As you know, when we bring a new person onto the Gold Coast Doulas team we love to find out more about them and share that with you! Endira comes to us with tons of passion for working with families, and also tons of great experience. Let’s find out more about her!
What did you do before you became a doula?
Before becoming a doula, I worked as a full-time nanny. Before that I was a teacher’s assistant at a child development center. Through nannying, I have been able to establish a deeper, more intimate relationship with the children I care for as well as with their extended families.
What inspired you to become a doula?
I have felt called to birthwork for as long as I can remember. To encourage and support birthing people and their partners and to follow them in the journey into parenthood is an absolute honor and something I do not take lightly. I pride myself in offering a safe space and being a source of comfort for families as they take on the adventure of caring for themselves and their new additions.
Tell us about your family.
I am one of three daughters raised in an interracial family in upstate New York. My partner Annamarie and I met in high school and have taken life on with a team approach. We’ve been together through many seasons and have loved every step. We made the move to Grand Rapids about two years ago to be closer to loved ones and find new opportunities.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
My favorite vacation spot is Cancun, Mexico. There is nothing better than eighty degree weather and being able to jump from the pool to the sea.
Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Top five musicians/bands? This is hard because there is always new music being dropped but my all time favorites are…
1. GIVEON – His music feels like a warm embrace; it fills my soul with confidence that new beginnings are coming.
2. Sasha Sloan – If I am ever doing a project and need something to encourage me to press on, she just seems to get me back on track.
3. Lindsey Stirling – I come from a family of string players (my mom, my sisters, and I all played the violin). My arms always got too tired to play, so I enjoy violin music vicariously through Lindsey. When you are tired and need a hype up, Lyndsey is your girl. And as a bonus, her concerts are amazing.
4. Florence + the Machine – Whether it is 2008 or 2022, her music is still so good!
5. Ella Mai – Her voice is just so beautiful. Even when she is singing the saddest love song, her music still feels like warmth to your ears.
What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Be patient with yourself. This is new and not easy for anyone.
What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
I am consistent and dedicated. My goal is to provide the best services and be a resource. I am easy to work with and want you to feel supported and comfortable asking if you need more or less.
What is your favorite food?
Any kind of dip.. Literally ANY kind!
What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Barrier Dunes State Park… the secret cove that we always have to ourselves. Well, I guess I will see you all there next summer now.
What are you reading now?
The Big Letdown by Kimbery Seals Allers.
Who are your role models?
My mom is my biggest role model and confidant. She set a legacy and led by example by always educating, encouraging, and following through with her words. She advocated for not only herself but many others through pregnancy and childbirth and taught me the importance of being informed and supported through all decisions. I now have both a wealth of knowledge as well as the utmost respect for mothers, fathers, and anyone else who is raising a child.
We are excited to have Jamie join our team. As a yoga instructor, she brings a sense of calm and balance to a room that immediately sets you at ease. Let’s learn more about her!
What did you do before you became a doula?
I spent a glorious taco-and-sun infused 6-years in Austin, Texas, doing communications for the mother’s milk bank, traveling, and writing historical fiction for a start-up fashion brand, and later hustling as a project manager at a digital strategy agency. Now back in the mitten, I teach hot yoga at Yoga Fever and work part-time as the storytelling coordinator at Treetops Collective, a non-profit that supports New American women.
What inspired you to become a doula?
I’m passionate about supporting and advocating for women. I’ve babysat since I was “old enough” (which was 12 because it was the 90s…) and have always been fascinated with pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. So becoming a doula made perfect sense––empowering new moms in this amazing new stage of life. I want new parents to be confident in their innate skills as the perfect parent for their child—resisting the temptation to compare themselves to others, and ignoring the overwhelming opinions and conflicting messages that barrage them daily.
Tell us about your family.
My husband Chris and I met in Chicago 8 years ago and when he got accepted to grad school in Texas, I crazily agreed to move with him after only dating 6 months. We’ve been married for 4 years now, so it turns out maybe I wasn’t that crazy. We moved back to Michigan last year and bought a home in the South East End of GR and are eagerly expecting our first baby this summer. Until then, our two big dogs and 6-toed cat continue to keep us vacuuming.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
The best vacation I’ve ever been on was to Peru this past spring. We got the city and coastal experience in Lima and the historic, mountain setting in Cusco, and topped it off with a bucket-list hike of the Incan Trail to Machu Picchu. The culture, landscape, people, food, and history of the country was beyond incredible––10 out 10 would recommend this trip.
Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Whew, impossible to choose! How about 5 albums I’ll never get tired of?
Lucius, Good Grief
Solange, A Seat at the Table
Prince, Purple Rain
Paul Simon, Graceland
Fleetwood Mac, Rumours
What is the best advice you have given to new families?
You are so strong. You are capable of so much more than you think you are. One day at a time.
What do you consider your doula superpower to be? As a project manager at heart, I’m all about strategizing to meet goals. I love to help parents develop a plan for meeting their parenting goals––be it with developing a schedule, breastfeeding, sleep shaping, whatever.
My doula superpower kicks in when things get tough and sticking to the plan is overwhelming. I’m there as a calm and reassuring presence––even in the face of endless crying and sleep depravation—to support and encourage parents to keep at it and work towards success. It’s rewarding to watch these parenting wins—when they are reminded of just how capable they are.
What is your favorite food? I love Indian food. Lately I can’t stop requesting my husband make us butter chicken in the InstaPot—with lots of garlic naan on the side (you’re going to want this recipe—just ask me for it).
What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast? I love the beaches of Lake Michigan––during my time in Texas, I really missed my Great Lakes. Growing up, our family spent many summer weekends camping in South Haven—going to the beach and eating huge waffle cones at Sherman’s Ice-cream so that gets my vote for nostalgia.
What are you reading now? This book has been on my reading list since I had the opportunity to meet the author, Jessica Shortall, during my time at the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin, and I’m finally diving in: Work. Pump. Repeat: The New Mom’s Survival Guide to Breastfeeding and Going Back to Work.
And when I’m done with that, The Happiest Baby on the Block by Harvey Karp is queued up on my nightstand.
Who are your role models? I am inspired by strong women who support one another, follow their truth, and live their passion. My social media feed is full of amazing women who get me all fired up in the way they advocate for body positivity, social justice, equality, mental health—here are a few of my faves: Frida Kahlo, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Beyonce, Rupi Kaur, the fine ladies of the My Favorite Murder podcast, Karen Kilgarif and Georgia Hardstark, Ilana Glazer, Christiane Amanpour.
Megan Kretz, one of Alyssa’s sleep clients, tells us about her sleep training journey with her daughter at 9 months and again at 19 months. She says that as a working mom, it meant spending a little less time with her daughter, but that it was all worth it because the quality of the time spent together improved drastically. Everyone was happier and healthier! You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa, and today I’m excited to be talking to Megan Kretz. You were one of my past sleep clients, and then again recently.
Megan: Yeah, thanks for having me on!
Alyssa: Yes, we’re going to talk about sleep today. So remind me of how this journey began and what was happening before you called me.
Megan: So we reached out to you about when my daughter was nine months old with just all sorts of life problems as a result of my daughter’s sleep habits and our sleep habits, as well. A lot of it was definitely a struggle because we almost created the environment, the problem, that we found ourselves in.
Megan: Yes, unknowingly.
Alyssa: I mean, you don’t realize it when you’re doing it. You’re in survival mode.
Megan: Right. Before the age of eight months, my daughter had had five ear infections, and so we were in and out of doctors’ offices, on and off antibiotics, and because of that, she was in a lot of pain. She was seeking comfort because we could never get her comfortable. So in doing so, we just ended up creating all these really bad sleep habits. Falling asleep with us, on us, whatever we could do to allow mom and dad and baby to get some sort of rest. Up probably eleven times at night breastfeeding, and then wouldn’t take naps during the day; was up all day except for two 45-minute naps at the age of six, seven months old. Where our thoughts were going at that point was that she wasn’t developing properly without proper sleep. We couldn’t go on date nights. Nobody else could put my daughter down to sleep except me, not even her dad. We couldn’t go two hours for a movie on the couch without my daughter waking up, and it was getting to a point where, looking into the future, I don’t know how we would have gone much longer with the way that things were. And I had heard about you guys before, and finally I ended up going on the website, and I saw that you guys offer the sleep consultations. I was hesitant at first, but oh my gosh…
Alyssa: Didn’t she take to it, like, the first night?
Megan: Oh, yeah! The first night when we went through all of that — but I felt super needy with you.
Alyssa: No, you weren’t at all!
Megan: Texting you all the time! The first night, we had to go in and out, in and out a lot, but by the second night — she was almost there on the first night, and the second night, she was like, bam, done. She was like, I got this, Mom! I’m going to be your sleep champ from now on!
Alyssa: And kids always surprise parents. They want to sleep so bad, and once we just get them on a schedule, it just happens so much more quickly and easily than a lot of parents expect.
Megan: A lot of other working parents might find themselves in the same situation or scared on what they’re going to end up doing. I learned that so much of her night sleep is dependent on her daytime sleep and her nap schedule. She went to a daycare facility, and they had also used the same crutches we had to get her to sleep, and I was just nervous about that whole transition and really needing her to take proper naps in order to accomplish what we needed to at night. And in the end, we sorted out some schedules. We had some people that came and helped us and pulled her out of daycare for a week.
Alyssa: Yeah, I remember that. You had somebody stay at the house, because that first week is pretty critical, and when you have two parents working full time, you can’t just take a week off.
Megan: No, you can’t!
Alyssa: To have your baby sleep. That’s not feasible. But yeah, you had a trusted babysitter come over, right?
Megan: Yeah, and I don’t remember how many days it was.
Alyssa: Oh, you had a doula come, too, for a couple days, didn’t you?
Megan: No. Well, you…
Alyssa: Must have been another client. Sometimes they’ll hire a doula to come stay either during the day overnight.
Megan: I remember you said there are so many days that it takes of consistent behavior development to actually –
Alyssa: Until it becomes a habit.
Megan: Yeah, until it becomes normal for them. So we just had to get through that, and we did.
Alyssa: Well, and especially because she was going to daycare. Daycare can totally muck things up, especially if it’s a large one and not an in-home daycare but a large one where they have 20 kids and maybe 15 of them are in the nursery, and they’re just, like, this is naptime, and if they’re not sleeping, we get them up, because we don’t want them waking the other babies up.
Megan: Well, that’s what part of the problem was is that she was in the nursery, and there’s 12 other babies in that room, and they all share a crib room together. And they couldn’t get her to sleep, and then she was waking up other babies. It was all downhill from there.
Alyssa: So they just say, all right, nap’s done.
Alyssa: But after that five days of a consistent pattern, then she’s going to go back to daycare, and her body’s already on the schedule and already has a rhythm set, and it’s much easier to go back into that daycare environment and tell them, now she sleeps from this time to this time, and if she wakes up early, here’s what you have to do.
Megan: And daycare, you know, they made their own adjustments for what worked for them, too, so I gave them our schedule, but then they actually removed her from a crib and put her on a toddler sleep mat. They’re raised little beds, and I had to get a doctor’s note, but at the age of ten months, nine months, she was actually the only child in the room for months that slept on a cot.
Alyssa: Oh, so she was in her own room?
Megan: She wasn’t. She was blocked off from the other kids. So yeah, she was in a room by herself, but she was kind of blocked off with some shelving units so the other kids didn’t get all up in her business when she was sleeping. But she was on a cot, and that worked best for her because they found that she was anxious in the room with all the other kids in the cribs because all of her past memories were coming up, so changing her sleep environment was also to let them work according to the sleep plan, as well. So it ended up working well that way, and she ended up moving up into the next toddler room already on the cot where most babies have to go through this learning period for that.
Alyssa: So I remember in the beginning, you kind of struggled. You had this tug-of-war within yourself of, gosh, she’s sleeping amazing now, but now I miss these cuddles that I get at night.
Megan: Yeah, I remember that!
Alyssa: It was like, we have to find a balance here. It’s hard to go from being used to her there all the time, but that’s part of the problem is that she’s there all the time and nobody can sleep.
Megan: And at night when I’m giving her cuddles, she’s giving me cuddles, too.
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s hard to just let that go.
Megan: And then don’t forget about the readjustment to milk supply. That was a big thing, as well.
Alyssa: Yeah, breastfeeding changes. Your body eventually fixes itself…
Megan: But it takes a little while and some uncomfortable days.
Alyssa: Yeah, you’ll wake up leaking everywhere. I’ve told moms to sleep on towels for a couple nights if needed!
Megan: Oh, yeah, been there, done that!
Alyssa: Yeah, so we talked about, early in the morning when she wakes up, get some cuddles in, and then spend the weekends, like Saturday and Sunday mornings, just make that cuddle time in bed to get all that oxytocin, all these great hormones that you guys are sharing when you get these cuddles.
Megan: It’s funny that you say that because it’s almost a tradition now that she’s older. She calls her pacifier her “oh, no” because when she can’t find it and she’s upset, it’s an oh, no situation. So she has to leave her “oh, no” in her crib, and then we go and get a bottle of milk, and I ask her if she wants to snuggle. Sometimes I get her out of the crib and she’s like, “Snuggle!” because that’s our time together. So we do that when we’re reading books before bedtime now, because we no longer breastfeed or give her a bottle before bed, so we just read books and snuggle for five, ten minutes, and then in the crib she goes. And then in the morning it’s a good cuddle time, and I wake up a little bit early and get ready before she’s up so that I’m not rushed for time to get ready. Either my husband or I will devote that time to her.
Alyssa: That’s really smart. I was just talking to somebody earlier about the fact that sometimes kids are just waking up because they want to see you, so especially as a parent who works full time, you already have this guilt of, I haven’t seen my child all day, and now they’re sleeping all night by themselves, which is great, but when do I get to see them? When do I get to cuddle them? So when you do a nighttime routine and then in the morning, put that phone away. Don’t make the TV part of this process. Put that kid on your lap; cuddle; kiss. Read the book, whatever. Just get all the snuggles in you can. They get 30 minutes of your undivided attention, and they don’t know if it’s any different than eight hours. To them it’s just that mom and dad are here and loving on me, and that makes all the difference in the world.
Megan: I agree, and it was hard being a working mom when we were going through all of this because the time with her became less because the night wakings weren’t there. But the quality increased. Her behavior got a lot better. And I am a better mom by being a working mom because I can devote my attention better if I have some things that I do on my own, if I have a work life, as well. So I didn’t want to give that up, but readjusting and figuring out the quality time was a lot better when she was rested and herself.
Alyssa: That’s the key, yeah.
Megan: And it really shines this whole idea even more when we recently went on vacation, and it was a struggle because we were in a new environment. She was in her own bed, but we had to share a room with her, and although all that went fine, her behavior was like she was truly in the terrible twos. She’s only 21 months old now, but everything changed because we tried to stick to the schedule, but you’re on vacation, so there’s only so much that you can do. So immediately on the day that we returned from this week-long vacation, and she’s sleeping in her own environment and we’re right back to the same routine, it was immediate behavior change, and it just solidifies even more how important a sleep plan is and how important it is to make sure that they get the sleep that they need.
Alyssa: They thrive on it, and we think that we’re doing them a favor by letting them stay up late to play with their friends. Or the 4th of July; it’s not even dark for fireworks until 10:00; what am I going to do? We’re not doing them or ourselves any favors by letting them stay up because usually they’re a wreck for two days after that. They’re not going to sleep in the next day. More than likely. They’re going to be up early the next morning. It affects them so opposite of the logical thinking. But yeah, that’s the key. You’ve hit the nail on the head; you have to readjust and understand that you have less time together, but it’s more quality time, and her entire world has changed. She’s happier, healthier, developing at a better rate because we all need sleep for that to happen.
Megan: It’s funny that you brought up the whole fact that readjusting and going to parties and not keeping them up late and whatnot — it’s funny because it’s easy for my husband and I to say sorry, we’re leaving at 7:30 or 7:00 or 6:30, whatever we have to do, to get home and start the bedtime routine. The hardest part about all of that is not leaving early; it’s convincing your family members and your friends that this is what you’re going to do and that this is important to you and your family, because it’s almost like they’re the ones pressuring you to alter your child’s sleep schedule. So that’s come up a few times, especially around the holidays when your family members do holiday parties or gift openings starting at 6:00, and bedtime routine starts at 6:30. You’re like, sorry, guys, we can’t come.
Alyssa: Right, unless you want to bring a pack and play and put her to bed there.
Megan: Which we’ve done. When she was young enough, we did that, and that was fine. We do that sometimes with friends where we go over and put her to sleep in the pack and play. We try to avoid that as much as possible, and now that our friends have kids or are having kids, we schedule things at 2:00 in the afternoon instead. Dinner parties go from 3:00 to 7:00; they don’t go from 7:00 to 11:00.
Alyssa: Yeah, that is the hardest part, because you have to be so consistent, and when you get those dirty looks or the weird looks from your friends, like why do they always have to leave so early, it makes you kind of feel bad, but you know it’s worth it. You’re doing this because it’s worth it.
Megan: Yep, it is.
Alyssa: So then you called me again recently…
Megan: I did!
Alyssa: She was sleeping great, and then you made a pretty big transition. Tell me about that.
Megan: Yeah. She was always a little bit ahead of the other kids as far as walking and crawling and climbing and running, so she eventually started climbing out of her crib, and we started getting very nervous about possible injuries. Quite a few times, on the video in her room, we’d see her sitting on the edge of the crib, just teetering there. My husband really pushed for a change because we can’t be doing this. So we actually ended up moving her into a big kid bed at the age of 19 months. And I’m trying to take what I learned with you from when she was nine months and trying to apply it to a child that’s now a toddler. And it wasn’t working. And that’s when we contacted you and learned about how kids don’t learn about delay of gratification until they’re three years old. So she doesn’t understand what it means when we tell that if you stay in bed all night, we get special time together in the morning.
Alyssa: It makes no sense. She doesn’t understand that concept whatsoever.
Megan: No. And she can get in and out of the toddler bed. Yeah, she may not be falling out of it now, but my husband and I went back to doing whatever we’ve got to do to get this child to sleep. So her nighttimes got shorter because we ended up staying in bed and laying with her until she fell asleep. Our bedtime routine went to two hours; from twenty minutes to two hours. And then she wouldn’t sleep a full eleven hours at night, and then her nap became elongated to three hours. We were on a waitlist for a daycare at the time, so we had to hire a nanny for a couple months. And it was funny because we were paying her for an eight-hour day when our daughter is sleeping for three of them! Just kind of a funny fact. But we went right back to, oh my gosh, what do we do? A year later, I’m finding your email address and saying help! Is there anything that you can help us with? And then when you sent us our new sleep plan and we saw that there are clear ways to help a child stay in the bed and to go right back into a routine for this next stage of a child’s life, and that babies aren’t the same as toddlers. It was eye-opening again when we saw the second plan, and you had so much good information in there!
Alyssa: I always wonder if it’s too much.
Alyssa: I geek out on sleep information, so I give my clients so much information. I think it’s imperative!
Megan: My husband even brought up later on about something else in the sleep plan that wasn’t related to sleep. Oh, it was snacking! You had said — and it’s so true. A lot of times, we were just allowing her to snack a lot, and we didn’t have set meals, necessarily. Yeah, she ate meals with us, but we allowed her to snack more than we snacked, not even thinking about how that might be tied into sleep or protein intake at certain times of the day and how that aids in sleep patterns. We had no idea. I was giving her a snack, and my husband actually said to me, don’t you remember reading that on Alyssa’s sleep plan?
Alyssa: That’s great! That’s what it’s there for!
Megan: Yeah, it was a lot of great information. And there’s just something special about receiving this information from a local person, from you, a person, and not a book I just pulled off the shelf at the library that might be outdated. You really cater our sleep plans to us, to the client and to the child, and having come in to our home, you knew us. You looked for things that might be distractions for quality sleep and taught us how to do a proper nighttime routine. Although it was a lot of information at one time, it was well-received, and we felt very — I don’t know if qualified is the right word, but we got the information we needed to then make good, informed decisions.
Alyssa: And be confident.
Megan: Yes, we got the confidence.
Alyssa: Even though I’m with you — you’re texting me all the time; I’m responding back; I’m there for guidance — but I’m not there forever. So that’s why I want you to have enough information that you can say, oh, okay, she’s twelve months now. Oh, yeah, she told me that this would probably happen around 12 months. Because I learned this when she was nine months, that’s what this means at 12 months. You have to be able to troubleshoot yourself or you’re just going to keep calling me every three months at every developmental milestone, saying what do I do? Help!
Megan: And it’s funny because we went back to your sleep plan multiple times between 9 months and 15 months to just look and what did she say when she reaches this age group; how much sleep will she need; what are her naps supposed to look like? So we definitely referenced it. But being in a new bed, when all that came up… And the plans themselves were very different.
Alyssa: Yeah, sleep is very different for a two-year-old versus a nine-month-old.
Megan: Yeah. But now, after day one of the new sleep plan, we got her back in the crib. It was like she never forgot it. She was in the big girl bed for probably four weeks.
Alyssa: So you’re thinking, oh, great, even if we try this plan, she’s ruined. We’re going to have to start all over.
Megan: Yeah, that’s exactly what I thought, but no, her sleep habits came right back. We were able to get her nap back down to a normal, respectable time, and she’s back to sleeping eleven, twelve hours at night with no interruptions. We can go back to watching movies and having quality time together with my husband.
Alyssa: And for date nights, babysitters are easy?
Megan: Oh, babysitters can put her sleep again. I’m not asking a babysitter to sleep with her for two hours.
Alyssa: “You’re going to have to lay in this bed with her, sorry!”
Megan: And then ever so slightly, quietly creep out as quiet as possible!
Alyssa: It’s like the ninja role. Like, you kind of slowly roll of the bed, and you keep a hand there for pressure and you slowly lift your hand up.
Megan: Make sure the dog is quiet when you’re moving around so its nail don’t click-clack on the hardwood floors and wake her up! Oh, I better put some WD40 on that door! Yeah, those were all things that were happening and going through our head. I’m laughing and I’m making a joke about it, but those were legitimate concerns of mine when we had her in the big girl bed and all of this was going on. Call me crazy, but that’s how you feel when you and your child aren’t getting sleep.
Alyssa: Well, you are a bit crazy. I mean, sleep deprivation does not make for a sound mental state!
Megan: And now I just can’t believe how much you guys have been able to help us. Maybe my experience can help other people. I’ve referred quite a few people over your way.
Alyssa: Thank you!
Megan: I just can’t reiterate enough how much you guys helped us and how worth it it is.
Alyssa: it’s definitely a service that I could literally call life changing.
Megan: Yes! I would call it that, as well! In fact, I think I’ve left reviews stating that!
Alyssa: Well, if you had one thing that anyone who has pushed off sleep training would need to hear, what do you think it would be?
Megan: It’s worth it. It is what’s best for baby. It’s what best for you and your family unit.
Alyssa: And what if they’re scared? Sleep training just causes anxiety. Those two words; people just think oh, this just sounds like it’s going to be a miserable experience. My child is going to be left alone; they’re going to have anxiety.
Megan: But she wasn’t left alone. The plan you gave us; that wasn’t the case, and you told me right from the beginning, before I even paid for anything, that we will do a plan according to what is comfortable for you. And I was totally okay with the plan. And what’s the worst that could happen? She wakes up 12 times at night versus 11? No, that’s not even going to be a possibility. We were so far down the rabbit hole that there was no getting deeper. We were hitting bedrock. So it could only get better at this point, and it did. It was a complete 180.
Alyssa: Well, I loved working with your family both times. You probably won’t need me again because she’s great. Don’t put her in that toddler bed until she’s three.
Megan: We won’t!
Alyssa: You’ll know when she’s ready!
Megan: We will definitely wait. Now we have just over a year before we have to make any new changes to sleep, but now I have the tools, too, to be able to transfer her to a big girl bed
Alyssa: Yeah, did I give some info to plan for?
Megan: You did, yeah!
Alyssa: Oh, good. I figured I did, but…
Megan: But this isn’t the end, Alyssa! I’m sure that we will see each other again and talk to each other again!
Alyssa: Well, on that note — because you might be adopting?
Alyssa: So I’m going to talk to you again at a later time about what an adoption process looks like because I don’t know, and a lot of our listeners and parents probably don’t know and maybe are even thinking about it but might be scared. SO we’ll talk about that next time.
Megan: I’d love to help you with some insight on there.
Alyssa: Thanks for joining us!
Megan: Yeah, thank you for having me!
Alyssa: If you have any questions for us, you can email as at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks, and remember, these moments are golden.
Elsa Lockman, LMSW of Mindful Counseling talks to us today about how partners, family members, and other caregivers can support a mother during those critical postpartum weeks to ensure she seeks help if needed. How do you approach a new mother and what are her best options for care? You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin, and I’m here today with Elsa Lockman. She’s with Mindful Counseling, and we are talking about how partners and other caregivers and family members can support a woman who has potential signs of postpartum depression or mood disorders.
Elsa: Yes. So postpartum is going to be an emotional time, so tears, some anger, sadness, are all part of the experience. After about two to three weeks out, if spouse or a friend or a mother is noticing maybe a mom is crying more than usual, isn’t really looking forward to things, has these unusual fears that they can’t seem to let go of. Another sign would be not seeming to eat very much or either sleeping a lot or not being able to sleep when the baby is sleeping. If they’re noticing those signs, it would maybe be a sign that they could go talk to somebody as far as a therapist or go see their doctor. Approaching Mom would be in a way to not criticize mom as if she’s doing anything wrong. She’s not doing anything wrong, so start off with validating, actually. She’s doing a great job with how hard it is; validate how hard she’s working, and try to tell her that it doesn’t have to be this way. She doesn’t have to do it alone.
Kristin: How does the caregiver know if it is baby blues or if it’s something that she needs help for? Because, of course, there can be that hormonal fluctuation. They may be teary.
Elsa: Baby blues usually stops after three weeks postpartum. So after that would be maybe a sign that there’s more going on. But I would say, is it getting it the way of functioning? Is it getting in the way of relationships? Is it getting in the way of their working in the home or outside of the home, getting those things done? To a degree, that is expected postpartum; not everything running smoothly, but are relationships being affected? Those would be signs that it’s more than just baby blues.
Kristin: How can a spouse, partner, or caregiver be supportive in order to empower her to get help? Is it best for them to directly reach out for help for her if they’re seeing signs, or what do you recommend?
Elsa: I recommend the mom reaching out, so that would be encouraging Mom to reach out herself. And maybe she needs to talk to a friend and have more time with friends or more time to herself; maybe that would help. See how that works. If that seems to help and is enough to alleviate whatever stress is going on, then that works, but maybe if it’s not working, then take it to another level, which would be contacting a therapist or your doctor.
Kristin: And since, obviously, women have multiple doctors — they’re seeing their OB or midwife and family doctor and their pediatrician — does it matter who they’re speaking with about getting help?
Elsa: No, it wouldn’t matter who you see. Usually the OB would be the person that they’ve seen most recently, but they can even bring it up to the pediatrician, since moms see the pediatrician very often.
Kristin: And as far as getting help for our local listeners and clients, they can reach out to you directly? How do they access you at Mindful Counseling, Elsa?
Elsa: They can go to the website, and they can contact me through there. Another resource would be Pine Rest, and through your OB’s office, there also is a list of therapists who specialize in perinatal mood disorders, which includes postpartum depression and anxiety.
Kristin: That’s so helpful. And in past conversations, you had mentioned that women can bring their babies to therapy; that you allow that with clients you’re working with, and I know Pine Rest encourages that with their mother-baby program?
Elsa: Yes, for sure. Bring your baby to the session; you can feed the baby, breastfeed, anything. Coming with your baby is welcomed and encouraged, for sure.
Kristin: Do you have any final thoughts or tips to share?
Elsa: Just that it doesn’t have to be going through this alone. It’s very normalized for women to feel that anxiety is just part of the postpartum experience or feeling depressed and stressed is part of it, and while it might be a new phase and there’s a lot going on, it doesn’t have to be that women are just suffering through it.
Kristin: Great point. Thanks so much, Elsa, for being on!
Meet Jen Serba, our newest postpartum doula. She filled out our standard Q&A so let’s get to know her a little better!
1) What did you do before you became a doula?
I began my medical career 17 years ago when I became a Medical Assistant (MA) fresh out of high school. I was an MA in many settings including Internal Medicine, Family Practice, Radiology, Obstetrics, and Dermatology. I obtained my Associate’s degree in Nursing in 2016. During the nursing leadership rotation, I worked independently in Labor and Delivery at Spectrum Health and found that to be the most rewarding work and best fitting department. Since obtaining my nursing degree, I have been working in Interventional Radiology at both Metro and Spectrum Health Hospitals.
2) What inspired you to become a doula?
I was inspired to become a doula because I always enjoyed working in women’s health. I thought working one-on-one with woman outside and inside the hospital setting would further my appreciation and empowerment of woman’s healthcare. I especially enjoy talking with other mothers and sharing the emotional stories and the unique birthing experiences they had with their loved ones.
3) Tell us about your family.
I have an amazing and supportive husband along with four beautiful children ages 5, 7, 9, and 17. They are all funny, wild, rambunctious, young women, and the most beautiful thing that has ever happened to me. I have been blessed with an amazing support system. Without the support of my family, I would not be where I am today! My husband and I have known each other since high school. We’ve been married for 7 years and we have been together for 13. We have a little King Charles Cavalier named Chevy who spends alot of time sitting around and taking it easy. As a family we love spending time outdoors, going to the beach, going on picnics, exploring fun new parts of the city as well as the state, baking, singing, doing yoga, and kayaking.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
My latest vacation experience was Pictured Rocks in the Upper Peninsula. I was amazed by the natural treasure we have here just a few hours away. You do not have to go too far to have a fun vacation in Michigan!
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
I love most genres of music but these are a solid five.
Fleetwood Mac is my top favorite since I have always listened to them. High school friends, love, freedom, car rides in the country, anything goes well with Fleetwood.
Elton John. I pretty much love Elton John for the same reasons as Fleetwood! My husband proposed to me with Elton on in the background along with a fun scenario I may tell you about if we get to know each other better.
Justin Timberlake. No explanation needed.
Led Zepplin. Their music and lyrics have a sound unlike any other band. Jimmy Page and Robert Plant are the pillars of rock and roll, and anytime I am hanging out and doing whatever and Zepplin comes on, it takes me back to some fun times.
Lauren Hill. Her voice is so smooth and her music makes me really relaxed!! Enough said.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Accept help when it is offered and try not to hesitate to ask for help when you need it. In the beginning when you first have your child, hold them, love them, carry them. Find someone else to help out for you in the beginning and enjoy the time with your kids. You will be surprised by how much people love to help. Sometimes the people you least expect will be the most help.
7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
I consider my superpower to be my ability to provide calmness, comfort, and confidence in any situation.
8) What is your favorite food?
Grilled salmon, redskin potatoes, and asparagus!
9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I really enjoy visiting Traverse city, MI.
10) What are you reading now?
Brene Brown’s Rising Strong
11) Who are your role models?
I have many role models and can’t boil it down to just one. I’m inspired by women who are empowered by their beliefs and true to themselves. I am also inspired by anyone who stands up for what they believe in and also those who stand up for others.
We all know that becoming a parent is difficult, but most first time parents don’t really have a full understanding of how hard it will be until they’re in the midst of it. They may encounter fertility struggles or miscarriages; they realize that planning during pregnancy takes a lot of work; they have to find an OB or midwife they trust; they may hire a doula; and it takes time for new parents to put a postpartum support network in place.
Add on to that the stressors of guilt, living up to “social media standards”, unwanted advice from friends and family, fear of failure, and lack of confidence. It’s overwhelming and can leave parents feeling defeated before they even begin.
With information at our fingertips, how do we discern what’s evidence-based and what’s junk? What’s worth worrying about and what’s not? How does a parent today make an informed decision?
Luckily, our West Michigan families have so many great health care professionals to choose from and tons of options for support. We’re going to tell you how to begin this journey on the right path so you don’t go through this alone. If you are supported by a trusted team throughout, you are more likely to have a positive birth experience.
Let’s talk about some myths. It’s important to talk about the misconceptions the public has on every area of the support team. Let’s debunk those!
Doula Myth #1: Doulas only support home births. At Gold Coast Doulas, over 80 percent of our births happen in a hospital. Our clients are seeking professional, experienced doula support in the hospital setting.
Doula Myth #2: Doulas only support parents who want an all-natural delivery. Gold Coast Doulas supports any birth and respects all birth preferences.
Doula Myth #3: Doulas catch babies. Definitely not! We are not a replacement for any medical staff, we are an added member of your birth team, there to offer informational, emotional, and physical support throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
Doula Myth #4: Doulas only offer birth support.
We have antepartum doulas that offer support for mothers on bed rest, are high-risk, or for any reason need additional help while pregnant. We also have postpartum doulas that support families once a baby, or babies arrive. They offer in-home care, day and overnight. They are like a night nanny and infant care specialist rolled into one!
Hospital Birth Myth #1: You can’t have an unmedicated birth in a hospital.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of our birth clients prefer an unmedicated birth in the safety of a hospital setting. Our West Michigan hospitals have many different options for a laboring person.
Hospital Birth Myth #2: An induction leads to a cesarean.
This is not always the case. In many cases, labor induction leads to a successful vaginal birth.
Hospital Birth Myth #3: You can’t move around during labor.
As long as you don’t have an epidural, movement is encouraged. Even with an epidural, there are many possible position changes in bed that your birth doula can help you with. You won’t be lying on your back the entire time. Most hospitals have walking monitors for those who wish to move around during labor.
Midwife Myth #1: Midwives only support home births.
We have many local midwives that do support home births, one midwife that delivers in a birth house, and there are plenty of Certified Nurse Midwives that practice in hospitals! There are midwives in West Michigan for any kind of birth preference you have.
Midwife Myth #2: Midwives only support women during pregnancy and birth.
Many midwives also offer well-woman care (annual exams).
OB Myth #1: They aren’t supportive of vaginal births after cesareans (VBAC) and it’s best to attempt one at home.
This is often based on the hospital’s policy rather than preference of the doctor. Many hospitals are supportive of VBACs.
OB Myth #2: They do not work with doulas.
This is not the case. Many of our clients see an Obstetrician and most are very comfortable with professional doulas. Our team is always willing to accompany clients to a prenatal appointment if the provider is not comfortable with working with a doula.
OB Myth #3: They don’t like birth plans.
While this may be partially true just because many “birth plans” are eight pages long. Many things patients put on their birth plan are already protocol at most hospitals (skin to skin, delayed newborn procedures, etc). Knowing that providers have to see many patients in one day, it’s important to keep in mind that they cannot read through an eight page plan. Give them the information that is specific to you. “I want dimmed lights and music.” “I don’t want to be touched when I’m laboring.”
Millennials are over 80 percent of the pregnant population right now and they want answers! They want a relationship, and they want a team they can trust. Our parents and grandparents had one doctor who did everything. They trusted anything the doctor said and definitely didn’t go searching for answers on their own.
Medical care is different today, and families expect a different approach to their healthcare. Oftentimes they don’t even realize they need something more until they are expecting a child. It’s probably one of the biggest unknowns to ever happen in someone’s life. Having a trusted team by your side through the entire process can relieve the stress, pressure, and oftentimes unnecessary anxiety that comes with planning and preparing for pregnancy, labor, and postpartum.
If you are pregnant or even just thinking about starting or growing your family soon, reach out to us. We can offer local resources and our doulas are here to be your guides when you are ready.
In the meantime, here are some trusted online sources we recommend. Try your hardest not to get information from individuals online (mom groups, Facebook, etc)!
Many of our clients and listeners don’t fully understand what overnight doula support looks like. Kristin and Alyssa, both Certified Postpartum Doulas, discuss the kinds of support their clients look for and how their team of doulas support families in their homes. You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud. You can also learn more here about overnight postpartum doula support.
Kristin: Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. I’m Kristin.
Alyssa: And I’m Alyssa.
Kristin: And we’re here to chat about what an overnight postpartum doula does, as that is a question that we get asked often by our clients and our podcast listeners. So, Alyssa, my first question to you is, as a postpartum doula and sleep specialist, what do you see as the key benefits to a family in hiring overnight postpartum doula support?
Alyssa: Whether they hire for sleep or not, it helps the parents get sleep. So let’s say they’re not even hiring me for a sleep consult. Parents don’t understand what sleep deprivation means until their in the midst of it, probably at least three weeks in. Like, our bodies are designed to survive a couple weeks of this, sometimes even three or four, but after that, our systems start to shut down. So if you think about overnight support being this trusted person who sleeps in your home to take over all those overnight responsibilities so that you can get a good night’s rest. Even a six-hour stretch or sometimes even a four-hour stretch makes you feel like a whole new person the next day when you’re used to only sleeping maybe one- or two-hour chunks. A four-hour stretch seems amazing in that moment, whereas right now if you told me I could only have four hours of sleep tonight, I would cry. I would be miserable the next day. And you, Kristin, as a birth doula, you know that feeling. If you’ve had one night of no sleep, you’re just wrecked. So you’re running on adrenaline. You’re sleep deprived. So having a doula come in and take over all that responsibility at night — obviously, she can’t breastfeed your baby, but you have a couple different choices if you’re a breastfeeding mom. If you’re a bottle-feeding with formula mom, you can literally go to sleep at 10:00 PM and wake up whenever you want because the doula can just feed that baby every three hours.
Kristin: Exactly, and clean the bottles and change the diapers and burp the baby, all of it.
Alyssa: Yeah. So if your partner is feeding in the middle of the night, you’re certainly not going to wake up to clean bottles and parts in the morning. The doula does do that. But for a breastfeeding mom, you can choose to pump instead of breastfeeding because it’s usually a lot quicker. So you pump and you set those bottles out for the doula. The doula wakes up when the baby wakes up; feeds the baby; burps the baby; changes the baby; gets the baby back to sleep — and Mom’s sleeping this whole time. Or, if Mom chooses to breastfeed, the doula can bring Baby to Mom so Mom doesn’t even have to get out of bed. I was just talking to Kelly Emory, our lactation consultant friend, and she was saying that when she was nursing, she would just side lie and her husband would bring the baby to her. She would lie on her side, so she didn’t have to get up. She didn’t even have to open her eyes if she didn’t want to. She was still kind of in this half-sleep state, and then when Baby was done on that side, her husband would take the baby and she’d roll over and she would feed on the other side, and then the husband would take the baby away, change the baby, burp the baby, and do all that stuff. So she said it was amazing. She took over one shift of the night, and he took over the next, so she would get a six-hour chunk of sleep and would feel amazing in the morning. So you’re able to tackle all those everyday tasks during the day because you didn’t have to also worry about those at night.
Kristin: Yes! And I’ve also had overnight clients who prefer to come into the nursery and sit in a rocker and feed their baby rather than have me come in and disrupt their husband’s sleep.
Alyssa: Sometimes they’re sleeping in separate rooms, too, because they’ve become used to that. So oftentimes, my goal as an overnight doula is to have both parents sleeping in bed together again, or wherever you were before this baby arrived.
Kristin: Right, no more partner on the couch or in the guest bedroom.
Kristin: So as far as other tasks of an overnight postpartum doula, sleep is one. So we can get Baby back to sleep and if they’re working with a certified sleep consultant, like you, then they can implement that.
Alyssa: Yeah, I guess I didn’t answer that initial question. So if they do work with me as a sleep consultant, you can hire an overnight doula in conjunction with. So I offer this customized sleep plan for your family, and then our doula knows that plan, understands that plan, and implements that plan overnight.
Kristin: That’s amazing.
Alyssa: So you wake up again refreshed because you’ve slept, and then you have the energy to implement the sleep plan during the day. And then the doula comes in at night and implements that plan overnight. So it’s consistency because that’s always the key with any sort of sleep consult is that you have to be consistent. You can’t just do it during the day and then give up at night because you’re tired. Your plan will fail.
Kristin: And so who hires a postpartum overnight doula, and how often do they use the doula support?
Alyssa: Who hires them? Tired families hire them! You get to the point of exhaustion. I don’t think when you’re pregnant you’re thinking about an overnight doula because you truly don’t understand what you’re in for. But newborn babies sleep all the time, so they could sleep up to 22 out of 24 hours a day, so you’re thinking, well, of course, like, newborn babies sleep all the time. I’m going to sleep when the baby sleeps. They’re going to be feeding every two to three hours!
Kristin: They get up a lot!
Alyssa: Which means all day and all night, you will be up feeding every two to three hours, at least. So your sleep becomes these little tiny chunks. Because if you think if you have a newborn baby that’s eating every two hours, and it takes you an hour to breastfeed, and then after the breastfeeding session, you have to burp; you have to change the diaper; you have to get the baby back to sleep. You’ve maybe got 30 to 45 minutes, if you’re lucky, to sleep before the baby needs to feed again.
Kristin: And some clients hire us for one overnight to get a good night of sleep and catch up; other clients hire us every night, and we bring in a team, in and out, or have one doula consistently. And some of our clientele have a partner who travels a lot, or I’ve even supported a family where the mother was going back to work from maternity leave and was traveling for her job, so as an overnight doula, I supported the husband as he cared for the toddler that was waking; I was caring for the baby. And so there are a lot of unique situations, but a lot of our moms who have partners who travel a lot want that extra support, whether they have a new baby or other kids in the household that need support, as well.
Alyssa: I think it depends on resources. So if someone is sleep deprived and they’re like, I just need one night of reprieve, and that’s all we can afford and that’s what we’re going to do, then that’s what they do.
Alyssa: Even if they don’t have the resources, oftentimes during pregnancy, if parents have the foresight to ask for postpartum support as a baby shower gift, they can have several overnights gifted to them by friends and family.
Kristin: Which is better than all the toys and clothes they’ll outgrow.
Alyssa: I always tell them, you’re going to get mounds of plastic junk that you’ll literally look at and say that’s hundreds of dollars’ worth of stuff I’m never going to use, and you could have had an overnight doula in your home so you could sleep.
Alyssa: So I think it’s just based on resources because, like you said, we’ve had people hire us for, you know, two overnights and we’ve had two months straight. So I think it just depends. I mean, I don’t know that it’s a type of client. I think that’s just kind of based on resources available.
Kristin: And we certainly support families who are struggling with postpartum mood disorders and anxiety, but that is not all that we serve as far as clientele. But for moms who are being treated in therapy, then we certainly are able to give them much-needed support and rest as we care for their baby, and we do have a package where we are able to lower our hourly rate for clients who are in the Pine Rest mother-baby program or are seeking therapy.
Alyssa: Yeah, sleep deprivation is considered to be the number one cause of perinatal mood disorders, so all these moms with anxiety, depression, up to postpartum psychosis — when you’re sleep deprived, you’re literally torturing your brain and your body, and it’s really hard to function. So sleep is such an imperative thing, and for your baby, too. If you’re not sleeping and your baby’s not sleeping, physiologically, that baby needs sleep in order to grow, for their brain to develop, for their immune system to function properly. It’s so critical for both parents and children.
Kristin: Agreed. So, really, anyone can benefit from it. Our shortest shift would be coming in at 10:00 PM and leaving at 6:00 AM, but a lot of clients extend that time.
Alyssa: I’ve found that a lot of people like you to come a little bit earlier, especially if they have older children. So if there’s older siblings, let’s say 6:00 comes around and you’re trying to get dinner on the table. You have a two-year-old, a five-year-old, and a newborn.
Kristin: That’s a lot!
Alyssa: That overnight shift tends to, when parents say, yeah, yeah, come at 8:00 or 9:00 when I’m going to go to bed — that very quickly changes to 5:00 or 6:00. So either that shift moves up, or it just lengthens. So the doula can come from, a lot of times, 6:00 PM to 6:00 AM, and they do a lot of 12-hour shifts because they’re there for the hustle and bustle of getting dinner, wrangling toddlers, helping with the newborn, and then helping with bedtime routines for two or three children and then taking that infant newborn and helping them get to sleep. Usually, it’s in that order. Like, the doula will take the baby and put them to sleep, and then the parents get to spend some quality time with this toddler who is usually lashing out because they are used to being the only child, if there’s only one, and are really, really seeking that one-on-one attention that they’re not getting anymore.
Kristin: Yeah, that’s the perfect time to bond, and they can read them a bedtime story and sing songs; whatever their nighttime routines were before Baby arrived.
Alyssa: Yeah, and that’s one thing I stress, too, with my sleep consults is just having a really good bedtime routine, and even if I’m doing a consult for one child and there’s others in the household, I usually ask about them, too, because if you’ve got three kids who all have a different bedtime, and each bedtime routine is taking an hour, certainly whoever’s last on that list is going to bed at 9:00 or something, which is way too late for these little kids. So trying to consolidate and have a system in place and just get a schedule that works for the family, for everyone in the family, is a really big goal.
Kristin: Awesome advice.
Alyssa: So you mentioned earlier that a doula sleeps when the baby sleeps, and sometimes parents wonder, well, what do you mean? What does that look like? Depending on the house, we’ve had doulas sleeping on sofas in the living room.
Kristin: Yes, that’s what I’ve done.
Alyssa: We’ve had doulas sleeping in a spare room. We’ve had doulas sleeping in a spare room on the same floor, in a spare room on a different floor, and you can make anything work.
Kristin: With monitors and technology now, you know the second a baby stirs.
Alyssa: So parents are always like, oh, shoot, I don’t know how this is going to work. How am I going to do that? We’ve had blow-up mattresses in the nursery. Ideally, you want the doula to be as close to the nursey as possible, so they’re the one, when they hear that baby, they’re up; they’re there.
Kristin: No one else gets woken up in the household.
Alyssa: Yeah, you want the parents to be as far away. So sometimes I even tell them if you have a spare bedroom in the basement, go sleep there, because even with one of my most recent sleep clients, the first night we did the sleep consult, the doula was there overnight, and I contacted them the next day: how did you sleep? And they were like, oh, I wanted to so bad, but I kept hearing this phantom crying. Even when the babies weren’t crying, they hear it, anyway. So it does take, as parents, who are used to not sleeping for week after week after week — it takes time for your body and brain to adjust back to, oh, I’m able to sleep again. So it’s not instant. It usually takes at least a couple nights to get your brain to say, I can sleep. It’s okay to sleep through the night. I don’t have any responsibilities tonight. This doula is taking care of it. And it’s just a matter of them getting sleep in two-hour chunks instead of the parents getting sleep in two-hour chunks. So a doula can usually do two or three in a row before they’re too exhausted.
Kristin: Just like a birth doula. We can do a couple nights with a client in the hospital without sleep, and then we’re done.
Alyssa: Yeah. So for those clients of ours who we’ve had for two weeks straight or two months straight, it’s several doulas taking turns. Otherwise, they’re just too exhausted.
Kristin: Right, and that’s where we sometimes will bring in a team if it is continuous care.
Alyssa: But I think ideally, with sleep training, I would love to see every parent have a sleep plan and then a doula for five nights. That would just be — I don’t know; I think the mental well-being of these parents would increase drastically if they were able to do both.
Kristin: I would have loved an overnight doula with my kids being 21 months apart; having a toddler and a newborn. It would have been amazing.
Alyssa: Well, and some people, too, think it’s weird to have somebody sleeping in your home. I mean, always, when they meet the doula, they’re totally fine with it, but it is a weird thought to have this stranger come into your home who’s going to care for your babies. That’s why I think we’re so adamant about talking about our training and our certification process, and we’ve done background checks for people who want us to.
Kristin: Yeah, and we’ve shown immunization records and CPR certifications and so on and liability insurance. We have all of that.
Alyssa: Yeah, because especially with a mom with anxiety who needs to sleep and knows she needs this help, but now she has anxiety because a stranger is going to be sleeping in her home — we need to do whatever you have to, to make that mom feel comfortable to be able to sleep.
Kristin: Yes, and we’re there to do just that. So feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about overnight doulas. We’d love to work with your family! Remember, these moments are golden.
Will a postpartum doula travel? Yes, at Gold Coast they do! Today we talk to Kelsey Dean, a Certified Birth and Postpartum Doula, about her experience in California and in Michigan traveling with families as a postpartum doula and what that looks like. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hello, welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. Today we’re talking to Kelsey Dean, one of our newest postpartum doulas, and then you’ve also come on as a birth doula as well. Welcome!
Kelsey: Thank you!
Alyssa: I wanted to talk specifically about your postpartum experience. Can you tell us where you came from and the type of experience you’ve had in California and even in the Detroit area, right?
Alyssa: And then specifically I want to ask about this traveling aspect of the postpartum doula role.
Kelsey: I started my doula training in 2016 to be a labor doula and postpartum doula. It was just a full-spectrum course, so from there, I had intended to start midwifery school right after, and I thought I really want to get more experience, and so I started picking up postpartum clients because it’s work that’s easy enough to schedule, and it’s also such a rich transition time that it kind of just called to me more. So I began more so nannying for really small children; that was kind of how I got into the doula community and practicing, and then by referral I started to get young families or families that were planning on having children so we could plan a little further in advance. And then I became a full postpartum doula in 2017, so it was about a year transition between doing nanny work and just getting what I could find. In Sonoma County, I served families as a postpartum doula. A lot of overnight shifts were something that were really popular there because sleep is critical. So I moved to Michigan this past summer, in July of 2018, and I got really, really fortunate to link up with Jill Reiter from the After Baby Lady doula services in southeast Michigan, and she was great and connected me with so many families in that area. The experience ranged from single parents to families with really extended family that’s visiting on and off; a lot of range in socioeconomic status, and that’s been really helpful to see, too, to just have that wide range of what can we do; what are your best resources? And now I’m getting a little bit more into the traveling doula idea, and sometimes that’s day work; sometimes it’s overnight. It totally depends on what the family wants, but I’m happy to talk about that more.
Alyssa: Yeah, what does that look like for a family? How far do you travel and how long?
Kelsey: Totally depends on the doula. For me, because I am pretty easily up and mobile, I am willing to go — I can’t think of anywhere I wouldn’t go. I mean, really, if you’re traveling, the idea is that you’re essentially bringing another person with you that you would account for like a family member, so the family that’s hiring is making sure that person has room and board, is able to access everything that they would be accessing like food and tickets and that sort of thing. So in that sense, in some ways, it’s very easy if you’re a single person to just go because you’re just jumping in to the plan that’s already existing. If it’s someplace that’s a little closer by, sometimes – like when I was with a family up in northern Michigan, it was nice that they made accommodations for me, but they already had a home, and so in that case, it’s more a conversation of what does this look like? If I’d had family up there or something, I really wouldn’t have needed that, but if it were, like, we’re going to Mexico and we need a doula, that’s definitely, you know…
Alyssa: You’d have your own room?
Alyssa: And in northern Michigan you stayed in a hotel nearby?
Kelsey: I did, yes, and those are usually flexible things, too. Airbnbs are really affordable, and if they have an extra, you just would get one with one extra room in it or something like that. That’s actually worked out for a couple of doulas that I have been in a collective with in the past, that they just did that house share kind of thing, and then in that time off, usually if they’re working overnight shifts or if doulas are working overnight shifts, then it’s easy enough that they wake up and go to bed around 8:00 AM and then the family gets that nice morning time, and then around nap time, the family gets to all go take a nap and the doula comes back in. So it’s a rotating shift kind of thing. It’s like having another family member. I mean, traveling is already kind of a stressful event, and a lot of the things that you would worry about as a new parent when you’re in your home, like, okay, if I need to go see my doctor, where are they; how long is this going to take; or where can I go find this very specific thing that I need for my own health, like elderberry syrup is really popular now because it’s the middle of winter, but things like that: doulas tend to think about those things, and we want to know that before we go somewhere and it’s just one less thing for the parents or the family to think about over and over and over again. So it’s just like having that extra set of hands that you would need anywhere else.
Alyssa: And what if somebody says, oh, wouldn’t it be cheaper to bring a nanny with me? Like, what would be the difference between hiring a nanny and a postpartum doula to come with you?
Kelsey: I like this topic all the time, traveling or not. Nannies are excellent, and they’re meant to be with you for a long period of time and be with you while your child grows, and that’s wonderful, but they’re not necessarily certified in any education or expertise about your baby. So yes, they might come in like another person that feels very warm and loving, and they feel like another family member and this extension that’s really great, but there might be some really serious cues that they would miss about your newborn because they’re not supposed to know. Whether or not they’ve had kids, they might not have had that experience.
Alyssa: And even cues with the mother, right? Like noticing signs and symptoms, like breastfeeding issues or mental health issues that a postpartum doula is trained in.
Kelsey: Yes, absolutely. And nannies, I think, generally — I mean, I’m thinking about childcare, but in general, nannies really aren’t there for a family in the same way that a doula is. A doula is looking at everyone as a spectrum, as a family, whereas a nanny is really there for the childcare.
Alyssa: I think that’s a common question in general. That’s why I like to ask it, so I like that you like to answer it.
Kelsey: I do! And because I totally get it. I’ve had several of my friends tell me about their nanny experiences with, like, twins that are four weeks old and stuff like that, and they just felt super overwhelmed and totally unprepared, and it’s like, well, yeah, you were.
Alyssa: You haven’t been trained!
Kelsey: Yeah, and a lot of times, the stories are from when my friends, being the nannies or babysitters, they were only, like, 16 or 17, totally unprepared for that kind of circumstance.
Alyssa: That’s kind of like a mother’s helper role at that point. You know, it’s not even — I would have a hard time considered a 16-year-old a nanny. It would be more of a babysitter or a mother’s helper.
Kelsey: Right, yes! If you think of it in village terms, a woman that just had a baby — yes, there are those young women that come in to do some cleaning and make sure that you have fresh clothes and you get time to take a bath, but there’s also the matriarch women, like the women that know what’s right and wrong and how this process goes. You need both. I think doulas, as doulas, we try to cover as much of that spectrum as we can by going through some training and education and experience. And yes, it’s great that you also have the opportunity to have a nanny come in and help in that soft way and maybe make meals and things like that, but it’s just not the whole package.
Alyssa: Yeah, I agree. And a doula — we know that we get into this for a temporary amount of time. Like you said, it’s a whole spectrum. We’ll supporting the whole family, and once the parent or parents feel — you can almost sense that confidence in them when you’re like, okay, it’s time for me to go. And they’re like, well, I don’t want you to go! But it’s like, you’re ready. They’re just not ready for you to leave, and sometimes it has to be gradual. Like, okay, we’ll go from three days a week to two to one, and it’s like this gradual process instead of abruptly ending that relationship. But then it’s a great time for a nanny to step in.
Kelsey: It is. I like the concept that doulas are coming in during a transition time, and we try to be these invisible people that just have everything going on, but then the reality is that we’re not invisible, and it’s a subjective experience, and we’re like, oh, now you have to transition out of us too, like double transition time. But that’s such a good time to connect with mommy groups in the area, or like you said, a nanny. We can make those resources and referrals happen, too.
Alyssa: Well, and that’s the other thing too; we’re connected. Doulas are connected in the community, and like you said, we like to know where, if you’re having an issue about this or that — hey, we know who you should talk to; we know who you should go see. Let me have you call so and so. We know how to make those referrals and connections.
Kelsey: Yeah, we really can ease that transition. And just on the note of nannies, sometimes I know we’ve all found people that were unexpected connections. Like you meet someone that’s a nanny that’s a really good fit for you and your family, and that’s great, and maybe you meet — the first interview that you go on with a doula just doesn’t seem like the right fit, but in the same way, you choose a doctor or a chiropractor or someone like that, and if it’s not the right fit, you still wouldn’t go to a doctor and say, well, I didn’t like that doctor, so I’m just going to see an acupuncturist or a chiropractor or a nurse. If you need a doctor, then that’s who you need, and I think with doulas, it’s very much about finding the right fit. This person is going to be in your house, in your vulnerable space. They’re seeing you at a vulnerable time. It’s so important to get the right fit, and the same thing goes for a nanny, but they’re just not necessarily interchangeable. They don’t replace one another.
Alyssa: Yeah, and I think that’s what’s great about having the team we do is because they’re all wonderful, but they all have different personalities. And I agree; I’m a definite type of personality that wouldn’t want certain traits in a postpartum doula that another mother would be like, no, I need those. So I think you’re right, and meet two or three of them if you have to. If you connect with the first one right away, awesome. Which most of them do because all of our doulas are lovely, but yeah, it’s not like a personal stab to the heart or anything if you don’t get hired. Just maybe it’s a personality thing; personalities just don’t fit.
Kelsey: And at Meet the Doula events where there’s a lot of us, we can feel that, too. As a group of doulas, when a family walks in, you can say, oh, that’s totally a doula family for Kristin; she’s got that one for sure. And it doesn’t mean we don’t like them. I can still totally love a family and want the best for them, but just say that I can totally tell that they’re a match for someone else.
Alyssa: I agree. We do that even with a phone conversation. We can tell. Five minutes of talking to a mom on the phone, and I can be like, I know who you need to talk to. Gina, Julie, Kelsey. You can totally get that vibe right away, and usually it’s spot-on.
Kelsey: Oh, yeah. Women’s intuition.
Alyssa: So when you’re traveling with a family, a nanny just has a salary?
Alyssa: Is that how it works? So everything is the same? But a postpartum doula is an hourly rate, so explain what that looks like for families if they wanted to go on vacation for two weeks and they had a nine-week old baby and wanted to bring a postpartum doula along. What do the hours look like? How do you figure out pay?
Kelsey: It varies per family, again; however, I think the idea that you’re taking someone on vacation so you should be able to get a discounted rate — at first glance, that does make sense. However, when you look at the flip side of that, you’re asking someone to uproot their lives, make sure everything is taken care of on a last-minute basis, and any plans that they may have had in those next two weeks, they have to reschedule. So we are really putting our life on pause for this family, and I think for that reason, there are things that are just assumed that they’re going to be paid for, like the accommodations and the ticket, and no, travel doulas aren’t for everyone because they can be more expensive than a regular postpartum doula. I mean, you’re traveling, so in that sense, it can be — it’s more expensive in general, but usually the rate is about the same. We’re all flexible, and we want to help, so we’re willing to make it work with families. But that being said, it’s usually around the same rate in my experience, and what I’ve heard from other doulas that are also doing this. And as for hourly schedules, we are there.
Alyssa: You can either be there for 10 hours a day or 24, depending on what the family wants, right?
Kelsey: Right, and it’s kind of up to the family and the doula, because just like in any other doula work, if I’m doing an overnight shift here in Grand Rapids, I might be asleep for three of those hours and still being paid to be present in case something were to happen, so that’s something that the doula and the family need to work out. If they want overnight support, is that sleeping overnight support, or would they rather have maybe something until 3:00 AM and then switch so that the doula can get some sleep? There’s always a way to work it, and if cost is a limiting factor, then maybe 24-hour support isn’t the best choice, but there’s just so many different ways to work that, just like natural doula work in any other location. And I think most people usually would prefer to have a 12-hour shift or something like that and then have a little time where it’s just them and just their new family and have that bonding time where there’s not another person kind of butting in and out because after a while we, if you can tell that everything is going really smoothly, it’s like I don’t need to ask you again if you need anything; I can tell you don’t. But if we’re traveling with you, we’re wherever you are. It’s not that we’re out partying in Mexico for three hours and coming back to you. We’re probably just right down the street or at the beach or getting lunch, just in case you call or something like that. So it’s so flexible, and maybe a little bit — I think maybe doulas are a little bit more available in that kind of circumstance. Like, if you wanted more care, we’re already right there.
Alyssa: Right, whereas a nanny service could be a little bit more rigid? Like, you have her from this time to this time, and if you call after that, she’s not going to answer.
Kelsey: Yes. And another thing about those excursions, like going-out-into-the-world excursions kind of things, when I was living in Sonoma, there were families that would want to go wine-tasting or something like that during the day, which is great; live it up. I don’t know if that really counts so much as traveling; it’s more like a day-long event where you just need an extra pair of hands and somebody to juggle all these things.
Alyssa: Well, and wine-tasting, specifically, you want a pair of sober hands, right, to be caring for your baby while you go wine-tasting. That’s probably a really good choice!
Kelsey: And I guess that’s not something that — I don’t know if we would run into that here very often, although the beer thing — like people might go on a beer tour or something like that, but it’s just like, that’s great, get out and do your thing, and a pair of sober hands to make sure there’s a quiet place for napping — and you’d be amazed. Some of those places, if you’re going to on a wine-tasting day or bop around a city, it’s totally beautiful and it’s totally feasible. It’s not this wild, crazy, drunken event. It’s okay to bring your baby with you. It’s just that there need to be safety precautions in place, so another pair of hands, yes, is critical.
Alyssa: Well, and especially let’s say if you have a three-year-old as well. I think that makes it even trickier. You just say, okay, I’m not even going to do these outings anymore. But if you know you have this trusted professional that can come with you, why not? Why not bring the kids along and let them experience this and everyone can enjoy it?
Kelsey: Yes, and just in terms of mental health and overall wellbeing, that kind of feeling when you know you can go out and do something that you really want to do, in 15 hours, you’re going to feel like a better person than when you were stuck at the house, like I can’t leave; I’m stuck here. Just having that mentality switch of having this liberation, this choice to make, that if I want to go do this thing, I can. It’s so relieving. A lot of moms just feel stuck, like I have to take care of my two kids right now, and they’re both driving me crazy at the same time, but I can’t leave.
Alyssa: Right. And obviously, money is a factor for some families, and in that sense, a neighborhood little girl or mother’s helper might be the right fit for them if that’s all that they have the resources for. And then in-home doula support is another level, and then traveling would be another level beyond that.
Kelsey: Yes, traveling is definitely the most fortunate option, but even if — I mean, the great thing about postpartum doulas is that you can have us in your house, and you don’t need to go anywhere. If you want to go take a nap or take a shower, that’s normal. That’s so much a part of our job.
Alyssa: That’s the majority, yeah. I mean, sometimes a client will need to get out, and we tell them, you know what, go run for a coffee and come back in an hour. But that almost gets into that babysitter role, like I’m just going to watch your kids while you leave. I think as a postpartum doula, to be there with the family is critical because you can see them in action; you can help the mother bond with her baby if you see her struggling or help her with breastfeeding support or tell her, you know what, go take a shower or take a nap; I got this. And when she wakes up and you’ve done the dishes, the baby’s napping, and you’re picking up the house, she’s like — you’re an angel! This all happened in two hours? How did you do this? So I think really being there for the family when the family is there is critical, but there are those times of need where you’re like, this mom needs to get out, and whether you go with her or tell her to go alone, I think sometimes that’s just as important.
Kelsey: Absolutely. It is nice to have a whole family perspective, to see everyone together, and I know that’s hard, especially if one parent is working or if it’s a couple and one person is working already by the time they get a postpartum doula in the house. That can be really challenging, but I’ve definitely had families who, even when there’s only one person, you can feel something is just in the air. Like, we’re not talking about the partner that’s not home, and there’s, of course, different ways to handle that. We do hear a fair amount, and there’s that fine line that’s, like, oh, playing around, and maybe that’s how the relationship is with those people, that they’ve always kind of joked with each other like that, but sometimes it’s not. Your hormones are all over the place, and as doulas, we have a limited role in that, I think. As a postpartum doula, there’s definitely been times where I just thought, you know what? This is maybe rooted deeper than the postpartum period, and I know that therapy sounds like a four-letter word for some people, but there’s so many different ways to access really great conflict resolution and therapeutic helpers in the world that can sometimes just be a phone call from home that’s really private. And if that’s something that is very built up already in someone’s mind, maybe we can find the resources. But most of all, I think we’re the eyes in those kinds of circumstances to just be able to sense out just how strong the conflict is, to be able to make a plan of attack. A lot of times, we get to ask the questions that are the uncomfortable questions that the cousin or the aunt or the mother-in-law would notice, but wouldn’t want to say anything because you want to preserve that relationship for a lifetime, and it’s a little more delicate.
Alyssa: Or if they did ask, mom wouldn’t answer honestly or would be offended or would get angry. But coming from her doula who is in her home and she loves and now trusts, it feels like a friend asking, and you’re available to be open and vulnerable with this person. It’s amazing how quickly that bond forms between a doula and a parent. They just become so vulnerable with you, and I think that’s the beauty of the relationship that becomes between these two or three — usually it’s mom, baby, and doula, where they have this relationship, and that’s why it’s so hard to leave because mom has formed this bond. And baby, too, you know? Oftentimes, it’s really hard to leave that baby that you’ve been with. We have birth doulas who have been with a mom throughout pregnancy. They were there for labor and delivery, and then there for months afterwards. So that’s a really strong bond. It’s really har d to sever.
Kelsey: Absolutely it is, especially because you want to see the next step. You know, there’s always that one next thing that’s almost there and you just want to be there for it. Yeah, that is a hard bond to sever. And they don’t have to severed. I mean, we’re always there. We just love. Doulas are such big lovers that it doesn’t have to be this severed bond of never speaking to each other again. We just aren’t going to be in your house four days a week anymore.
Alyssa: Right, and you end up becoming Facebook friends and following photos there. They’ll send random photos via text, so yeah, I think that relationship continues; it’s just a little less frequent. Well, thank you for joining us. If anyone is interested in learning more about Kelsey or hiring her for in-home or traveling doula, she is available, and you can contact us to chat about that.
On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa and Cindy talk about how to find a babysitter that you trust to watch your kids. You can listen to this entire podcast epidode on iTunes and Soundclound.
Alyssa: Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas. I am Alyssa, and I’m here with Cindy from Cindy’s Suds.
Alyssa: I’m kind of throwing this topic at her because we had a question asked: how do you find babysitters? So we have these moms who are having babies, and then let’s say they don’t have friends and family around.
Cindy: We were fortunate in that my mom lives in the area, and my sister lived in the area when we had our kids, when they were younger. So we were fortunate that we had family babysitters at the ready, but my parents started traveling a few years after we had kids, and so then I needed to get a babysitter, somebody that I had on standby instead of my dear mom and my sister. So it was interesting because it’s very challenging trying to find a sitter who you trust with your most precious possession, which is your child or your children. I think in an earlier episode, you and I had talked about interviewing preschools and schools.
Alyssa: Yeah, pediatricians and stuff.
Cindy: It’s no different with babysitters, and so that’s the thing that I started doing when we needed to find a babysitter is I started interviewing, and I started asking friends for babysitter referrals. If I had a babysitter that I liked, that I would use periodically, I would ask them if they had friends that also were sitters. But I did my due diligence, just like we talked about for pediatricians or for schools. I interviewed them, and I had them with me and my kids for a while so I could see them interact with my children, and that was a huge tell-tale for how they would interact with kids. It’s surprising how some babysitters are naturally so great with kids, and others that claim to be babysitters would sit on the ground and have no idea how to interact with kids. So it’s kind of interesting just the whole gamut of what kind of person you’re going to get when you really start looking for a sitter, and I would just really make sure that if you’re in that boat, you do some interviewing, just like you would do for pediatricians or schools or whatever.
Alyssa: Yeah, I think having – I see a lot of clients who don’t even want a babysitter because they’re so scared to leave them. So I tell them a good middle ground; like, ease your way into it; have them come over while you’re home. It’s almost like a mother’s helper role. You pay them a little bit less just to say, hey, come over for two hours. Will you watch my son or daughter while I cook or nap – not nap, probably, because you want to watch them, but maybe cook or clean or just get some errands done around the house. Really start to feel comfortable with that person before you leave the house.
Cindy: I agree 100%, and that’s what I did, too, for our sitters when we were looking for them. You want them in your home with you there so that you can have that mom-ear to hear and to listen for interaction. And also if they have questions; they can ask you while you’re there, and you can kind of guide them through what your son or daughter may like, not like, you know, different things like that. Even changing diapers – this is a funny story. My sister was in her 20s when she first started babysitting for us, and I guess I assumed that she would remember how to change diapers from when she had babysat 10 years prior, and the first time that we had left her with our daughter who was little, maybe four or five months at the time, when we came home from whatever event that my husband and I had to go to, her diapers was on backwards! Which cracked me up because she’s like, 22, 23, and this must have been something that she couldn’t quite remember.
Alyssa: The Velcro goes in back!
Cindy: Right, right.
Alyssa: At least you realized it before bedtime and woke up to a huge mess in the middle of the night.
Cindy: Right. And we actually were cloth diapering, but we left some disposables thinking that it would be easier than a cloth diaper, and even that must have thrown her. So very funny because she’s my sister that has quadruplets, so she actually has really had to get it.
Alyssa: Now she knows how to change a diaper!
Cindy: Now she knows how to change diapers! But yeah, I think it’s great if you’re able to be there with the babysitter, a couple of hours at a time here, a couple of hours at a time there. You’ll really get an idea of how they interact with your children, and that is by far the best way to really weed out who you want to watch your children.
Alyssa: So our first-time moms do that, and then by the time you have kid number two or three, they’re like, we don’t even care. Just give me somebody.
Cindy: And references from friends, like if you have friends that have said, hey, so-and-so is great. I think that’s a super valuable resource, too, because now you’ve got this person who’s kind of been vetted by a friend of yours already, so that’s a good option.
Alyssa: Neighbors, too. You know, we have a couple girls in our neighborhood who can literally walk here, and that’s really convenient, especially if they’re not 16 yet, you know, if you trust a 14- or 15-year-old with your kid and they can just walk here.
Cindy: And I think the nice thing about a 14- or 15-year-old, when you have an older child, that’s a great age compliment.
Alyssa: Yeah. It’s almost like they’re not embarrassed to be silly; does that make sense?
Cindy: Right, exactly.
Alyssa: But if you get an 18-year-old, and they’re like, hmm.
Cindy: Exactly; that is so true. And so if you just need somebody for the day, you know, if you’re running errands during the day, if you’ve got a daytime meeting, I think that age bracket is actually a more fun age bracket. If your kids are between the ages of three, four to maybe eight or so, that’s a super fun age for that younger teen to babysit because they can be silly and they can be fun, and if they’re in your neighborhood, they can walk over, and how great is that? So that’s super convenient, too.
Alyssa: Yeah, I think it gets easier as your kids get older. When you have an infant, I’d say up until one, right, you really want somebody experienced. I had one babysitter I trusted, and she was CPR-certified, and I knew her family. So it’s different if you’re not hiring a nanny or a postpartum doula or you don’t have your mom, but even if you’re having a caregiver, like your grandparents as caregivers or baby’s grandparents, I got nervous about that when my parents watched her because they were 35 years out of the game, and they didn’t know all these things that have changed in 34 years. Unplanned segue; we have The Modern Grandparent class that we teach. So it just updates grandparents on all these things and how to be great babysitters. Let’s talk about SIDS and crib safety, Back to Sleep, how to bottle-feed, how to support the mom if she’s a breastfeeding mom.
Cindy: That’s a perfect thing to think about as well, because they haven’t been sitting; they haven’t watched kids in many, many years, and things have changed.
Alyssa: I mean, if your sister after 10 years forgot how to put a diaper on correctly, what do the grandparents forget in 35 years, sometimes 40? We’ve got moms who are 40, so when you have grandparents as caregivers, it’s also a source of anxiety. Babysitters in general, just especially for new parents; it’s stressful.
Cindy: It’s so nerve-wracking. The first time I left my daughter, I cried and cried and cried. I had a miserable night out, and it’s because you feel as a mom like you’re the only person that can take care of your child. And while you may feel that, that’s probably not true. But you’ve got to really feel good about the sitter so that you can enjoy yourself because the whole purpose of having a babysitter is maybe to either reconnect with your husband, have a date night, go to meetings. It’s so that you can really establish who you are again, whether that’s the work force or different groups or events that you were a part of before you had a baby. You need to feel comfortable with that sitter so that you can get back to remembering who you are as a person before you were a mom, which I think is super easy for us as moms to forget about the person who we were before we became a mom. I think we can kind of separate and draw a line: “Now I’m a mom; now I can’t do the things that I did beforehand.” So finding that sitter, whether it’s a grandparent who has gone through the grandparenting class that you guys offer, or if it’s a sitter that actually has done some CPR certification training or is super involved with other kid groups or that’s she’s been around children a lot, so she is comfortable. You just need to make sure that you’re finding a babysitter who you can completely trust so that you can enjoy whatever activity you’re doing to need the sitter in the first place.
Alyssa: Yeah, if it’s supposed to be an enjoyable night out, you want to enjoy it, and if you’re supposed to be at work, you need to be productive. Crying at your desk all day is not productive.
Cindy: Right, exactly.
Alyssa: Well, hopefully we gave everyone some good tips. Babysitters can be tricky, but when you find a good one, don’t let them go.
Cindy: Exactly, yeah. They’re worth their weight in gold; they really are, so make sure that you find that one or two, and if you can have a couple, that’s nicer just because if you are – we had one that we loved when our kids were little, and when she wasn’t free, we didn’t go out. And that’s also not really productive, either. You really want to have a couple, a little group of sitters who you feel comfortable with and who your kids feel comfortable with.
Alyssa: We have several because some are high school students. Some are college students. Their schedules are all different, and I know that my high school girls are going to be graduating, and their schedules get different, and then the 14-year-olds are much more available than the 17- or 18-year-olds because now they’re getting into boyfriends and dating and all these events and maybe they have other jobs. So I have to have a wide array because otherwise, yeah, if you have one sitter, you’re probably out of luck most of the time. Because you’re not their only job; I bet they have other babysitting jobs.
Cindy: Very true.
Alyssa: Well, thanks for sharing. As always, you can find us at goldcoastdoulas.com. Email us with ideas at email@example.com. And then, Cindy, where can people find you?
Cindy: You can find us on our website. It’s www.cindyssuds.com, and you can also email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re carried locally in the Harvest Health stores, Kingma’s, Hopscotch, and several other local retailers.
I have a bachelor’s degree in health sciences from GVSU. I have been a nanny, worked at an adult foster care home and currently work in the insurance industry..
2) What inspired you to become a doula?
When I was pregnant I had an incredible support system. That unconditional support made me feel like Superwoman! I felt confident and empowered. I want to be that type of support for other women and their families. Every woman deserves to feel like Superwoman as they become a mother!
3) Tell us about your family?
My husband, Joe, and I have been together for 11 years. We have two adorable kids. My daughter, Elliot, is a chatterbox and loves to make people laugh. My son, Colby, is determined to keep up with his big sister and is always on the move. We have a retired racing greyhound, named Maeby, who takes her retirement very seriously and naps more than anything but she also loves to be outdoors and always prefers to be wherever the people are.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
Half Moon Beach in Green Island, Jamaica(just north of Negril). It is pure paradise. My husband and I were married on their private beach. The view is breathtaking. And what’s not to love about waking up to waves crashing just below the front deck of your private cabin?? Not to mention the delicious food!
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is a tough question! I love a wide variety of music and if you ask me next week my answers might be different 😉
Anything bluegrass- give me a string bass, mandolin, a fiddle and a banjo any day!! The tempo and variety of instruments gets my toes tapping
Adele- her songs have so much emotion. Belting out one of her ballads at the top of my lungs is just plain cathartic. My daughter especially loves belting it out with me.
Dave Matthews Band- I love jam bands in general but seeing DMB solidified my love for them
Lake Street Dive- I love the jazzy bass lines and the smooth vocals.
Most classic rock- reminds me of my childhood. My dad used to put on Dark Side of the Moon at night to help me sleep.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Trust your instincts. Parenting is incredibly rewarding but it is also a pretty tough gig. You can feel pressure from family and friends to do things a specific way. Weigh the options and make the decision that you feel is best for your family.
7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
My sense of humor can ease tension and help women, and their birth partners, relax. I’m also upbeat and smiling is contagious 🙂
8) What is your favorite food?
Anything spicy, especially curries and Mexican dishes
9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Grand Rapids will always hold a special place in my heart. I love all the festivals, the sports teams, the museums, endless breweries and phenomenal restaurants. It has a small town feel with some big city perks and it is a short drive from the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan.
10) What are you reading now?
The Birth Partner.
11) Who are is your role model?
My grandmother, Eugenia Gould Huntoon. She will be 104 on April 24th and she is affectionately know as the Queen of Huntoon Harmony Hall and “The Longest Running Show Off Broadway.” She was in multiple theater and musical groups and even went on tour to local nursing homes to play piano and put on sing alongs. She leaves every room full of smiles and laughter. She has always encouraged me to do my best and follow my dreams. I like to think I get my optimism, sense of humor and love for bright colors from her but I certainly didn’t get her musical talent or singing voice.