Meet Mya, Our Newest Postpartum Doula!
Meet Mya, Our Newest Postpartum Doula!
As you know, when we bring a new person onto the Gold Coast team, we love to find out more about them and
share that with you!
Let’s find out more about Mya.
1) What did you do before you became a postpartum doula?
Before becoming a doula, I worked as a swim instructor, and as a head swim coach for young children in
Naperville, Illinois. After that, I went to Central Michigan University to earn a bachelor’s degree in science.
2) What inspired you to become a postpartum doula?
I’ve always been fascinated with pregnancy as a whole, after watching my family members, experience,
pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. I knew I would be the perfect helping hand for those who look like me,
which is what inspired me the most. I want other minorities to feel comfortable while giving birth, which is why I
pride myself on creating such a warm and open environment.
3) Tell us about your family.
My family has a very tight bond, we are quite a small family, because of this we spend lots of our free time
together whether it’s hanging out and enjoying each other’s company or traveling and going on new
adventures. Overall, my family is very loving and supportive, and most of all we love to have a good laugh.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
My favorite vacation spot is probably Barcelona Spain, the reason for this is because I’m a total foodie, and the
food there was beyond fresh and different from anything I’ve ever had before. Also, the architecture of all the
buildings were incredibly breathtaking.
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
This is a hard question, considering I enjoy listening to almost all genres of music.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
The best advice I have for families is to stick with their goals and values, just because they don’t align with
others in your community does not mean they are wrong, and also to give yourself grace and patience. Some
things take time to heal, and we must be mindful of that.
7) What do you consider your doula/consultant superpower to be?
I believe my doula superpower is making people feel comfortable and empowered, no matter what the situation
is. Growing up looking different from most of my peers I know how it feels to be in uncomfortable situations.
This is why I pride myself on being able to make others feel both comfortable and confident in all environments.
8) What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is tacos, I could probably eat tacos every day for the rest of my life.
9) What is your favorite place on West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Since I’m not a Michigan native, I absolutely love going to the dunes, we don’t have anything similar to that in
Chicago so it’s always a fun treat.
10) What are you reading now?
Self-care for new moms
11) Who are your role models?
I would say, my mom is one of my biggest role models, she’s taught me how to be kind, empathetic,
independent, and resilient.
Mya serves day and overnight postpartum and infant care clients in West Michigan, SW Michigan and Northern
Newborn Sleep – What New Parents Should Expect
New parents often have unrealistic expectations about sleep when they bring a baby home. Some parents think they will get to sleep a lot because a newborn sleeps a lot. I’ve heard other parents say they don’t think they will get any sleep for weeks or months. I’m here to tell you that neither of those are true.
Yes, a newborn does sleep a lot. Yay! But they also need to feed often. Like every hour or two in the beginning. All day and all night! So while your newborn may sleep 19 hours in a day, that sleep is happening in several short chunks of time throughout a 24 hour period.
For a breastfeeding mother this is especially hard. She will be feeding her newborn every couple hours and that feeding could take 45 minutes. Let’s put that into perspective. Your newborn wakes to eat at 2:00am. You are done feeding at 2:45am, burp and change baby’s diaper, get baby back to sleep, and now it’s 3:00am. Your newborn feeds every 2 hours so that means you have one more hour to sleep until you start this whole process over again. Yikes!
Once a newborn becomes more efficient at feeding (or is bottle fed), they can often go three hours between feedings. This allows you more time to sleep between feeds.
Fathers/partners often wonder what they can do to help an exclusively breastfeeding mother. If/when a mother decides to start pumping, someone else can take over some of the feedings with a bottle. This can be a huge relief to mothers in the night and allows for one longer stretch of sleep. Partners can also help with diaper changes after a feed so Mom can get back to sleep sooner. They can also make sure mom is well fed and hydrated.
For bottle fed babies, fathers/partners/doulas/caregivers can help with feeds in the night while mom sleeps. For instance, mom feeds baby at 9:00pm then goes to sleep. Someone else does the 11:00pm feed, and mom wakes at 1:00 for the next feed. That allowed mom to sleep for four hours. It doesn’t seem like much now, but when you’re sleep deprived, a four hour stretch of sleep is the best gift anyone could give you!
For the first several weeks, there really is no predictability to a newborn. They will sleep a lot and eat a lot, period. If your newborn sleeps for hours at a time without waking to eat though, this is not a bragging right. This is something to call your pediatrician about. Babies need to eat frequently! On the other hand, if your baby doesn’t want to sleep and cries a lot, you should also call your pediatrician.
You get through the first 4-6 weeks or so, you’re sleep deprived and feel a bit hazy, but you start to notice that there are some predictable patterns happening with your baby. For instance, they are feeding approximately every three hours and can stay awake a little bit longer after feeds. What does this mean? They are slowly adjusting to a natural circadian rhythm. Every living thing has a rhythm. Our bodies naturally wake when the temperature warms and the sun rises (we produce serotonin to make us feel awake). When it’s dark and cool, our bodies are ready for sleep (we produce melatonin to make us feel sleepy).
Follow your baby’s cues during this time. When you notice signs of tiredness, get them into the basinet for a nap. Try to keep them awake for a bit after feeds. Think of this pattern – eat, awake, sleep, eat, awake, sleep. This will do two things for parents:
1- Separate feeds from sleep. This is the number one reason parents call me for help. Their baby is used to only falling asleep while feeding or being held and they can’t sustain that long-term.
2- Awake time after feeds allows for lots of stimulation which makes baby tired for a nap. As a baby gets older, they are more alert and interested in their surroundings. All this mental and physical stimulation helps tire them out for naps.
So what does this mean for parents? Now you know in the initial weeks home with a newborn, don’t expect much sleep. Sleep when you can, limit visitors, and accept help! But after a couple months, you should see some predictability. This is when a baby becomes more efficient at feeding. More calories in during the day means longer stretches of sleep at night. Read that sentence again… I’ll wait. Focus on good feeds during the day and fewer at night as your baby gets older. A hungry baby doesn’t sleep, so good feeds are extremely important.
Your baby will slowly be able to stay awake for longer stretches during the day, creating a predictable nap routine. This allows parents to plan their days knowing when their baby needs to sleep.
Every family is different and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to sleep. If one parent stays home and does not need a predictable schedule, they may feed on demand and take naps during the day when the baby takes naps. If this works for that family, great! If both parents work, they usually need more structure, so having a predictable feeding and nap schedule, along with a set bedtime and wake time for the baby, is usually necessary. And some families will fall somewhere in between, where they want some structure, but the ability to be flexible. No matter what your parenting style is, don’t be afraid to ask for and accept help. If you need someone to come during the day to watch your baby so you can nap or shower, who do you have that you can ask? A friend or family member? Do you have postpartum doulas in your area? How about overnight sleep? Do you have someone that could stay overnight and help you with feeds so you can get extra rest?
Bottom line, it will be okay! You have resources that can help along the way, use them if you can. There are tons of free feeding support groups. Find other mothers or parents who you can talk to. Hire a sleep consultant if needed (a good one isn’t scary, I promise!). Check with your insurance plan to see what’s covered. You may be able to hire a doula or a lactation consultant. You may be able to take some newborn, breastfeeding, or sleep classes. Knowledge is power, so take the time to find resources that fit your budget and personal needs.
You’ve got this!
For additional information about pregnancy, birth, parenting, and sleep, check out Ask The Doulas Podcast on whatever podcast platform you listen to.
Alyssa is co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, co-founder of the BECOMING a Mother course, a Certified Elite Postpartum & Infant Care Doula, a Newborn Care Specialist, and a Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant. She offers custom sleep solutions to families across the country to help new parents find balance and rest.
Gold Coast Doulas is Expanding Our Reach!
We have been listening to our clients and trusted health practitioners, and we are expanding our day and overnight postpartum and sleep consulting services to Northern Michigan and Southwest Michigan starting in April of 2022. Michigan postpartum doula services and support will expand along the Gold Coast of Michigan, covering 300 miles of the western shoreline.
Gold Coast Doulas is proud to announce that we will serve beach towns from Niles in the Southwest to Harbor Springs in Northern Michigan. Our doula agency is focused on exceptional service and support for families. We are currently looking for exceptional postpartum doulas who reside in Southwest and Northern Michigan.
In a recent article from Petoskey News, the Charlevoix Area Chamber of Commerce President comment “Adding to any health services in the area is beneficial for our residents, and helps our region be somewhere you can truly live, work and play year-round.”
Northern Michigan postpartum doula lakeshore cities covered in the expansion include: Bay Harbor, Harbor Springs, Charlevoix, Cadillac, Suttons Bay, Petoskey, Traverse City, Frankfort, Manistee, Ludington, Silver Lake, and Pentwater.
Southwest Michigan postpartum doula lakeshore cities include: South Haven, Benton Harbor, St. Joseph, Stevensville, Lakeside, Coloma, Union Pier, Sawyer, Three Rivers, New Buffalo, and Niles.
Gold Coast Doulas has always had the intention of expanding and have been deliberate in our expansion plan. In Northern and Southwest Michigan, Gold Coast Doulas will focus on providing postpartum services like feeding, sibling care, household tasks like light housekeeping, meal preparation, and running errors. The primary focus in these lakeshore cities is on day and overnight postpartum doula services and sleep support. Gold Coast Doulas will continue to offer birth services, lactation, and classes to our West Michigan clients.
If you are interested in partnering with us or becoming a day and overnight postpartum doula, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Podcast Episode #110
Alyssa: Hi. Welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast. My name is Alyssa Veneklase. I am co‑owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today, I have Jessica Kupres, one of our postpartum doulas, with us, and we are both so excited to talk to Dr. Ladd. She is the author of a book called Transformed by Postpartum Depression. Hi, Dr. Ladd.
Dr. Ladd Hi, guys!
Alyssa: Hi, Jessica!
Alyssa: So, it’s still COVID. We’re still in a pandemic. We’re recording via Zoom, so if we hear any — you know, I have a dog and who knows what else. Bear with us, right? So, Dr. Ladd, I have to start — so Gold Coast Doulas is a doula agency, and I read that you were a birth doula.
Dr. Ladd That’s correct!
Alyssa: Are you still actively working or not?
Dr. Ladd No. I miss it. I miss parts of it. I decided to become a doula — I had a doula for my first birth, and she was wonderful. And after I had my experience with a traumatic birth and then postpartum depression, I decided that I wanted to be a birth doula and did the DONA training. And when I did the DONA training — this is all related, I swear – I saw in the syllabus, and Jessica, you can probably relate to this. This was back in 2000ish – 2001, 2002. So I was doing the training for birth doula certification, and I saw on the syllabus that there was nothing about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. Nothing. And at the time, it wouldn’t have been even called that, but we didn’t – there was no training about depression or anxiety or any sort of mental health other than this kind of vague emotional support. So I asked the trainer if I could bring in my own materials and do a presentation at the doula training. I was so obnoxious. And I took the PSI information with me and some basic statistics and basic, you know, what I had been through and shared my story. And so my doula practice ended up being – I got breast cancer shortly after I was certified, so I took a hit in terms of how many I was able to do, but I did specialize in working with moms and partners who had had some sort of a trauma. Either previous birth trauma or other; military. I worked with some military couples. And I absolutely loved being a doula. It was hard physically. I don’t think people realize how hard it is in terms of sleep deprivation and physical stuff. But yes, I was a birth doula.
Alyssa: Yeah. I thought that was amazing. Well, and it’s really amazing that you – they let you do your own presentation on mood disorders at that time, and I almost wonder if maybe you were a catalyst to adding some of that stuff to the DONA training, I wonder.
Dr. Ladd Well, I’ve since been lucky enough to know Penny and Phyllis and work with them. I was the founding president of PATTCh, which is dedicated to preventing traumatic childbirth. And I’ve had many conversations over the years with Penny regarding whether or not doulas, birth doulas, should have what she would consider, I think, a scope of practice issue, because her amazing vision and belief was that anyone should be able to get the training to be a doula. And along those lines, she felt that anything that kind of went into mental health needed to be handled by a professional. So she and I have had those conversations throughout the years, and I’m hoping that the more the doulas nudge, that we can handle the statistics. We can wrap our head around how to help somebody get to the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale. It’s fairly straightforward.
Alyssa: Yeah. I think we’ve come a long way in 20 years, right? It’s been almost 20 years since that training. At least we’re talking about it more. I mean, that’s a step; a huge step in the right direction, that mothers are talking about this.
Jessica: Yeah, getting the word out there so they don’t feel alone.
Alyssa: Right. So one question I had about even just the title of your book, Transformed by Postpartum Depression, I was wondering – you know, that word “transformed” is so powerful. And then I read in one of the chapters that you had – you were reading a book yourself about – I forget who the author was, but it had something to do with mental illness and mental health for mothers, and you read that word and it just, like, hit you. So I’m guessing that’s why that word is so powerful to you and why you used that for the title of your book?
Dr. Ladd Partially, yeah. I mean, the title – that word did jump out, and it was Jeanine Driscoll, and this was a book that I had been given in my clinical training as a therapist. And her story of postpartum – at the time, this was, for her, in the ’80s – she used the word transformed, and it’s the first time, I think, I had aligned the idea of transformation with perinatal mood disorders because I felt so different. And when I, years later, went forward to do research in this area, the original title of this study was Changing instead of Transformation. It was Changing Depression. And my thought there was that what I was finding from the women’s own lived experience was that there’s a certain nature to postpartum depression. Like, it has its own entity, and it is a changing kind of depression. It’s so forceful. It’s so sudden and comes on so strong, like a trauma, that it has its own sense of power. It can change you. And then I came back to the word transformation, and I think now, to be honest, I still grapple with that word a little because I think it has – I don’t want it to only be seen as a good thing or a bad thing. It’s just that, gone untreated, these disorders change women. They change women. And for some, that change can be powerfully positive, and that’s where I got more – you know, I got involved with posttraumatic growth, but not everyone. Not everyone. So, yes, it’s a transformation, but I’m also kind of hinting at – which I don’t think I’m quite there yet. I want to keep working on it. I want to transform postpartum depression itself. I mean, in the very back, I put together that graphic at the back page, which shows what we’ve called postpartum depression since the beginning of time, and we haven’t really gone very far. It’s around birth. It’s always related to some sort of reproductive event. So I want, like you guys, to transform not only the experience that women have, but what we say about it, what we know about it, and the language that we use.
Alyssa: Yeah. You had mentioned that your husband at the time just kept telling you, this is all in your mind. You’re making this choice. Right? And I think, you’re not the only one who hears that. And maybe even if we as mothers aren’t hearing it from someone else, we’re hearing it from ourselves. Why don’t you just do this? Why can’t I just be that? So I think you’re right in transforming not only what we call it but what we think about it and what we know about it, and I still think we don’t know enough about it, even though we’re talking about it. It’s very surface level.
Dr. Ladd Why do you think that is?
Alyssa: You know, I didn’t know about it when I had my daughter. I didn’t really know what it was. And I would say, oh, no, of course I didn’t. But then I think back, the more I learn, I’m like, oh, my gosh. I remember sitting in the nursery just in tears in the rocking chair, and breastfeeding was so much harder than I imagined, and your hormones and your emotions are all over, and, you know, granted, for me, it slowly got better, but I don’t know. I guess, was I in a depression? Did I just have some anxiety? Was this all just normal? It’s hard to put a name on something. And then the stigma of that is also what hinders a lot of mothers. And, Jessica, I think you had a question specifically about postpartum depression, too.
Jessica: Yeah. But to go along with what you guys were just talking about, I think that part of it is, a big piece is that stigma, and going with my question in just a second, is that moms are afraid. If they speak up and say something, their baby will be taken from them. I did have postpartum depression pretty severely, and I didn’t seek help for eight months because I was, like, these horrible thoughts, which I now know were intrusive thoughts: they’re going to take my baby. I don’t want to lose my baby. And I think that that’s a big message that has to get out there, is that seeking help doesn’t meant that you’re a bad mom, and it doesn’t mean they’re going to take your baby. It just can help. And so I think that is a big piece of it. But talking about this and this language, I wonder – you’re predominantly saying postpartum depression and focusing on the depression. Why don’t you include more of the other things that go with it?
Dr. Ladd Good question. And I do, but it’s all because of language. What we’ve known in common society – I think postpartum depression is the most identifiable. So anybody who’s a possible reader or a clinician who hasn’t full training in the full spectrum of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders might identify postpartum depression. And I also use it as an umbrella for all of the disorders because the language hasn’t filtered out to – I mean, we’re talking, all three of us this morning, about not knowing what to call our own issues when we have them. So somebody with intrusive thoughts is not necessarily going to know that they might have postpartum OCD or postpartum panic disorder. So I use the language that we’re most familiar with. And I want to tag team on something you said about stigma. You know, stigma – I did a study about how women who are diagnosed with bipolar disorder in the first year of postpartum, how they experience stigma. And, basically, for all of us, any sort of the way we make decisions about the world is we observe how people are behaving, and if we perceive something to be outside of the norm – this is based on Goffman’s stigma theory – we kind of mentally categorize them as different. Right? And that different space is over, away, from what we’ve come to recognize as everybody else being normal. Right? So that different space lingers, and if we perceive them as either physically different or behaviorally different or emotionally different, we’re going to put them – our habit is to put them over in the “different” space. And gone unchecked from just basic knowledge, that “different” group of people, we will build assumptions and beliefs about what they are capable of or how they fit in society, and it’s usually negative. That creates the prejudice. A prejudice; a preknowledge belief that, okay, that person who is behaving or looking different is going to potentially do things that are unpredictable. And then if that goes unchecked, we can actually unconsciously build this implicit bias where we will discriminate. We will discriminate in micro ways against or away from people that we perceive to be different. So let’s take a mom who is crying a lot, and in the book, one of my participants referred to it as leaking. You know, it’s like this kind of leak. It’s like an involuntary crying. Like the stomach flu, but you’re crying. There’s no control over it; it’s just coming out. So let’s say this mom is crying. She feels that those symptoms are out of – they are out of the range of normal for her, and all of the baby stuff that she’s seen, from the minute she peed on the stick, didn’t show anybody crying inconsolably. So when she goes out into the world, if it’s to Walmart, if it’s to the care provider, if it’s to the postpartum doula, there are no representations of that as normal. So she moves herself into that “different” space and can start to believe that maybe there’s something seriously wrong with her. And if that goes unchecked and she is at a family event crying, it gets validated because everyone’s like, why are you upset? You have a new baby. Everybody’s great. So that process of stigma happens for women constantly. And we unfortunately do it to each other. When I was a doula, I once had a mom ask me to go to the supermarket for her to get formula because she was so afraid that some of her neighbors would see her buying formula instead of breastfeeding. So that’s just one example. So that stigma piece is – and the media certainly doesn’t help.
Alyssa: Right. And I had a question about one excerpt from your preface, and maybe I’ll just read it, because it stuck out to me. Again, it’s the whole stigma, and it’s the idea of what do we call this. So it says: “I reject the notion that objective truth is inherently real or measurable but rather constructed by multiple entities, including society, culture, history, and individuals, all coexisting. So from this perspective, the reality of postpartum depression can’t be known, defined, or quantified. By definition, it is constructed in real time, every time, in multiple ways, by multiple people.” So it’s dynamic and changing, and to me, this pinpoints exactly why this is so hard to define, because postpartum depression, for one, doesn’t look – you know, for you doesn’t look like it does for me, and a lot of how we feel about, you know, if I had it, maybe it’s the way my family’s talking to me about it. Maybe it’s, you know, not going to the grocery store for fear of my friends finding out I’m buying formula. Or maybe I don’t care about that, but I have to post all the beautiful Instagram photos. There’s just so many different layers and levels that I think you just hit the nail on the head with why this is so hard to define and then so hard for others to understand.
Dr. Ladd Exactly.
Alyssa: So when a mom has it, I feel like she’s – you know, maybe her partner doesn’t understand. So like you, getting the whole thing about well, just change your frame of mind. Just do something different. Get your head out of the hole and, you know, you have a baby who’s beautiful, so what are you so sad about? If people don’t understand, then we just dig ourselves into a deeper hole. Well, I know I feel this way. I shouldn’t feel this way. I don’t want to feel this way. But now they’re making me feel worse, so now I’m probably digging a deeper hole, and it’s just getting harder and harder to get out.
Dr. Ladd Yes. And part of what you’re saying, really, it speaks to how do we fix this, and I think the more we can normalize that – we have no trouble talking about a clogged milk duct. No trouble. We’ve made that okay. And women have said, I need help. So there’s been this agreement between science and society to allow women to talk about things like sore, cracked nipples, for God’s sake. We can do that. We can talk about how to care for an episiotomy repair. I think maybe if we could talk about the range of that for every birth, there is a range of physical and emotional recovery and experience, and within that, I mean, we do know that 80 to 85% of all birthing women will experience postpartum blues, that kind of – you know, shortly after birth, two or three weeks. It lasts for a few days and then moves out. But we’re not even comfortable talking about that, and when I say we, I mean all of us. But predominantly care providers. So when you’re discharged after having a baby and you have all those pamphlets about how to lactate and breastfeed but there’s nothing in there about how you can identify if you’ve got some things going on with your brain, there’s a miscommunication.
Jessica: So what would you suggest? And this – I just really am interested. What would you suggest as care providers that we do to get the word out? How do you think we could improve that so more moms would know about it ahead of time and can be better prepared for it so it doesn’t just hit them like a ton of bricks?
Dr. Ladd I think there are a couple of things, one of which is public health. And on the public health level, we need more support for mandated screening. And ACOG is close, but not there with the mandate to screen. And even asking a woman about her family history, we’re not – if it’s not on the checklist for an intake for the OB nurse, for any sort of prenatal or perinatal care provider to say, so, tell me about your family history with any sort of mood or anxiety disorder. If that’s not on the list, that’s something we could add quickly. We’re not shy, and ACOG is not shy, about saying that we need to test your urine. We need to test your blood. We need to test your blood pressure many times to screen. But yet even though we’ve got these validated screening tools, it’s not mandated, and that sends a message. I’m not even sure that would fix it. But on the public health level, organizations like National Perinatal Association, NPA, PSI, who are saying, we have to change it by asking women. That’s one way. And then I personally believe, and that is my personal belief, that the more women can talk about how they’re feeling, regardless of what they think might be happening in response to that, the better. So in my research, all 25 women ended up having to get themselves treated because providers failed, even when women were saying flat out, I’m not sure I want to be here, or I think I shouldn’t be my child’s mom, or I can’t sleep. And providers miss it. And I don’t want to bash providers; I really don’t. I want them to get the support from their certifying bodies that it’s important; important enough to take 5 minutes out of the 15 minutes that they’re given with a patient and ask. So that’s part of it. And I think as the birth community, the mom community, that’s so huge now online. Maybe we just need to lighten the load on the language. I mean, the women in my book speak very frankly, and I think all women speak very frankly when they’re not under the – you know, when they’re not being analyzed. We all have those private Facebook groups where women are throwing down. So when a participant will say to me, I don’t know why we don’t just tell each other. It sucks, man. That resonates on a level to any mom, regardless of their perinatal mood or anxiety disorder. Why don’t we tell each other it sucks? And that’s the last piece. And it seems to be that we have a lot of trouble allowing – I’m going to use the word allowing – women to be ambivalent about motherhood. You’ve got to love it all, or you’re horrible. Every moment of it, every diaper change, every ear infection, all of it. And that’s – who loves all of anything?
Alyssa: Right. That’s not fair for anything, let alone a screaming toddler or a sassy teenager, right? With each new stage, I feel like – you know, I always tell my postpartum clients that every developmental stage, you lose something that’s so hard, and then you go onto something that’s easier, but then this new hard thing is going to come. Like, there’s always going to be this new hard thing, and you won’t be prepared for it, and it’s okay. It will suck for a while. But yeah, I think it’s hard to – you know, I have whole days that I’m just like, oh, my God. This is awful. What in the world? Why? I read something the other day where this mom said she had one kid, and it was – you know, the pain of it and just the exhaustion. It was, like, a two-day induction or something. She goes, my only thought was, why in this developed world where contraception is available do we have so many humans? Like, why are people doing this again and again? And she was so real. I loved it.
Dr. Ladd Yes! And the last piece of this, and not everyone – you know, I will just share that I think Bowlby and attachment theory has done a number on us for six decades because, on some internalized level, guys, we are buying the notion that maternal deprivation will harm the thing that we love more than anything. That if we sneeze in the wrong direction or have a thought about, God, I’d really like to not be doing this right now, we will harm our child. Not only once; for their lifetime. And while we do have, you know, years of science about maternal attachment and development, we have yet to really clear the debris of what attachment theory can also do, which is to shame women out of their reality.
Jessica: Yeah. I feel like that’s a lot of mommy wars type of stuff. There’s so much information on how to be a good mom, and whichever way you choose, every other way is going to say you’re wrong, and I think that’s just really hard, that we just don’t – I mean, it’s all this pressure to be this perfect mom. Yeah. I think that’s a big piece of it. And then we have, on that, that if you have depression, if you’re not happy, if you don’t enjoy every minute of every day, now you are destroying your child for the rest of their life. Now you’ve not only given them depression because you have depression genetically, but now you’ve given them depression because you’re depressed and you didn’t bond with them appropriately. And so let’s just add a little more stress and anxiety to someone who’s already stressed and anxious. And I just think that’s – I mean, it’s good to know. Like you said, it’s research. We know that there’s not that – it’s not going to be as much bonding and that it can cause more depression, but I feel like sometimes it just adds more. It’s another way to feel like you failed.
Alyssa: Well, and I think – I have the same thoughts about the attachment. You can always go too far. You know, and of course the oxytocin that you can get from the skin to skin, but sometimes even now, and my daughter’s 8, I just feel touched out. Everyone just needs me all the time, and if I were a depressed mom with a newborn baby, and everyone’s saying, oh, you’re feeling depressed. Just hold your baby all the time. Wear your baby all the time. Breastfeed more. That’s just more touch when I need my own space. And then sometimes babies – I see this a lot because I do sleep consultations, and I get those depressed moms who haven’t slept for months. They are so sleep-deprived, and then they think, I’ve been holding my baby to sleep for three months straight or all these things. They don’t know that their little babies are developing these personalities, and they might not want to be touched all the time. Just because you’ve been told that they need to be picked up every time they cry – your baby doesn’t always need that. So really listening and being in tune with what you want as a mother and what your baby is actually asking for – I think we’re just getting – like you said, the attachment thing. We’re just getting too touched out. We don’t necessarily need that all the time.
Dr. Ladd This is such a great conversation, and it makes me think about how it loops into the stigma. It loops into what we said about needing to let women speak to their own experiences. And I think there’s something about redefining attachment as – or this idea of motherhood as, you can communicate to your baby and to your child: Mommy’s struggling, and I’m right here. I had a conversation with a mom this week, a colleague of mine, who’s got a boy who had to have a tooth extraction. And as anybody listening can imagine, a child having a tooth extraction is incredibly anxious, and it was long and very difficult. And I said, you know, it’s okay to tell him that you – it was hard for you, too. And that you went through it together, and that you’re okay. Yeah. I was there, and because it validates to your child, yeah, that was pretty crazy, wasn’t it? That was pretty hard. It was hard for me, too. And I’m okay. And maybe we can allow each other to say, you know what? I see that you’re an amazing mom, even though you have these experiences that tell you that you’re not. And we can start to say to our children, you know, I went through this, and I rock. It didn’t screw me up in terms of my connection to my child. It actually made it stronger. And I’ve had women, lots of women, tell me that, that the connection with that child with whom they went through a mood disorder is unique and tight. In other words, I think women – we love our kids, no matter what. It just doesn’t have to always be positive.
Jessica: I love that you said it doesn’t always have to be positive, and I think that’s really important for moms to know, that it doesn’t always have to be positive. That there will be ups and downs, and it’s the hardest job in the world.
Dr. Ladd And we’re able, in other areas of society, to really honor struggle in a way that’s noble. Veterans: we’ve gotten our heads around honoring the nobility of somebody who’s sacrificed and paid a price emotionally, physically, et cetera. And yet we’re not able to do that for moms in terms of honoring their suffering nobly.
Alyssa: I love this conversation. Two more things. We’re going to end with how people can find you and your book and tell us anything else about your book, but let’s say not everyone is going to be able to read your book. What’s one thing you think every mother, parent, would need to know going forward, either about motherhood or mental health or…
Dr. Ladd I would say about any woman who is of childbearing years should be talking, should be telling, their provider about their sleep, their appetite, whether or not there’s a history in their family of mood or anxiety disorders, and for women of color, it is so much harder to get the message across, so I would say we all need to support our women of color to have an ally, to possibly go with them to the provider. Without a doubt, we need to be telling – because they’re not asking right now. They’re not saying. They’re just not asking. For a number of reasons; put COVID on top of everything else. So we need to be encouraging. I would love to see – there’s this concept called a reproductive life plan where doctors could be asking young girls and young men about their emotional and mental health very early on. So a pediatrician who’s doing a well‑check for a kid who’s 11 could be planting the seeds that that’s a safe space to say, I am not sleeping. I’m having intrusive thoughts. Or I can’t stop thinking about this, or I’m any of the symptoms that would come forward. So to wrap that one up, I would say – and for anyone who’s pregnant and/or just had a baby, I would say, know the language of mood disorders to be able to say it to your provider to get help, and that would be how your sleep is affected, how your appetite has been affected, and how your sense of hope or interest in life, anhedonia, has been affected. Just being able to say, I’m not sleeping. I’m not eating. And I feel like I don’t want to do this.
Alyssa: Yeah. I think that’s beautiful. Well, thank you so much for doing this. It’s such a pleasure, and I look forward to finishing the book. We got quite a ways into it. But tell people about your book; maybe say your name and the title again and where they can find your book.
Dr. Ladd Sure. So my name is Walker Ladd, and you can go to my website. And the book is Transformed by Postpartum Depression: Women’s Stories of Trauma and Growth. And that’s on Amazon or at my publisher, Praeclarus Press. And I also wanted to give a shout-out to anybody interested in the book to think about – I was able to get interviews with amazing experts, so a part of the book is dedicated to – I ask, you know, Karen Kleiman and Jane Honikman. I had such a great experience interviewing these leaders to see what they think about the idea that untreated postpartum depression or any disorder could be experienced as a traumatic life event, and it was a very interesting response.
Alyssa: Great. Well, thank you so much! We’ll talk to you soon.
Audra’s Birth Story: Podcast Episode #105
Audra Geyer, Gold Coast’s newest birth doula, tells us her birth story and how birth support from her doula was a game changer. She also took HypnoBirthing classes and went from being afraid of labor to looking forward to it! Her experience with Gold Coast let her to become a doula herself! 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 Audra to talk about her birth and HypnoBirthing experience. Welcome, Audra!
Audra: Hi. Thank you!
Kristin: So tell us a bit about yourself. I know we met at the Baby Expo in your early pregnancy stages.
Audra: Yeah. I live in Alger Heights with my husband and our two dogs, and we have a seven-month old daughter, Charlie.
Kristin: This was your first pregnancy. So tell us about how you planned for your birth.
Audra: So initially, I had no plans for my birth. I just envisioned that it would not be an enjoyable experience, and I just had to get through it, and it was just part of what the process was for having a baby.
Kristin: And how did you get that information? Was it from movies or friends, or what made you sort of fear birth?
Audra: I think just society’s view on birth. You know, everyone I had talked to, I had just heard horror stories about their own personal experience. And, yeah, watching movies, TV shows, everything just shows that this is a terrifying, awful experience, and so that’s just — I was just preparing myself for that.
Kristin: And I think people tend to share negative stories more than they do their positive birth stories with friends and family. That just feeds into it. So you took some classes with us in early pregnancy, and also used both birth doula support as well as postpartum. So tell us a bit about that preparation and maybe how it changed your mindset.
Audra: Yeah. So I went with a friend to the Baby Expo, and I had heard about doulas before but just assumed they were for natural home births. So we just started talking, and I heard about HypnoBirthing. I remember the first question I asked you guys at the Baby Expo was, can I still get an epidural? And they were like, oh, of course. Whatever birth you want, we’re just there to support you. So I went home and just did a ton of research, and I was like, holy cow. There’s this whole world of doulas and support for women that I never knew about.
Kristin: Yeah. There is a misconception that doulas are only for home birthing, unmedicated birthers, and, you know, especially at Gold Coast, we pride ourselves on judgement-free support, and we have clients who want an epidural the second they get to the hospital, clients who are planning a surgical birth and they want support emotionally and with resources for that birth. So, yeah, doulas are definitely for all birthing persons, not just unmedicated birthers.
Audra: And my whole life I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression, and my husband and I knew that would be something we’d have to keep a close eye on while I was pregnant but also postpartum, and to be like, oh, I could have this support right away, and just knowing that I will have someone in my corner and someone to support my husband, too. It just provided us both with a lot of comfort.
Kristin: Yes! So tell us about HypnoBirthing and what you learned in that class.
Audra: HypnoBirthing was amazing! First off, we just learned so much about the birthing process and what happens to our bodies in labor. Stuff we’ve learned, but I’ve never really taken a deep dive into it and thought about it. And just a big focus on labor and delivery and pregnancy — our bodies were meant to do this. We learned a lot of medication, breathing techniques, but it was also a big focus on bonding with your baby, bonding with your partner. Every class we left, I just felt so connected to my baby, to my husband. A lot of positive affirmations and just really starting to envision my pregnancy, my labor, delivery, as such a beautiful experience no matter what happens. And what a gift I’d been given to be able to go through this.
Kristin: Right. Exactly. And what I love about HypnoBirthing is it’s, as you said, it’s more like that mind-body connection versus just positions and some physical techniques you can do to reduce the perception of pain. So it’s just — there’s such an emotional connection to birth and your partner and your support team, and of course breath and using positive language in birth and taking the fear out of it. It’s a huge aspect of HypnoBirthing.
Audra: I remember my husband was like, sure, I’ll do this with you. And when we left our first class, he was like, that was nothing like I imagined. He thought we were going to be in a gymnasium with pool noodles on the floor in different positions, and I think he just felt really empowered, too, that look at what I can do to help support my partner and be just as involved in the birth.
Kristin: Right. Beyond HypnoBirthing, I know you took some other courses through Gold Coast. What else did you do preparation-wise?
Audra: I took the Saturday Series course. So Comfort Measures, Breastfeeding, and then Newborn Survival.
Kristin: And what were your takeaways from that one day series?
Audra: It was just so nice to have information, and I just felt so much more calm and educated and kind of knowing what to expect and knowing that there’s no right or wrong way.
Kristin: Right. It’s what right for you. I think all of us, you know, emphasize that in our classes, whether it’s Alyssa’s Newborn Survival or the Comfort Measures that I teach, and certainly Kelly’s breastfeeding class is eye-opening in so many ways and shows how a partner can be involved in feeding, as well.
Audra: Yeah, and I think with the breastfeeding, it really just prepared me, that if that’s the route I choose to go, it’s going to be hard, and it’s okay that it’s going to be hard. I think I had an idea that, oh, no, breastfeeding is going to be so easy. She’ll latch right away. We’ll have no issues. But to know that, yep, you’re not alone. This can be a struggle, and again, you have to figure out what’s best for you and your family.
Kristin: Exactly. Now we’re getting to your birth phase and working with birth doulas and so on. I know Katie was your doula. Tell us about that experience.
Audra: Oh, it was amazing. I went from initially, “Of course I’ll have an epidural,” to, nope, I’m going to do this all naturally, thanks to HypnoBirthing, to at 37 weeks finding out I needed to be medically induced.
Kristin: Lots of changes with that. Tell us how Katie supported you in pregnancy and then leading up to the induction. A lot of people don’t really understand the role of a birth doula through pregnancy and labor.
Audra: Yeah. I had — the minute I signed the contract with Gold Coast, I had Katie’s support. Through the phone; I could text her with any questions, anything I was worried about, anxious about. She would respond, provide me with resources. A lot of what I needed was just reassurance that things were going how they were supposed to go, that I was okay, baby was okay. And especially as a first-time mom and first time being pregnant, your body does a lot of things that you don’t know would happen.
Kristin: Right. There’s a lot of, “Is this normal, or do I need to call my provider?”
Audra: Exactly. And so just knowing I had someone there, nonjudgmental, you know, just supporting me — because, you know, calling your provider, you don’t always get to talk to them, or they’ll just yep, yes or no, give you a short little information, and then they have to move on with their day. So having someone who can sit down and really just talk through your options, talk about how you’re feeling, checking in with you emotionally.
Kristin: So when you found out you needed to be induced, how did your doula support you through that process before she supported you in the hospital?
Audra: So I left my appointment with the doctor sobbing in the car, just absolutely terrified about getting induced. So the first thing I did when I got home was text Katie. I just expressed all my fears to her and what I was feeling, and first and foremost, she reassured me that the medical team I had chosen were going to take the best care of me. My baby was going to be safe and healthy. I had blood pressure issues, and so I was just terrified of what could happen if my blood pressure gets really high. She encouraged me to write out a list of questions to ask my doctor. Like, if this happens, then what do we do, or what would this step be? What would this look like? So I could have more of an understanding of what potentially could happen at the hospital. And then also she really encouraged me to write out some affirmations, because I love writing affirmations and I use them all the time, and so I was able to write a list of affirmations that I would use while I would meditate to just help calm me down and center me, focus me, and let me still enjoy these last few moments of being pregnant.
Kristin: That’s fantastic. So you were able to have conversations before the induction started, and you got the answers you needed to feel empowered. So tell us about some of the induction process and when your body started to kick in and when you felt like you needed in-person support and how that went.
Audra: We knew it was going to be a long induction process, just because I was 37 weeks and my body was not near ready for labor. So between Katie, myself, and my husband, we were basically in constant communication through text message, just how I was doing, how I was feeling, what the next step was. And Katie actually came the first night we were at the hospital just to check in, see how we were doing, letting us know whatever we needed, she was there and ready for us. And things were going pretty stable at that point; nothing that we needed a lot of support. We were just resting. So she went home, and said, I have my phone with me. Anything you need, call, text, reach out. And things were slowly progressing. It got to the point where I did end up getting an epidural, but I was just pretty relaxed. And then the next day around noon, my water broke, and things started to pick up pretty quick.
Kristin: Yes. It intensifies everything, for sure.
Audra: We reached out and said, hey, you know, I think we’re ready for you to come. Labor has officially started after 24 hours of being at the hospital. And so by the time Katie got there, my epidural had kind of worn off a little bit. So I was in a lot of discomfort. I was not feeling well, and I just remember her coming in and with her and my husband, they were both just supporting me as I would breathe through my surges. And I actually — Katie has two sons, and I remember at one point looking up at her, and saying, I just need you to tell me what you love about being a mom, in between, so that I was able to focus on the things I had to look forward to as I was in some of these deep pains and discomfort. And it was just so amazing to hear. You know, I had my husband on one side telling me the birth affirmations we’ve written, and then I had Katie on the other just sharing these amazing things that I knew I would soon be experience.
Kristin: Yes. I love it!
Audra: With that, I was able to just relax, surrender, and just — I felt so calm despite being in one of the most uncomfortable situations I’ve ever been in.
Kristin: That’s great. So things intensified. Did Katie help you move into different positions?
Audra: Since I had the epidural — because I finally got some relief — she would help with the nurses, with moving me, and I think the biggest thing for me was just the reassurance she was giving me, that I was doing great, my body was moving along, this was where I was supposed to be, helping me feel excited. And I think for Rob, too, she just was an extra support for him because he was supporting me so much, and it helped me to know he was taken care of as well.
Kristin: Yes. That is a huge part, because we do support a couple as a whole and make sure that the partner has gotten rest if needed with inductions or had a chance to get food or to step out and take a break because it can be intense when they’re pouring everything into you and are trying to be that supportive partner. We don’t want them to be depleted at the time of pushing and meeting their baby. So I’m glad that he felt taken care of, as well.
Audra: Yeah. And once I finally felt relaxed and got a lot of relief, Katie encouraged us both to take a little rest. And there’s actually a picture of us, with me in the bed sleeping, Rob on the couch sleeping, about an hour before I gave birth, and it’s just one of my favorites. The last few moments of us resting, just the two of us, and that moment was able to be captured.
Kristin: And then did Katie offer support after the birth? Like, how did she help after your daughter was born?
Audra: When Charlie was born, she came very quickly and ended up needing to be on CPAP pretty quick after she was born. So as a new mom and just already very anxious, I was terrified. Like, what is this looking like? Is she okay? Is this normal? What are they doing? And I had just given birth and my body — you know, I was just in this tremendous amount of emotions in general, and she was able to support both my husband and I. She encouraged Rob to go stand by Charlie and then was able to be there with me while the doctor was finishing up with me and just kind of keeping us informed, educating us about what was going on and that things were okay because the nurses and doctors, they’re all talking to each other and saying terms we didn’t understand, and just encouraging me to ask questions if I had any and validating that, you’re doing a good job advocating for yourself, Audra, and just — yeah, it was nice knowing my husband could be with Charlie for that brief time, and I had someone right there with me, as well. And so then after Charlie was able to be off of CPAP, we were able to do our skin to skin. She helped us with latching and, again, I was just very anxious. Is this supposed to be happening? Does she look okay? Is she breathing okay? And just, like, bringing me back to focus of, look, you just gave birth, and you have this newborn baby in your arms.
Kristin: I love it. Did she follow up after she left to see how you were doing when you were still in the hospital?
Audra: Yes. She would follow up to see how feeding was going, and then we did — I would say about a week after Charlie was born, she came to our house to just follow up and see how things were going, and she got to see Charlie and hold her. And it was just so nice to have her support and to have — like, that she was such a part of this experience to us, where I was so vulnerable, but yet it was such a beautiful, emotional experience that I feel just so connected to her now.
Kristin: Yes. I feel that way with my doulas. It is vulnerable, and a time of reverence. So, yeah, you end up feeling like your doula is part of your family for that journey, whether it’s a birth doula or a postpartum doula. And, of course, you delivered pre-COVID, but your postpartum phase was during COVID. So that’s changed your initial plans as far as postpartum doula support went.
Audra: Yeah. So we had — I’m trying to think. Maybe a couple weeks before COVID hit, being at home and being able to use our postpartum doula. And I remember initially being like, okay, what do I do? How can I entertain the doula? Like, I need to clean the house. I need…
Kristin: You’re a helper, obviously!
Audra: I need to look presentable! And Jen was our doula, and she came over and was just like, oh, my gosh, Audra, like, you can relax. I have Charlie. Don’t you worry. And I would go take a nap. I would rest. I would come downstairs, and the house would be tidied. She’d have a snack waiting for me. My pump parts would be clean. The diapers bag was packed and ready to go.
Audra: Yeah. Less things I had to worry about or to focus on later that day. And I like to talk and talk through experiences, so a lot of times, too, we would just sit and talk, which is what I needed at that time.
Kristin: And we are there to process the birth with our clients as far as postpartum doula support and then help you heal and talk to you emotionally. I feel like friends and family ask more about the baby and don’t check in enough with the birthing person and how they’re doing and how they’re feeling. Everyone wants to hold the baby and give gifts for the baby, and there’s not enough attention to the birthing person.
Audra: Yeah. The amount of times I got asked, how’s the baby sleeping? You know, it was never, how are you sleeping? How are you doing? It was, oh, how is she sleeping? And I also got a lot of, oh, I’m glad that’s going great now, and you just wait until you see what happens. And I’m like, my body is still healing from this crazy experience. I’m keeping another human alive. What about me? I need help, too.
Kristin: Exactly. And in traditional cultures, women are supported for 30 to 40 days from friends and family, and they aren’t expected to do anything. And in our culture, it’s like, okay, get back to work. Get back in shape. You should be feeling great and don’t complain.
Audra: Keep the house clean!
Kristin: Right. Be perfect! And that’s not how it should be. So we’re trying to bring back some more of that focus on the birthing person. So you are now a doula with us! So tell us how you became interested in becoming a doula after your experience and a bit about why you are drawn to this work, because you obviously have another career.
Audra: Yes. So like I said earlier, I went from not knowing a lot about birth, just expecting, you know, this to kind of be a terrible experience, and through my education and through the help of having doulas, I was able to make my birth one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve gone through, and I found myself, after giving birth, wanting to talk about birth a lot, and I was doing a lot of research, reading a lot of books, reading about postpartum, and right now, I’m a speech language pathologist. I work with people who’ve either had a stroke or a brain injury. So I’ve always worked with people, helping people. That’s been a passion of mine. And just realizing the lack of knowledge, especially in the United States, of the postpartum experience, the birth experience, and what a doula is. And I just thought, wow, if I could help give other women the support I had and help them through this journey, help them have the experience and support that I had, that would just be so fulfilling and just — it makes me sad when I think about all the people I know who look back on their birth and their postpartum and it was — they felt like they had no support and they felt so alone. And that shouldn’t be the norm.
Kristin: Right. Yeah, they feel isolated, especially now during COVID, and we’ve been working all through COVID. Some of our postpartum work had halted, and some hospitals weren’t allowing doulas in, so we offered virtual support only, but I feel like now more than ever, because of the isolation with COVID, doula support and that connection is so essential and providing information, as you said, so couples can make informed decisions about their birth and their postpartum phase and planning out what they want to do after baby or babies are born and how they can accept help from others or hire help, like postpartum doulas or a housekeeper or a meal delivery service, whatever it may be.
Audra: Yeah. And even the comfort of knowing you guys have a sleep consultant, and if I ran into issues, you know, I had 12 weeks off for maternity leave, and a big area of anxiety was, what is it going to look like when I go back, with sleep? And so I always knew I had Alyssa if I needed her. Thankfully, Charlie got on a good sleep routine on her own, but just knowing the amount and the diverse support that Gold Coast had, I knew I was going to be taken care of, and I knew I was in good hands.
Kristin: So what did you learn — obviously, you worked with doulas, but then you recently took your birth doula training. What opened your eyes that you didn’t know before about the doula role? Tell us a bit about your training.
Audra: It was so amazing. Just learning about nonjudgmental support. No matter what someone is thinking, feeling, we are just really there to support them. And, obviously, as we go through our own births and raising our own kids, we can develop our own feelings, but putting those aside and saying, we are there to support you, and no matter what you choose. So it was nice to just learn about all those different strategies and how I could go in and help a woman in any situation, no matter what. I would feel confident doing that.
Kristin: Right. And your particular training through ProDoula — and I’m also trained through ProDoula — you realize you don’t need all the things as a doula, and you have that instinctual knowledge, and you’re able to just serve; again, without judgment, and an open heart, and a brand new doula can be just as effective as someone who’s seasoned like myself.
Audra: Yeah. And, again, before I knew much about doulas, I always thought, oh, they have the birthing balls and they’re in the tub and, you know, all these other knick-knacks that you have to have. And it’s really just yourself being there. That’s all you need.
Kristin: I mean, I have a birth backpack that is filled with things, but outside of, you know, my bosu and a couple other things — like, I like the LED candles to put in the bathroom if a client’s in the tub or shower, but I don’t use everything I bring. Other than snacks for myself, and that’s key. Got to keep going! But, yeah. So we’re excited to have you on the team!
Audra: Yes. I’m so excited!
Kristin: And I know you have plans eventually to become a postpartum doula, but you are available for hire for labor doula support.
Kristin: So we’re excited to begin that process with you. Thanks for sharing your story, Audra!
Audra: Yes. Thank you for having me! I love sharing it and talking about my experience.
Kristin: You’ll impact so many families, not only from listening to the podcast, but when they begin working with you. And we will include a link to your bio in our podcast notes and the blog. Thanks for listening to Ask the Doulas with Gold Coast Doulas. These moments are golden!
We are excited to introduce you to Audra Geyer, our newest birth doula! She was a recent HypnoBirthing student and birth client of ours who loved the experience so much she decided to become a doula herself!
What did you do before you became a doula?
I currently work as a Speech Language Pathologist at Spectrum Health. I got my Bachelors and Masters Degree from Michigan State University.
What inspired you to become a doula?
Going through my own pregnancy and birth journey. If you would have told me 10 years ago I was going to become a birth doula, I would never have believed it. I used to be terrified of birth and assumed it would be the WORST experience ever. With the help of my doula and HypnoBirthing, I was able to make the birth of my daughter an empowering, beautiful, and spiritual experience. The idea that I can support others through this journey is just so amazing.
Tell us about your family.
My husband, Rob, and I have been married for almost 4 years. We have an amazing 6 month old daughter, Charli Kate. We have 2 dogs, Laverne and Winston. Rob and I met at Michigan State and now live in Alger Heights.
What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
We LOVE to travel. Our favorite vacation spot we have been to is Egypt and hope to go back again someday.
Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
I don’t really listen to a lot of music, I am more of a podcast gal. If I am listening to music it is usually from a Broadway Musical. I am currently obsessed with Hamilton.
What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Take things one day at a time or one surge at a time!
What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
The ability to talk through anything with people.
What is your favorite food?
Pizza- just plain cheese.
What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I love the Blue Bridge in downtown Grand Rapids. It’s where my husband proposed.
What are you reading now?
I am a bookworm! Currently I am reading Good Moms Have Scary Thoughts, The Unexpected Spy, and The Matriarch Rules.
Who are your role models?
My role model is definitely my mom. She passed away when I was 16 after a courageous battle with cancer. She lived such a full life and had such a passion for helping others. She never took a single moment for granted!
Acupuncture for Anxiety: Podcast Episode #105
Kristin Revere, Co-Owner of Gold Coast Doulas talks with Vikki Nestico of Grand Wellness about acupuncture to help relieve stress, tension, and anxiety. 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 Vikki from Grand Wellness to talk about how acupuncture can help with anxiety, both in pregnancy and after delivery. Welcome, Vikki!
Vikki: Thank you for having me! It’s awesome to be here again.
Kristin: Yeah, it’s great to have you back! We spoke about acupuncture and fertility last time. So I’m excited to delve into anxiety. A lot of our clients struggle with anxiety, both in pregnancy and after giving birth. So I’d love to hear a bit about you personally and also your practice before we begin.
Vikki: Well, I moved here from New York City about six years ago and was so happy, because I do love it here — it’s such a great city — but really exciting to bring — I wouldn’t say I brought this medicine here, but, you know, I’m one of handful of people that do acupuncture in West Michigan. And in New York, every corner has an acupuncturist. So it’s wonderful to be a part of the crew that can — that really gets to share this medicine for the first time to so many people.
Kristin: Right. Yeah, it is definitely all about education, and we feel the same way about birth support and certainly postpartum doulas. Everyone has a doula in New York or Chicago or in other markets, and so both of us in our practices have the challenge of educating the community on the benefits of our services. So it’s great to partner with like-minded professionals like yourself and refer clients and know that you’re a trusted referral source. You know, we tend to refer a lot of our clients who are either struggling with pain in pregnancy or are trying to induce labor or have a baby who’s breech, for example, and they’re trying to do everything they can to flip baby. So we appreciate how much you’ve helped our clients.
Vikki: Oh, thank you. I love working with women and with women in the process of getting pregnant and working through pregnancy, giving birth. There is nothing more exciting than to get that note from a client with a beautiful picture of their baby on it.
Kristin: Yes! That is the best. And then if you continue the relationship, that’s also quite lovely, to follow up and see how they’re doing.
Vikki: Absolutely, and usually when you get in — you know, obviously, with doulas, you then work on next pregnancies and sometimes around that. For us, it really opens our clients’ eyes to what acupuncture can help with. So if we’ve helped somebody through fertility and through pregnancy, we’ll often see them down the road for the beginning of other conditions. You know, they’ll pop in and say, you know, you helped me with this. Before I have to go in and, you know, take maybe a certain medication, you know, can acupuncture help? And so it’s really wonderful to, exactly, continue on and help them throughout other struggles they may have in the future.
Kristin: So, Vikki, tell us how acupuncture can help a birthing person with anxiety during their pregnancy.
Vikki: Well, first of all, we are all aware when we’re pregnant that the body is making these huge changes. And with that, we are increasing our blood supply. We are just making this little human. And that amount of added blood in our body can really affect how smoothly our circulation flows and how smoothly our energy flows. So when we look at things like anxiety, in particular, you know, we want to make sure that we are helping somebody have everything circulating through their body with ease. But why things may struggle: there can be a whole host of different reasons why, and so with Chinese medicine, we — for those that have never had it, there’s not just one answer to a condition. So there’s not just — you know, say somebody is having struggles sleeping. There’s not one pill or one herb or one item for the whole idea of insomnia. And the same way with anxiety. If we’re having a client who’s struggling with anxiety, we need to ask a lot of questions and go through a lot of our diagnoses to find the pattern and to help unravel that pattern. So we do — we ask a lot of questions. We want to know things like, have you had anxiety before? Or is this something new due to the hormonal changes in pregnancy? Are you eating differently? You know, we change our eating habits when we’re pregnant, and sometimes we’re craving things, maybe more items that are hot and spicy, or dairy, or fried foods. That can affect anxiety. Being depleted because we’re working at home or at the office a lot can, you know, cause some fatigue in the body. That can add to anxiety. But then also we want to know the physical symptoms of what they’re feeling.
Kristin: Sure. And if someone’s had back to back pregnancies, there can be a lot of depletion with that.
Vikki: Absolutely. Absolutely. So we just take all this information that we get during our conversations with our clients and through our own diagnoses or tongue and pulse diagnosis that we do. You’ve had your tongue looked at before, so you know.
Vikki: It gives us a lot of really objective information.
Kristin: I felt like your intake session was very thorough and, you know, even getting into the supplements that I take and how that affects my mood and energy level and so on. Yeah, it was very thorough.
Vikki: Yeah, and then that gives us, you know, how are we going to release this anxiety; how are we able to cool the body if it’s more of a racing anxiety; how are we going to be able to bring that down and allow our clients to take this big, healing, deep breaths. And acupuncture’s really helpful for that.
Kristin: Yes! And so as far as this session — and you describe sort of the intake process, but for clients who say they have a fear of needles or are uncertain on, you know, what a session would look like, and you mentioned that it’s relaxing, and I would definitely agree with that — can you take — walk our listeners through what a session would be like during pregnancy?
Vikki: Yeah. I totally understand that it seems really odd that it could be relaxing, until you’ve had it done. And I see a lot of clients that come in who are very hesitant because they’re very — they may be fearful of needles. And so I work within their capacity. Here, we’re very gentle, and as I always say to my clients, you’re in control when we’re in the room. The importance for me is to help the patient find comfort so when they are resting with the needles in, then they’re able to really relax. So treatments usually start by a lot of talking. You know, our first treatments are about 90 minutes, and that’s because we do a good chunk of talking to unravel where this pattern starts so I know how I’m going to approach the treatment. It also helps our clients get comfortable with me or Corey, who’s the other acupuncturist here. And know that this isn’t a rushed treatment. What we do here, we take our time, and we always make sure that our client is comfortable. And then after we chat for a while, we do that tongue and pulse, that diagnosis, which is, you know, just how we can objectively see what’s going on in the body. And then we choose the points that we’re going to use to right the imbalance, and the client gets to lay for about 25 minutes or 30 minutes with the needles, which, again, sounds like it wouldn’t be relaxing, but you don’t even know they’re there.
Kristin: Right. I would agree.
Vikki: And it’s a very deep rest. A lot of times, people are surprised how deeply they nap when they come in for acupuncture. Very relaxing.
Kristin: Now, after baby’s born, walk us through how that can be helpful if a listener is struggling with postpartum depression or anxiety or OCD after giving birth and how you can level hormones and so on.
Vikki: Acupuncture’s a really wonderful and natural way for women to build their strength and to heal after birth. First and foremost, it’s a great therapy for restoring energy and boosting that immune system, and that is not just, you know, after — for women after they’ve given birth. That’s for clients going through cancer treatments. That’s for people struggling with chronic fatigue syndrome. Acupuncture is just a really great therapy to bolster our energy of our body and really direct it to helping us heal and be stronger. But specifically to helping after a baby is born, acupuncture helps to rebuild blood that was lost during childbirth, which can bring on other conditions. It helps you increase circulation that will speed up wound healing and helps stop pain. It helps with women with breastfeeding issues, increasing milk production or healing mastitis.
Kristin: That’s amazing. I didn’t realize. I knew that the milk supply would be affected, but mastitis healing — fantastic.
Vikki: I know I see people that, you know, come in and we have certain points that really help to increase that milk supply but also helping our body just to use our body fluids correctly and to create that breastmilk. It’s wonderful to see women be able to get some support, not with the aspect of how are you positioned and how is the baby breastfeeding, but internally, how your body is actually dealing with the milk supply. We also, after the baby’s born, we help a lot with emotional issues. And, you know, like you said, it’s not just anxiety and depression. It’s worry. It’s grief. I see women that aren’t breastfeeding and maybe they couldn’t for some reason, or they chose not to, and after they made that decision, they’ve been feeling grief about it. We are here to help; we help them process that.
Kristin: Right. Or grieving the birth that they wanted that didn’t happen. There’s so much.
Vikki: Absolutely. You know, I always — I often say that in China, women have a whole month where their job is to rest after giving birth, and, you know, they take — the baby is brought to them. They feed the baby; they cuddle the baby. But for the most part, their family is there to take care of that baby and to take care of that mom and feed her great food and get her energy and her blood back to normal so she’s at full capacity when she’s back, when she’s clicked into really taking care of that baby. And we don’t do that here in America.
Kristin: We don’t, unfortunately.
Vikki: Yeah. And so it can take longer for us to heal physically, for us to heal emotionally, because, you know, we don’t — we haven’t nourished ourselves and been able to rest as much and to have as much self-care time.
Kristin: And you describe what we do as postpartum doulas, like in that role of what a family member would do in other cultures, making sure that they’re nourished and they’re taking care of their house and bringing baby to them and encouraging them to rest or take a shower or have a cup of tea. And so, yeah, so we love that role. It is such a depleting time, and I feel like our culture is so rushed. I do love the first 40-day concept of healing and rest and care.
Vikki: Absolutely. As I say to my clients when we talk about working with doulas, during that time — in a lot of these traditional countries, villages, our families were so close that we didn’t need all this, you know, this other — we had somebody that was coming. There was somebody in the village coming. But now, we don’t have people in the village coming. We don’t have our families right there. We need our doulas. We need our acupuncturists. We need our advocates or people that listen to us. Therapy, I often will say, is a wonderful thing, because we don’t always have the support here.
Kristin: Right. Exactly. And a lot of people move here for work and don’t have any family to help care for them and, you know, it’s so needed to take that time. And like you said, that 30-minute session is a time away from family and responsibilities as a mother, and you can just rest and relax and have someone take care of you.
Vikki: And in that 30 minutes, that 30 minutes isn’t even just the whole treatment. That is just the 30 minutes that you’re laying and resting with the needles in. You’ve already been able to share your truths, to share what’s going on, and we can begin treatment, but then you get that time in just a safe, healing environment, with gentle music, to just relax and let the body just take full control of healing and making some really great, balancing changes.
Kristin: I love that. So, Vikki, tell us how our listeners can get in touch and payment methods. I know you take health savings and flex spending and some insurances and so on.
Vikki: Yeah. So we are happy to work with our clients when it comes to billing, in many ways. First off, if their health savings or FSA does cover acupuncture, we definitely take it, and we definitely supply people with superbills that needs them for insurance reimbursements if they’re unsure about reimbursement. We do bill insurance directly for those that do have benefits for acupuncture. And we also have loyalty programs where we, for our clients, we offer the tenth treatment complimentary, and that is a mix of many of our treatments here from acupuncture to reiki to massage. We understand that, you know, the Western world hasn’t really gotten on board to the preventative medicine, and so insurance doesn’t cover everything. And we love to be able to help in ways that we can. So, you know, that’s how with insurance and that. But they can get in touch with us from our website, and on there is a whole bunch of information. You can also book online there. Otherwise, clients can call the office directly and make appointments with our front desk, and the number there is 616-466-4175. I often encourage people that are unsure to schedule a complimentary consultation with myself or Corey, the other acupuncturist who works here, who’s awesome. And, you know, we’re happy to really answer questions and for people to hear our voices and to be able to have some conversation about them directly to help with their comfort level as to whether or not they feel like this is the right therapy for them.
Kristin: That’s fantastic. Do you have any parting words for our listeners?
Vikki: You know, when it comes to dealing with changes in our mood, especially around the times of pregnancy and giving birth, these times are just really a struggle for us. It’s what makes us as women so powerful is the ability to be able to roll with these changes and to experience what is amazing about our bodies. But it doesn’t mean that everything goes smoothly, and I often see people get caught up in — you know, women seeing other mothers who just effortlessly fall into being a mother and gave birth and just the ease of raising children. And I can usually guarantee most women that that is — that we all struggle. We all struggle. And there are many options for help, and acupuncture is a great one. It’s not the only one, but it is a great therapy for supporting women during these times and just unraveling the stressors and emotions that we struggle with during that time.
Kristin: I love that. Thanks for sharing!
What I Wish I Knew: Podcast Episode #104
Kristin and Alyssa, owners of Gold Coast Doulas, talk about the things they wish they had known before having a baby. Listen to this fun episode packed with advice and lots of little gold nuggets of information for new parents! 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.
Alyssa: And I’m Alyssa.
Kristin: And we’re here today with a fun idea of what I wish I would have known before pregnancy and having a baby. And this is inspired, actually, by your newborn class, Alyssa.
Alyssa: That’s kind of why I created it, yeah, because there’s so many things that it’s like, why did nobody tell me this? Or if only I had known, this would have been so much easier!
Kristin: Yeah! So I will start. We’ll go through, like, the top five things that each of us wished we would have known before having kids. So my number one is no PJs, especially if you’re registering, that have snaps on them. You want zippers. Snaps are a pain in the middle of the night. They’re noisy. They might wake your baby.
Alyssa: Same with Velcro. But, yeah, I never really thought about snaps and doing that in the dark. It can be really tricky. I’ve had it where, you know, the top button is — or the top snap is hooked to the second one, like everything’s kind of off because you’re doing it sleep-deprived.
Kristin: Yeah. So Alyssa, what would you say?
Alyssa: One of the things I remember the most is a friend told me to have pads on hand, and she actually had just had a baby, like, two months before I did. So she’s like, you know, ran to the bathroom and said, here, I actually have some left. I never used them. I’m like, what do I need these for? And she said, well, afterwards, you just kind of leak, and there’s blood and who knows. And I’m thinking, okay, whatever. So I brought them home. But then I was one of the, what, 25 or 30% of people that your water actually breaks. So I wore them for — gosh, my water broke at, like, 4:00 in the morning or something, and I had — I didn’t go to the hospital until noon, so I had, like, eight hours of slow leak. So I wore the pad constantly, and then afterwards, it’s almost like spotting or like a light period. And I didn’t know, too, you could put, like, witch hazel or something on it and freeze the pad, kind of like in a — like, around a melon or something so that you could sit on it.
Alyssa: I didn’t know that. I didn’t do that, but that’s kind of an afterthought, too.
Kristin: Similar to what they give you, but without the witch hazel, at the hospital. The ice pads and ice diapers if you have more abrasions.
Alyssa: Yeah. A client told me that they had heard — or a student in my class, the adult diapers, they kept those around for leaking or spotting or water breaking. Any of the things. So having something around like that was probably one of the best things that I was told that many people aren’t told.
Kristin: Right. I had one of those pads for my car when I was driving in case my water broke.
Alyssa: Oh, you sat on it all the time? That’s actually a good idea. You could buy those puppy pee pads or something.
Kristin: Yeah. I had a long commute to Lansing with my first pregnancy, so it was like, if my water breaks, I’m just…
Alyssa: I actually thought about that as I sat in my office, you know, the couple weeks before I was due. Like, what if I — that will be so embarrassing if my water breaks and I’m sitting in my chair. Had I thought about that, I probably would have sat on something, just to save myself some embarrassment, I guess.
Kristin: And my number two tip is to look into childcare as soon as possible. If you plan to go back to work full time or are looking for a nanny or a nanny share, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, don’t delay until your third trimester. It’s so hard to find help. And in that in between time, of course, you can have a postpartum doula, day or night. But that childcare search and nanny search is time-intensive.
Alyssa: Yeah. It takes forever, and it’s the last thing your brain is capable of doing when you have a newborn at home.
Alyssa: So if you have to go back at 12 weeks, you can’t — you can’t start at 6 weeks, looking for childcare. A, you probably you won’t find it, or you’re going to have to settle for something that you don’t necessarily love, and that’s the hardest thing to do is you have to leave your baby for the first time. You want it to be with somebody that you 100% feel comfortable with and trust.
Alyssa: You don’t want to have to settle.
Alyssa: I wish that I would have taken a breastfeeding class, and I wish I knew there was lactation consultants that actually come to your home because I suffered through — I got mastitis twice, and even though I knew enough about breastfeeding to know, like, the whole supply and demand thing, in the fog of new motherhood, I was nursing and pumping because I was, like, oh, my gosh, my boobs are so full, and I just need to drain them. And I was, like, doing the worst thing possible because I’m producing then twice as much, which then I got mastitis, and my boobs were so swollen that it was hard for my daughter to eat then, and then my one nipple got really cracked and sore and it was bleeding one day, and I just remember sitting in the rocking chair sobbing, and my husband came in and was like, oh, my gosh, what can I do? But had I just taken a breastfeeding class, I would have probably more easily reminded myself like, oh, yeah, it takes a couple weeks for this whole process to, you know, adjust and my body to adjust to what baby needs and that I didn’t have to sit in that rocking chair by myself and cry, and my latch was wrong.
Kristin: Right. Kelly saved me with both of my kids. I had mastitis as well and thrush, and —
Alyssa: You know, I knew about Kelly Emery. Or maybe I didn’t until after. I might have found her because she did Baby and Me yoga classes. She was one of the only ones, like, seven and a half years ago that did baby. So I think I might have found her after the fact. I wish I had known about the lovely Kelly Emery before.
Kristin: Yes. We’re lucky to have her at Gold Coast, along with Cami, of course.
Alyssa: What’s your next one?
Kristin: So I highly suggest, based on personal experience, as soon as you find out you’re pregnant, hire a birth and postpartum doula. With my second pregnancy, my doulas were some of the first to know that I was pregnant, before family. And I needed resources, and they were there emotionally and to connect me with resources in the community. So I recommend hiring early, especially as doulas get booked up quite early. Like, we’re working with clients with due dates in late March, and as we’re recording, it is August. And so thinking about if a team or individual doula takes two clients or even four a month, how quickly they can get booked up. So hire your doula early, and same goes for postpartum.
Alyssa: Yeah. I don’t think I even fully understood what a doula was or did, you know, eight — almost eight and a half years ago that I got pregnant. And if anything, I knew what a birth doula was but didn’t know enough to even consider looking into one or hiring one. And, of course, now that we do what we do, it’s a no-brainer. But I’m not having any more kids.
Kristin: Right. Same.
Alyssa: But if I was to do it all again, absolutely.
Kristin: Exactly. So what about you, Alyssa?
Alyssa: So this wasn’t, like, a big deal, but I didn’t really know what to expect with the baby’s cord and how it fell off and what it looked like, and I don’t do well with blood and scabs. It just turned into a big, giant, thick, button-sized scab.
Kristin: Yes. It’s gross.
Alyssa: It really grossed me out, and then just falls off, and I remember finding it in her diaper or something one day. But I’ve also reminded and I always tell people in my class about, if they’ve ever watched Sex in the City — oh, gosh, what’s her name? The redhead? I don’t know.
Alyssa: Miranda. She has a baby, and the cord falls off, and then the cat finds it and is batting it around the house, and I — it’s like one of those, oh, my god, I’m going to puke in my mouth kind of situations. But I didn’t know how gross it would be to me, but I’m just squeamish when it comes to scabs and blood. But, yeah, I didn’t really know what to expect with that.
Kristin: And then you have to know to, like, flip the diaper down so you don’t cause more irritation. I didn’t know that at first.
Alyssa: Yeah. We go over a lot of that. And they make diapers now, too, that have little tiny cutouts where the belly button is, and they’re very, very small, for newborn only, but you only need one little package of them because if it falls off within the first week, you don’t need many of those.
Kristin: And my advice is, with the registry, don’t — it’s not your wedding registry. You don’t need to register for all the things. Babies don’t need all that much. And so my suggestion is to register for a meal service, a doula, classes, lactation support, versus all of the onesies and the high chair and things you don’t need until much later. I mean, some things are essential.
Alyssa: Car seats, stroller, yeah.
Kristin: You know, if you’re going to wear your baby, the different carriers are great. You know, a diaper bag. There’s some things that — you know, a thermometer, that are important to have. But you don’t need all the things.
Alyssa: I know. I always see on baby registries, like, spoons and bibs and bowls. Like, you realize your kid — it could be a year. You know, you might start solids at six months, but they’re not sitting up at a table by themselves for probably 12 months. So it’s a lot of wasted money for something that’s going to sit in a closet for up to 12 months unused.
Kristin: Exactly, especially if you’re in a tight space. Where do you put all that stuff?
Alyssa: Right. Definitely. Like, have people spend money on support and food. Bring me food! And send someone to watch my baby and pick up my house and care for my toddler and let me rest or take a shower.
Alyssa: Or sleep all night. So one thing I learned later into have a newborn was to always pack two extra sets of clothing for the baby or at least, you know, maybe not two full outfits, but a couple extra onesies. And then I also would pack one for myself. Like, something — yoga pants and a T-shirt. Something that was easily folded up, because I can’t tell you how many times I either — you know, you’re out and about, and you get spit up on, and of course, it will be, like, yellow spit up on a black shirt.
Kristin: Of course.
Alyssa: That everyone can see, and then it stinks like crazy. Or she’d have a blowout on my lap, and then the poop would come out the diaper onto my pants, and now I have puke on my shirt and poop on my pants. So I would just always have — even if it’s just in my car, an extra set of clothes for me, as well.
Kristin: That applies for birth doulas. I always have an extra set of clothes in case I get fluids or water breaking. So, yeah, wise advice. And my advice is, for those of you that aren’t prepared for baby poop, meconium is really interesting for a first-time parent. It is so dark and sticky and hard to, like, wipe off.
Alyssa: Like, what did my baby eat? Tar?
Kristin: Right! For breastfed babies, in my opinion, breastfed poop does not smell and is quite easy to deal with, but then you introduce food or formula, and things get totally different. It’s like, okay, I got through the meconium, then I had my breastfed baby, and now food is like, what?
Alyssa: Yeah. We do talk about that. Breastfed baby poop doesn’t — exclusively breastfed babies — the poop doesn’t smell. And that’s another thing. On the registry list, the very expensive diaper genie with the expensive refills — you don’t even need to use that in the beginning. You can literally throw in in a little trashcan and just take it out at the end of the night or even every couple days. The second formula or solids are introduced, it’s a whole new ballgame. It stinks, and you’ll want to use that diaper genie.
Alyssa: My last one, again, is kind of about breastfeeding because it was tricky for me in the beginning, but I wish that I didn’t buy — like, I bought nursing bras, nursing shirts, nursing dresses, all the things, and there were just so many layers and levels to this breastfeeding thing that I could never do it in public because I had to, like, undo the nursing bra, which was under the other shirt, which — I would always have to go somewhere private. But then I found these nursing tanks, and there’s like a shelf bra in them, and I could have worn like what I’m wearing now, like a frilly, flowy shirt, and you lift that shirt up. You have the tank on underneath to cover your belly, and very nonchalantly, you breastfeed your baby. Nobody even knows. Oh, and the covers. All these — I had this thing that looked like an apron. I put it over my head, and it was this cloth, and then baby’s whipping it all around. And in my class, I tell people, you’re basically waving a flag to everyone, saying, I’m about ready to breastfeed. Look right here. Whereas if I would have just nonchalantly unclipped, put her on, nobody would even notice. So there’s too many things, and the more things you buy, the harder it makes it, I think. It’s simple. Keep it simple.
Kristin: I agree. I always used tanks, and obviously, for larger-chested women, that may not be as much of an option support-wise, but I even labored in tanks, and, you know, speaking of labor, my biggest advice is don’t give birth, unless you’re birthing at home and it’s not as big of a deal, in a sports bra. If you’re at the hospital, there’s no way to get it off. If there’s an IV line, it often has to be cut off. So a nursing tank, again, that has the snaps or a nursing bra if much easier.
Alyssa: People wear a sports bra because they’re comfortable and think, I’m just going to labor in this because my underwire bra is not the most comfortable things.
Kristin: But then you can’t get it off for skin to skin. It’s so tight.
Alyssa: Right. I just think I didn’t wear a bra. Free flowing.
Kristin: Yeah. I was pretty much that way toward the end. Started out modest, and then it just all changed. So we would love to hear your top five things that you learned. You can always reach out to us, and maybe that will make some future episode ideas. But we’re happy to share other advice in Alyssa’s amazing newborn class, and for those who are expecting twins and triplets, we have a multiples class. And, of course, labor advice is given in HypnoBirthing, and we have the breastfeeding and pumping classes that also give some very helpful tips.
Alyssa: Yeah. So check out our classes. You can also find us on Facebook and Instagram. Thanks for listening!
Kristin: These moments are golden.
Acupuncture during Pregnancy and Postpartum: Podcast Episode #103
Dr. Carrie Dennie, ND speaks with Alyssa about the benefits of acupuncture during pregnancy and postpartum. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast. You are listening to Alyssa Veneklase. I am the co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today, I am so excited to be talking to Dr. Carrie Dennie, a naturopathic doctor at what was Grand Rapids Natural Health but is now the Michigan Center for Holistic Medicine. Hello!
Dr. Dennie: Hi, Alyssa! Thank you for having me!
Alyssa: I want to know, do you prefer Dr. Carrie or Dr. Dennie?
Dr. Carrie: Dr. Carrie is fine.
Alyssa: Okay. Dr. Carrie. So I have some questions for you. You started out this path, and you became a naturopathic doctor, but then I was reading your bio. You had one acupuncture treatment and just fell in love with it and then went on to acupuncture school and graduated the valedictorian of your class?
Dr. Carrie: I did.
Alyssa: That’s amazing!
Dr. Carrie: Thank you.
Alyssa: That makes me wonder what happened in that treatment of acupuncture that just made you fall in love with it so much.
Dr. Carrie: So it was interesting because my school has both programs, and we get free access as students to go and have free appointments. And so I had never had it, you know. Heard about it, and so I went and tried it. And it was just — I think the — my favorite part about acupuncture is that it’s so relaxing. I don’t care what you’re coming for, if it was pain, if it’s some sort of an organ dysfunction. Nope — well, yes. That is important, and you can get relief, but also, the relaxation. It just — it’s so amazing. It’s just so invigorating. A lot of my patients will say that they feel gentle sensations when they’re in the treatment. And, again, everybody leaves feeling just relaxed and they end up sleeping better that night or even several days afterwards. Like, there’s just so many different ramifications that can occur as a result of one acupuncture treatment. So that’s why I loved it.
Alyssa: So I’ve only had one, so I’m not very experienced in acupuncture, but what exactly — what is it doing? You know, I know I have these little needles poked in. I would imagine that it’s doing something to my nerves, which then send signals to my brain to do something else?
Dr. Carrie: That is correct. So that’s how we understand it from a conventional medical perspective, is that you have nerve stimulation. The nerves release chemical messengers that can go to the brain, the spinal cord, the muscles, the organs, and then affect change from that point on. Also in general, acupuncture can reduce inflammation. It is a stimulator of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers, so obviously can help relieve pain. It can improve blood flow and circulation. And, again, like I said, it is just relaxing and has an overall mood-boosting affect. One other thing that I will say is that I had a patient recently who was undergoing chemotherapy currently, and they were unable to get their treatment because their white blood cell count was too low. So they came for an acupuncture treatment, and after one, the numbers went up enough that this person was able to get his treatment the next time. Again, it’s so amazing how these little needles can affect great change in the body.
Alyssa: Yeah. So this is kind of a strange question that just popped into my head right now, but what’s the most amount of needles you’ve ever had in someone? Or is it typically, like, only a dozen or so?
Dr. Carrie: So I try to keep it around let’s say 15 or 16, and again, it just all depends what they’re coming for. But the most, I think, that I’ve ever personally put into someone was around 30, and the reason why is that their concern involved their fingers and toes. And so I had needles in between fingers and toes, which is about 18 needles in total, let’s say. And so the rest of the other body points add on top of that. Like I said, normally, I try to keep it less than that, but again, it just all depends. This person who I did all these needles in, they felt benefits afterwards. I love it.
Alyssa: And that’s the point, right?
Dr. Carrie: Exactly.
Alyssa: So how do you integrate the two, then? As a naturopathic doctor, how do you integrate that medicine with acupuncture? Is that a silly question because you’re like, well, they just go hand in hand? The benefits of both?
Dr. Carrie: It’s not silly, but you’re 100% correct. They definitely go hand in hand, and it all depends on the patient. So as a naturopathic doctor, for your listeners who may not know, I am trained as a primary healthcare professional, and I am trained to emphasize prevention, treatment, and optimization of health using natural therapies that are safe. And most of the time, research has proven them to be effective. And so primarily my goals are always to identify the root cause of disease, to reestablish the foundations for health, which basically is diet and lifestyle changes, and then again to support the body’s natural ability to heal itself. And that’s the piece right there where acupuncture just fits in perfectly. Again, tiny needles being applied in random places, if you don’t understand the theory behind it, but it, again, it just has so many different effects on different systems. And so like I said, I was in school for naturopathic medicine, but once I had that treatment, I had to add on my acupuncture degree because it just didn’t make sense to leave without this awesome therapy.
Alyssa: For you, it was just a no-brainer. It was like that missing piece of the pie to what you were already doing?
Dr. Carrie: Yes. And it was interesting, what I was learning, because it just makes so much sense when you really start to dive into the theory and why they are — you know, why this person or these people decided to do these things. It’s just so interesting. And it’s natural. Again, the Chinese developed this over 4,000 years ago. They didn’t have MRIs or X-rays but they were able to ascertain functions of the organs in an — you know, almost in the exact same way that we do in western medicine, but there’s some tweaks. But again, it was just amazing, so I had to do it.
Alyssa: I love it. So, you know, for our listeners, most of them are either pregnant or in this postpartum period. If someone were to come to you pregnant or newly postpartum, would you have to treat them differently, or what would treatment look like for them?
Dr. Carrie: So treatment for anyone is initially a two-hour long appointment, and we talk about everything, especially if they’re coming to me for naturopathic medicine. If they’re coming to me for acupuncture, the initial appointment is an hour and a half, and again, we’re still talking for at least an hour in both sessions. But I’m not just focusing on their chief concern, whether it’s, you know, having lactation issues, or I’ve just got this nausea all of a sudden. You know, it’s more than that. I want to know everything because your health is influenced by so many different factors beyond just the physical. You know, what is your mental emotional state? Do you have any religious or spiritual beliefs? Are you walking in those beliefs? Are you using — are you living those principles? All of that affects your health. But then also, too, we talk about the things that you do and the things that you eat and what comes out of your body every day, and hopefully people are looking at the things that come out because, again, these are all…
Alyssa: It’s important!
Dr. Carrie: Yes! These are clues towards your health. And so we talk about all of those things, and then, you know, the thing that I love about naturopathic medicine and that I incorporate with acupuncture is that I want to heal your whole body. I want to care for your whole body so that you can have the best life that you have because your whole is as well as can be. And so that’s usually how it starts is a two-hour treatment. If it’s acupuncture-based, after we talk, then I start the acupuncture, and I have a whole process, especially for people who don’t or who have never had acupuncture before, and I kind of walk them through it. But then they just get to relax afterwards. And if they like heat, there’s heat therapy that can be provided. Music, you know. Essential oils. It’s just relaxing while you lay there. And you can either focus on your breathing, or if you’re a person that prays, you can pray while you’re laying there or you can meditate. Or you can just, again, invite in relaxation and good vibes and sent out the bad ones while you’re resting and not thinking about all the things you have to do afterwards and the nuances of life that tax our systems.
Alyssa: I think that maybe the relaxation part that people who have not had an acupuncture treatment before might not realize is that you put the needles in, and then — is this the case for you? Do you leave the room and then they have time to relax?
Dr. Carrie: Yes.
Alyssa: And that’s what I didn’t know when I had mine is, oh, I just get to sit here in this beautiful room with the noise machine going. But yeah, that sounds lovely. Heat therapy and essential oils. It’s kind of like you get a massage and then you still get to lay there for a little while.
Dr. Carrie: Yes. You get to bask in stillness, you know, and hopefully, you can let go of all the things that are plaguing you for those moments while you’re laying there and just let your body heal itself. You know what I mean? Let your body do what it can do for you when you’re not under stress all the time.
Alyssa: So are there certain areas of the body, then, that you probably couldn’t work on for a pregnant person? Like, you know, certain spots that might activate labor?
Dr. Carrie: Correct. So with pregnant women, we do not — we’re trained very strictly on this. There are several points we do not do during the pregnancy, and even with my patients that are trying to conceive, depending on what’s going on, I may or may not do them, either. But, yes, we’re trained very much not to do those, unless the woman is in the third trimester. Maybe she’s trending towards her due date or she’s past her due date. She wants to try to avoid an induction process in the hospital. Then we would do those points because we are trying to promote labor.
Alyssa: Yeah. That’s a great point because early in pregnancy, you want to avoid them, but you’ve got this mom who’s 38, 39, 41 weeks, and she is in there for the complete opposite reason. Help me get this baby out!
Dr. Carrie: Exactly.
Alyssa: That makes sense. And then what about postpartum? You know, a newly — you know, there’s all sorts of things with healing and then mental and emotional wellness. Is there anything specific in the postpartum time that you would do for a parent?
Dr. Carrie: Totally. So moms, being a new mom or a new parent in general, is overwhelming. Now there’s a whole other human or humans that you have to care for, and it can definitely be an around-the-clock experience. So the first thing that I would suggest for anyone looking to acupuncture to help is for that relaxation piece, to alleviate anxiety; to relieve stress. For the parent to have, again, that moment, time where they don’t have to worry about the baby or babies or their spouse. They can focus on zenning out, relaxing. So that’s number one. Specifically for new mothers, you know, postpartum depression can be a huge obstacle to battle during this time, and so acupuncture, again, would promote serotonin and dopamine production, and these are the happy hormones. So, again, boosting mood. It can improve sleep and boost energy, which are very much important things to have when you have new babies. But beyond that, again, like you said, there’s healing and rejuvenation that needs to happen after a birth, and acupuncture can definitely assist with that. Another thing that people don’t think about is milk production. Acupuncture can definitely help boost lactation so that, you know, that’s one less thing that mom has to worry about.
Alyssa: So where in the body — I’m picturing nipples or needles in the boobs. Where do you — is there another spot on the body for anyone who might say, oh, that sounds interesting, but I don’t think I could handle a needle in my boob. Where does it go?
Dr. Carrie: Totally! Again, all depends on how they present. But you’re 100% correct. There are points in the chest area where I could put needles. I would not, though, and that’s the beautiful thing about acupuncture, like you said, is there are other places that you can put needles, and the answer is yes. So some are — one is on the shoulder area or in the — yeah, on the shoulder area, and then there’s other that are kind of, again, on the limbs that I could use to boost milk production.
Alyssa: That’s really cool. We have two lactation consultants, and I wonder if they’ve ever recommended acupuncture to anyone who’s struggling with milk production. That’s an interesting idea.
Dr. Carrie: Something else, though, that I want to mention, too, as a naturopathic doctor, is I don’t just think in one lens. I have both on, hopefully, if my brain is working correctly. But I would also be thinking about naturopathic therapy. So as we know, labor is a trauma to the body, and depending on — even if it goes smoothly, or even if there are some complications, like you said, healing reformation needs to be done. But you also need to know the state of your body, and a lot of times, bloodwork is necessary or recommended after labor. And so think of things like just the general CBC in case the person is anemic; looking at the thyroid, because there is a connection between delivery or pregnancy and thyroid dysfunction afterwards. And then simple things like vitamin D. Depending on the time of year, you may have been inside for the majority of your pregnancy because it’s cold. What’s your vitamin D status? And so a lot of these, if there are dysfunctions in these areas, it can mimic depression. And so those are things that you want to look at, also, or consider looking at, but then also other lifestyle things. I know that having new babies is overwhelming, like I said, and so are you taking care of you? Are you going outside if it is nice enough to go outside? If you can go outside, you know, I always recommend people go out for 30 minutes. Take the baby for a walk. Hopefully, the rhythm of the walk will put the little one to sleep, and then you can tuck them in the bed when you get back and hopefully have more time. And especially if you live around nature, if you can go into nature, it’s been proven that being in nature is calming. And so those are other things that I suggest. And then the walk is exercise, and that we know is beneficial to the body, as well. You know, it’s just so many different aspects of being that I look at when people come to see me. And so you likely will hear me say things that are naturopathic tips in my acupuncture appointments, and I definitely recommend acupuncture to the majority of my naturopathic patients, unless I know they don’t like needles.
Alyssa: Right. Well, I think even someone who doesn’t like needles, you could put, like, a sleepy blindfold on them or something, because you can’t even feel them. I was so surprised because I was watching, and I was, like, I didn’t even feel that. That’s wild.
Dr. Carrie: It’s so true. A lot of the times, I do hear from people that they don’t necessarily feel certain points. But I won’t lie and say that there aren’t times where you definitely feel the needle go in. But it’s instantaneous, you know what I mean? It’s not like a lingering pain. You’re not going to lay there in pain for 30 minutes. No. You’re going to be relaxed. But you’re right, and they’re very thin. The needles are almost as thin as a strand of hair. It’s totally different from what people think when they’re normally thinking about getting their blood drawn. That’s a huge needle.
Alyssa: I agree. Totally different. Totally different. You know, that makes me wonder, how young — can you take children? Can you do acupuncture on children or even babies?
Dr. Carrie: Yes. Technically — I wouldn’t say babies, but in China, they do acupuncture as young as one year old. But with children that young, the needles are not in for an extended period of time. It’s more of a stimulation of the point and remove the needle and move on to the next point sort of a thing. With children, I think the youngest person that I’ve done acupuncture on was 14. And so for kids, especially us in America where this is not our culture — it’s the norm to have acupuncture as a therapy that they can readily go to. I would say if you’re children can’t be still for, I don’t know, 10 minutes, let’s say, then they probably shouldn’t come for acupuncture. Again, you have to have the mental capacity to be still and be able to relax and not move.
Alyssa: Right. And that’s why it doesn’t work on babies because they’re flailing their arms all around, and if anything, they’re going to hurt themselves more than heal.
Dr. Carrie: Exactly. Right.
Alyssa: This has been enlightening! Is there anything that you wanted to cover that we didn’t cover?
Dr. Carrie: So I just want to mention, for women who are pregnant, definitely, acupuncture is safe and an awesome way to relieve any of the common symptoms that they have at any stage or that they may have at any stage of pregnancy. During the first trimester, if you are having nausea, vomiting, or you’re just extremely fatigued or you may be constipated or have diarrhea, this is an important way to kind of support those systems and just, again, rejuvenate the body. During the second trimester, a lot of times aches and pains occur or start occurring. That is another great reason for acupuncture. Again, if sleep is starting to become uncomfortable, acupuncture is awesome for insomnia. And then even like hemorrhoids or complications from GI dysfunction can be addressed through acupuncture. And then like we were talking, in the third trimester, if they are close to or beyond their due date, labor induction or labor promotion, I should say. And then one thing that’s really interesting that women may not be aware of is that if your baby is in a breech position and the doctor is talking about a C-section, you can come to an acupuncturist and we can do a sort of heat therapy, and it’s really interesting. It’s over your toe, your pinky toe, and it’s amazing. Again, the woman — it’s ideal if she comes at 36 weeks if she finds this out, but we do this heat therapy, and I send them home with the heat therapy so they can do it at home, but a lot of times, the baby will move into the correct position.
Alyssa: That’s incredible. Is there a statistic on how often that actually works?
Dr. Carrie: I don’t know any off the top of my head, but I know that it’s definitely been studied.
Alyssa: Yeah. I’ve heard of it before.
Dr. Carrie: Yeah. The therapy is called moxibustion.
Alyssa: Say that again?
Dr. Carrie: The therapy is called moxibustion.
Alyssa: Moxibustion. Huh.
Dr. Carrie: It’s basically burning a dry cone of Chinese mug wort over the toe, and it sends this, like, smooth, warming sensation deep into the body. We use it for other reasons as well, but that’s — again, you just get it over the toe, and baby flips over the majority of the time, in my experience.
Alyssa: That little baby pinky toe sends some signal all the way into the womb, and tickles that baby right around?
Dr. Carrie: That’s right.
Alyssa: Wow. Well, thank you so much. If somebody wants to find you specifically, I mean, we’ll link to your website and stuff, but why don’t you tell us how people can find you?
Dr. Carrie: So you can definitely find me on Facebook. I’m Dr. Carrie ND on Facebook, and you can also find me on Instagram. But all of this is available on our website.
Alyssa: Perfect. Well, thank you so much for all of that information. I’m sure everyone will love this, and I have learned so much more about acupuncture!
Dr. Carrie: Well, thank you again for having me. I really appreciate it.
Podcast Episode 100!
It’s the 100th episode! Alyssa and Kristin, co-Owners of Gold Coast Doulas, talk about what the past two and a half years of podcasting has looked like, how the podcast has changed, how the business has changed, how services have pivoted in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and how they are playing their part in supporting other local businesses. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to the 100th episode of Ask the Doulas Podcast! I am Alyssa, and Kristin’s here via phone because it’s COVID-19. We can’t even see each.
Kristin: Right. It changes everything!
Alyssa: I know! We haven’t seen each other in forever, and I actually came into the office for the first time in weeks, and it feels so good to be not working in my house.
Kristin: Yeah, it certainly changed so much about the way we do business. But 100 episodes — I can’t even believe it, Alyssa!
Alyssa: I know. It seems wild that in two and a half years, we’ve done 100 episodes. What is that even — I should do the math on that. Let me do it real quick while you talk.
Kristin: Yeah. I mean, we started this podcast as a member of the Radio for Divas team. It’s a radio show with women experts in the community. And then we transitioned to the podcast format, wanting to really keep our clients as the central focus and information that they would want to hear, and then also thinking about what other listeners, whether it’s regionally or across the US, might be interested in. Capturing more information from experts on anything related to pregnancy and newborns to even toddlers and parenting in general.
Alyssa: So the math, by the way: two and a half years is 130 weeks, so in two and a half years, there have only been 30 weeks that we did not put a podcast out.
Kristin: Wow! Yeah, I know when we started out, we had more frequent podcasts and then have slowed it down a bit. And Alyssa is the editor and producer. How has that changed for you?
Alyssa: It’s a role that I don’t particularly love, but I think, actually, COVID has increased because — you know, I think for the first year and a half of it, I was cranking these out once a week, and then it slowed, just because it is so time-consuming and so much work. We covered a lot of topics already, and we had a lot of changes in the business happening and I wanted to focus on other things, other than the podcast. But now that we’re home, the last few weeks I’ve actually been putting one out every week. And the fact that I can’t meet with someone in person — it’s kind of easier to do it over the phone. The sound quality obviously isn’t as good, but it’s allowed me to — you know, I’ve got three podcasts recorded now with Laine Lipsky, who’s in California and is a parenting coach, and we’ve had just a ton of stuff to talk about. But the virtual, like able to do that virtually, it doesn’t matter that she’s in California. She can coach a parent in Michigan, and same with my sleep. I can do sleep consults for families anywhere.
Kristin: Yeah, it’s been amazing to see the locations that some of your sleep consults have been from.
Alyssa: Yes, my last ones from Colorada and New Orleans, I think, and then somewhere in Florida were my last three. So they haven’t even been local.
Kristin: That is one thing with COVID. We’ve taken things more globally as far as now offering classes online and being able to expand our base outside of the 50-mile radius that we serve. And your work hasn’t changed much because a lot of what you do is virtual anyway, so you haven’t had to pivot all that much as a sleep consultant.
Alyssa: Right. I just don’t do it in person, obviously, but everything else is exactly the same. And then we can’t offer postpartum doula support. Well, I mean, I suppose we could for a newborn, but I’m not doing sleep consults for a newborn, so that doesn’t come into play, either.
Kristin: So, Alyssa, let’s talk about some of the episodes and highlights of what we have gone over in the last two and a half years that we have been producing the podcast.
Alyssa: The topics have been all over the place. You mentioned a few, but I know you in particular, you like to reference a few of them for your birth clients, like the episode, #54, What to Pack in your Birth Bag that you did with Dr. Rachel from Rise Wellness. You know, a lot of our topics, we choose because they’re questions that we get asked often, so why not do a podcast on it, give them all the information, and then just allow them to reference that all the time. So it’s a lot of the reason why we choose certain topics.
Kristin: I also love the dad perspective. We’ve done a couple podcasts of what it’s like to work with a doula and how a partner feels about their role in the birth with having another support person in the room, and even some of our students in the classes we’ve talked, talking about their person experiences, have been really fantastic because it’s a better testimonial to hear it from someone outside of our agency than us telling, you know, our audience all of the features and benefits of everything we offer.
Alyssa: Right, and I think for somebody who doesn’t quite understand the role of a doula, even after researching, sometimes just hearing the personal story from one of our clients makes something click. We love hearing personal stories of clients. Like you said, either birth support, postpartum support, any of our classes. We’ve done a lot on nutrition and diet, babywearing, pelvic floor stuff. You know, that’s a big question for parents after a baby is born.
Kristin: Especially because we happen to work with a lot of athletes, especially in the birth doula role, and they want to be able to get back to running marathons or whatever their particular sport is. So, yeah, pelvic floor therapy and physical therapy in general has been very helpful for our clients.
Alyssa: Right. And then our friends at Rise have given us lots of information on different chiropractic topics. Obviously, I’ve got quite a few on sleep. I love talking about sleep.
Kristin: And tongue ties and lip ties and working with breastfeeding.
Alyssa: Yeah, breastfeeding.
Kristin: Yeah, a lot of breastfeeding-related questions and feeding in general. And certainly anything related to mood disorders and postpartum depression with different experts.
Alyssa: Pediatric Dental Specialists of West Michigan is one of our partners, and Dr. Katie has been on a few times to talk about, you know, her special laser beam for tongue ties and lip ties. And she just had a baby of her own! We should probably check in with her and see how they’re doing.
Alyssa: Cesarean births; we’ve talked a lot about Cesareans and what is a doula’s role within that, and we’ve got some actual birth stories about what that looked like for the birthing person and the family.
Kristin: It’s been a lot of fun to have different guests in and try to find new and fresh content. I mean, after 100 episodes, there are only so many topics you can cover, so…
Alyssa: I know. You kind of have to redo topics with different people. But I’d love for our listeners to email us, too, and just let us know, like, what haven’t we talked about, or what did we talk about but you would like more coverage on? Or do you know somebody who would be a great person for us to speak to?
Kristin: And recently we’ve done some COVID-related podcasts, but that is ever-changing with policies in the hospital and specific states, of course. We have had personal client experiences, birthing during COVID, as well as how our agency has adapted to this time and what precautions we cake.
Alyssa: Maybe we can talk — do you want to talk a little bit about, just in case people aren’t up to date? So as of May 21 when we’re recording this, 2020 — what the role of a doula is right now, like how we can work in hospital settings, and our postpartum doulas.
Kristin: Yes. So for those of you listening in other states, in the state of Michigan, we are following the governor’s stay at home orders. So as Alyssa mentioned earlier, we’re not in our office working together, and we are seeing our clients and students virtually. So all of our classes are done virtually via Zoom, so still very interactive. We recently had our Saturday Series class, which is interesting, because for me, the comfort measures class that I teach is so hands-on and interactive. To do that virtually without even a helper or model to demonstrate positions, I’m trying to describe things and show diagrams and videos and how to do a hip squeeze and counterpressure, for example. So that’s been really interesting, and I know you taught your newborn class several times virtually. And our lactation consultant had the breastfeeding class.
Alyssa: Yeah, I think it’s hard for her, too, the breastfeeding, because to show different positions and — I mean, same with me. Mine’s not as interactive as yours, but even moving the computer into the right spot so I can show my different swaddling methods or, you know, paced bottle feedings, things like that. It works, and I always ask, did everyone see that okay? Is everyone getting it? Do you need me to do it again? It’s just different. I miss being able to meet the students in person. But it’s just where we’re at right now.
Kristin: But at the same time, it’s more convenient for them because they can be at home and, you know, not have to travel. It gives everyone more time in their day, but as far as how we’ve adapted, other than classes, right now with the stay at home order, our lactation visits are all done virtually. So, again, for our two registered nurses and IBCLCs, that has been different than hands-on or more engaging support. But our clients have found it — I’ve had personal birth clients that I’ve worked with who have told me that Kelly was very helpful virtually, so that’s been going better than we had hoped. And with birth support, things are, you know, ever-changing for us, but we’re doing all of our prenatal visits and even the initial consultations before hiring and certainly the postpartum visits after the birth — all of that is done virtually. And different hospitals have different policies related to whether or not a doula can be in the hospital. We’re fortunate that our governor has an executive order that includes a doula and a partner in the hospitals. The doulas are not considered visitors, and we have access. But every hospital, again, has the ability to make their own policies surrounding doulas, and we are right now working in Spectrum Butterworth and all of the regional Spectrum hospitals like Zeeland and Gerber and Pennock and Hastings and Greenville, and so that has been really fantastic. St. Mary’s Mercy Health is currently not allowing doulas but encouraging virtual support, and Metro is allowing doulas. Holland Hospital is not. I was just informed that Mercy Muskegon, who was not allowing doulas up until very recently, and as of — I want to say it was this week — doulas are now being admitted to the hospital and able to support birthing persons. So that has been fantastic since we do serve a 50-mile radius of Grand Rapids. So as doulas, we are monitoring our symptoms, and if we have any symptoms of Coronavirus, then we send in a doula who is symptom-free. Right now, all of the hospitals in our area are requiring doulas to be certified, so if a doula took a two-day or four-day training and chose to never certify, they are not able to work during this time. And if a newer doula is working toward that, then that would be an option in the hospitals. They could certainly attend homebirths. So that has been interesting. We worked with our lawyer and consultant to work on a COVID questionnaire and have included COVID language in our contracts that our clients sign so that our doulas are able to feel comfortable and confident, as well as our clients, in potential exposure during stay at home and what each household is doing as far as going to the grocery store versus having groceries delivered, or is a partner working outside of the home as an essential employee. And then our clients and doulas are able to choose each other. Some of our doulas are not working during COVID or only working with completely isolated clients. So we’ve done a lot of focus internally on what our team wants to do and how we’re able to pivot during this time. So we’ve been able to, you know, have conversations with the governor’s office and make sure there are no gray areas in the doulas role during stay at home and got some confirmations about what a postpartum doula can do, because a lot of that language was focused on our work in the hospital. During the stay at home order that is set to expire at the end of the month — it may or may not be extended — we are only offering essential postpartum support. So since we are working with clients normally through the first year, and they don’t need to have an urgent reason to have us there — they don’t need to be struggling with postpartum depression or a mood disorder — and they don’t need to be healing from a birth. We can work with them until their child is one year old or until their multiples are. So we have stopped working with some of our existing clients during the stay at home and plan to resume work with them. We’re focused only on those first six to nine weeks of healing, depending on the type of birth that our client had, or those struggling at any point in their postpartum time with mood disorders or depression.
Alyssa: So, to clarify, before this, we worked with people up to — we worked with families up to a year old, but now we can only do essential work which is, like you said, the six to nine weeks after someone just had a baby or with someone suffering from a perinatal mood disorder.
Kristin: Yes, or if they don’t have a partner, that is essential, if they need support, since obviously grandparents cannot be involved during this time. Families that have other kids are not able to take them to daycare if they’re not essential workers, so that has been interesting. Obviously, we can work with triplets and multiples because they need more of a hand around the house especially during healing.
Alyssa: So the moral of the story for postpartum is, we can’t just work with anyone right now until the stay at home order lifts, but we can work with you if you have a newborn, if you are suffering from a mood disorder, and/or have had multiples; twins or triplets.
Kristin: Exactly. Yes.
Alyssa: And we can do day or overnight, and that would involve you, again, virtually meeting the doula. You would both fill out this COVID-19 form that we created so that you and the doula both know what your risk, your exposure risk, is. Who’s leaving for the grocery store? Is someone in the home leaving for work? And as long as you’re both comfortable with it, you can work together.
Kristin: Exactly. Yeah, and our doulas are taking every precaution and following what the family wants as far as, you know, sanitation and wearing gloves. We’re all wearing our own cloth masks in the home, but if a client wanted surgical masks and has those or needs us to get them, then we work around their needs, and our doulas are bringing in a fresh set of clothes and taking their shoes and any coats that they may be wearing off immediately. So that has been a pretty seamless process transitioning over for the doulas who are comfortable working with our clients. And we’re so busy in postpartum pre-COVID. You know, that has been some growth that we’ve seen since we started the podcast and very intentionally focused on educating our community and what a postpartum doula is and the benefits of it. But now that is obviously slowed during COVID. But we’ve seen an increase as far as, you know, our students, and being that many hospital classes have closed or not all educators are offering virtual classes, and certainly our birth clients have increased more recently. It slowed for a bit initially because, you know, some doulas in our area are not offering in-person support, and we are. So that has also been a change in our business. Focusing on supporting local businesses is so key. So for any of our listeners, support the local shops in your community. I know, Alyssa, you order from Rebel, and I’ve been getting juice from different local businesses, whether it’s delivered to me or pick up, and just trying to keep our local businesses afloat, because as Local First members and a B-corporation business, we know the importance now and don’t want to see more businesses close down due to COVID.
Alyssa: I know. It’s so sad. What’s the statistic; like, 50% of small businesses aren’t going to make it through this? And luckily, Gold Coast will. We’re doing what we can. We’ve changed our business model a bit. We’ll be good; we’ll make it through this. It’s going to be a tough couple of years, I think, for everybody, but we’re going to do what we can in the midst of this to continue to help other small businesses and to keep all of our subcontractors. They’re their own small businesses. We want to keep them working and support them as much as possible, too.
Kristin: Yeah. And it’s been really sad even seeing other doula agencies that started at the same time as Gold Coast, which we’re nearing our five year anniversary. You know, they’re closing their doors in bigger markets than we live in, and it’s due to COVID. And that’s been very sad for me because they were peers of ours. And so, yeah. If you can support your local service and retail businesses and restaurants, do your part and think local. And just thinking of our stores like EcoBuns with online ordering and Hopscotch, that we often partner with. Supporting them, and the nonprofits. We’ve actually given more during COVID since a lot of the fundraisers we would normally attend and support for some of the hospital foundations have been canceled. We’ve given money to Mercy Foundation and we’re looking at what we can do within Metro and the Spectrum Foundation. And we are analyzing what we can best do to help Nestlings Diaper Bank because let’s not forget that diapers are needed now more than ever, and it is not covered by your basic government assistance programs. So that is something to keep in mind if you’re looking to help; if you have extra diapers or you’re looking at giving somewhere. Nestlings Diaper Bank is in need, and they are running low in diapers.
Alyssa: Yeah, the need is probably greater than ever right now, I would imagine.
Kristin: Yes. So, yeah. Thanks to everyone for listening all of these years and supporting our podcast. We would love to know what topics would be of interest to you and where we can go from here.
Alyssa: Yeah. Please let us know. You can find the podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud. We also have on our website a blog section. If you hover over that, we actually have a listing of all the different podcasts. There in order by date. I don’t think you can search by topic, but you can probably Google it and find a certain topic. But we appreciate you listening, and obviously, if you can subscribe, if you can like it, if you can rate us. We’ve never really asked people to do that. It kind of started out as just like — I don’t want to call it a hobby, but, you know, something fun to do to give our clients something; a resource for our clients. But the more people we can educate, the better.
Kristin: We’ve gotten some recognition in Grand Rapids Magazine about being a local podcast, and also through a national organization that rated us in the top ten podcasts that are birth-related. So that was pretty exciting!
Alyssa: Thanks for listening, again!
This post was written by Lauren Utter, a ProDoula trained Birth and Postpartum Doula with Gold Coast Doulas.
Finding out you are pregnant can bring an array of emotions – planned pregnancy or not. Maybe you’re excited because you have been waiting for this day. Maybe you are surprised because a baby wasn’t on your radar. Maybe you’re fearful – of what your pregnancy will be like, how you will look, if the baby is going to be okay, or how you’ll feel.
All of these feelings are normal. Being pregnant causes your body to change. Not just a growing belly, but new hormones, cravings, thoughts, and illnesses. 70-80% of women suffer from morning sickness. At least 60,000 cases of extreme morning sickness, also known as Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), are reported (the number of cases is actually higher as many are treated at home). Perhaps you wonder if this is how all pregnant women feel or is it just you? Or maybe you question your ability to handle nausea and pain. Do you feel as though others minimize how you are actually feeling- giving you tips that you have relentlessly tried?
Morning sickness is difficult to deal with; it’s exhausting and frustrating, but there are many differences between HG and morning sickness. Women with HG lose 5% or more of pre-pregnancy weight. Morning sickness doesn’t typically interfere with your ability to eat or drink, whereas HG often causes dehydration from the inability to consume food or drinks. Morning sickness is most common during the first trimester, while HG lasts longer – sometimes through the whole pregnancy. A woman with HG is more likely to need medical care to combat symptoms.
HG is often described as debilitating, making everyday activities like working, walking, cooking, eating, or caring for older children hard to do. Not only are women having difficulties eating and drinking, but taking their prenatal vitamins is often difficult, too, which results in a lack of proper nutrition. Because of severe dehydration and insufficient nutrients, headaches, dizziness, some fainting, and decreased urination can present as greater symptoms of HG.
On top of all the physical signs of HG, secondary depression and anxiety may also be present. There are potential complications that arise when HG is present. We talked about malnutrition and dehydration, but some others include neurological disorders, gastrointestinal damage, hypoglycemia, acute renal failure, and coagulopathy (excessive bleeding and bruising). Fortunately, with effective treatment these complications can be managed or even avoided completely.
While there is no cure for Hyperemesis Gravidarum, there is a variety of treatments including medications and vitamins, therapies (nutritional, physical, infusion), bed rest, alternative medicine, chiropractic care, massages, and more. Not all women and cases respond to treatments in the same way. Caregivers typically believe early intervention, even prevention, is most effective.
Medical providers work with each woman to discuss which treatments work best for them. Common medications offered to women suffering from HG are antihistamines, antireflux, and metoclopramide. Because HG can be traumatic and highly stressful, 20% of mothers experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders (PMADs). Early intervention proves to be effective, and your OB/GYN, primary care doctor, or a mental health specialist are fantastic resources for mothers experiencing symptoms of any mood disorder. Along with medical professionals there are many forms of support and resources. There are several Facebook groups of women who are suffering or have suffered from HG. This is a great way to feel supported by knowing you are not alone.
The website Hyperemesis.org is equipped with resources, facts, and blogs from other sufferers and their organization, HelpHer, are leaders in research for HG. The HER Foundation puts on events throughout each year for women and their families to come together.
Another great support system is hiring a doula. Doulas offer support through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum. Through pregnancy we can be there for bed rest support, informational, and emotional support. We provide you with evidence-based resources, and factual information. With this information, women suffering from HG can self-advocate for proper testing and treatment that best suits their pregnancy journey. During the postpartum time, not only do doulas help with infant and family care, but doulas are trained to notice signs of PMADs and will provide you resources that can assist you through recovery.
Doulas want to see you be successful, confident, comfortable, and healthy. I know I can’t be the only one who pushes aside her feelings, physical and emotional, and says “Oh, I’m fine” or “It’s nothing.” Our bodies are designed to “tell” us when something is wrong. Here is a tip: start logging your symptoms, from a single headache to daily nausea and vomiting. This will help your medical provider reach answers. Trust your body and trust your intuition, strive for testing that you believe is necessary, and find your people.
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels
Top 10 New Parent Essentials
Did you notice that this list doesn’t say “Baby Essentials”? Nope, it’s not an error. YOU are the single most essential thing in your baby’s tiny life. While you process all the feels over this game changing reality, I’ve got your back with some advice on essentials that will ease your transition so that you can experience a little more rest, comfort, and peace of mind.
#10: A comfortable chair and a selection of board books
You’re going to be spending a lot of time in this place over the next several years, feeding, snuggling, consoling, reading, and likely sleeping. Start building your collection of books early and add to it often. Your baby will love the sound of your voice, they will love the expressions on your face, and most of all they will love the time spent on your lap, together. Begin cultivating a love of reading and language from the beginning!
The sheer number and price range of strollers on the market is staggering. This market reflects the many priorities of consumers. As a Michigan Mama, I often take into consideration the age of the baby when they are born because it determines the need for a car seat system. For example, any baby born around October isn’t going to see too much stroller time before May, so a carseat system isn’t too important and a bassinet, even less important. On the other hand, a baby born in May will need the additional support and a parent will likely enjoy the ease and mobility of a safe travel system.
#8: Baby Bjorn
Sometimes a stroller isn’t ideal; maybe you enjoy trail walking or you simply prefer that intoxicatingly sweet fresh baby smell right under your nose. In that case, consider a Baby Bjorn Carrier. My 4th child basically lived in this from 6 weeks to 6 months, maybe longer, no one’s judging. Bottom line, get yourself a way to hold a baby while also having the ability to answer the phone, make dinner, or fold a basket of laundry.
#7: CuddleBug Wrap
Similar to the Baby Bjorn, the CuddleBug Wrap allows for close proximity and easy access to kisses, but is considered a soft wrap. This wrap is breathable, yet structured enough so that it provides great support inside or outside. Unsure how to use a soft wrap? No worries, contact Gold Coast for referrals to places where you can learn how to baby wear and sometimes even borrow them for free.
#6: Summer Deluxe Baby Bather
I love running a bath, closing the bathroom door so that all the warmth stays in, and then placing newborns through older babies in this baby bathing seat. Now, if you’re looking for bells and whistles, this seat may not be for you, but I’m a simple gal who likes portability, fast-drying washable mesh, and a fresh smelling baby.
Sucking is an innately soothing practice for a baby. Why not have one or two on hand to try? My favorite is the MAM, but try not to overthink it.
#4: Swaddle Wraps
I Love the Aden by Aden and Anais 100% cotton wraps for Summer Babies. A tight swaddle gives babies a safe and secure feel, which often lends itself into better sleep. This alone qualifies the wrap as something you should buy several of.
Pro Tip: Some swaddles have zippers on the bottom that allow for easy access to diaper changes and also mean that you don’t have to un-velcro during the night, buy these!
#3: Black Out Curtains
In order to help shape healthy sleep habits, it’s helpful to be able to make a room pitch black during daytime sleep. Daylight sends a physiological message to our brains to wake up and can impede daytime naps.
#2: White Noise Machine
No, not the kind that has birds chirping or sings lullabies. A low, steady, white noise that has the ability to sound like a dust buster when employed. This single purchase will add hours of sleep to your life and that, my friend, is precious.
#1: (DRUMROLL….) A DOULA!
Doulas are for “that kind” of parent… you know the kind who welcome support, encouragement, peace of mind, rest, and stability during a vulnerable time. Use one and then recommend that your girlfriend, sister, brother, neighbor- use one, too!
This blog is written by Jen R., a local doula in the Grand Rapids area.
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.
Parenting and Sleep: Podcast Episode #98
Laine Lipsky, Parenting Coach, talks with Alyssa today about the negative effects of sleep deprivation on children and parents. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hello and welcome to the Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa Veneklase. I’m excited to be back with Laine Lipsky, parenting coach. How are you?
Laine: Hi! I’m good. How are you doing?
Alyssa: Great! So when we talked on the phone last week, we talked a lot about sleep, and we didn’t intend to talk about sleep, but I told you that I was an infant and child sleep consultant, and then you were like, oh, gosh. The way sleep deprivation affects some of the families that you’re working with — it kind of created some interesting thoughts. I’d love to hear some examples of how some families you’ve worked with and how sleep deprivation has affected that whole family, because I see that when I work with — I’m hired to help children sleep, but obviously, these parents aren’t sleeping, either. That’s why they’re calling me. And then sometimes even when I get the children sleeping, these parents are, like, I still can’t sleep. It’s like if they’ve been two years without a good night’s sleep, they have to retrain themselves. So even though I’m not an adult sleep coach, there’s still a lot of rules from children that apply to us as adults that I kind of have to remind them of and tell them to be patient with themselves, just like they had to be patient with their child to get them into this new rhythm.
Laine: Yeah. It is such a big issue, and I can speak from personal experience. I have, hands down, the champion worst sleeper ever. He is now a teenager, so for anybody out there who thinks that they could take me on, like, my kid on, when he was a baby, I challenge you to a duel, a sleep duel. A sleep-off. Whatever you want to call it. My son — so I’ll just start by saying my son — he would go to sleep. We did all the “right things” for sleeping, and when we would put him down at night, he would go through the night and wake up every 45 minutes. And I was a nursing mom and I was not intending to cosleep, but because of his wake cycle, and nobody — nothing could get him back to sleep. He had something called silent reflux. It was really hard to diagnose. It was really concerning. We ended up cosleeping, and I — we had to out of absolute necessity. So every 45 minutes — so literally, when I would put him down — and that’s in heavy quotes; “put him down” for the night, I would start weeping because I knew that there was just this huge thing ahead of me called “night” which was going to be really, really painful and difficult. And you and I said we both know that, you know, sleep deprivation is a form of torture in prisons and there’s — I firsthand have been through it, and I work with people who have been through it. So I just want to start off by saying, like, I feel anyone’s pain who’s walking around feeling like their body hurts, their eyes burn, they’re short-tempered; they’re not making clear decisions, and especially on top of it, we’re recording this podcast during this COVID lockdown time. All of that stuff is just on, you know, steroids right now because we’re also stressed out about the uncertainty that surrounds us. So my heart goes out to anybody who’s struggling with sleep right now, and it’s so widespread. The impact of a parent being sleep deprived and maybe both parents being sleep deprived is just such a trickle-down effect. And so, yeah, I can tell you a lot about clients who I’ve had, but I just wanted to start off by saying that I have total empathy for somebody who is going through that. It’s a really important issue.
Alyssa: Yeah. You almost forget how bad it is, and then you have one night of bad sleep, and you remember. Oh, my goodness; how did I do this for weeks, if not months? And some of my clients, for years. You know, for two years. It’s devastating to relationships to where I –you know, they’ll say — or even six months. Six months old; I had a long maternity leave. I need to go back to work, but I haven’t slept in six months. Or I went back to work after three months, and I have not been productive at work for the last three months. It affects everything.
Laine: Right, or people driving to work totally sleep deprived. That’s dangerous.
Alyssa: It’s worse than drunk driving. I mean, statistically, I think there are more driving deaths related to sleep deprivation than drugs and alcohol combined. Combined!
Laine: I didn’t know that. So I say a lot, joking not joking, in my practice, if parents were able to get on top of sleep early on in their families that I’d be out of a job because a lot of what I see are behavioral issues that are stemming from a lack of sleep. And you just think about how you feel when you are tired, when you’re cranky, when you — you know, when you feel that way as an adult, you’re able to sit down. You’re really able to say, I’m feeling really — at best, you’re able to say, I’m feeling really cranky. I’m just really tired. You’re able to maybe take a nap somehow, magically. You’re able to have a cup of coffee. When we think about our kids — or, you know, maybe people have a glass of wine to take the edge off. There’s no taking the edge off for the kids. They don’t have that. Maybe it’s nursing. I guess that would be the closest thing. But there’s no edge — they’re just edgy all the time. And so in a family system, what I see is that when kids are not rested and parents are not rested, we’re not dealing with the actual people. We’re dealing with the tired versions of those people. And so one of my very first questions when I speak to people about their parenting is, how is your sleep.
Alyssa: That’s great.
Laine: It’s that essential. And because I shared a few minutes ago about my own son and my own sleep struggles: we defied the parenting books at the time to schedule our day or create a schedule around feeding. I was, like, forget feeding. Who’s going to eat when they’re tired and cranky? Like, does eating feel good when you’re tired? That’s not a solution. The solution is sleep. And so we quickly learned — and I don’t know if this is what you teach, but you’re so flexible. You teach a lot of different things to people. But had you been my sleep coach at the time, or sleep consultant, I would tell you that we were scheduling our day around our son’s wake-up time. Like, that’s what we — we’re scheduling our day around his sleep needs. His feeding seemed to be fine, but his sleep was just crazy off the charts. And I think part of that is temperament. I think a lot of it is. And to this day, he doesn’t — well, to this day, he is a teenager, so he sleeps crazy amounts, but up until he started that whole sleep routine as a teen, he still needed less sleep than everybody. He still needs less sleep than me. And that’s where I see in families the real — when it’s upside down, when a parent has high sleep needs and a child has lower sleep needs, that’s a red zone for me as a parenting coach.
Alyssa: Yeah, it’s really hard because in the podcast we previously recorded where you said there’s no one parenting style; there’s no practice style — but the same with sleep. There’s no one — or there are some best practices, but there’s no best parenting style. Same with there’s a lot of sleep methods, but there’s no one right sleep method for everybody. So when I give someone a sleep plan which says, you know, based on your child’s age, this is what a child typically — what a nap schedule typically looks like or a feeding schedule typically looks like. Most parents want to go by the — just down — and I have to remind them, we’re not watching the clock. We’re watching your baby. Your baby’s cues tell us, how long is their wake cycle? Can they stay awake for an hour and a half before they get tired, or can they stay awake for two and a half hours before they get tired? That will determine feeding and sleep schedules, not this list, not the clock. So they just want me to hand them this guide that miraculously works, and it’s just not that easy. We really have to watch Baby’s cues to understand what your baby needs, because if a typical baby needs 15 hours and yours only needs 14 hours, what does that mean? Let’s try some things. What is this going to look like? A later bedtime? An earlier wakeup? A shorter nap? Troubleshooting together is why I think finding a good sleep coach is the only way to be successful because you can’t just read a book because then you are looking at this sleep guide in a book saying, okay, oh, my gosh, it’s 2:03. I’m three minutes late. You should have been down for a nap. But your baby’s not tired. So then what? Who answers that for you?
Laine: Yep, and to have somebody help you watch that, because just like with parenting advice, you know, the old adage is that — the old whatever you want to call common wisdom or whatever that you might get from your own parents often doesn’t apply. Sometimes they do. Like, if you’re lucky, you know, like a baby will sleep when they’re tired. Well, not if you have a baby who’s really high-strung, temperamentally speaking, or who’s overtired. Their form of being really tired is wired, which is the case in my kids. Right? He didn’t get that dreamy, dazed-off look when he was tired.
Alyssa: He didn’t give you the sleep cues of yawning and rubbing his eyes? Mommy, I’m tired.
Laine: There was no book that fit my child, and so to your point, I had to learn to read him and I had to stop reading the books. And I didn’t do it perfectly. You know, I still don’t do it perfectly, but just even that shift in my mindset of, like, oh, I need to read my child, not the books. It’s the same thing that I say to parents about parenting, which is, learn to read your child and take in the information but, you know, information overload is overwhelming and we’re just being inundated with it now, and it’s conflicting information. It’s like, you know, I’m a sports coach by training. Then I apply all of that to parenting. If there are too many voices in your huddle, right, the team gets off track and doesn’t know what they’re doing. You need to have one clear voice in the huddle and for each parent, it’s going to be them. Their family is their huddle, and the more clear that the leader can be, right, the captain — you’re the captain of your team — the better everybody is going to respond to that, or at least you’re going to know whether it’s working or not. So what I find is happening with parents is they get in their, you know, best-meaning selves, they want to be informed. They’re getting, like, flooded by information and they don’t know how to parse that out and to make it work for their child. So is that something that you — how do you talk to parents about that? Like, how would you help — that’s what I hear a lot from parents is, like, I don’t know what to do. How do you handle that?
Alyssa: A lot of the times, parents will come to me and say, we’ve tried it all. We’ve done all of the methods. All of them, even ones that I don’t agree with, right, like just crying for two hours. But they’re so desperate. They’re, like, this is what my pediatrician told me or this is what the book says. I’m just going to try it. Well, there’s so many methods, but they can be done incorrectly, and maybe that method’s not the right one for your child. So if they’ve come to me and said, I’ve tried Method X but then I read through their intake form and I’m like, well, no wonder that didn’t work. Here’s what we’re going to try. Or we get into something and they’re like, hmm, but my sister has a baby who sleeps really good, and this is what they did, and you’re not telling me to do that. I’m like, well, that’s their baby. So you do. You have to tell them — like, I love the coach analogy. I am your coach. We’re a team. We’re doing this together. I’m not coming in and just telling you what to do. I’m doing this based on your family’s needs. And then I educate you so that you can go and do it yourself because I’m not with you everyday for the next several months or years. So I educate them so they have the tools moving forward to do exactly what they need to do. And I also love the coaching analogy, the sports analogy, because for older children, I explain to them sometimes that it’s even with the emotional aspect. You know, we talked in the last podcast about how we can’t just make our kids happy all the time. Experiencing a wide range of emotions is normal, and we need to help them learn how to cope with those. This comes into play a lot with sleep because you hear your child cry when they’re tired, and it’s this automatic — we just feel this distress. But sometimes those same cries during the day — you take a toy away or you have an overly tired child who just wants to cry about everything — you can ignore them during the day a lot easier than you can at night. But we need to help them cope with these emotions. So it’s — what do I say to them? You’re not in this to play the game for them. You have to help teach them how to play the game themselves. Right? Like, we can’t hop in and do it for them all the time. With sleep, we’re coaching them. That’s my basic — I forget where I was going with that, but…
Laine: You were talking about how coaching as an analogy was working for — yeah, for helping them learn how to do it and being — I think you said it; like, not doing it for them but coaching them to do it, and that the older they get, I think you were talking about, that maybe that was a piece of it, too.
Alyssa: Yeah. I mean, a baby needs a lot more help and it takes a lot longer. When you have a two-year-old, it’s a lot different than a six- or nine-month old.
Alyssa: You know, they’re talking, walking, moving. They’re a little bit more — they’re smart. They can be tricky. They know how to get you to stay in that room a little bit longer. There’s no thirstier child than one you’re trying to get to bed. Mommy, I’m thirsty. Mommy, I’m hungry. Mommy, I need this.
Laine: Yeah, so does that — does your advice for parents change depending on all the things? You know, the child and the parent, whatever — because that’s a classic one that comes up for people. Like, my child has all the excuses and can crawl out of their crib and can crawl out of their bed or whatever. Do you have some wisdom to share with people who are really —
Alyssa: Bedtime routines. Bedtime routines are so important.
Laine: For the kids who don’t — for the parents who are like, we have a bedtime routine, and it involves bath time and books and me putting my child in bed, and then my child’s coming out of bed, like, a zillion times before they stay in bed. That’s the bedtime routine, and they’re sick of it and they don’t have any recourse. And I’ll tell you something, Alyssa: some of my clients have gotten some of the worse advice from pediatricians, including people to, like, lock their child in their rooms. That’s come straight out of the mouth of a pediatrician, and just, like — I want parents to know that if advice that you’re getting from a source doesn’t feel good, then it’s not good. It has to feel good to be good, and it should be something that is aligned with your values, something that’s aligned with your personality and also that will work for your child’s temperament because it just breaks my heart to hear people on the phone, and I hear it all the time, people crying; well, I did this and it felt terrible, but my pediatrician told me to do it, so I — you know, thinking that they were doing the right thing.
Alyssa: So when they work with me, I have them fill out an intake form for that reason. I want to know, what is your parenting style? What’s your child’s temperament? What have you tried in the past? What’s worked; what hasn’t worked? And what is your end goal? So I will make a plan based on that. Not what I think you and your child need to be doing, but what is your goal as parents? Maybe you have a one-year-old still breastfeeding exclusively, and you just to cut that down. You don’t want to eliminate all night feeds. Twelve months probably could sleep all night without a feed, but if you’re okay; you just want to have two feeds instead of five — okay. Let’s work our way back. Let’s eliminate a few of them and see how it goes. And typically, you know, at that age, we would probably end up eliminating all of them, but then it’s also the opposite. I might have a four-month-old client whose parents are, like, I need my baby to sleep all night. Well, okay. At four months, your baby probably still needs to eat at night, so let’s talk about what a realistic overnight looks like for this age. So sometimes the expectations aren’t quite — you know, they might be a little bit unrealistic.
Laine: Right. Same thing with parenting. We want our five-year-old, three-year-old, to set the table and then go up to bed by themselves. And I’m like, yeah, no. That’s not — that’s not a thing. Or it could be, but it’s very rare. So maybe you get this question a lot or this issue a lot that comes up; maybe this is a good place to overlap a little bit. I hear from parents a lot that they have some shame, like, a lot of shame that they don’t know how to parent, that they should know how to parent. Some people are more forthcoming and say, you know, well, I was raised by parents who I’m not looking to emulate. I want to be parenting differently than how my own parents parented me, and I don’t know how. There’s not so much shame there, but when people are, like, trying to do it differently and they can’t; they think that they should know how to do it naturally, and it’s not coming out the way — it’s like when you have a picture in your head and you start drawing, and it’s, like, nope, that’s not what’s in my head. Not at all. Right? I get that a lot. I hear that a lot from parents who are really struggling with this internal sense of, I should be able to do this. Do you get that with people who are — especially around sleep and in this culture of, well, just let them cry it out, or they’ll sleep when they’re tired. Do you find that parents struggle with that?
Alyssa: Yeah. It’s kind of like breastfeeding, right? We think it’s going to be this natural thing, and then when we really struggle with it, we think that there’s something wrong with us when nobody tells us as new moms that breastfeeding is really hard. Same with sleep. It’s just something that our bodies want to do naturally, and people tell you that newborns sleep all the time. Well, they do for a little while, and then they don’t. So when it hits the fan and you don’t know what to do, they start reading books. It’s this downward spiral of, well, I read this book and it didn’t work, so I gave up and now, like you, you just end up cosleeping if you don’t want to, and I have clients who have been cosleeping for three years, and the parents haven’t slept in the same bed for three years. Some families, that works. They do that by choice and it’s fine, but the ones who are calling me, it’s not because they love this situation. They’ve gotten there by desperation, and somebody’s not happy. So every family is so different, and I always warn people: if any sleep consultant comes in and says they have a plan and just one plan, or if it includes cry it out, you just say, thanks but no thanks. There is no one plan. If there was one way to do this, I could write a book and tell everyone what to do and be done. Right? And same with you. Every family is so different.
Laine: Well, what I see is that when people are willing to take a plan, kind of no matter what, it means that they’re actually going to start — they’re going to start walking down a path of, I’m going to do whatever works to get the behavior I want, no matter what. And that’s a path, from a parenting perspective, that’s a path of very authoritarian, very old-school parenting style. Right? Where it’s going to be harder if you’re not really showing flexibility; you’re not going into it with empathy. It’s going to be harder to develop those skills and that mindset toward your child and toward your parenting style as your child gets older. Right? So something that I think gets lost when parents are willing to pick up a solution — and I get why they do. Right? Like, I get why they pick up the, “I’m just going to let them cry and figure it out,” because they are at their wit’s end, and it’s overwhelming to think about it being a process. They want it to just be a simple solution. I get the temptation there. However, my cautionary tale to parents is, if that’s the way that you approach sleep, it’s likely going to inform how you’re approaching parenting in general, and that is — I rely on the science for this and I don’t come to this with judgment. The science absolutely tells us, and the research tells us again and again, that when you’re parenting with an authoritarian style of parenting of, we’re going to do this no matter what, and you’re lacking empathy in that, you’re going to get certain outcomes for your kids in the long term, and they’re never the outcomes that parents want. You know? Like, if I were to ask you, what are the outcomes you want for your daughter? What are your outcomes that you want for your daughter when she’s — push it out 20 years. She’ll be 27? What kind of woman do you want her to be?
Alyssa: I want her to be kind and successful and learning from me, right? Maybe running her own business. Yeah. I want great things for her. Right. Right.
Laine: Independent, right? You want her to be emotionally healthy?
Laine: Attract emotionally healthy partners?
Laine: Right? All that stuff; resilient, gritty. Right? All that stuff; self-assured. All that stuff are the outcomes that we know — we know that a certain type of parenting, a certain parenting path, gets. There’s not one right way to walk the path, but there is as path, and that’s what I call best parenting practices. Right? We know. The research is telling us again and again, and if you’re not walking that path, you are walking another path, which is to get insecure kids who are, you know, not as successful as they could be in the three big categories, which is work, school, and relationships. That’s just research. So I feel so passionate about having people start as early as possible making parenting choices that feel right to them to get the outcomes that they want. Never had somebody raise a hand in my course or my class or workshops that I run saying, I want my child to be insecure. I want my child to attract dysfunctional partners. Never, right? I would love to talk to that person. I think; maybe I wouldn’t want to talk to that person. But we don’t want that. That’s not our natural instinct, and it’s so — I like to think of the really early years of being a parent as training for the parents of how you want to be a parent. And then it sort of morphs into, how are we training our kids? How are we guiding and shaping them? But the early decisions, how we respond to them as infants, how we respond to them when they’re really little, when they’re preverbal, especially — that’s training ground for us. It’s essential training ground for parents for how we’re going to be. How are we going to listen? Are we going to ignore? Are we going to jump every single time? What is the sweet spot? What is the sweet spot for each particular parent? There is a sweet spot.
Alyssa: We talk a lot about that, and I like the term “sweet spot” because there are some parents who are fine ignoring, and then there are some who are jumping every time. And when you really talk about listening — they’re like, well, my baby’s just crying. What do you mean, listen? I’m, like, crying is communication. And they are — they can’t verbalize it, but there are different cries. Especially as a baby develops, those cries actually do sound different, and even before they sound different, take a look at what happened when your baby started crying. Was there something that you can actually take note of? A loud noise; maybe a dog barked and it disrupted something, or the sun moved just enough, and it’s shining right in their eyes. Taking note of what maybe happened to cause the crying instead of saying, oh, my baby must need food, or my baby needs to be held. Because some babies, as much as we want to hold them all the time, are a little bit — they just don’t need it. They need their own space a little bit more. And those are the ones who will cry. You know, grandma comes over and gets in their face and wants to pick them up right away, and then grandma feels bad, and I’m like, no. I call them space invaders. You just invaded the baby’s space. Move in a little bit slower. Give them time to adjust. My daughter was like that. She needs to assess everything that’s going on in that room before she decides where she wants to go and what she wants to do. If someone comes at her, game over. Babies are the same way. They have little personalities. I mean, it takes a while to figure them out, but —
Laine: But in those early stages, they’re little mammals, and they’re responding from that part of their brain and their being that’s the most developed, which is that limbic part of them, which is able to convey — like, my dog right now is conveying a message, right? She’s not using words, but I know what she wants. She’s sitting by the door. She’s having that little howl-cry, plaintive cry. I know she wants to go out. I also know that she’s already been out. She doesn’t need to go out, and when she does go out, she’s been super destructive lately. And it’s going to get louder, and she’s going to get upset. And if she were to — to be clear, because I never want to be at all misquoted or confused as saying kids are or should be treated the way that animals are treated — if she were a child, I do not believe in ignoring kids. I would be going over there. I would be getting down on her eye level, and I would say, oh, I know that you want to go outside and you’re so upset, and I see you’re so frustrated. And while leading her away, because if she’s not — while setting a boundary. We’re still not going outside. Let’s do something else. So it’s not just bait and switch, which I know that there’s a lot of parenting programs out there that are all about just redirecting a child’s behavior. But we’re not looking at just behavioral creatures. We’re looking at emotional, one day fully formed, human beings. Right? So the behavior is one piece of it, and to your point a moment ago about what parents are doing, it’s not just the what; it’s also the how. Like, how are you walking into your child’s room? Are you flinging the door open while they’re crying and being, like, oh, my gosh — because your babies are going to pick up on that energy, too. Right? So being responsible for our own energy before we engage with our kids, whether they’re crying or frustrated or being pissy or whatever it is, being responsible for our own energy is an essential piece to how they’re going to then react to us. How we respond to them informs how they react to us. It is a cycle, for sure.
Alyssa: Yeah. We talk about that. And, you know, they can pick up on our anxiety, especially around sleep. Like you said, you can go this whole day; you can drink your cup of coffee, have a glass of wine at night, but then all of a sudden you knew: it’s night. And you just feel this anxiety around sleep that you almost can’t help, but then your child senses that, which makes going to sleep even harder. But then you’re also sleep deprived, so of course you’re more anxious because you’re sleep deprived, and it’s just this vicious cycle. Probably 30 percent, maybe up to 50 percent of the parents I work with probably have some form of postpartum depression and/or anxiety, because I’m working with a lot of new moms. And that just escalates. That’s another vicious cycle. If you have it, sleep deprivation makes it worse. But even if you don’t have it diagnosed, maybe you have sleep deprivation, which is causing depression-like symptoms without being actually depressed. It’s just really hard.
Laine: But it doesn’t matter. If the symptoms are the same, it doesn’t matter what it is. You have to treat the symptoms, right? I was talking to a sports psychologist the other day, because I’m always curious about how sports training and sports psychology overlaps with parenting. It’s just this intersection that I find really fascinating, and it’s where I lean in with parenting. Let’s treat it like sports training, in the sense that you’ve got to be prepared for it. You’ve got to do some real training for it. There’s a pre-game. There’s a game time situation. There’s a post-game. You know, it makes sense to me because I grew up around athletics. But — oh, what were you just saying about —
Alyssa: Oh, depression and anxiety.
Laine: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. Thank you. So this sports psychologist, who also now works with women who are postpartum and have postpartum depression and/or anxiety, she was, like, oh, sleep deprivation — it’s not only, like, tied to it; it can be the cause of it. You know, back to this thing about sleep deprivation being a form of torture: it can absolutely trigger anxiety and depression. And I just was, like — I mean, I knew that, so when she said it, it wasn’t earth-shattering news to me, because I’d seen it — but to hear her say that with such, like, authority — I was just, like, wow, yeah. That’s a real thing.
Alyssa: The hormone shift that’s happening anyway after you have a baby — like, it’s the largest hormone drop of any mammal, I think, when you have a baby. And then add sleep deprivation on top of that, which as a human species, we can handle a little bit of it. Our bodies are made to handle a little bit of that after having a baby, but not months. We just can’t handle it.
Laine: And certainly not years. So what would you say to somebody — like, what would be advice that you would have for somebody who is struggling with sleep during this particular moment in time; the COVID situation; the unique time that we’re all going through around sleep, because, you know, people wonder, you know — they worry. They worry and they wonder, and I remember that feeling of, like, I know sleep is the most important thing. My baby’s brain is growing, and I have all this information about it, and I was definitely one of the more anxious people around sleep. I was like the sleep police. And I was also facing people who were saying, oh, it’s no big deal. It’s no big deal. So I felt like I was fighting the other side of it, which made me more vigilant. So it was hard to find that balance for myself. But I’m wondering, like, what would you tell somebody who is feeling like, I know sleep is super important, and I’m in this, like, bizarre situation at home where I’m working from home and there’s, like — there are noises around. There’s not quiet. It’s not ideal. So I’m struggling with sleep, and we’re in this bizarre time. Like, can you put anybody’s mind at ease? Like, beyond saying, like, well, your child’s not going to die. You know, they’ll survive. For people I work with, that bar is too low. You know? They want to be raising thriving, really healthy — like, optimizing their child’s childhood experience. Right? So do you have any just blanket wisdom or anything that could help them have their minds put a little bit at ease?
Alyssa: Yeah. I mean, you said it. Sleep is so important, and I think especially right now with a worldwide pandemic with this virus, proper sleep helps build our immune systems, so let’s try to get proper sleep. And even though we’re working from home — you know, like we said in the last podcast, let’s change your perspective. Instead of saying, maybe my kid won’t sleep enough because I’m here and I’m working and there’s all these noises. Let’s shift that and say, well, I’m home. I have a lot more opportunity. I don’t have anywhere I have to be at a certain time. Let’s focus on sleep. Instead of letting my kid say, oh, you don’t have a schedule and you can stay up until 10:00 now, let’s continue a pretty consistent bedtime routine, especially for kids — you know, you have teenagers; different story. For babies and toddlers — even my daughter; she’s 7. We walk back there at 7:30 at night. We brush teeth, put PJs on, we read a book, and I walk out at 8:00. So a 30-minute routine is pretty good. It gives you plenty of time to do kisses and cuddles and, you know, that’s plenty. But it’s so important because someday school will start again and work will start again, and it’s going be really, really hard on these parents who have to get back into a rhythm. So if you’ve gotten out of that rhythm, maybe you can slowly work your way back to getting them. And it’s hard. Like, here it’s summertime, which means at 8:00 when I leave her room, it’s still light out. But she’s still tired, so I just make it as dark as possible. But try to keep a consistent routine, and that’s a wake up time and a bedtime. And then if you have a younger kid who’s still napping, sound machines; make it dark in that room; crank the sound machine, and do what you can to keep the house as quiet as possible. And then you had mentioned some of your clients have kids who are crawling out of cribs. If you can wait until a kid is 3 to take them out of the crib, that’s better, because developmentally, they’re — before 3, they don’t really understand that this is a bed and I shouldn’t crawl out of it, and then you’re kind of having to shut the door and lock them in the room, which nobody wants to do. You’re essentially making — I tell parents who have to do that, consider the room now a crib. So you have to look at everything in that room and make sure nothing can fall on them; they can’t — there’s no — nothing that can hurt them, and you’re essentially turning the room into a crib. But before 3, it’s really hard. But there are some tricks. If you have a 2-year-old who’s crawling out of a crib and you’re afraid they’re going to hurt themselves, and if they wear a sleep sack and they can unzip it and crawl out of it, flip it around so that the zipper is in back. Maybe they can’t reach that zipper. If they’re really smart and can get at that zipper, put it on backwards and then put a little T-shirt over it. They would have to really work. They have to pull the T-shirt off. Just try to make it as hard, but it’s hard to climb out of a crib with a sleep sack over your feet. I have had some Houdini babies who even that doesn’t work, but for most, even just having the zipper in back, they — even if they can touch it with their hand, they can’t get it all the way down. So that’s one trick.
Laine: Houdini babies. That’s hilarious.
Alyssa: But make sleep a priority. Instead of saying, oh, I can’t — I just can’t — there’s no way I can get on a sleep schedule or get my kids back on a schedule. If you make sleep a priority and have some sort of routine — we need routines as adults, and kids especially need some sort of normalcy and routine.
Laine: Does it have to be to the minute? Bedtime is 7:30?
Laine: What’s your take on that?
Alyssa: No. Give yourself some flexibility, especially for younger babies. Thirty minutes on either side. So let’s say a working parent; they need to be up — they need their baby up at 7:00 in the morning because they have to get baby fed and out the door. Now, on the weekends, let them sleep in until 7:30. If you go past that, you’re really messing with the natural rhythm of the baby’s sleep cycle that we’ve worked so hard to put in place, that they can sleep, you know, 7:00 to 7:00. You don’t want them to some days be able to sleep until 9:00 or stay up until 9:00. Even as adults, every hour of sleep that we lose, it takes us about a day to recoup. So time differences; if I fly to Seattle and visit my friend, three hours different, it takes me about three days to adjust. And I can deal pretty well with that, but for a baby, it’s really hard; really hard to deal with.
Laine: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And parents get really nervous about traveling with babies, and how do I do this? And, again, this comes back to being aligned with what your values are. It’s okay to not travel with a baby. Even though you see people on planes with babies all the time, it doesn’t have to be you. Just getting really clear about where you stand and what’s important to you and why you’re doing what you’re doing. What’s your why? Is it because you feel guilty or is it because you feel jealous, or is it because you feel like you really, really need to go visit your mom? Those are all really different answers to the same question.
Alyssa: Yeah, I get asked a lot about travel. People want to travel with their kids a lot, and sometimes it’s just not conducive to have a three-hour time difference with a baby because you’ll probably have to go to bed really early or get them in bed really early, and that means you can’t go anywhere, unless you have the resources to hire a nanny or you’re visiting parents and they’ll stay. You know, you can put them to bed at home while you leave. You know, my client right now, they like to go camping. Before we part ways, how do we camping with this baby? And we talk through that. What does that look like? Go hiking after the nap; come back at lunch; put the baby down again.
Laine: Again, I think kids are so different. They come just so different. You don’t get to — it’s like getting a dog, right? If you want to, you can thumb through a book and find your ideal breed, and you can pick the type of dog that’s going to have, likely, like, 99 percent sure, you’re going to have the kind of behavior that you want from that dog, right? If you go to the pound and you’re going to get some sort of mix so you don’t know exactly what you’re getting, then you have to work with what you have. And that’s what parenting is. Parenting is, you work with what you have, and you don’t get to pick. And so I really — one of my favorite things to caution parents against is comparing other people’s outsides to their insides. Right? Like, what is your reality versus what you’re seeing somebody else in that moment having? If you’re somebody who wants to go camping with your baby, if you have the type of baby that can hack that, there’s nothing inherently wrong or bad about taking a baby camping, unless you’re going to artic. You know, perhaps that is not a good idea, right? But if you’ve got an “easy” baby and sleep is not an issue, or you’re happy snuggling together, great. That’s awesome. But if you don’t have an easy baby or sleep has been a huge issue in your house, then you’re not the family who’s going to — if you want to have the shit show afterward, you know, and you’re willing to go and take that risk and then it’s a calculated risk — it’s just not fair to then be upset with the baby or be upset with your child for being cranky afterward. You just to be informed, know what you’re doing, know what you’re getting yourself into when you take those risks. And I think it’s one of the most empowering things that parents can do, to be really clear about what they are and what they’re not willing to tolerate. Just like in life, right? What are you willing to tolerate, and what is your happiness equation? What are the elements of your happiness equation? It’s really important for people to know that and to get right with themselves so that they can live their best family life. And it’s not going to be a blueprint from somebody else’s family.
Alyssa: Yeah. Realistic expectations, again. You know, it’s just maybe sometimes telling them, sorry; I have to let you know that your baby’s not going to — based on working together, this activity you want to do won’t suit your baby — but now. Maybe later. Don’t give up on this dream to go camping. It might just have to wait a couple of years until your child is down to one nap a day instead of three. And again, like you said, you talked about being fluid instead of, like, having this solid — it needs to ebb and flow. Be flexible. Realize that your baby is a human who has separate needs from you, and just because you want to do this, your baby might not want to.
Laine: Part of the deal of becoming a parent. There’s sacrifices, you know? And it’s funny; like, I think that we talk about that a lot, right? Like, there’s a lot of sacrifices in parenting, or there’s a lot of sacrifices in marriage, or there’s a lot of sacrifices in whatever. But when it really comes down to it, when that happens, when you’re confronted with the sacrifice, it’s a very hard thing. It’s a tough pill to swallow. And I just — maybe a good sort of point for us here is to talk about or to ask the question of, like, what is it that is important, you know, and where are you willing to sacrifice? What is the sacrifice that you face when you’re a parent, and what are you — how do you respond to that? How do you respond to the fact that you’re being asked to sacrifice stuff? You know, it’s a tough one. I don’t think people have a high tolerance for that, especially in this day and age.
Alyssa: Yeah. We want things to go our way all the time.
Laine: All the time. All the time. Well, it was definitely a good conversation.
Alyssa: Yeah! We covered a lot! Well, why don’t you tell people again where they can find you if they have questions about the parenting end, before we sign off?
Laine: Sure. I have my website. You can also find me on Facebook, and I have a very slim social presence right now because most of the stuff I’ve been doing in my life and my career has been live and in person, but I’m slowly building a social presence. So definitely go to my website. And feel free to check out my online course. It doesn’t talk directly about sleep, but it does talk about discipline and the issues that follow, you know, if you’re having trouble with getting kids to cooperate and you’re facing a lot of meltdowns. It will definitely, definitely help you. And some of that is probably because they’re underslept, but it will help you anyway.
Alyssa: But the two go hand in hand. You know, a lot of times, to help them get to sleep better, they need a little bit of discipline, and then once that — you know, with consistency and the right discipline for that family, the child will understand, this is the new routine. I can sleep better, and then you no longer need to discipline because then it just becomes part of their routine.
Laine: Absolutely. Absolutely. So, yeah, the course will be — the free class will definitely be of help, and then people can also book a free call with me. And those are the main ways to find me. And I want my listeners to listen in to what you’re about to say, too, because I want them to be able to find you.
Alyssa: Yes, you can find us at our website. We’re on Instagram and Facebook, and this podcast is called Ask the Doulas.
Laine: So good. Thank you so much for having this conversation today!
Alyssa: Thanks for joining me!
Laine: My pleasure. We’ll do it again soon.
Mental Health Awareness Month: Podcast Episode #97
Dr. Nave now works with queens through her virtual practice Hormonal Balance. Today she talks to us about hormones and how they affect our mental health, including the baby blues and postpartum depression. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hi. Welcome to Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, and today, I’m excited to talk to Dr. Gaynel Nave, MD, and she works at Hormonal Balance. Hi, Dr. Nave.
Dr. Nave: Hi, Alyssa. Thanks for having me.
Alyssa: Yeah. It’s been a while since we’ve talked, but we were emailing a while ago, and we realized that it’s Mental Health Awareness Month in May, and then this week is Women’s Health Week. So you wanted to talk about baby blues and postpartum depression. So before we get into that, why don’t you tell us a little bit more about Hormonal Balance because last time you talked with us, you worked for — you were at a different place. So tell us what you’re doing now.
Dr. Nave: Okay. Awesome. So as of this year, I’m in my own practice, as you said. The name of it is Hormonal Balance. And so I am an Arizona licensed naturopathic physician, and here in Grand Rapids, I operate as a naturopathic educator and consultant to women, with all gender identities, to basically reconnect to their — who they are and directing their own health, hormonal health concerns. And that’s the reason why I went with Hormonal Balance, because our hormones affect almost every single aspect of our health, including when we wake up, our mood, our sexual health, all of it. And for us who are women or female-identifying, the medical community sometimes doesn’t listen to our concerns or minimizes our experience, and so I want to be a part of changing that and, you know, helping women be advocates for themselves and learn more about their bodies, basically.
Alyssa: Yes. Awesome. I love it. And then you can do — so even though you’re here in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you can do virtual visits, so technically, you can work with anybody anywhere?
Dr. Nave: Yep, yep, yep.
Alyssa: Cool. Well, we’ll tell people how to find you at the end, but let’s talk a little bit about the mental health aspect of, you know, bringing some awareness to it this month. And then, obviously, you know, baby blues and postpartum depression is something that we deal with on a regular with our clients. So how do you help your patients?
Dr. Nave: I call them clients.
Alyssa: Clients? Oh, you do?
Dr. Nave: Yeah, because here in Michigan, because my — there is no regulation for naturopathic physicians, even though I have my license. I function more as a consultant, so I call the people that I work with “clients.” And so the way in which I assist them is basically gathering information about their concerns as in-depth as possible because I’m not just going to look at you from the perspective of, oh, I’m experiencing this particular symptom, because nothing occurs in a vacuum. And so looking at you as a whole, how does what you’re experiencing affect you mentally, emotionally, and physically. And so we do the full assessment, and then a part of that is talking about and educating you on labs that are pertinent to you. So there are different types of hormonal labs that are available. There’s salivary. There’s urine. There’s blood. And so, like, making sure that the one that’s best and indicated specifically for you is what we talk about. It’s very individualized because each person has a different experience, even if we have the same diagnosis. Does that make sense?
Alyssa: Right. So you’re saying if somebody comes in, you do a pretty thorough — kind of like with my sleep clients, I do an intake form. Right? There’s no, like — you’re saying there’s no one blood lab for — oh, there goes my dog. I should have mentioned that we’re recording at home on speakerphone, and — okay. So what I was saying is with my sleep consults, I do an intake form because there’s no right answer for every family, so if somebody comes in and needs blood work done or — well, like you said, labs. Blood work might not be the right lab for them?
Dr. Nave: Yeah, because there’s — let’s talk about female hormones, for example. So the female sex hormones — and when I say female, I’m using the medical terminology for it, not like — so, like birth sex. You have ovaries — versus the gender identify. I’m still working through how to talk about these medical things and still be cognizant and respectful of the different gender identifies, so please forgive me if I say anything that’s offensive. So the female sex hormones — estrogen and progesterone — but these hormones don’t just occur in women. They also occur in men. So all gender identifies have these hormones involved, but specifically for those who can give birth, estrogen is involved in the building up of the uterine lining of the uterus so that implantation of a fertilized egg can happen. Progesterone is important for maintaining that uterine lining as well as maintaining healthy pregnancy so that you don’t lose the baby. Obviously, there are a lot more factors involved. These hormones, based on how the body breaks down balance specifically as it pertains to estrogen — we have three different types of estrogen, so it’s not just one form that’s in the body, and depending on what lab is done, you’re able to verify all three at the same time. The one that I’m thinking of right now is the urine test called DUTCH test. I really enjoy that one. I’m not promoting it right now, but I’m just explaining why I like it. So that particular type of analysis looks at all three of those types of estrogen in the body as well as how the body breaks them down. Is it able to get rid of it effectively, which gives information on the metabolic pathways. So there’s a lot more information that can be gleaned from — depending on what type of lab is utilized and depending on your specific concern and the way in which your symptoms are presenting; a more investigative or information-bent lab analysis might be indicated, and so being able to speak with someone like myself who is well-versed on the different approaches and all the different options can be really beneficial because then you don’t end up having to do multiple tests, you know, all that kind of fun stuff, or having to get blood drawn if you don’t have to.
Alyssa: Right. So what hormones are you looking for when somebody comes in and says, gosh, I think I have postpartum depression? Is it just hormonal, or do I really have — I guess, where do you as a naturopathic doctor, say, “I think I can help you with hormones,” versus, “I think you need to see a therapist”? Or do you do both?
Dr. Nave: So I will probably tell them to do both because postpartum depression, as with any mental health condition, is on a spectrum. So you have mild, moderate, and severe. Before we go into that, I think it would be important for us to define a couple things. Baby blues is feeling down or feeling a shift in your mood, like feeling more weepy, more exhausted, after giving birth, and this can last anywhere from a couple days up to two weeks. If it extends beyond that time or it’s interfering with your ability to function, then it would be classified as postpartum depression, and postpartum depression can occur in that same time frame as the baby blues, like soon after childbirth, within three to five days, up to a year after giving birth. And I’m going to read a couple of stats, so bear with me.
Alyssa: Go for it.
Dr. Nave: Just for a frame of reference. So postpartum depression affects up to 15% of mothers, and shifting to 85% of moms is that they get the postpartum blues, so that — these statistics may provide some form of comfort that you’re not alone. Please don’t suffer alone. If you’re feeling more down and you need more assistance from your family and friends, please reach out. If you’re a single mom, I’m sure that there are different groups, like single moms groups, or talking to your doctor or your friends who can be there to provide some emotional support for you during that time. Please, reach out to people. It’s not anything to be ashamed of. A lot of women go through it because our hormones, as I said previously, affect a lot of things, including our mood.
Alyssa: Right. I feel like mothers are getting a little bit more comfortable talking about how hard it can be and how maybe bad they feel or these thoughts that they’re having. You know, you talk to the older generations, like our mothers and grandmothers, who said, well, we didn’t talk about those things or we didn’t need help. And we’re slowly getting to the point where we’re seeing more and more families look for and seek out postpartum support, which is one of my favorite services we offer because they can work day and night. When a mom is suffering from any sort of perinatal mood disorder, having that in-home support that’s judgment-free can just be crucial to healing.
Dr. Nave: I totally agree with you. I’ve seen it in practice and the research back it up. Just being pregnant, much less giving birth, is hugely taxing on our body and increased your risk for feeling down. Some of it has to do with the hormonal changes. I’m going to go really science-heavy because I’m a nerd and I think it’s fun and interesting…
Alyssa: Do it! Teach us!
Dr. Nave: As I said, estrogen is responsible for the building up of the uterine lining, but it also affects things like our serotonin production, which you might know as the neurotransmitter involved in depression. Like, if you have low serotonin, then you might get depression. So the thing with estrogen is that it increases the production of serotonin by affecting a particular enzyme called tryptophan hydroxylase that is responsible for processing an amino acid that we get from our food called tryptophan into serotonin.
Alyssa: Isn’t tryptophan the one that makes us sleepy?
Dr. Nave: No.
Alyssa: Tryptophan isn’t the thing that we eat that makes us sleepy? What am I thinking? It’s in turkey and stuff?
Dr. Nave: Tryptophan is in turkey. Serotonin and melatonin have the same precursor in terms of amino acid but the thing about their bodies is they use similar substrates or building blocks to make stuff, and just because we have the same building blocks doesn’t mean that we’ll get that particular product. Does that make sense?
Alyssa: Kind of, I guess. In my sleep work, I talk about serotonin and melatonin a lot just for, you know, sleep cycles and feeling alert and then feeling sleepy, but I didn’t realize that a lack of serotonin can cause depression. I’m trying to, in my brain, you know, the science of sleep, then — it makes sense, then, that people who are depressed sleep a lot, right? Am I going down the right path here? Because if you don’t have enough serotonin to make those hormones makes you feel awake and alert — sorry, I’m getting you totally off track by asking these questions. Sorry!
Dr. Nave: No, no, no. I don’t think you’re going off track because sleep is very much an important part of the postpartum depression process. If Mom isn’t sleeping, she’s at a greater risk for experiencing postpartum depression, and we know that the hormonal changes affect our sleep. Also having a baby, a newborn baby — if the baby’s up crying, and they’re getting their sleep regulated; you’re adjusting to waking up and feeding the baby, feeling exhausted during the day, and your sleep is thrown off in terms of it not going or being matched up to when the sun rises and the sun goes down. You’re more trying to sync to the baby, and that can lead to fatigue, which then exacerbates your mood, which makes you then more susceptible to feeling more down. And then it’s like — one of the things that they mentioned is that babies who have a hard time sleeping — there seems to be a relationship between moms who have postpartum depression — so the baby isn’t sleeping; Mom tends to have a higher likelihood of having postpartum depression, but then the opposite is also true. So if Mom has postpartum depression, it seems that the baby also as a result has a hard time regulating their moods and being more colicky and all these other things. So taking care of yourself also helps the baby; it’s important to support Mom, which is why I’m so grateful that you guys have the postpartum doulas, and you guys do a lot of work with supporting moms post-baby. Sometimes people focus so much on the baby that they forget the mother.
Alyssa: Oh, absolutely. It’s all about the baby.
Dr. Nave: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So the hormonal mood connection is very complex, and it’s not just A + B = C, you know, because, yes, estrogen influences serotonin production, but there are other factors that then influence, you know, the mood. Does that make sense? Specifically, when it comes to the mood changes or the hormonal changes in early pregnancy and postpartum – early pregnancy, we see the estrogen or progesterone levels are shifting because you’re now pregnant, so the body doesn’t have to produce as much of those hormones. And when we have lower estrogen, which is what happens when you get pregnant, and since estrogen is responsible — or, rather, plays an important role in serotonin, which helps you feel calm when it’s at the normal level — if it’s particularly high, it can lead to anxiety-type symptoms. If it’s really low, depression-type symptoms. During those times when the estrogen is lower, there’s this lower mood that can also be accompanied by it. Are you tracking?
Dr. Nave: Yeah. So that’s the estrogen portion. So estrogen affects serotonin production and also directly affects the neural networks in your brain. Now, we have progesterone. So progesterone: I like to think of it as our calm, happy hormone. And so when you’re just about to have your period, usually it helps you sleep. It helps you remain calm. But if it’s really low, that can lead to insomnia, feeling really agitated and grumpy, and those kind of symptoms can also happen postpartum and early pregnancy. And so that’s how the hormonal fluctuations can then manifest with the depression. For the reason, at least in the postpartum stage, that these hormones might drop is that you give birth. There’s a huge change because the body doesn’t have to maintain the hormones to keep the baby inside. The baby is now outside of you. And it really drops off really quickly, and that huge shift can then lead to the baby blues. Then if it prolongs, your body having a hard time regulating, then that’s when we shift from the blues to the depression. In terms of what I would do, I would assess what exactly is going on for you. Do you have physical and emotional support? Do you have a history of depression or any mental health condition prior to being pregnant? Have you had postpartum depression before? How is your sleep? You know, sleep is really important. If we can get you sleeping, I think that goes a long way. Good quality sleep.
Alyssa: You’re preaching to the choir here. I think it’s one of the most important things!
Dr. Nave: The other thing that they mention, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, is that if Mom has any feelings of doubt about pregnancy, that can also influence her feeling depressed because it can get, like, amplified during that time.
Alyssa: So you’re saying, like, maybe doubting if they wanted to become pregnant?
Dr. Nave: Maybe, or doubt that she’s capable of being a good mom, because there’s a lot of pressures on moms, you know? Like, oh, someone will mention, like, oh, my baby’s sleeping through the night, or my baby — you know, they started eating at this time. So there’s a lot of pressure to meet certain milestones that are from society, and that can amplify feelings of inadequacy that Mom might have had prior to becoming pregnant. And so addressing that piece with a therapist or someone like myself will be a very important part of supporting her with the postpartum depression and getting her out of the state. For some women, medication might be what they need to do, and their healthcare provider will be able to assess that. But it’s not the only thing that’s available. There’s therapists; there’s hormonal intervention, because if it’s a hormonal issue, if you address imbalance, then women get relief pretty quickly. There’s having a doula, if that’s something that’s accessible to you, or if you have family members who are close by, asking them to help out some more. Having people provide meals for you so then you don’t have to cook; having your partner be a part of taking care of the baby and asking them to step up some more to give you additional support. Basically, asking for what you need is — I know it can be really vulnerable and scary if you’re not used to asking for help, but that can really be important in terms of getting what it is that you need because no one is in your exact position and knows exactly how you need to be supported. Does that make sense? Because I can talk about, like, a doula and a therapist and a naturopathic doctor, but you know what you need, and I want you to trust yourself in that knowledge. You know what you need! And here are all these different options to provide that.
Alyssa: So you mentioned something a bit ago, and I don’t know what made me think of this, but how — let’s say a mother came to you pregnant and had postpartum depression before and knew that she — you know, her hormones are all over the place. How much can you actually do in regard to hormones while pregnant? Is there any risk to Baby? You know, risk of miscarriage? What does that look like for a mom who’s pregnant but knows she needs some help from you?
Dr. Nave: So in terms of working with me specifically, I wouldn’t want to mess with her hormones during that time. I would employ other tools, one of which is homeopathy, which basically supports the body’s own ability to heal and regulate itself. As well as putting a plan in place — basically, working alongside her other healthcare providers to create a plan to support her and make sure that the transition is as smooth as possible. What does she do if she notices that she’s trending from green and happy, healthy, thriving, into, I’m not doing so hot — what are the resources available to me when I’m at that place? Who do I reach out to? Who do I talk to? What supplemental intervention needs to happen? Do I need to talk to my doctor about starting me on medication? There are so many different options, and prevention is always better than cure. We would talk about what her issues — so she’s coming and she’s had it before — we would talk about what was her previous pregnancy like; when did the symptoms start to occur; what did they look like; what sort of things — what sort of red flags occurred during that time; what was the intervention utilized at that time; what were her hormone levels like? What else; what were any medications that she was on; what medications is she on presently? And, basically, maybe even talk about how that pregnancy is different than this pregnancy. Like, does she feel more supported now? What were the things that weren’t present in the previous one that she does have presently? You know? And basically coming up with a plan.
Alyssa: Yeah, I like that. So it’s kind of like what we do, you know, throughout birth. It’s talking about all those what-if scenarios and what plans do you have in place for if any of these happen. And then, like you said, once Baby comes home, nobody plans for that. They’re so worried about the pregnancy and the labor and delivery part that they come home and go, oh, shoot. What do I do now? So it sounds like that’s a really healthy way to plan during pregnancy, if you do have any sort of mood disorder, to find a professional like yourself to sit down and say, hey, let’s go over all these things and put a plan in place, and then I’ll be here for you postpartum. And then we’ll talk about what we can do then. I like that.
Dr. Nave: Right, because, as I said, there’s so many different options. For one woman, maybe hormones, just giving her the hormones, is what she needs, and then I would, you know, work with her other — because I can’t prescribe hormones at the level that would be therapeutic, but I would be able to recommend, okay, that’s what you need. Let’s talk to your doc. Hey, Doc. This is the plan. If this happens, this is what we’re going to do so that she doesn’t have to suffer. You know? Or maybe it’s something else. Just being able to work with someone who — again, like myself — who is savvy on that in terms of knowing — yeah, it definitely needs a collaborative approach, which is what I’m about. In my head, in my dream, everyone would have a health team, you know? People, health professionals, who are all in communication with each other who are just there to support you and help you thrive. But I think to wrap up, it would be sleep, health, get your hormones evaluated. If you’re thinking of getting pregnant and you have any mood disorders or any mental emotional concerns, as part of your pregnancy plan, you should be working — ideally, you would be working with a mental health professional as well, just to insure that you have the support that you need and you’re processing stuff effectively, because those concerns, those mental health concerns, can be substantially amplified once you become pregnant, as well as after giving birth. If you have a mental health condition or if you’ve had postpartum depression before, you are at significant risk for developing it again. And this applies to — postpartum depression can also occur if you have a loss of a baby, so it’s not just if you’ve given birth, but any form of baby loss can also result in postpartum depression.
Alyssa: Yeah, I can imagine it would probably be even amplified with that because you still have the hormonal shift, that drastic hormonal shift, and then grief on top of it. So it probably takes it to a whole new level. Well, thank you for all of your expertise. I always love talking to you. I would love for people to know how to find you at Hormonal Balance, if they want to reach out.
Dr. Nave: Yeah. I am on Instagram and on Facebook as @drgaynelnave. I’m in the process of getting my website up, so I’ll update you on that afterwards, or you can call my clinic at 616-275-0049. If you have any hormonal or mental health concerns and you want to optimize your health team, you want a second opinion, or you just want some additional support — that’s what I do!
Alyssa: Thank you! During this Covid pandemic, can you see people in person, or are you choosing to do virtual only right now?
Dr. Nave: I’m choosing to do only virtual at this point. I see clients virtually most of the time Wednesdays through Fridays, actually, from 8:00 to 5:00 p.m., and in person at 1324 Lake Drive Southeast, Suite 7, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49506.
Alyssa: So once the stay at home order lifts and things get a little bit more back to normal, you’ll be seeing people in person again?
Dr. Nave: In person, yes. But for now, we will see each other virtually!
Alyssa: Thanks for your time! Hopefully we’ll talk to you again soon!
Virtual Birth Support: Podcast Episode #95
Sam & Justin recently had their baby boy, Judah, in the hospital in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. They describe their experience in the hospital as well as how beneficial birth doula support was throughout pregnancy and then during labor and delivery, even though support was virtual instead of in-person. You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Hi, welcomes to the Ask the Doulas Podcast. I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner of Gold Coast, and today I’m talking to Samantha and Justin, who recently had a baby at a hospital in this midst of this Coronavirus pandemic. We’re going to talk to you about what that was like. Gold Coast is not attending births after Governor Whitmer’s declaration that we have to stay at home, and we don’t know when the order will be lifted. So we kind of just wanted to get a sense of what it was like for you two to go through this whole process. How far along were you when you hired us?
Samantha: Pretty early when we found out. We knew when we were trying to get pregnant that having a doula was something that was really important to us, as well as a midwife and just trying to go that more natural route. So the minute we found out we were pregnant, it was kind of getting things in plan. So I would say after the first trimester after we kind of told everybody.
Alyssa: So you hired pretty early, and that was before all this crazy virus stuff happened. And you worked with Kristin and Ashley as your birth doula team. Even before all this stuff happened, what did support look like through the majority of your pregnancy?
Samantha: It was wonderful. Being a first time mom, obviously, you have a ton of questions, and I just didn’t want to be the person to be blowing up my midwife all the time, plus it’s hard to get ahold of them. Our midwife was through Spectrum, so obviously you can’t just pick up the phone and call her. It’s not as easy. So being able to have a team of doulas that, any question I had from — I had artisan cheese one day and freaked out thinking I did something wrong. So to be able to text them things like that and just have that reassurance all the time was awesome, as well as after every appointment, they wanted updates on what’s going on with baby, so it was just that extra support and knowing that they’re there no matter how stupid the question was.
Alyssa: Well, and as a first time mom, I think we feel like all of our questions are stupid. Oh, I hear the baby! Hi, Judah! So, yeah, obviously, because of this, we’re on speakerphone, and they’re at home and I’m at my home because nobody can go into work. You guys are quarantined at home with the baby, which is probably kind of a blessing in disguise, maybe. You can actually kind of hunker down and just focus on bonding and feeding and all these great things without visitors. But like you said, Grandma comes over and she can’t see the baby! That’s so hard.
Justin: It’s been a blessing for dads, I think, especially because I would have had to go back to work today. I am working, but it’s from home and it’s slower, and I’ve got some time to help support Sam and build my relationship with Judah, too, so it’s kind of a blessing in disguise for — I mean, it sucks, but it’s been nice.
Samantha: And as a new mom, you’re hunkered down. I mean, I was planning on not leaving my house for a month, anyway, so it’s kind of nice, especially during this quarantine time, because you’re quarantined anyway with a newborn, so it gives you something to do and keep occupied with.
Alyssa: Right. Well, and focus on the positive, right? Like, there’s so many negatives that we can be focusing on, but you’re stuck at home with a newborn baby. Boohoo, right? This is what you’ve been looking forward to for nine months!
Samantha: Exactly, exactly.
Alyssa: So your support during pregnancy really would have been the same, Coronavirus or not, because it’s a lot of text and phone calls and emails, right? It’s all virtual, anyway?
Samantha: Yeah. Yeah, that wouldn’t have changed, and like I said, they were available pretty much 24/7, so it was just nice to always have them in our back pocket when we needed them.
Alyssa: Right. Tell me about the labor, then. What happened when you were at home, and how did that support, the actual virtual support after finding out that your doulas can’t support you in person, how did virtual support look then once labor began?
Samantha: So we came up with a plan that we would utilize anything that we needed. If we needed to do a video chat, we had my laptop ready to go to bring to the hospital. But once labor started, we kind of — before I went into labor, we talked over, you know, what are the signs, when we should contact them, how long I wanted to labor at home; all that stuff that we would have done anyway if it was just normal circumstances. So when I went into labor, it was the middle of the night, of course, and we texted both of them and ended up calling Kristin. She was the one who answered, and we told her how far apart the contractions were. She could hear, you know, how I sounded and could tell that they were ramping up. You know, you can just — moms — everybody says moms have the telltale sign of when contractions aren’t a joke anymore. So, yeah, she said, yep, sounds like you’re really getting in the swing of labor. She told me to get something to eat before I went to the hospital and kind of gave us some tips before we — as Justin was packing the bag and getting our bags in the car, some tips I could do before we headed out the door. And so we did that and then headed to the hospital, and from the moment we got there in triage, I had a couple — well, of course, birth is always unexpected, but I had a couple things come up that I wasn’t expecting to happen. So from the moment we were in triage, we were in constant contact with Kristin and Ashley, whether it was me or — it was actually mostly Justin.
Justin: Yeah. I actually took — like, I would step out of the room a few times just to call her. There was just a couple moments there when we were down in triage where she was uncomfortable, and the room is a little small. It was hard to get into that calm state of mind that we were looking for. So without trying to stress Sam out, I stepped out of the room and just called Kristin. I was, like, hey, you know, what are some things I could try to, you know, bring her back into this calm state of mind that we’ve been working on forever. It was great. She gave us some positions to try, some things to talk to the nurses about. Like, she knew there was a tub down in the triage area, so she said to go ask them to use the tub. So it was good to have them just there — just any questions we had, just to call real quick.
Samantha: Yeah. And we had a couple unexpected things, because I wanted to labor naturally, but we had some issues. I had a LEEP procedure a couple months ago. Well, not a couple months ago; about a year ago, but that caused some scar tissue that made my labor really difficult. So we had to have the conversation of having an epidural because my labor was so erratic and my body was under a lot of stress. So that decision we talked over with the doulas. And then having Pitocin brought in, which was also something that was on our “absolute no” list, but it was nice to be able to call Kristin. Spectrum was wonderful, too. I mean, the nurses and midwives were great as far as giving us all the information we needed and then giving us time to talk it over. But having Kristin there to be able to call and say, here’s what they’re telling us, here’s what we’re thinking — to have that reassurance from them was huge, especially because our birth plan changed so much, and it was upsetting for me, especially.
Alyssa: Right. That’s hard when we get into this mindset of, like, here’s my plan and I’m going to stick to it, and baby or your body says otherwise. To have an expert to ask those questions and give feedback that’s not — and I think that’s one thing a lot of people thing, that doulas are there to tell you what to do. It’s more about asking you the right questions so you can figure out what’s right for you.
Justin: Just having that — just having that information so that we can make our own decision. Just having them giving us all the proper information we knew everything that was at stake and we could make a better, informed decision. It was a huge help.
Alyssa: Right. Knowledge is power in this instance, for sure.
Samantha: Yeah, and even the positions. Once I did get the epidural and Pitocin, we still wanted to do a really low dose of Pitocin to try to have my body naturally ramp up contractions, so Ashley and Kristin sent us a bunch of pictures of positions we could try. They were always available for Facetiming and virtual, as well, but we never needed to. But to have that in the back pocket was comforting, as well, that if we needed to virtually see them face to face, knowing that we could do that was very comforting for me, especially.
Alyssa: So once you actually moved from triage to the labor and delivery room, you said you didn’t actually have to use Facetime or anything. Was it more of you, Justin, were in contact with them because Sam was in active labor?
Justin: Yeah. It was a lot of text messages and a few phone calls. If it was something we wanted to all talk out together, we’d call, or if it was just a quick question, I’d just shoot them a message real quick.
Samantha: And I definitely think if I didn’t need — if I wouldn’t have had the epidural, we definitely would have utilized Ashley and utilized some of our HypnoBirthing techniques to help me get through labor and probably would have used virtual face to face more, but just because things moved so fast as far as me needing some intervention, it again changed our plan as far as utilizing the doulas a little bit differently. But, yeah, it was constant contact throughout the whole labor process, and it was actually nice after I did get the epidural. I was able to then talk to them and tell them what’s going on and what kind of positions I can try and different things like that. So the plan changed a little bit, but staying in constant contact with them didn’t. It was pretty consistent throughout the whole labor process.
Alyssa: And what about when you got to the point where you were ready to push? Was there anything they could do to support you during that time?
Samantha: Well, we planned on having them Facetime for that, but my pushing went very quickly. I only pushed for about 30 minutes, and we didn’t even — when we started, it was — we texted them saying, oh, they want us to do some practice pushes, and 30 minutes later, we were messaging them saying, well, baby’s here! So, yeah, we had the whole plan set up for them to help — especially because I had an epidural, they were really going to help me try to breathe baby down, which is what we ended up doing, but to have them face to face so they could see what was going on. But it just ended up happening so fast that we weren’t able to do that. But after baby came, we were in contact with them, telling them his birth weight and all that stuff, and once we got up to the room, letting them know how latching was going as far as breastfeeding. So it was just the best experience possible, especially because I was so devastated, you know, being nine months pregnant and all this emotional — that’s emotional in itself, and then to find out your birth plan is completely blown to smithereens…
Justin: Two weeks before we even go to the hospital.
Samantha: Yeah, two weeks before the hospital. It was just terrifying, but to have them there in that virtual sense was everything because it would have been a very different experience if we weren’t able to have them at all, that’s for sure.
Alyssa: So let’s say a couple just found out they’re pregnant, and they knew they wanted a doula, like you, but then they have this worry. They’re going to do the hospital birth; they want a doula, but the doula may or may not be able to be there. What would you say to a family who’s kind of on the fence about hiring a doula because of the current situation?
Samantha: I would say, hire. Hire a doula because, yeah, the situation has changed, but I think even more in this time, you need that extra support more than ever, especially because, in my circumstance, my midwife wasn’t even able to be there. I had a totally different team because of the way they split up her team, so not only is your birth plan changed, but then my midwife who I’ve been seeing for the last nine months wasn’t able to be there. So just to have that team, that constant contact, still stay the same even though they’re not there in person, was just a huge comfort and relief for me. And especially for Justin.
Justin: I was going to say, for the fathers-to-be out there, I think it’s even more important for them. We went through a lot of the classes and stuff, and we had good knowledge going in, but you get in the heat of the situation, and you know, her surges and contractions were starting to really hurt her, and I didn’t know what to do in that situation. So we had this whole plan, and I was doing my best to stick to this plan, and when you get thrown that curve ball, having someone to turn to and just get that reassurance. I might have made the right decision in that situation, but just to have them say, “Yeah, you did,” or, you know, this is — “Yeah, you did do a good job there. This is what’s going to happen. Here’s the outcome.” Just having that extra sense of security in this very unsecure time is a huge benefit. Even though they’re not there, it was almost like they were, and it was very helpful, especially for the dads that sometimes might feel a little lost.
Alyssa: Right, which usually, most of them, I feel like, they do probably feel a little bit lost.
Justin: Especially the first time.
Samantha: Yeah, and it takes the pressure off, too, you know, just because I’m telling him one thing, and he’s trying to say, you know, it’s going to be okay, but for him to then reach out to the doulas and say, you know, here’s what’s going on, and for them to not only give me reassurance but him was a game changer, for sure.
Alyssa: And like you said, you’ve built a rapport with them throughout your pregnancy. I didn’t know that your midwife couldn’t be there either! So without your doulas, you would have not had your midwife either, and you would have literally been in a hospital with a bunch of nurses who you’ve never met, and that was it.
Justin: Right. Exactly.
Samantha: And thankfully, we had an amazing team. Our nurses and midwives that we ended up getting were amazing. But also, you’re going — it’s your first time. You’re laboring. It’s new. And then you have a whole bunch of strangers, so you’re throwing that mix in it. So having the doulas there that we’ve had throughout the whole pregnancy, virtually, even though they couldn’t be there, was such a comfort because it just — you had somebody to turn to that you know.
Justin: One more thing, too, is the hospital — I don’t know about other hospitals in the area, but Spectrum — it was like a fortress. It was so clean and locked down in there. We kind of forgot this whole thing we even going on until we left. I mean, I went down in the cafeteria a few times, and every time I went down there, a whole different section was being completely pulled out and cleaned. There was no visitors walking around. There was no one walking around. I mean, it really did feel like a fortress. Even getting into the building, we had to go through a couple security checkpoints, so if anyone was worried about the hospital part of it, I think that especially Spectrum, that I know of, I think they’re doing a very good job of keeping everything separated, and the sections of the hospital that need to be cleaned and all that.
Alyssa: That’s a good point. For those who maybe have that as a main point of fear for them, delivering in the hospital, they’re doing everything right. I mean, they obviously want to keep their patients safe and healthy. It’s got to be weird to walk through that hospital and hardly see anybody because there’s no visitors.
Samantha: It was weird pulling up because they have the whole security detail, and it was, like, “Why are you here? What’s going on?” It was very weird, but like Justin said, it ended up — I almost was sad to leave, just because you’re in this clean, sterile bubble, and like I said, we almost forgot about this whole Corona thing because you’re in — you are — you end up being in the bliss of having your baby, even though it’s such a scary time. But having — you know, right after he was born, we talked with Ashley and Kristin, and then it was just kind of that blissful — we went up to the room, and they’re doing a very good job. Obviously, things change, but I think they have it pretty locked down.
Alyssa: That’s great.
Justin: They’re definitely out in front of it.
Alyssa: So then you guys go home, and usually, they do a postpartum visit, but I’m assuming they did that virtually, as well.
Alyssa: Did you have that already?
Samantha: We did. From the moment we got home, too, we were in constant contact with them, from them asking how he was sleeping. I had a couple questions just as far as my recovery and what I could do for comfort as far as that goes, just because as a new mom, you just don’t really expect the discomfort. I kept thinking, you know, I didn’t have stitches or anything like that, so I thought, oh, I’m going to be good, but you don’t realize what you’ve put your body through. So it was just nice to have them there so I could say, I’m feeling — you know, what can I do about this pressure that I’m feeling? I’m having some pain and discomfort here. To have that support on the postpartum aspect, because, you know, this whole time leading up to the birth, you’re thinking pregnancy and delivery and labor and all that, but postpartum support is also huge, and they really, really helped with that, giving me ideas and tips of helping my milk supply come in. It was just — they’ve been wonderful. And we just had our virtual visit with them face to face, and that was great to be able to see them. They could see the baby. And then to tell them the birth story, since they weren’t there — I mean, they were there, but they weren’t.
Alyssa: They got bits and pieces but finally got to hear the whole thing. That’s great. Well, is there anything else that you wanted to add or that you think other parents should know?
Samantha: I just think if you’re on the fence, I mean, nothing — I had this whole — I thought I planned for even the most unexpected in pregnancy, and I definitely didn’t because pregnancy can change in an instant. But I think that’s why even more now in these times to have that extra support and to have a doula because we plan on having another child, and I’ve already said to them — I said, well, hopefully you guys will be there in person for our next baby! But I couldn’t imagine going through labor and birth and even through pregnancy and postpartum without having a doula and support, and I think Justin feels the same way.
Samantha: It’s like having your best friends to be able to talk to, and it’s such a comfort, especially —
Justin: But a best friend who’s also very knowledgeable!
Alyssa: Your best friend who’s knowledgeable and judgment-free and can give you all the best support.
Samantha: Yeah. And especially because my birth plan changed so much in the sense of having to have interventions, which I didn’t think I was going to, so that was even more unexpected, and to be able to — you know, you’re in the rush of the moment, and I was really upset, and, you know, you get down on yourself as a new mom thinking you’re failing in some aspect. To be able to have them — obviously, Justin can sit there and tell me all day that I’m doing the right thing, but to have somebody else who’s not only gone through that experience but seen other women and giving me advice and telling me what I’m doing and the decisions I’m making are right for me and my baby was such a relief and such a comfort because it’s such an emotional time, and when things aren’t going already as planned, and then you throw in more wrenches into the mix, it can overwhelming. So to have them as support was just everything to me.
Alyssa: Thank you so much for sharing! I wish that I could see little Judah, too.
Samantha: I know! I know.
Alyssa: It’s really hard! But, yeah, focus on bonding with that little guy. How’s breastfeeding and everything going?
Samantha: Breastfeeding is going good. We’ve had to supplement a little just because he’s such a peanut, but, again, they’ve helped with that, as well, just because that can be hard as a mom. You know, you think, oh, breastfeeding is going to be this simple thing, and it’s hard. Being able to talk it over with people — they’ve given me some great articles, and I had a virtual meetup with some new moms that Kristin suggested, a team that I should join in on, and that was really helpful. I got some great tips from that, and to not only see new moms who delivered around the same time as I had, and that was all virtual and really cool to be able to hear from them. You know, they might not be going through the same issues as I am, but to hear they’re also having questions and not knowing what to do was really reassuring because you can get stuck in this loop of, why is this not working for me? What am I doing wrong? Why is it so easy for everybody else? And you don’t realize other moms have, you know, if not the same issues, then different issues. It’s all different for each person.
Alyssa: Yeah. It’s not easy for everybody else. It just seems like it is.
Samantha: It does, and it’s easy to get down on yourself and think, oh, you know, woe is me, why is it not working for me? But to be able to have not only doulas but then give me other resources to be able to reach out to was also great, as well.
Alyssa: That’s awesome. Thank you for taking the time to share your story!
Samantha: Of course! Thank you
Coronavirus Update on Doulas: Podcast Episode #94
Kristin and Alyssa, Co-Owners of Gold Coast Doulas, give an update on doulas and the coronavirus. How is this affecting birth doulas in the hospital and postpartum doulas in the home? They also talk about virtual classes such as Mama Natural Online to help new parents stay prepared while social distancing. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes and SoundCloud.
Alyssa: Welcome to Ask the Doulas. You are here with Alyssa and Kristin, and today we’re going to talk a little bit about the coronavirus. I’m going to let Kristin do most of the talking just to kind of update our friends and clients on the current status.
Kristin: Yes! So we are happy to share the protocol within Gold Coast on how we are keeping our doula team, our childbirth educators, and our clients healthy. We are recording this on March 17th, so things are changing daily, and by the time you listen to this, the information that we’re giving you may be a bit different. But we did want to respond quickly and have notified all of our clients about our safety protocols. With birth doula clients, we are doing all our prenatal, our free consultations, and our postpartum meetings virtually. So our clients now know that they are talking to teams by phone or Zoom meetings or Facetime, whatever the preferred method is. We’re still giving you that same time and attention; just keeping you safe and healthy during this critical time.
We had been working with area hospital administrators and with the governor’s office to make sure that we were able to support our clients in person, and again, this may change by the time you’re listening to this, but we had a day yesterday where we were told birth doulas would not be able to support in the hospital. So we contacted all of our clients and made a plan to support in the home before and support virtually in the hospital. Through work with the governor’s office and area administrators, we were able to obtain entry into area hospitals. So starting today, that is not an issue. With the executive order from the governor’s office, a partner and a doula are allowed to admit into area hospitals. There will be a health screening, and we’re going through credentialing processes with every hospital having different requirements, but we plan to support our clients. This is as of today, and again, if the outbreak continues, we may need to rely on virtual support. Because Gold Coast has a big team of birth doulas, we will monitor symptoms of coronavirus and the flu, as we have always done, to assure that a healthy doula will be attending the birth. We’ll be doing the best we can to isolate our team. We’re staying home with our families. We’re not going out into the public unless we need to get provisions. Going from there to ensure that we’re able to support our clients during this time when they need the emotional and physical support of doulas now more than any time.
Alyssa, I know that in postpartum support, we have made some accommodations as well, and part of that is some of our clients had contracts that were about to expire, and we’ve talked to them about delaying support, and with our postpartum doulas, who our clients want us in the home, we are of course making sure that the doulas are healthy. We’re using sanitization methods. If we’re doing cleaning, we’re cleaning doorknobs and handles at our clients’ homes. We’re coming in with clean clothing, taking our shoes off, as we always do, and using whatever precautions our clients want us to in their home with caring for baby and caring for the mother. And, again, with our postpartum doula team, we have a lot of doulas. So if a doula has any symptoms of coronavirus or the flu or even a cold, we are sending in a healthy doula to replace the scheduled doula. Do you have anything to add to that?
Alyssa: No. I mean, nothing’s really changed in that regard. All of our clients get that same kind of care. It’s just extra — I guess maybe an extra added step at this point.
Kristin: And as a sleep expert, part of what we do as postpartum doulas, both daytime and overnight, is allow our clients to rest. Now, with your sleep certification, I know you focus on newborns and toddlers and so on, but let’s talk a bit about the importance during this time to keep your immune system strong and getting sleep for families.
Alyssa: Yeah, the problem with sleep deprivation is your immune system starts to decline, and more than ever right now, it’s important to keep your immune systems healthy. So that means still going outside and getting fresh air, getting exercise. But you also need sleep. And with a newborn and/or a toddler at home, that can really be trying. So the beauty of my sleep consultations is that I don’t need to do it in person. We can do it via phone and text. So if that is an issue, you can call me still for that. But regardless, you just have to focus on sleep. You have to get your required amount of sleep, and your kids need to be going to bed on time. I know this feels like a big vacation for them, but you need to have a set bedtime and awake time. I mean, if we’re going to be in this situation for three to six weeks, they are going to become sleep deprived. They are going to become little monsters. It’s going to make your days even harder, but then again their immune systems could start to decline.
Kristin: Right. And, again, we do offer sibling care, so we can help with snacks around the house, and we have noticed that a lot of West Michigan families tend to have family support of grandparents or other family members, and now with some of the guidelines for keeping the elderly safe and away from children, I know my kids are being distanced from my parents due to my father’s heart condition and so on. And so we can come in when you are relying on your family right now and take some of that burden off of you and your partner.
Alyssa: I have canceled all family functions. A birthday party, a sleepover. You know, my parents called and offered to help, and “thanks, but no thanks.” We’re stuck at home anyway. There’s nowhere I can go, nothing I can do. So, yeah, we’re just kind of laying low at the house.
Kristin: Yeah. And so people are obviously isolating, canceling things, and we’re able to — we do offer bedrest support, so we are able to do virtual bedrest support if that is something that a client is interested in. Or, again, support in the home with childbirth education. We can do mini classes virtually or in home and provide sibling care for our clients who are on bedrest and need to feed their other children, especially now that daycares are closing and schools are closed at least through April 10th, if not longer. And so we’re adapting as best we can and keeping our team safe. For clients who are not part of our current childbirth series that has now gone virtual, our Hypnobirthing class started out in person, and due to the coronavirus, we’ve turned that into an online class with our instructor. But we are an affiliate for Mama Natural, so we wanted to talk about that as an option for clients who are not able to take a hospital childbirth class or take Hypnobirthing or a different child preparation method. You can go onto our website and sign up for our online affiliate program through Mama Natural and take the class online. We’ve gone through the class. I personally went through the entire curriculum, and my clients have used it and have had success, so that is a great option during this time when we need to isolate and be at home and still want to prepare our clients and have our clients feel like they’re ready for this birth.
Alyssa: And Kelly Emery, our lactation consultant, also offers an online pumping class and a breastfeeding class.
Kristin: Perfect! So there are some things you can do, and again, things are ever changing, but as of right now, all of the area hospitals are limiting visitors to one support person, so your partner or family member and a doula who is credentialed in area hospitals. So in the postpartum units, you are not able to have siblings visit or family at this time. Everything is limited to protect the health workers and the patients. So it is good to have these conversations with family members. I always tell my birth clients at prenatals that now is the time to express whether or not you want visitors in your birth space, and now knowing some of these plans have changed, if you have family members flying in, you may want to delay, or if you have older family members or immune-compromised caregivers, then now is the time to have these discussions rather than having disappointment at your due date if you’re due this spring.
Alyssa: Yeah. They won’t even be able to come in, and probably family members can’t even fly in at this point. We’re getting close to that.
Kristin: Yes. Domestic travel is limited and could be delayed indefinitely. So we’re just taking things day by day. But we want you to remain calm and positive about this and go with the flow, so try not to take in too much negative media and use this time to focus on connecting with your baby. And if you have other children, reach out to us if we can help. We’re here for you.
Alyssa: I think it reiterates the importance of an agency like Gold Coast Doulas being professional and certified and insured and, like you said, credentialed so that we can get into the hospitals. The hospitals trust us. They have a list of our certified doulas’ names. They might ask for a federal ID number. They might ask for certification; proof of certification. These are all really important things to consider when hiring a doula anytime, but especially right now.
Kristin: Yes! Stay well, everyone !
Meet Jessica Kupres, BSN, RN, CLC, CBE – our newest postpartum doula!
1) What did you do before you became a doula?
I was a labor and delivery nurse for 13 years, a nurse for the maternal infant health program for two years, a phone triage nurse at a pediatric office for almost a year, and am currently working as a childbirth and breastfeeding educator, as well as teach a sibling’s class and infant massage class.
2) What inspired you to become a doula?
My mother was a doula, though only assisted friends and family. That’s how I saw my first birth at 14 that shaped my future career. I also feel families need a lot of support when a new baby comes home. Unfortunately, most mothers don’t get the help they need.
3) Tell us about your family.
My Husband and I have been married for 6 years. We have two boys. Kaden is 5 years old and Carson is almost 2. We are a pretty close family, and grandma and grandpa are usually over several times a week. I love to do crafts with my boys.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
My favorite vacation spot is Disney World. Every year as a child my family went to Disney World, so there are a lot of very special memories. About every 5 years my family, including my parents and my siblings and their families go down to Disney World together. It is great to spend time with family in the most friendly and magical place in the world!
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
1) Justin Timberlake – He has catchy songs that make me want to get up and move.
2) Taylor Swift – I love her songs and she is great to her fans.
3) Imagine Dragons – Just like their music.
4) Ed Sheridan – I like his music and positivity.
5) Colbie Caillat – I like her positivity.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Do what works for you and your family. Don’t worry about impressing others or doing what everyone else is doing. Keep life simple at the beginning.
7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
Encouraging others and being calm and nonjudgmental.
8) What is your favorite food?
9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I love going to the Fredrick Meijer Gardens with my kids because there is so much to do there.
10) What are you reading now?
Love and logic.
11) Who are your role models?
My Grandmother – she was a strong woman, always spoke the truth, and was a great artist.
Have you ever heard of an athlete getting back on the field after a major injury WITHOUT a period of rest followed by intense rehab? Of course not! But somehow the expectation for women after their pregnancy is to mysteriously “bounce back” to normal activity, appearance, and function without any guidance. Most mamas even attempt to do this while caring for one or more very adorable, yet extremely needy human beings.
Wow!! Just writing that paragraph made me feel anxious! Thankfully our society is beginning to recognize the fact that child-rearing is hard work and calling in reinforcements is acceptable and often necessary. Thank you doulas, lactation consultants, counselors, chiropractors and more for all that you do! I would like to propose that a Women’s Health Physical Therapist should ALSO be part of your postpartum team.
Women’s Health Physical Therapists specialize in the changes that occur within your musculoskeletal system (muscles and bones) during and after pregnancy. They often have additional training in pelvic health which means they have specialized skills in how to assess the pelvic floor’s function from an external as well as an internal perspective.
Let me tell you a story about how one woman’s body changed after having her first baby; let’s call this woman Susie. In the delivery room, Susie’s baby made its way through the birth canal so quickly that Susie’s perineum had very little time to stretch to make a clear path for her baby to exit. Susie ended up with significant perineal trauma that required stitches to repair. After the delivery, it was painful for Susie to walk around her hospital room and sitting proved to be very uncomfortable as well. She faithfully rested and used her ice packs for pain relief in hopes that with time she would feel better. As time went on and she saw other new moms grocery shopping, going for walks, and starting to exercise again, Susie started to become worried that she was falling behind in her postpartum recovery! Not only was she still having pelvic pain that got worse with activity, she was now having rectal pain that filled her with dread each time she felt the urge to have a bowel movement. Susie was given the go ahead to return to sexual intercourse and begin exercising again at her 6 week follow-up appointment with her OBGYN, but she knew there was no way she could tolerate these activities without experiencing a lot of pain. Susie had proactively participated in Physical Therapy before delivering her baby, so she bravely asked for another referral.
Although a woman’s body is going to be forever changed after participating in the miracle of creating life, mamas shouldn’t feel like they’re left with a body that is broken. Physical Therapists want to give you tools and strategies that keep you strong so you can participate in activities that make you healthy and happy inside and out! We want you to lift and chase after your little ones, return to intimacy in an enjoyable way with your partner, and be able to participate in activities like barre classes, 5ks, and nature hikes. Sometimes it is a common misconception that women “pee when they sneeze” BECAUSE they had a baby, it’s “normal for sex to hurt” BECAUSE they had a baby, or “vaginal heaviness” occurs BECAUSE they had a baby. While it’s true that these things commonly HAPPEN after we’ve had babies, they aren’t normal or inevitable after having children, and it will likely require more than just lots and lots of kegels to solve these problems.
Let’s check in with Susie again to see how things turned out after going to several Physical Therapy appointments. Susie learned that her pelvic floor and surrounding muscles were very tight (kegels were NOT recommended) and that she needed to learn how to combine breathing, stretching, and relaxing positions to maintain a relaxed and healthy pelvic floor. Her Physical Therapist performed manual techniques to break up scar tissue from her episiotomy which improved the elasticity of her perineum. They even taught her how to work on these things at home on her own between sessions. With hard work and guidance from her Physical Therapist, she was able to enjoy sex with her husband again, have bowel movements with less pain, and exercise with confidence because she had learned safe ways to move her body.
Physical Therapy for mamas can be done during your hospitalization, at an outpatient clinic, or even in your own home! And while there are lots of therapists just waiting for mamas to walk through their doors, it isn’t standard for Physical Therapists to be included in postpartum care in the United States. Good news though, they are accessible and sometimes even covered by insurance when you seek them out. You’ll know you’ve found an exceptional Physical Therapist when they ask about your specific goals, give you tasks to complete at home between sessions, and you notice progress after each session.
Knowledge is power, and I hope that this information empowers you to feel comfortable talking to your providers about Physical Therapy or seeking it out on your own. Mamas do incredible things and they deserve to have the resources they need to live their best life.
Newly postpartum and ready to get started? Download this FREE handout to start your postpartum recovery journey today (even useful for mamas still in the hospital!)
If you’re ever looking for free information from the perspective of a mama and Physical Therapist, I put out videos weekly on my YouTube channel. I also offer 1 on 1 Physical Therapy Evaluation and Treatment sessions for moms living in West Michigan and offer an Online Postpartum Recovery Course for moms that don’t have the time or resources to get out to appointments.
Investing in your health is one of the best investments you can make. Become a STRONG mama so you can grow a STRONG family!
Dr. Nicole Bringer, DPT
Owner of Mamas & Misses, LLC
Phone: (616) 466-4889
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.
Meet our new IBCLC, Kelly Wysocki-Emery!
We are thrilled to have Kelly join the Gold Coast Team. Many of our doulas have used Kelly personally for lactation consultations with their own children. She comes to us with years of experience and a trusted name in the community.
1) What did you do before you became a lactation consultant?
In a former life, I was on a path to become a counseling psychologist. I was working on grad school in Oklahoma when I had my first baby; my life course then changed dramatically. My undergraduate degrees were in psychology and education, which serendipitously helped in my final career choice as a lactation consultant.
2) What inspired you to become a doula/lactation consultant?
I think it’s so true that we become what we wish we had. I was certified as a doula in the early 90s after having a difficult postpartum period with my first baby. I lived many states away from my family and friends, and felt the isolation and loneliness hard. I also had a rough time breastfeeding. As I crawled out the other side, I decided to help other women who were going through the same experiences I had been through. In the end, I gave up the doula role, went back to nursing school, and continued earning experience and education to become a lactation consultant.
3) Tell us about your family.
I have two adult children, girl and boy (or a woman and a man, now!), and four step-children; so six “kids” in our blended family. Although the kids are spread out over the country, we still get together throughout the year to enjoy each other’s company. My husband is an emergency medicine physician, who also works in medical education at Michigan State University. I am expecting my first grandchild in July of 2020, and am so VERY excited about that!
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
Anywhere I can be warm and near water, and not have to wear shoes or a coat! I’d have to say Greece, if I had to be more specific. I went to Greece to help pregnant/breastfeeding refugee women in 2017, and fell in love with the place so much that two years later I returned for a vacation there with my girlfriends. I definitely will be going back with my husband in the upcoming years. The climate AND the history/culture/people/food of Greece have won over my heart forever.
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Patty Griffin – She sings the raw truth with her beautiful voice. Got me through my divorce intact.
Beatles – I discovered them in early college and connected immediately.
Eagles – A band from my childhood with so many songs that spark memories for me.
Eminem – Don’t ask me why. I just do. Don’t judge me.
Aerosmith – I have a secret thing for Steven Tyler. Again, don’t ask why. I just do.
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Your baby is going to love you no matter what. Remember the big picture: Lead with love. You are not alone in what you are experiencing, and it can, and does, get better in time. Hang in there!
Oh, and you’re doing much better than you think you are!
7) What do you consider your lactation superpower to be?
I’m pretty good at getting babies off nipple shields. Not every single time, but often I can do it!
8) What is your favorite food?
Lately, I am really enjoying miso soup and sushi at Ando.
9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
I’ve moved downtown and live by the Grand River now, so my husband and I really love walking or biking up and down the river, exploring the landscape, watching the fish and birds (the Osprey are our favorite), and seeing the city grow and change each and every year. We can really stare at the water all day and be content.
10) What are you reading now?
Just finished up Tongue Tied by Richard Baxter. Very interesting new research and helpful modalities for babies who are having trouble latching/nursing.
11) Who are your role models?
My mother, who taught me about unconditional love, loyalty, how to work hard and do things that you are afraid to do, how to make people feel welcome, and how to have fun.
My husband for his incredible work ethic and ability to plan for the long-term; I continue to learn so much from him about how to have a healthy relationship with money.
Perinatal Mood Disorders: Podcast Episode #91
Today we talk with Elsa, a therapist at Mindful Counseling in Grand Rapids, Michigan who specializes in perinatal mood disorders. Learn what postpartum anxiety and depression look like, how they are different, and signs to look out for. 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 from Mindful Counseling. She’s here to talk to us a bit about postpartum anxiety. Elsa specializes in the following areas: perinatal mood disorders, which includes postpartum depression, anxiety, OCD, grief and loss, eating disorders, and body image issues. She also works with clients dealing with relationship problems, coping with medical illness, trauma and abuse, women’s issues and self-esteem, and mood disorders and anxiety. So obviously, you’re a natural fit working with clients who struggle with everything from eating disorders to anxiety and depression, transitions in their relationships, and expanding their family or having their first child. So today, Elsa, let’s focus a bit on the difference between postpartum depression and anxiety and what women can do if they’re interested in seeking treatment and getting help.
Elsa: Yes, postpartum depression and anxiety can go together. Sometimes women will struggle with anxiety with depression. Sometimes it is separate. Postpartum anxiety and depression can look very different. People classically think of postpartum depression as mothers who don’t connect with their babies, moms who are checked out and can’t get out of bed all day. That’s actually not always the case. Often, women with depression are exhausted and often can’t stop crying. They can’t look, maybe, on the positive side or think rationally. As far as the anxiety, it can come out more in not feeling necessarily down but feeling like you can’t relax; feeling that something bad is going to happen at any time. Having thoughts of something happening to your baby; scary thoughts. Sometimes even flashes of images of very violent things happening or the baby falling, and moms often feel guilty for those, actually, and don’t tell anybody, but they’re actually really important to talk about.
Kristin: I had a friend who was afraid of driving in her car or anyone driving her baby. There can be a lot of, like you said, those intrusive thoughts.
Elsa: Yes, and it’s obsessive sometimes and you can’t get it out of your head. So rationally, you can say, I’m not going to drop the baby going down the stairs. I have the baby in my hands. But it keeps going; it gets hooked, the idea or the image, and then they’ll struggle with almost a loop where it just can’t get out of your head. Or anxiety can present sometimes in something around sickness. No germs. Thinking that my baby is going to get sick; I can’t take her out to the store, and I can’t take her to this house. And how far that goes; I mean, some of these are common sense, and you want to take care of your child, but then how far does it goes? Does it prevent you from doing things that you want to do, or do others notice that maybe this is being a little unreasonable? It seems to be causing you even more anxiety to be thinking some of these things. Another part is that sometimes anxiety can come out as anger. Feeling just angry and irritable; feeling tense. That can come out, obviously, with partners, and they can notice it. Being different, a marked change from before for women. Those are some of the symptoms that come that people can notice with anxiety. Another one would be sleeping; when moms can’t sleep when the baby is actually sleeping. That’s another sign of postpartum anxiety for people to watch out for.
Kristin: Sure. That makes sense. I know even with postpartum doulas in the house, some women still struggle with fully sleeping even though their child is being care for by someone else. And sleep is so essential. There are so many studies on how, if you’re not getting enough sleep, it can lead to mood disorders and anxiety and so on.
Elsa: Yeah, it just leaves women very vulnerable, and now it’s become so normalized that part of the postpartum world is just not getting sleep. And I think it’s also expected that women are also just supposed to go on with their lives and do all the normal things that they’re supposed to do even when they’re running on little to no sleep, and this goes on for weeks or months.
Kristin: Yes! So what resources would you suggest if they’re looking for help? Obviously, we can talk about how to reach out to you!
Elsa: For sure! You can definitely contact Mindful Counseling GR. You can contact Pine Rest. They actually have a mother baby unit, so they actually have therapists that have specialized training, like I do, to work with women postpartum.
Kristin: And now Pine Rest even has the ER when you can —
Elsa: Oh, the urgent care center?
Kristin: Yes, the urgent care center. They can go in at night and not have to go the hospital.
Elsa: yeah, they can go to the urgent care center and get assessed and get attention or treatment a lot quicker. OB offices have a list of therapists who are trained and specialize with postpartum or perinatal mood disorders, which includes anxiety and depression in pregnancy and postpartum. So there’s a list that you can ask for from your OB, as well.
Kristin: Great! How do they directly reach out to you? Are you accepting new patients, Elsa?
Elsa: Yes, I am! You can reach out to me by contacting me through our website.
Kristin: Perfect! Thank you for coming on today!
The importance of certification – Why Gold Coast Doulas are different!
Did you know that in the State of Michigan you (yes, you) can call yourself a doula? There is no licensure, training, or certification required. That’s scary. How do you, as a consumer, know you’re hiring the best doula you can?
At Gold Coast Doulas we believe in elevating the standards of doula support to the highest level possible. That’s why we require every single doula on our team to take a training, complete all of the required coursework, support the required amount of clients, and become certified within the time-frame given by the certification organization. If a doula cannot complete these requirements, they do not work with us.
We don’t believe a training is enough. If you’re looking for a certified doula, don’t be afraid to ask if they are actually certified, and not just trained.
We don’t accept hobbyist doulas. We only bring on those that are motivated, professional, and will adhere to our standards of judgment-free support. We are not activists. We support every type of birth ranging from unmedicated, to epidurals and cesarean births.
At Gold Coast Doulas we have always been transparent with the level of training and certification our doulas have. For instance, pre-certified doulas have taken the training, are working through their coursework, and working through the required amount of qualifying births or postpartum clients. Each doula’s bio will tell you where they are at in their certification process. It takes an average of two years to become certified.
Gold Coast also takes professional development one step further and requires each doula on the team to form their own LLC, carry their own insurance, and complete a minimum of two in-person continuing education trainings per year. We believe that elevating the standards of doula care is critical for the health and support of each family, the sustainability of our business, and the respect of the medical community.
Now, the hard part is deciding which Gold Coast Doula is right for you! We have an amazing team and will work with you personally to find the right fit.
Written by Alyssa Veneklase & Kristin Revere, Co-Owners.
Meet Lauren – our newest Birth & Postpartum Doula!
Welcome Lauren Utter to the Gold Coast team as our newest birth and postpartum doula. We are so happy to have her!
1) What did you do before you became a doula?
I was a preschool teacher, event coordinator for a camp for children with various needs, and a nanny.
2) What inspired you to become a doula?
I accidentally discovered doula work. For a while, I knew I wanted to work with families transitioning into parenthood but I did not know how specifically. Initially, I thought I would be a lactation consultant but with more research the term “doula” kept coming up and it was exactly what I was looking for. I am excited and eager to begin supporting families as a doula.
3) Tell us about your family.
I come from a large family. Five kids and I am smack dab in the middle. Our house was loud, busy, and always on the go. We are all very close now, and I am proud to call them some of my closest friends. Also, we ALL have our own dog so you can imagine how wild holidays are.
4) What is your favorite vacation spot and why?
I have not traveled as often and far as I hope to one day, but my favorite so far is Hawaii. It has some of everything; beaches, mountains, volcanoes, and culture.
5) Name your top five bands/musicians and tell us what you love about them.
Surprising to most, I do not listen to music often. If I do it is normally the radio or on shuffle. However, a couple current favorites are Leon Bridges and Desi Valentine, and am a big fan of songs that make you want to move!
6) What is the best advice you have given to new families?
Parenting is not one size fits all. It looks different for every individual and family.
7) What do you consider your doula superpower to be?
Connecting with timid babies and toddlers, and babies experiencing stranger danger.
8) What is your favorite food?
9) What is your favorite place in West Michigan’s Gold Coast?
Ludington is one of my favorite places in West Michigan’s Gold Coast because my family and I always went in the summers growing up. It is a family favorite.
10) What are you reading now?
The Whole-Brain Child By; Dr. Dan J. Siegel, and Nurture By; Erica Chidi Cohen.
11) Who are your role models?
I have loads of role models but a few are Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama, and Ellen DeGeneres.