night nurse

Jamie doula

Meet our new postpartum doula, Jamie!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sleep Consultant

Megan’s Sleep Story: Podcast Episode #80

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.

Alyssa:  Unknowingly.

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.

Megan:  Yep.

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.

Megan:  No!

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?

Megan:  Yeah.

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 info@goldcoastdoulas.com.  You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram.  Thanks, and remember, these moments are golden.

 

Postpartum Depression

Supporting a Postpartum Mother: Podcast Episode #79

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!

 

Jen Serba Doula

Meet our new doula, Jen!

 

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

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

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

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

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

3) Tell us about your family.

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

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

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

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

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

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

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

Justin Timberlake. No explanation needed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

8) What is your favorite food?

Grilled salmon, redskin potatoes, and asparagus!

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

I really enjoy visiting Traverse city, MI.

10) What are you reading now? 

Brene Brown’s Rising Strong

11) Who are your role models?

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

 

Sleep Consultant

Chris’ Personal Sleep Story: Podcast Episode #73

Chris Emmer, a former client, talks about her sleep journey with daughter, Sam, and working with Alyssa.  She started when Sam was six months old and cannot believe she waited so long to seek help.  In a sleep-deprived fog, she finally called in “the big guns” for help!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast.  I am Alyssa, and I am so excited to be talking with Chris Emmer today.  Hello, Chris!

Chris:  Hi!

Alyssa:  You were a client of ours.  You did birth, postpartum, and then sleep with me.  So we’re going to focus in on sleep today.

Chris:  Let’s talk about sleep, the most important thing!

Alyssa:  So when did you realize that you needed help with sleep?  How old was Sam, and how did the beginning weeks or months go with sleep?  Were you like, “Oh, yeah, this is great, no problem”?

Chris:  Okay, definitely wasn’t, “Oh, yeah, this is great.”  It’s hard to say because honestly, those first couple of months – I call them the blackout period.  I kind of don’t remember what happened.  I know I wasn’t sleeping.  I know I cried a bunch, and I was breastfeeding, like, 24/7.  But I don’t know; it’s all such a blur in those first couple months, and I remember doing a lot of research on everything.  So before I had her, I did a lot of research on car seats and cribs and diapers and all the things you buy, but I did zero research on sleep and breastfeeding – the two most important things!  So after she was born, I felt like I was doing a crash course in how to have a kid.  And after doing a lot of internet searches and downloading ebooks and taking webinars, all these things, I was feeling so overwhelmed with information.  My baby’s not sleeping.  I feel like I’m going to lose my mind.  Like, I just need to talk to a person!  And that was when I reached out to you.

Alyssa:  And how old was she?  Six months?

Chris:  I think she might have been six months, yeah.

Alyssa:  That’s what comes to my mind.

Chris:  I think so.

Alyssa:  So do you feel like you had six months of just pure sleep deprivation?  You were just gone?

Chris:  Absolutely.  Yeah.  There was no day and no night.  And I remember very vividly sitting in my chair in the corner of the nursery breastfeeding, and when I got out of the bed and went to the chair, watching my husband just sprawl out and take up the entire bed, and just shooting daggers out of my eyes at him.  And sometimes coughing loudly.  “How was your night?” I would say to him in the morning.  But yeah, we just had no strategy was the thing, and there was a ton of crying on her part, as well.  She wasn’t just having a fly by the seat of her pants good time.  She was not a happy camper, either, so we were like, okay, let’s step this up a level.  We’ve got to do something here.

Alyssa:  Right.  I think the crying part is a big part of sleep deprivation for the child that the parents don’t think about, because they’ll call me and say, “I don’t want to do cry it out.”  I’m like, “Good, I don’t do cry it out.  But you have to understand that crying is just a healthy part of how a baby communicates, and in these sleep-deprived kids, your baby has done a heck of a lot more crying than they’re going to do while we get them on a schedule, and then there will be no crying.”  So if you think about, cumulatively, how many hours of crying she did over those past six months because she was sleep deprived, and maybe you have to deal with a little bit of it during sleep training.  I want to kind of hear about the journey from six months until now because we had some ups and downs with sleep.  We’d get her on track, and then a new developmental milestone would happen and you would be like, “Help!  What’s going on?”

Chris: That’s me, frantically texting Alyssa!  So around six months – I honestly think before that, she wasn’t taking a single nap during the day, and when I talked to you, you were like, okay, psycho, you should be doing actually three naps a day.  Here’s what time they are; here’s how they go.  And then in the beginning, you gave us the shush-pat technique, which was what we did for a while there.  And it ended up working super well.  I think before we decided to call in the big shots, which is you, we were like, oh, sleep training; what a scary word.  We better stock up on wine for the weekend we do that!  You know, we thought it was going to be this traumatic thing, and we would both be scarred, and our child would be emotionally scarred.  But she cried less the first weekend we did sleep training than she did any normal weekend when we weren’t doing it.  Like, significantly less.  I think she only cried for 15 minutes the first time, and then she fell asleep.  Like, what??

Alyssa:  I remember you saying, “How is this possible?  What did you do to my child?  Whose baby is this?”

Chris:  Yeah, what’s happening?  Did you possess my child?  So yeah, we were just shocked that it worked almost right away, and it was not traumatizing whatsoever.  What we were doing before was much more traumatizing, and we were doing that every single day!  So once we had a few successes, it became much easier to stick to a more planned-out schedule, so that was around six months.

Alyssa:  I remember the best was the photo you sent of me – I think she was now taking regular naps.  It was the third or fourth day in a row, and you were like, oh, my God, she’s an hour through this two-hour nap.  We’re going to hit the hot tub.  And you sent me a picture of two champagne glasses on the edge of the hot tub, and you were like, yes!  We did it!

Chris:  That’s one of my favorite parenting memories!  It was the greatest success because really, I feel like sleep is probably the most important thing.

Alyssa:  I think it is!

Chris:  Yeah, especially in terms of sanity for mom and dad.  My emotional state was not stable when I was super sleep deprived.  I was just forgetting everything, crying at the drop of a hat.  It really affects you.

Alyssa:  On so many levels.   Your relationship; your child’s not happy, so you can’t even bond with your child effectively because you’re both sleep deprived and unhappy, and then you’re like, why are you crying?  I don’t know what to do, and you just want to sleep, and we end up getting in these really bad cycles of, well, I just want to sleep, so let’s just do this, whatever “this” ends up being, whether it’s cosleeping or breastfeeding or holding or rocking or driving in the car.  You just kind of get into survival mode.

Chris:  Yeah.  And I would just nurse her to sleep.  I think I spent – oh, my God.  I feel like I spent the entire summer sitting in my nursing chair trying to breastfeed her to sleep and then slow motion trying to drop her into the crib, and then she would just wake up one second later, and I’d be like, ugh, that was an hour and a half of work, and now she’s wide awake!  So yeah, that was the beginning.

Alyssa:  And then I didn’t hear from you for a little while, and then probably maybe eight or nine months, you think, she had another development milestone where she was sitting up or something?

Chris:  Yeah, she started sitting up and then she started crawling.  I remember when she first started crawling, that was a huge change because she would just do laps around her crib.  She was running a marathon in there, and I would just watch her on the monitor and be like, oh, my God, I can’t shush-pat her anymore.  She hates that!

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s way too stimulating.

Chris:  Yes, which I wouldn’t have known if I didn’t text you again!  I was still in there trying to shush-pat her for hours.

Alyssa:  She’s, like, get away from me, lady!

Chris:  She’s like, all right, chill, Mom; stop!  So at that point – what did we do at that point?  We stopped shush-pat.  Oh, we started the timed-out interventions.

Alyssa:  Yeah, just going in after a certain amount of time, increasing intervals.  Yeah, and I think that worked the first day.

Chris: The first day, yeah.  I think the longest that I went was 15 minutes, and again, it’s like – I previously had thought 15 minutes of my baby crying – sounds like hell!  But once it was happening, I was like, oh, wait, I do this all the time.  Like, I’ve done this a million times.  I’ll actually just put away the dishes and make a snack and then, oh, look at the monitor – she’s asleep!  It was super easy, and she got the hang of it almost immediately.  So once I stopped trying to shush-pat her and wake her up from her ability to put herself to sleep, it was not a big deal anymore.  But yeah, same thing; that milestone came up and totally changed the sleep game.

Alyssa:  So where is she at now?

Chris:  Oh, my God, she sleeps through the night!

Alyssa:  Yay!

Chris:  I’m so happy!

Alyssa:  And how many months is she?

Chris:  She’s going to be 11 months next week, yeah, and she’s been sleeping through the night every night for, I don’t know, a couple weeks at least.

Alyssa:  Awesome.

Chris:  Yeah, it’s amazing.  And she goes down super easy for her morning nap.  It’s not even an issue anymore.  I remember I used to, in the beginning of the week, I would count how many times I would have to put her down for naps that week, so there were, like, 3 per day, 5 days in the week – the week where I’m home alone – so that would be 15 nap put-downs, and I would be, like, okay I’m at 6 out of 15.  I can do this!  And now it’s like, it doesn’t matter who puts her down for a nap because I just set her in the crib.

Alyssa:  Yeah, her body just knows it’s time.  She doesn’t fight it.  Incredible!  Yay!

Chris:  I know, it’s a game changer!

Alyssa:  And you’re feeling good?

Chris:  I’m feeling good!

Alyssa:  Your husband’s feeling good?

Chris:  Yeah, well, he got to sleep through the night for a long time.

Alyssa:  Yeah, not that it affected him too much, right?

Chris:  I was just watching him.  But I wondered this: how long do you think it takes after your baby sleeps through the night for you to feel well rested again?

Alyssa:  That’s funny because a lot of times we’ll do sleep consultations, and we’ll say, how did you sleep?  And I had one dad tell me that he heard phantom crying all night and couldn’t sleep because he was just so used to waking up.  I think their babies were 9 or 11 weeks or something.  So two months straight, you know; it’s not six months, but it’s two months.  It took them a good week or so to get back into their own groove.  So you just need to figure out your groove again.  So maybe you’re trying to stay up too late.

Chris:  I don’t know.  I do still wake up to any little noise on the monitor.  I’m like, oh, is she okay?

Alyssa:  So turn the monitor off.

Chris:  What?  You can do that?

Alyssa:  Yeah!  As soon as my daughter started sleeping through the night and was old enough that I was like, she’s so fine – monitor off.  Actually, monitor not even in my room anymore, and earplugs in.  She’s just down the hall.  If she starts crying, I’m going to hear her, but I don’t want to hear every little wakeup.  I don’t want to hear every little peep, and I still do that.  Earplugs in.

Chris:  Oh, my God.  That’s genius.  Because if she’s really crying, we can absolutely hear her.

Alyssa:  You’re going to hear her, absolutely.

Chris:  But yeah, the little rumbles in the night wake me up, and then I’m like, oh, is she okay?  And then I just watch the monitor like it’s a TV show.

Alyssa:  No, she’s good.  She’s good.  Yeah, you’re causing yourself more anxiety than you need by checking that monitor.

Chris:  Yeah.  Okay!

Alyssa:  They’re lifesavers in the beginning and especially during training because then you don’t have to get out of bed.  You can go, oh, she’s just rustling around; okay, she’s calming down; okay, she’s back asleep.  And you didn’t have to get out of bed.  But now that she’s steady and she’s got a nap schedule and she’s sleeping through the night – she’s good.

Chris:  You’re going to change my world!

Alyssa:  Go buy some earplugs when we leave!

Chris:  Yeah!

Alyssa:  Yeah, because you don’t want to wake up at every little peep.  And as a mom, it’s just that we’re always going to do that now.  Every single little noise: oh, are they okay?  Are they okay?  They’re okay.

Chris:  I love that.

Alyssa:  And my daughter is six now.  I always check in on her.  I’ll put her to bed or my husband will put her to bed, and I still, before bed, check in on her once or twice before I go to sleep because I just like that peace of mind.  I’m going to sleep now.  I’m putting my earplugs in.  I want to get a good night’s rest.  She’s okay.

Chris:  Wow.  When do you think they started making video baby monitors?

Alyssa:  I don’t know.  Good question!

Chris:  Because I often wonder, like, what did my mom do?

Alyssa:  Not that long ago.

Chris:  Not that long ago?

Alyssa:  I think it’s kind of new, like within the past decade.  Yeah, because they just had the sound ones when we were little.

Chris:  We survived!

Alyssa:  Yeah!  So what’s one tip you would give somebody about sleep training?

Chris:  Oh, my God.  Get a plan ASAP!

Alyssa:  Don’t wait?

Chris:  Don’t wait!  I honestly sometimes want to have a second kid just so I can nail it on certain things that I really struggled with this time, and one of them is sleep.  First of all, I would have gotten out of her room.  We slept in her room, a couple feet away from her, until January 1st.  She was born in June!

Alyssa:  That’s eight months!

Chris:  We slept in the same room as her for eight months!  Is that crazy?

Alyssa:  Yeah.  Well, the AAP says that you should room share for twelve months.  That’s their safe sleep guideline.  For most parents, that’s not conducive to their lifestyle.  You have to get up early for work; you have older kids.  But some people do room share for six to twelve months.  It does make sleep training a little bit more difficult because you’re hearing them and they’re hearing you.  So it’s really up to the parent.  It’s not crazy that you did it, but I think it definitely didn’t help your situation.

Chris:  Right.  Yeah, I found that we were doing exactly that.  We were both keeping each other up all night.  So when we got out of the room, that was a huge game changer, but just getting even more consistency for naps and just having a game plan instead of just all the crying for nothing.  You know, all the crying for just a hot mess and no nap.  It just feels like a waste, so then when it was, like, a few minutes of crying for a reason, it was so much easier to do because I knew it was for her good, and for my good, as well.

Alyssa:  Well, and crying just to cry does you no good.  I have clients come to me and say that they’ve tried cry it out; they’ve let her cry for two hours.  I’m like, that was for nothing.  That’s absolutely for nothing.  And that is doing your child harm and giving her unnecessary stress.  You have to have a plan, and you have to have somebody, an expert, telling you: here is the plan.  Here’s how it’s going to work.  Here’s how we execute it to get good results, because if you just try it on your own, it is all for nothing.  And it’s so hard because people give up.  Parents just want to give up.  “I tried it; didn’t work.  I give up.  I throw in the towel.  I’m just going to give in and do X, Y, and Z.” So it’s really hard.  Or people will say, oh, I did this online course.  I’m like, well, that online course doesn’t know you.  They don’t know your baby.  They don’t know your parenting style.  They don’t know what you’ve tried.  They don’t know what works and what didn’t work.  So it’s really hard.

Chris:  I downloaded, like I said, a million ebooks; did all these online courses; like, everything.  And it just, like you said, it wasn’t my baby.  I read it, and I was like, yeah, it sounds awesome to be able to do that, but my baby would never in a million years do that.  So I read all the things that I was supposed to be doing, and honestly, those just made me more anxiety because it made me feel like more of a failure.

Alyssa:  Right.  “I did it, and I’m still failing, so what is wrong?”  Or maybe that method would have worked, but they didn’t tell you how to execute it for your baby.

Chris:  Yes, or how to troubleshoot.  Like, okay, I went in and did this, and now I’m out of the room and she’s doing this – what’s next?  And when you just have a book, for me, what would be nice is to go in and grab her and breastfeed her.  Let’s get a boob in her mouth and see what happens!

Alyssa:  Well, that’s why having my one-on-one support is great because when that happens, you can text me and say, oh no!  This is not supposed to happen; what do I do?  And I can say, yes, this is supposed to happen; you did totally find; you did exactly what you needed to do.  Let’s just wait it out for five minutes.

Chris:  Yep.  The text message support over the weekend – we did that twice, right?

Alyssa:  Yeah.

Chris:  That was the 1000% game changer.  Like, I cannot even recommend that enough because those minutes when you’re feeling like you’re going to break, you know?  You’re like, oh, I don’t know what to do; I’ve got to go in there!  Instead, I would text you, and you would say, you got this!  One more minute!  Or you’d say give it ten more, and if it doesn’t work out, then go get her.  And I’d be like, okay.

Alyssa:  Or let’s try this, and if it doesn’t work again tomorrow, we’re going to think of a plan B.

Chris:  Yeah.  The text message support was the absolute game changer, and just having a human also holds you really accountable because I knew that you were going to –

Alyssa:  Yeah, I was going to text you and say, hey, what’d you do last night?  How did it go?

Chris:  Exactly, yeah.

Alyssa:  Did you move out of that room?

Chris:  Yeah, so the accountability to actually implement the things that you’re learning makes it so that you can’t back out without being a liar!

Alyssa:  Right.  I’ll know!  I’ll be checking your Instagram feed!  Make sure you’re not lying to me about this!

Chris:  But yeah, that was the biggest and best thing that we did in parenting, I think, was to figure out sleep.

Alyssa:  It’s huge.  That’s why I love it so much.  I mean, it can be detrimental to your health and your relationships to have bad sleep.  Anything else you want to say?

Chris: Definitely don’t wait to do sleep training would be what I would say!  Next time around – well, if I do a next time around – I’m going to start sleep training immediately!

Alyssa:  There are ways to start healthy sleep habits from the beginning!  It’s not sleep training; a six-week old baby can’t sleep through the night, but just helping to develop good habits.

Chris:  Yep.  Because we had no clue.  I mean, I look back at the beginning when we first got home from the hospital, and I would have her in her bassinet in the middle of the living room, middle of the day, music blaring, and I’d be like, why aren’t you going to sleep?  Just go to sleep!

Alyssa:  And now to you that seems like common sense, but when you’re in a fog and you’re sleep deprived and all you’re worried about is breastfeeding this baby and trying to get sleep, you’re not even thinking clearly enough to realize that this baby is in the middle of the room in daylight with music blaring; why won’t they sleep?  Like, it doesn’t even cross your mind that it could be an unhealthy sleep habit.

Chris:  Exactly, yeah.  So my advice is, when you are in your sleep deprived brain fog, don’t rely on your own brain!  Rely on someone else’s brain!

Alyssa:  Right.  “I’m going to do this myself, because sleep deprivation is a good place to start.”  It’s not!  Statistically, one and a half hours of lost sleep in one night, you are as impaired as a drunk driver.

Chris:  Is that for real?  One and a half hours of sleep lost in one night and you’re as impaired as a drunk driver?

Alyssa:  Mm-hmm, and we drive around our kids like this.  Yeah.

Chris: So then what is considered a full night’s sleep for an adult?

Alyssa:  Probably eight hours.  I mean, some of us need nine; some need seven.  But for you and what your body needs, if you lose an hour to two of sleep…

Chris: Wow, that’s crazy!

Alyssa:  Yeah, it’s like buzzed driving.

Chris:  Scary.  I believe it, though!

Alyssa:  I feel it.  Yeah, if I’m sleep deprived, you can feel almost your head just kind of goes into a different space.  That’s like when you’re driving and you miss your exit because you weren’t paying attention.

Chris:  Yeah, I’ve missed my own road!  Seriously, multiple times!  Or you get home and you’re like, how did I get here?

Alyssa:  Yeah, you’re in a fog!

Chris:  Good thing she’s sleeping through the night now!

Alyssa:  Awesome.  Well, thanks for joining me today!  We’ll have you on again another time to talk about your business!

Chris:  Awesome!

Alyssa:  Thanks for listening.  Remember, these moments are golden!

 

Trusted birth team

Your Trusted Birth Team

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)!

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)

March of Dimes

Evidence Based Birth

 

Ask the doulas podcast

Podcast Episode #68: Overnight Doula Support

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.

Alyssa:  Right.

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.

Kristin:  Exactly.

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.

Kristin:  Easily!

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.

 

Ask the Doulas Podcast

Podcast Episode #57: Sleep Consultations

 

Today we talk to Co-Owner of Gold Coast Doulas, Alyssa Veneklase, about sleep consultations.  She talks about some common misconceptions and why her consultations are different.  She says each sleep plan is unique and based on the individual family’s goals.  Who knew you could still breastfeed and co-sleep if you want, all while getting a full night’s rest?  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Kristin:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  This is Kristin, co-owner, and I’m here with my business partner Alyssa to talk about sleep today.  We are gaining a lot of interest from clients and the general public about sleep, so if you could start out by letting us know what sleep training is, what it isn’t, and how you’re different from other sleep consultants.

Alyssa:  So there’s these misconceptions that we just don’t listen to what the parents need or want, and we just throw babies in a nursery, close the door, and let them cry for hours and say, oh, they’ll fall asleep eventually.  And that couldn’t be further from the truth.  It’s really like putting together a puzzle.  When a client calls me, we have a phone consultation or I meet them in their home and they fill out a really extensive intake form where I ask a ton of questions.  I want to know what kind of temperament the child has, whether they’re six weeks old, six months, or 18 months, because the temperament of that child will determine the different methods we try.  And then what kind of parenting style; are you a co-sleeper, breastfeeding, formula-fed; is baby in the crib?  So it’s like putting together a puzzle; let’s figure out what you’ve tried, what’s working, what’s not working, and honestly, most kids in three to five days figure it out and start sleeping really well.

Kristin:  That’s amazing!  I wish I would have had you when my kids were little.

Alyssa:  And it can be as gentle or as fast-paced as you want.

Kristin:  What’s the youngest age that you sleep train?  That’s a common question we get, and what is the oldest?

Alyssa:  I would say I’ve had clients as small as three weeks, but we don’t sleep train.  It’s more about talking about what to look for developmentally in the next few weeks.  Probably by six to eight weeks, they’ll start to notice some patterns in sleep.  They start producing their own melatonin and all that good stuff, so it’s more about talking about proper sleep hygiene, what the nursery should look like, what the environment should look like around naps and sleep, but then actual sleep training usually starts around 12 to 14 weeks, as long as the baby wasn’t premature and the baby’s gaining weight healthfully.

Kristin:  Do you go to the home, or is it a combination of phone and home?  How does a client choose what package they want?

Alyssa:  One or the other.  It could be based on price because for me to go to their home, it’s a little bit more.  Some parents want me to come to their space, meet the baby, see the nursery, see if there’s any glaring things that stand out.  I might have to go in and say that this room is too light; you need a noise machine; this crib is full of sheets and stuffed animals and blankets and stuff that is not considered safe.  Most of the time, it’s a phone consult.  That seems to work for most, especially if they’re out of the area.

Kristin:  As far as your top tips for potential clients or parents, what are some things you would say?  You mentioned darkening a room and so on.  What would be your top five things a parent could do?

Alyssa:  For basic sleep hygiene, it’s really not until that six- or eight-week mark that they start producing their own melatonin.  The production of melatonin only happens in the dark, but you also need that production of serotonin during the day.  So it’s this fluctuation of hormones throughout the day, and one needs the other.  So they also need sunlight.  So I’ve had clients where they just sit in a dark room.  They think to get their baby to sleep longer, it just needs to be dark all the time.  Well, they’re not allowing their baby the production of serotonin to be active and have this active playtime during the day, so then it’s harder for them to produce the melatonin at night.   So creating a sleep environment that’s dark helps.  Sound machines: I’ve had a lot of clients use sound machines, but they’re so soft and the baby can barely hear them.  It needs to be loud.  I tell them think vacuum cleaner.  If someone were in here right now with a vacuum cleaner, I would not hear anything going on outside this room.  And swaddling; that Moro reflex or the startle reflex that babies have can wake them up several times in the middle of the night, so a safe swaddle, and by that, I mean arms in, really tight around the arms, but really loose around the hips because of hip dysplasia.  That’s one thing that with the resurgence of swaddling babies, doctors have noticed that babies can have hip problems if their hips can’t move.  So in my newborn class, I demonstrate that; really tight around the arms, but here’s how baby’s legs and hips should still be able to move.

Kristin:  What about daytime?  Do you have tips for naps and getting better daytime sleep?

Alyssa:  Yeah, they go hand in hand, so people will say, oh, the baby sleeps fairly well at night, but is horrible during the day.  Well, the night isn’t going to get better until the daytime improves, and a lot of times, it’s just letting them know how long they should wait in between a sleep.  So sometimes for little, little babies, they might be trying to keep them up for two hours.  A ten-week old baby might not be able to stay awake for more than an hour, so they get overly tired, and then they fight sleep.  So letting parents know what a sleep pattern should look like based on their child’s age is sometimes really important.

Kristin:  That makes sense, and at Gold Coast, we work with a lot of families with twins and triplets.  How do you handle sleep training with multiples?

Alyssa:  It’s lovely when they seem to have the same temperament and want to be on the same schedule, and oftentimes I have to remind parents that these are two different humans with different personalities.  I’ve done twin consults where we just work with one because the kids’ temperaments are pretty much the same and they’re kind of already on the same schedule, but then some where they’re completely different.  When one’s up, the other one is sleeping and vice versa.  So then we kind of have to look at them as two separate being with two separate sleep plans.

Kristin:  Now, one misconception is that if you’re working with a postpartum doula, Gold Coast or elsewhere, you wouldn’t necessarily need sleep training or a sleep consultation.  So tell us why you need both.

Alyssa:  Working as a postpartum doula, it’s totally different.  I guess it’s different when I’m there because, since I’m also a sleep consultant, there are things I can do, like little tips and tricks I can give Mom and Dad too, but as a postpartum doula, you’re there to ensure the parents get a good night’s rest.  So I’m not there to help baby learn to sleep or to self-soothe.  The postpartum doula is there to help feed baby, change baby, and ensure that Mom and Dad get rest.  Sleep training isn’t usually done overnight.  I have an option for a package where I could do that, but usually it’s unnecessary.  My plans are so thorough, and they get constant support from me, so by the time nighttime rolls around, they know exactly what they need to do.

Kristin:  So you can still have a regular overnight postpartum doula, but just have them or the parents implement your plan you set up for them?

Alyssa:  Yeah, I’ve had clients either with a doula or for older children if they have nannies, and I have them either get on the phone call with us, or if they’re not available, they read through the whole plan.  And then I’ve even texted back and forth with the nannies, if they’re the one doing the majority of the sleep training during the day to get them on board.

Kristin:  So Alyssa, if you are working with a family who tends to breastfeed their baby to doze off, like that’s how they put them to sleep during the day as well as at night, how would you be able to let them still feel connected to the baby in that way and be attachment-focused but still create a stronger routine for the baby or toddler?

Alyssa:  So sometimes the feed-to-sleep habit or association doesn’t necessarily cause a problem, but that’s not common.  Usually, it becomes an association which includes several wake-ups in the night where the Mom has to get up and feed, so again, it’s just talking to – there’s 20 questions I would have to ask this mom before I could give her a plan, but it’s always about her goal.  I always ask: at the end of all this, what’s the end game?  What’s your goal for this?  And if it’s that she still wants to co-sleep and breastfeed but just can’t wake up six times every night, then I work out a plan specifically for her.  If it’s that they’ve been co-sleeping but didn’t mean to and it’s not working out the family and hurting the relationship with the partner, then the end goal is they want baby in their own crib, whether it’s in their room or in their own nursery.  That’s a whole different plan.

Kristin:  And obviously whether they’re co-sleeping or the baby is in the crib, it’s all about safe sleep and being able to recognize what is safe and what is unsafe.

Alyssa:  Yeah, and there are safe ways to co-sleep, and a crib is also very safe, but it can be unsafe if, say, a newborn is put on their tummy or if it’s filled with stuffed animals and blankets.  The first thing I do is rip all that stuff out of there.

Kristin:  Well, thank you for your time today, and if people are interested in reaching out to you, whether they live in West Michigan or elsewhere, how do they connect with you?

Alyssa:  I would say go to our website and just fill out the contact form and let me know you’re interested in sleep.  You can always call our phone number, too, at 616-294-0207 or email me at alyssa@goldcoastdoulas.com.  I’m always willing to chat.  A lot of parents will say, I just don’t think my baby’s ever going to sleep, and after hearing a few details about what their nights and days look like, it’s usually not as bad as they think, and a few easy fixes can get them on track.  So even for people who don’t live in the area, a phone consult with email and text support is what I give no matter what.

Kristin:  Thank you so much!

 

Traveling postpartum doula

Podcast Episode #56: Traveling Postpartum Doulas

 

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?

Kelsey:  Yes.

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?

Kelsey:  Yes.

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?

Kelsey:  Right.

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.

Kelsey:  Thank you!

 

Gold Coast Doulas Team

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

 

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

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

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

Dr. Rachel:    Hey, I’m back.

Alyssa:  Tell us a little bit about Rise.

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

Kristin:  Love it!

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

Kristin:  Good question.

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

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

Dr. Rachel:  What classes do the doulas take?

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

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

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

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

Alyssa:  Yes!

Kristin:  Yes!

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

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

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

Kristin:  Yes, from the hospital.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

Kristin:  It’s an exam, yeah.

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

Dr. Rachel:  What’s a qualified birth?

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

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

Alyssa:  Maybe one of our doulas?

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Rachel:  That’s really awesome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Rachel:  thank you!

Alyssa:  Remember, these moments are golden.

 

pregnant

Podcast Episode #54: What to Pack in your Birth Bag

 

Today Alyssa and Kristin talk to Dr. Rachel of Rise Wellness about what she packed in her birth bag.  It’s one of the most common questions we are asked by birth clients.  Find out what to bring and what you can leave at home!  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Kristin:  Welcome to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas.  I’m Kristin, co-owner, and we have a special guest with us today.

Alyssa:  Dr. Rachel again!

Dr. Rachel:  Hi, me again.

Alyssa:  Hey, our friend and neighbor from down the hallway.

Dr. Rachel:  With Rise Chiropractic.

Alyssa:  We wanted to ask you because we get asked by a lot of clients: what do you pack in a birth bag?  So we wanted to know what you packed, and maybe you’d have some advice for some parents who are thinking about this; what to pack, what not to pack.  Did you pack anything that you wished you wouldn’t have?

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, I feel like I left the hospital with way too much when I left, so I feel I did pack too much, yes.

Kristin:  That’s pretty common.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, you read those things online, what to pack, and then I don’t think you need most of it, because the hospital has a lot, honestly.

Alyssa:  Like what?  Give us some examples.

Dr. Rachel:  They have diapers; they have slippers for you; they have mesh underwear; they have the pads.  Well, I saw that on one today when I was trying to remember.  I was like, you don’t need any of this.

Kristin:  The mesh underwear is awesome!

Dr. Rachel:  Yes, it is awesome.  Take it home with you!

Kristin:  The peri bottle…

Dr. Rachel:  Yes, the peri bottle.  They have everything you need for baby, and it’s just more about comfort.

Kristin:  And the biggest thing is for clients who are specific about natural products for themselves and for baby, then that would be something that they would want to pack because the products at most hospitals wouldn’t necessarily be considered natural.

Alyssa:  I only remember the butt cream, maybe, that they had.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, I’m trying to think.  They had nipple cream.

Kristin:  And the shampoo; it used to be Johnson & Johnson.

Alyssa:  In the shower, you mean?

Kristin:  No, for baby’s bath.

Dr. Rachel:  I didn’t bathe my babies there.  Was I supposed to?  Did I bathe my babies there?  I don’t think I did.

Kristin:  You don’t need to.  I don’t think you did.  Just a sponge bath.

Dr. Rachel:  Oh, I think the nurses did that.  But I was also trying to remember; did they have shampoo and stuff?  Because you do shower; you want to shower.

Kristin:  Yeah, they have the small bottles for yourself.

Dr. Rachel:  I couldn’t remember if I brought my own or not.

Alyssa:  I didn’t think I showered in the hospital.

Dr. Rachel:  I did.  It was difficult.  I’m not going to lie.

Alyssa:  I think I waited until I got home.

Dr. Rachel:  I showered the last day.

Kristin:  I showered, but I extended my stay because my daughter was in the NICU, and I remember being in the shower and looking down and being used to my belly and seeing the in-between stage and that was a little dramatic to experience that.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, I looked nine months pregnant.  I looked a hundred weeks pregnant before that.

Alyssa:  But you were carrying two!

Dr. Rachel:  Right!  So maybe a nice thing – I was thinking a robe might be nice.

Kristin:  Yeah, a robe is really cozy.

Dr. Rachel:  I didn’t have one.

Alyssa:  Especially if you get cold, if you’re cold all the time.

Kristin:  You don’t need it during labor, but in the post-partum time.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, I’m thinking postpartum time, a robe.

Kristin:  Or your own PJs.

Dr. Rachel:  And I really liked – well, I literally was in the hospital gown the whole time until I left, but the breastfeeding tank tops.  That’s a good thing to bring.

Kristin:  Or a nursing bra, depending on your size.  Some women can’t do tanks.

Dr. Rachel:  That’s true.  But if you’re going to have people come visit, you might want to get in normal clothes.

Kristin:  I didn’t care, apparently! 

Dr. Rachel:  I brought, which I really liked, was the swaddles for the babies because I think we were there two nights. 

Alyssa:  Like a sleep sack or your own swaddle blankets?

Dr. Rachel:  Well, I brought swaddling, like muslin blankets, but I also brought the ones I had bought with the Velcro, and I liked that instead of just using the hospital blanket that they give you.

Alyssa:  Those are kind of small, too.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah.  So I did like that I had brought that, and I don’t think that I saw that on any lists.  And I actually brought more than just one baby outfit.  I didn’t just leave my babies in the same outfit, and they pooped through them, so we went through a couple.

Kristin:  They do that!  And that meconium is pretty interesting.

Dr. Rachel:  Yes.  Oh, and I brought my pregnancy pillow.

Alyssa:  For sleeping?

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, I got induced, so I used it all during that time while I was in the hospital bed.  And I highly recommend that to patients when they go.  I’m like, if you have that pregnancy pillow, bring it with you.  It was the best thing I brought with me.

Kristin:  Or just your own pillow from home with your own smell, like your pillowcase.  That gives clients some comfort.

Alyssa:  Well, and I’m weird about pillows, too.   I like my own pillow; I like them a certain way; I need to have two of them.

Dr. Rachel:  Did you bring your own pillows?

Alyssa:  I didn’t.  I didn’t even think about it.

Dr. Rachel:  But you wish you would have, didn’t you?

Alyssa:  I don’t even remember!

Dr. Rachel:  There were no pillows for Adam, so I think he ended up using my pregnancy pillow when he slept on the couch, and I brought a blanket for him.  There was really nothing for him.  I mean, maybe we could have asked.  I don’t know.

Kristin:  Snacks; did he bring his own snacks?

Dr. Rachel:  Well, I brought snacks for him, yes.

Kristin:  Of course you did!

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, lots and lots of snacks.  He got a burrito, too, while I got nothing.

Alyssa:  That’s the worst part, not being able to eat.  Being hangry and being in labor.

Dr. Rachel:  Yes.  I brought my breastfeeding pillow, also, the breast friend pillow.

Kristin:  That’s nice.  I like that brand.

Dr. Rachel:  That was nice, and then having the lactation consultant there, to have that.

Kristin:  Yeah, I highly recommend asking, even if you feel like breastfeeding’s going great, to get that extra support while you’re in the hospital from a lactation consultant is fantastic.

Dr. Rachel:  And I had to leave the hospital with no shoes because my feet were so swollen afterwards, so some slippers or something would be nice.

Kristin:  Yeah, slippers are great for women who want to walk the halls during labor and get out of their room.  Those socks are fine, but I like slippers. 

Dr. Rachel:  But yeah, slippers or something.  Are most women swollen after labor?

Alyssa:  I don’t remember mine being swollen.

Dr. Rachel:  I think it was just the C-section and all the IV fluids and not being able to leave my hospital bed.  Either way, I was very swollen; so bring some slippers, maybe.  Maybe I could have left the hospital in shoes, then.  Headphones.  I did the Hypnobirthing with Ashley, so I listened to that rainbow relaxation a lot.

Alyssa:  Oh, and you used headphones so everyone else didn’t have to listen to it.

Kristin:  And some people like to use a speaker and have it be out in the open for everyone, but with Hypnobirthing, you can be very internal, so I can see why you’d want to bring headphones and just get in your zone and listen to your affirmations.

Alyssa:  So headphones or a speaker, depending on your preference.

Dr. Rachel:  Right, or other people just like music, right?

Kristin:  Yeah, some people make their own labor soundtrack.  I did with my births.

Dr. Rachel:  Oh, and a phone charger.  Everyone tells you don’t forget that, although I’ll be honest; after babies, I don’t think I even looked at my phone for a very long time.

Kristin:  But most people take pictures with their phone, so for some, it’s letting relatives and friends know, but for others, unless they have a birth photographer…

Dr. Rachel:  We did have to contact you, so you do need your phone.

Kristin:  For sure!  Call your doula!

Dr. Rachel:  Chapstick.  You’re so dry.  I think my throat was even so dry I had to have my mom bring cough drops for me.  But you know what I wouldn’t bring?  My straightener and my curling iron.

Alyssa:  That’s a little ambitious!

Dr. Rachel:  I don’t know why my friend told me to bring that.  That and makeup; that was not needed, unless you want a pretty picture taken.

Kristin:  Yeah, some people need to be on Instagram right away and look perfect after.

Alyssa:  I think I brought a little bit of makeup, but I had long hair then, so I just pulled it up in a ponytail and maybe put some blush on and called it a day.

Kristin:  Yeah, ponytail holders are great.  You get hot; all that hair on your neck, and being able to pull your hair up is awesome.

Alyssa:  That is one thing when I look back at pictures – I’m on all fours and my husband’s putting wet washcloths on the back of my neck because I was so hot, and to get my hair up on top of my head and get a washcloth on my neck was amazing.  Anything else that you brought that you didn’t need?

Dr. Rachel:  I don’t think so.  I brought a lot of clothes, and I didn’t wear any of them because I was literally in the hospital gown.  I mean, you need an outfit to go home in.  You’re still going to have a big belly, so bring some sort of pants for that.  I think my friend ended up bringing me clothes and I wore those home, which was nice.

Kristin:  I wore my own clothes at both of my births.  I didn’t wear the gown.  I wore a long skirt and my water broke all over it, and then I was nude for the rest of my labor.

Dr. Rachel:  Did you wear your gown, Alyssa?

Alyssa:  Yeah, they had two on me for a long time, one front, and one back, and I was wandering the halls and sitting on yoga balls, and then once the time came, they whipped the one off.  It wasn’t very pretty.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, it is an experience.  I think that was it, though.  I think I probably brought too many clothes and too many hair products.

Kristin:  Yeah, people tend to overpack, but snacks are key.  I always say hydration, for clients who like coconut water, that’s excellent with electrolytes.  For those who don’t, anything with electrolytes, even Gatorade can be a good option.  Or for those who are into labor tea; some women bring it cold to the hospital.  I’m a fan of honey sticks; get a little energy going.

Dr. Rachel:  Well, they wouldn’t let me have anything!

Kristin:  Well, yeah, your situation was unique.

Dr. Rachel:  They wouldn’t let me have ice chips!  I wish I could have had the snacks I brought.  It was good for afterwards.  If you end up in a situation where you can’t eat your snacks, you can eat them after.

Alyssa:  Actually, I remember that’s one thing I brought you.

Dr. Rachel:  You did bring me lots of snacks, yeah.

Alyssa:  I remembered that I needed food afterwards and all the snacks!

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, and that was great because then I even had it at home afterwards because then you never eat at a normal time again.

Kristin:  Exactly, if you’re breastfeeding, you can never get enough snacks that are in easy reach.

Dr. Rachel:  You just live off protein bars and cheese sticks.  Well, maybe not.  Most babies don’t like dairy.

Kristin:  Yeah, some babies have issues with dairy.  Well, thanks for the advice.  That’s one of the most common questions I get asked, either in consults or in prenatals with clients, is what to pack in the birth bag, what suggestions we have.  Obviously, you said you took HypnoBirthing, so for those who are taking HypnoBirthing to bring the manual you get in class.  That’s always helpful to be able to refer to that, and sometimes I’ll read scripts to my clients.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, I think I brought those also.  I read a lot – people were like, bring a magazine to read.  When are you going to read during labor?  Who has time for that?

Kristin:  Maybe a really long induction where you’re there for three days trying to get ripe and all of that, but otherwise…

Dr. Rachel:  But even then, I don’t know.  Also, everyone has their phone, so Facebook.

Kristin:  Right, social media brings it to a whole different level.

Dr. Rachel:  Yeah, but I wouldn’t waste your time with that either.

Kristin:  Yeah, and some people, again, make birth playlists and have it all planned out, and with my first, I was induced, so I thought I was going to have more time.  It was somewhat quick for an induction, but I made a labor playlist and everything had “breathe” in it.  It was themed.  And I also had some local artist friends on my playlist, and I did a slideshow of photos from my wedding on my laptop that I had going when I was in the early stages, before things got intense.

Dr. Rachel:  Did that help?

Kristin:  I liked it.  It passed the time.  I’m not the type to watch movies, but I’ve had clients watch funny movies on TV to pass the time, and they just crack up.  I’ve seen a lot of movies over the years.

Dr. Rachel:  Here’s what I would say, also.  If you’re close by the hospital, you can send your husband out to go get something you need. 

Kristin:  Or your doula.

Dr. Rachel:  Or have someone bring it to you.  So I wouldn’t really stress too much about a pregnancy bag.  You can get stuff easy.

Kristin:  Or if you have family members lurking in the waiting room, you can send them and give them jobs to do because they love to be helpful and they can go get food or something you’ve forgotten.  But not everyone has that luxury of having family or friends nearby.

Dr. Rachel:  Right, just if you do.

Alyssa:  I’m laughing that you had the time to put together a slideshow.  That’s obviously before your first kid, when you have all the time in the world to do these beautiful playlists.

Kristin:  But I was on bedrest for three weeks, so I had a lot of time.

Alyssa:  Right, well, I think that’s the key point is you had a lot of extra time.

Kristin:  And I knew when I was getting induced, so I had time.   It was totally different with my second and having a toddler and being pregnant, so I didn’t bring as much.

Alyssa:  Anything else we need to know?

Kristin:  Yeah, what’s going on at Rise?

Dr. Rachel:  Oh, yeah, I was going to tell you that right now at Rise Wellness Chiropractic, we are doing a toy/clothing/supply drive for Degage Ministries, and if you bring in a supply, you can get your exam and consult at no charge, and that goes through December 14th.  If you don’t want to be a chiropractic patient, you can still just donate if you’d like to.

Kristin:  Yeah, we appreciate all the give-backs that you do in the community, and we love partnering with you on our diaper drives, so thank you for all you do for the community.

Dr. Rachel:  Oh, yeah.  We love it.

Alyssa:  So if somebody has a toy, they can come in and drop it off – toy or clothes?

Dr. Rachel:  Yes.

Alyssa:  And then if they want to drop a toy and schedule a consult, they should do that online?

Dr. Rachel:  They can do that online, yes, at risewellnesschiro.com or they can call the office, 616-258-8480.  But online, you can just schedule yourself.

Kristin:  And Rise is located in the same building as we are in Eastown, the Kingsley Building.  We’re right about Terra Restaurant for those of you who are local.

Alyssa:  And you get in through the parking ramp.  It’s the hardest thing.  You can find the building but you can’t find how to get in our office space on the second floor, so look for the little black awning next to the parking ramp on the corner of Lake and Genesee.

Kristin:  Well, thanks for stopping by, Rachel!  It’s good to chat. 

 

Gold Coast Doulas is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.

 

birth story

Podcast Episode #51: Carrie’s Birth and Postpartum Story

 

One of our clients describes her pregnancy, labor, and delivery and how having birth and postpartum doula support saved her sanity.  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.

Alyssa:  Hello!  Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa, and I’m super excited to be talking to one of our clients, Carrie, today.  I feel like I known you.  We’ve been emailing back and forth forever, and I finally get to see you and hug you today.

Carrie:  I know, it’s nice to meet you!

Alyssa:  Welcome!  So you have used a few of our services, and I kind of want to hear your story from start to finish with as much or as little as you want to tell us.  So you find out you’re pregnant, and then what?

Carrie:  Well, and just a quick background about me, too: I was a late bloomer.  I got married at 38, and Mark and I talked about having kids, but it wasn’t a priority.  We loved to travel, and I was focused on my career; he was focused on his career.  If it happened, great; if not, we were okay with that.  And a couple years later, I was almost 40 and it happened.

Alyssa:  So you weren’t necessarily planning it, but not preventing it, either?

Carrie:  No, exactly, but we kind of figured with my age, I was a higher risk, and I kind of figured it just wasn’t going to happen for us.  But then it did, and now, of course, we can’t imagine our life without our daughter in it, now that she’s actually here.  But at the time, you know, we had other priorities.  So now we’re pregnant.  We’re like, oh, my gosh, what the hell do we do?  We had all these array of emotions come over us, like our life is going to change forever.  And we bought all the books that we were supposed to buy, and we started reading.  And that’s where I came across the term doula.  I had never heard of a doula before.  So I do what anybody does nowadays, and I go to Google.  I’m, like, what is this doula that they keep talking about?

Alyssa:  Do we have any in Grand Rapids?!

Carrie:  I know, it’s kind of a small town, but there were actually a couple companies that led me to you guys, and Gold Coast had rave reviews I started reading.  Mark and I don’t have much support.  Our parents are older, as we’re older, and our siblings live far away, so we didn’t have many friends or family that could or would want to be there to support us through this process.  That’s what led us to make the decision, and we kind of did it late in the game, too.  I forget how many weeks along I was, but I was due in early August, and I think we reached out to Gold Coast right around early July, so very late in the process.

Alyssa:  You make me want to look it up right now and see, but yeah, I think you were 35 weeks or so; pretty far along.

Carrie:  Yeah, it was kind of late.  So apparently, I didn’t read these books soon enough, but it was the best decision I made, especially with just not having that support from family.  The doulas were amazing.  They didn’t judge, and they gave their honest opinions on their experiences and what they saw, but they weren’t biased.  So at that early stage in the pregnancy, we were able to build that relationship, and we had made the decision to do the birth doula and postpartum doula.  I love Mark, but he’s not female and he’s not given birth.  He said, “I think I could handle this all by myself,” and I’m like, no.  No, he couldn’t have.  So I was really glad we went through the birth with the birth doula and the postpartum doula.  Before the labor portion, we had a text chain going on, so I was able to text Julie and Tricia and just ask any question.  It could be as dumb as it sounded or just very simple questions.

Alyssa:  First-time moms have a ton of questions, and you can’t call your OB five times a day.

Carrie:  Right, so I was able to text them, and they got right back to me.  But that just started the relationship-building, and I think that was the biggest thing, just having a relationship, because they’re embarking on this incredible journey of yours, and it’s a very private journey, but we’re asking them to join us.  And that initial correspondence between them just helped build that bridge of feeling secure with the person that you’re with.  Then to jump forward to the labor portion — you have to be open, you know?  You have the doula there, and she’s just helping you as much as she can, but she also offered the privacy that we wanted, too.  We had to make some decisions, and Tricia was our birth doula, and she gave us the privacy that we needed to make those difficult decisions, if we were going to have a C-section or are going to continue to try to do it naturally.  But she was there when we needed her, too, so it was such a good experience.  If I were to do it again — and I think we might be one and done — but I can’t imagine not having a doula with us for that part of it.

Alyssa:  What was Mark’s experience, since he was thinking, going into it, “I can do this; I got you, honey.  You only need me.”  After actually experiencing this and having a doula, what does he think?

Carrie:  He sat on the couch, so…

Alyssa:  Watching the game on his phone.

Carrie:  Yeah, he was watching the game.  Both games!  But no, he did great.  He supported me how he could, but he realized that he couldn’t support me the way that a doula could, and there’s just certain things that Tricia knew, like different things to try that might help the process, that Mark wouldn’t have had a clue.  And it’s nothing against a male, but they can’t carry a baby.  So if we did have another child, I think he would be all for it.

Alyssa:  He’d be on board right away this time?

Carrie:  Yeah, yeah.  And then that leads us into the postpartum, and for me, that service was invaluable.  I don’t know what I would do without having some help.  The first month was more like they helped me survive.  I’m not working right now, and I wanted to make sure my husband was able to sleep because somebody’s got to bring home the bacon.   And so I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t up all night like I was, but I would look at my Fitbit, and I thought, oh, my gosh.  I am not getting any sleep at all!

Alyssa:  Getting a lot of steps, but no sleep!

Carrie:  I know!  Like, okay, moms are not joking!  This is reality, what you go through the first month of having a newborn.  Some nights, if I got more than 30 minutes of sleep a night, that was good.  Or just at one time, in one chunk.  My average was maybe three hours or so.  But your body just adjusts to it, so you do what you need to do, but without having the doulas, it would have been rough.  And I think they started out maybe around ten hours or maybe a little bit more right at first.  Now my daughter is three months, and we still have the doulas.  We made a decision, and for my sanity, we still have the doulas coming about ten hours a week.  So it went from survival to now giving me part of my life back, but it’s giving me a break now.

Alyssa:  You went from survival mode to thriving; surviving to thriving.

Carrie:  Yeah, and our daughter loves the doulas.  She’s so happy.  It’s almost been such a process of they get to grow with her.  The babies grow.  I didn’t know; they grow a lot between newborns and three months, and she’s so big now, and she’s giggling.  So the doulas get to see that and be a part of her life.

Alyssa:  They will be so sad when you’re done.  They will be so sad.  That’s the hardest part of being a postpartum doulas is being with a family for that long, especially with you, because they were with you through pregnancy, labor, delivery, and now months postpartum.  Usually, those relationships don’t just abruptly end.  We’ll still have contact somehow.

Carrie:  Well, and another thing I wanted to comment, too, that compared to just a babysitter or getting some external help, the doulas are so reliable.  I know Julie, if she’s supposed to be there at 2:00, it’s 2:00.  She is rolling in at 1:59.

Alyssa:  You know something’s wrong if she’s not there at 2:00.

Carrie:  Yeah, she’s very punctual.  So a few weeks ago — I think our daughter was ten weeks at this point, and I was having some issues going on, and I thought it was just food poisoning, and like a typical female, I just put it off, like, oh, it’s going to be fine, you know, hide the pain.  And after day three, I’m like, okay, something’s not right.  I can barely stand up.  So I went to urgent care, and I had appendicitis.  The doctor at urgent care said I had to go straight to the ER, and I asked if they were going to do surgery right now, and he’s like, yep!  So I call Mark, and we don’t know what we’re going to do because we don’t have the help and it’s Sunday.  We try not to bother the doulas on the weekend, but Mark called the doulas, and within an hour, they were at the house.  With them working as a team, usually either Julie or Tricia can always make it, and they were a lifesaver.   So my biggest advice for anybody that is deciding if a doula is worth it — if you have the financial means to do both the birth, and the postpartum, do it if you can.  It’s a game changer, and if they don’t have the financial means to do both, the postpartum for me probably was the biggest help.  I mean, if I had to choose.  I wouldn’t want to choose, but if I had to choose, I would choose just having postpartum help.

Alyssa:  I agree, because even if you wouldn’t have had the support through pregnancy and birth, and let’s say you had this traumatic experience, having a postpartum doula to then talk to you about that and go through the emotions of that and talk about the traumatic story — you’d still get all that emotional help afterwards.

Carrie:  Yeah, the baby’s here, no matter what.

Alyssa:  Right, and as we see depression rates and anxiety rates climbing, especially with new mothers, postpartum support is critical.  That’s where my heart is, so I agree with you.

Carrie:  It was interested because I’ve been given the depression surveys every time I go in, even to take my daughter to the doctor.  I always get a survey.  Luckily, I’ve been fine, but the only time I ever got a little depressed was after this second surgery because I was starting to finally bounce back and get back into my groove.  I wasn’t working out like I used to be working out before, but I was getting my life back, and then I had this, another setback.  And then that’s kind of when I got sad, but luckily, I bounced back really quickly, and it wasn’t bad for me.  But I can see how easy it is to get into spaces that are darker than you want to be in.

Alyssa:  Without even realizing it’s happening, sometimes.

Carrie:  Yeah, absolutely.

Alyssa:  You just wake up and there you are, and how do I get myself out if I have no support?

Carrie:  Yes.  And the doulas are always so positive.

Alyssa:  You have an amazing team.  Julie and Tricia are so wonderful.

Carrie:  They are, they are.  We share so many pictures back and forth, and I even — sadly, I shared — it had been 12 days since our daughter had had a bowel movement, and…

Alyssa:  Did you send a poop picture?

Carrie:  I did!  She did it while we were at our friend’s house in the middle of dinner, and they had cooked this nice dinner for us.

Alyssa:  Of course!

Carrie:  And she was kind of fussy and she wasn’t crying, and Mark grabbed her, and he said, “Oh, she’s kind of sweaty.”  And then he’s like, “That’s not sweat!”

Alyssa:  Everywhere, right?

Carrie:  Twelve days of backed-up!

Alyssa:  That’s what I tell clients.  You know, if they go a few days, it’s not good, but I mean, it can happen, but I just warn you — watch out.  It’s all coming out.

Carrie:  I was holding off on all the Miralax until after we didn’t have any plans, but no, she let it go.

Alyssa:  She got it out!

Carrie:  Yeah, she did!

Alyssa:  So what’s been the biggest joy of being a new mom?

Carrie:  Now that she’s kind of getting past the big blog phase, now she’s starting to laugh and make squealing noises now, so it’s very interesting watching them.  Every time they learn to do something new, they keep doing it.  So that’s the biggest joy, I feel like, just watching her learn.  We’re just showing her the world right now, and it’s pretty cool.  Just seeing her learn and making all sorts of new noises and her eyes and having her look at you and just smile.

Alyssa:  She knows that you’re Mommy.

Carrie:  Yeah, yeah!  It just makes you tear up.  And then also seeing my husband.  You never know how a guy is going to handle that new baby, and he doesn’t know, but seeing how Mark was transformed, and he’s just this doting dad now, and he is so in love.  And he was probably more in love because he was taking care of her because I had a C-section, so he had to take care of the dirty diapers right at first and do a lot of it.  Seeing him just mold to being Dad right away was breathtaking, and it was such an awesome experience.

Alyssa:  It is fun to see dads turn to mush when they meet their babies.  So if you had to choose — we’ve talked a lot about postpartum support, but if you had to choose one thing that you wanted to tell a mother — let’s say they could only afford a birth doula.  What’s the main thing?  Would it be for you or for your husband?  Who was it most life-changing for?

Carrie:  It was more life-changing, I feel like, for me, because I was the one going through the labor.  Once the nurses knew I had a doula — and the nurses were great, but they have so many other patients that they’re also visiting at that time, too, so they were able to kind of back off me and let Tricia help, and she was able to just understand what my body was going through, because I didn’t know what I was going through at the time.  She was able to see the contractions that I was having on the monitor and say, okay, you’re starting a contraction right now.  And my husband wouldn’t have been able to go through that with me.  He was so green and didn’t know.  But she was also able to put me in different positions, and then also let me know what my options were.  I was at five centimeters for, like, twelve hours.  And I just wasn’t moving, so it was nice getting Tricia’s point of view of, okay, what would be the best avenue to go down?  Through the whole process, she just really helped me, as a doctor or a nurse would, even though she’s not medically trained.  But I was a hundred percent comfortable with her.

Alyssa:  So she would offer you some suggestions, and then let you and Mark talk that through and see what would be the best option?

Carrie:  Yeah, she had been through so many different births, and every birth is different, but she was able to just give me advice on what she had seen and what she had also gone through, and she had twins.  So she’s been through a lot, and she also has an older son, too, so she’s been through labor two times, but technically three times because she has three kids.  So she has a lot of advice, and I always learn from people that have been through the situation before.  So it was nice having her feedback.

Alyssa:  And it was never, like you said, a judgment.  You didn’t ever feel like she was telling you this is what you need to do or this is what you have to do?

Carrie:  Absolutely not.  And when it was time for Mark and I to make the decision or just talk about it, we just asked Tricia to go get coffee, and we talked about it.  But it was nice having her feedback or her suggestions on different avenues we could take.  Not that we didn’t trust the doctors and the nurses, but we had a relationship with Tricia.

Alyssa:  So if you had to tell someone in a nutshell, what does a birth doula do?  Like, if you had to give an elevator speech for someone, even after listening to this, if someone’s still like, well, hmm?  So they just sit there and give you advice?  What do they do?  What would you tell somebody?  You just find out you’re pregnant; you don’t know what a doula is.  What does a birth doula do?

Carrie:  So the birth doula made the experience a positive one, and whether that was by giving a massage or just helping with breathing and different positions to help make it more comfortable to give birth.  I did have an epidural at one point, so I didn’t do it naturally, and ultimately, I had a C-section, but Tricia was able to put me in different positions to make that pain easier, before the epidural.  It’s kind of all mush now, the memories of the actual birth, but I do know that Tricia was there for every step of it.  She was such an integral part of it.  It was almost like we were one.  She just helped with the pain, even though she wasn’t giving me drugs, but she helped make things a lot easier.  For a birth doula, it just meant, for me, an easier pregnancy, to deal with the unknown that I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.

Alyssa:  And then what about finding out you have a C-section?

Carrie:  I just wanted that thing out!

Alyssa:  Right!  People often wonder, well, what is a birth doula going to do if you have a C-section, and they don’t think about that immediately afterwards time period.  Who’s there?

Carrie:  Yeah, good question, because she was actually also a lifesaver for the cord blood donation.  We decided to do that because our doctor had mentioned that they are just making a lot of advancements on what they can use the cord blood for down the road, even helping with autism and different things.  So we decided that we wanted to store the cord blood.  But there’s a procedure that not all the nurses knew what to do, and our birth doula, Tricia, was able to take that in her hands.  She wanted to make sure that everything was handled properly and got where it needed to go.  So when we actually got out of recovery from the C-section — the C-section happened really quickly, and it wasn’t an emergency, but our doctor gave us an option.  She said we can do this, and Mark and I talked about it for probably less than five minutes.  We were like, it’s been twelve hours.  Let’s do this.  So we went in, and before you know it…

Alyssa:  There’s a crying baby!

Carrie:  There’s our daughter!  But then the cord blood — that went back to recovery, and as far as I know, Tricia helped to orchestrate that whole process, making that happen.  She was a lifesaver on that end because then we would have just wasted our money.  She was able to come back in recovery, and it was so nice having her meet our daughter.  And then I told her to get home because she had been awake for I don’t know how many hours.  It was 1:00 in the morning, and I think she joined us at 11:00 AM.  So it was a very long day.

Alyssa:  Like, 14 hours or something?

Carrie:  Yeah, it was a long day for her.  So I told her to go home, and then I went back to the room.

Alyssa:  Thank you for sharing.  I know that they just adore your family and they’re going to be so sad when this time ends, but our jobs as doulas are temporary.  We know that going in.

Carrie:  It’s hard.  I don’t know how you guys do it.  It’s kind of like fostering an animal.

Alyssa:  Right?

Carrie:  I don’t know how people just let them go.

Alyssa:  I know, you make these connections.  But Grand Rapids is small, and I’m sure that relationship won’t doesn’t end, like I said before.  They’ll be in touch for a long time.  And then if you do get pregnant again, who knows, right?

Carrie:  I know who to call!

Alyssa:  Well, thanks for coming on!  We’re going to have you on again another time to talk about a whole different issue, but thanks for joining us today!

 

Cindy's Suds

Podcast Episode #17: How to Find a Babysitter You Trust

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.

Cindy:  Hi.

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 info@goldcoastdoulas.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 cindy@cindyssuds.com.  We’re carried locally in the Harvest Health stores, Kingma’s, Hopscotch, and several other local retailers.

Ashley Forton Doula

Meet Your Gold Coast Doulas – Ashley

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

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

2) What inspired you to become a doula?

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

3) Tell us about your family?

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

4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8) What is your favorite food?

Anything spicy, especially curries and Mexican dishes

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

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

10) What are you reading now?

The Birth Partner.

11) Who are is your role model?

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