, getting a plan, as you said, set during pregnancy, and expressing your needs to family members and to friends and how they can best support that is so essential.  So I love that you brought that up earlier, Peg.  I would love to also spend some time on your Resilient Mom Academy, who that’s for ideally, and let our listeners know how they can best engage with all of your different services.

Peg:  Thank you so much.  Absolutely, yes.  So I founded Resilient Mom Academy – I founded the exact program that I wished I’d had as a new overwhelmed mom because I felt like talk therapy had its limitations.  And I wanted to create a program that kind of combined coaching and education and community together because I feel like community is the one thing that’s lacking in talk therapy, and it is so healing in itself to be around other moms who are just simply acknowledging that they’re struggling, too, and they’re going through the same thing, because I feel like we see everyone’s highlight reels on Instagram or Facebook, and we compare.  Why does everything else have it together and I just don’t?  What’s wrong with me?  But I’m telling you, I know the moms with the highlight reels, which we all are, and I talk to so many of you, and you would never know from your highlight reel, from looking at that reel, that they are struggling behind the scenes.  So I just want women to know that they are not alone.  I’ve created that safe space.  The first thing we do when we start working together is we do a self-care audit and energy audit to kind of get a snapshot of where you are, because everyone’s journey is going to be different.  Everyone’s self-care plan, just like a business plan for success, everyone’s self-care and resilience plan is going to look different.  It’s a self-paced program, and there’s also coaching and that community aspect, as well.  So it’s my baby, and I’m so proud of it and excited to help moms with this.

Kristin:  I love it.  So it sounds like it’s not just for new moms.  Like, moms of teenagers can certainly benefit from it?

Peg:  100%, yes.  Any mom that’s struggling right now, because we not only deal with self-care and resilience building, which most people, when I share this, are surprised.  There are six parts to self-care.  There are six components.  It’s like a wheel, a pie wheel.  And then we also touch on conscious parenting.  There’s a huge module on conscious parenting because I feel like becoming a more self-aware parent, we tend to repeat these intergenerational patterns, negative patterns, unconsciously from our own parents.  So getting in tune with that, deciding what kind of parent we want to be and deciding to connect with our kids on a much deeper level, to have more connected relationships.  I feel like there’s a lot of adults that don’t have a deep connection with their parents because parents have tried to control their kids, and it can become more achievement-oriented and superficial accolades.  So that’s a really popular module.  And then we talk a lot about relationships because our relationship with our partner shifts.  The dynamic shifts.  There’s a lot of stress and stressors in the marriage or relationships.  So there’s a huge module on that, as well.  There are bonus modules in there.  So yes, it touches on a little bit of everything, and I’m always adding to it.

Kristin:  I love it.  So you’re all over social.  Where else can our listeners and our doula clients find you, Peg?

Peg:  Absolutely.  You can find me on my website.  I love to hang out on Instagram.  My handle is @peg.sadie.  And I’m also son Facebook @pegsadiecoaching.

Kristin:  And a podcast?

Peg:  My podcast, the Resilient Mom Podcast.  And I would love to share a free resource with your listeners if that’s okay?

Kristin:  That would be amazing!

Peg:  Okay, fantastic.  I have a brand new resource I’m really excited about.  I offer retreats a couple times throughout the year, and I’ve taken kind of – it’s called the Calm Mom Method Retreat, and I’ve taken kind of my best tools and tips and infused them in this smaller little micro-course.  It’s called the Resilient Mom Starter Kit, and it’s a seven-day video training.  It comes straight to your inbox, and it’s filled with tools for moms ready to create a calmer and more intentional life.  If you’re a mom who’s struggling with stress, anxiety, or overwhelm right now, you will love this training, and it’s an absolutely free resource.  You can find it right here on my website.

Kristin:  Fantastic.  Is there anything that you would like to add as far as final tips for our listeners?

Peg:  Yes.  Thank you for asking that question.  I just want moms to know that they are not alone in their suffering and their struggles.  One thing I wish I’d done earlier on is I wish I would have shared with somebody close to me that I trusted what I was going through, another mom friend.  It just takes one mom friend that you can connect.  I also want moms to not be so hard on themselves, especially if you’re a perfectionist.  Give yourself some grace.  Allow yourself to make mistakes.  It’s a learning process.  As long as you’re correcting along the way; you’re growing, you’re learning.  Nobody has all the answers.  And above all, I want to tell moms – I just got goosebumps about this, every time I share it – to listen to your instincts and trust your gut in all things related to your child because in retrospect, looking back – I’m speaking for myself.  I don’t know if this speaks to you as well, Kristin.  Looking back, I feel like there have been situations with my own kids where I wish I’d listened to my gut instinct the first time upfront.  I don’t care who it is you’re speaking to; a friend, a parent, doctor, an expert.  I don’t care how many initials they have behind their name.  You know your child better than anyone else in the world, and you need to trust that instinct.  Listen to what your heart is telling you.  Get that second opinion, and do what you feel is right for you and your child and your family.

Kristin:   100% agree, Peg.  We tell our clients that no one knows their baby the way they do.

Peg:  Absolutely.

Kristin:  Fantastic advice.  It was wonderful to chat with you.  Thank you very much, Peg.

Peg:  Absolutely.  100% my pleasure.  Thank you so much for doing what you do, Kristin, and your resources.  What an amazing gift to moms that you guys provide.  So thank you.  I’m honored to be on your show.

Kristin:  Thank you!

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

Navigating Life After Loss: Podcast Episode #171

Kristin chats with Michelle Valiukenas from the Colette Louise Tisdahl Foundation about navigating life after loss.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas.  And I’m here to chat with Michelle Valiukenas today.  She is the proud mom of her angel sweet pea who she lost due to miscarriage.  Her angel daughter, Colette Louise, was lost at 9 days old, and her only living child, her rainbow baby, is Elliot Miguel.  Inspired by her journey with Colette, Michelle and her husband founded the Colette Louise Tisdahl Foundation, whose mission is to improve outcomes of pregnancy, childbirth, prematurity, and infancy, as well as aid in the grieving process through financial assistance, education, and advocacy.  Their flagship program financially assists families dealing with high risk and complicated pregnancies, NICU stays, and loss.  The organization’s ability to help families relies on donations and grants, and they are grateful if you’re able to donate.  Michelle also participates and advocates on issues of maternal health, maternal mortality, infant health and safety, and pregnancy complications.  Michelle lives in Glenville, Illinois with their son Elliot, husband Mark, and dog Nemo.  Welcome, Michelle!

Michelle:  Hi.  Thank you so much for having me.

Kristin:  So happy to chat with you.  I would love to hear more about your personal story and why this was on your heart.  I know it’s so much work to start a foundation and to maintain it and promote it.  I would like to hear more about your journey.

Michelle:  Yeah, absolutely.  I think the journey began when we started trying for kids.  And, you know, we’re both reasonably healthy people with no real issues, so we kind of expected a couple of months, and the tests would show that we would pregnant and we would go on.  And really what we found was that over and over again, we weren’t getting pregnant.  And when we sought out infertility testing and results, it was really an unknown cause.  That’s particularly frustrating, and I think that was sort of the start of the loss of control that you have over so many things.  So we started with infertility treatments, and that in and of itself is a whole big mess of things that – a lot of stuff that happens; a lot of timing.  Again, the loss of control.  You don’t have —it has to go by how your body is reacting to treatment, so you no longer have the control over your schedule.  You’re trying to do this; I was trying to work at the same time, and having to take days off and come in late and all of that.  It was a difficult journey.  When we finally decided to go to IVF, we got pregnant on our first round.  And that was – we were thrilled.  We just thought, okay, maybe we just needed the extra help.  We were thrilled.  We told everybody in our family.  It was really just an exciting time.  And a few weeks later, I started bleeding, and we went to the doctor for an ultrasound check, and they could see a gestational sac, but no baby, so they said I was in the process of miscarrying.  We expect it will pass naturally, but we’ll do bloodwork now, and then we’ll have you repeat it in a few days just to make sure.  That was the Friday before Mother’s Day of 2017.  I still have visions – my husband had decided – because I said, finally, I get to celebrate Mother’s Day.  So he had planned things like – later on, he told me the story of – he was on the phone with Edible Arrangements saying, please, you cannot deliver this.  Like, you cannot deliver this.  So every once in a while when I need to laugh, I think of him, you know, tackling the delivery guy with fruit all over our lawn.  I think that, you know, really, laughter was really an important thing, and that was the thing that carried us through all of this.  When I went back for repeat bloodwork, they found my numbers were rising, so they had me come in for an ultrasound.  It was really at the point of, maybe you’re not naturally miscarrying, and you’re going to have to do a D&C.  So during the ultrasound, they found a heartbeat and said, okay, we were wrong.  Baby is just measuring a little bit small, and that’s what we didn’t see a few days ago.  So you’re pregnant.  You know, start back up and everything.  And that’s really stunning news to hear and just really kind of messed with us.  And so somehow we managed to go to work that day, and after work, I was meeting up with my sister.  And as I was meeting with her, I felt a gush of blood.  So I fully miscarried and ended up in the ER where they told us, yes, everything has passed; no gestational sac, nothing.  So having to relive it again in such a short time – we were talking Friday to Wednesday – was really tough, and that really took a strain on us.  That was a really low point for us in our relationship and our marriage, and I found that we were sort of pushing each other away in a lot of ways instead of trying to grieve together.  That was something that I made sure, after we had been in that for about a week or so, I really made sure of that and insisted that we start couples counseling and really work through that, because I thought, we can’t do this where we’re pushing each other away.  This isn’t going to work.  I wanted to get right back to trying again, and my husband supported me.  We had a failed IVF, and then we got pregnant with Colette.  And, you know, that was – we were so thrilled.  Oh, my God, did I have pregnancy symptoms.  We actually found out we were pregnant with her a couple days after Christmas 2017, and at Christmas, apparently my whole family knew because at one point, my sister gave me a tote bag that had a picture drawn of my dog and his name, and I started crying.  They were like, it’s not a crying thing.  Like, what is going on with you?  So I had every pregnancy symptom, and terrible morning sickness.  That is the most misused word because it’s not morning sickness.  It’s just all day sickness.  But that all meant I was still pregnant.  So we went through and we got past the first trimester and really were excited.  I was excited to tell my employees.  I was excited to tell the world, my friends, everybody.  And everybody was so excited for us, and things were going well.  We crossed the second trimester.  At 21 weeks pregnant, I went to a standard OB appointment.  Actually, that day, I felt the best I had felt during the entire pregnancy.  I had energy.  I finally was like, oh, this is what they say in the second trimester.  You have, like, this boost of energy.  I get it now.  Okay, I feel better.  And my blood pressure was 188/110.  And so I’m sent to labor and delivery, and then I was admitted to the hospital and was told, you’ll be here until you deliver.  And just to give you a frame of reference, that was the evening of May 8th, and I was not due until September 7th.  So a really long time.  And what does this mean?  I went with it, and one of the things that really started sticking to me was that when they told me that, I had a million questions in my head.  Everything from what I now realize as a parent is the stupid, minor stuff at this point.  Like, we don’t even have a car seat.  We don’t have a crib.  What are we going to do?  To, you know, the important stuff, like I supervised a team.  What we were going to – you know, how we were going to – how was I going to do that from the hospital?  I hadn’t had a plan.  There wasn’t a backup for me.  There wasn’t, you know, all of that stuff.  To, am I going to survive this?  Is my baby going to survive this?  And so really kind of struggling with all of those things.  And it’s really scary.  They come in, and they start spouting a bunch of numbers at you about survival rates and what their treatment will be once you get to this week, all of these things.  At one point, I had a doctor who said, let’s just sign it now since we know we’re going to do a C-section.  And I said, well, maybe not, and she looked at me, and she said, “We’re going to do a C-section.”  All of those things.  Everything was just pulled away.  But when I had time to settle, I really thought about, where am I blessed?  And one of the things that I really thought of was, I didn’t have to worry about money.  In all of this, that was a big thing that was just off my mind, and I knew how lucky I was to be in that position.  So I started thinking already at that point of doing something, and when I said doing something, I didn’t know what that meant at that point.  And it went on, so ultimately, I was in the hospital a little over three weeks.  When we had done an ultrasound when I was first admitted, Colette was measuring a little bit behind, and the doctors were not super scared.  They were hoping that once they regulated my blood pressure and everything, that she would catch up.  When they did a repeat ultrasound, what they found was not only had she not caught up, but she had had no growth in that three-week period.  So they came basically saying, you know, really, we think that the best thing to do is to deliver because we have more interventions we can do on the outside.  So I had an emergency C-section, and they pulled her out.  It was a lot of things that she really defied right at the beginning.  One of the things they had said to us to prepare us, and everyone had said to us a bunch of different times, is “You won’t hear her.  She’s too young to cry or make sounds.”  And after they took her out, some of the chaos was a little bit over for me, at least, and they were taking care of her.  All of a sudden, the room got quiet, and there was a little squeak.  I said, “Is that her?”  All the doctors said yes, and they said she shouldn’t be able to make that sound.  And so I thought, well, of course.  This is my badass daughter who is going to defy everything, right?  They had warned us about one of the worries of interventions was if the smallest intubation tube didn’t fit for her, then they couldn’t intubate, and then they weren’t left with very many options.  And the second to smallest fit her.  It was just all these little things happening.  She was in the NICU; straight to the NICU.  That, again, sort of is just a really chaotic time and stressful time.  I think the best advice that I got was from my mom who was herself a former preemie mom.  My sister was about eight weeks early.  She said to me, “Okay, look.  This is a roller coaster.  I mean, it’s a roller coaster.  You’re going to feel great in the morning because your baby is doing so well, and then by the evening, you’re going to feel terrible because all of a sudden something happened.  And then vice versa.  Sometimes you might ride the roller coaster up and down two or three times in a day.  You just have to hang on.”  That was really important advice that I always appreciated having because that is really what happens.

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Michelle:  We settled into kind of a routine once I was released from the hospital.  So my husband would get up early, and he would go into work, and on his way into work, he would call the nurses.  Since I was recovering from a C-section, I would move a little bit slower.  So I would get up and move slowly and then get ready, and I would go over to the hospital and usually stay there most of the day.

Kristin:  That’s a lot.

Michelle:  Yes.  And then my husband would join me after work and we would spend some time with her, and then we would both go home.  And when my husband would call the nurses in the morning, he would send me a message or give me a call and say, like, oh, you know, this happened over night, or she’s stable or whatever it was.  And so on her ninth day of life, same kind of plan happened, but my husband called me, and he said, yeah, so when I called the nurses, they put the doctor on.  And I thought, oh, shit.  And he said they had to jumpstart her heart last night, and there’s some concern about how she’s doing.  And he was like, I’m going to go into work, but let me know anything.  And I basically got dressed very fast and got out the door and went to the hospital.  And I was in denial.  Like, oh, you know, we went through this.  There was another time where they called us at 3:00 a.m. and it was a whole thing, and she pulled through and she was fine.  And when I got there, the doctor said to me, yeah, hold on, let’s talk.  Again, these are kind of those words that you know in the medical system – you’re like, crap.  And he found a private room for us, and he proceeded to tell us – which was a worry we  had always had – so typically, with micro-preemies who are that small – Colette was a little over a pound when she was born – they will place them onto a certain ventilator, and that is supposed to be a temporary thing to give them time for treatments and things while they get healthier, and then after a time, they’ll switch them to a different ventilator because that first one, while it’s amazing and wonderful and helps so many micro-preemies, can also, after a little bit, start stripping the lungs.  And so they had tried to move Colette several times onto the other ventilator.  She would take it for maybe five, ten minutes, and then they would start to see numbers crash and they’d have to bring her back to the first ventilator.  So really, it was now that what we feared was they couldn’t get her onto the other ventilator, and the first one had started to strip away at her lungs, and that she was suffering.  And they just didn’t see that they could make it better.  They were going to do everything they could, but they really wanted us to be aware of what was going on.  I sat there and listened and nodded my head.  Again, total denial.  It was like, oh, they’re going to freak us out, and she’s going to pull through and she’s going to be fine.  And he said, you can stay here as long as you want, and as he turned to leave, he came back and said, do you believe in baptism?  I said, I do.  And he said, I think it’s time.  And that to me was really – so, this is really what you think is happening.  And so I called my husband, and he came and family members came.  I still was in this, like – she’s just going to pull through.  I mean, this is not what happens.  And then I started to turn when she was going – they were going into shift change, and shift change in the NICU, parents weren’t allowed in.  So I was actually in the family room with my sister-in-law, and then the nurse came in and said, Mom, you should come in.  And I was like, it’s two minutes to shift change.  So they let us stay throughout shift change.  At some point, and I don’t remember exactly when that happened – they were pretty strict about two visitors, so it was my husband and I in there.  At some point, my sister was able to come in.  And it was like, you’re bending these rules, and you’re only doing this if this is really serious.  So ultimately, we saw her numbers drop, and they said, we will keep her alive.  We’ll baptize her, and then you guys will get to hold her while she passes.  So we said goodbye in the best way possible.  We were in a family room, and so our parents, both of our sisters, and both of our brothers-in-law were able to be there.  And we all got to hold her.  We all cried together and hugged and did everything and ultimately said goodbye to her.  It’s still surreal to think that’s what happened.  It’s the most devastating time.  They come out, and I still remember somebody coming in and talking to us and saying the phrase, do you guys have a funeral home in mind?  And just thinking, no.  Both of my parents were alive.  My husband was in college when his father died.  We hadn’t planned a funeral.  We didn’t know what to do.  And you’re definitely not thinking that when you’re preparing to have a baby.  You’re not thinking about a funeral home at that point.  So it was really just – it was devestating.  It was sad.  It felt isolating.  You know, it was just one of those things – I mean, I felt so much guilt thinking it was my fault and it was my body.  But again, sort of that money thing came up.  It was – at one point, I guess I must have had a weird look on my face, and the person who had come into the room, and I don’t remember if it was a doctor, nurse, social worker or other random person – I don’t know who it was.  He said, if money is an issue, a lot of people cremate because it’s much cheaper.  And that has always – like, it hit me hard that day and it’s always stayed with me.  Why are parents having to choose something in how they memorialize their child who died over money?  And that really stuck with me.  Again, it was all those money things just coming in throughout the process.

Kristin:  Like medical bills and then you’re looking at –

Michelle:  Medical bills and cost of transportation, you know, one of the people who was in the same pod as us in the NICU who had probably a good – I’m in the Chicago area – in good Chicago traffic, had probably an hour and 15 minutes’ drive because that was the closest NICU to them, and so that expense of gas.  And this was when gas prices were good.  Now if we think about as gas prices have risen and dropped and all that, how much worse that is.  Usually at a time when one or both parents are either working less or not working.  All of those things really were folding into my mind.  So really left with thinking about it, we decided, this is what we’re going to do.  And so we established our nonprofit foundation with really trying to do financial assistance for kind of what we see as essentially three stages of Colette’s life.  High risk pregnancy or pregnancy that develops complications; NICU stay, or loss.  And in a lot of ways, this is me running it; it’s how I’m parenting Colette, and it looks very different.  It’s very different than I parent my living son, but that’s really what I think is really truly important is to be in that spot and be able to do it.  So we’ve been in operation a little over four years.  I think we’re coming up probably about a month on our anniversary from the first grant we gave.  We’ve given away over $1 million in grants.

Kristin:  That’s amazing.

Michelle:  To families across the nation.  The need is astounding to me.  I probably had the biggest vision of what this was going to look like and what the need really was, and I am constantly shocked by just how much need there is.  So yeah, that’s really what we’re doing.  Along the way, we realized how many issues the general public wasn’t aware of, so we also did some education.  And then advocacy wherever we can because really, some of these problems are so structural and so institutional that we need to really change those in order to change the course of some of our mission.

Kristin:  So how do families, if they are seeking assistance from your foundation, how do they connect with you?

Michelle:  Absolutely.  They connect on our website.  There’s a brief application that they fill out, and then we also need a verification.  That’s typically – the vast majority of times, it’s social workers who are submitting those, but it could be a case manager.  Could be we’ve had some doctors and nurses.  It could be a death certificate or other paperwork that’s from the hospital that establishes is.  But basically, just a third-party verification of it.  And once we have those, my husband and I review them every week, and we give a decision.  So basically, if your application and verification and everything is in Friday at 5:00, then we review it on Saturday, and you’d have a decision by Monday morning.  And then once you get a decision, the decision is usually, we’re going to approve you for X dollar amount, and then clients have to submit where they want to spend that, and we would pay the bills directly to the service provider.  So directly to a utility company, directly to a landlord, that kind of thing.  The only kind of, I guess, exception of sort is we do gas gift cards, and that had been our biggest request for some time, and we have actually now seen in the last couple of months that rent is actually a bigger need.  We’re actually giving away more in rent dollars than in gas gift cards.

Kristin:  That makes sense with the rising housing costs.

Michelle:  Which is also – I mean, this is all interesting to see, like, how shifts in the greater world affect families and where they’re at.  So that’s basically what happens.  It’s a very quick turnaround.  That was intentional because we know things are happening very fast, and the people need help when they need help.  And usually when they’re turning to us, things are already pretty bad on their end.  So that’s really what the process is.

Kristin:  And how do our listeners get involved or donate?

Michelle:  So donations are great.  We really – what we have built in as structure is we have a generous donor who is covering essentially all of our overhead.  So postage and website hosting and all of those things.  So donations to us go 100% to families in need.  So it just goes straight into that fund so that you know that you’re doing – you’re not paying for anything other than helping a family, and we really appreciate that.  The ability to give really is affected by what’s coming in, so we appreciate that, for sure.  In terms of getting involved, spreading the word, whether that be for families who might need help or people who might be interested in donating, I think that’s really important.  We’re a small organization.  It’s essentially very much just me.  We’re doing a lot on a national scale, and so getting out the word, sharing some things, learning about something, and then really deciding to share it is really helpful for us.

Kristin:  That is fantastic.  So you are – not only do you have the website, but you’re also on social media, so if our listeners wanted to connect with you, what channels do you prefer they find you on?

Michelle:  So we’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn.  Any of those are great ways to reach out to us if that’s your preferred method of communication.  We will respond and let you know how we can help or answer questions or anything like that.

Kristin:  Wonderful.  Any final tips for our listeners navigating loss, Michelle?

Michelle:  Yeah.  I think, you know, feel what you want to feel.  Grief – you know, I think we have this notion that grief ends at some point, and it doesn’t.  You know, grief is reactivated over and over again.  And we have – we just came off things like school pictures, right?  The first day of school pictures, which are really popular to post on social media nowadays.  But they’re really triggering for loss parents because if they’re seeing somebody who’s the same age as the child they lost would have been, that’s really triggering.  That’s really difficult.  And so sometimes there’s a lot of grief over that.  You know, we’re coming up on Halloween; that can be really tricky.  The holidays can be really tricky.  And then there’s just the random Tuesday where out of the blue it kind of hits you and overwhelms you.  And all of those things together – it’s a lifelong struggle, and it’s working through it.  I am a big proponent of therapy, so I’d say individual therapy, couples therapy if you can do it, because there’s still conflict and there’s still issues to work through and to just make sure you’re communicating about how all those things are affecting you.  And then I always recommend finding sort of your village, your people, because I have found, and I have a couple of really good, close loss friends who are also parenting after loss, and it’s really nice because all the thoughts you have, all the actions you take that you know are really resulting from grief – it’s nice to be in a space where you can just reach out to other people and say, this is the thought I’m having.  And you’re getting the, “Yep, I get that.  Uh-huh.  I felt that way, too.”  And you’re not feeling like you’re alone.  And so I think those are the things I can really say, you know.  These are tragedies that honestly will bring out the true nature of other people in your lives, and there are people that are not going to be supportive, and it’s really devestating when that happens.  You have to make decisions as to whether or not those people should remain in your life.  And if they are, how you’re going to interact and deal with them.  That’s really hard, and I think – so that’s why I really say having your village is nice because you can sort of bounce things off and say, you know, I have this one friend who is saying X to me, and we can kind of talk through that and say, what does that mean, what does that look like, how are you going to deal with that.  So I think that’s my best tip.  For parenting after loss – parenting after loss is tough, you know?  There are things that I do and ways that I react – I go in the worst what-if scenario in just about every case.  If he starts with a cold, I’m starting to worry about, oh, my God, what if it turns into pneumonia or COVID or anything like that, and that’s really just because my experiences in my life have led me to this feeling of, like, we are going to experience the worst case scenario.  And luckily, I have a very healthy, very active toddler who is always happy, so that helps a lot.  But still, it’s hard, you know?  It’s just all of those things.  Right now, he’s not really talking yet.  He’s in speech.  And you can look up things, and I have gone to everything from, oh, my God, he’s deaf – which makes no sense, and we’ve tested him now to – you know, just all the extremes that I’ve gone to, when all the experts are telling me, especially COVID babies, are a lot of the time being very delayed because they didn’t have the same social interaction with other kids that they would have and other adults.  And so it all makes sense to me logically; it’s just those feelings, those pit of the stomach feelings that you have, and I think not only is it okay, it’s just how it’s going to be, and so I think, you know, really the individual therapy helps to make sure that you are not over-worrying and, you know, doing things that are really harmful to you and harmful to your child, but also that you are still following your instincts and doing that, and it’s hard.  Parenting is tough.  We all know that.  And trusting your instinct is a good thing.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell when it’s just my mom instinct kicking in or the feeling, or if it’s coming from loss.  And because I never parented without the loss, I don’t know.  You know?  I don’t know which one it is.  And that is really difficult to navigate and to figure out.

Kristin:  Thank you for sharing those tips and your story.  It will help so many listeners, and especially the work you’re doing with the foundation.

Michelle:  Thank you.

Kristin:  It was a pleasure chatting with you, and we’ll be in touch soon.

Michelle:  All right.  Sounds great.  Thank you so much for having me.

Kristin:  Thanks, Michelle.

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.


Fashion for Breastfeeding: Podcast Episode #170

Kristin discusses challenges of the professional mother with Magda Lasota Morales, founder of MLM Brand.  Magda created a timeless line of dresses for breastfeeding and pumping moms.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas.  I am beyond excited to chat with Magda Lasota Morales today about her amazing brand, MLM Brand, and her journey into motherhood.  Magda is a mom of two and founded MLM because she wanted to make the fourth trimester easier for moms by creating a collection of elevated, timeless maternity pieces.  Welcome, Magda!

Magda:  Hi, Kristin!  Thank you so much for having me.  Thank you for this beautiful introduction.  I was like, wow, is this me?  But yes, hello, everyone.  Magda here.  Hello from sunny LA.  I know the weather can be a little finicky around the country, but I’m sending all the positive sunny vibes your way.  I’m so excited to be here, Kristin.  Thank you!

Kristin:  So happy to chat!  Now, I would love to hear how you started in the corporate world and really had this dream and brought it to life because many of us have ideas, but to really – especially when you’re getting into apparel, to make it happen is a whole other level.

Magda:  Yes.  Oh, Kristin, exactly.  So honestly, I think becoming a mom gave me that confidence to do it because now being into – I have two boys.  They’re 5 and 8 now.  Now that they’re a little older and they feel like I’m finally catching a breath, and looking back at my journey, I think to myself, I can’t believe I actually did that.  And I think that, you know, when I became a mom, I had that, like – I felt very powerful.  I had that inspiration and confidence that only motherhood really can give you, outside of other experiences.  So I started the brand about three years ago.  It took a couple more years before that to actually get the design, the first design to the place where I felt like, yes, let’s bring it to the market.  Let’s bring it to the mamas.  So it’s been a long time sort of in the work and a long time coming.  My background is actually political science and survey research, so I worked in corporate world when I had my first son.  And I mostly worked with men, and it was – in my case, it was kind of a blessing because they didn’t ask many questions, just kind of let me take the lead on the pumping front, on kind of getting the flexibility that moms need and deserve when they are asked to go back to work so early, as moms in the US are, right?  I was very lucky, and I took eleven weeks off, and that still felt so soon to go back to work.  But I was determined to do it.  I felt like everyone else was doing it.  You know, at that point, I didn’t know many moms in my community that had a similar experience of working, pumping, and trying to juggle it all.  So I was just determined to do it.  But at work, I found myself – I didn’t really have a path, like anyone to sort of guide me through the process.  HR was kind of hands-off.  They weren’t really that helpful in my case.  So I worked in corporate world, and being in Chicago, I actually really – everyone loves summers in Chicago, so –

Kristin:  Oh, yes.  I’m not far from Chicago in West Michigan.

Magda:  Exactly.  No, you’re in Michigan, yes.  So I was really excited to wear dresses.  It’s a couple of months a year that you can really wear your summer clothes, and I realized that it was impossible to pump and to nurse in my current dresses.  So I kind of set out to design the first prototype, and as I said, it took, you know – it took a couple of years to get the design right, and my breastfeeding journey with my first son ended at that point.  But by the time I had my second son, who’s 5 now, I felt like I finally got the design right, and I launched the brand in 2019, in June of 2019, so shortly before the pandemic.  And it’s been wonderful.  It’s been challenging but wonderful at the same time.  And I’m just happy that I was able to do it, and I love hearing from moms how our designs, how my designs make their pumping journey, breastfeeding journey easier.

Kristin:  Yeah.  I mean, you definitely speak truth about just wanting to have professional attire, wear a dress, and that limited time that you have in the corporate world to take that pumping break.  It’s not like you have time to take the dress all the way off, nor would you want to.  And so the fact that you designed this little black breastfeeding dress with the corporate mamas in mind, but it’s also so needed, whether you are a guest at a wedding or going to an event, like a luncheon, and you want to dress up, but you also know that you need to pump.  Or if you have your baby with you, feed your baby directly.

Magda:  Yeah.  So, absolutely.  And that was just, you know – when you become a mom, when you become a parent, your life changes so much, and I felt like so did my wardrobe, right?  I still wanted to look, you know, good and feel confident in the way I dressed, but I felt like I was lacking these pieces that were pumping and breastfeeding friendly in my closet.  The first dress, the little breastfeeding dress, LBD, black LBD, in short was the first design, and I’ve designed two more dresses since then, kind of with my lifestyle changes in mind.  So I wanted a dress that was a little bit more casual that you can just kind of wear to the playground or grocery shopping or just hanging out with your girlfriends if you are a mom that works at home or has kind of a different flexible schedule outside of kind of 9:00 and 5:00.  And then I designed another dress that sold out so quickly.  I’m hoping to bring it back shortly, more of a flowy, summery, boho style that has been very popular style with moms.  So my mission is to really just transform my favorite dresses, the dresses that I wear now, even though I’m not breastfeeding anymore, into breastfeeding-friendly designed.  And yeah, I think that it kind of makes my inspiration going because whenever I have a dress, I’m like, oh, my gosh, I really, really love it.  I immediately think, how can I make it breastfeeding friendly?

Kristin:  I love your Instagram posts and your dresses.  It almost makes me want to have another child, but I’m pretty much beyond that point.  I had no options when my kids, who are 9 and 11, were born as far as being fashionable, and like you said, dresses.  So I love everything that you stand for, and your style is so sleek and modern.

Magda:   That’s definitely the goal.  Just to add to that, I love seeing the innovation in the field happening right now and the resources available to moms.  I became a mom eight years ago, and I either didn’t know about the products that were out there because Instagram wasn’t as prevalent eight years ago as it is right now.  And probably a lot of the products and the resources weren’t available – even though, you know, I was in Chicago, so I had a six-week postpartum group of moms that was facilitated by the lactation consultants at the hospital in Hyde Park Dayton University of Chicago.  So I had some resources and support, but I felt like it’s such a major change.  Becoming a mom is such a major, monumental change in your life that it felt like I needed a lot more, you know?  A lot more.  And I loved to see there are, you know, services, like everything that you guys do at Gold Coast Doulas.  I look at your website and I look at your Instagram and your newsletter, and it’s like, I wish I had access to this when my kids were little, when I was struggling with feedings.  I think the sleep deprivation was the really big thing for me.

Kristin:  Yeah.  Same, absolutely.

Magda:  Yes.  So I just really love – you know, I’m just like a very sort of small part of the movement to turn the attention and the support to the moms, right?  We’re the ones that go through this experience of giving birth, and as you and I know, it can really be traumatic sometimes.  And I feel like for the longest time, yes, I know women have given birth for years and ages and centuries, but I feel like, you know, in modern times, there’s so much more pressure and expectations put on modern families that the recovery period and the whole experience of being pregnant and the postpartum period is so stressful.  It’s so stressful, right?

Kristin:  Yeah, in other countries, the community and the family gives so much more support.  In the US, oftentimes families that we support at Gold Coast or in our Becoming course, they don’t have family.  They move for a job.  They don’t really have a community to rely on.  So I do agree with you about your support group and just having a circle of women who are going through the same thing at the same time and how valuable that was for you back in Chicago.  So community and resources are so important.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Magda:  Absolutely.  So now having community – I live in Los Angeles right now, so I have a community of moms here.  But my community, like Instagram and social media, I have become so close with so many of these moms, and I have experienced their lives as they became, you know, the mom for the first time, the second time, the third time.  And just kind of seeing and sharing our stories and how challenging it can be sometimes to juggle it all and do it all.  It’s really validating, and it normalizes the experience.  Like, yes, motherhood is hard, but it’s also the most beautiful experience there.  But it’s also okay for us to say, this is hard.  I have all these emotions, and it’s good to see that other moms also feel the same way.

Kristin:  Yeah, and I feel like it’s so important to regain some sense of your former self, especially becoming a new mother.  So you, with your dresses, are giving women some of that confidence that they may be lacking.  They don’t want to be a frumpy mom.  They still want respect, and they potentially, depending on whatever their choice is, whether they go back to work full time or part time or be a stay at home mom or start their own business, whatever their choice is, I still feel like clothing can give you so much confidence.  And if something, like you said, that you can wear pre-maternity and breastfeeding journey, if you can have that same style and look in a breastfeeding dress, then that is so empowering.

Magda:  Yes.  I agree.

Kristin:  That whole work-life balance and trying to rise in the ranks, and then motherhood can often set women back.  So really wanting to still have that respect in the corporate world.  And if you’re wearing frumpy mom clothes – I don’t know.  I mean, there’s a little bit of that looking down – like, when you’re taking pumping breaks and so on.  So what are your thoughts?  What are you hearing from the circles in California about some of their transitions back to work and how it’s different being a mom versus when they were child-free?

Magda:  You know, I feel lucky being in California because I feel like California – I mean, every state has sort of pros and cons, but I personally feel very lucky being in California because of how this state just leads the way in terms of supporting working parents.  And what I hear from moms here in California – I also have a strong community in Chicago, but also I’m connected to moms in different states.  And I think that it really varies.  I think that support at your workplace is important, but it’s also just a piece of the puzzle, a bigger puzzle of just the wholesome support that working parents need in terms of affordable childcare and how household responsibilities are divided in your home and things like that.  Because one thing that I kind of noticed and learned and I’m still just really kind of feeling passionate about is how unrealistic the expectations are on working parents, but also on parents that stay at home.  I have this with my husband all the time because not by choice, it’s just sort of how it happened in our – my husband pretty much just works, and he’s training to be a doctor, so his schedule is very demanding.  He literally – he doesn’t have any time outside of maybe helping out every now and then.  So the majority of household chores and everything that’s childcare related and kids-related falls on me.  And I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that it created a lot of resentment here.  But I also try to remember the whole system and how the system in the US is set up for working parents or for families in the US.  It’s impossible because – you know, I was so excited when I actually stepped away from my corporate career and I got to work on my business full time.  The thing I didn’t know, and truly, you know, I knew, but I didn’t know, like, how it would actually play out in real life is that everything that I was able to pay for with my paycheck, after I quit my job, that was no longer possible, and that included extra childcare or someone to come and help, like a housekeeper.  So yes, it was really exciting starting my own business, having the flexibility to be there for my young family in a meaningful and positive way, but also, the chores that I no longer had the finances to hire someone to do for the family, like scrubbing the bathrooms, mopping, vacuuming, all of that fell on me.  And it’s been years now.  I just feel like there is such an unrealistic expectation placed on both working moms, because if you are working at an office, like 8:00 to 6:00, right, like, you also don’t have time to do a lot of things, including maybe spending time with your kids every day.  And I feel like moms are just always just kind of gasping for air because you can’t have it all unless you have other people in your support circle helping and chiming in and contributing because it really is not possible for one person to do it all.  Whether you’re working outside of the home or inside a home, and I just think that it’s important that we talk about that.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  I mean, my husband is traveling for work this week, in fact, and I had to make some asks of other parents because I couldn’t be in two places at once with sports and bus stops and so on.  So I had to call in a group of other moms who understood, and I’m always doing favors for moms.  So, yeah.  I mean, in that whole thought of women wanting to have it all, I mean, how many times does a man get asked if they can have it all?

Magda:  That’s the whole thing.  I feel like it’s been so unfair, and this topic is, like – I mean, I’m always passionate about it, but the book Fair Play by Eve Rodsky, and the way it kind of – how she lays it all out, including, you know, like, yes, make a list of everything you do, but don’t show it to your husband, because even when I was making a list of all the things that I do for our family, which is, like, 98% of things, I kind of started feeling, like, even more resentful, thinking, like, oh, my gosh, I really do everything.  Like – but that’s not – Rodsky also addresses that in her book.  Like, don’t do that.  That’s not going to be productive.  She went through that.  She experienced that resentment.  And she tells us that is not going to lead to a productive conversation.  So I’m past that point now, and I’m ready to truly have these conversations with my husband.  And also, you know, continue to educate myself on the topic and how we really got here, that women are just so – treated so unfairly, and the expectations are so unfair, you know?  I mean, we see it kind of in the funny way on social media and memes, like when a dad watched the kids.  And I know these are like stereotypes, right?  There’s different families –

Kristin:  Oh, they make me so mad.  Yeah, dads watching the kids.  He’s not a babysitter.  He’s their father.

Magda:  But I think all stereotypes –different families are different.  There are different ways we do parenting.  But I just think that when my husband has a conference to go to, he literally just, like, packs a suitcase and goes, right?

Kristin:  Right.  He doesn’t have a list of ten things that need to be remembered.

Magda:  No.  He’s got a very competent person taking care of everything here.  But if I had to go somewhere, I don’t even know.  I did go to visit my family in Poland last summer, and it took my in-laws and my sister-in-law, my brother-in-law to come here and just kind of do it all while I was gone.

Kristin:  Especially with your husband’s busy schedule working in the medical field.  So yeah, that’s a whole other level of intensity.

Magda:  Yeah, it really is.  But as far as moms returning to work, and you and I both know that it’s so early in this country.  California, luckily, is one of the states that you can have a longer maternity leave, but not everyone has that choice, right?  It really depends on who you work for.  And I think that moms now have access to a lot of different resources and accounts that help them prepare for the life after maternity leave, life as a working parent, whether you work in an office or – I often think of moms that do sort of nontraditional jobs, like a bus driver or someone who works in service industry.  Like, how do you find time to pump, right?  It’s crazy.  We often think like, oh, you know, moms work in an office.  All they need to do is just find a little closet and go in there and pump.  But there is so many other jobs out there where that’s simply not an option.  So what I hear from moms is that, in general, it’s really hard to return to work and leave your baby at the beginning with someone else.

Kristin:  And there’s that guilt.  It’s hard to find a nanny now, and childcare centers are full and limit the amount of babies.  And then, of course, the cost of it is prohibitive, depending on the income level.  But certainly we have a lot of professional women that hold off on getting overnight postpartum support until they’re transitioning back to work from maternity leave and bring us on at that point so they’re able to be refreshed.  So we might go in every night when they return to work or three nights a week or the times that their partner travels.  We’ve even done overnight doula support when the woman has traveled and the husband is home with a toddler and a baby.

Magda:  I saw this on your website, Kristin.  This is so important.  This was one of the things I’m like, you know, I wish – I wish this was one of my, like, baby shower – I did not have a baby – like, a proper baby shower.  But I wish that was something that was gifted to me because that’s simply, like – it would literally save my life.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  One good night of sleep?  It’s lifechanging.  Better than a stroller or baby clothes.  I’m all about registering for services.  And like you mentioned, housekeeping, whatever it might be.  If you don’t want a doula, there are so many other services that can benefit you.

Magda:  And I love that because I see moms, and I see our dresses are often added to registries, and you can see what other items are there.  And there are lactation classes there, sleep consultations, overnight nannies or doulas or whatever the proper term is.  And I’m like, yes.  This is really what we need.

Kristin:  Just what we need, yes.

Magda:  A gift card to Sweet Greens, you know.  I’m obsessed with Sweet Greens.  I’m trying to nourish my body after I’ve nourished this baby for nine months in my belly, and now I’m nourishing this baby and growing this baby outside of my body.  So, yes.  I love that there is that shift towards the mom, right?  We’ve seen it on social media where I think there is a quote, how about the mom, you know?  Welcome baby, but how about the mom, or something like that.  I really think it’s needed, and I’m just so glad that more and more people focus on the wellbeing of mom because, you know, you and I know that you can’t really – it’s such a, like, trivial thing to say you can’t pour from an empty cup, unless you truly experience that, right?  When you experience that exhaustion, that you have no energy, you feel like you’re not – you know, you’d like to do your best, but this is your best today.  And sometimes there’s also guilt from that because you know that you’re just exhausted, and you can’t do your best the way you would like to.

Kristin:  Any final tips for our listeners, Magda?

Magda:  Oh, tips, mamas.  I don’t know who will be listening to us, like new mamas.  I just want to tell you that you’re amazing, that the baby is gorgeous, and it matters, and you brought this new life into the world.  But focus on yourself, and I know it sometimes sounds selfish, and you can think, like, oh, how can I focus on myself when this baby takes up all of my time during the day and at night?  But it really is so important to take care of the baby but also find pockets of time throughout the day to do something that makes you happy and that makes your heart skip a bit because motherhood – it can really, like, pull you in, into taking care of your family, but you can’t really do that if you’re not well emotionally and mentally and physically.  It’s investing time and resources in yourself, whether it’s lactation consultants or sleep consultants, doulas, mommy circles, mommy classes where you go in with your baby and meet other moms and share your experience and you just nod heads.  It’s like, yes.  That’s how I feel.  It’s just so invaluable.  So that was a lot of tips, but I think the bottom line is, you matter, mama, and yeah, I think that just take care of yourself, as kind of simple as it sounds.  And I know it’s probably not the same kind of self-care that you were used to before the baby.  Maybe you don’t have time to get your nails done or whatever it was for you before becoming a mom.  There’s other ways that you can do that and ask for help because we really are not meant to do it alone, and I think the US makes you think that you can, but you can’t and you shouldn’t.  So ask for help and take care of yourself, and next time you blink, the kids are going to be 5 and 8, like mine, and you feel like you’ve been there.  You’ve experienced it all.  And yeah, it was challenging, but it was also the most rewarding experience of your life.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Beautiful, Magda.

Magda:  Oh, thank you so much, Kristin.  I could talk for hours.  I just feel like I’m finally out of that – I mean, my kids are 5 and 8, so finally.

Kristin:  Yes, I’m with you.  School-aged kids.  It’s a whole different experience.

Magda:  Yes.  And the years were long, but, you know, I experienced it all.  And I’m just really grateful.

Kristin:  So how can our listeners find you?  Of course, there’s your website.  But you’re also very active on social?

Magda:  I am.  Well, Instagram and TikTok gurus tell you to do that.  I’m on Instagram.  It’s @mlmbrand_ and then it’s the same on TikTok.  I think it’s @_mlmbrand_ there.  But yes, I’m very active on Instagram, so if you have any questions or if anyone wants to be on the blog or do an Instagram Live or anything like that, just come and say hi.  Please do so.  I love connecting with other moms.  It really is the other moms that I met on this motherhood journey that made it so much more fun and so much more meaningful.  So I’m always here.  Come say hi.

Kristin:  Thanks so much, Magda.  I appreciate it.

Magda:  Thank you so much, Kristin.

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.



Baby Registry Trends: Podcast Episode #169

Kristin chats with Lexi Tabor of Hatchling CLE about the latest baby trends and services.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas.  I am so excited to chat with Lexi Tabor today.  Lexi is the founder, postpartum care specialist, certified lactation support counselor at Hatchling CLE.  Welcome, Lexi!

Lexi:  Hi, Kristin.  Thank you so much for having me.

Kristin:  Our topic today is all about registries and prepping for baby showers and what you need and what you don’t need, since a lot of your business – it’s not mentioned in the title – is being a baby registry consultant, in addition to all of your skills in lactation and postpartum doula work.

Lexi:  Yeah, it’s something that I actually – so I started postpartum work in 2020 and got my lactation certification in 2021, but how this all started was that I’ve been – I was a career nanny for 12 years, so I got to work firsthand with a bunch of baby stuff with various families.  Families of newborns and toddlers and things like that, and they were always asking me about which things they should have or what works for this and kind of figuring it out there.  I starting offering, I guess, consults.  I started asking my friends who were expecting, “Do you want to send me your registry?  Do you want to do this together?  I like to do that.  I know a little bit about products,” and that kind of evolved into what I do now.  And then I realized, oh, I have this business.  I might as well add that as an add-on.

Kristin:  It makes perfect sense since you already had so much firsthand knowledge working with nanny families and postpartum doula clients in their homes with the products.

Lexi:  Exactly.

Kristin:  So what is, as far as the percentage of your business, what would that make up, just to get an idea or a sense?  At least in my area, I don’t know of any baby registry consultants.

Lexi:  I’ve never crunched the numbers with it, really.  I guess it would be about 25%.

Kristin:  That’s what I would have guessed, yeah.

Lexi:  I’ve also started – I actually am starting to offer it now as – so it was mostly just a standalone service, but now I’m starting to market it more as an add-on for my current clients and kind of giving them a discount and saying, like, hey, you know, would you like me to look over your registry, or do you want to build this together?  It helps me get to know their needs on a whole different level when I’m working with in-person clients, too, which is kind of cool.

Kristin:   Yeah, that makes sense.  I know as birth doulas, we have add-on prenatals if a client wants help working on a birth plan or a birth preference sheet.  So it make sense to do add-ons in that way.  So you know so much about the industry itself as far as marketing goes and what’s going on with baby products and services and the registry market in general.  What tidbits do you have to share with us, Lexi, on the market itself?

Lexi:  So I guess my experience and my personal values also kind of drive what it is that I do within registry consults.  So I’m trying to get away from the $12 billion industry of baby stuff.  How many times have you heard a parent say, “I didn’t need that,” or, like, throwing their baby items at their friends who are pregnant because they never used it?

Kristin:  Constantly.

Lexi:  Or have so much stuff, right?  Especially in this country, unfortunately, we’re not really set up to succeed postpartum.  It’s all about the things and making everything look good and all about the birth, which are important, but then you have this baby that you come home with, and then you’re like, okay, now what?  So what I try to plant the seed – I try to plant the seed with clients to kind of reframe it as, yes, you’re going to need things, but most of what you will need is support.  Getting them in touch with people in their area or even virtually if, depending on their location, they don’t physically have access to those services.  And just kind of reframing, like, what is it that you actually need and also what is it that will work for your family, right?  Because there is also a lot of people ask their friends what they’re going to need, and if they had other babies or have taken care of other children, they tend to go towards those products, which sometimes work, but every baby is different, so it’s kind of tailoring their registry to their exact needs and their familial buildup, the logistics of their housing, their relationship situation.  All of that is all custom tailored to them.

Kristin:   Yeah, the Snoo doesn’t work for every baby.  You know, different swaddles or baby carriers can be very specific to the individual needs, even if you have multiple kids.  There could be preferences in your household.  So I know that you have ties to Be Her Village, and I’m so excited to take your baby registry training through Be Her Village, and that is all about really incorporating services and experts within the birth and baby field versus registering for things.  For registering for a doula or a lactation consult or postpartum doula and so on.

Lexi:   Yes.  So this course that I’m going to be teaching that you are also taking is – it was kind of born randomly, naturally, in a meeting that I was having with Kaitlyn and JD from Be Her Village.  I don’t even remember what the chat was about.  I think it was just a casual chat, and by the end of it, we kind of had a private conversation, and we’re like, hey, should we make this happen?  And so the focus of the gift registry expert certification through Be Her Village is, again, it’s not going to be, “Don’t buy stuff; only do services,” and all about Be Her Village, because that’s not practical, either.  It’s going to be about exploring the different subjects.  Each week, we have a different breakdown of things from, like, sleep, feeding, things for parents, baby travel, play and development, all of those different things that we’ll take a deep dive into, and each week, we will discuss support resources versus product resources versus, like, different options that you can give people and give people who are taking the course the tools to implement this into their business, as well, so they can kind of spread the word of also planting seeds of, hey, like, you – what do you think this product would do for you?  In some cases, it might be more appropriate to have a service instead.  Like, oh, it sounds like this is something you might actually be looking for that this product could do, but also this person, I know, would do a great job at it, kind of thing.  So just connecting families with that kind of support, as well.

Kristin:   I know we get a lot of questions from doula clients at Gold Coast about everything from the best pump to bottles and a lot of swaddle questions.  So what are you seeing from clients as far as really, like, the most overwhelming registry items?

Lexi:  A lot of my clients are registering through major registry sites that work well, but again, they’re not custom tailored.  So it’s just kind of more of crowdsourcing and what’s in at the moment.  As someone who specializes in feeding, bottles and pacifiers that are in at the moment are actually like the bane of my existence.  But that’s also a good talking point and a point to bring up.  It’s a good lesson to educate.  It’s a good point to educate parents on.  Like, oh, this is really popular right now.  Did you know XYZ about this product?  Or here are some pros and here are some cons about it; what do you think?  There are a lot of questions; bottles, pacifiers, swaddles.

Kristin:  Car seats, I’m sure.  Strollers.

Lexi:  I actually don’t get a lot of questions on car seats, which is surprising.  Usually it’s how to install my car seat, but not which one to get.

Kristin:  And you think of everything that’s interchangeable; anything from a crib that turns into a toddler bed to the car seat with stroller combo and things like that.  So I’m sure that you get some of those questions when you’re in clients’ homes.

Lexi:  There’s so many different choices out there, too, which is – you know, it’s good and it’s bad.  We’re kind of met with this decision paralysis.  Some people like me really enjoy doing the research and kind of scoping out all these products and things like that, and for most expectant parents, it’s just so overwhelming because they’re already dealing with so much.  And going down Google wormholes for six days about which car seat is the best and whatever – if you hire someone who knows this information, they can tell you all that without you having to get into this anxiety blackhole.

Kristin:   Yes, because your time is valuable, and reducing stress, especially during pregnancy, is key.  Win-win to hire an expert who’s really gone through all of the ratings and reviews, and obviously, recalls.  Keeping up with the recalls is, I feel like, almost a full-time job.  I just got an email today about two more recalls.  So keeping on top of that for our clients is also important.

Lexi:  Yes, and that’s something, again, a lot of parents don’t know about these things until we tell them, so hopefully people who are listening to your podcast will now know, if you don’t already, sign up for the weekly emails from the CPSC website.  It’s really easy.  They send you a weekly email, and you get to see what products or recalls.  Sometimes it’s children’s products; sometimes it’s like an ATV, which is not relevant.  But I actually had – I looked on there, and I noticed there was a washing machine that had a fire hazard, and I noticed – I was like, oh, I’m pretty sure that’s one of my client’s washing machines, so I sent that along to them.  So it’s not just baby products, but even if you register things, like your car seat and your baby carrier and if you have any baby containers, things like that, it’s not just baby products that they sent out notifications on.  So it’s good to know about any of these home products that you may be using.

Kristin:  Yes.  Very helpful.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  As far as trends with showers, what are you seeing as you’re helping clients navigate planning for their baby shower or diaper sprinkle, whatever it might be?

Lexi:  A lot of people are – I think there’s – there is a shift away from, like, the traditional baby shower, right?  So it’s not – this is not your mom’s baby shower kind of thing.  I think people are starting to do more research, and millennials are, I think, trying to be more intentional about the things they bring into the world and the things they expose their babies to and things like that.  As years go by, research comes out, and we know differently.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Wanting eco-friendly products.

Lexi:  Yeah, things that are, I guess, more clean and nontoxic as far as detergents go; even sometimes fabrics and crib mattresses.  So it’s kind of cool to see that shift because even 12 years ago before my niece was born, I look at the things we did, and I was like, oh, man, so much has changed even in that amount of time.  So now it’s – there is a lot of research.  Unfortunately, sometimes with that comes a lot of anxiety.  But I think people are trying to be more mindful in how they spend their money and also spend time with their children and the things they expose their babies to, which is why I also think the service is really valuable because you’re kind of starting off on the right foot before your baby is even born.  Kind of help parents out.

Kristin:  Exactly.  I know one of my clients set up a registry, and her focus was to try to make it as eco-friendly as helpful.  She was happy to have regifted items, you know, from her friends who already had babies and really was all about registering for services.  So she got a lot of postpartum doula support and other services that were helpful.  Meal delivery, housekeeping, and so on.

Lexi:  And those are things, again, a lot of first-time parents, without knowing somebody who’d had those services themselves, might not even know that that’s an option or they might be like, oh, that’s kind of weird to put housecleaning on my baby registry.  But it’s not.  You know?  You’re sitting around.  You’re at home all day.  You’re looking at all these things that you – a lot of parents are like, I feel like I should be doing this, when their job is really to be resting and healing if they gave birth.  Yeah, everything from meal services, cleaning services.

Kristin:  Diaper services for those who do cloth.

Lexi:  Yeah.  Anything – any and all of the above.  I actually came across – I think it was a couple years ago – another registry where it is specifically made to register for things that are preloved items, and on there, you can write – whoever gifts it can write whether they want it back or not or whether you can donate it or whatever, which I thought was really cool.  Especially for big ticket items, if you know the home it came from and there are no allergies in your home and their home that mishmash, and if you know that they use safety protocols – like, not having to buy a crib is great.

Kristin:  Definitely.  That’s a costly item.  And even thinking about – the market has changed so much since I’ve had kids where things can be rented.  Like a Snoo, for example.  I’ve had clients rent versus buy a Snoo.  And so some of those higher-ticket items can be returned after use.

Lexi:  Yeah, it’s nice to see that, and also a lot of parents are using Mercari and Poshmark for things as well, like swaddles, which you’re still buying it, but it is preloved, so you’re not necessarily – you’re giving that money to another parent, and not a corporation, which is kind of cool, and keeping those things out of landfills, which is also wonderful.

Kristin:  Exactly.  Any tips as far as things to avoid registering for?

Lexi:  There are very few blanket recommendations that I make.  Kaitlyn from Be Her Village and I were talking about this.  She’s like, “I want to know what’s on your black list.”  The only things, honestly, for me, are things that have safety issues with them.  So obviously, anything that’s been recalled, you can go on the CPSC website, put in a product that you want to register for or that you’ve heard is really good, and you can re-report if there are any on their website of those.  For me, it’s not necessarily the actual product; more so how they’re used, so, like, those sleep pods, like the Dock A Tot, they’re now sold as loungers because they’re not allowed to use the language of sleep pods.  But a lot of parents still use them for sleep.

Kristin:  Right, which is challenging.

Lexi:  Yeah.  So, again, it’s navigating that conversation of while this product is in your home, this is the appropriate way to use it.  This is the safe way to use it, and here’s how it should be – the uses you should avoid it for.  I think the only one that I struggle with the most are formula dispensers, for two reasons.  Number one, babies under the age of three months, or if they’re immunocompromised, they need a special way to have formula prepared, so it’s not actually about boiling the water, letting it cool down.  You’re actually supposed to scald the powder because that is what can have bacteria in it.  And formula dispensers don’t prepare things in that way, right?  So they’re not making it safely for babies under three months, unfortunately.  And also they’re not accurately dispensing the amount of formula that it’s supposed to all the time, so it’s really hard – like, you can’t keep track of that.  You don’t know whether your baby is having too much powder in there, not enough powder.  And that’s tricky.  And in the long run, you have to clean it after every three bottles, so in the long run, it’s not really more efficient, unfortunately.

Kristin:   Right, and if it’s not cleaned properly, then it leads to all of these other issues, like bacteria.

Lexi:  Honestly, other than things that have been safety recalled, which you can read all about those online, I don’t really have any blanket recommendations.  It is more so about, like, what fits for a family, what works for them, and how things are used.

Kristin:  Love it.  So Lexi, based on your background as a lactation support counselor, what are you loving within the feeding area?  I know you mentioned some of the newer products were a concern, but what do you love?

Lexi:  My favorite bottle to use is one of the least expensive.  They are the Evenflo glass bottles, just the glass, four-ounce.  You can use it with a slow flow Evenflo nipple, or you can use it with a Dr. Brown’s nipple.  I really like those.  They are a great shape for feeding.  That makes it optimal for babies that are fed from the body and for just piece feeding them and having a good latch.  And then the Nanobebe pacifier, if you are choosing to use a pacifier.  I really like that one for the shape, and it also kind of forms to the face really well, which helps keep things in there.  As far as for lactating parents, I think Silverette cup.  I don’t know if you have heard of those or had experience with those.  They’re pretty cool.  They’re like these stainless steel kind of – it’s not really a nipple shield, but it goes over the nipple.

Kristin:  And collects, yes.  I love it.

Lexi:  Yeah, it collects it.  It prevents damage and it helps heel.  It’s – they’re really cool.

Kristin:  Awesome tips, thank you!  So any other ideas to share for our listeners or doula clients who are prepping their registry?

Lexi:  I would just encourage you to really look into local resources.  I’m going to plug Be Her Village.  I’m not sponsored by them, but I just really believe in their mission and spreading the word.  My favorite part about them is that the money goes directly into your bank account if you have a registry, and then if you don’t end up needing that service, you can spend it on what you need.  So if you plan on feeding your baby from your body and you end up not needing a lactation consultant, or end up using formula, you can use that money for diapers instead or a meal service or other things like that.  And it kind of also connects you with – it widens your horizons of what’s even available around you, which is pretty neat.

Kristin:  Right.  You can see all the experts in your area by searching for the different services.  That’s very helpful.

Lexi:  Again, avoiding that Google wormhole.  Love-hate relationship with Google.

Kristin:  It can be terrifying and overwhelming all at once.  Yes, avoiding Google and trusting expert sites and resources is what it’s all about.  So if our listeners want to get in touch with you, you obviously do virtual work as well as in person.  How can they best reach you, Lexi?

Lexi:  The best way, I think the most active way to reach me, is on Instagram.  My handle is @hatchlingcle.  And then my website, too, which has all of my contact info on it.

Kristin:  And you’re located in Cleveland, so not too far away from us in Michigan here.  We actually have sunshine today.  It’s been a long time.

Lexi:  I know.  See, I looked outside this morning – well, I went to work before it was dark, but after a while when I was at work, I looked out the window, and I was like, oh, my gosh, I can’t wait to leave just so I can be in the sun.

Kristin:  Right.  It’s so needed.  Well, I loved our chat.  I can’t wait to learn from you at the certification course.  So I am all about adding different knowledge bases to my profession, so the baby registry service is something that I don’t have the background that you do on, so thank you for making this available to doulas and other childbirth professionals.

Lexi:  You’re so welcome.  I can’t wait to see where this is going to go.  This is the first time we’re offering this, so it’s kind of a new ride for us, too, and we’re all very excited to get this going and spread the word about it.

Kristin:  Awesome.  Any other resources to share before we pop off?

Lexi:  Not that I can think of off the top of my head.  I am constantly sharing resources in my Instagram stories, though, so check that out.

Kristin:  I know you’re on LinkedIn, as well, and you share some content there for the business professionals.

Lexi:  Oh, one other thing I’ll plug – sorry, it just popped in my head.  I also do some work with major care doulas, which is – we call it a postpartum doula in your pocket.  So if you don’t have a postpartum doula in your area and you’re looking for virtual on-call support, that’s a wonderful service, and they have a whole guide of the first few months and what that looks like.  It’s a daily guide, and everyone who works on there is also great.

Kristin:  Awesome.  Thank you, Lexi, and appreciate you sharing all of your wisdom around the baby registry industry.  Take care!

Lexi:  Thank you for having me!

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  You can also check out our Baby Registry Consultation services. Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.


Medicaid for Doulas with Doulas Diversified: Podcast Episode #168

Kristin chats with Erica about the Medicaid coverage for doulas in Michigan and how this improves maternal and infant health outcomes.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Erica Guthaus today.  Welcome, Erica!

Erica:  Thank you so much, Kristin.  I’m really excited for this conversation today.

Kristin:  So happy to reconnect!  Listeners, Erica was one of our early birth and postpartum doulas at Gold Coast, and you and I have stayed in contact, Erica, for many years with all of the different initiatives that you’ve been involved in throughout Michigan and also nationally.  So I’m so excited to talk to you about Medicaid coverage for doulas in Michigan, and also a bit about what’s going on in the national scope with doula coverage under Medicaid.

Erica:  Absolutely.  There are so many exciting developments that are happening here in our state, which is always fantastic, but we actually are not the ones that have been leading the charge on this front.  You know, there are states that have been in this position and offering this type of coverage and support for more than ten years at this point.  So it’s really exciting that it is finally on our home front and we have access to it in this way.

Kristin:  Exactly, yeah.  I’ve been talking to doula friends in Oregon and Minnesota and then more recently in New York, so I know this has been pending legislation for years in Michigan.  I’m so excited about the plan and the support from Governor Whitmer.  I mean, it is fantastic to have this coverage for Medicaid patients.

Erica:  Yes, it truly is.  I mean, I distinctly remember attending the first webinar, just really kind of getting into what the specifics were going to look like related to Medicaid reimbursement for doula coverage, back in, like, I think August of 2020.  So at that point, it was looking like a very different approach.  It was initially, like, a bill was being introduced by a senator.  And, you know, that was the pathway that was being taken, and then Medicaid decided that they were going to just kind of willingly get on board with things, and that definitely changed the landscape of the conversation.  It also elongates the process because if anyone listening has ever dealt with any aspect of public health or Medicaid coverage as a beneficiary or supporting people, you know, in either a personal or professional manner as they navigate the DSHS system, nothing is fast.  Nothing is every straightforward and easy.  It’s very, very complex.  So it has been a very long and anticipated wait, and I’m really glad to be on this side of it.

Kristin:   Definitely.  So fill us in a bit about your history, both working as a doula to training community-based doulas and then getting into the maternity space within the nonprofit sector.

Erica:  Absolutely.  So I have had a kind of long and interesting journey to get to this very spot right now.  I first started working with childbearing families back in 2008 as just a kind of peer support navigator.  I have four kids myself, so they are now 17, 15, 13, and 11.  And it was when my two oldest were really young that I was the person that kind of became the go-to when it came to knowledge and questions and things like that.  So it was very kind of loose, but I also became the person that everyone’s like, you should be a midwife.  You should be doing something different in this space.  So I had to really sit with that for a while, but also I continued having babies, and that makes it really hard to step into birth work.  We moved back to Michigan after living out of state for a couple years, and I decided to step into the professional birth world as a doula.  I started as a postpartum doula.  That really, I think, will always and forever be my first love, the postpartum space, mostly because I really – postpartum was hard for me, especially with my fourth pregnancy and postpartum experience.  A lot of challenges.  It honestly informs and drives my work now.  But it really – that’s where my heart was, and that’s what I felt called to.  And just as a natural transition from the postpartum space, I started getting asked, hey, would you support this birth?  My friend is pregnant.  You know, that type of thing.  And so I just decided to go ahead and take the step in that direction because it was just this very natural unfolding.  And so I became a labor and birth doula, as well.  And that is usually how I did my work with Gold Coast, actually, way back in the beginning of Gold Coast being in the community.  I was really for labor support.  And so that really kind of laid the foundation, but it also transitioned me into that community-embedded space.  I brought a pay-what-you-can model as an individual practitioner so that services were more accessible and hopefully more equitable to people, and everyone kind of was always like, is this really what you say it is?  Like, is it really pay-what-you-can?  Yes.  It really was pay-what-you-can.  So I had clients who could pay literally $100 towards their services.  I had clients that could pay more than double what I would have been asking if I just had a set price.  And what was really interesting to watch unfold was that over the course of the year, generally speaking, the average of the revenue that I brought in averaged out to what I would have just been charging at a flat rate, except it allowed more people to have access, which was really cool.  It was just really neat to see how that was possible but while still actually making, you know, an income that was impactful for our family.  So that again, though, just having that eye on the need that was being unmet at that point in time and the gaps in coverage and things like that is what forced me – I shouldn’t say forced.  I really chose to fully step into that more community-based space, starting first as a project coordinator for a pilot program with MomsBloom for community-based doulas in Kent County.  And then that really just kind of took me more and more into the nonprofit space and how it relates to birth and birth support, working with, like, really hyper-local, like tiny teams, and then most recently working in the national landscape and being able to work with not only doulas, but birth workers of all types throughout all 50 states.

Kristin:  Amazing.  So tell us about your new business that launched in response to Michigan’s Medicaid coverage.

Erica:  Yes.  So this new business is called Doulas Diversified.  It is a division or program of our parent company, which is This Is Diversified.  So Doulas Diversified is really one of a kind at this point in time in that it is a Medicaid exclusive doula agency.  So I’ll be really honest and say that I was at a point career-wise where I was really ready to step fully away from both the nonprofit space but also the birth space.  I was really burned out, which if you are a doula or any type of birth worker, you know that feeling.

Kristin:  We all understand that well, yes.

Erica:  Yes.  Very, very well.  And so I swore it all off.  I was like, no.  I am done.  I need to do something completely different, use my skills in a different way.  And then it started to really come to the surface that Medicaid reimbursement was really looking like it was actually going to stick.  And so I had to pause and I had to check myself a little bit, and I decided, you know what?  Maybe now actually is the time to move forward with this plan that has really been brewing in my head for close to ten years.  And that is saying, we’re showing up for this very specific population that spans, honestly, like, all races, all socioeconomic statuses as long as they qualify for Medicaid.  It’s just a really interesting space.  But there are huge gaps in coverage, and it’s also where we see a lot of negative outcomes, and also negative experiences when going in to have a baby.  So that’s where we come in.  And it’s really exciting.  It’s also really crazy right now just because of the pace at which things are developing.  But yeah, we’re really excited to bring this really to communities across the entire state.  We’re not local, like, specific to one local arena.

Kristin:  Right.  I mean, being a state-wide agency is so much more impactful than being geographically based out of Lansing or Grand Rapids.  And so yes, and Gold Coast at this point has made a decision that we are not accepting Medicaid patients, as our core focus is postpartum and expanding geographically with our postpartum services.  So our plan is to refer any of our inquiries to Doulas Diversified.

Erica:  Yes, which I appreciate so much.  And also I think – you know, I’m sure there are probably a lot of questions about why Gold Coast as an entity has decided not to engage, and I think that’s actually important to talk about.  Again, I mentioned before that Medicaid is very twisty-turny, right?  Nothing is straightforward.  And as a result, in most cases – and this is kind of true with insurance, in general – it can often be both cost and time prohibitive for people to engage with those systems.  I know in recent years, I have seen a big movement with, like, primary care providers moving into more of a concierge model where they are independent.  And, you know, they are cash pay only or they might take, like, flexible spending or health savings accounts, something like that, but they’re no longer working with insurance, and I completely understand why.  You know, you really have to work three times as hard for every dollar that comes in when you’re utilizing insurance reimbursement or Medicaid reimbursement to get those dollars into your practice, and so you really have to stick with it and you have to chase the money.  Everyone’s like, oh, just hire a biller and a coder.  Well, that can also be super cost-prohibitive because they have minimums.  You know, your monthly claims.  And the reality that we face right now as doulas is that, one, this is all completely new.  Right?  This is still – I would go so far as to say that it’s still relatively uncharted territory in the birth world, so we don’t know.  We don’t know what the actual numbers are going to look like.  We don’t know what our revenue streams are going to look like from this yet.  And so that means with all of those unknown factors, we can’t just hire, right?  We cannot say we’re going to commit to that type of expenditure.  And so just trying to figure out how to navigate it and also, you know, keep a business afloat is a lot to take on.  So I appreciate you setting that boundary for yourself, Kristin, so that you can really focus on the continued reach and success of Gold Coast, because it’s not – Medicaid is not for everybody, and that’s okay.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And I think for us, it’s just capacity and my time as the sole owner, and as you mentioned, the billing and really all of the charting and the fact that, as you know, Gold Coast works on the team model and really getting all of our subcontractors set up with all of the registration and, you know, dealing, navigating the insurers who are accepting Medicaid.  And so that was not something that we were able to navigate, and as a certified B-Corp who gives back both in volunteer time and in charitable giving focused exclusively on low-income women and infants, we felt like, we’re already doing that work.  We’re giving to charities who navigate the giving more effectively, so everything from Clinica Santa Maria to Pine Rest Mother-Baby Program to Nestlings Diaper Bank to Preeclampsia Foundation, we’re able to directly give, and so you have to pick a core focus.  I love that you are focused exclusively on Medicaid clients.

Erica:  Yes, absolutely.  You really do have to niche down, if you will, if you’re going to experience longevity in the work.  I think, you know, we all came into this space very bright-eyed and altruistic, a lot of times, about what’s possible.  But I also can say that, you know, on average, the lifespan or the longevity of a doula coming into the work at the very beginning is about two years.  And that’s not actually super long when we talk about or think about the training that goes into it, the work, if you’re working towards certification, if that’s your pathway.  And then actually getting your toes in and starting to work with clients.  By the time those things have transpired, really, it’s realistic to say that people are only doing the work for about six months before they’re just making the decision that it’s not for them.  And that for me is a real struggle.  Like, I really want to work to combat some of that as well, and you can’t do that when you are trying to have your fingers in every single space.

Kristin:  Exactly.  So true.  So let’s get into – you know, every state is different, and obviously, there are states like Oregon and New York and Minnesota that cover doulas, but again, you know, talking to a doula there, it’s a completely different plan than what we’re navigating for the first time ever in Michigan.  So let’s get into a bit about what the coverage includes and what it doesn’t include for Medicaid patients.

Erica:  Yes.  I think that what it doesn’t include is actually a really smart piece of this conversation because I think that that may be where the clarity comes from.  So what it includes as of right now is six visits, and I’ll expand on that in just a moment, and then it also includes coverage for the actual labor and birth.  I am going to be very transparent and say that the reimbursement rates that have been spoken at this point in time are not near as high as most doulas would like to see.  Hopefully, that’s something we can work on over time.  I was really hopeful that, you know, we were going to take the lead of states like Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and, you know, start at a higher rate of reimbursement.  Unfortunately, that’s not how things came through.

Kristin:  Definitely higher than the first two times that we signed letters on.

Erica:  Yes, that also is important to acknowledge, right?  That we actually did make some progress, and I was genuinely surprised when the revisions came out and they were responsive to the feedback, because that often is not the case.  So I do try to celebrate small victories, and that felt like one, for sure.  So with the six visits, those are intended to cover both the prenatal and the postpartum period.  For some providers, six visits is more than enough to cover what they need to and be certain that their clients are equipped for the experience that they’re about to have and to also do postpartum follow up for them.  For other providers, especially those who are community-based practitioners, six visits is not even close to enough.  So it does definitely require some adjustments to models of care and approach, for sure.  And I also think that a really meaningful experience can still be cultivated with six visits on the table.  And then the labor support, that is honestly really kind of open and really will be determined by individual doulas and how they’re going to approach that.  You know, the thing for a lot of doulas as providers is that so many of them have been working with Medicaid population and Medicaid beneficiaries for years at this point, and they’ve just been doing it with – for no compensation at all.  So I have kind of coined the phrase, you know, like, this is a promise of a paycheck, because also when you’re talking about this Medicaid reimbursement, it is that.  It’s reimbursement.  This is not being paid up front for doing the work like we would if we were just invoicing clients, and it takes time.  It takes time to actually see those dollars come in.  One of the things I love is I believe it was New Jersey, actually.  They wrote in a provision in their legislation that put kind of a timestamp on the Medicaid health plans in which they have to pay by, and I was like, that is so incredibly smart because Medicaid, by law, can take their sweet time in processing payments back.  For example, you can submit a claim.  Medicaid can deny that claim.  They actually have a year to respond to that initial claim, which I think is something that a lot of people don’t know.  So they have a year in which to respond.  They can deny it.  Then as a provider, you can appeal that.  You have a year to make that appeal.  So we’re at a potential two-year timeframe.  You know, this again is worst case scenario, but I also think it’s important to really lay it out.  So you have a year, then, to refute that claim, and then they have another year after that in which to do their final response.  So, you know, worst case, it can take up to three years to actually see just response to one claim individually.  My hope is that that’s not going to be the case because otherwise this program is not going to be a success.  Like, I’m just going to be really bold and say it because people need to get paid for the work that they’re doing.  You know, I am not a believer in uncompensated labor, and when you’re talking about reimbursement, that’s already kind of a part of the narrative.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  And some doulas, based on life and family situations, only take a handful of clients a year.  I mean, honestly.  So they can’t wait two years to get compensated if they’re an individual doula who’s not working in an agency like Doulas Diversified.

Erica:  Yes, exactly.  You know, that’s our hope, actually, is that we can come in and say, “Allow us to do the heavy lift of chasing your money for you, and you just keep showing up for people in the way that they need you to show up.”  Because honestly, you can’t do both of those things and do them well.  And we want to set people up for success.  We want families to have a really positive and empowering experience.  And, you know, we’ve created a model where we think that both of those things are possible.

Kristin:  So amazing.  So let’s get into – I know we talked about what the benefit includes.  Let’s chat about what it does not include, including the role of a postpartum doula.  Like, those postpartum visits are more like the birth doulas’ postpartum recap visits with some education, with some lactation support, with resources.  But they’re not, you know, caring for baby or doing household tasks or sibling care or other postpartum doula roles that are different than a birth doula’s certification trainings.

Erica:  Yes, absolutely.  So it is really important to get clear on that aspect.  This is not – this really – I wish that the language actually used, like, labor support doula,  instead of just doula as a blanket statement, because this really does have to be compartmentalized, and looking at it just isolated to the prenatal education period, the actual labor and birth experience, and that immediate postpartum period really, like, the two weeks after, and not really much beyond that.  So you could, you know, look at a situation where you’re saying, okay, I’m only going to use two of my visits that I’m allotted before – like, in the prenatal period; attend the birth, and then I’m going to save four visits for after, if a family really, really needed some type of support, but honestly, it’s not really designed for that.  So, you know, postpartum doula relationship is so different from that of a labor doula.  I mean, you really are kind of integrated into that family’s landscape for the time period that you’re together.  You know, you’re in a very vulnerable space with them.  You’re in a very intimate setting with them because you’re in their home, right, not only caring for them, but often caring for children in addition to their infant, and yeah, it’s just such a different setting that it requires a high level of compensation, honestly.  And that is just not something that – I don’t even know that Medicaid has an understanding of the impact that that could have for families.  My hope is that because this dialogue has now started through labor support, that it can open up, you know, a new pathway of opportunity for that to become part of what is offered, as well.  But for now, it just isn’t, which is really sad, and I wish that there was a way to navigate around it because so many families who are in vulnerable situations, transient situations, transitional time periods, they need postpartum support more than anybody else.  So my fingers are crossed that long term, we can bring coverage into that space, as well, but for now, it’s just not on the table.  Again, small victories; we can celebrate the fact that nationally, Medicaid has really pushed for that twelve-month expansion coverage for postpartum birthing people.  Before that, it was a lot of times only six weeks, so that is really significant, to have that as part of it, which means that access to support services for things like perinatal mental health and perinatal mood disorders and things like that will be easier to have service providers reach out.  But there still is a long way to go in that regard.

Kristin:  Agreed.  Let’s chat a bit about the reason that Governor Whitmer and her team have made such a strong stance and tied in Michigan’s doula Medicaid program to the Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies initiative and really what that means for Medicaid patients.

Erica:  Absolutely.  So this is where we can get a little bit into the nitty-gritty and talk a little bit about statistics because I don’t think you can have this part of the conversation without that information as part of it.  So what we see on average, nationally speaking, is a mortality rate which, I should probably also dispel some language stuff here.  So when we think about birthing people, we think about kind of two areas.  One is mortality.  The other one is morbidity.  Mortality obviously being death-related, and morbidity being negative outcomes, right?  Just because you did not die via childbirth, it does not mean that your experience was healthy and well.  So it’s really important to keep that in mind.  But when we think about maternal mortality but also infant mortality, generally speaking, Black women and Black birthing people die at a rate of two to three times that of their white counterparts.  So what that means in simple terms is that for every one white birthing person that dies as a result of their childbirth experience, you are looking at two to three Black women having the same outcome.  When you look at it on a larger scale, the numbers are really scary and sickening, actually.  And I think it’s also important to insert here that those outcomes are regardless of socioeconomic status.  They are regardless of education level.  So you can have Black women who are highly educated, right?  Advanced degrees.  We’re talking lawyers, doctors, right?  Very, very high levels of education; very, very well off, in terms of their economic means, and they can still have worse outcomes than an eighth-grade educated white woman.  So it’s, I think, having – when you’ve not had that picture painted before, it’s important to take that in and honestly just sit with it.  When you really start to let it soak, it’s like, wow, how is this where we still are?  It’s 2023.  We live in such an information-rich society as a people globally.  We can look at all of these different scenarios related to technological advancements and how they can impact birth in positive ways, and yet we’re still here.  Michigan has been honestly kind of at the forefront of leading changes that can potentially impact birth outcomes for years at this point, which is great.  We’re talking like early 2000s is when they really said, hey, we have a problem here.  And again, small victories.  It’s important to celebrate the fact that we have seen a decrease at a state level when we look at the averages.  Back in the early 2000s, there were some counties where we were seeing 7 to 10 to 12 times the mortality rates in those communities for Black women against their white counterparts, which is just – I can’t – I just can’t fathom.  So we have made improvements.  I think it’s very important to recognize that.  Things that are in place, even if they weren’t necessarily enough, they also have had significant impact.

Kristin:   Yes, agreed.

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Kristin:  And, I mean, honestly, doulas have been so supportive in this state.  I’m looking at, like, during the pandemic and the stay at home order, and yes, being able to be considered essential workers and to have the hospitals and the governor’s approval to work at that time and the impact we made on families and the stress on health of COVID.  So again, not everyone was able to afford a doula, but at least for clients who could, they had that support.

Erica:  Yes, for sure.  Because that was not the case in every state, actually.  And even still now, there is a lot of bureaucratic red tape that’s been put in place to actually restrict doulas coming into the environment under the guise of public health and wellness.  So we are very fortunate here to have the level of support that we do.  But I think linking this to COVID is probably a good place to start, Kristin, in terms of Healthy Moms, Healthy Babies, because COVID was kind of the great equalizer, and people started to see public health issues in a way that I have not witnessed them see and perceive them before.  So it really thrust a lot of these really important conversations into the light, which is great.  So, you know, during COVID – it was actually the lieutenant governor’s office, I think, was the first to announce this initiative related to really Black health and BIPOC health in general, and then it really just continues to be pared down from there into these specific areas that need special attention, and mom baby health is really at the center of that.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And, you know, getting into the importance of the role of the doula as a nonmedical, emotional support continuously from the moment we’re hired, so – and that really gets into the issues immediately after having a baby.  You know, the check-ins that we do; the fact that we have the follow up postpartum appointments, because they’re often not seeing their physician or sometimes midwife for six weeks.  And so you get into issues not only with the mother, but the baby that are left untreated, and there may be fear of going back to the hospital, and what do you do with your baby?  There can be issues with hemorrhaging.  So really, there are nonmedical support, we’re able to make referrals and suggest they call their doctor and try to get them in, because depending on the personality, some people will just wait it out.

Erica:  Yes, absolutely.  I’m guilty of that big time, you know, because I think it’s really easy to try and convince yourself, like, no, I’m totally overreacting.  It’s just my hormones.  You know, all of those things.  Just trying to justify an experience.  That, again, is where doulas as a neutral party, right, we’re actually sleeping most of the time, right?  So we’re not sleep deprived.  We can really look at individual situations objectively and say, yeah, you know what – because how much blood is too much blood loss when you’re immediately postpartum?  Blood pressure wise, how high is too high?  How much milk is not enough milk?  All of those things come into play.  So we can sit and hold that space for conversation, you know, offering encouragement and support.  But again, filling that gap between leaving the hospital and actually seeing your provider again.  So many immediate postpartum families need a gentle push to seek additional attention, and without doulas as part of their care team, they would just go without, which can have catastrophic outcomes and impact.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And, I mean, it could be referrals to a therapist if they’re having perinatal mood disorder concerns that are beyond the baby blues.  And then also giving resources like MomsBloom that does offer volunteers in the home to help in that postpartum phase.

Erica:  Yes.  You know, Michigan, again – I feel really lucky that we have the resources that we have here.  You know, whether it’s an entity like MomsBloom, and I know there’s interest in growing that in other communities across the state.  So many community-based nonprofit entities who are saying, “We are here for you if you need resources, if you need peer support, whatever that looks like.”  And then also, you know, having the resource of the Mother Baby Program at Pine Rest.  When I share about that with people out of state, they’re like, no way.  Like, that is such an amazing opportunity for people to get support, and it just doesn’t exist in other places, so we’re really, really lucky with the things that we have available to us.

Kristin:  Yes, I’ve attended doula trainings out of state and trainers and doulas alike knew about our program and even had clients travel from, say, Chicago to Grand Rapids for the mother baby program.

Erica:  It’s not unheard of at all, and I have tried to make connections.  Like, yeah, open up a conversation.  You know, I have no idea what’s possible in your own community, but there are some really amazing things that are available here that also have longevity to them, right?  So they’ve been through the trials and tribulations of kind of working out hiccups, which means that other people can really glean from their experience and expertise, as well.

Kristin:  Yes, exactly.  So if any of our listeners are interested in utilizing this benefit, and I know it’s so early on, so it may not be communicated very readily through providers at this point, but what does it look like to receive care?  How do you find a doula for doula covered states who would be on the registry, and of course, obviously, they can easily contact Doulas Diversified and know that every doula who works with you is registered through Medicaid, but really kind of those first steps, and how do you get approval?  Is a doctor required to sign, or what is going on?

Erica:  I’m going to work backwards here because the last thing that you just said is a really exciting development that just at the very end of last week came to light in that a blanket kind of referral, if you will, has been given from our top health official in the state of Michigan, which has eliminated the need for individual referrals for Medicaid beneficiaries to engage with doula services.  So that just honestly blew open doors that would have definitely been a barrier to accessing care, and I’m super excited.  And it’s also in place, really, for an indefinite amount of time.  It’s until we don’t see disparity anymore.

Kristin:  Exactly.  It’s such a strong statement.  When we saw that – it’s amazing.

Erica:  Yes, it is.  I’m sure you can hear the genuine glee, because it is – it’s just this, like, wow, it is – to take that strong of a stance and make that public statement, it’s just a really strong move, and honestly, I’m also hopeful that it can open up opportunity and can set precedent for other states, as well, who are still in the process of adding this as an option for clients.  So there’s that.  So short answer is no, at this point, you don’t actually need a referral, which means that you can go and secure services yourself if you are a Medicaid beneficiary.  Now, there’s a lot of nuance to that, because that makes it sound really easy and straightforward, and unfortunately, it’s not going to be.  Doulas have a lot of requirements that they have to meet in order to be eligible to work with health plans, so there’s a state registry that they’re required to be part of, and there’s a credentialing process that goes along with that.  Right now, there’s a very short list of approved training organizations that doulas have had to have trained with.  So again, long term, there are definitely barriers to access that I hope we can continue to work on.  But for now, it is what it is, and we’re trying to move forward the best that we can.  Once doulas have met those requirements, then they actually have to go through the process of credentialing with each Medicaid health plan that they intend to work with.  That’s a process.  There are dozens of health plans throughout the state.  And each one has their own process.  Each one has a different set of requirements.  And each one takes time.  Best case scenario, they hope to provide response and credentialing outcomes within 90 days, but again, that’s three months.  So if a doula was to apply for credentialing today, it is entirely possible that they actually wouldn’t be able to start working with clients until April.  And so we’re in this kind of space in between.  Yes, this has been approved.  Yes, things are moving forward.  And also, we actually cannot start doing the work with clients or attending births with clients until, and that until has a big question mark after it.

Kristin:  Right.  Thank you for explaining that, because it is confusing.  Hopefully as our listeners are learning about the Medicaid program in Michigan, you know, they’re reaching out early so they’re able to secure a doula versus having a due date around the corner and it not being possible.

Erica:  Absolutely.  So what we have opened up is essentially a waitlist for people who are saying yes, I want this.  I have my health plan.  And so we’re saying great.  Again, being very transparent about everything we have to work for before we can actually enter into relationship with them.  So we are more than willing to take names and contact information, due dates, that type of thing, and all of the nitty-gritty information and hold onto it and then reach back out as soon as things are ready to move forward.  And then the same thing goes, honestly, for doulas, as well.  If you’re a doula in Michigan and you’re like, man, I really wanted to do this.  I really wanted to take Medicaid, but I am super overwhelmed, and I just need some support or guidance, or I would really love for someone to actually take care of the administrative side of things so I can just work with clients – we would love to talk to you, as well.  We have a couple of meet and greet events that are coming up in the next couple of weeks where we will get into more of the specific information about how this will work.  Of course, everyone wants to know how they will get paid.  That’s something we’ll cover at that point in time, as well.  But on either side of the equation, whether you’re a pregnant person looking for care, or if you’re a doula who wants to do the work and is feeling lost, or just was wanting to try to do it in a different or more sustainable way, you can always check out our website.  All the info is there.  You can fill out the forms, and then we can be in touch that way.

Kristin:  Fantastic.  So Erica, what are you seeing in your work on the national front as far as potential states that are pending Medicaid legislation or just any other national trends going on in the doula space?

Erica:  Absolutely.  So one of the ways that people can honestly just become informed with exactly what’s happening in their state is there’s a really great kind of living database on the website, and if you go to, you can access that.  You can also read a bunch of background, information, too, that kind of gets into the importance of having Medicaid coverage for doula services.  But that database is a state by state listing, and it will tell you, like, exactly where your state is and other states are in the process.  You know, if they have something that’s in place; if there’s something – if there’s active legislation being worked on.  If measures were suggested and failed, that’s also on there.  And also if nothing is happening, because maybe you are the catalyst to get something started.  So I would definitely encourage people to go look at that and kind of dig in because there’s a lot of just difference everywhere in approach.  So Oregon is what I refer to as the OG state.  They were the leaders way back in the day in bringing this about, and also, it’s not been flawless, and for a lot of doulas, it’s also not been a positive experience engaging with their systems.  I’ve had multiple conversations with different doulas, different agencies and organizations there who have really struggled to get paid, and unfortunately, that, I can say, is a trend in other states that have put things into play.  Just because the legislation is there, just because Medicaid has said, yeah, sure, we’ll do this, doesn’t mean that they’re going to make it easy to actually get your money.  And so my hope is that Michigan can lead the charge in setting a really great example of how things can be done in a way that is mutually beneficial for all parties involved, both the health plans, the doulas as service providers, and the families as recipients of that care, because I do believe it’s possible.  I mean, I was a Medicaid mom at one point in time, so I know what it’s like to be on that side of things, too.  And it can be done in a way that is holistic and very humanizing and supportive and healthy.  But it also takes a lot of work and intention to make that happen.  So when you look at things that have happened over the years in Oregon, I think a lot of states that are thinking about introducing legislation, they look to that for guidance.  But I also would encourage them to look at states like Rhode Island and also New York and New Jersey.  New York and New Jersey really kind of – well, New York actually was before Rhode Island.  New Jersey really looked to Rhode Island legislation to kind of take that and say, hey, can we actually make this one better.  They were successful in that.  It was incredible.  So they do; they have higher reimbursement rates.  That’s what we should be looking at.  They put pathways in place that make it easier for doulas to get payments and things like that, and also, it is still not flawless.  There’s a lot of work to be done in that regard.  So this is the beginning, really.  Yes, Oregon – I think it was, like, 2012, 2013 when things went into place there.  So that feels like a long time, but when you take a step back and have a larger or a broader view of the Medicaid system as a whole, that is literally just the tiniest sliver of time.  And this is about longstanding change, and so we really still are at the beginning of that journey.  Hopefully, we can shape it into something that can withstand the test of time and really is impactful.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And for our listeners who are not covered by Medicaid, of course, there have been a lot of changes as far as options to afford a doula, and, you know, it started with the health savings and flex spending.  I have been working, as you know, on getting insurance coverage for doulas since my sola doula days, so it’s been years and years, almost ten years.  So I see a lot of these Medicaid initiatives in different states really leading to hopefully general insurance one day covering doulas.  But in the meantime, a lot of companies have been adding doulas to maternity benefits.  And, you know, Pioneer Construction locally added doulas to their benefit package, both birth and postpartum, and a lot of other national companies, like CBS and most recently LinkedIn, Salesforce.  So many companies are adding doulas to their benefits.

Erica:  It’s really exciting.

Kristin:  It really is.  And then gifting is a big thing that we’ve noticed during the pandemic when family members haven’t been able to travel to support or, you know, just comfort level, even with taking COVID out of the mix, we’ve got flu season, colds, RSV, and so really wanting to have a healthy, trained caregiver in the home.  Parents and friends and family members have been gifting postpartum support, birth support, classes, as shower gifts, gifting those services.  It’s the biggest trend I’ve seen in the last couple of years.

Erica:  Yes, it’s fantastic and honestly is such a great shift; again, one I really hope sticks.  I know you chatted a while back with Kaitlin at Be Her Village, who is really leaning into that specifically.  In doing work with Kaitlin myself, I learned that the baby gift industry is a $12 billion industry.  I don’t know; I still – like, every time I say it, I’m like, how is this possible?  Besides capitalism, obviously, but to be able to redirect even a small percentage of that revenue into this type of support would be so impactful, not only for families, but also for doulas as providers, right?  So many doulas also have families.  Like, they’re not doing this just out of the goodness of their heart or because it’s fun, right?  Living an on-call lifestyle is really, really challenging for everyone that’s involved.  It is a family decision.  And so being able to redirect dollars and, again, really think about this; like, how can we do this work sustainably?  You know, your model of working in teams, I think, is such a great step towards that.  But I think we do have to get to a place of where we’re really starting to think strategically and outside of the box and creatively about how are we doing to make this stick around and have it be a really bona fide source of income for the people who are doing the work.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  And I could talk to you forever, but we’ll try to keep this short.  But I would also mention that part of the changes that I’ve seen as a doula over the years is there are more inductions, whether they’re medically necessary or COVID-related.  But that can really make a birth end up being multiple days, which is hard on a doula and her family, and obviously, hard on our clients and can not always but may include other interventions, include a Cesarean birth.

Erica:  Yes, definitely.  I know we’ve definitely seen an increase since COVID, and again, it’s going to take a good while for us to know exactly how much of it was warranted and how much was not, but it did – things have changed so much since you and I stepped into this space and started doing this work.  Some positive changes; some not so positive.  But I think the one constant is that need for just really informed support and that neutral party that can be part of a situation and help to just guide things for best possible outcomes because so often, best possible outcomes is not in alignment with what you dreamed for your birth.  And so that’s where a doula can really come in and help with that acceptance process, the processing of your birth experience when things when left when you wanted it to go right, and there’s not another profession, I don’t think, that can step into this space in the same way that doulas are able to.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And I would add to that, that our clients and our listeners, the pregnant population, you need to advocate for yourself.  So a doula, we can remind you, we can help you with a birth plan, but we are not there as an activist, and really having these conversations with your provider and making sure you’re both on the same page during your pregnancy.  I’m a firm believer in having a birth plan and having your whole care team, including your nurses, really understand some of your goals and wishes.  I’m not a fan of four-page plans, but some basic bullet points and using that a conversation starter and really the doula being there to remind you of some of the preferences you discussed during your birth.  But you know your body, and you know your baby better than anyone else, so really advocating for yourself during pregnancy, after delivery.  And our clients and our listeners – I mean, after you have a baby, you’re seeing the pediatrician very frequently, so talk to your pediatrician.

Erica:  Yes.  Ask all the questions, right?  And also, don’t just take a response or an answer at its face value.  Like, don’t shy away from asking why.  Ask for more information.  It’s okay, right?  Look for clarification if you don’t feel like you understand something.  And that might be from the provider directly.  It might also be taking that information back to your doula or back to another member of your care team.  But it’s so important to really be clear, right, about your expectations.  I’m really big on expectation management, which birth plans are great for getting clear on those.  And also just reminding people of the importance of flexibility and remaining fluid and pliable during your experience because something I’ve always shared with my clients is that the only thing that’s predicable about birth is that it’s unpredictable.  The best laid plans, right, where you have that four-page birth plan that details every single thing you could ever want, need, hope, or desire – so often, it’s going to have to get tossed right out the window, either because of something you’re experiencing during your process or your baby or both of you together.  And that’s just part of it sometimes, and that’s okay.  But it’s how we recover from that transition is what matters and is the part that usually you’ll remember the most, a long time down the road.  So just get really clear as much as possible and don’t be afraid to question everything that comes your way.

Kristin:  Wonderful advice.  Thank you, Erica.  And one last time, give us your contact info so potential doulas can join your agency, as well as the Medicaid patients who want to connect with you.

Erica:  So the most efficient way for people to be in contact with us is to head to our website, because again, we have contact forms, whether you are a Medicaid beneficiary or client or if you are a doula who wants to provide services.  You can also find us on social media because, you know, that’s just a thing that’s required these days.  We’re on both Instagram and Facebook, so you can find us in either one of those venues.  If you’re somebody who’s like, I just really need to talk to somebody, you can also give us a call.  We have a toll-free number so that again, access from anywhere in the state.  That number is 833-MIDOULA, which is 833-643-6852.  I know sometimes that is just really helpful, that you just need a grounding experience, and so we don’t shy away from that, either.

Kristin:  For sure.  Thank you, Erica, and I appreciate all of the important work you’re doing.

Erica:  Thank you so much, Kristin.

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.


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.

Postpartum Support with Carrie Kolehouse of MomsBloom: Podcast Episode #167

Carrie Kolehouse, Executive Director of MomsBloom chats with Kristin about why MomsBloom is focused on supporting mothers in West Michigan and beyond.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello.  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas.  I’m excited to chat with Carrie Kolehouse today.  Carrie is the executive director of MomsBloom, which is a local nonprofit here in West Michigan that supports women after they give birth.  So welcome, Carrie!

Carrie:  I’m so happy to be here!  Thanks for having me!

Kristin:  And you have quite the resume in addition to your work with MomsBloom.  You are currently – you have your own freelance public relations and marketing business and have experience in corporate marketing and media.  You were even a news reporter for WoodTV.  So what an interesting journey your career has taken.  I feel like we have similar paths of really becoming passionate about supporting women after our own birth experiences, so we’ll have to dive into that a bit, as well.

Carrie:  Yes, absolutely!  I’m excited to do that.

Kristin:  So let us start with your journey as a volunteer for MomsBloom, and if you wouldn’t mind expanding on the work that MomsBloom does in the community a bit more, that would also be helpful to our listeners.

Carrie:  So I got inspired to become a volunteer about twelve years ago, and I had moved to Grand Rapids recently at that time, and I just became aware of MomsBloom, I think just like on social media.  I saw a post that someone had shared saying, oh, this is kind of a newer organization in Grand Rapids that could really use some volunteers.  And it immediately struck a chord with me because I’d had a really challenging postpartum time very recently prior to that when I had my son, my first child, who’s now 13.  And I had been so struck by what an isolating time that was and an overwhelming time, and so when I saw that there was an organization that had been created, like, specifically to address that, I was like, oh, my gosh, I have to be a part of that.  Like, this is – I fired up inside the minute that I saw it online.  I was like, this is so great.  So I signed up to become a volunteer, and I went to a volunteer training, which is just like a two-hour training, and then I got matched with a family.  So I got matched with a mom who was a single mom of two children, and I was very humbled, actually, by what a good mom she was and honestly what a good, like, housekeeper she was.  She had – you know, she’s a single mom to two kids.  She’s got a little tiny baby.  She also had a medical condition that made things extra challenging for her.  Yet every time I go over there, her house is, like, spotless.  Though, sometimes that happens because – something I’ve learned in my time with MomsBloom is that a lot of times people with super clean houses, that can be anxiety showing up sometimes.

Kristin:  I have seen that as well with our work with clients.

Carrie:  Yeah, you see both extremes of the spectrums.  You can see a really, really messy house is a lot of times indicative of depression, and then a super duper clean house sometimes can be anxiety.  Anyway, so I visited her once or twice a week for three months and just did things like hold the baby so that she could get a nap or a shower, doing dishes or laundry.  You know, typically, in a match you do some cleaning, but in that case, I didn’t do a whole lot of cleaning because she was doing it herself.  And then just talking with her; just providing some adult conversation, talking through some of the difficult feelings that she was having, and then screening her for depression and anxiety and helping her figure out the resources that she might want to utilize for that depression and anxiety, you know, like maybe finding a therapist, support group, things like that.  So the experience was so rewarding, and I could not believe what a difference I had made for her and how meaningful it had been for her, and it was, like, not that big of a time investment for me, and I was like, wow, this is a really great way to spend my time volunteering because I can see the impact really dramatically.  And then I was like, oh, my gosh, I have to keep doing this, and I have to do everything within my power to, like, help grow this program because I think it’s so cool and so powerful, and it provides such a meaningful experience, I think, for both the client, the mom, and the volunteer.  So over the years, I’ve just gotten more and more involved with MomsBloom, and three years ago now, I decided to leave my 9:00 to 5:00 marketing job, which was scary –

Kristin:  Yes, it had to be!

Carrie:  Yeah.  To become MomsBloom’s executive director, and it’s just been a dream come true, and I absolutely love the work, and it doesn’t even feel like work because I’m so passionate about it.  That’s kind of been how I started to get involved and how I got to where things are now.

Kristin:  I remember serving on events committees with you at some of the annual MomsBloom events, and I used MomsBloom with both of my kids, actually, before there were postpartum doulas in West Michigan.  So I had a grandma help with my first, and she didn’t live near her grandkids and would come over for a little while and help around and again, allow me to take a shower or help with feeding.  It was really wonderful.  And then I started doing intakes for MomsBloom in between having kids and then did a little bit of volunteering without going into the home.

Carrie:  I know you have been involved with MomsBloom over the years, and we’ve so appreciated all of the support from Gold Coast and being able to refer to you guys, too.  It’s so exciting now that birth doulas and postpartum doulas, I feel like, are coming so much more into the mainstream consciousness, you know?  I feel like when I first got involved with this kind of work, it was very rare that anybody had a birth doula or postpartum doula.  More and more, you know, now people are realizing that that is something that they are really going to need, and if they have the resources, they’re able to utilize a birth doula or postpartum doula.  And then I’m so glad that we have the MomsBloom program for people who might not have the resources or who really need that additional support.  But I’m just really passionate about, and what I really see my purpose over the long term, is not just to grow MomsBloom, but also to change our culture, right?  Someone told me years ago when I first kind of started taking a leadership role at MomsBloom, they said, your goal should always be to put your nonprofit out of business, right?

Kristin:  Yes.  So true.

Carrie:  Yeah.  Like, a nonprofit is a Band-Aid, right, that solves a societal problem for now, but while you’re doing that work, you should always then be thinking about, what advocacy can I do to make it so that my nonprofit doesn’t even need to exist.  And so I think about that a lot, and I think about, like, what would have to be true for there to be no need for a MomsBloom?  So I think that there’s a lot of things that would have to be true, but I think one of them would be that we would live in a society that understands that the postpartum time is a sacred stage of life that deserves people rallying around you, all of your friends, your family, your neighbors, your church community, all of the people in your life rallying around you and allowing you to just focus on rest, recovery, feeding.  And I think the ideal situation for any woman is to be able to not have to do any of the other baby care other than feeding, right?  Like, if you’re breastfeeding, that’s a full time job, so I think your ideal situation is that you’re resting.  You know, you’re eating really wonderful foods that are being prepared for you.  You’re taking really, really good care of yourself.  You know, in a lot of cultures, they have – like, in South America, for 40 days, the mom is just expected to rest, eat certain foods, get into nature, and all the people around her, their job is to do everything else.  All the housework –

Kristin:  Sibling care, newborn care, outside of feeding, as you said, yes.

Carrie:  Exactly.  And that is so vastly different from what the expectation is here in the United States.

Kristin:  Get back to work, start losing weight.  There’s so many expectations and so much pressure.  Have that perfect house and entertain.  In other cultures, it’s all about the mom and that right of passage and transition, and in the US, it’s like, okay, you’re celebrated during pregnancy, and then you give birth and it’s all about the baby, and the mother feels left behind.  No one wants to hear her story.  No one wants to help her.  It’s like, let me hold the baby.  Let me bring gifts for the baby.  But you just went through this momentous occasion, and you’re left depleted and lonely, and like you mentioned before, isolated after giving birth.  And especially now with the pandemic – in early COVID, there was so much isolation.  I mean, you couldn’t even have family in the home or doulas.  And I know you did some virtual as you pivoted quite well early in the pandemic, as well, with your volunteers and the support that you could offer?

Carrie:  We did, and you know what’s so – this is so hilarious, looking back.  Right after the shelter in place order came and we were like, okay, we can’t do matches – a day or two after that – you know how you get really good ideas in the shower?  I was in the shower, and I thought – I got this what at the time I literally thought was a groundbreaking, amazing idea, which was, what if we had people do, like, visits on Zoom?  What if we used Zoom?  Because at that time, Zoom was not something that I used very often.  Like, I didn’t do that many Zoom meetings.  And so to me, this was like this revolutionary idea that we’re going to do this.  And, I mean, it was good that it occurred to me early on because then we very quickly put together a training program of how to do virtual visits and we were able to pivot really fast, but, I mean, it wasn’t long before everybody else started doing the exact same thing.  But yeah, and there was value in that.  I don’t want to say that there wasn’t any value in virtual visits because there was.  You know, we had people focus on listening, you know, compassionate listening and resource navigation was huge, especially during the pandemic when so many people’s financial needs and just needs for diapers and food and things were often heightened.  So the resource navigation was really important There was definitely value in that.  But that being said, there is no replacement for having someone come over and hold your baby so that you can take a nap.  So we tried to pivot back.  I mean, we followed CDC guidelines, obviously.  We kept everybody safe, and knock on wood, I don’t think there was ever, that I was aware of, a COVID transmission as a result of the MomsBloom program.  But we did try to pivot back somewhat aggressively because we knew that there were – I mean, especially our families that have a lot more need or our single parents, you know, we were like, we have to sort of weigh the risks.  We have to kind of weigh all the risk factors here.  It was like, so we were able to – thankfully, a lot of our volunteers were people, I think, who were really cautious in their personal lives in terms of their exposure, and then we were able to come up with great practices about how they could wears masks and wash hands and wear gloves and all that kind of stuff.  And so we were able to start to pivot back, and then pivot back to virtual, and then pivot back to in person.

Kristin:  That’s how it was with us.  It’s like constantly adjusting.

Carrie:  Yeah, exactly.  I mean, yeah, we just had to kind of bounce back and forth.  One of the advantages of having a nonprofit that is small and doesn’t have, like, really large leadership team is that you can pivot really quick.  You can just kind of make the decisions and move really quickly.  So I was really glad that we were able to do that.

Kristin:  Yeah, that’s amazing.  And you say small, but I’ve seen so much growth under your leadership, so I know you’ve expanded to the lakeshore.  You have a waiting list for families that need your help, and you also have been very creative in how you’ve found volunteers, like connecting with colleges and finding nursing students and really trying to meet the demand with the budget that you’re working with, which is amazing.  I have experience in the nonprofit sector, and it’s very challenging.

Carrie:  It is.  It’s very challenging.  I mean, every job is hard, right?  But there’s things – it’s just a different kind of hard, right?  So the corporate world is different, a different kind of hard.  You tend to have a bigger budget.  You’re very certain that you’re going to have your budget; all that kind of stuff.  But for me, the things that were so hard about – I guess to put it more positively, the things that I appreciate so much about my job now is that I never lack for motivation because I’m so genuinely passionate about the work, and it’s so fulfilling that I don’t find myself needing – like, I think when I worked in more of the corporate world, I really needed, like, a lot of validation from my boss or my colleagues.  I needed to have a carrot to chase all the time, right?  That there was a raise in it for me or there was some adulation in it for me.  So it’s been really beautiful and cool to have a job where – I mean, not that I don’t appreciate those things.  I love all the wonderful recognition that you just gave me now on this call.  It’s wonderful.  But I don’t need it.  Like, I can operate – I can fuel myself just with the fulfillment of the work itself, which is so – it’s just really cool.  And I think a lot of people never get that experience in their work life, and so I feel really fortunate.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  I agree.  I feel the same way.  My mission is to support women without judgment, and I feel like I wake up every day excited.  There’s more work to be done.  There are so many barriers within healthcare and just navigating maternity leaves and insurance and what is self-pay, and so hopefully Medicaid will cover doulas in the future, but I know you’re very involved in advocacy and efforts, especially on improving maternal mental health.  So what are you seeing in this space?

Carrie:  I’ve been doing a lot of advocacy and working on legislation, and you brought up Medicaid paying for doulas.  There was some legislation – it didn’t pass, unfortunately, but it was part of a big package.  It didn’t pass, but one problem with it was that the compensation for doulas was going to be so low, and it was probably going to require so much red tape in order for a doula to get paid and everything that I was like, come on, guys.

Kristin:  Yes.  It was very low.

Carrie:  Nobody’s going to do that unless you sweeten the deal a little bit.  I’m sure you and many other doulas really want to be able to serve people who are Medicaid eligible and would never otherwise be able to afford a doula, but you have to make it – people need to be reasonably paid for their services.  So yeah, that’s something that I think – I mean, I really think doulas – obviously, there’s a ton of discrimination happening in the healthcare system.  We’re hearing about it all the time.  When we go to do the intake visit, the purpose of our intake visit when we first go to the home and kind of get the lay of the land is to meet the mom and get to know a little bit more about her needs.  We often find in those visits some of the work that we do is just helping the client process their birth story.  And we find just anecdotally that women of color – I mean, every – this is, of course, anecdotal.  This is not scientific, but there’s plenty of scientific research to back it up.  But anecdotally, every single intake visit lately that I do with a woman of color, she has a traumatic birth story to process.  And there are traumatic birth stories – you know, white women certainly have traumatic births, too, but just not nearly at the same rate.  So I’m just seeing that every day in my work, which just supports the scientific findings which is that black women are three times more likely to die during childbirth or postpartum than white women.  That’s college educated black women versus college educated white women.  I think so often people kind of point to socioeconomic factors of whatever, but we’re talking about college-educated black women versus college-educated white women.  Clearly, this is due to some discrimination that’s happening.  So we’ve got really a lot of big work to do to figure out how to fix that.  But I really see doulas as a great tool for helping with that right now.  Like, obviously we’re not going to be able to fix the embedded implicit bias in the healthcare system overnight, but if we can get people a doula who can advocate for them and can provide some of the assistance that they’re so often – the attention and assistance that they’re so often not getting from the healthcare workers, I just see that as an immediate – something we can do that will have an immediate impact on those outcomes.

Kristin:  A lot of it is that prenatal support that doulas give.  We’re there through their whole pregnancy journey, giving resources and emotional support, listening, and then giving them some questions to ask their providers.  And that is key to really feel like you have an open relationship with your provider before delivery and that you’re on the same page as far as birth plans and preferences, and a lot of women of color don’t feel like they’re heard.  They have concerns; they know their body, and they bring it up, and then in a lot of the articles I’ve read and studies, it’s been like, well, I knew something was wrong with my baby, but no one listened.  And obviously hemorrhaging; there are so many different things that can happen.  And then they have PTSD.  They get into perinatal mood disorders.  Unfortunately, that just compounds and nothing is really resolved, and then it affects the baby and affects the entire family.  So yeah, the work that you’re doing around perinatal mood disorders and listening and really with anyone, if you’re not currently pregnant and have a friend or family member who is, really listen to them.  This is the one piece of advice that I’m sure both of us would agree on.  Yes, listen to their story.  Support them and truly feel like you’re mothing the mother and don’t let her feel left behind after baby’s born and isolated, and give resources.  Reach out to organizations like MomsBloom.  Carrie, since our listeners are all over the country, how would someone find a similar nonprofit around the US?  Are there similar organizations or resources that you would recommend?

Carrie:  Yeah, there’s a handful of programs like ours.  Unfortunately, there’s not coverage in many communities, and that’s something that I really want to change.  MomsBloom is right now working with a consultant who founded an organization that has several hundred chapters, and she’s kind of teaching us how to create a bundled up little chapter model for MomsBloom that would be really easy to distribute.  So we’re hoping.  My dream, of course, is for there to be a program like this everywhere in the US, if not everywhere in the world, but there are similar programs.  The MomsBloom program was inspired by a program called Many Mothers.  There are some similar programs.  I would tell your listeners who don’t live in West Michigan to Google “postpartum support.”  The Postpartum Support International website is a great place to start.  They have chapters, I believe, in every state, and then those chapters have listed on that website a lot of the support resources available in each community.  At the very least, everyone anywhere in the United States can get support from Postpartum Support International via phone and can support in their virtual support groups.  So that is a baseline.  Everybody can do that.  And then that organization can also help you figure out what other resources might be available in your area.  In some areas, for example in Montana, they actually have peer support.  That’s what it’s kind of called in the clinical or government world, right, is peer support.  And in Montana, they have a peer support program that’s actually paid.  The people who come and visit you are paid individuals.  They’re compensated through insurance.  So these are people who have a lot of great experience, and they can come do practical things like what we do at MomsBloom, and they can also provide really in depth emotional and mental health support.  So every community has a varying level of support available, but I just encourage people, definitely start with Postpartum Support International.  Reach out to your friends and family.  Reach out to a local church.  Even if you are not religious and you don’t attend church, churches can be a great resource for people for just finding people who want to help.  Reach out to your local church, your local school.  A lot of times schools can be great places for helping get connected to people who want to help new moms.  It’s so hard to ask for help.  You know, it is so hard to ask for help.  It puts you in such a vulnerable position, but I’ve never talked to anyone who said that they regretted asking for help.  Once you do it, it is worth every ounce of discomfort that you had to experience to ask for help, and it really is the best thing for your baby, too.  It’s not selfish to ask for help.  It’s the right choice for your baby.  So yeah, I know it’s a difficult thing to do, though.  I still struggle with it.  As much as I go around and preach this to other people, I still catch myself all the time not asking for help when I need it or not remembering that my wellness is inextricably intertwined with my children’s wellness and that taking care of myself is absolutely required in order for me to take good care of my kids.

Kristin:  Absolutely.  Put the mask on yourself first before everyone else.  As far as locally to us in West Michigan, as you’ve talked about the need for volunteers and families who serve, if someone is interested in utilizing MomsBloom services and having a volunteer, how would they reach out to you?  And also if they’re interested in volunteering, how would they connect?

Carrie: Well, in both regards, we do everything through our website.  So if you go to our website, there is a form on there that you can fill out to sign up for services.  When you get to the home page, there’s a big button right there the middle of the home page that says “Sign Up Now.”  So you just click that, and then you fill out a form and just give us some of your information, and we will then get going and get the intake visit scheduled and get you set up with a volunteer.  And then if you’re interested in volunteering, same thing.  Go to the website and there is a link right at the top that says “Volunteer,” and you just click that and fill out the volunteer form.  We will be in touch about getting you signed up for our next volunteer training.  It’s really as easy as that.  You mentioned earlier that we have a waiting list.  I hate having a waiting list.  It tears apart my soul.  But I want to make sure people know, by the time this podcast is published, we likely won’t have a waiting list.  Different times of year, our volunteers sometimes will take time off, and I’m thinking around the time that this podcast is published, we’ll probably be at a time where we will actually have a lot of available volunteers.  So please don’t hesitate to reach out.  And even if we don’t have a volunteer, we can at the very least – we like to give every family an intake visit where they get a chance to review several of the resources that are available to them, have a great discussion, have a chance to process their birth story, and then we can offer them ongoing resource navigation support from our staff.  So I really encourage everybody to sign up.  Don’t hesitate.  I love it when people sign up when they’re pregnant, too.

Kristin:  That is the best, giving that notice.  That’s what I did with my kids.

Carrie:  Yes, because then we can come out and get to know you a little bit, and we have a little bit more time to find you a volunteer who hopefully can be a really excellent fit.  And then maybe you’ll even have a chance to meet that person while you’re pregnant before they come over and see you in your most vulnerable state you’ve ever been in your entire life.  I think it’s nice to break the ice with this new person before they’re coming over and you’re sleep deprived and feeling so very vulnerable.  So yeah, please don’t hesitate to reach out if you’re pregnant or postpartum.  We really want to be there for you.

Kristin:  And I’m sure you’re always welcoming any business partnerships, sponsors, and financial contributions?

Carrie:  Oh, absolutely.  Always.  If you go to our website, there’s a list of all of our sponsorship opportunities there.  Our three main ones are the BloomAwards, which I know, Kristin, you’ve attended and I think been honored.

Kristin:  Yes, Alyssa was honored, yeah.

Carrie:  Yes, Alyssa was honored.  You and Alyssa are filed in the same place in my brain, I think.  So that’s our luncheon where we award a parent of the year, a volunteer of the year.  We celebrate the whole community, all the people and the organizations that are helping us do this great work.  So that’s always an event where there’s always lots of touching stories shared.  And then we also have a spring event, which is usually held at the home of a MomsBloom donor.  It’s a little bit more intimate, and again, we have really inspiring stories shared by our families.  And then we also do a big fundraiser for Mother’s Day and encourage businesses to support us that way, too.  So there’s a lot of ways to partner up with MomsBloom in a way that I think is mutually beneficial, and we just want to keep growing our program.  We’re on pace to serve about 400 families this year, but I know we’re only scratching the surface of the needs.  So the more support we can get from the business community, the more great work we can do.

Kristin:  Yes, and you’re definitely one of our yearly charitable contributions.  We value the work you do, and thank you so much, Carrie, for coming on to chat with us.  I know you’re also on social media.  You’re on Facebook, Instagram?

Carrie:  Yes, MomsBloom is on Facebook and Instagram.  If you just put in MomsBloom, you can find us, and we post a lot about not only about what our organization is up to, but we post a lot just about awareness about the difficulty of the postpartum period and great content about how we can change our postpartum culture.  We would love to have you follow.

Kristin:  Thanks, Carrie!  Have a great day!

Carrie:  Thank you!  You too, Kristin.

Thanks for listening to Gold Coast Doulas.  Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.  If you like this podcast, please subscribe and give us a five-star review.  Thank you!  Remember, these moments are golden.

New Doula Joining the Gold Coast Team

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



Connection and Compassion Are Key

I’ve said it a lot; there is no one-size-fits-all solution to sleep, but this applies to parenting in general as well. Many parents will read about certain techniques, and even follow specific scripts with older children, but if they don’t work, parents feel like they have failed or there is something wrong with their kid. They try a technique that their friend used, or read a book, or hear about something that is really popular. What they aren’t considering is that it will work for some kids, and it won’t work for others. Or maybe it will work for a little while, until your child catches on, and then you need to change your approach again.

No matter what age, you need to tune in to who your unique child is.

Connection means different things to everyone. I’m not a ‘hug it out’ type of person when I’m upset. I need space. My daughter needs lots of hugs and lots of attention when she is sad. When she is upset, she needs space and then she needs to talk. My husband needs peace and quiet, time to think. Your child is a unique individual with different needs, desires, and fears than you, your partner, and your other children. Just as we wouldn’t expect one technique to work for all adults, we can’t expect that when dealing with children.

Sometimes, to connect with your child, you may need separation. Many parents don’t understand this idea. They think if they are not hugging or physically touching, or at least near their child when they are upset, they are abandoning them. But when a child is more upset, more frustrated, and the situation escalates when you are near them, separation may be what they need. How this is executed will make all the difference. The words you use, your tone of voice, and your body language all matter. This is how you connect.

“I love you. I am going to step outside the room and wait here.”

“I am also feeling frustrated so I am going to take some deep breaths in the hall until I calm down too.”

Obviously, what you say and how you separate will vary depending on the age of your child and their temperament. Connection and compassion are key. You are here to help them, not punish them. When they are acting out, throwing a tantrum, or won’t go to sleep, it is never helpful to make them feel bad about it. For most little ones, they are not doing this intentionally. They need your help to get through this sad or scary or frustrating moment. They need your help in dealing with these completely normal emotions. Notice I said the are normal. We can’t expect our kids to never feel anything other than happiness. This is unrealistic and extremely unfair. They are going to get angry, sad, frustrated, scared, and nervous. How will you help them cope with these feelings? Instead of ignoring them or disregarding them, allow your child to feel the emotion and then deal with it in a healthy manner.

Sometimes your child will have these emotions toward you. They will get angry with you about something, and that’s okay. You are the parent, and they are the child. Your role is not to make them happy all the time or be their best friend, Your role is to create a safe and loving environment in which they thrive and feel supported. And sometimes that means allowing them to feel all their emotions. We also shouldn’t label emotions as “good” or “bad”. You don’t want your child to feel guilty because they are experiencing sadness or anger. These are normal emotions. You want to teach your child how to acknowledge that emotion, and deal with it in a healthy way. Ignoring it is not helpful. Discrediting it is not helpful. Shaming it is not helpful.

Try telling yourself this:
I have a really good kid who just happens to be struggling in this moment. I am their helper, not their punisher. They need my support, not my anger or frustration. Acting in anger causes stress in them which makes them act out more. It creates guilt and shame.

When I relate this idea specifically to sleep, this is why an in-person consult, with one-on-one support, and a custom sleep plan are so important. When one technique doesn’t work, you have an expert to guide you through other options. It’s also important to note that some babies and children need space sometimes. Stepping outside the room when things get hard is often good for both of you. Children sense anxiety and stress in parents. It changes how we act and talk which can change the outcome of the entire situation.

When we model this behavior to our children, we are showing them how to deal with strong emotions in a healthy way. It’s great for our children to know that we also have bad days. We also get frustrated, angry, or scared. We can help them figure out how to handle these big emotions.

They are always watching. They are always listening. What will they learn from you?

Alyssa Veneklase is a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant, Newborn Care Specialist, and Certified Elite Postpartum & Infant Care Doula. She also teaches a Newborn Survival Class, Becoming a Mother series, and Tired as a Mother.


Gold Coast Doula Owner and contractor

2022 Reflections

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

Here are the Gold Coast stats for 2022:  

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

Volunteer Hours: 129 

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

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


Lactation consultant

Why You Should Take a Breastfeeding Class: Podcast Episode #166

Kristin chats with Kelly Emery of Baby Beloved about why moms should take a breastfeeding class during pregnancy.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.

Welcome.  You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting.  Let’s chat!

Kristin:  Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Kelly Emery.  Kelly teaches our breastfeeding classes at Gold Coast and our Back to Work pumping class, and she’s an RN IBCLC and has so many certifications and degrees including the fact that Kelly was a former doula before doulas were even really a thing.  So welcome, Kelly!

Kelly:  Thank you, Kristin.  It’s great to be here.  I’m happy to be on your podcast.

Kristin:  I would love for you to give our listeners a bit of a glimpse of your background.  As I mentioned, you have so many different degrees and trainings and you have so much experience.  You were helpful with my own children.  I’d love to learn more about you.

Kelly:  Yeah, sure.  It all happened way back – well, I went to college, actually, to be a teacher, and then a psychologist.  I wasn’t quite sure, so I got both certifications.  But during my graduate school when I was wanting to learn to be a therapist, I got pregnant, and that was way back in 1990.  And then all of life changed.  My focus changed, and I can’t even explain it to anybody, but I just fell in love with the whole birth and breastfeeding world.  It just took my world in a different direction.  And then I became – I did some certification for being a – it’s called a lactation educator, a certified lactation educator back then was the certification in 1994.  And then to become a doula around that same time, like you said.  So got some really good experience helping moms just in my role as a doula, and that grew and grew and grew.  It just keep snowballing, and I’m like, okay, I’m not going to be a psychologist.  I’m not going to be a teacher.  This is what I want to do.  Fast forward a bit, and I decided I needed to go to nursing school.  I wanted to learn more about how the body works and how the breasts work and how everything just kind of fits together and just how amazing our bodies are, actually, just really pulled me forward into that.  So I got a nursing degree, and then I started working – well, I’ve always been doing home visits, but then I started doing hospital work, which was an eye opener, and it was really great to see babies just right after they’re born and what happens in the hospital, and it just progressed.  I started a little boutique where I sold breastfeeding – I saw patients in my office, but I also sold, like, pumps and bras and all the breastfeeding gear.

Kristin:  Yeah, and I taught my first class in your space.

Kelly:  That was such a lovely time.

Kristin:  Yes, it was!

Kelly:  While it lasted, it was so great because we had so many classes and just people coming in and just lonely moms wandering in just wanting to get out of the house, you know.  We had a support group in there, and it was the best.  But unfortunately, 2008, and I just financially couldn’t keep it going.  It was a bad recession time.  So the boutique ended, but I still have – still kept doing Baby Beloved, which is my business, where I do home visits and office visits.  I do telehealth, and then I also go to six different pediatric offices and I subcontract with them.  So I’m all over the city, usually at least five, sometimes six days a week.

Kristin:  Yeah, you are busy, that is for sure.  And you’ve been an educator both in hospital and classroom for quite some time, as you mentioned?

Kelly:  Yeah, back from in the ’90s on, I’ve been teaching breastfeeding classes and just ventured out, you know, doing more of that via Zoom because of COVID and getting my online class going, too.  But I actually also a few years back got my master’s degree in nursing education.  So it was a really good adjunct to that to help me understand better how people learn and just different techniques for educating people about their bodies and their health and all of that.  So yeah, I have lots of little initials behind my name.

Kristin:  Yes, you sure do!

Kelly:  But long story short, I love teaching, and it’s a great – I mean, I teach even when I’m one on one with a person, but in a group, it’s a different dynamic, and it’s super fun.

Kristin:  Agreed.  And yes, with the pandemic, we had to shift all of our Saturday Series to virtual for a bit, and luckily we’ve been back to in person since the spring, and that has been so much better as far as being able to really, yeah, interact and attune to each couple’s needs.  But tell us a bit about your breastfeeding class and why it is important for couples who want to breastfeed to get educated before they have their baby or babies.

Kelly:  It’s something that a lot of people just bypass.  They don’t – not a lot of people take a breastfeeding class, and they wish they had later, you know, when I’m in their living room helping them breastfeed, they’re like, oh, nobody told me this, and oh, I wish all of those things.  But they focus a lot of childbirth education, which is very important, as well, but labor’s going to be over, you know, hopefully within 24 hours.  You know, labor is going to be over, and it’s a wild ride getting there, but in the end, you have your baby, and there you go.  But breastfeeding goes on and on for as long – however many weeks, months, years you want to do it.  It’s a daily thing, sometimes 8 to 12 times a day.  So it’s something that’s going to take up a major part of your day and lots of things to know.  Lots of expectations to set, and just learning how your body works but also how your baby eats, like how human mammals actually eat.  And then once you know that – like, once you know how your body works and how your baby works, then you can blend it together to make, like, a unique breastfeeding relationship for yourself within your family unit.  Everybody has competing things.  Like, I’ve got to go back to work in this many weeks or months, or I have my mother-in-law living with me and she had dementia, or I have six other kids.  There’s so many things that weigh into the decision of even whether you want to breastfeed.  But the more you know, the more you can tweak it to personalize it however you want it to be.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And your class is definitely recommended for partners, as well as the birthing person.

Kelly:  Yes.  That’s the first slide in my PowerPoint is a picture of the dad holding baby or a partner.  You know, whoever is going to be your person who’s going to be with you at 2:00 a.m. and who’s going to hold your hand through all of this, that person would ideally be in the class, as well.  And I know sometimes, especially guys if they’re there, they feel a little awkward being there, but I will tell you, I will not make it awkward for you, and a lot of what I have to say is directed at the support people because research has shown over and over again when we look at research about what makes breastfeeding successful and what helps a person meet their breastfeeding goals, it’s always the support person, the partner that’s there.  It’s not the lactation consultant.  I mean, I play a small part, as does your pediatrician and all the other people in your life, but far and away, it always rises to the top that that one person who is so influential in the breastfeeding rates and how they turn out is the partner.  So they play no small part in this, and I totally encourage everybody to come and bring your cheerleader.  Like, bring whoever’s going to be with you there at 2:00 a.m.

Kristin:  Yes.  And I know you touch on other feeding methods in the course, but you also have a specific class on back to work pumping for those clients who wish to pump later or, you know, some students have the plan to start out pumping for multiple reasons.

Kelly:  Sure.  Yeah, there are some people who don’t want the baby at the breast.  They want to lactate and they want to pump it and then feed it by bottle.  So I go over all of those in my class.  The last section of my class is dedicated a lot to going back to work or pumping and how can the partner introduce a bottle without it interfering with breastfeeding.  How do we manage both, if mom wants to do both?  A little bit of breast, a little bit of bottle; how can we set that up for success?  So yes, definitely, we do some of that in the last part of the class, but if you wanted a deeper dive into it, like it’s a three-hour class on back to work that goes through a lot more stuff.  Plus during the back to work, it’s a lot about pumping.  How to choose a pump, how to maintain your milk supply, are there any foods or what’s up with that, is there anything that helps it.  And then how do you talk to your employer?  There’s so much rich content in there.  If you did the breastfeeding and back to work class, you’d be there for six hours with me, so that’s a little long to sit for a class, so the back to work, that working and pumping class, is separate.  You have access to it for two years so you can always go back to it nine months later and say, what did she say about freezing this or blah, blah, blah, whatever.  So that’s kind of a nice option.

Hey, Alyssa here.  I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming.  Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between.  You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood.  You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more.  You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most.  And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls.  If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at, or check it out at  We’d love to see you there.

Kristin:  That’s amazing.  And then your breastfeeding class is part of our Saturday Series.  We offer that in our office in Eastown every two months.  And then for those students who can’t make that date on a Saturday afternoon, then you do have recorded self-paced options for the breastfeeding class that you can register for off of the Gold Coast Doulas website, as well as the back to work pumping, also, is a recorded version, correct?

Kelly:  Yes, that’s right.

Kristin:  And then with Saturday Series, the beauty is you can register for all three, the comfort measures, the breastfeeding, the newborn, or just pick ala carte what you want.  So if you’re only interesting in the breastfeeding class, then you can select that option.  And then as far as just getting into the differences, you did describe your class beautifully, but having attended it and gotten so much wisdom from your series, I’d love for you to talk about the difference between your class and a hospital breastfeeding class.

Kelly:  Yeah, sure.  I used to, a few years back, I used to teach a hospital class, and when I did it, I was representing the hospital, so I had to use their – it was like a prepackaged PowerPoint, basically, that they bought from a company.  So it was pretty basic, and it was good information, but it was pretty basic.  And because I have so much experience as a lactation consultant, I also peppered it, you know, with my own real life experiences and case studies and stuff like that, which kind of made it more fun and interesting.  But my PowerPoint, which is, for my own business, I have total control over creating that.  So mine is not so cookie cutter.  It’s very individually curated to what I see the most things that cause hiccups in breastfeeding in just all the patients that I’ve seen since 1994.  So I know what are the biggest hurdles that moms need to know about.  What are some ways – just basically boiling it down to, what does she really need to know?  What’s going to be important?  And I can tell her this and this, but she’s not going to remember it, so how do I bring a story to it so if this does happen, she can remember that story and then remember the concept better.  And I have lots of pictures.  Tons of pictures, which I think the more modes of learning, the better.  You know, when you can see it in motion.  So I have lots of videos, too, of moms breastfeeding.  And then the other thing, especially for the pump part, I bring in my pump, and we get to play with all these pumps and all these things like nipple shields, all these stuff.  I pass them around, so tactilely, they get to touch it and play with breast shields and see how they’re different sizes.  There are different sizes when you pump, so we can kind of look at all of it.  So that’s different, I think from the hospital one, and it’s fun, too.  I like to make it interactive, especially in a group class.  There’s just some cool dynamics when you get people together who are in the same stage of life, and it’s not like in a big auditorium where there’s 100 people in there and you don’t really feel like you can raise your hand.  These are smaller group classes where you can have a conversation, and I think where conversations happen, that’s where the richness is, and that’s how we understand concepts better, like when we talk it through.  Plus the camaraderie.  The other people all in the room, they’re in the same boat, and they’re just starting out, too.  So it’s really good to know that you’re not alone and you’re not dumb for not knowing this stuff.  It’s just you’ve never done it before.  You’re a rookie.  So it’s very normalized to be able to take in all this information.

Kristin:  And I recall from registering students that it’s not always first time parents who take your classes.  Some people didn’t have success breastfeeding with other babies and then really want to get that education and set themselves up for success this time around.

Kelly:  Yeah, and those are so good to have in class because they – when they talk, the others really perk up and listen because they want to hear it.  I mean, you can always hear it from a lactation consultant, but hearing it from another person who’s already been in the trenches and coming back with real talk about it, it’s very powerful to hear a real person’s story.

Kristin:  Agreed.  And again, just accommodating to different learning styles.  I loved the interaction and the way you demonstrated different breastfeeding positions and talked a lot about latch and supply.  That’s always a big concern for doula clients is, am I going to produce enough milk.

Kelly:  I know, it’s a big – I mean, most people do, but I’ll be honest, there are some people who struggle, and it’s through nothing wrong that they’ve done, but sometimes that happens.  So we also go over – you know, I’m honest about that, as well, to say there is a small amount of people who – with certain medical issues, usually, and I talk about those in my class, that if you have any of these medical issues, it’s great to get support right away to set yourself up for success, especially during those first two weeks of breastfeeding when supply is established.  The more you know, the better prepared you’ll be, and you can get support lined up ASAP.

Kristin:  Exactly.  And I love also the option with the recorded class that people can take your class from anywhere in the country or world.  With our Becoming students, they’re able to register for your virtual options, and they could live in New York or Seattle.  That is also amazing.  And you do – even though these are some recorded versions, you do offer Q&A calls, correct?

Kelly:  I do, yeah.  Like, once a month.  It’s the first Wednesday of the month in the evening.  There’s a free Q&A for anyone who’s pregnant, so they can come and ask me anything, and it’s free, and the last one that I did, I had someone who just wanted to jump on to see if she jived with me, you know.  Is this someone I want to be taking a class with?  So that was cool.  You don’t want to spend your time and money with someone who’s values you don’t – you know, you want to be able to know that you can talk to them and you’re going to gel with them.  So that was really good.  So anyone who just wants to get to know me better or has a burning question.  Maybe there’s something on your mind.  Maybe you did take a class already, but you still have questions.  Anyone can register for that on my website.

Kristin:  That’s great.  So any final tips for the listeners or our students?

Kelly:  No, I just really encourage you to think about taking a class because once your baby comes, it’s go time, and there’s not going to be a lot of time to sit down and read books and take three-hour classes after the baby’s born.  Now is the time to soak up as much as you can, and having four ears there is better than two because sometimes you may hear something and then your partner hears it a little differently, or it just hits differently, and then they can remind you later.  I’ve had that happen a lot where someone who’s taken my class and then later has hired me to be their lactation consultant, the dad comes in and says, yeah, remember, she said to do this, blah, blah, blah.

Kristin:  Right, they remember.  I know my husband did.

Kelly:  They do.  They really do.  They’re listening with a different set of ears.  So it’s good.

Kristin:  Totally.  So Kelly, you mentioned price before, so our course, the breastfeeding as part of Saturday Series, is $85.  Each class in our series is $85, so whether it’s an in person or virtual, that is $85, and we do accept health savings and flex spending.  And Kelly, your back to work pumping class is how much?

Kelly:  It’s $49, and that’s access for two years.

Kristin:  Awesome.  Well, thank you so much, and feel free to share your personal contact info with our listeners, and of course, you can find any of the class information on the Gold Coast Doulas website.

Kelly:  You can find me on my website, and that’s the best way to contact me, through the contact page.

Kristin:  And I know you’re on Instagram and Facebook and other areas.

Kelly:  Oh, yes.  Absolutely.  Thank you for that.

Kristin:  Well, it was lovely to chat with you.  Thank you so much for sharing all of your wisdom with our listeners, and I hope they’ll all be seeing you soon in either the in person or recorded class.

Kelly:  Me, too!  Thank you so much, Kristin.

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