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Postnatal nutrition with Genevieve Mena of Mamieli: Podcast Episode #242

The importance of postnatal nutrition with Genevieve Mena, Co-Founder and CEO of Mamieli.  Kristin Revere and Genevieve Mena discuss everything from traveling with kids to nourishing ourselves during the postpartum recovery phase on the latest episode of Ask the Doulas podcast.  Be sure to tune in until the end for the special discount code for our podcast listeners.

Hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with Genevieve Mena.  Genevieve is the co-founder and CEO of Mamieli, which is a platform supporting moms in postpartum and beyond.  Mamieli also launched a topic-based bundle for new moms, curated with top brands and expert service providers.  Just this spring, they launched the first marketplace to help moms find affordable, vetted home cooking support in postpartum and beyond.  In building Mamieli, Genevieve has been inspired by her personal experience becoming a mom while drawing on her prior professional experience supporting entrepreneurs through initiatives led by Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan.  She has an undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College and an MBA from Norton and lives in New York City with her husband and two young girls.

Welcome, Genevieve!

Thanks so much, Kristin!  So excited to be here!

I am thrilled to chat with you about the importance of nourishing ourselves postpartum, and because not only do you have these amazing pregnancy and postpartum bundles, but you also now have this service where you can find the right type of cooking for even allergies or other concerns that you might have that may not work for some of the friends who want to be helpful and bring you a meal and those meal train services that are helpful, but again, if you have allergies or any dietary concerns, it can be challenging to accept friends’ food or even gift cards, if that restaurant doesn’t work for your needs.

Right, exactly.  That’s right.  Mamieli is a resource for moms in postpartum and beyond and really, our goal is to provide moms and families with really tangible, practical support.  As you said, last year we launched these really beautifully curated bundles for moms for after the baby comes for these key topics.  There’s so many little things you need, so many questions you have, and they’re constantly changing from one topic and stage to the next.  From postpartum recovery to breastfeeding, baby health questions, traveling with baby, introducing solids, et cetera.  We’ve curated these beautiful bundles with the top products from really great brands and we did that with expert service providers in each topic area.  Then to this platform that you’re speaking about: we actually just launched about a month ago, this new resource for moms, and we’re starting in New York.  It’s a resource for moms to find vetted, affordable, local home cooks to support with meals during postpartum especially, but really any time along the journey of being a busy mom transitioning back to work or just juggling everything.  We’re really excited about this.  We’re starting here in New York, but then expanding beyond.

It is so needed, and there may be some of those local or the national pre-made meals, but the fact that you can get home cooked meals customized to your needs and your stage from local cooks – that is a fantastic option, and certainly in New York, I’m sure it’s much needed.

Like many ideas and businesses in this space, it was kind of inspired initially from my own experience and my husband’s experience having our first daughter.  Postpartum was actually a pretty good experience overall for us.  We were excited with our baby.  I think the biggest day in and day out pain point that we had was around meals.  And I’m someone who loves to cook, but when you have a newborn, you barely have time to eat, let alone cook.

And you’re feeding your baby, no matter how you choose to feed.  That consumes so much time!

Exactly, so much time.  And so just kind of piecing it together with Door Dash or takeout.  We tried some of the meal kits that come in those little plastic containers.  Really, none of that is what we wanted to be eating for each meal.  What we really want is home cooked meals.  But like many new parents, especially in New York, many new parents don’t have family nearby to come cook for weeks on end, and especially when it’s your first, you don’t necessarily have a community to organize a meal train for you.  You’re kind of left piecing it together, and we just wanted home-cooked meals and couldn’t really accomplish that because we were focused on the baby and just learning to be new parents.  But it did dawn on me, especially when we were about to have our second daughter – now we’re not just feeding ourselves.  Now we’re feeding our toddler, too, so we really need to find a better solution for this.  And it dawned on me that there are incredible cooks all over the city, and probably someone right around the block from me who’s a phenomenal cook who would love to come and help you while earning a bit of extra income on the side.  So, long story short, we built this platform to bring them to one spot, to make it easier for moms and dads to find that kind of local support.  We vet them, and it’s a rigorous vetting process to make sure that it’s safe.  Everybody is a really incredible cook that can adapt to whatever needs your family has.  You mentioned allergies, for example.  Some of the families that are booking through our platform – one of their kids has allergies, or there are certain kinds of nutritional goals that the mom has or the dad has, or nutrition for postpartum recovery or breastfeeding or whatever it might be.  Since you’re hiring someone to come and cook just for your family, they can tailor it to whatever your needs are.  That’s one of the beauties of this.  It’s not only healthy and delicious, but also, it can be for whatever needs or goals your family has.

Yes.  And as postpartum doulas, we do some light meal preparation.  We certainly don’t make full meals for our clients, but we often find that clients will have a particular postpartum recipe book that they would like us to follow, say for the first 40 days.  Does that come into play, or is it more of what the chef would like to make for a family?

That absolutely comes into play, and actually, postpartum doulas were a big inspiration as we were kind of organizing how to build this.  We spoke with a number of doulas here in New York, and many of them love the idea because they see this as a big point with moms that they’re working with in those early days.  And they do light cooking support, and in some cases, the family needs even more cooking support beyond that.  But also, some doulas even realize that they like that aspect of the work so much that they wanted to lean into it even more, and in addition to their postpartum doula work, also take on some clients focusing specifically on cooking and postpartum nutrition and developing meal plans for families.

The way it works is, the family – and usually it is the mom – puts in a request for a local home chef.  You can browse through profiles of all the different chefs on the platform because every family is different and every taste is different, and your budgets are different.  Each home cook sets their own price point, and they have their own style or background.  Some are doulas, some are not.  Some are professionally trained, some are just really amazing self-taught cooks.

You can browse through these different profiles and then book whoever is the best fit for you or whoever you think resonates most with your family’s needs.  Maybe that is more of a focus on the first 40 days and somebody who has a really great repertoire of meals and experience around postpartum specifically, or maybe it’s somebody who has more of a Latin bent to their cooking because they’re from the Dominican Republic, and that’s what your family, especially in a diverse city like New York – to be able to find somebody with a cooking style that matches what you’re looking for.

And then you share your family.  Who’s in your household?  Who will be eating these meals?  What dietary restrictions you might have?  If you’re breastfeeding or recovering or if you’re pregnant, and what your family likes and doesn’t like.  From there, whoever you book will put together some meal options for you.  Typically, families book between three and four meals at a time.  Three or four dinners, for example, that then you can reheat over the next few busy days.   They’ll put together meal options that you can choose from, and you can tweak it as much as you like.  They share all the ingredients that go along with each of those meals so you know exactly what it’s in it, and then either you can do the shopping, or in many cases – most cases, actually, whoever is cooking, the home chef, does the shopping for you just to take the whole load off of you.

It outsources the mental load, which is a huge part of this, as well as the shopping and the cooking and the cleaning up afterwards because it’s that whole process.  It’s not just the cooking.  It’s everything around it, day in and day out, that is a lot of work for parents.  Finding somebody who can help you with this is a game changer is what we’ve been hearing from clients.  That term, it’s a game changer – for my mental health and for my family’s health.  So we’re really excited about this.

And it’s so important in recovery to have healthy meals, and for breastfeeding moms and pumping moms, to be able to nourish themselves properly.  And if you’re so focused on caregiving, if there are other kids that need to be fed, to have the healthy homecooked meals is going to make recovery so much better.  You’re going to sleep better.  I find as a postpartum doula that sometimes, unless we’re making snacks or telling our clients to drink water or eat, they’re forgetting to eat and nourish themselves.

Yeah, you do.  You forget.  You’re focused on a million and one things, and you can forget to eat.  It happened to me.  Then when you do remember, you’re so hungry that you just kind of grab whatever is there, and you’re probably holding your baby while you’re eating.  Maybe even nursing.  It is a struggle.  And now that you’re mentioning this, I’m grabbing my water.  You just reminded me to take a sip of my water.  It’s true, though.  You need to be reminded.

Exactly.  So Genevieve, how did the topic-based bundles come about?  It’s lovely because you can follow your clients across the journey, everything from the pregnancy bundles to feeding, as you had mentioned, and postpartum recovery.  I’m so curious about what led you to solve some of the problems of really understanding the curation and thoughtfulness you put not only into the chef matching platform that you have but also in making moms  and families’ lives easier with some of these customized bundles that you’ve created.

We actually started with the bundles, and then the resource of the home cooking kind of grew out of what we saw as one of the big pain points for moms in postpartum, among many, but one being an ongoing one around meals.  The inspiration for these bundles was, again, from my personal experience after having our first daughter.  I think what struck me was how scattered this whole kind of parenting world is.  I was somewhat surprised by it.  I knew there were so many things you need to buy and research for, for your registry ahead of times, and even that process is kind of overwhelming.  But then even after the baby comes, there are so many little things that you need, and all these questions that you have at the same time.  As I said before, these are constantly changing from one topic and stage to the next.  You’re focused on postpartum recovery in those early days and figuring out breastfeeding or formula feeding and questions around baby health and introducing solids.  Then the next thing you know, your baby is ready to start solids.  For each of these, you’re researching all these little things that you need that you didn’t maybe think about ahead of time or plan for when making your registry.  But then also all these questions that you have as you kind of encounter these different stages and topics.  So we decided to – and I say we.  I actually started this alongside my brother, who lives in New York as well, and we kind of launched this platform together.  We decided to curate these beautiful bundles for each of these different topics with only the essential items, from the best brands in each category, and we curated them based on what other moms are loving the most.  I can talk more about the curation if that’s interesting.

Yes, I’m fascinated by how you vet and decide who to include in the bundles.

First, we kind of curate what different items even go into each of these bundles.  So what are the items that most moms actually use for that topic area?  For postpartum recovery, there’s a vaginal and a C-section version.  What do moms actually use?  We vetted each of those bundles alongside experts in that topic.  For the recovery bundle, we worked with OB-GYNs.  For breastfeeding, lactation consultants.  Pediatricians for the baby health and feeding therapists for introducing solids, et cetera.  These different experts helped us to kind of say, yes, these are the types of items that we would recommend moms use and that moms actually do use.  We didn’t want to fill these bundles with things that are just going to clutter up your space and you’re never going to use.  From there, to determine which brand for each of those items or which specific type of – you know, postpartum underwear, just off the top of my head.  We wanted to triangulate it across several different platforms.  Most commonly registered for items and highest reviewed items across Baby List, Target, Buy Buy Baby at the time, Amazon, and brand-owned websites to see what are moms really loving the most.  And then we partnered with those brands to include them in the bundles.  We want to be the best of the best, not based on affiliate links or sponsorships or anything like that, so that you can really trust that what’s in in here is truly wonderful.  And then the last piece of it is each of those experts that I mentioned that helped us to vet the bundles also contribute a guidance book that comes in each bundle.  The recovery bundle has a guidance book that we created in partnership with OB-GYNs that goes through the most common questions they get asked around postpartum recovery.  There’s cheat sheets to answer each of those questions.  Same thing with all of the other bundles.  It’s really bringing together top products with content that kind of cuts to the chase without being alarmist.  There’s a lot of content out there that kind of makes you scared or even more uncertain about what you’re doing, and we really wanted to frame this content around reassuring you and kind of cutting to the chase on really actionable tips that are vetted by experts and really helpful for moms who are navigating all of this.

And what a wonderful shower gift or postpartum gift to give a friend or family member!

Absolutely.  That was part of our thinking, too.  Sometimes on registries, you’ll register for the big things, a lot of the big things like the crib and car seat.  But then there’s all these little things, like the ten-dollar nail clipper and the twelve-dollar thermometer and all these little things that, as a gift-giver getting these little things, it doesn’t feel like a really nice cohesive gift.  So these bundles really make nice gifts.  We see a lot of moms registering for them, and their friends are excited to give them.  A fun fact, actually, is that the most commonly gifted bundle from existing moms to new moms is the recovery bundle, which has the least appealing stuff – it’s the diapers and the pads and all those things.  But the moms who have been through it know that those things are so helpful.  It’s a really popular gift.  The baby health one is, as well, and the travel one.  They’re all really wonderful gifts.

I love that you have a travel one.  We’re getting into travel season, so if you want to touch on that for a minute, I would love to hear more about it.

Absolutely.  When we were curating these and kind of developing the topics that we were going to create bundles around, we surveyed a couple hundred moms and asked about biggest pain points and what you used and didn’t use, et cetera.  And traveling with babies, being on the go with babies was one of the biggest pain points, which is not surprising to me.  It’s hard.  It can be hard to travel with babies, especially the first couple of times when you’re just getting used to it.  And there are kind of a lot of little things that can make traveling a lot easier.  This on-the-go travel kit is one of my favorites, and it’s one of the most giftable ones, as well, I think.

Similar to the other bundles, we crowd-sourced travel tips from moms who have traveled a lot with their babies and toddlers to curate this bundle and create a guidance book that comes with it.  It goes through flying, and for example, with flying, questions like, should I bring my baby as a lap infant or book them a seat?  Do they need a boarding pass?  What do I do about security?  What do I do with my car seat?  How do I handle jet lag?  All these questions around travel.  We have lots of cheat sheets in the guidance book on plane travel, car rides, packing lists, et cetera.  And then the items in it are so handy.  My family travels a whole lot.  My husband is from Mexico, and so we travel to Mexico a lot, as well as a bunch of other places, and we use everything in here all the time.  It really comes in handy, and it just takes a lot off of that mental load of planning and packing and remembering to bring things.  We love it.  It really, really comes in handy on trips, but also, even just traveling on the go around the city on day trips and things like that.

Right.  It could be by car, train, plane, or boat.  It would work for all of the travel options.  But I know that it can be intimidating, especially for new parents to take that first big trip, whether it’s a long car ride or a plane ride and having their kids be content and all of the things that they might need in a new place.  It’s very helpful that you are inspired by your own travel experiences with two kids and that your brother is also so involved in this business as well with his own experiences.

Absolutely.  My brother is like the fun uncle.  I’m the third of four, and he’s the baby of the family.  And we have lots of nieces and nephews.  He’s the go-to babysitter for my kids here in New York.  We’re so lucky to have him nearby.  And yeah, it’s a lot of live and learn from traveling with babies and toddlers.  We’re very much in the thick of it still with – actually, both of my girls just had birthdays, so a three-year-old and a one-year-old now.  There are different challenges at different ages when traveling.  I think the hardest is probably one and a half to two and a half when they want to be mobile and move around, but they’re not old enough yet to sit through a show on the airplane so you’re just entertaining them the whole time.

It’s work, but I think that the two things that helped me the most: one is preparing, so not leaving everything to the last minute, which is hard to do, and I often leave things to the last minute.  There’s even some research around procrastination being good for efficiency, but I would say with preparing to travel, it’s the opposite.  You’re just creating more stress for yourself if you’re packing the morning of or doing things at the last minute.  It’s much less stressful to prepare ahead of time and start packing ahead of time.  And then you can be more thoughtful about what you’re bringing.  I find you end up weeding out what’s unnecessary and you pack lighter that way.

The second is just getting in the right mindset and letting go a little bit.  It’s probably not going to be perfect.  You’ll probably forget something.  It might be hard to settle the baby on the plane or you’ll have a hard time sleeping wherever you are.  You just do your best and you roll with it, and you try to get right back into things when you’re back home.  But I think it’s just a mindset shift that traveling with kids is different than before.  It can still be really fun.  Being in different environments is good for your baby and for you.  That’s kind of the mindset that I try to keep.

I love it.  And you mentioned the recovery bundles are very popular gifts that seasoned moms are giving friends.  What is your favorite bundle?

Oh, that’s a good question.  That’s tough.  Probably the baby health bundle.  The baby health bundle has a whole lot in it of things that you will actually use.  It all comes in this really neat, organized medicine box that also looks cute.  This covers all the major topics of baby health issues and even toddler issues that you might face.  Fever and pain, colds and congestion, rashes and skin issues that you might come across.  There’s all these little things.  The thermometer and Tylenol and saline drops and sprays for congestion and nasal aspirator and the nail clipper and file.  Vitamin D drops, which is something that a lot of moms just don’t even know exists or is something that you give your baby at the beginning.  When you’re at the hospital, maybe they tell you about the vitamin D drops, but there are so many things going on that maybe you forget about it.  We have all of these things in the bundles so that you have it when you get home, and you have everything in one spot.  Then you have this guidance book alongside of what everything is for and how you use it and all these cheat sheets that I mentioned.  It keeps everything organized.  In the middle of the night when your baby spikes a fever or you need something, you’re not running out to the store to get it or waiting a couple of days for an Amazon order to come.  You already have it all in one spot, and it’s all things that you will use.  It’s really meant to be practical and useful.  I think that’s probably my favorite one.

I love it.  And so many grandparents are now caregivers, so it would be great to have something at their place if they’re watching toddlers or babies over there so they have a full kit of everything they might need.

Yeah, that’s a great idea, actually.  And even with these cheat sheets, there’s quick references on how much Tylenol or acetaminophen to give your baby at different weights and sizes, which you forget.  You don’t necessarily know offhand.  You’re right that it’s great for caregivers or grandparents to have on hand, too.  Absolutely.

I love it.  I could talk to you forever, Genevieve, but we’re running out of time.  Any final tips for our listeners?

Yeah, I’ve loved this conversation!  For a final tip, similar to what I said before around traveling.  It applies to everything.  Let go a little and roll with it.  I think that there’s a lot to say around being prepared that can ease stress, but there’s a lot that you can’t prepare for or you don’t know until you go through it.  I do think that sometimes as new moms, our generation wants everything to be perfect.  Letting go a little bit is probably my tip.

Beautiful.  How can our listeners and the doulas in the Gold Coast team find you?

You can find our marketplace for home cooking on Mamieli.com.  Right now, it’s just New York, but if you’re not in New York, you can go to the website and put in your ZIP code.  We’re collecting ZIP codes from outside of New York, and once we get a critical mass, that’s how we’ll determine how we expand.  So even if you’re not in New York, feel free to put in your ZIP code and we’ll reach out to you when we’re where you are.

We’ll be putting in Grand Rapids ZIP codes then to try to get your service in Michigan!

Perfect!  And then our bundles, anybody can buy them from anywhere.  You can find those also on Mamieli.com, or you can go right to shopmamieli.com.  You’ll find all the bundles and cheat sheets and everything on there.  And I believe we have a special discount, too, for your listeners.  If you use the code GOLDCOAST24, you can save 20% of the entire order.

Thank you!  And you’re on social media, so our listeners can also connect with you there?

Yes.  On social, we are @lovemamieli.

Thank you for sharing all of your amazing platforms!  I’m all about the bundles.  What a wonderful gift!

Thank you so much!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Mamieli

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Our book, Supported: Your Guide to Birth & Baby

 

Postnatal nutrition with Genevieve Mena of Mamieli: Podcast Episode #242 Read More »

Changes in Michigan’s Surrogacy Laws: Podcast Episode #241

Kristin Revere and Jessie Jaskulsky of Surrogacy Simplified discuss the changes in Michigan’s Surrogacy laws on the latest episode of Ask the Doulas.  Jessie also provides helpful tips to our listeners considering surrogacy as an option to grow their families.

Hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am excited to chat with Jessie Jaskulsky.  Jessie has been on the podcast before, and she is the founder of Surrogacy Simplified.  She is a surrogacy consultant and concierge.  Welcome back, Jessie!

Thanks for having me again!  Great to be back!

Yes!  I didn’t think I’d have you back quite so soon, but in the prior episode, we were chatting a bit about legislation in Michigan and changes in surrogacy.  And luckily, those changes happened a lot quicker than both of us thought, and surrogacy is now legal in Michigan.  So I wanted to have you back on to chat a bit about the impact of this and help our listeners and our doula clients in Michigan understand the impact of this change.

Absolutely.  I would say so many great things are going to come as a result of this.  One of the biggest things is that it’s going to significantly reduce the cost for pursuing surrogacy in Michigan, for a variety of reasons, one of them being that prior to this, if they wanted to pursue surrogacy, they would have had to find somebody out of state and then also ship embryos, and when you start doing those things, it does end up, unfortunately – some people just can’t rise to all of those costs and they don’t pursue the process, so I think it’s going to make it a little more accessible to many intended parents.

Absolutely.  And it’s always been a dream of mine as a doula to support a surrogate and work with the family, and so hopefully, that will happen now that it’s legal in Michigan!  I’ve had doula friends fly to other states to support those as birth doulas and postpartum doulas.

I would say that’s another really great thing that we’re going to see happen as a result of this is more surrogates that reside in Michigan that previously were not able to come forward and pursue the surrogacy process.  So now it’s so empowering to them to be able to have this control over their body if that’s something that they want to do to help somebody complete their family.  And then it helps the intended parents because there might be more surrogates becoming available right now.  Generally speaking, it’s pretty difficult to find surrogates.

Exactly.  And certainly, there are more benefits surrounding fertility and adoption and surrogacy, so that’s also exciting to families in Michigan.

Yeah, absolutely.

So for those of our listeners who don’t understand the surrogacy process, can you walk us through what that looks like?  With your personal story, you had shared about having some secondary infertility and a lot of the challenges in navigating your options.  Feel free to elaborate!

Walking through the process – and I’m going to give the very high level overview just because it can get a little complicated, but I would say one of the first parts would be creation of your embryos, so going to the fertility clinic.  For some people, they may have already been trying on themselves for a while and now turned to surrogacy, or others may have had to go ahead and create embryos knowing that this was always going to be their path.  And then from there, deciding what type of journey do you want to have.  Do you want to use an agency to help you match with a surrogate?  Do you want to go a more independent route where you have a family member or a friend or maybe use social media to find a surrogate?  Or sort of a hybrid like myself where you might have somebody come forward to carry for you but then you have me guide you, or a consultant in general, to do all of that end coordination.

So once you kind of figure out the type of journey you want to have, after that, it’s really matching with the surrogate, through whatever method you’re going to use.

Excellent.  And so you mentioned working with an agency or the option of working with a consultant or a concierge like yourself.  What would you do as a concierge for families in Michigan who are looking for this support?

I think for them, especially because Michigan hasn’t really been doing much surrogacy before previously, you could do an altruistic or an uncompensated arrangement.  So maybe the fertility clinics have had some experience, but really, I think it’s going to be so much education for the intended parents because surrogacy hasn’t really happened before.  They may not have friends that have gone through the process.  And really breaking the process down for them and helping them feel less overwhelmed, whether that’s during an initial consult, just giving them a high level overview of all the different steps involved, helping them understand their choices in terms of the type of journey, the costs associated with different things, and just really helping the parents feel empowered to make these types of choices while they’re on their surrogacy journey and feel like they have somebody there that really understands it and can take them through the process as hopefully stress-free as possible.

And Jessie, how would you be working with doulas, or if other doulas outside of Gold Coast are interested in connecting clients who are, say, struggling with secondary infertility and interested in their options?  I would be curious about your role in relation to birth doulas or bed rest doulas or certainly the postpartum, the day and overnight newborn care that we offer.

Absolutely.  So there’s a couple different ways.  I would love – part of what I do is having this rich network to refer to my clients, and a lot of intended parents do want that doula support for their gestational carrier.  So I would say to absolutely reach out.  And thinking about making sure that the surrogate feels really supported during her journey.  Oftentimes, that is making sure that I have that coordinated for the delivery, that we have the doula ready to go.  And then following the delivery, whether the surrogate needs some care and needs that extra support with the help of a doula or the intended parents want somebody at the home to kind of support them in this transition to parenthood.

Yes.  And I know sometimes surrogates do end up on bedrest in those final days or weeks, and it can be helpful if they have other children at home to bring in an antepartum doula to help feed the kids, get them snacks, help make the couple who is supporting the surrogate feel like they are able to make a difference and an impact as well.

For us, on my first journey, having a doula would have been really amazing because our surrogate developed preeclampsia and she went on hospital bedrest.  And had we had that support at the hospital with a doula, I think that would have been really great.  My husband and I helped care for her so her husband could focus on the children, but I think that that additional layer of support would have been really, really incredible.  Our daughter came seven weeks early, so we sort of were scrambling to get all the resources together, but I think knowing what I know now, I would guide other intended parents to know about making sure that if they want to have a doula or the surrogate wants a doula, that they have all that perhaps lined up in the second trimester so that if something were to happen at the end – baby’s coming early, or the surrogate’s on hospital bedrest – all of the supports are already lined up and in place.

Exactly.  And that’s certainly something to factor in, and we do support bedrest clients, both in the hospital and the home bedrest option.  And then some doulas do not make themselves available until 38 weeks, but at Gold Coast we’re on call from the moment a contract is signed, so for those families in Michigan, as you begin to build your business here, we’re able to support if things happen, like preeclampsia, that are not expected, and deliveries earlier than anticipated.

Oh, that’s incredible.

I see so many ways that we can work together!  I love that these changes have happened early on.  I know you’ve kept up to date on a lot of pending legislation in other states.  Are you seeing with this change in Michigan that things may happen elsewhere?

It’s hard to say.  I’m hopeful, but I think we’re going to have to keep staying in tune yet in terms of the other two.  We have Nebraska and Louisiana still, and I’m just not sure yet what’s going to happen with them.  I think we have to keep hoping and praying.

Okay.  And what are some of the other states that surrogacy is legal in?  I know Colorado is a good example.

Going back to our first podcast together, we talked about traditional surrogacy versus gestational surrogacy, and traditional surrogacy is much less common.  And when you say surrogacy nowadays, it’s interchanged with gestational surrogacy, which is when the surrogate has no biological connection to the child.  So when I say this, I’m referring to gestational surrogacy.  It’s now legal in 48 of the 50 states.  Traditional surrogacy is not.  It’s much less states.  I don’t even know offhand because it’s just so rare nowadays.  But really, any state is okay to move forward in, I would say, with the exception of Louisiana and Nebraska.

Exciting!  So what are your tips for our listeners who are considering this option to begin moving forward?

I would say balancing becoming informed with going into a rabbit hole and spiraling because there’s so much to know.  So really trying to make it digestible.  I offer a free surrogacy e-book that anyone listening is welcome to download.  We can have it listed in the show notes for everybody, how to access it.  And then also learning about, like, the costs, thinking about the relationship you might want to have with your surrogate, just starting to think through some of these points is really valuable so that when you’re in the middle of the journey, it can go much more smoothly and efficiently.  And I think also just to end it with being patient with the process.  It’s not a quick one, but it’s definitely so beautiful and so worth it.

Yes, and as you mentioned it’s not a quick process – what is the average time that a family would work with you or that the whole planning process would take in getting matched with a surrogate, for example, and even in being able to afford it?  Like, if this is something that a couple is just in the early stages and want to begin planning with a consultant like yourself and saving – I feel like there are so many different categories it could go.  Once you have your match, how long does that take?  And then once you’re in the planning phase, how long is that stage?

I think with the planning phase, it’s really about how long it’s going to take until the intended parents feel comfortable moving forward in terms of affording it, whether they need to wait and apply to some grants and see what happens or look at financing.  I think that can definitely play a role.  Once you’re matched, the process tends to move on the quicker side.  I would say once you’re matched, an embryo transfer can tend to happen within three to six months.  So you’re looking at anywhere from a 13- to 16-month journey.

That’s quick.

Yes, and I would say surrogacy in general, from thinking about surrogacy to baby, would probably range from a year and a half to two years, depending upon how quickly it takes to match, how quick different parts of the journey go.  There’s always a range on how long it takes to get through the legal process or IVF creation or just the different steps that are involved, and that plays a role in the overall timeline.

Thank you for explaining all of this, Jessie!  I am excited to share your download with our listeners, as well.  I appreciate you offering that.  How can our listeners connect with you?

You can always send me an email at jessie@surrogacysimplified.com.  Also, my website has a landing page where you can book an initial complementary consultation if you’re getting started on your journey, whether it’s that you’re ready to move forward or you’re just deciding and feeling overwhelmed, I’m here for you.  And I also would suggest if you’re on social media, I post a lot of really valuable tips and reels, and that is also @surrogacysimplified, as well.  You can follow me there.

Yes, you’re on LinkedIn, Instagram.  Any other social spots?

I’m on the others, but I’m most active on Instagram and LinkedIn.

Same.  Agreed.  Well, thank you!  It was great to chat again, and I look forward to working with you in Michigan, Jessie!

Yes, likewise!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Free Beginner’s Guide to Surrogacy e-book

Surrogacy Simplified

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Our book, Supported: Your Guide to Birth & Baby

Changes in Michigan’s Surrogacy Laws: Podcast Episode #241 Read More »

Craniosacral Therapy for Infants with Meaghan Beames: Podcast Episode #240

Kristin Revere talks with Meaghan Beames of MyBaby Craniosacral Podcast and Beames CST Training Centre.  They discuss how craniosacral therapy can help babies cope with colic, latching issues, and growing pains that can make life with a newborn harder than it needs to be.       

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with Meaghan Beames today.  Meaghan founded the Beames CST Training Centre, offering tailored global learning for health professionals.  Her mission is to ensure every family in North America has access to qualified craniosacral therapists to help their babies cope with colic, latching issues, and all the growing pains that can make life with a newborn harder than it needs to be.  In five years, she’s treated 700-plus babies, taught more than 100 health professionals CST, and built a thriving private practice in Toronto with multiple practitioners working under her.  Her knowledge goes beyond just the practical applications of body work and spreads out into being a leader and growing a business.  Meaghan is also the host of the MyBaby Craniosacral Podcast with over 40 episodes and 5000 downloads.  Welcome!

Thank you so much!

So happy to have you here!  Our topic today is all about craniosacral therapy and how it can support the bonding and attachment between parents and infants after birth.

Yeah, thank you so much for having me.  This is, obviously, my favorite topic to talk about, craniosacral.  So I’m really looking forward to our chat today.

Would you please explain what craniosacral therapy is for our listeners who haven’t yet accessed this care or just aren’t familiar?

For sure!  So I realize, first off, that the name is long and hard to pronounce.  Some people say cranial sacral, so that it’s easier for them to wrap their mind around.  And a lot of times, people think, oh, cranial sacral, that must have something to do with the head and the sacrum.  But in fact, it actually has to do with the entire body.  So it is an extremely gentle, hands-on healing modality, kind of like massage, but it’s a lot more, let’s say, accurate and pinpointed to very specific areas.  And we treat fascia as opposed to muscles as one would in massage.  So craniosacral just helps to release tension in the body that could be causing this baby to have symptoms that are really troublesome, and the first thing that – well, not every parent, but the first thing that a lot of adults think when I say that there’s tension in a baby’s body is that, well, that’s not possible because this baby was born.  The assumption is that over time and over a period of years, we produce tightness and restrictions in our body that create pain, but that’s not true.  If you think of yourself getting injured really quickly – let’s say you were in a car accident, and it was not even a high speed, just kind of like a fender bender, and at that high speed, you get this neck jolt, right?  And you might feel that neck jolt for a while.  Right?  You  might feel it for months after, and that was a really quick thing.  And babies, when they’re in utero or when they’re being born, they can experience things that cause areas of their body to become tight, and they might feel pain within a couple of months or even a couple of hours after birth.  So this is what we’re doing is trying to release some of that tension that causes pain.

Yes, and as you mentioned, it’s very light touch.  So I know whether it’s chiropractic care or CST, some of our clients have questions about, again, doing any hands-on work with an infant.

For sure.  And that’s the thing.  The first question that parents think is, well, is this going to hurt my baby?  And, no.  If I have a parent who comes into my office who is apprehensive – they’ve been told, like, you really need to bring your baby in to see this person because she’s going to really help – they’re apprehensive because they’re worried it’s going to hurt them, but what I do is I demonstrate just how gentle the touch is on the parents’ hand, usually, and they’re like, oh, that’s it?  Are you even doing anything?  Because it’s so gentle that it does not hurt.  In fact, it often does the opposite.  It takes this baby who is experiencing pain, and they’re all scrunched up and their face is – their brow is furrowed, and then their arms relax, the shoulders come away from the ears, their face softens, and they’re in this peaceful sleep.  So it has the opposite effect.

Beautiful.  One of the common conditions that I will send doula clients to a craniosacral therapist is just feeding concerns where there might be a preference for one breast over the other, for example, and difficulty with latch.  So can we start with feeding as a reason to see a craniosacral therapist?

Yeah, that is probably our number one reason why folks bring their babies in to have this done for them.  When it comes to side preference – again, adults really have a hard time understanding that a baby can experience tightness or pain, right?  So they have this side preference because when they go into, let’s say, they prefer the left breast, let’s say.  That means that they like to turn their body to their right, if they prefer the left breast, right?  And if they don’t like going to the right breast, a lot of times it feels like a stretch in their body when they’re trying to bring themselves to the opposite side.  So it feels like their muscles are stretching and they’re going to bring themselves back into that side preference, or what I like to call it is a position of comfort, rather than a side preference, because a side preference has a negative connotation whereas a position of comfort is like, oh, they feel uncomfortable on the other side.  This is their comfortable side.  And so I want them to feel comfortable in all positions, and that’s what CST does is it helps to eliminate these restrictions in their body that’s keeping them from feeling comfortable no matter what position they’re in.

Excellent.  And it makes a big difference.  I’ve seen a change almost instantly with clients.  And then colic is another reason to see a CST.  Our postpartum doulas who are in the home day and night navigating reflux and colic would then also give referrals for that reason.  Can you explain the benefits for colicky babies?

Yeah, and again, colic is an overarching umbrella term for a baby who cries a lot.  So when somebody who comes into my office says, I think my baby has colic, my immediate thought is, what is causing this baby to experience pain?  Colic is not a diagnosis.  It’s just an umbrella term.  So when these babies are coming in, I want to feel through their body and a lot of times, they’ve got some tension between their should blades or in their low back that is causing them some pain.  So this tension can cause them to be gassy and grunt all the time.  It can cause them to have slow bowel movements, or they’re just straining to poop, so they’ve got really distended bellies or they’re just grunting all the time.

Yes, very grunty, right.

Right?  And then the parents can’t sleep at night because the baby’s grunting all night and they can’t pass gas.  Our job as a CST is to find the areas of the body that are tight that are causing these signs and symptoms, right?  We get a whole list of all of the other things that are going on.  When are they crying?  What does it sound like when they’re crying?  Are they pooping?  What’s it like when they’re pooping?  Are they feeding?  Are they swallowing a lot of air?  What’s happening in their mouth?  Do they have a distended belly?  Do they have an outie belly button?  Do they have a side preference?  So we almost go in and do diagnostic work.  I like to say it’s like a mechanic.  We tinker around and make sure the engine is working properly, just because – the other thing I like to say is that the body is supposed to work, and when it’s not working, there’s something going on that’s keeping it from its optimal working status.  So that’s what we like to do is find what’s keeping it from working optimally and make it feel better so that what is naturally supposed to happen, happens.

Yes, makes sense!  And then if our clients have experienced an elongated pushing time where it was hard for baby’s head to emerge or there were any traumas related to the birth itself, then certainly, we do refer.  Do you want to address whether it’s, like, say, vacuum or forceps or just a longer pushing phase, why it would be helpful to see a craniosacral therapist?

Yeah, and I’ll add to that, that actually very fast births – so let’s say the birth was an hour and a half, first contraction to born, or a really long birth – let’s say 24 hours-plus.  I find that I will see very similar signs and symptoms in these babies, and they both need CST just as much as the other.  Then, also, babies who have this beautiful – what I also like to say is rose petals in the bathtub birth where it’s like mama is saying ohm the whole time – they also need CST.  Being born, no matter what way, is difficult for this baby because they’re trying to get through a hole that is smaller than themselves and did not and had to get out a different way, or they did fit through a hole that is smaller than themselves.  So no matter what, it’s going to be traumatic, but this brings us back to that fascia that I was talking about at the very beginning.  The fascia is a protective tissue, and when we are either being pulled too much or pushed too much or too quickly – let’s say whiplash in a car crash – this fascia tightens and contracts to protect what’s underneath it, and that’s its job, and it’s doing a great job.  But then it doesn’t relax after like a muscle does.  So no matter what way this baby is being born, this fascia becomes tight, and it can cause things like a jaw that is moved off to one side, so an asymmetrical latch.  It can cause their cranial bones to shift out of normal range, so maybe they’re getting a flat head or maybe they’re getting a flat head on one side, or they’ve got a really long head.  And that has a lot to do with the fascia.  So we just help to loosen and let that fascia go so that things can settle into, let’s say, normal range, “normal range,” or optimal range.

It’s really, really cool.  And this also helps with restorative emotion.  They call it implicit emotions or memories, right, and with those implicit memories come emotions, and so being born is difficult, and we as humans, even you and I, both have stored memories and emotions from our own births that we can let go of using this CST because it’s stored in the fascia, those memories.  And so once we release that –

Yeah, our body does store so much!

Absolutely, and we have no idea how much that affects us day to day until we let go of it.  So that’s what CST is really useful for is to really help us as humans process the events that have happened in our lives, process them in a way that we don’t have to just hold on to them and keep them, especially if they’re not serving us.

Right.  And certainly with surgical births, there is still a need for CST.  It’s not just those quick or elongated pushing phases with a vaginal birth, but also babies born via Cesarean.

Correct, whether scheduled or emergency or even crash, those babies still spent time in this person’s pelvis, and they could have gotten – maybe they were breach, and I find actually that breach babies, they’ve got this one spot in their lower spine that causes them to have so much gas.  So much grunting.

Interesting.

I call it the breach spot, where we just release it and give the parents some massage and home care so that it doesn’t keep getting tight again to help the baby to poop and pass gas.  No matter what, this baby still spent time in a space that was too small for them, and that can cause the body – I like to give other visuals.  Let’s say you were sleeping on the couch, and your head was kind of twisted off to one side just a little bit for a little too long, and you wake up, and you’re like, oh, my neck hurts.  Let’s now put a baby in that position and then scrunch it up a little bit more with tissue and keep it there for a couple of weeks, and just imagine how much their neck might hurt if you move it off to one side.  A lot of the times, that’s why they want to keep their head turned to one side because it doesn’t feel good turning to the other way.   And I find that the babies who were born via C-section have this, and so I see them a lot in my practice.

Excellent.  I love the visuals.  I can totally picture what they’re going through.

Yeah, and if you see those videos of babies in an MRI, just how cramped they are.  It just makes sense.

It does.  And so when should parents be seeking care, and is there a point where it’s too late to really make a difference?

No, there’s never a too late, and there isn’t a too early.  So as you mentioned at the beginning, I do teach this, but I also practice it, and I can actually do CST on a baby in utero.  I can feel just by holding on the to mom’s belly – yeah, I can kind of move the baby around and just feel what’s happening in their body, and I can do a CST session with them.  I’m going to do one, actually, in about an hour.

I love it so much!

I believe she’s 38 weeks today, so I’m going to do a CST session on her today.  So there’s never too early.  I would like to say – and I know in your book, we are listed as people you need to plan for or health professionals you should plan for, honestly.  Even if your baby doesn’t have major symptoms, having someone do an assessment of your baby within days of birth can eliminate or prevent things like failure to thrive, losing weight, painful nipples or sore and cracked nipples, an extra trip to the hospital because your baby is just, like, scream-crying because they’re so hungry but they aren’t feeding well.  So just planning to have this baby have a nice, relaxing CST session within days of their birth will really help eliminate some of those really stressful periods that some parents go through.

And how do parents find craniosacral therapists, whether they’re trained by you – I know you mentioned that you’ve taught over 100 health professional CSTs – or trained by other reputable groups?

Yeah, so word of mouth is best.  Go with someone who – if you know someone who has seen someone, go with them.  Or you can look up CST through either Upledger or Beames, or there are some who will do CFT.  It’s very similar.  They have a different approach, CFT to CST.  So doing your research on what you feel as a parent you would prefer – again, they’re very similar, just a different type of mentality and approach to the care.  But I would just say, go with someone who – if you look up their website and you’re like, oh, I’d jive with them, or I can sense their vibe, and I think that I would feel the same way that they do – go with that, because this is – this is your baby, and you want someone who’s going to respect you and your baby and how you are parenting and how you would parent, because they’re also going to give you advice, maybe unsolicited, but hopefully not.  But they’re going to give you homecare and things that you can do to help things be better for your baby.  Again, you want to make sure that this person has similar values to you.

That makes sense.  So as far as payment, how many visits would be typical?  Of course, each infant is unique, but just on average, how many times would you see a family?  And then how would they pay for treatment?

So first, I’m going to say, for the babies who the parents at the very beginning are worried about their baby’s head shape, go see a CST practitioner as soon as possible.  Your baby’s head shape is probably out of alignment due to fascial restrictions that’s keeping them stuck in that position, and seeing a CST practitioner is going to help them to have more range of motion and get those bones to line up in a little bit better or more optimal position.  So for the babies who have head shape concerns, those ones we typically see 3 to 6 or 4 to 8 times over the course of, let’s say, six months.  For the first few sessions, it would be weekly for about a month, and then after that, it would be a little bit more maintenance.  So it could be anywhere from, again, 3 to 8 sessions for the ones who have head shape concerns.

The ones who have latching concerns, we usually see them about three sessions, but some babies where the parents are like, I just want to see how things are going – we usually just see them once.

And then prices range anywhere from $120 for an hour up to $215 for an hour.  Again, the person who is charging over $200, make sure they’ve been doing this a while.  If they’ve been doing it for, let’s say, five months, and they’re charging over $200, they haven’t learned enough.  To be very blatant and clear about this, they have not learned enough.  You might not see the best results just because you’re paying higher prices.  Higher price doesn’t always mean better service or better results.  So just make sure that if you are paying higher prices, perhaps they have a team approach.  Maybe they’ve been doing it for a long time.  Maybe they’ve had training from multiple different schools.  And check Google reviews.  Make sure you check the Google reviews because parents tell the truth there.  They really do.

They do, agreed.  And then you can obviously use like a health savings or flex spending, as well?

Well, I’m Canadian, so I don’t know what it’s like in the States.  But if your listeners are generally American, most CST practitioners have a license to touch or are IBCLCs, and so sometimes you can put it under or through insurance or a super bill.  I’ve heard of something like that.

Sure, that makes sense for the feeding-related concerns, if they’re seeing an IBCLC who’s also a CST.  Okay.  And then as far as other tips for our listeners that are interested in CST or think their baby may benefit from it, what do you have to offer, Meaghan?

I would say the sooner the better, but it’s never too late.  A lot of parents are like, well, what benefits am I going to really see?  I have no idea.  Why would I go?  I don’t know what I would – I don’t know what good this will do.  No, you’re absolutely right.  You won’t know until you go and see what can get better because the worst thing that can happen is nothing gets better.  But that almost never happens.  So know that there is something that we can help with, even if it’s just – we can get your baby to go into tummy time for longer.  Know that that is a benefit, a lifelong benefit, because that’s brain development.  That’s meeting milestones better and faster, and that is lifelong benefit.  So if you’re on the fence about it, the answer I would recommend, go just even once and see.  But bring food.  So make sure your baby is fed.  Always bring something to eat because they get so hungry in the session.  Bring milk.  Don’t worry about, oh, it’s their naptime or something like that.  Sometimes we can even get them to fall asleep in the session, so they can have their nap in the session.

You mentioned in your bio that you also work with growing pains?  Can you elaborate on that?

Yeah, for sure.  These babies who had a side preference for nursing generally then have a side preference for crawling.  And so they’re going to be those ones where it’s like, oh, let’s take a video.  This baby crawls so funny.  But it’s like, okay, but what does that mean about their body?  That means they have a position of comfort and a position of discomfort.  So what’s keeping this baby from feeling comfortable on all fours, and again, what I mentioned earlier is meeting milestones and brain development.  If they’re only crawling with one leg, that means they are dominant on one side of their brain and less dominant on the other.  And we need both sides of the brain to develop simultaneously in order for milestones such as reading.  Maybe sometimes dyslexia can happen if this baby doesn’t crawl properly.  Maybe sometimes even speech is difficult.  So making sure that this baby crawls with both legs.  Again, we can help them to feel comfortable on both legs.  And when it comes to speech, let’s say this baby turns into a toddler who doesn’t like solids.  That can later produce a child who has a speech impediment.  So it’s just something where if you see early signs, do something about it because they don’t just “grow out of it.”  They grow into it.  They compensate for what’s not working properly.

So the earlier you help, usually, the less struggles you have later.

It affects so many different areas beyond feeding and issues with colic or just unhappy babies.  Thank you for explaining all of the different benefits and conditions that CST can support.

Oh, the one that I really want to say is sinus congestion and ear infections.  Go see a CST.  A lot of times, it’s just that there’s poor drainage because of fascial tension, and the amount of times I’ve seen a toddler come in who’s had recurrent ear infections – I do a couple of releases in their ears and in their neck, and they never get an ear infection again after that.  That one is a big one.

Amazing!  That can be so stressful on families dealing with the constant ear infections.  And it could potentially even avoid tubes then later, correct?

Absolutely.  It avoids antibiotic use.  It avoids serious pain and screaming all night long, but also the antibiotic use affects gut, right?  And that can lead to poor gut, which can lead to allergies or sensitivities or leaky gut or all of these things.  It’s so much more than just making sure that this kid doesn’t have to have ear infections anymore.

So how can our listeners connect with you, whether they are a parent looking for help or a health care professional who is interested in training with you?  What are the different websites and social media channels that you would like to send our listeners to?

For sure!  For parents, I have MyBaby CST.  That is on Instagram.  That has a lot more educational information for parents.  That’s also the website, mybabycst.com.  And I’ve got my podcast on that one, as well.  Then also for health professionals who are wondering, maybe this is for me.  I would like to be able to do CST.  I have the school, which is Beames CST.  That’s also our Instagram handle.

Excellent!  Thank you so much, and we’ll have to have you on again, Meaghan!

Amazing!  Thank you, Kristin!

IMPORTANT LINKS

MyBaby CTS

Beames CST

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother class

Buy our book: Supported

Craniosacral Therapy for Infants with Meaghan Beames: Podcast Episode #240 Read More »

How to Build Your Birth and Postpartum Support Team

Kristin Revere was a guest on the Plus Mommy podcast to talk about setting yourself up for success by creating a strong support team for birth and postpartum.  Listen to the podcast here

A strong support team can significantly impact your overall experience and well-being, from physical and emotional support to guidance through the complexities of childbirth and early parenthood.

Let’s delve into the importance of creating a solid team for birth and postpartum with insights from Kristen Revere, an elite birth and postpartum doula.

Kristen shares her expertise on assembling a dream team of professionals, the benefits of having a doula, and practical tips for finding and affording the support you need.

Join us as we explore the various types of birth support team members, the value of postpartum care, and the strategies to make these essential services accessible.

Whether you’re an expectant parent or a birth professional, you’ll gain valuable information to help you navigate this transformative journey.

Benefits of Hiring a Doula

When it comes to birth support, the first thing that often comes to mind is a doula, so let’s begin there.

A doula provides continuous physical, emotional, and educational support, reducing the need for interventions and increasing overall satisfaction, even if the birth plan changes.

Doulas are familiar with hospital policies and can help navigate decisions by providing information on the risks, benefits, and alternatives to non-emergent interventions.

The evidence is clear: doula support leads to better outcomes and higher satisfaction rates.

Finding the Right Doula

When interviewing doulas, consider their experience, personality, and budget.

Look for doulas with specific training or certification in areas that are important to you, such as a size-friendly doula who has completed size-inclusivity training.

A good fit between you and your doula is crucial!

Postpartum Doula Support

Postpartum doulas offer invaluable support to the entire family, not just the newborn.

They assist with household tasks, accompany clients to appointments, provide sibling care, and offer emotional support for the family.

This holistic approach helps ensure the family feels supported and cared for during the critical postpartum period.

Creating Your Support Team

Building a birth and postpartum support team goes well beyond hiring a doula.

Kristen emphasizes identifying your pregnancy, birth, and postpartum goals if you’re wondering where to start.

Whether it’s trying to avoid induction or seeking Vaginal Birth After Cesarean (VBAC), having a clear understanding of your goals helps in assembling the right team.

It’s essential to have open conversations with your care provider early on to ensure they are on board with your preferences.

Types of Birth Support Team Members

In addition to doulas, there are several key professionals and support team members you might consider for your birth and postpartum journey:

  • MidwivesCertified Nurse Midwives (CNMs) and home birth midwives can provide personalized care throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery.
  • Lactation Consultants: International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) offer specialized lactation support.
  • Pelvic Floor Physical Therapists: These specialists help with recovery and strengthening post-birth, addressing issues such as incontinence and pelvic pain.
  • ChiropractorsChiropractors can help with prenatal adjustments to align your body for an optimal birth.
  • Acupuncturists: Prenatal acupuncture can support overall wellness, reduce stress, and prepare your body for labor.
  • Mental Health Therapists: Therapists specializing in perinatal mood disorders can provide crucial support for mental health during and after pregnancy.
  • Sleep Consultants: Postpartum sleep consultants assist in establishing healthy sleep patterns for your baby, which can significantly impact the entire family’s well-being.
  • Childbirth Educators: Classes on childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care can prepare you for the journey ahead, providing valuable knowledge and confidence.

Supporting the Cost of Your Birth and Postpartum Team

Here are several strategies for making these essential services more accessible:

  • Insurance Coverage: Check if your insurance covers services like physical therapy, lactation consulting, and chiropractic care. Some states now include doulas in their Medicaid programs.
  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs): Use these pre-tax accounts to pay for eligible services, reducing your out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Employer Benefits: Some companies offer maternity benefits that include coverage for doulas and other support services.
  • Community Resources: Look for nonprofit organizations and hospital programs that offer doula services and other support on a sliding scale or for free.
  • Registries and Gift Funds: Instead of traditional baby gifts, set up a registry for support services through platforms where friends and family can contribute.
  • Personal Budgeting: Prioritize your spending based on your birth and postpartum goals. Consider reallocating funds from non-essential items to invest in support services that will benefit your family’s well-being.

Whether through a doula, community resources, or personal support networks, having the right team in place can make a significant difference in your experience.

IMPORTANT LINKS

Plus Mommy Podcast

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Buy our book, Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby

How to Build Your Birth and Postpartum Support Team Read More »

Tips for Supporting New Parents with Lizzie Williams: Podcast Episode #239

Tips for supporting your friends who just had a baby with former Gold Coast Doulas client, Lizzie Williams.  Kristin and Lizzie chat about everything from creating an intentional baby registry to her top tips for supporting new parents in the latest episode of Ask the Doulas.  Lizzie contributed to our new book, Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby. 

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with my friend Lizzie Williams.  Lizzie has a background in marketing and communications and lives in Grand Rapids with her husband, two teenage stepsons, and their two-year-old daughter.  Lizzie was a student in the Becoming A Mother course and also utilized our postpartum doula services.

Hey, Lizzie!

Hey, Kristin!

I am so excited to chat with you.  You have been such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to spreading the word about support options, and you were recently featured in a local magazine with tips on supporting parents and friends and had so much helpful advice that I asked you to hop on Ask the Doulas.

Yeah, I’m excited to be on.  I’ve been what they call a long time listener, first time caller.

I love it!  Thanks for listening.  So what are some of your tips?  I know in both the Becoming A Mother course and just sharing in our group and also in your article and in the contribution to our upcoming book, Supported, you had talked a lot about how before you had kids, you didn’t really know how to support friends who were expecting or new parents.

Yeah, totally.  I felt like when I had my daughter, Betty, it was like people came out of the woodwork with support and love and were pouring into me and my husband and our kids in ways that I was blown away by.  And I’m like, how do you guys know how to do this?  How did you know that I would need that thing, or that this little moment would mean so much to me?  So I was talking, actually, with a coworker about it at the time who didn’t have kids herself, and she was just like, can you just give me some info on – now that you know how people can show up for you, can you share that with others so that the rest of us can be better friends and better family members?  And I was like yeah, I’m going to take some notes!  So I’ve actually been thinking about this for almost two years because of that, because of my friend Andrea kind of asking those questions.

So I did take some notes and tried to really pay attention to the things that people did for us that were really helpful and just made that transition into being a parent of a newborn a little bit easier.  Of course, my Becoming course crew was also, I would say, a critical little group of people.  I was thinking about it last night because my daughter is having some leap regression as a toddler, and I was in her bedroom at 1:00 in the morning, and I was having flashbacks to late night feedings where you’re just scrolling your phone.  And I would post sometimes on a private social media channel for the students that were in your Becoming course, and I would post on there, does anybody know anything about this?  Whatever it was.  Almost inevitably, somebody by 8:00 a.m., by the morning, would have responded to me, like, “Reaching out!  Here’s a couple things I’ve thought about!”  So I guess I would say my first note is finding a community and being a community.  Whether you’ve had kids already or not, new parents need community and need the classic village to support them and love them, and as a new parent, you also need to accept that.

Absolutely.  Whether it’s a new parent support group or a breastfeeding group or something virtual like the Becoming A Mother course, people who are going through the same thing at the same time.  It’s so important because, again, whether it’s teething or sleep regressions or baby proofing your house, things come up.  I know with my kids, being preteens, so much has changed since I was in the early parenting phase that my advice, if I wasn’t a doula and working with newborns and pregnant individuals, I wouldn’t have that ability to give good advice.

Oh, my gosh, yes.  My husband has two older kids, so I have teenagers that I live with, as you mentioned, so 18 and 14.  And I would say to him, Steve, what’s going on here?  What is this thing that this baby is doing?  What do we need to know?  And he’s like, I can’t even remember, both because it had been a while, and it’s such a blur when you’re in it.  And things change.  Recommendations change.  He was like, I have to relearn all this stuff right along with you.

Absolutely.  Things from safe sleep to just feeding options.  Bottles are so different.  Pumps are so different.  It all changes constantly, and technology being involved in parenting, whether it’s the monitors and things that are just beyond what I had as a new parent.

Yes.  I guess within that vein is helping people, if they don’t have that network of others, whether it’s moms or dads or support people – helping them find that can be really critical.  Recently, I started a little new moms group for people specifically who are new to West Michigan, which is where I live.  And it was mostly because if you’re new to the area and you also don’t have anyone in your life that’s got a baby, it can be super isolating.  That was a space that I knew I could help a few people find connection in.  And I love seeing the texts like, okay, can somebody help me with this one thing?  It is walking along the path with people who are at the same stage as you.  It can be hugely impactful.

Exactly.  That is so beautiful, and especially if they don’t have friends or family nearby.  We have so many people moving to West Michigan for work, and no matter where you are in the country, people are moving more than ever.  But I also find that many clients have lived in other cities and states and then end up moving back before their baby is born to get that support from family.  So it goes kind of both ways, either moving here for work, or moving back and not having friends or that support network, other than the grandparents. 

Totally.  And even in that regard, my mom was so sweet.  My mom lives in the area, and I was again thinking about it in prep for this podcast, but it’s like, I think my mom called me every single day for the first four months that my daughter was here, and it was such a gift to have that, knowing that she was going to call and knowing that I was going to have somebody to be able to talk to.  But even that, again, she didn’t – she wasn’t the person I was going to for specifics.  She was just showing me love.  And you need both.  I needed to just know that I was loved and cared for and could tell somebody a stupid story, but then I also needed other mom friends who I could ask those more specific questions for the people who are in the weeds with you.  Like, I’m six and a half weeks.  What am I looking for?  What is my baby going to do tomorrow?  And these other parents kind of show up and say, okay, I’m at seven and a half weeks, and here’s what I’m seeing.  You kind of need both, people in the trenches with you and then people just loving on you, checking in on you, asking how you’re doing.  It’s definitely a combo, I would say.

Absolutely.  And yeah, we have a grandparents class just for that reason, to try to get grandparents who want to help up to speed on everything from car seats to childproofing their home.  Many grandparents are now caregivers when maternity and paternity leave ends just because we’re in a childcare crisis right now.  It’s almost forced on grandparents, and they don’t know all of the changes in feeding and sleep.  So that’s been utilized more recently than even when we started Gold Coast and introduced it.

That’s a great idea.  I didn’t know that you did that, but I can totally imagine how it helps sort of neutralize some of those conversations as well, instead of as a mom or dad, that you’re like asking your parents to do something differently than how they did it, having a neutral party like Gold Coast coming in and just providing up to date information.  It would be super helpful.

Right.  Those conversations can be awkward.

Definitely.

So what are your tips for friends who maybe haven’t had kids to support their friends and family members who are going through a major life change, whether it’s baby number one or baby number three?  There are still a lot of care that’s needed in this isolating time.

Totally.  I think for me, and maybe this is because I’m not someone that loves to cook, and cooking always feel kind of like a chore at our house between my husband and I, but the meal train was an absolute gift.  I think my sister was the one who set it up, but we had people dropping off meals probably three times a week for the first couple months.  And it was amazing.  And some days, I was feeling like I wanted to hide and I was not prepared to see anyone, and I remember one of my friends dropped off something on the porch, and I literally – she almost saw me, and I crawled into my office so she wouldn’t see me because I was just like, I do not have the energy to talk.  I can’t do this right now.  And then other days when somebody would be dropping something off, I would have a jolt of energy, or I’d just want to talk.  And so the meal train was nourishing for our bodies, and it took something huge off our plate, which was meal prep, but it also allowed an opportunity to either see people if you wanted to.  Even just a couple minute conversation when you’re in the trenches can be a real life saver at times, and it can give you kind of a perspective shift if you’re feeling a little off, which you do feel off.

You do, absolutely.  And to have adult company even for a few minutes can make a big difference.  The days can be really long when partners are going back to work and you’re in an empty house with this baby and exhausted and feeling like you’re constantly feeding.  No matter how you feed, there’s still that feeling like it never ends. 

Yes.  So I would say that was my number one biggest thing, help with some meals.  There’s an online website called Meal Train where people can actually put in if you’ve got dietary restrictions or how many kids are in the home.  You can kind of customize to what your own family’s needs are, which can be really helpful because then it doesn’t leave people wondering, oh, I don’t know if she eats dairy.  You know, it just allows you to put all that information out there, and then your friends are able to support you in a way that feels good to you.  That was great.  And it’s funny; I had met a friend recently who moved from Chicago, and she had her third baby.  We set up a meal train for her, and she was like, what is this?  This is amazing.  I’ve never felt so cared for.  And I’m like, yeah.  You need it not just for the first kid.  You need it for any kid, or even major surgery.  It’s just such a good way to support people with whatever challenge they’re going through in life.  It just takes such a big burden off their plate.

Absolutely.  And I feel like there’s so much more attention spent on the first baby, but you often need that support more when you have other kids at home.  You even mentioned the teenagers that need to eat all of the time.  It’s so important.

Yes.  So that’s my number one is help nourish people because your body – especially if somebody’s breastfeeding, their body is just going through a lot.  Another thing that a couple of my girlfriends did that I was not aware of was they made little lactation cookies or even these little lactation muffin bites that were just packed with veggies and healthy grains and low on sugar, and they were for those late nights when you need a nibble.  For me, having never done this before, I was not prepared for how often I was finding myself hungry, as somebody who was breastfeeding.  I need a lot of snacks!

Absolutely.  And to keep up supply requires a lot of hydration.  Sometimes the extra like you mentioned, the teas and cookies, can make a big difference.

Yes.  Even a delicious drink was so thoughtful and so nice.  One of my girlfriends works around my house, and she would drop off a little coffee for me.  It’s such a little thing, but it was so thoughtful.  Or a little kombucha, just something to serve as a little delight in your day.  It can feel so profound in these moments when you’re just really beat, really tired, and really overwhelmed.  Those little moments of love that people have the opportunity to show you are both easy for them and very meaningful for you.

Yes.  And food is such an act of service and love, whether you make it yourself for someone or you utilize a catering or delivery service.

Yes.

I know for friends of mine out of town, I will utilize a service.  A friend had twins, and I had food delivered for her and her husband after that first night.

Totally.  The same for me.  One of my girlfriends, after I had my daughter – she had a little boy – and she lives in a different state.  And so I’m like, oh, man, I wish I could help her in this way that others have been helping me.  But I just ended up sending her a Door Dash gift card, and I could just text it to her, and maybe it’s not as amazing, but if it made her life just a little bit easier, then it’s worth it.

Yes, absolutely.  So, Lizzie, outside of gift cards and meals, what are your other tips for supporting new parents?

I think inviting them on a walk can be a really nice way to both help them kind of get outside, get some fresh air, and also just sort of meet them where they are.  That was something helpful for me, at least, because it meant that they were coming to me, so I didn’t have to load the baby up in the car seat and sort of go somewhere.  It could be as simple as just walking down your street, or you could go for a longer cruise.  For me, when I would go with some of my friends who were already parents, it was an opportunity for me to pepper them with questions, basically, and say what about this?  What about this?  What about this?  And that was very helpful.  It was just like dedicated time together, but I felt like I wasn’t having to step away from my baby to get it, if that makes sense.

It does!  It’s hard to find a sitter.  You often don’t want to leave your baby as an early parent, and so it’s nice to have that community and also be able to get some vitamin D and do some light exercise.  It’s so important.

So that was a really helpful one for me.  Sometimes one of my friends would offer to run an errand with me, which was, again, so helpful.  If you’re just popping in to a couple little places – for me, there’s a bakery nearby that I love to go to – and it’s like, cool, if she can just hop in the car with me – again, so I don’t have to be unloading the car seat and putting it back in, because that is heavy.  Much heavier than I anticipated.

And you’re not supposed to be lifting after delivery, so it’s like you want to avoid some of that, and to have a friend in the car to help is huge, or a doula!

Exactly.  Those little things – that’s for your super close kind of besties that you’re like, get in the car.  We’re running errands, you know?  But that can be anyone.  And I also actually found that specifically for my friends who didn’t have kids yet, one thing that was really nice is that they could come over after my daughter was asleep, and that was such a gift because my sister, for example, who had an 18-month-old when my daughter was born – we really couldn’t see each other in the evenings because we were both kind of doing nighttime routines, whereas my brother and his girlfriend, now his wife, they could pop over and come over at 8:00.  They could bring some snacks or we could play a game and kind of feel back to normal a little bit because they had the flexibility around time.  It was so nice having a blend of friends who didn’t have kids and friends who do have kids so that you can kind of balance out your world a little bit.

Yeah, it is helpful to have family at a similar stage.  I have a lot of siblings, and I was pregnant at the same time as two of my sisters-in-law, so going through all of those life stages at the same time was very helpful, and dealing with holidays and family meals and so on – it made it so much easier to have family with babies a similar age.

Definitely.  A couple other things that came to my mind: one is so simple, but I really noticed it when I went back to work.  When people asked about my daughter by her name, it just – I don’t know, it kind of shifted something in my heart, I guess, where I’d be like, oh, this person really cares about me.  They’re really listening and they’re really paying attention and they’re not just asking about like, oh, how’s the baby?  They’re saying, how’s Betty?  It was like, I’m listening.  I care about you.  And just hearing that when you’re on a work call or in a board room or whatever, it can just soften your whole approach in a way that I felt was really meaningful to me.  That’s just a simple one that I think that anybody could kind of take note of, I guess.

So what are your other tips?  I know you have many!

I know, I’ve got so many different ways of thinking about things.  I think a couple things that I just didn’t think about how nice they would be – I did not expect how much clothes you would go through at the early stages.  Every time my aunt would come over, she would kind of casually leave behind a little PJ set or whatever, and I’m like, why does she keep leaving these pjs?  All of a sudden I’m like, oh, it’s because we’re going through a bazillion onesies.  Oh, because these are very helpful to have more of.  I would say even just leaving something little if you are stopping by was so sweet.  The board books – again, I kind of thought, okay, these are going to be just for the little babies, but my daughter is two, and she still loves looking through board books.  They last a while, and so anytime you can kind of think about something that’s related to maybe you and your friend or your family member that would make that board book a little special for the baby and for the parent.  For example, I worked in technology, so we would send out to all of our employees that had babies a little book about little baby technologists and first words in tech.  It’s something related to that, where even now that I don’t work there even now, but when I read that book to my daughter, I still have fond memories of my colleagues who sent that to me.  So put in a tiny little extra mental energy and try to think about something that relates to you or your relationship to your friend, family member, or coworker, whoever it is that added that little baby to their lives.

That’s so thoughtful.  And it is great when employers are able to put together care packages that sort of tie into the work that you do but also value you as a parent and want to support you in that journey.

Absolutely.  Yeah, it is so nice.  One of my other coworkers, she actually went online and found my baby registry.  I didn’t send it to her.  She just searched and found it, and then when my daughter was born, she shipped some items that hadn’t been purchased, and they showed up at my house.  It was so sweet, so thoughtful.  It didn’t take that much effort from her; it just took a little bit of intentionality.  And it really was just such a sweet surprise from her.  So that was another good one.  And then care packages that also focus on the parents or the other kids in the home, if there are other kids in the home, can be so sweet, just reminding them that they are human.  Any little treats for them can be really nice.  Like some cozy new slippers or a blanket.  My sister-in-law got me a little basket, and it had some lotions and lip gloss and things like that, not things I had ever bought myself recently, so it was just a little treat, you know?

That is so thoughtful, and I agree because sometimes after delivery, it becomes all about the baby, or if there are multiple, babies.  And the mother and the other parent often feel neglected.  It’s like, well, I went through this, and what about me?  So the fact that friends or employers are also focusing on the parent as well as gifts for baby.

Exactly.  And in that vein, another thing that can be so nice for the parents is taking a few pictures.  If you are over and visiting and you’re holding the baby, to just snap a few pictures of them.  I mentioned this in my article, but it’s like in the moment they might text you those photos and you might be like, what?  Why did you take that picture?  Because you’re exhausted and you have bags under your eyes and you’re wearing pajamas that you’ve been wearing for three days.  I get it.  But long term, that was you in the moment, and that is the special time that I think you can look back on later and be really grateful for those little kind of candid moments that some of your friends snap.  Again, that’s such a simple little thing, but it can be so sweet.

It’s all about the thought, just showing that you care.  That seems to be your major theme.

I think that is it, and trying to anticipate things that the parents might not be able to anticipate themselves right now.  Another big thing, which again, the doula support also helped me out with this, is helping around the house with little things.  Like when my postpartum doula would come over and I would be breastfeeding, that was a thing that I kind of had to do on my own.  So while I was doing that, she would say, hey, what can I do around here?  And of course, for so many of us, the answer is, oh, nothing.  Nothing.  It’s fine.  I’m fine.

It can be hard to ask for help, but that’s what we’re there for.

One of the suggestions that she gave me was, why don’t you write down a couple things before I come, and that way, you’ve already thought about it, and it’s written down, and then I can just come over and start doing those things.  So I had gotten a hand-me-down stroller, and it had lived in somebody’s garage for a while, so it had some cobwebs and things like that.  So that was on my little list of things that I was going to try to tackle over the next week or so.  And she was like, I’ve got this.  I can do it.  And so she just helped me out and started dusting it off, and by the time I was done breastfeeding – even that little amount of effort that she put made the stroller a thousand times better looking and ready to go.  She could help me tackle these little tasks that there’s just so many of.  There’s so many little tasks when you’re operating minute by minute.  So being able to ask your friends or family or people that you are letting into your home – let them do a couple things for you.  Let them load the dishwasher.  Let them throw something in the washing machine or fold something that’s in the dryer.  Let them do it.  I guess that would be a note for the parents themselves, but as the caregivers and the people that are showing love and support, just be ready to kind of jump up and start doing and let them kind of guide you on what they’re comfortable with.

Yeah, and depending on the parents’ personality, a list might be easier.  There are some of those printable checklists that you can put on your fridge if family or friends come in after a new baby.  You can list things like unloading the dishwasher, some simple things that can make a big difference.  Straightening up the living room, picking up toys if there are other small kids at home.

Yeah.  Something that I had never known about was sterilizing a lot of stuff.  You have to sterilize your bottles and all this stuff.  And it’s like, okay, the last thing you really want to do when you have a teeny tiny baby is boil water and sterilize stuff in boiling water.  So that was another thing.  If my mom was over or if my doula was there, I’d be like, do you mind?  And they never minded because it was a pretty simple task for them to do, but when you’re holding a little baby, it’s not as simple.  It’s just trickier.

It is tricky, yes.  And those dropped pacifiers.  All the pump parts.  Constant sterilizing.

I’m having PTSD flashbacks about pumping right now.

I know you mentioned the baby registry earlier and your colleague finding it, but you put a lot of intention into your registry and also when you were in the Becoming course, you had asked a lot of questions and really focused on sustainable and reused items for your personal registry and not wanting to be wasteful.  So we had you add a section about creating the registry to our Supported book because it was so thoughtful and helpful.  If you would like to elaborate just a bit on that, I would love for our listeners to hear some of your tips.

Yeah, I mean, my friends and family were putting together a shower, and they’re like, what’s on your registry?  And I’m like, wait, shouldn’t you guys be telling me what’s on my registry?  You all have done this, and I don’t know what I’m doing yet!  I did find myself doing a lot of research, and of course, reaching out to some of my good friends who have had babies.  I reached out to you and Alyssa, who were so thoughtful to give me some additional tips.  I remember Alyssa being like, I don’t think you need nine swaddles, Lizzie.  And I’m like, okay.  Okay.  I don’t know.  I’m just basing this off the internet.  I had a lot of good feedback.  But really for me, as you mentioned, I wanted to keep sustainability in mind and the amount of stuff that we were bringing into our house.  I think my big thing with creating a registry was to give yourself time at the front end to think about your values, which I think is an important thing to do when you’re making a lot of different decisions, but your registry is an opportunity to say, okay, how much stuff do I need, and if I’m going to be getting this, then what value lens am I looking at this through?  Do I want to be getting everything on Amazon?  Some people, that’s easy.  It’s convenient.  They have great return policies.  That may be in line with what their priorities are.  For me, I wanted to be trying to get more from local businesses where I could because that’s something that’s important to me, or finding used second-hand or even actual sustainably built products.  There’s different layers to that, of course, of where you get it, how you get it, and then what is it made of.

Right.  So a blend of supporting local and having eco-friendly items, whether it’s a toy or any products.  I know you were trying to avoid plastics and the waste that even comes with packaging sometimes.

Exactly.  I think giving yourself time to think through those things is helpful.  The other one that I didn’t really know a whole lot about at the time was the actual mechanics of some of the toys and things like that.  Some of my friends had said, oh, you’re going to love this baby jumper that kind of hooks up to your doorframe, and then as I learned a bit more about the Montessori approach, I was then less interested in kind of container-based toys.  Even learning about actual child development, it’s like, okay, well, I don’t think we do need that.  It’s fine that other people use that, but it’s just probably not going to be something that we need, you know?  But it was funny.  Even for my baby shower, for example, I had said, hey, I’m going to put these things on the registry so that you know what I’m thinking, but if you have this and you want to regift it or pass it along, that’s great.  We don’t need new items.  These are just some of the things that we’re looking for in general.  And we also said no packaging.  And some people – you know, you’ve got that great aunt who can’t comprehend that you wouldn’t want something wrapped with an amazing, beautiful bow, but amazingly, my friends and family all followed the directions.  Even simple things like that, like okay, I don’t need a thousand different gift bags, and I don’t need to waste even just trash in the packaging elements of the festivities around having a baby.

Right.  And then you just have to deal with all that waste when the shower is over and so much more cleanup.  It makes perfect sense. 

So what other tips do you have for new parents to really plan to get the support that they need and build their registry and communicate their needs to friends and family?

I think, again, start with sort of giving yourself space to think about, what does this look like for me.  One of my good friends said how you begin is how you go.  And that might be a real quote by somebody famous, but I don’t know.  That’s just what she said to me, and I thought it was an interesting thing to think about.  As I was setting up spaces for Betty and thinking about what we needed, it was like, okay, what kind of parent do I want to be, and what kind of kid do I want her to be?  I wanted her to be a kid that could make a rocket ship out of blocks.  And I wanted her to be a kid that helped whip up some muffins in the kitchen with me.  I don’t know, I just wanted her to be hands-on, creative, problem solving, comfortable outdoors.  So I think just giving yourself space to think about, like, who do you see this kid becoming, and then how do you set up your systems and support to allow for that?

This may sound like a random example, but I wanted Betty to know that I had friends.  Right?  I wanted her to know that she was a critical part of my life, but so are my friends and so are these other pieces of me.  So even when it was really hard at times for me to leave her, I would try to say the things out loud that were showing that value.  Even in those early months when I would go to meet up with a couple of girlfriends or something like that, I would say, like, hey, it’s hard.  It’s really hard for me to leave you right now, too, because I love spending time with you, and I love you so much.  But it’s also really important for Mom to go see her friends because they’re really important to me, too.  And so just really being thoughtful of the behavior that you’re modeling for them is, to me, kind of the crux of it all, and allowing your child to be your community and to see people show up for you.  They’re not going to remember that from being three days old or nine days old or thirteen days old, but it’s part of you then, and you then show up for others in the way that people showed up for you.  It’s just all about living with intention, I suppose.

It is, 100%.  So you have shared your wisdom in blogs and social posts.  Of course, in the Supported book.  And I didn’t know until today, but you also created this lovely community for new moms.  So how can our listeners connect with you, other than reading about your registry tips and your own personal experience with pumping in the book? 

You know, it’s funny.  I never anticipated that I would be maybe so communicative about parenting when it seems like in some ways to be such a common thing, but when you’re in it, it just overtakes your life.  For me, it’s been in a very positive way.  So I have really enjoyed kind of thinking about it and writing about it and reflecting on it.  So I do that sometimes online, but I don’t have a specific place for people to follow me.  I’m on social media, of course, on Instagram or LinkedIn, so people are welcome to connect with me on there.  But yeah, it just opened my heart up in a way that kind of surprised me, and so I wanted to acknowledge it and share it in ways that could be helpful for others, I suppose.

Well, thank you so much, Lizzie!  I appreciate your time and all of the intention and support you offer new parents, but especially new mothers.

Yeah, and thank you, Kristin.  Obviously, I had never even heard of doula support before knowing you and Alyssa, so it was such a gift for me to go through that Becoming course, which was hugely important for me, and then also all the support that you’ve shown following that.  So I do really want to say thank you to you and to the whole Gold Coast team for the way that you honor mothers and fathers and really allow us to flourish.  It’s been very helpful for me.  I appreciate you inviting me onto this podcast to chat about my experiences.

It was fun!  Thank you so much, and I appreciate all the kind words!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Lizzie’s article about supporting new parents

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Buy our book, Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby

Tips for Supporting New Parents with Lizzie Williams: Podcast Episode #239 Read More »

How to Prepare for Birth and Postpartum with Kristin Revere

Kristin Revere spoke about the new book Supported as a guest on the kozekoze podcast with Garrett Kusmierz.  Here’s their conversation.

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Welcome back to the kozekoze podcast, and happy Mother’s Day!  Wow, what a day.  This is my fourth Mother’s Day, which sounds really crazy.  I cannot believe I have a three-year-old, and now that he’s three, he’s in his fourth year of life, and it’s surreal, really.  Motherhood changed everything for me.  It not only helped me conceptualize the idea for my company, kozekoze, but it’s changed how I work.  It’s changed my day to day life.  It’s changed my perspective.  It’s changed the way I work with my nervous system.  It’s made me work on healing my own wounds.  It is everything, and so with all that motherhood can hold and the grief that is also present if we’ve lost a mom or are not in a good relationship with a parent – wow.  Motherhood and the mother – I mean, there’s just so much there.  It’s a sacred relationship.

I’m honored today to have Kristin Revere as our guest.  She is the owner and founder of Gold Coast Doulas.  They are based in Grand Rapids, and they are a force.  They were voted best doula service.  They’re a very big agency.  Kristin is a change maker.  That’s the best way to put it.  She understands the journey that you go through when you are growing a baby, birthing a baby, and then finding yourself thereafter.  So she created Gold Coast Doulas to fully support the new mom, whether that is through newborn care, birth doulas, sleep consultations, lactation and breastfeeding support, bedrest support, baby registry consultations, so on and so forth.  One of her most popular classes is her Becoming A Mother course online, but they also teach HypnoBirthing classes and they also – this is cool; she talks about this in her interview – they have a grandparents class, which I think is also super cool because so much changes over the years.  So I’m excited to get into that today with you guys, but it’s also really important that you guys know that she has a book that is out.  This book is out today.  It’s called Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby, and she co-authored it with Alyssa Veneklase, and they are both certified doulas and also newborn care specialists.  I just absolutely love how all encompassing this book is.  She’s going to share a little bit more about this today. 

I am hot and cold with reading, and I think it really just speaks to my enneagram 7.  I’m one of those people that’s either reading five books at once or doesn’t read for five months or, you know, two years.  But I know that so many of my friends are never not with a book, if that makes sense.  So if you are one of those people who likes reading over online courses or online virtual workshops or in-person things, this book is for you.  And it’s everything you would learn during the Becoming A Mother course.  So very, very excited for you guys to hear from Kristin today.

Before we get into it, I’m going to share a little update with you guys on my fertility journey because that is obviously one of the narratives we have on this podcast and one that we have had in the background of all of these amazing interviews over the past two years and a couple months.

So I’m actually recording this a little bit less than a week before it goes live.  I’m actually meeting with my IVF doctor today.  I have a few bones to pick with her.  The issue or interesting fact, I would say, with secondary infertility is that I have this beautiful, strong belief set in my subconscious, like in my core, this knowing that I can conceive.  I can get pregnant.  I have been pregnant, and I’ve had healthy pregnancies.  And I’m so grateful for that core belief because I cannot imagine if this was my first fertility journey.  I probably would have already gone through IVF given that I am so – what’s the word?  So excited and so ready to have this baby.  But the reason I’ve held out on IVF is because I do have that core belief that I can do it naturally because I have done it naturally before and I conceived my son, our son Declan, the first try.

And so I’m meeting with her today because I’m pretty shocked that over the last year of going to IVF consultations, she never really inquired or asked about my autoimmune conditions of celiac and Hashimoto’s and also my asthma.  Not that that’s autoimmune, but I do have that as an issue.  And it was actually my pulmonologist a week ago who was like, hey, why are they not asking you about your asthma?  I would get a second opinion, with how expensive IVF is.  So I’m going to meet with my original doctor once more before we look into getting a second opinion because quite honestly I am exhausted on this journey.  It’s been such a beautiful ride of learning and recalibrating, and at one point, I’m sure I said it on this podcast.  I was like, wow, we must be birthing a princess into this next life and she wants everything to be perfect because we had our house inspected for mold three times because mold can onset Hashimoto’s.  We have had our water checked a few times.  We have both had our health inspected, up and down, left and right, all across the board.  We’ve changed our eating habits.  We’ve just done so much, and we’re so ready to be pregnant.  But we’ll see what she says about any other fertility drugs before just going through a full IVF cycle.  So I’ll keep you posted on that. 

And then one other interesting aside that I mentioned in another episode is that I had an orthopedic doctor share that they found a cyst on my ovary when they were doing a hip MRI, which was so random, and I was so worried, and I took to TikTok and I’m like, I can’t believe this.  And someone was like, you know, it could have just been your follicle about to ovulate.  And I thought to myself, you know, you’re probably right.  And sure enough, that’s what it was.  I had an ultrasound a couple days ago, and they were like, you have no cyst.  You’re fine.  It was probably just a follicle.  So that’s good news.  I’m very, very grateful to feel like I truly am in good health after this wild last year of doing all the hormone tests, the stool tests, the hair and mineral tests.  There’s so many things we can do with our holistic health, which is great, and I’m grateful to have had the privilege to go on this journey of looking at my health and my fertility.  But I’m ready for it to come to an end, and I do feel that I’m very close to pregnancy.  So that is my Mother’s Day wish.  I am sharing it, as that is what we do with manifestation and speaking our wishes into reality.  But on the kozekoze front, I am actually in New York this weekend as you guys are listening to this.  We were a part of the gift bag for the Mysha event, the Mother Yourself event, in New York.  I will have a full update about the event after I go to it, so the following week.  I’m very excited.  Mysha is an incredible group.  They are all about community, and you basically pay to be in a pod with people that have the same due date as you.  And while Mysha does not have a pod in New Hampshire, they will probably have one soon in Boston, but they’re in New York, LA, and Miami.  Maybe one more city, but that’s all I can think of right now, or at least all that I’ve heard.  I actually met two or three – basically, three moms that are now my closest friends in New Hampshire that all have babies with almost the exact same due date as me, which is pretty cool.  So I totally get how and why that community is so powerful because I just happened upon it accidentally and serendipitously in my life, and I’m so grateful for that.  So we’re excited that Nip Gloss got to go inside the Mysha gift bags for the Mother Yourself event, and I am really excited to attend the event.  So I’ll come back with details soon.

In the meantime, you guys get to hear from the amazing Kristin Revere.  She has quite the interesting career journey, and I’m so excited for her new book, Support: Your Guide to Birth and Baby coming out.  I want to gift any listeners – new listeners, old listeners – a coupon code, THANKYOU20, to buy your breastfeeding tool, Nip Gloss, which is our nipple and lip balm that’s organic, nontoxic, sustainably packaged, and really, really thoughtfully curated to heal your nipples and lips with a mess-free application.  The code is there for you to get 20% off.  You can also pre-order a pee cup.  If you are like me, you are on a fertility journey, and you are testing your ovulation strips.  You are testing your pee strips and potentially Dutch hormone tests like I have been.  I swear I’m collecting pee almost every day of the month.  So that pee cup has been really, really handy.  Before we finally now get into this episode, I want to just read to you a little bit about Kristin Revere.

Fun fact that Kristin and I both share in common is that she studied journalism in central Michigan.  She has a master’s of management and marketing.  She also was selected as one of the 50 most influential women in West Michigan by the Grand Rapids Business Journal in 2016 and 2022.  She is an author, a speaker, an entrepreneur, and she started Gold Coast Doulas back in 2015 after having had a solo doula business.  She has been featured in Rapid Growth Media and First Time Parent magazine.  Gold Coast Doulas is also a certified B corporation.

I’m so excited for you guys to hear from Kristin today.  So without further ado, I introduce Kristin Revere.

Kristin, welcome to the show.

Hi, Garrett!  Thanks for having me on.  I’m so excited to chat with you today.

I am, too.  I had just shared with you that I was talking about cervical checks last night on TikTok, so this is very, very on the mind, to talk about all things birth today.  But before we get into it, I’ll ask you the question that I ask all of our guests, which is who are you before labels, titles, or what someone could Google about you?

Such a deep question!  I am a supporter of women.  It’s my jam.  That’s what I exist to do.  Before I became a doula and educator, I worked in politics, and I fundraised.  My passion was to get women to feel confident raising money and running for office because women often have to be asked to run and feel like they need this long bio of accomplishments, and of course, motherhood sets many women back from a career in politics.  I was actually working on a governor’s race when I was pregnant with my first child, my daughter, and was trying to navigate hiring my expert team while busy working in politics and commuting.  And I waited; I had my kids later in life.  I was pregnant at 36 and 38.

Wow, there’s so much to unpack just in that answer.  Before I go with where I want to go, I think it’s really cool to highlight that 36 and 38 birth because I’m 33 right now, and the conversations that some of my friends and I are having are – you know, I have some friends where the conversation is around, I had such a hard time with my first.  I don’t know if I could do two kids, but I’m running out of time, and I have to make a decision by 35.  Then there’s also friends who are single and 33, 34, 35, and they’re like, oh, it’s never going to happen for me.  So I guess I’m just curious off the top of my head, did you have easy, healthy pregnancies?

I did have a textbook pregnancy with my first up until I got preeclampsia at 37 weeks.  I worked with a nurse midwife group and delivered in the hospital, but through pregnancy, I had no issues up until I hit 37 weeks.  Then I was on modified bedrest.  I was going in and getting nonstress tests consistently.  Then I was induced at 39 weeks.  So my blood pressure had risen, and there were other concerns about preeclampsia.  So I had an induction, and I had done all of this planning to have an unmedicated birth, intervention-free.  I took Lamaze classes.  I didn’t know about doulas with my first.

Okay.  That was going to be my other question.

So I hired doulas with my second.  But yes, so I went through a lot of the anxiety of being on bedrest and knowing that things were going to potentially need to happen.  But I was very fortunate in that I’ve had very few interventions.  My body responded to the membrane sweep, and I only had a cervical ripener and didn’t need Pitocin, didn’t need an epidural.  It was, for a first baby, quick enough of an induction.  But my daughter was not responding well, so there was always that talk and concern of a surgical birth.  So that stress of trying different positions; if she doesn’t respond, then a Cesarean would have been needed.  But I was fortunate in that we tried different positions.  I had a nurse that helped me get a birthing ball up onto the bed.  My daughter was posterior, so she flipped and all of a sudden I was ready to push, and my nurse midwife told me, oh, yeah, I had already called in for a Cesarean.  I sort of defied the odds there.  But I found out that the cord was wrapped around my daughter’s arm, and that was some of the reason for her not responding well on the monitors.

Wow.  First of all, after I had a traumatic birth, I would walk around – and I still do, but for the first six months postpartum, every time I’d see a woman with kids, I’d look at her like, you did this too?  Like, it’s so magical and crazy, and it’s a miracle how many times that everything ends up being okay, with all the different things that can happen.  But one of the things that you said in your bio, you shared a story about being in politics.  I think to the average joe, and this would have been me pre-kids, when I think political fundraising, I think business; I think masculine.  And when I think doula – although I don’t even think I knew what a doula was until I was, like, 27 – I think, like, feminine, soft, flowy.  But now that I know doulas, I’m like, they embody both, right?  Because you have to be the backbone and communicate, be the structure behind the birthing person in so many ways, but they also know the sacred practice of birth.  So I see the embodiment in you of both, the masculine and the feminine, and probably how that’s really served you.  But what was the opening for you?  What was the introduction where you decided to change career paths and become a doula?

It was a slow transition, Garrett.  I had full time jobs the first three years of my agency.  And as I started out as a doula, I joined a collective.  I was teaching classes through them.  I went on my own, and then started an agency in 2015.  I always had a business partner up until recently.  My partner and I divided up tasks.  I was taking birth clients and teaching, as well as running the business.  I worked in a political communications firm that gave me a lot of flexibility for the first portion of owning the business and then transitioned to a nonprofit and did some fundraising for them at a women’s business center.  And then my business was making enough where I felt, instead of putting money into the business, I could pay myself.

Wow.  I think so many women – not just women, but people – get inspired, you have something that’s life-changing or insightful or inspirational, but there are those initial hurdles of, well, how is this going to change my life?  And it sounds like you had these steps along the way to support you financially and support your family and not have to go all or nothing right from the get-go.  But I can imagine that it’s also an identity change.  And there’s also the self-belief that – I mean, I will always have a doula with my future births.  I can’t wait to birth again.  And I don’t think I personally have it in me to be a doula myself.  So what was it that made you realize, like, I can do this, and I really want to do this?

Yes.  So after having doulas myself, I didn’t necessarily want to be a doula.  I really loved teaching these pregnancy and childbirth classes.  And I thought that would be a hobby for me, and I could help people have more understanding of their options in birth and the postnatal phase by being an educator.  And my students asked me to become their doula, so I decided to go and take a training in Florida, a four-day training, and I started teaching.  I should go back a step.  After my son was born, I signed up for a training in pregnancy, took my whole family for a four-day training, and then started teaching immediately after I was trained.  So I had this long relationship.  My classes were eight weeks, and so my students trusted me a couple hours a day for eight weeks, and so they really – you know, having worked with a doula, birth is so intimate.  They wanted someone they trusted.  So I took the training and thought I might take one of my students occasionally on.  And I wasn’t certain.  I don’t love hospitals.  I wasn’t certain that I would enjoy the work.  And I attended my first birth, and anything that I had fears of, whether it’s like blood or fluids or just being in the hospital, anything that could have happened, did, and I had no issues.  It was all about being in the moment and supporting women where they’re at and working within the system to make change rather than being – I want to say activist is the best word to say, that some doulas take that role on.  I wanted to work within the system and get to know administrators and make subtle changes that way and work as partners with the health care team.  And so in starting the agency, we started small.  We had six doulas and then my business partner at the time, who later moved out of state, was the first HypnoBirthing educator in Michigan.  She’s a former labor and delivery nurse.  So we had some of the understanding of the hospital system.  And we both brought our own clients into the business because they wanted to hire us again and we had a lot of repeats.  So it was a slow transition.  Now my agency has 26 contractors between educators, lactation, sleep consultants, birth doulas, day and overnight postpartum doulas.  So it’s much bigger now!  But yeah, I wasn’t certain that I would enjoy the work because as you said, politics is masculine.  Before I worked in politics, I sold advertising.  I worked in yellow pages, magazine, radio.  So I was used to working with men, being in male-dominated industries.  And I am a driver, a D personality, so it is not the typical doula, but it suits me well for running the business, and I did find that I needed the appreciation that I got for working in a unique field.  I loved the excitement of campaigns.  I worked on many campaigns, so that adrenaline rush.  But you also get that with birth, whether it’s your own or supporting a birth.  There are so many unknowns.  I found that I needed to get respect in the business community because I went from working with a lot of men and in the professional sectors to being a woman doing women’s work, and doulas weren’t really known.  They were thought of as being hippies who weren’t wearing suits.  So I started joining chambers and getting back into the business world and getting my agency in particular, but doulas on a broader scale, being known as part of the business community.  I am vice chair of my business association in the neighborhood that my office is located in.  It’s called East Town in Grand Rapids.  I’m co-chair of that.  And very involved in the chamber and Local First.  I’ve tried to get a different level of credibility in the doula space.

I think it’s really important because like you said, so many people either don’t know what a doula is or they think it’s some hippie thing.  And I had the same kind of association with it when my friend said, I’m going to go to a birthing center and I’m going to hire a doula.  I was like, oh, good for you.  And it wasn’t until I was pregnant, and this was in 2020 and 2021.  I was getting a lot of inbound messages for my podcast with – just because I was pregnant and posting about it on Instagram with birth educators and doulas and groups, and I’m listening to them, interviewing them, learning about their resources, and I’m like, wait a second.  I think I need one of these.  I think I need to educate myself.  We can get into this in a minute, but even though I had those resources and I had a doula with me, my birth still was a series of a lot of unfortunate events until luckily my son was healthy.  And I think there’s just so much work to be done in this space, and it sounds like you are doing it, to help people understand that this is just part, I think, how for thousands of years, women had support people at their births.  We kind of took some turns away from that.  And that kind of leads me to the question of – you know, I was lucky, I believe and I feel, that I was podcasting and having these people reach out to me because most of the focus of a first time mom is the nursery, the registry, the baby outfits, the maternity photos.  And it’s all so exciting for sure.  But it’s not necessarily, what are my rights at the hospital?  What can I say no to?  What do I want my birth plan to look like, and who can support me in that?  So when you were talking about how in your eight-week courses, these people were obviously connecting with you and wanting you to be their doula – were they first-time moms?  Or were they second-time moms who had maybe a less than amazing first experience, and how are you reaching those first time moms now in your practice?

Great question.  My classes were an equal mix of first and second time moms.  And I even had some third and fourths.  So either the birth didn’t go as planned, or they wanted connection.  The class wasn’t just a childbirth class.  There was a lot of discussions about relationships, how those will change, bringing partners into that class.  It was called Sacred Pregnancy, which I no longer teach, but I now teach a Comfort Measures for Labor class, so it’s very couple-involved.  It still involves communication of what their needs are, what their thoughts for their birth would be, how they plan to make choices for medical and nonmedical pain relief.  And then we have our comprehensive HypnoBirthing class.  So it’s a bit – I’ve definitely gone a bit more mainstream than the Sacred Pregnancy conversations because it was so intimate, talking about everything from body image to nutrition, bringing in different expert speakers during the time and fitness.  We brought in a prenatal belly dance instructor and talked about movement and getting your baby in a good position.  So it was quite lovely.  It was a unique connection, and I’m still friends with many of the students to this day.  And some of them contributed to my book that is coming out on Mother’s Day.

So talk to us about the book, because obviously, you have this remarkable journey and experience teaching these classes and being present at so many births and having so many doulas in your agency that are also a part of people’s births, which I really feel like is, again, such a sacred thing to be a part of ushering humans into the planet.  So what inspired you, on top of everything you’re doing, to write it?  What was the moment that was conceived?

So it all began with my former business partner, Alyssa, who is my co-author of Supported.  And she and I created an online birth and baby prep course called Becoming A Mother in the early stages of the pandemic.  That was when everything turned virtual, and all of our classes went from in person to virtual.  Our clients were feeling isolated because women couldn’t gather in person at that time.  So we decided it was time to create the course, and the course is broken up into two parts.  Alyssa happens to be a sleep consultant.  Both of us are newborn care specialists as well as postpartum doulas, and I’m a childbirth educator and birth doula.  So I taught the first half of the course, which still exists, on pregnancy and birth prep.  Alyssa facilitates the newborn care end of things, postnatal planning, and gets into feeding and sleep, and we have live monthly calls.

So we had all of this content, but not everyone can afford our course, or maybe they are very late in their pregnancy and they don’t have time to go through all six modules with the expert videos.  We have experts in the course: car seat safety technicians, mental health therapists, physical therapists, pelvic floor therapists, understanding all of the birth and baby options.  The book is the same way.  But again, more accessible and affordable.  And we will have an audiobook version.  There’s an eversion.  Then there’s the hardcover and paperback, so people can consume it however they like to read their books or listen to them, if they’re an audio book listener.

And it launches Mother’s Day?

Yes, it launches on Mother’s Day.  It’s so fitting; we’re birthing our book after a couple years of the process.  We recorded the book ourselves instead of hiring an expert.  It was a labor of love, for sure.  We just want people to know their options, because if you don’t understand everyone that you can bring onto your birth and baby team, then you don’t get a repeat of that birth or that maternity leave and postnatal recovery time.

And that impacts everything.  The mental health experience even with a one-year-old, right, because that first year is so hard.  I still joke that my son is the worst sleeper in America, and he is three.  He hasn’t slept through the night more than seven nights in a row since he was born.  And so we’re just always like, all right, it’s the eighth night.  Here we go.  But I digress.

With writing a book, it is such, like you said, a labor of love, and it’s a creative process, for sure, which is shifting into that state of consciousness – I don’t know, maybe you can, but I couldn’t just pencil into my calendar, now it’s time to write.  Sometimes it’s in the morning.  Sometimes it’s late at night when I actually feel that creative energy.  But it’s also this dance where you’re writing with someone else.  So was it Alyssa or was it you?  Were you both on the same page, or was one person more kind of leading the charge of writing and deciding to go for it?

I encouraged Alyssa, certainly, and I do have a journalism background.  She’s also an excellent writer, and my husband happens to be a publisher and editor, so he did the first edit of the book before we sent it to the publisher to edit.  For the process, we worked independently, gathered stories together from clients, so every chapter has a birth/baby/feeding/sleep story in it from clients that we’ve worked with.

And it’s called Supported?

It’s called Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby.  And then since doulas are not medical, we brought in medical experts to speak on topics that we weren’t qualified to.  I have a pediatrician that contributed to the newborn procedure chapter, and then a mental health therapist who specializes in perinatal mood disorders and contributed to that section.  Then I have a yoga instructor who is trained in so many fitness modalities.  She gets into fitness options and restrictions to use based on the different choices for exercise in pregnancy and the postnatal phase.

Wow.  You’ve just named so many things that it’s like, after having been through it, I see it.  I get it.  I can kind of see how all of the dots are connected when, again, most people aren’t looking at that.  Or maybe someone’s a little more focused on nutrition because of their own unique challenges.  But is there something that you think is most overlooked on the perinatal journey over the years that you’re seeing most people forgetting about?  Or if only they focused a little more on this, it would make the experience better?

I know that you mentioned earlier in our conversation about the fact that so much planning is done in setting up the perfect registry, setting the nursery up, having beautiful photos, planning for showers.  But it’s really planning for your birth, and in my opinion, the postnatal planning, maternity leave planning, figuring out childcare options, how do you want to parent together is even more important than planning for your birth.  And so we get into budgeting and even the concept for our course came out of a presentation we gave at a bridal expo because we wanted to reach families earlier when they’re just talking about starting a family and showing them what doulas are all about and understanding your options.  So we compare the process in the book and in the course to planning for other life events, like all of the experts you bring in when you build a home or when you plan your wedding.  What are your priorities?  If it’s a wedding, is it food?  Are you foodies?  Is that your number one focus and the core of your budget?  Or is it flowers or photography?  And then for birthing baby, is sleep your biggest focus, and do you want to hire an overnight postpartum doula or a newborn care specialist or as your infant gets older, hire a sleep consultant?  Or is your focus having that support in pregnancy?  I work with a lot of athletes as a birth doula, and they want to be able to run a marathon again.  So they’re going to see a pelvic floor physical therapist.  They’re going to do things to make sure that they can get back to performance once, of course, their provider approves them to exercise again.  So it definitely can vary from individual to individual.  Is this baby number five?  How will this new pregnancy impact the other kids?  There are just so many issues.  Grandparents are involved in childcare because we’re in a childcare crisis right now.  So we have a grandparents class at Gold Coast Doulas to prepare grandparents for – even if it’s only the occasional caregiving, because so much has changed.  With sleep, feeding, baby gear, car seats.  It can be uncomfortable for our clients and for parents to relay all of the changes and it puts you in this sticky conversation, so they will often gift their family members this grandparents class, and then we come in as experts and show them all the changes, tell them about babyproofing their home, all of the things.

I love that.  I was just thinking, my parents had me in their 20s, and I’m having kids in my 30s.  My husband is in his 40s, and his parents had him in their 20s.  So there’s a big gap, and even just putting my feet in their shoes, if 40 years from now or 30 years from now, my son is like, hey, I need you to watch this baby, I’d be like, what do I do?  Because I already forget the nap windows for a newborn or whatever.  I have a three-year-old.  I can’t imagine that pressure.  And unfortunately, my parents don’t live very close, and so they’re not as hands on, but I love that you’re having those conversations with people and reaching them earlier because it almost feels I don’t want to say that it feels like you’re trying to pull one over on young women, but it’s like you get the bridal shower and you get the wedding and you get the bachelorette and the baby shower and the maternity photos and it’s all this focus on you and you’re so beautiful.  Then all of a sudden, no one cares about you and you are bleeding out, leaking everywhere.  You feel like you got hit by numerous waves and you’re drowning, but you have to keep a baby alive, and not even knowing what those options are – again, I only felt like I had – so my support, just for listeners who are maybe thinking of options, and you’ve mentioned so many, but to give an example, because of the podcast – the company is no longer around, but I interviewed a founder of a company.  They sold, or something happened.  But they were kind of like a hub to schedule those things and try to get it to run through insurance.  So I had a lactation consultant teed up to come to my house the day after I got home from the hospital, and just knowing that someone was coming to my house was so nice.  And they had mentioned in the podcast that there’s such thing as a postpartum doula, and I had never heard of the term.  They were like, kind of like a babysitter on steroids.  They’re newborn experts.  They’re going to help you with things.  And so I actually was like, oh, I’m not going to need that.  And I didn’t hire one until I hit kind of a rock bottom, and I had an amazing postpartum doula come actually all the way at 11 weeks postpartum.  But she kind of helped pick up some pieces for me.

Those were my two things that we decided to invest in, and in hindsight, I wish I had had help with sleep because I had a four-day birth and I didn’t sleep for four days, and then I got sent home with a baby who had equally experienced trauma and wasn’t sleeping, so it was just a lot of sleep deprivation.  It sounds like your book is a big reminder to people that it doesn’t have to be miserable.  It doesn’t have to be this thing, and if we are so structured and scheduled and booked and busy in our culture, why aren’t we applying that structure and strategy to our births?

Exactly.  And the postnatal phase.  I mean, people are all about meal trains, but as you mentioned, during pregnancy, it’s all about the mother, and then all of a sudden it’s all about the baby.  So if you get visitors, they want to hold your baby.  They’re bringing gifts for the baby.  And then the mother feels left behind.  You had experienced some PTSD from your birth, had some trauma.  I’m sure your friends and family didn’t want to talk through that with you.  And so if you don’t have a postpartum doula like you did or your birth doula who comes for that follow up visit to process, then you’re left waiting for that six-week appointment with your provider when you only have ten minutes to talk because everything else is the exam.

Yeah.  It’s such a whirlwind, and that’s why I hesitated for a long time.  I mean, I shared my birth story pretty soon while it was still pretty raw with my husband on the podcast, and I don’t regret it.  It’s our most downloaded episode, and I think it was cool to record it close to.  There wasn’t a lot of processing.  It was more just like we captured what we could remember.  But I was scared to share a lot only because I’m not an expert, and I don’t want to fearmonger and I don’t want to share things that are so specific because everyone’s birth is different, and at the same time, the more I’m kind of opening up, the more I think it’s at least just getting people to talk about what they can access, whether it’s a book or it’s a full blown course.  It’s so important to share that message and I guess one of the things that I think a lot of my friends are kind of – it goes back to the idea that doulas are hippies and you have to have a home birth.  What percentage of your clients are hospital versus home birth, and how do you kind of talk through that decision with your clients or through your course?

So at Gold Coast, we mainly work in the hospital, and that’s honestly where I feel we’re needed most.  We do certainly support our clients wherever they choose to give birth, as long as they  have a midwife with them.  We don’t attend unassisted births, of course.  But we do have some clients who choose to birth at home, but it’s not in the budget for everyone to hire a doula and to pay out of pocket and hire a midwife.  So part of the reason that we work so few home births – I would say it’s maybe 15% of the work that we do is in the home.  And the rest is in the hospital.  We do have a birth center in my community that will be opening soon, but we haven’t had one in quite some time, so that isn’t an option.  Our hospital has some birthing rooms, one of our larger hospitals in my area, so that is an option for people who want an unmedicated birth, and certified nurse midwives do attend those.

I have a couple questions around the financial piece of this and the future.  Before I ask those questions, I have this desire to someday home birth, but more than that, I want to almost reclaim the hospital space after everything that went wrong in mine, and I joke that – you know, I did birth during COVID.  But when I went in, the first thing they did, besides COVID test me, was start to put a port for an IV in my arm, just the second I walked in.  And some people don’t like needles.  I’m pretty brave around that and it doesn’t bother me, but what was kind of ironic in telling about the way the journey went was the phlebotomist or nurse that came in couldn’t get a vein, and she was pushing around so bad that I had blood running down my arm.  So she’s like, let me try the other one.  She did the same thing, and then she left me with the blood without bandaging me, and said, hold on, I’ll be right back and I’ll get someone.  And my doula walked in while I was unbandaged with that, and she was like, what?  What is happening?  And so, I mean, obviously, we could start by maybe saying, oh, I don’t really necessarily want that.  Can we wait until we at least do the cervical ripeners to put anything in, you know?  But what are some of the more powerful births in hospitals stories that you’ve had?  Or what are some of your big – if people want fewer interventions, I guess is the best way to phrase this, what are your tips for that?  Aside from having a doula there or things that maybe your doula can say for you?

Or aside from having a home birth, which I love attending home births.  They’re beautiful, and water births are an option.  So for me when I teach Comfort Measures or I’m talking to my birth doula clients, I talk about just understanding your options.  Again, even if it’s your second baby, taking a comprehensive childbirth class like HypnoBirthing or Lamaze, something that’s out of hospital.  Because the hospital classes, unless they have a longer element, those weekend ones tend to focus more on understanding interventions, how to be a patient, doing the hospital tour included.  There’s not enough time to really understand everything your body is going through and to have that partner involvement the way you could with HypnoBirthing or gentle birth or a Lamaze class.  So doing that preparation.  If my clients want to breastfeed, taking a breastfeeding class before.  Or if they struggled with breastfeeding the first time, taking a class as a refresher.  And then understanding hiring an expert like a doula is a fantastic way because doulas understand all of your options in a hospital.  If it’s not medically necessary, you could delay or decline.  What tools you have in your hospital room, like peanut balls, birthing stools, birthing balls, getting in the tub as a way to relax or to distract from any discomfort in labor.  Walking the halls.  You know, all of those options.  Where the heat packs are and how to slow down potential interventions and ask questions.  So we do go over birth plans or birth preference sheets and the importance of making sure your provider is on the same page as you during pregnancy and then communicating what your needs are to your nurse if you don’t have a doula.  And doulas – you know, at least at Gold Coast, we support whatever our clients choose to do.  So if our client originally wanted an unmedicated birth and then all of a sudden wants to look at different pain management options, we will support that, but we can give them the risks and benefits and alternatives to any potential intervention that is not medically urgent at that moment.  If labor stalls, breaking the bag of water.  What might be done – you know, could we try some positions and wait an hour if baby is doing really well, or are they wanting to have baby sooner and fine with the fact that if they don’t have an epidural yet, that it might feel more intense with having the water broken?

Yeah, there’s so many choice points that, like you said, you can have the birth preference sheet and in the moment – you said that earlier.  It’s about being in the moment with them.  There’s go left or go right.  I’m sure it’s different everywhere, but the practice I ended up at – I started in Boston, moved to New Hampshire during my pregnancy.  You see every doctor, and I had nine weeks to try to meet 17 doctors.  There was one that I said I just don’t want him to deliver my baby, and of course, that’s who showed up.  But the last appointment I had, a woman saw that I had a doula on my team, and I had to, like, fight with the hospital and talk to, basically, the second highest up to get a doula allowed because they were saying nobody allowed.

During the pandemic, right.

They ended up letting me, but when she saw that on my sheet, she walked in, and without asking me my preferences or what I wanted – because you said, you know, what is your relationship with the provider – this woman walked in and she lectured me about how she was type A as well and that I should let go of my standards and that you never know what’s going to happen, that I don’t get to have a crunchy experience.  And I said, well, do you want to know what my choices are?  She just lectured me.

She just assumed because you had a doula.

She just assumed, exactly.  And the Cliff notes version is I ended up getting an epidural, and then it ended up being one of the 30% that don’t work.  So I felt everything.  Which is – you know, technically, I got what I wanted in that sense. 

But you can’t move without assistance with an epidural, so if you’re feeling everything, you can’t walk around or get on a birthing ball.

Right.  You’re stuck.  And what happened was eventually the fetal ejection reflex, which was really cool to experience at the last hour.  But going back to kind of the choice points, having someone there that’s not your partner, your husband, your wife, that can be that neutral but supportive and experienced person to help you with those decisions – it felt so nice, even though, again, I had a lot of things that were challenging.  I believe everything happens for a reason.  My husband didn’t get it at first, why we were hiring one, and he’ll say to this day, your birth was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  And the doula was there for him, too.  And it is a privilege, kind of bringing it back to the expenses, and my doula was the self-proclaimed cheapest doula in New Hampshire because she really believes in access and all of that.  But one of the questions I have is how do you see the future of birthing in America going?  Because I joke that the epidural I got that didn’t work was an $11,000 thing on the line item.  The price even after insurance was still very expensive.  But as you mentioned, paying out of pocket for a midwife and a doula and whatever else assistance you might need at your home is also a consideration.  So do you think that our country is waking up to creating better maternal healthcare realities?  What do you think about the future of birth?

Yes.  I mean, there’s so many directions I could go with that.  I do feel like there is more understanding of the benefits of doula support, even under the insurer aspect of things, because continuous support from a doula is shown to not only reduce interventions, which interventions up end costing more, but also increase satisfaction.  Nurses and hospitals are busy.  They’re in and out.  They’re responsible for the life of the mother and the baby.  Where doulas are responsible for the emotional support, the physical support, and giving evidence-based information.  So there’s just a different role.  But when I started as a doula, it was basically self-pay only.  And in recent years – let’s say the last four at least – health savings and flex spending have easily covered birth doulas, as well as postpartum doulas in some instances.  And now a lot of employer-based self-funded plans have doula coverage.  So Carrot Fertility is the biggest one I’ve seen that covers both birth and postpartum.  There’s also Progeny.  There’s some healthcare sharing programs – many of them are Christian-based – that cover a certain amount of a birth doula.  And then some companies are creating their own plans.  We worked with a construction firm in our area and helped them add doulas to their benefits.  So that’s been a passion project of not only my own but also Alyssa since we got into this work, making it more accessible.  And then, of course, Medicaid coverage for birth doulas has expanded.  It used to be a handful of states, and now Michigan has had Medicaid for about a year and a half now.  So that is an option for individuals.  And I see general insurance down the road covering birth doulas.

Wow.  I mean, I believe it.  I think, to your point, reducing interventions, which would lower the cost, and then hospital satisfaction – you know, satisfaction with nurses, better overall experiences – I think those are enough for me to think it’s a no-brainer.

Right.  And there are hospital-based doula programs, as well.  There are definitely more options than when I got into the field.

That’s good to know.  I like hearing that, as well.  One question I meant to ask you earlier, and then I want to circle back to your book before we close.  Our connection to each other is through this Hey Mama group online, and you mentioned that when you started in that group, you were, you said, a fertility and something –

Pregnancy connector.  So there are all these different connectors in Hey Mama.  There’s a podcast connector, PR, health and fitness, business.  So I was the expert in pregnancy and fertility.  I would initiate conversations.  I posted weekly.  I did spotlights on different individuals who are active in the community and then attended meetings with all of the different connectors monthly for the year that I took that role on.

Got it.  So the reason I ask is because you said the word fertility, and we haven’t spoken about that.  I just was curious if your work with your families or your patients circles you back to fertility, only because I’m on a secondary infertility journey.  I’ve been trying now for 26 months.  I didn’t start trying until I was done breastfeeding.  And I’m kind of falling into that unexplained.  And I’m curious if you’ve seen that with any of your clients and if it is connected to how their first birth went or anything like that.

Absolutely.  There are fertility doulas.  I’m not one, but during the pandemic, I helped facilitate a fertility support group for women across the US with a mental health therapist under a nonprofit group called Mothership.  And so I got to hear women’s stories.  And then I had clients that I either personally worked with or that were in our agency that had struggles with secondary infertility, wanting to plan their family and have kids close together, and then it wasn’t as easy.  Maybe it was breastfeeding related or getting back on birth control for a while and then wanting to expand the family.  So I often give referrals both locally and across the US for different practitioners, whether it’s a functional medicine doctor or a doctor of naturopathy, in addition to seeing your physician or suggesting going to a fertility clinic.  Looking at gut health, sleep; stress can be a big factor.  All of the different options you have, whether it’s going through a fertility clinic and that process or looking at surrogacy or adoption or however our clients want to expand their families.  So the book does touch on support for fertility and surrogacy and different groups both in person and certainly especially virtual support groups that can be accessed.  Many of them are free or different fertility specialists.

Amazing.  I mean, it makes sense, of course.  You’re so in the space, and it’s all always connected, and it just sounds like you’re very entrenched, in the best way, in all things birth and the cycle of life.  And I think it’s amazing to meet you and really learn more about your work because it’s so needed in our world.  I mean, not only are we in a fertility crisis in our country, but we don’t have the best maternal health care right now.  Your work is just so imperative for our nation.  Really, really, really excited for you to launch this book.  I know you’ve already said the title once, but if you could say the title, where it’s launching.  I know some authors have separate websites for it, or they’re launching straight to Amazon.  Talk to us about where people can find it on Mother’s Day and anywhere else that you personally want to be found.

So my book is Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby.   This is an advance copy, and it’s basically going to be on Amazon.  There will be an ebook option and then a hardcover and a paperback.  The launch is Mother’s Day for those three options.  By mid-June, we’ll be on Audible and other audio versions.  And because I decided to not do pre-sales, it’s been challenging to get my book into book and baby stores, but I have a big goal of getting into maternity and baby stores across the country.  So we’re working on some of that in Michigan right now.  I do have a website for the book.  It’s www.supportedbook.com.  And then my website for the doula agency is www.goldcoastdoulas.com.  The book can also be found on that page, as well as the Becoming A Mother course.  The website for the course is www.thebecomingcourse.com.

Okay.  Amazing.  I am so excited for this launch and your book, and congratulations on birthing again. 

Yes!  Thank you, Garrett.  I really appreciate the support, and I’m excited to get it out into the world, and I hope that it’s the shower gift that everyone brings their friends or family members to help them to better birth.  And also the postnatal preparation, especially.  Understanding all of those options and who they might want to bring on their team is, to me, so important.

Absolutely.  Well, thank you so much for coming on and sharing all of this with us.  Hopefully, everyone can just scroll down in their show notes and go find your book.

Thank you!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Kozekoze

Get the book Supported!

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

 

How to Prepare for Birth and Postpartum with Kristin Revere Read More »

The benefits of doula support with Anne Wallen: Podcast Episode #238

 Kristin Revere and Anne Wallen discuss how doulas can impact the birth and postnatal experience.  Anne also describes her doula training and education programs at MaternityWise International.   

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Anne Wallen today.  Anne is the director of MaternityWise International, and our conversation today is going to be all about doulas, since she trains so many doulas and also works as a doula herself.  Welcome, Anne!

Hi!  Thank you so much for having me!  I love it that we can talk birth and that I can be on your podcast.  What an honor!  Thank you so much.

And I am honored to have you on the show!  I’d like to get into a bit about your bio.  You’re a respected figure in women’s health with over 30 years of experience and a leading voice on global change in maternity care, particularly for those at greatest risk.  You’ve continued to educate and empower birth professionals in more than 20 countries, contribute to a variety of curriculums, and shape the future of maternal health through your impactful role as a speaker and mentor. 

So, yes, thank you for all of the years!  It’s amazing that you’re still working as a doula to really be able to meet the changing needs of doulas that you train.

Yeah, it’s so crazy.  Sometimes you get into this work and you realize, oh, I’ve definitely been called into this.  It’s what I’m meant to be doing.  It’s what I’m supposed to be doing, what I’m here for.  And I definitely feel that way.  Even though I’ve had a few other jobs along the way, they really even just added to my skill set as a doula and as a teacher.  But I feel really passionate about the fact that we, just as women, oftentimes we really crave that community, that support from one another.  And especially in American culture, you know, we’re really oftentimes far away from each other.  We’re far away from our family.  And when I say really far away, I don’t just mean maybe somebody in a different state, but we’re not living in this communal format anymore.  We don’t have the village where you can walk to your friend’s house, your mother-in-law’s house, your sister’s house, whatever.  Most of the time, we’re pretty far apart.  So just supporting one another looks different, and thank goodness for Facetime and phones and texts and everything, but it’s still not quite the same as being there in person and being able to give someone a hug and put your arm around them or cook them a meal or whatever it is that they need in that moment.  But supporting families – it’s so multifaceted.  It can be so complicated.  But it’s also really, really natural.  Like, we crave to do it for one another, and we definitely recognize when we’re in a vulnerable position like early motherhood, like pregnancy, and those early parenting days.  We definitely feel it.  We definitely feel the need for support and for help and all those beautiful things that a doula brings.  Not the judgment, not the unsolicited advice, but the actual support and that loving, nurturing – I even like to say we’re modeling.  We’re a role model to other family members of how to treat the family that’s growing or the mother or the baby, even.  How to interact with them, because we don’t always see healthy examples.

Exactly.  We don’t have the emotional ties that a partner or a parent does to our client.  We have a professional relationship, and yes, we get to know them and care for them, but we don’t have a vested interest, where I know with my family, they had their own personal experiences with, say, breastfeeding, and I don’t want to say agenda, but just how they felt things should go for me.  And when I wanted to make different decisions in parenting or the type of birth that I wanted, it was met with a bit of resistance.  Not all doulas are the same, but you mentioned judgment free, so just not going in with an agenda of, oh, my client needs to have an unmedicated birth or needs to do attachment parenting.  Whatever it might be; or feeding a particular way.

Yeah, and some of these can end up being such hot topics.  And also, science changes, and things that we used to do sometimes are not helpful or even might end up being detrimental now.  So even though grannies might have really great intentions, they can still give advice that can be harmful, not knowing that we now know better, so we should do better.  You’ll probably hear occasionally someone say, well, I was formula-fed and I turned out okay, or I’m a Cesarean baby, and I turned out okay.  And that’s not really helpful.  It’s very invalidating when you have a mom who’s wanting to do something different; when they’re wanting to breastfeed or they’re wanting to give birth naturally or even at home.  There’s a lot of not just judgment but so many opinions kind of flying around and almost hurt feelings when you don’t choose what they think you should choose.  So it can be really tricky to navigate.

Yes, and as you mentioned, things change.  With technology and all of the gadgets for feeding and sleep and really keeping up to date on recalls – it’s like a full time job for our postpartum doula team to know the safest options for our clients.  So grandparents are often caregivers now because we’re in a childcare crisis, and feeding is so different.  Safe sleep and again, products they might have used are not in use anymore.  And certainly car seat safety is a whole different thing.  I know when my parents had issues with navigating the modern car seats and understanding all of the changes in modern parenting compared to how they parented me.

Right.  And speaking of safety, a lot of times, we’re really motivated – our culture is very motivated by fear, and so we have this – just like a high priority on or a high value on safety, so if a person thinks, oh, well, this is the safest option, they’re going to go with that, versus when it comes to birth, there’s a lot of unknown.  There’s so much mystery still around it, even though we can kind of physiologically explain what happens, right, but each individual birth goes its own way and the hormone and chemical makeup of a person’s birth experience can be super unique to them.  So there’s a lot of unknowns.  There’s not a lot of ways to kind of predict or create a safety plan around how birth is going to go.  You just have to – I always say it’s 10% plan, 90% crap shoot, right?  So you’re just going to have to flow with it and trust that your body knows what it’s doing and trust that your body and your baby can accomplish a safe birth.  And a lot of times, fear and that mystery piece kind of get in the way of people being able to – and it might be grandmas; it could be partners; it could be friends, sisters, whoever’s kind of in the ear of the birthing person – installing this or instilling this idea that there’s danger around every corner and you’ve got to be overly conservative about really everything.  This is how we’re now in kind of this induction crisis in the United States.  We try to – we think, anyway – that managing – they call it active management – that managing the process is the only way to safely navigate the process.  Unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite.  Managing the process creates an unnatural scenario that ends up requiring more interventions because you’re creating complications that didn’t have to exist and then you’re managing those complications with more interventions, and you get into that snowball, which maybe if you just left it all alone in the beginning and let it happen, you wouldn’t have encountered all of these – I call them detours you have to take.  It’s like we know where we’re trying to get to, but sometimes medical intervention turns into a detour where now we’re going to have to deal with this little side road.  We’re going to get there eventually, but it might take us longer and it might be a little more of a bumpy ride.  And that’s the beauty of having a doula by your side is that if your doula is well trained, she’s going to know how to navigate those detours, and she’s going to know also how to help you avoid them altogether.  And that comes with preparation ahead of what I call “the big day,” the day that you’re in labor where it’s going to end with a baby in your arms.  We call that the big day, but there might be a lot of starts in the beginning.  Little bits of labor here and there before you actually get to the big day, but a doula who can help you prepare, get educated, know your options ahead of time – you’re going to feel less under pressure to make decisions on the big day.  You can feel a little bit more confident in your ability, also, when you have more preparation and you understand what’s going to happen to you and you understand what to expect at your chosen birth location.  Basically, there’s less surprises, even though birth is full of surprises.  There’s just less of them, or there’s a little more predictability to what’s about to happen and you can anticipate how to navigate, how things are changing and developing within the birth process and with less fear.  The more you know, the less you have to fear it, and I feel like fear is just such a big motivator to go ahead and do certain things that aren’t necessarily the right timing or even necessary at all.  But in our society, anyway, we’re so afraid.  We’re just really afraid of our own bodies, and that makes me sad.

And as you mentioned with preparation, a doula can certainly give resources, so evidence-based articles and information, to have conversations with your provider during pregnancy, create some of your preferences together at that prenatal visit, and certainly know options for comprehensive childbirth classes, whether they’re in or outside of the hospital, ranging from HypnoBirthing to Bradley gentle birth and Lamaze.  There are so many options to really understand, as you said, your body, what options, which choices you have for pain relief and interventions that may come up so it’s not all unknown the day you go into labor, so you understand different things that, in a nonemergent situation, you’re able to ask for.

Right, and we use the acronym BRAINS.  You’ve probably heard of that.  B stands for benefits.  What benefit does a particular intervention have for me?  What risks might be involved?  A stands for alternatives.  So are there any alternatives?  Is there any other way that we can kind of get to where we want to go without having to use that as a different option?  I is for intuition.  What is your gut telling you?  Do you have some red flags?  Do you not feel at peace?  Because if you don’t feel at peace, don’t go for it.  Wait until you’ve got enough information, you’ve got that peace before you go for it.  This is given that you would have enough time to make these kind of decisions and have these kinds of discussions.  In a situation that’s emergent, obviously, you’re not going to necessarily sift through all of the BRAINS scenario.  But then there’s also N.  What if you do nothing, or if you say not now?  I always tell my clients, don’t create a yes/no, black and white, all or nothing kind of scenario for yourself.  Just say not now because maybe in an hour or two, you’re going to change your mind and you’ll want to do this or that.  Or maybe in five hours, it’s going to be necessary to do this thing, whatever it is.  So just be open to it, and just say “not now.”  I’m not feeling like I should do that right now.

And then we always add S to the end, S being, give us some space.  Space to think about it; space to talk about it; space and time so that, again, there’s not a decision being made under pressure, right?  Because that feels like bullying, and we don’t want – there’s no place in this experience for bullying.  There shouldn’t be pressure or anyone feeling like they’re kind of coerced into making a decision.  Yeah, if there’s time to have this discussion and there’s not an emergency going on, then yeah, there’s no reason why we can’t have a little space to kind of think through this, in between contractions, because that’s another thing.  It’s like, okay, you kind of feel like I’m under the gun because there’s a contraction coming.  I’ve got to give a yes or no right now.  Well, actually, no, you don’t.  You can think it through after this contraction, and maybe after the next five contractions.  You can continue this conversation before you make a decision.  Asking for space.  These are things I teach my client families so that they understand in the moment, they don’t have to feel like – well, for example, if I haven’t prepared my client well enough ahead of time and I haven’t really gone over BRAINS with them for each specific scenario – let’s say it’s breaking their water or whatever.  If my client turns to me in labor and says, “What do I do, Anne?”  Then I feel like, wow, I did not prepare them enough.  Because they shouldn’t have to ask me what to do.

Unless they’re in the thick of it and they can’t recall anything you talked about and it’s all, like, out the window.

Sure, and when that happens, I do just turn it back onto them and say, how do you feel?  What do you feel like you need to do right now?  And reminding them that the first answer that your mind gives you when you ask yourself a question, that’s your intuition.  So if I say to myself, should I break my water right now?  I already know the answer before I finish even asking the question.  I already know what my mind, my body, my spirit is telling me, yes or no.  So giving them also that confidence and just the internal power – because we’ve kind of taken the power away from moms when we started giving birth in hospitals.  We kind of created this authority hierarchy, and mom’s at the bottom when she really should be at the top.  So just reminding her that this is her body, this is her journey, this is her decision, and giving her back her power to make a choice versus feeling like she’s just at the mercy of whoever’s in the room making these decisions for her, about her.  That’s inappropriate, right?  And in any other situation, we would never treat someone this way.  We wouldn’t walk down the street and say, oh, look, I think you should go into labor today.  I’m going to break your water.  We couldn’t do that.  It would never be appropriate.  It would never be appropriate in any other circumstances, so why, walking into a hospital, does it suddenly become appropriate for us to give up all of our rights and not have any say in the game plan?  Again, this is where preparation comes in because if you don’t have any kind of preparation, you’re going to feel like I have to lean on the expertise of these people because I don’t know anything.  That’s a big piece of it.

And there’s so much evidence that regardless of birth outcomes, having that continuous support from a doula, not only during labor itself, but throughout pregnancy, does increase satisfaction.  So as you had mentioned, Anne, it’s feeling like you are making informed decisions every step of the way.  Again, unless it’s an emergency, and instead of birth just happening to you and feeling like things are not in your control at all, then there’s a lot of remorse.  There can be so many feelings after the birth that are just challenging to navigate.

Well, and the definition of trauma is when something is happening to you and you’re so scared, you’re so terrified, and you feel helpless.  You feel out of control, whether it’s of your circumstances, of your own body, how you’re being treated.  And you’re put in this position where it’s a moment of almost terror, right?  And so we look at a lot of post-pregnancy, postnatal maternal mood disorders, and it’s like, you’ve got anxiety.  You’ve got depression.  You’ve got OCD.  And I can’t help but look at it and say, how much of this is related to how she was treated during birth, right?  So it there a sprinkling of PTSD in there that’s kind of root cause of all these other symptoms that we’re seeing?  I mean, if I’m anxious or if I’m OCD and I’m trying to control my environment and I’m getting some paranoia mixed in there or overly cautious and overly concerned and overly doing all the things to make sure my baby is safe and that I’m safe – that actually looks like a trauma response because if you’ve been traumatized, what do you do?  You try to control your environment.  You’re in protection survival mode.  And most people do – if you love your baby with all your being, they’re going to be kind of the object of your obsession at that point and protecting them and making sure everything’s okay with them, and you’re going to question every little thing that seems maybe out of the ordinary when it could, under another circumstance, if you haven’t had your confidence taken away from you, you’re going to look at your baby and just say, oh, we’re in the realm of normal, right?  But if you’re an anxious mom, you’re going to look at your baby and say, something’s wrong.  This might be in the realm of normal, but looks like we’re outside of the realm of normal and not really seeing things for what they are because the anxiety is the lens you’re seeing everything through.  And so, again, too, this is another way that doulas can help because processing trauma takes time.  It takes interaction.

I spoke at the Congress on Children in San Antonio several years back.  I don’t know, seven, eight years back.  And my whole project, basically, was about how touch is a solution for trauma.  So doing skin to skin with baby, breastfeeding, all these things because when mom has been traumatized, probably baby has also been traumatized to some degree.  And so getting them together can make such a huge difference and sends them leaps and bounds forward in their healing process.  You’ve probably heard the say, the body keeps the score.  There’s a great book by that same name.  And treating the body, doing somatic therapies with the mom, and this is, again, outside of – this is advanced training for doulas, but there’s things that we can do as postpartum doulas just to get moms some relief, some healing, kind of connect the loop for her so that she can stop spiraling downward and really utilize her network, her baby, her own self, work through her memories, process out the story.  Just by telling the story to her postpartum doula over and over again; it might seem redundant.  The doula might – if the doula didn’t have any kind of trauma training, the doula might think, oh, this is not normal.  But for someone who’s experienced trauma, telling that story over and over again and having someone listen.  I teach my doulas to use the five senses.  Listen; ask questions about the five senses.  What did you see?  What did you hear?  How did it feel?  Were there funny smells?  Did you throw up?  What were you drinking?  All these things, because the body is where the trauma was felt.  It’s where the trauma was processed.  And so using the five senses to kind of uncover what happened helps moms to put the pieces together in ways that her conscious mind might not be able to do, but her subconscious can start tapping into that.  With the five senses, you’re starting to tap into that subconscious mind.  You can start putting the pieces together a little bit better.  It feels less confusing.  She can continue to repeatedly tell the story, but it becomes a healing activity rather than being on that wheel where you’re spinning and spinning in the trauma.

And again, to have someone with some training to be able to listen with empathy and without judgment.  Not having to wait until that follow up postpartum visit to really feel like you’re being heard by a professional.  I find that pediatricians can be valuable because those visits are so frequent.  Asking questions and processing versus needing to wait for that six-week visit.

Right.  And sometimes even when you’re at the six-week visit, you’ve got five or ten minutes with that person.  And you don’t always – I mean, I’ve had six kids.  I’ve been doing this for 30 years.  As a fresh new mom, even with my sixth baby, I still was like, okay, what’s normal again?  You can’t really – it’s good to know yourself, but sometimes you can’t really recognize what’s going on without that outside perspective.  So somebody who really understands, looking at your behavior, looking at what you say, looking at how did your birth go, looking at how are you sleeping – are you sleeping?  Looking at all those pieces and kind of putting them together and saying, this is what I see.  Let me help you formulate some questions to ask your doctor.  Let me help you formulate a list of symptoms maybe to take to your doctor because otherwise, moms are in a cloud of sleep deprivation, and they’re just there to show up for their appointment.  They don’t always know what questions to ask or what things to bring up or what’s important, especially if it’s their first baby.  But having a doula to come in the home and get to know your family and really be working with them.  Sleep deprivation is a huge one, right, so just that alone can affect the mind and the ability to form sentences, let alone ask intelligent questions at the doctor’s office.  I mean, every aspect of pregnancy and early parenting.  My oldest is going to turn 31 and my youngest is 8.  I have women around me.  God bless having loads of women around me because I’m working in the birth world, so I’ve got all these caring, nurturing doula women around me all the time.  Without our tribe – gosh, I just don’t know how women do it when they’re all alone.

We need support, absolutely, and so obviously.  That’s why you were drawn to this work.  We are unfortunately running out of time, but I would love to hear any final tips you have for our listeners, and then of course, please share how they can connect with you.

Sure!  So MaternityWise, which is the company that I am the director for – we do maternity education.  So we do labor doula, postpartum doula, lactation.  We also have a program called EpiDoula, which is all about how to support someone who’s chosen to have an epidural and how to reduce their complications.  We also have a childbirth educator program.  We have a bunch of other programs.  HIPAA certification; we have classes on how to process insurance as doulas, just tons and tons of things.  Love it, right?  Anything to do with birth.  We even have an infant sleep class.  So our philosophy is really very much looking at the whole experience, so I love that we were able to kind of go through the whole experience today during this talk because that is so key to know the end from the beginning.  Whether you’re doing postpartum, it’s good to have birth education so that you can really understand what mom’s talking about and give her feedback about how her birth went because you will hear the story, right?

Right.  Even if you don’t want to be on call as a birth doula, still having the education, as you mentioned, is so important.

100%.  It’s just tools in your tool belt, right?  And then vice versa: as a labor doula, a lot of times people want to just get trained as a labor doula because they think that’s the most exciting part, but it doesn’t end there, and you will get asked questions postpartum.  You will have people trying to get your help with breastfeeding and stuff.  And if you’re not trained, if you don’t have that additional information, you could potentially give bad advice and it could be harmful, with completely good intentions, but it could end up sabotaging a mom’s breastfeeding relationship or whatever, right?  So having that full scope, the full spectrum of understanding and knowledge around birth and breastfeeding and postpartum – we just feel like that’s how you create better outcomes, bottom line.  You can’t take one piece of the pie and just say, this is good enough.  You’ve got to look at the entire experience and have knowledge and have wisdom to share throughout the whole experience.  So the way to get trained with MaternityWise and get certified – and our programs are approved by any state that has a state registry or a Medicaid program.  We are either already approved, or if they’re in process, we’re in process with them to get approved.  So we’re across the nation.  We’re around the world, too, but probably your listeners are mostly American, right?

Yes.  For the most part.

Yeah.  So our training, if you want to look more into it, is at MaternityWise.  We would love to hear from your audience.  But also, you have a book coming out, right?  Tell me about that.  I want to be able to make sure that we can help promote that, as well.

So it is called Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby.  It comes out on Mother’s Day, May 12th, so very soon.  And it’s basically what I wish I would have had for my own kids, and it’s based on our online Becoming A Mother course.  It’s about understanding all of the members of your birth and baby team, what options you have for providers, where to have your baby, and all of the different planning phases, not only prenatally, but putting as much importance in postnatal planning.  We get into everything from insurance to how to pay for your doula and baby registries and registering for services in addition to things, and how to communicate your needs with family and friends.  We try to cover all of it.  We have a chapter on sleep.  Alyssa, my co-author, is a sleep consultant.  We’re both newborn care specialists and postpartum doulas, and then I’m the birth doula and childbirth educator.  So I wrote the first half of the book, and she wrote the postpartum planning and feeding.  We have some experts in the book, as well, from a board-certified lactation consultant to a pediatrician to a perinatal mood disorder mental health therapist.  Since doulas are not medical, we wanted to bring in some medical experts, as well.

That’s smart.  I love that.

Well, thank you so much, Anne!  We’ll have to have you back on again!  I could talk to you forever.  You are such a wealth of information.

It was super fun.  I really love that we could do this.  I’m so excited about your book because everybody needs to get their hands on that.  Any mom that’s expecting, I’m sure, is going to really appreciate that knowledge to have in their own toolkit.  It’s awesome.

Exactly.  And I feel like my secondary audience for the book is also anyone who works with pregnant individuals and new parents.  They would also benefit in understanding all of the options to refer from understanding car seat safety technicians are a thing, to Webster certified chiropractors to pelvic floor physical therapists to, again, the different types of mental health therapists.

Amazing.  It really takes a team.  A client of mine that I was just speaking to the other day – she was just saying, she didn’t have all these pieces.  She’s got a Pilates person, a yoga person, a massage therapist, a chiropractor.  She’s got – in addition to her medical team, her OB, and then she’s also got a midwife because she’s delivering at a hospital that has midwives and OBs, so the team she’s with has both.  And of course, she’s got a doula, and she’s working on hiring a postpartum doula.  It’s so good to be able to see this.  And I know this is about accessibility, too.  Not everyone can afford to have all these supportive, coach-like people on their journey.  But if you can – and thank goodness, sometimes insurance will be covering it.  It’s just so important because, again, like we started out saying, families are very separated now, and even friends.  We don’t have that instant person, a lot of times, right there able to help us, and it’s good to have resources that we can reach out to whose eyes are looking at our situation with their own specialty in mind.  So they might have a different thing to encourage us to look into or research more or go get help with.  It’s really important.

Absolutely.  Well, thank you, Anne, and I hope to talk to you soon!  Take good care.

Yes, thank you!  You too!

IMPORTANT LINKS

MaternityWise International

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

The benefits of doula support with Anne Wallen: Podcast Episode #238 Read More »

Simple Healthy Habits for Busy Moms: Podcast Episode #237

Kristin Revere and Brianna Wilkerson of Mommy Me Time Community discuss the focus on prioritizing health and self-care during each season of motherhood.  Brianna has quick tips for both new and seasoned moms to get more intentional time and nourishment. 

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to have my new friend, Brianna Wilkerson, on Ask the Doulas today.  Brianna is a holistic health and life coach.  She’s a brand partner with Savvy, podcast host, wife, mama, tea lover, Crossfitter.  You name it, she’s about it.  Welcome, Brianna!

Thank you so much for having me!

So your focus is all about helping moms.  You help ambitious women and moms prioritize their health and self-care so they can feel healthy, strong, and confident, no matter if they’re a first time mom or they’re a very seasoned mom, if their kids are older or if they’re in the new mom phase.  You support motherhood through all of the different changes, and your bio also tells me that you have a passion for women creating a sustainable income and growing into leaders that they were meant to be.  I love it!

Yeah, multipassionate always!  I think that the core of it in the last year or so is really seeing that moms is where I’m supposed to land, and if I can help a mom, I help a family and more.  So I’m excited to do that more.

That is so true.  That’s how I feel.  I feel like doulas can save marriages, and these support groups and communities that you create, your podcast, they give women the confidence to navigate the challenges and to have peers that are in the thick of it with you is so important, whether they’re in person or in a virtual community like those that you create.

Yeah, exactly.

So our topic today is simple healthy habits for the busy mom.  I’m excited to hear your thoughts and tips for our listeners.

Yeah, we can start wherever you would like.  I don’t think there is a mom that isn’t busy, or a woman that’s not busy, but I just think that with the busyness of life, there often comes a lot of roadblocks.  There are a lot of obstacles that make it challenging.  Not impossible, but challenging to prioritize our health and self-care, whatever that may mean for you.  That may mean nutrition.  That may mean exercise.  That may mean alone time.  It can mean multiple different things.  And those road blocks could be things such as time; not feeling like you have enough time.  It could be fatigue; you’re just tired.  It could be finances.  It could be lack of support.  It could be guilt; like, is it okay that I take away some time from my kid?  And onward and onward.  There’s just so many things that would make it hard for us to make time in the busyness of life.  But what I have found is that even when you spend five or ten minutes on those daily nonnegotiables that really fill your tank, that really take care of you, your cup is so much fuller, and you’re just able to show up more patiently, more powerfully, and be able to serve in whatever way you can, and you’re doing a lot better.  Before I had kids, I could do a lot of things.  I just felt like I had more time.

Oh, there’s so much more time!

Right?  And the reality is we have the same amount of time.  It’s just that our kids now are taking – maybe we didn’t realize this when we became parents, but we decided, like, when I become a mother, I am choosing, especially when they’re still in my household, to give my time to the growing, to the development, to the nurturing, to the love, to the memories with my kids.  And you quickly recognize, like, okay, well, that may mean that there’s less time to do other things.  So how do I then fit in those things that maybe I did at first that really filled me, nourished me?  And for me it’s really bite sized.  You’ve got to do it in bite size pieces, but yeah.

That’s beautiful, Brianna.  And I feel like there are different phases of motherhood.  Right now, my kids are in school all day, but I feel like I am their shuttle driver to sports events and activities and friend events, so it’s a different kind of busy than the toddler phase or if they are in preschool or daycare when you feel like you can’t get much done in those three hours, especially for entrepreneurs like ourselves when there’s so much on the to-do list.

Exactly.  And I think we’re just told – we just start to believe it’s a mindset thing, too.  It’s either all or nothing.  Either I go to the gym for an hour or I don’t go at all, or either I eat “perfectly” or I don’t eat healthy at all, when in reality, all successful people in any area of life would tell you that it’s all about those small, simple steps you take daily that compound over time that help you get healthier, that help you get fitter, that help you win an Olympic medal, for example.  But it’s not sexy to do those things all the time and feel like it matters or feel like it’s getting you places, but it really does make a difference, and studies have shown that you can do ten minutes of a workout and honestly it increases your heartrate and boosts your metabolism a lot more than an hour, depending on the type of workout you’re doing.  So a lot can be done in five or ten minutes.

Absolutely.  And even stretching can be so beneficial.  If you have a dog, take your dog for a walk.  You can walk or run with your children.  There are so many things that you can do to bond with your family.  I mean, even if you have a partner, just walking with your partner can make a nice way to get moving and active, burn some calories, but also clear your mind.  So a good walk does wonders.

It really does.

Again, talk about the different types of self-care.  For me, I like to get up a bit early, and really, how I start the day sets the tone for the day.  And sometimes, you just need to sleep in and you don’t need to get ahead of when your kids wake and all of the work activities that need to be done, so it can look different every day, but I try to get up before my family and set some time, take my dog out, and move my body a little bit, get some water, and then start the wake up process and looking at my emails, but I try to avoid technology for at least a short span of time to meditate, or for those of you that use prayer, like praying, and starting some rituals for your life.  But for me, how you start and end a day can really set the tone.

Yeah, I think it’s figuring out – because there are so many different things that you could do and focus on, but the reality is – it’s not that you can’t do all of those eventually, but you shouldn’t start out trying to do all of those.  What are your three to five daily nonnegotiables that you need to do each day to feel your best?  Is it movement?  Is it nutrition?  Is it drinking enough water?  Is it that five to ten minutes before your kids wake up to have that centering time?  Is it cutting off technology before you go to bed at a certain time?  And there’s no right or wrong here, and you may not even know what you need.  That’s the importance of definitely talking with someone, but also just start trying to do something so that you can see if it’s really impacting you and really nourishing in the way you need.  I highly recommend always considering four to five main areas.  You do want to consider your nutrition.  What are you putting in your body?  Ultimately, the word nutrition is Latin for nourish.  It’s just nourishing; we’re nourishing our body, giving it the care that it needs.  And our body needs certain things.  It needs certain micronutrients.  It needs certain macronutrients to thrive.  Just start somewhere.  When it comes to nutrition, I really suggest people crowd out by adding in.  If you want to eat less of some other type of food – not that you say you can’t eat it, but you just want to eat less of it because it may not be nourishing you the way you want – add in something else.  Maybe you want to eat less rice at a dinner, for example.  So you’re like, okay, one way is to add in broccoli, because I want to add that in more.  And then maybe you try that at one meal a day or one meal a couple times a week, and then you add it in every dinner.  Or maybe you add in broccoli or a vegetable at two meals a day, then three, and just over time, that slow process will become like second nature for you to have a vegetable at a meal.  And vegetables will feel you way quicker than rice, for example.  I love a good rice.  We’re not shaming rice over here.  But yes, it’s nutrition, and we can dive deeper into that, but I really think for most of us, we know at least the basics, that certain foods are more nourishing than others.  So if you want to incorporate more of that, it’s really just picking one and adding in slowly.

Now, with movement, again, there are so many types of exercise programs and fitness programs, and no one fits all.  It really depends on what you love, what you enjoy.  There’s still a way to get cardio, flexibility, stamina, endurance, strength training, all of those, the general physical skills, in the types of exercises that you’re doing.  But you might have to be more intentional if you’re doing it on your own, or maybe you join a certain type of program that does it for you.  Then it’s like, well, I don’t have to think about it.  But what I think is key with that is just commit to moving every day regularly.  And I say like, okay, maybe you start with just moving more like tracking your steps or just choosing to park a little further, or maybe you’re like, no, I want actually to do a workout because it challenges me in a certain way and releases endorphins and all that.  So maybe you start with ten minutes a day, which, again, does not seem like a lot, but let me tell you, I’ve gotten very fit doing ten minutes a day just consistently.  You know, there’s so many different things you can do for that, but I just think ten minutes of walking a day does wonders for your body.  So don’t negate walking.  Maybe you used to run.  For me, I went from walking to running, and now I’m like, I just love a good walk.  I love a good walk.  I don’t want to do long distance running right now.  Now I do a lot of walks with the kids in tow.  A lot of my workouts are with the kids in the stroller.

It’s that life stage.

Exactly.  And again, whatever stage you’re in – you know, before having kids, I served a lot of women who were grandmas.  At that stage, they’re like, okay, I can finally take care of me.  My kids are out of the house.  They’re a little bit older.  And I say, well, the challenges are still the same.  You’re still busy.  It’s not like your busyness decreases.  Maybe in a certain way, but you can still be on your toes, being involved in certain things, and so you still need to practice some of these things.

So yeah, nutrition, movement, and I would say stress and sleep are too ignored.  Very ignored areas, because we often think we can just survive without consistent sleep, quality sleep.  And we don’t actually realize how much stress we’re under in this day and age.  Talking about the phone: you can be connected.  You can Google anything.  Before, you had to go to a library to find out something.  Now you can find it out right then and there.  You can order everything online.  You can find out the news.  Most of us don’t even watch the actual news anymore.  We just check Instagram.

Just look at the little summary clips on your feed, and you’re good.

Right?  And all that to say none of it is bad, but we’re so stimulated, and it’s just so easy for us to be more mentally stressed, and that really impacts your body.  It impacts your hormones, and it impacts your health in various ways.  On the other side of that, though, is that again, we’re so connected.  Even back in my parents’ or grandparents’ generation, they didn’t really have electricity in the same way.  When it was dark, it was dark.  You stopped doing things at a certain time.  But us, we have light.  We have unlimited internet access.  We can just be doing things all day, every day.  But we need to rest.  We need that good quality sleep to restore.  So really creating a good sleep time routine there and really figuring out tools to manage your stress.

It’s so important, and many of our listeners are either pregnant or pre-conception or in that early parenting phase, so sleep is vital.  With a newborn, you get so many wakeups, so trying to prioritize sleep or get support from a postpartum doula who focuses on overnights, for example.  And in pregnancy with discomforts, sleep can be challenging, as well. 

Yes.  Even with that, my eldest is now only four and just sleeping better through the night.  She still goes to bed a little later than I want, than what I would like.  So I understand.  I’m not trying to be one of those people who are like, oh, my gosh, just sleep.  I understand different kids and different lives.  Maybe you work at night or all these different things.  But I do think there are things within our control that we don’t think are in our control.  So, like, I know that sometimes my daughter goes to bed late, but I feel like I haven’t had my time, so I will stay up later than probably I actually want to in order to get whatever me time that is.  And really, that’s actually  hindering me because she’s probably still going to wake up early, or my son will.  So I just think it’s like, what can we do?  What can we actually do?  And then the fifth area is like your mindset.  That goes with the what can we do.  Just really seeing that you do have control over some things when it comes to your health.  It may feel like there’s a lot of barriers.  There’s a lot of road blocks.  But when you start to believe that things can change, whether they’re slow – I actually think slow is always better because it’s more sustainable – you start to see that, like, okay, it doesn’t have to just be this way.  Or maybe it won’t always be this way forever.  And so you just have more a positive attitude which makes you more hopeful and therefore more likely to take action around taking care of yourself.

Yes.  I love it.  Mindset is so important.  We focus on mindset in pregnancy, and as an athlete, you understand this, that runners visualize a race in advance, and a lot of athletes, swimmers, do so much mental as well as physical preparation.  In our classes, whether it’s HypnoBirthing or the Comfort Measures for Labor classes that I teach, we talk about visualization and mental preparation as well as how to feed your body, move your body, and how to best prepare for birth in a way that could be compared to preparing for a marathon.  You want to rest and nourish yourself in the very early stages of labor, so we talk about the importance of sleep and rest and not knowing how long the labor will be but needing that strength for the pushing phase.  For a race, you’ve got to make it to that finish line, so don’t beat everyone in the first mile.  You want to be able to pace yourself and know your limits and know that your mind can take you far when your body is tired.

It’s so interesting.  I had a really good friend who’s on her sixth pregnancy now, but I just remembered she would tell me, like – yeah, just the importance of the mindset, of visualization, even in pregnancy.  And I remember with my second I tried to practice that more.  The pain was just so bad.  I wanted to not think; not relax.  I wanted to clench up, and just having to visualize and tell myself and talk myself through it – it made a difference.

It does make a difference!  But your body does want to clench when you are in discomfort with contractions of labor or even just pregnancy aches and pains, and you just need to open up and relax and not resist because the more you’re clenching and stressed, the more uncomfortable you’re going to be.  I love that your friend gave that advice and that it worked for you.

It really did help.

So you likely focus on ways to reduce the stress levels and cortisol levels.  How do you talk to your community, whether it’s using breath work or mindset?  I’m interested in how you address that.

I think it does depend.  I mean, the power of breathing is just like when we’re going through birth.  They’re like, just breathe, and I’m like, I don’t want to breathe.  I just want to scream.  But it does really calm that fight or flight response that your body is feeling, and it really brings you to a more calm state to do whatever you need to do.  So don’t underestimate the power of just breathing in and breathing out, or breathing in and holding for a bit and breathing out.  You can do the box four or the count to four method.  And another thing I like to do is a process – I learned this one time through a program I did where you write out your stressors and really figure out which ones you can eliminate, which ones you can reduce, and which ones you just have to cope with.  Because the reality is, many of us think we have to just cope with all of our stressors, but sometimes you can actually eliminate it or reduce it.  For example, kids are stressful, especially when they’re young.  I mean, maybe all the years, right, but – so I have to cope with that, but are there ways I could also reduce certain things or eliminate the need where I feel like I need to do everything in the house?  You know what I mean?  Is there something that I could do?  Yeah, I could ask for help, or I could hire – or maybe I find little tips and tricks to keep things less likely to get dirty.  I don’t know.  Again, it goes back to the mindset of what can I actually control?  And when you start to see that – I mean, you write out your stressors, and then you just go and label them.  Eliminate, reduce.  Then you’re like, okay, well, this is what I can control.  This is what I can’t.  So how I can get help with some of that?  And I think as you’re pregnant, you’re stressed about so many things.  Like, is my baby going to take this pacifier or am I going to have to buy all the brands?  How is the birth going to go?  And there’s so much within the birthing and the whole process that we actually can’t control.  I’m not saying you can’t be concerned about it, but really asking yourself, what is my role here and when do I just need to let go and realize that I don’t have control over some of those things.

Exactly, yes.  And it’s a great way to approach parenting.  I feel like the unpredictability of labor and birth leads well into the unknowns in early parenting, and even parenting teenagers.  It’s not predictable.  There’s not a manual or formula.  So we’ve got to use our instincts and our resources to make informed decisions.

Right.  Exactly.

I would love to have you fill our listeners in more about your community.  Mommy Me Team Coach?

Yeah, so I’ve gone through so many names of my coaching work throughout the years, but I realized that ultimately, there is so much power in mom having her time.  Like, whatever that is.  It may mean time alone.  It may mean time to just invest in herself.  It may mean time to do a hobby or a side hustle that she loves.  I am about advocating for moms to take care of themselves.  I just think we’re such caregivers, and we give so much.  And sometimes we can even be a little, like – I don’t know the right words.  Resentful, that people aren’t doing that for us.  But it comes to a point where when we raise our kids, we want them to be advocates for themselves.  We want them to stand up for what they want, and we teach them to be independent young adults.  And it’s the same thing with us.  We don’t stop doing that.  We still need to advocated for the things we need and want and speak up about it.  That’s what Mommy Me Time Coach is all about.  It’s helping women really prioritize their health and self-care in small, simple ways.  And so I do a weekly – right now, my official podcast is on hold, but I do a live Instagram show weekly.  I have multiple summits that I do a year just helping moms in different seasons.  I have a Facebook community, and then I have a membership to help busy moms take care of their health and their self-care, too.  So that’s kind of the focus right now.

So many different options!  Depending on the budget and the time, checking out your Instagram and some of your summits, and then when budget allows, investing in your very valuable membership community.  And are there different levels of membership?  Explain that for our listeners.

Yeah, so I’ve done one on one coaching throughout most of my eight year of coaching, and I love it.  But just in this season, I was just thinking about myself and busy moms, and I’m like, you know what, I still think that’s valuable, but I do think there’s power in a community and power in working over time, and I think that’s what a membership allows.  You don’t feel the pressure to do everything because you’re going to be here however long you need to be here.  So no, right now, it’s only one level you join.  It’s $30 a month for that, and you’ll get a monthly theme, masterclass training, resources, check-ins, coaching call, a community.  And then of course – like, some women do it and they’re like, okay, but I actually do want more one on one support, and that’s an option, too.  Right now, it’s mainly like, if you want to join the membership, it’s group formatted, but I do a limited amount of one on one spots, as well.

Excellent.  And how can our listeners connect with you, whether it’s social or your website?

I’m really on Instagram, almost all the time.  Not all the time; it’s just my main place.  So Instagram, @mommymetimecoach.  You can also go to Mommy Me Time Community on Facebook.  Those are my two social hangouts.  And if you want to join my mailing list, I send one or two emails a week, just if I’m doing events.  You can grab my free Healthy Habits Challenge for Moms, and then you’ll be on the mailing list, and that way you’ll also get some tips on some of the things we talked about, as well.

And for the LinkedIn lovers, you’re also there?

Oh, I’m on LinkedIn, too.  I don’t do as much on LinkedIn.  I need to.  But I am on LinkedIn, and I will get a message if you send it to me there.

Excellent.  People will be able to connect with you and get your download as well.  Do you have a final tip for our listeners before we say farewell?

Yeah, I would just say the biggest thing is to give yourself grace during this time period.  I think pregnancy in itself, your body goes through so many changes, but you still have to live life and do different things, and maybe you have other kids, so give yourself grace, even with the things I talked about.  And then postpartum, I mean, with my son, he was the second, and it really took me a while to get into a flow of some of the very things I’m talking about.  He’s nearly two, and I just feel like I can do some of this stuff, you know?  But I made sure to still move when he was young, whether it was two times a week walking versus like, now I do more than that.  Give grace to really trust your intuition of what you need, but also don’t wait.  Try to take a small step at a time.

Perfect tip.  Thank you so much, Brianna, and I can’t wait to connect again.

Thank you so much!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Mommy Me Time

Brianna’s Facebook and Instagram

FREE Healthy Habits for Moms

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Simple Healthy Habits for Busy Moms: Podcast Episode #237 Read More »

Prenatal and Postnatal Nutrition Tips with Stephanie Middleburg: Podcast Episode #236

Kristin Revere and Stephanie Middleburg chat about the importance of nourishing yourself and your baby during pregnancy and the postnatal phase.  Stephanie is the author of “The Big Book of Pregnancy Nutrition” and founder of Middleburg Nutrition.

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Stephanie Middleburg today.  Stephanie is a registered dietician, author, and founder of Middleburg Nutrition.  Welcome, Stephanie!

Hi!  Thanks for having me!

So happy to have you here!  Our primary topic today is all about prenatal nutrition. 

Yes, I have – I love this topic.  I’ve always loved this.  First and foremost, I’m also a mom of two.  I have an eight-year-old little boy and an almost two-year-old little girl.  I’ve focused on this a ton in my practice.  It’s become a specialty, and I have a book coming out April 30th, called The Big Book of Pregnancy Nutrition.

Amazing!  And you also have two other books, so you seem like you’re very busy between being an author of multiple books and your own practice as a dietician.  Being a mom itself is a busy job.  Very impressive!

I mean, the kids have been the inspiration for my books, that’s for sure.  So my first book was The Big Book of Organic Baby Food, followed by The Big Book of Organic Toddler Food, and now this pregnancy book is essentially a prequel to the others.  And I think being in private practice keeps me so grounded and connected to what people are actually going through and their questions.  Literally while I was writing The Big Book of Pregnancy Nutrition, I was taking notes as to what my clients were saying.  I think the power of these books is that you can have all the information, but unless it’s communicated in a way that people can be receptive to and understand, those words might not be as effective.  I really try to take a realistic approach in my books and my work with my clients, which is a lot of fun.

That makes so much sense, and obviously, the foundation of everything is that prenatal phase and focusing on nourishing yourself.  I know there can be a lot of misinformation about following cravings and it’s an excuse to eat whatever you want, but it is so important to focus on proper nutrition, not only for baby, but for yourself.

It’s such an interesting time with my work with my clients because I think women come in this stage with such different mindsets.  I work with so many women who are really fearful and anxious about the food that they consume from a food safety perspective and making sure they’re getting all the nutrients, and then there’s other women who are like, this is my time to eat what I want.  I’m going to lean into these cravings.  But there is still so much confusion out there and so many questions, and it is such an important stage that can really set the tone for both how mom is feeling in her pregnancy and postpartum, as well, which is why I really like to emphasize in this book that it’s food for mama and for baby.  It really does start the family thinking about eating quite differently, and I just know from in my pregnancies, even as a practitioner, there were a lot of things that I acted reactively to, being like, why didn’t I know this?  Why didn’t anybody tell me this, or why didn’t I research this more?  And I see that in my clients, too.  A lot of the book was to really provide some information along the way at various stages, whether or not you make changes, but at least to be aware of things to talk to your doctors or your care team about.  I think that’s so important.  I essentially go through the book as I would with someone that would come into my office.  Essentially, the first thing I’m so passionate about is getting bloodwork done for pregnant women.  Not everyone has a baseline of where they are at the start of pregnancy, and I feel like that’s such a missed opportunity, especially as it relates to whatever your background is.  If you’ve been on the birth control pill for a long time, that can deplete a lot of nutrients like B6 and B12 and vitamin D and C and magnesium and selenium if you’re vegan or vegetarian.  You want to know where your vitamin D levels are because you might need more than what’s in your prenatal.  Iron, anemia.  50% of women essentially are anemic in their pregnancy, and this usually happens in the second or third trimester, but it’s important to know what your base is to be able to – if this is something, like, should you take an iron supplement in your prenatal; should you take one separately.  B12; 38% of women are deficient in it, and they really don’t realize it.  Those are really things, when you feel the fatigue – I mean, you’re going to be tired in pregnancy regardless, but it could have to do with some nutritional deficiencies.  And one other thing I’m passionate about is blood sugar, hemoglobin A1C.  So that essentially measures your blood sugar over a two to three month span, and in pregnancy, most women, unless you’re considered an older mom, your blood sugar doesn’t get tested.  You don’t go through the blood glucose screening test until 24 to 28 weeks.  Again, if you’re older, you might do it at week 16.  That’s far along in your pregnancy to find out that you might have gestational diabetes.  We really are looking that studies really show that at the start of pregnancy, if your levels are 5.7 or above, chances are you probably will have gestational diabetes, so why not work on some blood sugar control earlier rather than wait until the middle of your pregnancy?  So there’s just some preventative things that I’m just very passionate about women talking to their doctors about just to get more personal information for their bodies to see what’s going on.

Very helpful.  And the book is such a great way for you to impact more women.  I mean, living in Brooklyn, you can only see so many people in your private practice, so having this guide for people all over the world to better care for themselves and their baby or babies is so important.

Yeah, I really hope so, and that’s really the goal.  It was amazing to me how the Big Book of Organic Baby Food really became a Bible to so many women.  I am in Brooklyn, but to see how far reaching it was and how helpful it was for so many women definitely helped inspire this book for pregnancy because it is such a confusing time.  These are areas where you need a lot of handholding, right, in certain parts, and you need a lot of guidance.  Somethings are black and white, but some things, there’s gray area.  I think as it relates to even food safety, a lot of women get hung up on it and over-Google.  That’s where they get their information from.  They might not be getting it from their care team, either.  Prenatal stuff is definitely one of those where no one really knows what to do there.  You’re told to get a prenatal, and I think unless you have a relative or a friend, there’s no guidance on what specific prenatal you should get or what you should be looking for for yourself.  So I have a big chart there, and a section on supplementing your supplements.  Again, some women need additional nutrients in addition to just what their prenatal is providing them.

That makes perfect sense.  I remember having a friend tell me about the whole food prenatals versus the standard generic ones, and it made such a difference in my nausea and just overall energy.

100%.  And sometimes it takes a little bit to find the right combination for you, and that’s okay.  You can switch your prenatal in the combination until you find the best fit for you.  The first trimester is really hard because 75% of women are going to be nauseous, and there are different forms of prenatals you can take.  There are now some powders you can do.  There are some liquids.  Gummies, which aren’t my favorite; you’re just not going to get enough of what you need as a supplement, but better than nothing, right?  Take a gummy in the first trimester until you start feeling better.  But really, yeah, unless you know, it’s a really hard area and knowing what to look for.  Not everyone will need iron in their prenatal but might need to take it separately because it can lead to some digestive issues.  Not all prenatals have choline in it.  A lot of prenatals just have, like, 600 to 800 IUs of vitamin D where you might need 4000 IUs of vitamin D.  It might not have the right form.  You might need more magnesium citrate, for example, if you’re finding you’re constipated.  Not to make it complicated, but these are all things to look out for that can be immensely helpful.  I’m a big proponent of probiotics, especially later on in pregnancy, because there’s really great research that shows that it can help prevent chronic conditions in kids, like eczema, food allergies, things of that nature, especially if you’re going to have a C-section or for any reason you were put on antibiotics, even during your pregnancy or post, that your baby was put on any sort of antibiotics.  I think it’s helpful to take a probiotic in your third trimester and then probably postpartum.

That makes complete sense.  So you mentioned earlier, Stephanie, that there were some nutrition tips that you wish you would have known that you shared in the book. 

Yes!

I would love to hear more about that.

The supplements was a big one for me.  I remember going to the doctor’s office so excited we’re going to have this conversation, and he was like, yeah, take a prenatal.  And I was like, do I need vitamin D?  He’s like, yeah, could do.  Maybe, maybe not, but take it.  I remember the conversation was so meh.  And that’s one of the reasons why it inspired me to go into detail about these prenatals and again to have the conversation and bring it to your doctor or ask them to test your levels so you can see if you do need more of certain things.  Another part was during the blood glucose screening test, my nurses had told me – this is, again, 24 to 28 weeks, your first time to test if you might have gestational diabetes, and you take, like, 50 grams of sugar.  I don’t know if you remember this.  And then they test your glucose, your reaction to it.  If you pass, great.  If you fail, then you have to go on to a three-hour glucose screening test, which is way less fun.  You want to try to avoid it if you can, but it doesn’t mean that you have gestational diabetes.  But anyway, it is not a fasting test, and time and time again with me, I was told it was, and so many of my clients were told it was, which I think sets you up for a disadvantage.  If you think about it, if you’re having so much sugar on an empty stomach, you’re going to spike more than if you are consuming this sugar on a breakfast, or after a meal that is really rich in protein and fat, which slows down the absorption of sugar.  That was one area that I was like, what?  Why?  Why did I get this misinformation?  Why did I not know this?  And now even with the glucose screening test, it depends on how you feel about certain things.  First of all, the test is gross.

It is gross.

It tastes like an off-brand Gatorade with a maple syrup texture.  It’s not fun.  And thank goodness, we’re at a time where there’s so much research and people are paying attention to this prenatal experience.  There is a company now that has a dye-free option called the Fresh Test, which I wish I knew about it when I had my pregnancies.  It also tastes better.  It’s one of those things that you can purchase and talk to your doctor.  Just share with them if you have a preference for taking this.  And it’s more of a lemon, sour-tasting versus some of those other ones that are orangey or raspberry and just don’t taste very good.  Lemon is a better taste than others.  But have a strong breakfast before you go; again, rich in protein and fat.  So, say, like, eggs and avocado or full fat Greek yogurt with nuts in it, something along those lines.  I feel like that gives you a fighting chance so you have more success at that point.

Another prime example that I was not aware about was when I was induced, which I have feelings about now, of course.  This was in my first pregnancy.  I didn’t know that doctors don’t allow you to eat once you start the process, and I would have been more prepared.  You’re essentially going through labor – your body is being put through a major physical test.  You’re running a marathon.  To subside on Jello…

It does not work.

It does not work, and I think it’s something you can have a conversation with your doctor.  I mean, they’re concerned about aspiration, but it’s really – I think just to have the conversation.  I do believe most people can have more foods.  I mean, this is where I’m a fan of bringing some bone broth, whether you made it or get it from a trustworthy source, that you can sip.  It’s going to give you so much more energy.  You can even bring in honey sticks.  Something like energy bites.  I mean, things that are going to get digested very quickly.  But you need energy to take you through your labor and to help you recover postpartum.  I have a labor aid recipe, which is essentially your own DIY electrolyte mix that you can bring that has sugar and salt and really hydrating.  That was in a time of, like, what do you mean I can’t eat?  I was starving, and I was so depleted.  And I know so many women go through that, as well.  I definitely list out a lot of things to eat if you were home, or if you’re going to a hospital, things that you could bring.  So those were three examples, I think, where I was not as prepared as I wish I was from a food perspective.

Fortunately, there are fewer restrictions on eating in the hospital now, at least in my area in Michigan.  As a doula, my clients are able to snack on a lot of the items you mentioned.

Which is amazing!

Yes, big change.

It’s a big change, absolutely.  And I think one of the other areas that I wanted the book to go into is that fourth trimester recovery.  I don’t think women are prepared for how tired and how starving they’re going to be once the baby arrives, especially if they do plan on nursing.  Every client of mine is so surprised how hungry they are.

Absolutely.  Especially, like you said, with breastfeeding.  I felt like I could eat all the time, and yet I also felt like I was caring for my baby and toddler at the same time.

100%.  Suddenly, your nutrition isn’t about you anymore, right?  But yet your needs are the highest they’ve ever been.  You just went through a marathon.  You carried a baby for ten months, and you’re nursing, which essentially is like you’re running at least six miles a day.  This is such an important time to think about fortifying yourself, and women are just so depleted and exhausted.  I really have – not necessarily a meal plan, but the guidance in terms of, like, your snacks really have to be mini meals and things that you can do to make sure that you’re fortifying yourself.  You just need more of everything, essentially, at this stage.  You need even more protein.  You need even more of the healthy fats.  You need even more of the hydration for you and the carbohydrates.  That was a stage that I just was like – it’s a feeling that you’ve never felt before, and you want to keep up your milk supply, too, which is really important.  I have 40 recipes in the back of the book.  My other two books were more of cookbooks.  This is more of a nutrition book with 40 recipes.  But I definitely have some recipes.  They’re divided into sections.  One section is some lactogenic recipes that can help boost milk supply.  I have sections of breakfast.  I have healthified comfort foods.  I have things you can freeze in advance during that nesting period.  I really have – I want people to rely on their freezers a lot to have a lot food in advance that you can just defrost.  I think it’s really, really important.  I have a whole sweets section.  I have a vegetable section, which are really hard for a lot of pregnant women to consume, especially in that first trimester, and they want sour tastes.   A slaw is great; or so many of my clients could, in the beginning, get down a cucumber salad with rice wine vinegar and olive oil and sesame seeds, something along those lines.  Any chance to get some nutrition in when you’re not feeling good.  But also through that postpartum, nutrition deficiency is like – you know, some people develop thyroid issues and they don’t realize that maybe that might be contributing some feelings of depression and anxiety.  Those are nutrients to pay attention to, as well.  Your needs for iodine in pregnancy increase 50%, which is huge.  And again, iron; your needs increase one and a half times.  Your blood volume doubles in pregnancy.  I don’t think a lot of pregnant women prior to pregnancy necessarily thought about their iron intake unless they were anemic, but especially iron, iodine, protein in the postpartum stage is really important.  And as you said, you probably see so much depletion in these women.

Definitely.  So one thing that is a constant struggle – you mentioned freezing food, and it’s great that you have all of these recipes, but oftentimes with well-meaning family and friends and meal trains, the food that is prepared is not often the healthiest for a postpartum mother. 

Yes.  Well, this is where – it’s true.  I mean, hopefully, you can be an advocate for yourself and ask your well-meaning friends and family if you have certain requests of what you would like to eat.  I think it is also maybe in advance going – if you don’t think you might be cooking, it might be going through restaurant menus that you know you’ve loved before and highlighting certain things that a partner or someone can order that you know is healthy that you like.  I know in New York and various cities, there’s some postpartum or just meal delivery services.  Instead of gifts, a lot of friends accumulate funds for things like this and do a week of meal delivery for a mother or for the family, something along those lines.  I think a little bit of that is thinking in advance what would be the most helpful.  And your friends want to help.  Your family wants to help.  If it’s money for a meal delivery service, do it.

Or even for friends and family members who love to cook, send them some of the recipes in your book.

Exactly.  Exactly.  I mean, that’s one thing that’s amazing about the Big Book of Organic Baby Food and Toddler Food.  All these women or families who are telling me that they might not be cooking it, but they’re giving it to their caretakers, the recipes, so they’re giving it to the grandparents and are like, here, make anything from this book.  So it just makes their lives so much easier.

Definitely.  Yes, as postpartum doulas, we do light meal preparation, so we make snacks and food for toddlers.  It is always helpful to have a guide or recipe that would be helpful for the entire family.

Exactly.  I always try to strike a balance with all my books.  These are going to be foods that the whole family can enjoy that’s nutritious and yummy, but easy.  Easy, too.  I want my recipes to be under 30 minutes.  Some are going to take more time, like if you’re making – I do have a lasagna.  Obviously, that’s going to take more cooking time.  But it can last in the freezer for a long, long time.  I don’t want someone to spend tons of time in the kitchen if they don’t want to.  That’s why I want the recipes to be accessible and easy for everyone.

Love it.  Any final tips for our listeners, Stephanie?

I would just – I mean, again, one of my things is just that you have to be your own advocate during this.  Listen to your body.  It is such a fun and exciting time.  Be an advocate.  Ask questions to your doctor.  Ask your friends questions.  I think probably you see this, too, for nursing.  If you plan to nurse – I just think for women to go into it knowing that nursing is hard.  I see this time and time again, and I know it for myself.  I think the nursing situation can make or break your first few weeks for you of your postnatal experience.  I think a lot of women have their hearts set on nursing and if they can’t do it, it becomes emotionally and physically really tough.  I think just having a perspective that it’s hard.  Not to say don’t do it, but everybody responds to it differently.  I just want people to set their expectations and maybe have a plan B in mind if it doesn’t work out and that it’s really okay.  And also to try to set up some support for it.  If you know of a lactation specialist or if your doula is a lactation specialist, really reach out for that.  But again, I just feel like I was so lucky and thankful that my friends were super open and honest about their experience about that being tough.  I went in knowing that it might not work, and that’s okay.  I think just in this space, again, there’s so many resources to help you nurse and there’s so many great formulas, too, on the market now that I feel like we just didn’t have access to even a few years ago.  There’s always options.  I just think that’s one thing that’s really important.  And I would also say don’t worry if in that first trimester, you feel like all you can eat is bread and butter and cheese.  It’s okay.  Get through it.  Your baby will be fine.  They will take from your stores.  But do try to slowly incorporate, even if it’s a few bites, some protein for you.  The less that you eat, it’s sort of like this vicious cycle.  And if you’re nauseous, the less that you eat, you can become more nauseous, and you can get reflux.  So you really do sort of need to get that.  You need to eat to support your body and probably eat every two to three hours.  But I will say, just to take that pressure off, don’t worry about it.  A lot of women don’t feel well.  Do the best that you can.  That’s why second, thirst trimester and postpartum, we want to focus on the mom, too, to make sure that she can be healthy to support herself, to have your body heal as it should.  And then also to be able to go into a second or third or fourth pregnancy with their tanks full, right, instead of depleted.

That’s what it’s all about.

Yep, that’s what it’s all about.

Well, thank you for those tips.  Very helpful advice.  So, Stephanie, fill us in on how to get your books, to start, and then how our listeners can connect with you.

Great.  My books – you really can get them anywhere.  Amazon, for a lot of people, is just the easiest.  Amazon.com.  But you can get them at Barnes & Noble and Target, online and in the stores.  The pregnancy book won’t be out until April 30th, but the other two at any point.  And you can find me @smiddleburg-rd.  That’s my Instagram.  And then middleburgnutition.com is my website.  And even though I’m based in Brooklyn, New York, I actually do a lot virtually.  I do a combination there.  I love working with women or families one on one, in any capacity.

Thank you so much for sharing all of your wisdom, Stephanie.  It was lovely, and I’ll have to have you back on to expand our conversation in the future.

I would love that.  Thank you so much!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Middleburg Nutrition

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother course

Prenatal and Postnatal Nutrition Tips with Stephanie Middleburg: Podcast Episode #236 Read More »

Heidi McDowell of Mind Body Baby Collective: Podcast Episode #235

Kristin and Heidi discussed her yoga studio’s expansion, including child care and a co-working space.  They also discussed Heidi’s contribution to the fitness section in our upcoming book release, Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby.   

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to bring back Heidi McDowell of Mind Body Baby to chat about so many topics today!  But the overarching theme is going to be focusing on creating community and certainly addressing the childcare struggle that moms have, that birth and baby and health and wellness practitioners have in building businesses and making appointments.  Welcome, Heidi!

Hi, Kristin!  I’m happy to be here!

Yes, I’m so excited to chat about your news related to solving some of the challenges with childcare and expanding your own practice!

Yeah, we are really excited to be able to announce that we have purchased with the intentions of expanding into a new 8,000 square foot facility.  We’re calling it a Mega Mom Center.

I love it.

It’s titled the Mind Body Baby Collective.  We are partnering with other women-owned, women-operated businesses to support moms, families, women who are really excited for what we have in store.

It’s so exciting, and Mind Body Baby has always provided childcare, not only for your employees, but for your students, and you are solving this childcare issue by providing it for all of the members of the collective.  So you have massage therapists, doulas, a chiropractic practice – so many different businesses can benefit from the dilemma that those of us doing this work faced when we had young children.

Yeah, absolutely.  It is that two-pronged approach.  Not only is the center operating child care for our services, so Mind Body Baby and everything that we have, like, but we are offering childcare for the entire facility.  So anybody that is within the walls of Mind Body Baby has the opportunity to utilize childcare.  My thought has always been, why do we have to choose between self-care and childcare as a community in a country that is considered to be one of the wealthiest?  I think that we’re really failing women and mothers and families when it comes to the level of support that we offer, and most times, whether it is somebody that’s in the same field of birth work or support, or whether it is that you’re just a mother, you do have to choose.  How are you spending your time?  Do you have access to affordable childcare?  And we’ve noticed that being a barrier for people for being able to, one, provide care to return to the workforce, or to be able to get the self-care that you need and want.  So we’ve opened this space, and we have created a beautiful childcare, and whether it is somebody that is coming in to provide the self-care or somebody that’s coming in to receive the self-care, you have the opportunity now to utilize childcare to allow your child to be cared for by a professional in a space that is safe, that you feel comfortable, and you don’t ever have to wonder or worry if they’re getting what they need because they’re having fun with other kids while you get what you need.

Right, while you get a massage, or take a class that’s not a mommy and me class, not the toddler type of classes.  You can just have that true self care.  And I saw some of your social media promotions about a lounge area where you can just take some time, close your eyes.

That might be my favorite part of the new expansion.  Within the Mind Body Baby space, I was thinking, like, what is something that is considered a luxury for moms, and it’s rest.  So we created two different lounge spaces.  One, we’re aptly calling the Mama Lounge.  That’s more of community; grab a coffee.  We’ll have a tummy time area for little ones.  It’s baby friendly.  Come and meet after class and just enjoy a few moments together.  But the other one we’re calling the Rest Lounge.  We’re going to have seven kind of like rest lounge chairs, pillows, blankets.  They’re going to have divider curtains.  It’s going to have, like, spa music.  And the idea is that it’s childfree, so no kids allowed, but it’s guilt-free rest.  So whether you want to bring a book, grab a coffee, drink a coffee while it’s still hot because we know that that doesn’t happen often.  Listen to a podcast.  Or maybe, just maybe, close your eyes and take a nap.

Exactly.  Even 15 minutes of uninterrupted time can make a big difference.

Oh, my gosh, so much.  And we joke that moms don’t get sleep, moms need rest – but in a true health and wellness sense, we are living in a really heightened nervous system.  Moms are overstimulated.  We’re touched out.  We often are short-tempered and a little bit anxious, and it’s because we are constantly inputting stimulation.  And to have a space that’s very low stimulation to help your nervous system down regulate to help you just feel better in such a way – it’s going to be so beneficial for the family unit, for everybody that’s involved, for your health, for your wellness.  Oh, my goodness.  I’m just so excited for it.  Part of me feels guilty because I’m going to be sending my clients sleeping at work.

No, don’t feel guilty.

I know.  No, I can’t feel guilty, right?  That’s the point, too.  It’s got to be guilt-free.  We’ve got to be able to just know that we get to rest, and there doesn’t have to be a prerequisite to rest.  Rest is productive, too.

Yes, absolutely.  So fill us in about the other practitioners that are part of the Mind Body Collective.

Oh, my gosh, yes!  So excited, we just announced, I think on Saturday, so just a couple days ago, the services that are going to be included.  And when I listed out the menu of choices of things that you have to choose from on a daily basis at the space, my mind was kind of – how did this come together so beautifully?  I’m going to just rattle off some of the things.  I hope I don’t miss anything.  So we’ve got services within services within services.  We’re going to have the on-site childcare and the nursery space.  We’ll have specialty movement classes.  We’re going to have a co-working space.  And then the two lounges, the Mama Lounge and the Rest Lounge.  Within our space, we’re going to have a coffee bar café.  And then we’ve got all of our collective providers.  We’re going to have chiropractic care specializing in prenatal and postpartum.  So everybody’s focus is the same stages of life, so fertility, prenatal, postpartum, and beyond.  We have massage therapy, acupuncture, pelvic floor physical therapy, birth and postpartum support, occupational therapy, lactation and feeding support.  We will have counseling services specializing in perinatal mood and anxiety disorders.

Excellent, and having childcare for that – wow.

Right?  I don’t know if anyone listening or you yourself, Kristin, has ever tried to navigate having a telehealth appointment or a mental health appointment while the reason you have the appointment is like, actively, on your lap or talking to you and you feel like you just can’t get the focus that you need on yourself.

Absolutely, with interruptions, yes, it is challenging to have that telehealth, but also convenient for therapy.  I have experienced that.

Yeah.  I can’t be more elated at the way that this has come together and just the next level of support that we’re going to be bringing in and offering.  It just – it blows my mind at the idea that this has come together the way that I dreamed and hoped that it would.  It really feels like everything that I – I was a pandemic mom.  So going through that – it started with infertility and that feeling isolating, and then becoming a pandemic mom and being – like, hoping that after that fertility journey, I would have my big village of people and support.  Pandemic happened; I had nobody.  And then postpartum, I had my baby.  Everybody met my baby through a window.  And it was just – you know, no village, no support, no community.

So you built what you needed with Mind Body Baby.  And now, this collective even more so!

100% !  I love the idea that as we are growing with the community – like, my baby was just one when I started this, and so a lot of it is just my own personal experience and needs and then feedback from people.  So as we’re growing with our community, if we see a need that’s still not being met, a barrier that’s still not being broken down, we’re able to look at that and say, okay, how can we help?  What can we do?  We have space.  We have a platform.  We have resources.  What can we do to help get the care and the healing, the support, the community into the hands of the people who need it the most?  And those are the life-giving, world-populating mothers.

Yes, and it’s nice that you have so many related practitioners, again, focusing on that pre-conception through early parenting stage, that they can black out their appointments and get a coffee in between, meet a friend, take a nap in between meeting with different practitioners.  I wish that Gold Coast was able to make the move, but we are still a big fan, and we’ll send our clients your way.

I appreciate it, yeah.  I think, too, it’s community support, and part of the community is the practitioners.  I love the idea that our practitioners are moms, too.  We are – right now, it’s seven women-owned and operated businesses, and that’s not even counting the individual, like, businesses that are independent consultants that operate within each business.  But they’re all women and all moms, and so they need the support just as much as everybody else.  And I think that’s part of the reason why they chose to be in the collective because they knew and they understood the level that this is bringing and that they can utilize what we have, too, just as much as the community that they’re serving.

Absolutely.  And I know that there are different types of communities cropping up around the country like these postpartum recovery centers in some of the major cities and multiple collective spaces.  But I do feel like you have a unique slant on yours.  I don’t know if you’ve thought about expanding to other communities or even other states, but it’s a great model.

Thank you.  I appreciate the feedback.  Yeah, it’s definitely a lot of work.

Yes, it’s got to be.

As much as we dream of that – we will see.  We’ll see where we end up and if it’s something that we’re able to scale and share.  We’d love to be able to revolutionize the way that the country receives support and take it further than just West Michigan.

Exactly.  And it is so funny that on social media, I see so many moms talking about how they joined a gym just for the childcare and then they work at the gym instead of working out.  So you’ve got this co-working station.  You have areas that you can have coffee and meet with friends, so more of a social environment.  And then the ability to take any of your fitness-focused classes, which you have – you teach yourself, but you also have a variety of practitioners and offerings, whether it’s infant massage to barre classes to, of course, prenatal yoga.  Do you want to expand a bit about the offerings that you have in your studio?

I would love to.  Yeah, so we – again, growing with the community, it really just started with having prenatal postpartum yoga.  And then realizing that that supports part of the community, but what else?  And we added in barre classes after that.  All of our instructors are cross-trained professionals.  They are experts in pre- and postpartum fitness, and so they know how to keep you safe, first and foremost.  That’s really important to us.  It’s not just about being modified.  It’s about making sure that they can educate and keep safe mom and baby.  And then we just keep adding on.  So from there, we’ve got classes that you can do with your baby.  So we’ve got baby and me yoga, baby wear barre, baby and me dance classes where you baby wear and get to dance with your babe.  Such a great, cute thing that we do!  And then we’ve got things that are more baby-friendly where if you’re not quite ready for the childcare aspect of what we offer, you can bring your baby to your mat and they can watch you grow strong.  We’re expanding that now into being more of like a mama and me where we don’t ever want kiddos to look at their moms or to see the way they lead their life or even hear a story from their mom about all the things they used to do.  We want them to see that their mom can just excel and grow and continue to be strong with their kids, and it’s not a life or a lifestyle they had to leave behind.  So we want them to be able to observe and witness that.  So we created this really cool class.  We joke that we might call it Hot Mess Express where you can bring your kids with you.  And they can watch; they can practice; they can jump on your back.  They can do whatever, but the idea is that they’re just in space with you, and it’s something you can do together and they can see you doing that thing that you love to do to grow stronger.  So we’re really excited about that one coming up.  We’ve got toddler time classes, busy babes.  We’re partnering even with a couple other women-owned businesses that bring in other types of movement classes, things that we don’t necessarily offer.  We’re bringing in different workshops, like baby signs and ASL class.  We’re bringing in bilingual babes, so introductions to early languages.  So beyond movement classes, we’re bringing in experts to help shape and offer you fun things to do with your kiddos.

Excellent.  I know Alyssa teaches your sleep workshop on occasion.  So lovely. 

We tell everybody, you’re going to want to sleep.  You’re going to wonder how you could ever think about sleep so much as the fourth trimester of your life.  So that’s a beautiful offering, too.  We love that one.

So Heidi, as far as your true passion in creating this amazing collective, what is your mantra or what keeps you going with all the chaos from finding the perfect building to assembling the members of the collective?  You’ve got a lot on your plate with your existing studio, being a mom, and so I would love for you to just share maybe a meditation that you use or a mantra with our listeners.

Yeah.  Well, I have two.  One is my motivation mantra that brings in the passion, and that is: we can do better.  We can do better for ourselves; we can do better for this community.  We can do better.  And I say that all the time when things just aren’t adding up, when it feels like there’s those barriers.  But the other one is for my own mental health to keep me sane on the days where it seems like I’m doing everything, but really I’m breaking down on the inside or maybe even the outside.  Having a good cry while I’m overwhelmed because I’m human.  And that one is, I can’t be everything to everyone.  While I’m trying to create something for everyone, while I’m trying to use all these different pieces and parts and have them work together, I’m going to let people down, and so I have to remind myself that while I’m doing this beautiful thing, I’m also going to disappoint people at the same time.  So we can do better, but I also can’t be everything to everyone.

Beautiful.  I love it.  Thank you for sharing.  Alyssa and I recently announced our book that’s coming out on Mother’s Day, and we invited you to be our expert contributor on fitness, whether it’s prenatal or postpartum.  So can’t wait for our listeners and clients to see your section that covers everything from swimming to prenatal yoga to different exercises to walking, ways you can move your body in a healthy way.

Well, first of all, I’m so proud of both you and Alyssa for having the mental capacity to put a book together.  You’re so busy.  It’s a long process.  It’s amazing.  I can’t wait to see it, to read it.  Thank you so much for trusting me to be a contributor to your book.  It’s such an honor, and I hope that it’s just so well received because the intentions behind it are so beautiful.

Well, thank you.  And similar to our Becoming a Mother course, rather than trying to bring the information from our point of view, we wanted to bring in experts, so we do have everything from a pediatrician contributing to a mental health therapist to you of course with the fitness section, and so many beautiful client stories, whether it’s their birth story to their caring for a newborn to their feeding journey.  So it really was a beautiful group effort in creating Supported.

Oh, my gosh, it sounds so lovely.  I really can’t wait.  I’m so excited to be able to share it.

Maybe we can come in to your birth story class and share some of the stories.  We could get some of our clients to share their own experiences.  That would be a fun way to do a reading.

That is such a great idea!  I absolutely love that.  Please do!

Yes, we’ll be in touch!

I love the idea, too, that you took out the opinions and the bias and you made it evidence-based information.  And then shared stories.  I think that’s really what – as doulas, what we try to offer all the time, and you just wrapped it all up and put it in a book.

Yes, we tried!  But we would love to continue to partner with you.  Please share all of your different social channels, your website, so our listeners can learn more.

Yes.  The website is Mind Body Baby.  Our social channel recently got an update because we’re no longer just Mind Body Baby.  We are now Mind Body Baby _ Collective to really encompass all that goodness that we have.  I know, yay!  Yeah, we’re hoping to have our grand opening celebration this summer and would love to see you there and have you as a part of it.

Of course, can’t wait!  And we’ll miss you in East Town, but at least you’re here for a little while longer.

I know, kind of bittersweet.  We love that studio.  It really feels like a space that we grew up in.  It kind of held us all and supported everybody, and we watched a lot of families grow within that space, including my own.  So it is bittersweet, but we know the expansion is necessary in order to grow the level of services that we have to grow in the space that we have.

Exactly.  I’m so excited for you.  Well, thanks for hopping on, and we will chat soon!

Thank you so much, Kristin!  Talk soon!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Mind Body Baby Collective

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother course

Heidi McDowell of Mind Body Baby Collective: Podcast Episode #235 Read More »

4th Trimester Preparation: Podcast Episode #234

 Kristin Revere and Dr. Diane Speier chat about how to best plan and prep for the postnatal phase.  They discuss everything from communication to support options in this informative episode.  Dr. Speier is also the creator of the Digital Doula 2.0 app. 

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with Diane Speier today.  Before emigrating to the UK, Diane was the founder and director of the Family Tree Center for Parents in New York, offering classes, groups, and workshops for prospective and new parents for 20 years.  Diane became a certified childbirth educator and started attending births as a doula in 1978.  Diane is the author of the book Life After Birth: A Parent’s Holistic Guide for Thriving in the Fourth Trimester, drawing on her 45-plus years of experience with helping parents make a smooth transition from pregnancy to parenthood.  The book is unique in applying energy medicine to the postpartum period for the enhanced wellbeing of new parents.

Welcome, Diane!

Oh, I’m so glad to be here with you, Kristin!

Yes, I’ve looked forward to our conversation!  I am all about talking about resources and support for that postnatal phase, and I’m also very curious about how you got into doula work because in 1978, doulas were not known the way they are now, and there weren’t the number of training organizations.  It was a very new industry.  So I love that you have been supporting families in so many different ways as an educator, author, and as a doula over these years.

Well, I didn’t know I was being a doula when I was doing it.  It ended up being that some of the people who were my clients in my birth education classes wanted me to be there with them, and I just started attending these births and being in a supportive role.  Also, you know, assisting and supporting the partner to be engaged in a way that was very meaningful and purposeful but that was just something that came from the connection I had with my clients and the trust that they had in me.  So I think what it was, beginning maybe 1990, Penny Simkin came up with DONA International – or it wasn’t even international at that stage.  I was sort of grandfathered in, and I’m not part of a list or anything in that sense, but the fact that I had been doing it for so long –

You were one of their early doulas, unofficially.  I love that.  Wasn’t it the 80s that it officially started?

Well, I don’t actually know.  Maybe I’m wrong, but maybe I became aware of it in about 1990, and then I came to live in the UK in 1998.  But at that point, I was doing birth doula work and I was doing postpartum doula work and appearing on lists and things when there were local and regional kinds of articles about doulas and stuff like that, and it was – you know, I feel that it was a privilege to be able to do doula work with people, whether it was during the birth or afterwards.  I mean, there’s definite connection that’s established between a doula and a mother when she’s giving birth.

Absolutely.

And although it’s different when you’re coming into the home and you’re helping out and you’re assisting with people, it’s not quite the same, but I love the aspect of getting people on their feet and helping them to manage what was going on in the household and creating space, holding space so they could just spend time with their babies, learning what they needed to know in order to be a parent.  And my doing all the other tasks and things to create that space for them.  I really enjoyed it.  It was something that felt very empowering.

The second ten years of my teaching birth education was the methodology that I called birth empowerment, and I really am very dedicated to the idea that birth can be an empowering experience and that the transition to parenthood can also be an empowering experience.  And I think that’s the underlying theme of Life After Birth, the book that I wrote.

Yes.  I love how everything progressed very organically from education to doula support to becoming an author, to be able to reach an even broader audience.

Right.  And I’m even going further than that now because I’m in the process of developing an online course that’s called Eight Keys for Thriving in the Fourth Trimester, and that, I’m hoping, will be an even greater audience for understanding that people are very engaged with planning their birth experience, but they don’t really give much thought to planning what happens afterwards.

Exactly.  I feel the same way.  I feel like we should plan for the postpartum phase as much as we do for – and I don’t even want to say people are overplanning for their birth itself.  Now, let’s put into the time, say, decorating a nursery and registering for items and getting everything put away and washed.  That’s the kind of dedication that I would like to have for the postnatal phase.

You know, there’s a book out there that I’m not very in favor of that actually says that’s what you need to do to plan for your postpartum experience is get those things set up, and it’s like, wait.  That’s just material stuff.  That’s not the reality of – what kind of emotional changes are we going to go through?  What kind of role changes are you going to go through?  What kind of relationship changes are you going to go through?  That – we need to really discuss it because it leads to something called baby shock.

Exactly.

If you’re in the hospital, you go home with the baby – or even if you’re in the birth center – come home with your baby, and it’s almost like, what now?  And if you have that information and you also have resources, then you can feel more in charge of the experience, even though it’s going to be hairy for a while, even though they’re going to be heated exchanges and stuff.  And if you know that, 92% of couples experience increased conflict in the first year after a baby is born.  Then you’re not going to think that there’s something wrong with you or there’s something wrong with your marriage because the two of you are fighting now on any number of things.  It’s that kind of information that I’m dedicated to spreading out there and providing in an online course, and ideally, people would engage while they’re still pregnant so that it’s in advance and they can be prepared.  But it’s also something that somebody who has a newborn baby can dip into from time to time because each lesson takes about five minutes, and they can be gradually gathering up this information that’s going to help them feel stronger and more confident and more competent as they transition to this new experience.  I’m kind of excited about that.  I think it’s going to launch in April, and we’re just getting the recordings done now.  There are eight modules for this.  They cover the whole shebang of what could come up and how you can be prepared and how you can do things that will help you feel better.  It also incorporates a whole energy medicine piece, as well.

When I did the training – I did the first year of the training ten years ago.  I finished eleven years ago.  And I didn’t continue, but there were so many little techniques that would be so useful that right away, I thought, I can definitely add this into the book that I was writing.  And I talked with the people who were the – it’s from Eden Energy Medicine and Donna Eden and her husband David Feinstein and I.  We had a meeting together and I shared with them what I wanted to do because Donna wrote a book called Energy Medicine for Women, and there was virtually nothing in there about birth and what happens after birth.  So they were so excited that I was now going to apply the principles of what I had learned towards new mothers and partners too.  It’s not exclusively for the women.  And then I came to the second year in 2022.  We finished a year ago.  And I haven’t really had anything in yet, but there’s more content to come, and I can include that in the online course.  So I’m just excited that there are opportunities to provide additional resources for our new mothers.

Yeah, it’s so excellent!  I’m curious, since you do live in the UK, how are you adapting to other cultures with that fourth trimester preparation?  It can be so different, say, in Europe compared to the United States.

It is different.  I’ve been here for almost 26 years now in July.  When I first came here, I was working on my Ph.D. actually.  I got my Ph.D. based on the account from my clients, my birth preparation clients, over a course of 20 years.  I initially thought I might do some kind of comparative, but it wasn’t feasible in terms of comparing what had happened for 20 years in New York before I came here versus what I might be encountering here.  So we changed it, and it became a feminist retrospective ethnography of my professional practice.  And so what I did was, particularly when it comes to midwifery care – so midwifery care in the United States only represents somewhere around 8% of births that take place.  But in the UK, for instance, the midwife is the first point of contact.  So maternity care is essentially designed for midwifery care and the person would only encounter and obstetrician if there was some level of complications.  So it’s completely different than the obstetric model of the United States.

So I did a master’s dissertation on midwifery as a case study because I needed to learn how they were different.  But the thing that really struck me as not as good as the American system is that you have midwives that see you in the community before and after the birth, and then you have midwives that are due for the birth.  So the majority of people have babies in the hospital.  I think maybe 2 or 3% of people have home births here.  And you go into the hospital.  You don’t know the midwives.  You’re seeing them for the first time.  They don’t know you.  And so I think the fragmentation of care is not right.  In America, if you decide to have a midwife with you, she’ll be there the whole – or someone from their practice will be there from the beginning right through to the end, and I think that’s better.

And then when it came to doula work – when I left the academic realm – because I was there for about twelve years altogether – I registered with the doula UK organization.  And it’s not that different from what DONA does.  And I spoke.  I presented at conferences in 2017, 2018.  I did that for a while, but I did stop.  My last birth, my last childbirth doula role, was a very complicated one.  It was a woman having her fourth baby, and we certainly expecting things to move quickly.  And we had one false alarm, and I drove out there; about an hour drive away, and I came back home.  And then the next time when she was actually in labor, we went there, and I think the thing that was really not very helpful was that she had her three other kids sort of wandering around demanding attention.

It’s hard to do the work of labor when you’re parenting!

Exactly.  So we were all there trying to facilitate this amidst all of that.  Birth pool was filled, but she didn’t get into it, and she petered out, as will happen, because the children were there.  So we went to sleep, and I went to sleep, but the next day I had another job that I had to be at at 10:00 in the morning.  And I couldn’t really cancel it, so I had to leave.  And sure enough, after I left, her labor started to go, and she gave birth.  So I missed it, and I thought, okay, that’s it, I’m too old for this.

The on call life is hard.  I’ve been on call, and I have a partner most of the time unless it’s a repeat client, so I have a shared call model, but it is challenging.  I’ve been a birth doula for over ten years, and yeah, that part of it.  And you don’t want to miss a birth, but sometimes things happen.

That’s right, and in this case, if I’d just stayed there, it would have been three days total.  You know what, I still need my sleep, and I still need – I slept on the sofa that night, but I thought, okay, I can’t manage different things happening, when they start to sort of overlay each other.  It becomes too complicated to do.  That was in 2018.  That was the end of my actual doula work.  And I have not done postnatal doula work here, come to think of it.

Okay, so it was only the US that you did the postpartum?

It was only in the US that I did the postpartum, yeah, and I did a lot of it.

Now, in the UK, do they utilize postpartum doulas, or is it more relying on family or nannies?

They do, but they do it in a different way.  I’m trying to think; maybe I did do.  But my way of doing it was that I would come in, like, three days a week for a couple of hours each day for a couple of weeks, and they did it in a more open ended way here.  It wasn’t sort of any kind of schedule.  It was just like, over a period of six weeks, we’ll come in, and I never quite understood how that worked.  But they were sort of curious about the fact that I had this sort of scheduled out routine, which I think, if I’m honest, I think that the knowledge that I was going to show up at a certain time was very comforting for my moms.  And they all knew Diana will be here at such and such a time, and I’ll ask those questions then.

But in addition, I ran a mother and baby class for 20 years, as well, and that was a very rich kind of environment for the mothers because they also scheduled their life around those two classes a week that they would come to my classes.  And I really feel so strongly about the need for community for the postnatal period and the fact that there really isn’t that – when I started teaching this class, it was about 1981 in New York.  I went around to the pediatricians, and I said, oh, I’m going to start this class for mothers and babies, and they said – one of the doctors sat with me and said, I think it’s a great idea because when you’re in the suburbs, it can be so isolating.  When you’re in the city, you can walk down to the park and there’s a park bench, and someone else can sit down and you can start talking.  He said, in the suburbs, you don’t have that kind of experience, so this is exactly the kind of thing that we would really encourage.  So I was like, okay, I’ve got the blessing.  And I did it for 20 years.  I actually continued it here after I came for a couple of years, and I found that the mothers of young babies were not that different here than they are in New York.

Makes sense.  We all have the same needs to connect and to share our own experience and stories because I find that after delivery with well-meaning family and friends, it’s all about the baby, but the mother can sometimes get lost in the process and lose her identity, her former self and so on, and no one really wants to, say, validate what she went through, help her process the birth.  It’s all about, oh, this baby’s adorable, you should be so thankful that you have this healthy baby, and people wanting to hold baby.

And that’s completely wrong.  That was one of the motivations for writing the book was the fact that she does – she sort of vanishes into the background, and all eyes turn to the baby.  For nine months, she was being celebrated because she was creating life, and then boom, she has the baby and she’s like chopped liver.

Exactly.  It’s like, what about me?

Yeah.  So my book was really to pay attention to the mother and her experience and then also put it within the frame of the whole family.  It’s not just the baby.  It’s the mother and it’s the partner.  Everybody’s having an experience that we need to really validate and confirm, and this is what I feel we need to really give.  It’s just not fair.  I never thought it was fair, in all my years of doing it.

And nothing’s changed.  It’s still not fair.

It’s just unfortunate.  My daughter-in-law is pregnant at the moment and due in June, and they were about to move.  I think they’re very caught up in getting all the logistics done before we sort of sit down and talk about it.  But when I was talking with her on one of our Facetimes, and she was saying, well, what would you like to do?  Would you like to just come and sort of meet the baby and see the baby after it’s born, or would you like to sort of do your whole doula thing?  And I said, well, I’m quite happy to come and do that for you, and I explained to her what that might include.  I haven’t heard back from them yet as far as that, but I think it’s going to be determined by my son whether or not.  But at this point, I have to buy tickets for my flights and find myself an Airbnb, so I can’t wait too much longer.  But it is a real disservice to childbearing women that their experience after the birth is just not appreciated and not centered in terms of the family experience.  We will all write books and celebrate and get the message out that, yeah, it was a big experience to have a baby and to go through the whole childbirth experience, and we really appreciate how challenging the new mothering experience is for you, and people will want to see your baby, but do yourself a favor, and wait.  Because that’s the thing.

You can’t get that time back.

No, that’s right.  And it’s so exhausting when they come.

Exactly.  You can’t predict when baby will wake or need a diaper change or need a feeding.

And if people come to your house, you feel like you need to play hostess and the rest of it.  So no, I say take that time during the fourth trimester to create your little babymoon, your little bubble of who’s in the family.  Of course, there may be older children, as well.  And save those visits for later when you feel stronger and you’re kind of getting your act together.  The exception to that is, if people bring food.

Exactly, or offer to help.

Right.  They cannot come empty handed.  So if they bring food, that’s okay.  If they say, I’ll do the laundry or I’ll wash the dishes or I’ll do the shopping, that’s okay.  But to just come and say googoo, gaga – no.

Yes, where you feel like you have to have snacks for the guests and entertain them when you’re recovering from a major life occurrence, no matter how you give birth.

That’s right.  Absolutely.  Wait on that.  So if I were to describe the modules of my online course – I took it from one of the chapters of my book where I called this the postpartum wellness plan, and wellness was an acronym.  The W stood for we, which is about dealing with relationship stress that happens after birth.  The first E was for energy medicine, so I’m introducing something that’s not well known and yet so easy to do.  Anybody including a child can do it.  And then the first L is for loving kindness because I think one of the things that I have a podcast – well, actually, it was Instagram Live last night – talking about the fact that a lot of times after women have their baby come, they’re very self-critical, and I’m not doing this right or there’s something wrong with me or whatever.  And understanding the premise of loving kindness is that you’re extending your good wishes out to the world out to a person that you love, out to somebody who is neutral, out to a patron.  But also, to yourself.  Bringing that love back to yourself.  May I have physical happiness, mental happiness.  May I have ease of well being.  And a lot of people find that difficult to do and challenging, but it’s still something we need to foster, that you’re okay.  We’re okay.  And this is hard, but I’m okay.  And I can love myself, even though I’m going through a difficult and challenging time now.

The second L stands for less is more, and that’s what we were talking about with less is more – less visitors.  Less stuff.  Less paraphernalia.  Less social media.  Less all of these things that impact on us in sometimes a very profound way.

The N stands for new normal because normal has changed.

That’s not talked about enough, the fact that you can’t go back.  It won’t be the same.  The new normal – that’s everything.

What happens is, people were sort of very – they’re focused on looking backwards instead of looking forward.  And what we need to do is embrace the fact that it’s changed.  Everything’s changed.  And wonderful things can be ahead of us, even though we’re not having that experience of what we were before children came into our lives.  So I thought that was important.  I think the second E stands for expectations and the need to manage them because we can have realistic expectations or unrealistic ones, and we can have helpful ones or unhelpful ones, but we need to manage them, and we need to – because we end up dealing with internal expectations of our own and then external expectations.  We can have other people’s ideas about how you should be doing things.  So here’s where I have them confront the whole word “should.”  People are talking to you about “shoulds” – stop listening.

Yes, agreed.

It’s their story.  It’s not yours.  So, yeah, expectations are important to monitor.  And then also there are two S’s which stand for self-care and support.  And I’m not talking about self-care in the sense of finding yourself at a spa, but doing day to day things, everyday things, that are taking care of yourself so that you can take care of your baby.  And the support goes to the whole idea of community.  The community of new mothers is what I saw from my exercise classes all those years, how women would create these sort of cohesive groups, and then I would bump into them in elementary schools ten years later, and they’d say, we’re still friends.  It would make me smile.  It really would.

So yeah, these are the modules, and I think that if someone has all of these things addressed, then they can make a real smooth transition into and right through the fourth trimester and really feel ready to take on the world when they emerge.  So that’s my intention, and I’m looking forward to launch.  And I’m actually going to start it as a very reduced course so that people are kind of beta testing it, so that people can give us feedback about each module as it comes up.  What worked, what didn’t work, what would you like to see more of.  We’re going to drip it out every couple of weeks and allow that time for people to review it and send us back some feedback if they feel it’s important, and we’ll really fine tune it into something that really is the best we can possibly do.

That’s what I did with our online course, Becoming a Mother.  We did some live launches, three live launches, and then used feedback from the early students in the course and then adapted it by the time it went evergreen.

Maybe I’ll get it out before my new grandchild arrives.  I’ll get the first few sessions out before then, yeah.  And you know something, I’m getting on in my years now.  And people at some point said to me, aren’t you tired of this?  When I went through menopause and past menopause.  And I don’t get tired of it.  I don’t get tired of it.  It’s just something I feel – it’s almost in my DNA, that I feel so drawn to helping this very vulnerable stage in a person’s life so they can feel more confident about what they’re doing.

You said you’ve been doing this for about ten years; is that right?

Correct.

Do you notice any changes in terms of mothers’ anxiety levels?  Is that enough time to be able to say?  Because if I were to compare what I hear and what I read now in the 21st century versus when I finished teaching in New York in 1998, I feel like the level of anxiety has jumped.

Yes.  It’s so much higher.  I started teaching classes after my son was born, so that’s 11 years, and I became a doula 10 years ago.  Yes, I have noticed, especially since the pandemic, that anxiety is heightened.  There’s more fears going into childbirth.  We happen to teach HypnoBirthing, so we address some of those fears, and it is very mental and using some of the visualization, positive self-talk that you discussed.  So I feel that method helps, but not all of our doula clients align with that or choose to take a childbirth class.  But there is a lot more fear, a lot more anxiety.  I don’t know if it’s the reliance on social media and being on all of the time with work.

I think that’s a good point.  I think that’s really a good point because I think that you’re getting above the water level, gliding across the water, and paddling like crazy underneath the water, and so you see a very skewed version of what somebody else’s experience is, and then yours – the reality doesn’t seem to match up.  I think that’s a form of pressure; would you agree?

I would absolutely agree.  On a previous podcast, I had discussed a bit about how social media can be good and bad in many ways.  There’s that filtered Pinterest, Instagram perfect life, and then you’re getting into the comparison game.  But I also appreciate social media and some of the vulnerability that moms are sharing and showing that their house is a mess or that they’re struggling to make it easier for some of their audience.  Say they’re a celebrity or an influencer and people are following them, and they’re going through real struggles and sharing those.  Then I feel like that can be helpful.

Yeah, I think it can go both ways.  It’s a double edged sword.  You can find the support that you need, but you can also feel that pressure to perform when you’re just trying to get by day to day.  I think that might be contributing to the state of anxiety that mothers are approaching parenthood with, and how that becomes a barrier to opening up to the possibilities.  Do you think people are having less childbirth preparation these days?

I find that our in-person classes have gotten smaller.  Maybe it’s a lack of time or traveling.  My agency also offers some virtual Zoom classes, some self-paced classes, and then the Becoming A Mother course, so there are a lot of things to choose from, but I do feel like that in-person connection – and I know before I became a doula, I took Lamaze with both of my kids, back to back births, and had a real connection, as you described with some of your postnatal classes, with fellow students, and I’m still friends with many of them.  We organized our own meetups with our babies and later toddlers and found out that a few of us were pregnant at the same time with our second babies.  It was quite lovely.  We intentionally created that community, but I learn better in person, so I always choose in person.  But other people, it doesn’t really work for them, for many reasons.  Maybe it’s childcare if it’s their second baby.

And I find that it’s an interesting thing that now people sort of say, well, I don’t have time.  Yet, 40 years ago, people were saying, oh, I have to get ready for birth, so I’m going to make that time.  And my daughter-in-law said, well, there was this one course that was, like, two hours over the weekend.  Or she can do the HypnoBirthing course.  And I said, well, you’re not going to get anything out of a two-hour class on a weekend, so I would suggest you do a HypnoBirthing.  Do you do the Marie Mongan version?

Yes, we sure do.  I love the original.

I actually did that.  When I was moving back into the birth world after I left academia, I did a course that was taught here of the Marie Mongan version of HypnoBirthing, and because I am also a hypnotherapist.  So I thought, well, this is going to pull together two aspects of my work.  It’s almost a synthesis.  I really appreciated what it had to offer.  So I would – at this stage, I would definitely suggest that.  What do people think they need, two hours to prepare for birth?  But there must be people out there that say yeah.  And then they get to the birth and everything gets completely screwed up, right, because they weren’t prepared for this or they didn’t understand that.

Exactly.  They don’t understand what their body is going through.  They don’t understand the intervention choices or stages of labor.  There’s so many things that can’t be covered in two hours.  I teach a very hands-on Comfort Measures for Labor class, and I tell couples who take it that they’re not going to learn everything that you would in a comprehensive childbirth class, but at least it gets the partners connecting, talking, moving.  Whether they have a doula or not, the partners are learning some hands-on techniques.  But that will not prepare them for what they’re going to encounter in labor.  It might make labor more comfortable, but yeah, there’s so much more.

When I was teaching, I would teach just a class on the first stage of labor, and then a second class on the second stage of labor, and then a class on the interventions, and then another class on what you just described in terms of labor support and what you can be doing together.  And I think that what happens is people come into it – they go into labor and they feel the pain, and that’s all that they focus their attention on.  I have this pain.  They don’t know why that pain is happening, so that whole – I give a whole three hours’ worth of information about what’s actually happening during the first stage of labor.  Your body is contracting and it’s also retracting.  And when you know that, you may be feeling the pain, but you know that there’s a real good reason why you’re feeling the pain, and if you haven’t had that education, you won’t – it’s just pain.

Exactly, and they just want it to go away.  But it’s pain with a purpose, or discomfort is what I like to call it.  I don’t consider it pain because you get a break.

That’s right.  And it’s finite.

Yeah, exactly.  You get to meet your baby.  Again, purpose.

That’s right.  Each contraction gets you closer to that.  I just think that – I still feel that education is really important because having that under your belt when you’re going through labor means that there’s a good reason and there’s a good purpose, pain with a purpose.  And really focusing on the fact that this is a powerful experience, as well, not just a painful experience, but it’s really a powerful experience, getting your baby born.

So powerful, yes.  It was one of my biggest moments.  I felt so accomplished, and I’ve never run a marathon, but it sort of feels like that.  I used to be a runner, and really, that visualization.  I felt with both of my births, although they were completely different from each other, were both very empowering for me.

Yeah, all of my births – I have four children – all of my births were very different.  I had a hospital birth with a doctor the first time around because I didn’t know any better in ’74.  And then I had my second child in a birth center in the New York Maternity Center Association, which went out of business and became Childbirth Connection along the way.  But that was the first birth center to open up in the state, and it was in New York, with a midwife.  The third birth was an attempt to have a homebirth, but I ended up being a hospital transfer for a forceps delivery.  And the fourth birth was at home.

All different.  Very different.

Yeah.  The only thing I haven’t done – I haven’t done a Cesarean section, and I haven’t had an anesthetized birth.  I had a pudendal block for the delivery of the forceps delivery because I didn’t want full anesthesia.  But I’ve really sampled a lot of the possibilities in terms of location, anyway.

That’s helpful with your background as an author, creating this app, and understanding different experiences personally and also professionally.

Diane, I could talk to you forever, but we’re running out of time.  So let’s touch a bit about how to connect with you, how to purchase your book, buy your app, how to find the course when it’s out, and of course, your website.

So my website would be www.dianespeier.com.  And the name of the book is Life After Birth: A Parent’s Holistic Guide to Thriving in the Fourth Trimester.  The app is a companion for that.  The sections of the app match the sections of the book, but increase that information and add more and also the links that were in the book in black and white become live links in the app.  And that’s called Digital Doula 2.0.  And it’s available in the app store, as well as in Google Play.

Do you have a chat feature in the app?

We just added a chat feature in the app this past year, and what I want to do – it’s not being used the way we intended, but I changed the app developer in the last year, and I need to sort of follow up on that so that it becomes more communal and we can have group chats in it, and I haven’t worked that out yet.  I’ve had other things going on at a fast pace.

Right, with this course launch.  There’s a lot going on.

Yeah.  And so let me also give you the other website, which is called thrivinginthe4thtrimester.com.  They can get information about the online course there and put their name on the waiting list, but also, there’s a free download there from energy medicine.  We created a digital download called Energy Matters in Postpartum Resilience.  That’s something that people can purchase, but it’s also a bonus as part of the online course.  But then there’s a free download, which is the first part, called the Daily Energy Routine.  And they can get that.  So if they go to Thriving in the 4th Trimester, that’s where they can access anything related to the online course, as well as some information about energy medicine for free and some to purchase, because the full digital download is a 60-page document, so it’s a little book, and it’s really good.

You can find me on Facebook at Dr. Diane S. Speier.  On Instagram, it’s @drdianespeier.  Did I leave anything out?

Are you on LinkedIn?

I think it’s Diane Speier on LinkedIn.  And you can also find the Digital Doula page on Facebook, as well.  I’ll never get tired of this, and because of that, we should have another conversation down the road, Kristin, somewhere.

Let’s do.  I would love that, Diane.  Thank you for sharing all of your wisdom.  Would you like to leave our listeners with one final tip?

One final tip.  What would I choose?  Look after each other during this very tumultuous time in your life.  Just look after each other so you can be a team, and I like to use the word duet because you’re sort of singing a different part, but the harmony that comes together with that is really a wonderful song.  So look after each other, because people do not know that having a baby really does change the nature of your partnership a lot, which is why We became the first module of the online course.

Thank you.  Excellent advice, and I appreciate all of your time.

And I appreciate what you’re doing, Kristin.  I think it’s really wonderful to see how you are providing resources for the community, as well.

Thank you, Diane!  Take care!

IMPORTANT RESOURCES

Dr. Diane Speier

Thriving in the 4th Trimester

Birth and Postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother course

All of the courses available from Gold Coast Doulas

4th Trimester Preparation: Podcast Episode #234 Read More »

Top 5 Toddler Behavior Questions Answered with Christine Brown of Bella Luna Family! Podcast Episode #233

Kristin Revere and Christine Brown address everything from handling tantrums to managing a child’s big feelings in the latest episode of Ask the Doulas.  You can listen to this episode on your favorite podcast player.  

Hello, this is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with my friend Christine Brown today.  Christine is the CEO and lead sleep and behavior consultant of Bella Luna Family.  Welcome back, Christine!

Thank you so much for having me again!  I’m so excited to be here!

Yes!  And our last conversation was all about potty training, and I consider you our expert since you’re part of our Becoming course as our expert in potty training and we always refer to your podcast and blog with our clients.  So thank you for sharing all of your knowledge!  Our topic today is one of your other specialties, behavior.  I would love to dive into that.  We chatted earlier about some of the typical questions that you get from parents that you work with in regards to behavior.  What is your top question that you get asked, Christine?

I think probably the biggest thing is, do you have anything quick that I can do to improve behavior with my child?  Because sometimes too much, we get too much advice and try to implement it all at the same time.  That can feel a little bit overwhelming.  Sometimes it’s easy to just focus on one small thing, especially if you feel like you’re in a cycle with your toddler or your preschooler where you’re just not cooperative very well.  And so that thing that I recommend the most is, focusing on the positive.  I know that sounds so simplistic, but what happens is – I don’t know if you remember this, or you might even go through it now.  But when we’re in a difficult phase of our child’s development or we’ve got a lot of stuff going on in our lives coupled with our child just going through normal developmental things that are age appropriate for them, it’s easy to start focusing on all of the things that we don’t like about our child’s behavior.  And I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, what we focus on, we get more, right?  And so the number one thing, and I joke when I say this, but when I start feeling like I want to run away from home, because I think sometimes moms, we’re just like, oh, my gosh.  This is so much.  I don’t know how to deal with all of this.  When I start to have those types of feelings, I recognize, man, I’m really focused on all of these things that I don’t like, and I really need to change my perspective and start focusing on all of the things that my child does and says on a daily basis that are amazing because sometimes we lose sight of that.  And we don’t give that positive feedback to our little ones.  No one performs or acts better when they’re feeling worse about themselves.

So true, yes.

And one of the ways I like to think about it is, imagine early in your relationship, if you have a partner – and I’m going to be very gender stereotypical right now, so just pardon me on that – but it’s like, oh, my gosh, thank you so much for taking out the trash, right?  So grateful.  And oh, my God, that was the best dinner ever.  It was so great.  And then what happens is we get into marriage or our relationship; maybe we have our kids, and then it’s like, he didn’t even put a bag back in the trash can, right?  This again?  And so what happens is when we start to really focus on those types of things, it makes us less likely to want to serve.  And our children really do want to make us happy, even though sometimes their behaviors are challenging, and so if we just start focusing on all of those positive behaviors on a daily basis, we’re going to start seeing more of that flow out of them, and it really can change the energy in the house very, very quickly.

Makes sense.  Excellent.  So what’s next?

So other things that can also help increase cooperation in toddlers: there’s really two kind of main things that toddlers need developmentally at this point, and the first one is attention and connection.  And sometimes the worst behavior is a call for attention or connection, and this can be hard because sometimes we’re like, I’m with my kids all the time.  But we may be doing a lot of different things while we’re with our kids, and we might be distracted.  Our kiddos really need something short, even can be 10 or 15 minutes a day, but really getting down, focusing, doing child-led play with them, and really filling up that cup of theirs.  That can really help improve behavior because the more connected our children feel to us, the better their behavior is going to be.

That makes sense.

And if you’re having bedtime battles with your little one, I love doing after dinner shutting off all screens, putting all technology and devices away, and just getting down on the floor and pouring in because that can make the disconnect at bedtime much easier because they feel like that cup has been filled.

Excellent.

And the flip side of that, especially with our toddlers and our preschoolers, is lots of choices.  We control so much of our young children’s lives, right?  We control who their friends are, where they go to school, what they eat, their choice of clothes, all of that.  And one of their primary needs is to feel like they’ve got some power.  The way we can do that is offer age-appropriate choices because that way, once they feel like they have some of that power, they don’t have to dig their heels in and push back on us so much because they feel like they’ve gotten control over their own lives.  I always think about it imagining if someone controlled every aspect of our lives and we didn’t feel like we had any choice.  I always think about that from our children’s perspective.  They need to feel powerful so that they have that agency over their own life, but age appropriate choices.  Do you want to wear the red shirt or the blue shirt?  Do you want to use the green cup or the yellow cup?  Do you want to put your shoes on yourself, or do you need my help?  Do you want to climb in your car seat and I’ll buckle you in, or do you want Mommy to put you in there?  Lots of those types of age appropriate choices really gives kids that power that they’re craving.

Excellent.  And as a parent of twins, I’m sure that you’ve had to navigate big emotions and giving them choices probably reduces a lot of those tantrums and so on.

Yeah, it definitely did.  My twins definitely liked to have – my son and I even had an incident last night where – he’s nine.  My twins are now nine.  We had a bit of tussle last night, and I had to take a deep breath and be like, it’s okay.  We can undo anything.  Just give him the opportunity to do that.  And I think one of the other things that’s important with choices, too, is knowing when to use them.  So if our kiddos are overtired, overstimulated, or hungry, that’s probably not a time to offer a lot of choices because their emotional reserves are low at that point.  So offering choices in other times, but sometimes we need to make decisions for our kids when they’re in those.

So you mentioned mealtime or hunger.  What are your tips for managing behavior issues during mealtimes, whether it’s at home or in public?

So from my perspective, I think sometimes we have really big expectations of what our children are capable of doing when it comes to mealtimes.  So the number one thing is having realistic expectations of a parent, like how long our children are actually going to be able to sit in their seat and stay still.  I like to use visual timers for children that get up from the table a lot.  Saying ten minutes is how long we have to stay at the table and actually having the child have a visual timer can be really helpful because then they know when they can get up, and that can be a game changer, especially if you have a child that’s up every one or two minutes.  If we’re setting small increments of time and expecting them to just stay there for that amount of time, that can be really helpful.  I have a lot of parents come to me and they’re like, well, we’re still eating, and our little one wants to get up.  And I’m like, yeah, but they’re two.  They can’t sit there for very long.  That’s just not how our little ones are.  They need to get up and move, so kind of letting them do that.

If children are throwing food, to me that means they’re done eating, and so at that point I pick up and plate and say, if you get hungry, you can come back and finish, but when you throw your food, you’re telling me that you’re done.

What other things do you hear from parents as challenges that they come up against?

Naptime, certainly, and getting up frequently, complaining, just the struggle with, of course, bedtime as well, but certainly naps.

Yes, naps can be challenging.  I’m a firm believer in that there’s three things that children can control: eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom.  From an eating and a potty perspective, I think that should really be child-led, but from a sleep perspective, I think we do have to help our children make choices in that respect.  They can’t actually make the choices.  We have to make the choices for them.  And when it comes time for nap, I always like to say, especially to toddlers and big kids, you don’t have to sleep, but you do have to rest.  And so they have quiet time, whether that’s an hour or 90 minutes or two minutes depending on the age of the child, where they’re in their room, in their crib or in their bed, where they’re having some down time.  That way, they have the downtime, and how they choose to spend that time is up to them.  They can be upset or they can just relax or they can choose to sleep, but they still have to have that down time.

Yes.  What are your tips when a child does have those big feelings?  What do you recommend parents you work with as far as tools to navigate that?

The number one thing is that sometimes our children’s big feelings are very triggering for us, especially if our own feelings weren’t validated when we were younger.  So when they’re having big feelings, it really can trigger us, and it can make us react to those big feelings.  The first thing I recommend, number one, is staying calm, because if our child is having big feelings and we get really upset, we’re just adding fuel to the fire, and it oftentimes will make the feeling even larger and can prolong any sort of tantrum that could be happening.

Second, this is a mantra that I say to myself over and over again when my children are not acting logically.  I have to remind myself, 25.  Because I remind myself that our children’s brains are not fully developed until they’re 25.  When we’re expecting them to react in a way that is logical for an adult brain, I have to remind myself, okay, well, my child may not be capable of my logical, rational adult thoughts right now because their brain is not going to be fully developed until they’re 25.  So that also helps me to be calm and patient because I realize that I’m dealing with someone who doesn’t have a fully developed brain, and that’s going to take some time.  That allows me to stay more patient and calm with my child.

On top of that, just recognizing the feeling, helping our children name those feelings and then validating the feelings because oftentimes many of us – I was raised by boomers, and so I was kind of the, rub some dirt in it kid generation.  Your feelings just didn’t – our parents didn’t get that, and so they didn’t know how to give it.  And now our generation that are raising children are doing things differently, and we are trying to have more respectful parenting.  One of the ways that you can really be a respectful parent is just validating those big feelings that your little ones has.  It doesn’t mean you need to give in to if they’re having a big t antrum because they want another cookie.  It doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to give in to that big feeling just to kind of keep the peace.  Just recognize it’s okay for your child to have those big feelings, right?  Our job is to stay calm and just validate.  “I know” are some of the most powerful words in the English dictionary when it comes to parenting because it lets our child know, I hear you.  I see you.  I see where you’re coming from.  I recognize what your feelings are.  And it’s important to, especially when they’re really little, help them understand what that feeling is.  I see that you’re really mad.  I see that you’re really sad.  And then validate it.  I know you want a cookie.  Cookies are so delicious.  Saying something like that instead of like, no, you can’t have a cookie; stop crying.  You’re going to get a much better response from your child if you validate their feelings before holding any sort of boundary.

And that transitions well into the tantrum area.  What are your tips related to how to handle the child who’s on the floor and just can’t be consoled?

Yes.  Like I mentioned, the first thing with tantrums – and again, these can be really triggering for us as adults, too, especially if we’re feeling low on reserves, but still staying calm is just so important because it truly is adding gas to a fire if we get really upset.  So stay calm.  And another thing that’s important here is when your child is having a tantrum, recognizing they are not coming from a place where it’s premeditated.  When children are having tantrums, their logical brain has been shut down, and they are more operating on that emotional, more primitive brain, right?  Trying to create logic and talk to them about their feelings and being logical with them and expecting logic from them – they’re just not capable.  Until they’ve calmed down, they can’t really hear a lot of what we’re saying.  So if we stay calm, and also limit our words.  Oftentimes when our children are tantruming, we’re trying to talk it through with them and trying to figure it out in the moment.  Sometimes it’s better to just say, I see that you’re really mad right now, and I understand.  Mommy’s here if you need me.  I’m right here when you’re ready for a hug.  You let me know.  And just kind of leave it at that.  That’s also going to allow your child to regulate better because you’re just there, calm, being there and present, and we’re not talking a ton about it, which can really create that tantrum going on much longer than it needs to.

Excellent.  What other tips do you have for our listeners related to behavior issues?

Kind of on that same vein of handling tantrums, time out is a really highly debated topic, right?  I’m a fan of time out because time out truly means to just rest, take a break.  That’s what it means.  So when our children are in a really heightened state, sometimes they do need a time out.  But it’s not like the traditional time out where you think like, oh, you’re going in your room to think about your behavior because oftentimes when we try to do that, our child feels more isolated, and that can really amp things up even more.  And so I’m a big fan of putting together a peaceful pillow or a cozy corner, someplace where our children can go to calm themselves down that’s not a negative place.  It’s in the main living area.  And they can go there if you see that your child is about to go into a tantrum phase.  You can do that in advance.  Like, I see that we’re starting to get really mad.  Let’s go sit together and read a book or something like that.  Sometimes we can preemptively get in front of it.  And sometimes I – unless a child is really breaking a golden rule, and golden rules are, I will not hurt myself; I will not hurt others; and I will not destroy property.  I’m not a fan of sending them necessarily to time out as a punitive way of doing things, but if they are breaking one of those golden rules, I do think that they need some time in a spot that’s a positive place.  It’s not just a negative place, and they’re not isolated, to tell their body to stop, to stop that behavior because it’s not safe.  And then once they’ve stopped the behavior and they come out of time out, just focusing on what went right.  You told your body to stop hitting.  Great job.  Do you want to come help me do X?  Something like that.  We don’t want to punish because that’s not how our children learn, but once everything is really calm is when we have the opportunity for teachable moments.  Our children are going to make a ton of mistakes.  That’s part of it.  We’ve all gone through the process of making mistakes, right?  I’ve made millions of mistakes throughout my life.  And that’s part of how our children learn so they have to make mistakes and we have to let them make mistakes so that they can learn from it.  If the child has been throwing or hitting or kicking, that’s when you can talk about what could we do instead.  That really hurt my body.  Next time you’re feeling really mad, you can’t hit.  That’s not safe.  I love myself too much for you to let you hit me, and I love you too much to let anyone hit you, right?  So what can we do instead next time when you’re feeling really angry?  For a younger child, you could say I’m really mad; you can stop your feet and say I’m really mad.  Give them approved behaviors and ways of expressing those big feelings.  And then if the child has broken a golden rule, sometimes we have to help them figure out how make it right, whether that’s a logical or natural consequence.  Natural consequences are like cause and effect, right?  You threw something and it broke, and now I need you to help me fix it.  Another thing is if a child hit another child, I always say to my son, how can we make this right?  And at first, I had to help them figure out ways that they could make it right.  Like, if that person wants a hug, do you want to give them a hug?  Do you want to say I’m sorry?  Do you want to color a picture?  Those are different ways I’ve helped them, and now I ask them that same question.  I’m like, how do you want to make this right with that person, and they’ve come to the place where they can actually make those decisions and figure that out for themselves.

I love that so much, Christine.

And it’s important because that’s how we truly change behavior is if the child has natural or logical consequences; that’s where they learn.  They’re like, oh, I don’t want to have to keep doing that.  I don’t want to do that again.  And when you’ve given them other tools and other ways of doing things, it might take a little while for them to get there, but you’re going to be so proud when instead of hitting, they’ve said, like, I don’t like that; I’m really angry.  That’s when as parents we’re like, oh, this hard work is working!

Yes!  So how do you navigate technology?  You mentioned screens off near bedtime and on the floor play.  I feel like this is a common issue for parents of younger children like toddlers, as well as older kids, because there’s so much even in school related to working on computers and technology.  It’s a part of our lives now.

Yeah.  So I am not the technology police at home.  I have read all of the studies.  I know the benefits and the downfalls.  We do live in such a technology focused society, and I do understand, it’s addicting for not just children, but it can be the same for adults.  For younger kids, I think following the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations overall is good, positive, helpful guidance.  As they get a little bit older, they’re allowed to have a little bit more, but also ensuring that lots of breaks are happening in between.  We’ve been through phases – one of my sons has ADHD, which means that his brain is wired for what he’s interested in, and he’s interested in technology.  So we’ve gone through phases where we’ve had to go on more of a technology diet than others because of the behavior that was resulting from having too much screen time.  But I think as parents, we’re just trying to strike the balance.  And reevaluating as time goes on.  My husband and I for a long time had a no technology during the week policy, and that didn’t mean TV; it was more like games and screens.  But my children have gotten to a place where they’re nine and a half now, and they’re better at turning it off and going and doing other things instead of just staying on it all the time.  And when they’re asked to get off of it, it’s not a big struggle.  And so we’ve actually recently loosened up a little bit more so they get a little bit of screen time at home during the week.  At this age, it’s so important for them to connect with their friends, and that’s one way that they’re able to do it.  I think it’s just reevaluating as our kids get older, what makes sense for your family, how your child reacts to technology, and making your rules based on your own specific child and your family’s philosophies.

Very helpful.  So what other questions are you seeing from your clients related to behavior that we didn’t cover?

I think another one is not listening.  Lots of, like, how do I get my child to listen better?  This is a big one, and let’s be honest, as moms, nothing is more frustrating than repeating yourself a thousand times; am I right?

Yes!  Even with teenagers, I feel like I’m still repeating myself to my 13-year-old.

Oh, for sure.  I mean, usually they’re distracted with technology, right?  This is what I feel like I look like when my kids aren’t listening and I’m repeating myself over and over again is like the cartoons where the steam used to come out of the ears and the head started popping off the body.  That’s how I feel inside.

But there are things that we can do to really get our children to listen better that they just play into looking at things from a respectful standpoint, right?  If we’re constantly ordering and directing and we’re just focused on almost that authoritarian, like, do as I say, don’t question me – oftentimes, you will find that when you take that approach, that children don’t listen as much.  They tend to shut down a lot.  So number one is ensuring you’ve got that strong connection because if our kids don’t feel connected to us, they’re not going to listen to us.  It’s kind of like thinking about, like, do you have a friend who isn’t respectful to you?  Are you going to take their advice when they try to talk to you about something?  Probably not.  You’re going to tune them out a little bit more, right?  So I think about that.  Just making sure that you have that connection, making sure that you’re giving lots of love and affection and attention and spending time together and being interested in what they’re interested in, having that legitimate, true relationship and connection.  That really opens up the ears because even think about it in your own relationships with your spouse or your partner.  If you guys aren’t connected, oftentimes the communication just isn’t there.  We’re less likely to hear what the other person is saying in the way that they meant to say it.  Does that make sense?

Exactly.  It does.  Very helpful.

And the other thing – I have many things about this, but oftentimes the most popular, especially when we have toddlers and young preschoolers, I felt like I was trying to keep my twin boys alive all the time when they were younger.  So my most popular words coming out of my mouth felt like, “No,” “stop,” and “don’t.”  But then when I started doing more behavior work and I started thinking about it, when I have someone – even though they’re children and they’re young – when they hear no, stop, and don’t all the time, they’re going to tune us out a little bit more.  So when we actually need it, when we’re in a safety situation where they’re running away from us in the parking lot, if we always say no, stop, and don’t, they might disregard us when it’s a true safety issue.  So we want to kind of reserve those.  And there’s different ways to say no without saying no that can also decrease tantrums, as well.  “Can I have a cookie?”  What’s our natural inclination?  “No, I’m making dinner.”  Temper tantrum down on the floor.  But if you say, “Yes, after dinner you can have a cookie,” you’ve said no without saying no.  You’ve just told them when they can have it.  “I want ice cream.”  “Oh, I know.”  (Validate the feeling.)  “Ice cream is so delicious.  But today has already been an ice cream day, so tomorrow can be another ice cream day.”  You’re saying no without actually saying no.  That works really, really well.

Lots of “Yes, and.”  I always think about this.  I do this with my husband.  I’ll be thinking – obviously, we have different upbringings, different minds, and he’ll have one idea of a way to do things, and I’ll have my idea, right?  And if I say to him, that’s a stupid idea.  We should do it my way.  He’s going to shut down, right?  He’s not going to be listening to me.  Whereas if I say, “Yes, we could do it that way, or we could do it this way,” he’s going to be more open and receptive to thinking about the way that I think that we should do it.

Nice.  Excellent tips.  So what would it be like for our listeners or our doula clients to work with you and your team at Bella Luna Family?

Essentially, what we do is when we start working with a family, we always start by having you fill out an intake form, and that’s where we collect lots of different information because we like to look at every situation holistically.  So we’re looking at everything from sleep, behavior, potty training, nutrition, where the parents are at, and so that’s how we start everything.  From there, we meet with families one on one, and we have conversation about the most challenging aspects that are happening whether it’s potty training or sleep or behavior.  And we kind of have a conversation and share insight and educate on what’s normal.  Parents leave there with action steps on what they can do, and we like to try to keep it really simple.  You’re working on some small things.  Small things can really help improve.  And then we’re continually working with people.  We build on those skills as time goes on.

Excellent.  And you can be found all over social media and your website.   Where would you like to direct our listeners?

I’m thinking I will add a freebie.  If people want to download, I have a Taming Tantrums Checklist.  That tends to be a great way to start.  So if people want more insight about that topic, and also to get on our mailing list.  I send newsletters every other week filled with lots of good insight.

Thank you so much, Christine!  I loved chatting with you again.  What a great resource for all of our listeners!

Thank you, Kristin!  It was so great chatting with you again!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Bella Luna Families

Taming Tantrums freebie

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Top 5 Toddler Behavior Questions Answered with Christine Brown of Bella Luna Family! Podcast Episode #233 Read More »

Postpartum Recovery with Lynn Schulte: Podcast Episode #232

Kristin Revere and Lynn Schulte discuss postpartum healing including hemorrhoids, fissures, and tears as well as preventative steps to take during pregnancy.

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with Lynn Schulte today.  Lynn is the founder of the Institute for Birth Healing, and our topic is all about postpartum healing and recovery after birth.  Welcome, Lynn!

Thanks, Kristin, so much!  I so appreciate any opportunity I get to be able to share what I know and to help moms.

So happy to have all of your wisdom here for our listeners!  Would you start by filling us in on your extensive bio?  I was looking over all of your skill sets, and you have a wealth of experience in not only pelvic floor physical therapy but also just healing in general and body work.

Yeah.  I’ve been a physical therapist for over 30 years and have taken lots of different continuing education courses, but I would say that my specialty really is connecting a person to a deeper part of themselves and really trying to tap into – my gift is being able to understand why the body is doing what it’s doing and getting to the root cause of tension in the body or why a muscle won’t let go.  That is just something that I’ve discovered and developed over the years on my own, not from necessarily taking a particular course.  So I love that deeper healing work, and really working with trauma, because that’s the trauma response in the body that can sometimes cause a freeze response in the body and then the tissues don’t really know that the trauma event is over.  That freeze response is still held in the tissues.  I love that deeper dive.

When we talk about postpartum healing, there’s healing on many different levels.  There’s physical healing, and that’s what we really want to talk about today.  Emotional healing, and there’s energetic healing, too.  I want people to recognize that there is more.  When the physical  healing isn’t really working, there’s a deeper issue that may be at play that’s keeping that physical healing from happening.

Makes sense.  So what are your top tips for our listeners when they are preparing for birth, and then we’ll talk about healing.

So really we need to understand that what we bring to our birth that’s being held in our body is going to impact that birth.  It’s really about getting your body assessed prior to going into labor and making sure that the baby has the space and the balance within your uterus and your abdomen to get into a good position to come on out, making sure that your pelvic bones have the ability to move, open, for baby to pass through, and then releasing your pelvic floor muscles as well and making sure that those are like trampolines: able to bounce and give and lengthen to allow the baby to come on out.  And so I think every pregnant person should not only just be seeing an OB-GYN or a midwife but also a body worker, someone who is trained in what to look for and how to help create balance and space for baby and assess the body so that baby can come on out.  We go into birth just assuming the baby will come on out, and I think that we should be assessing the body more to make sure that it’s ready for birth.

And I feel like there are more and more trained body balancing practitioners, especially in my area, so it is a great referral source, in addition to physical therapy, pelvic floor therapy, not only during pregnancy but also immediately postpartum.

Right.  And it’s really important – I think the most important aspects of the body is the uterine ligaments, making sure that those are nice and released and balanced, but also making sure that your pelvic floor muscles have the ability to lengthen for birth is critical.  And that you know how to push a baby out.  Too many people that I work with in my practice come in and I ask them to push – I’m intravaginal and I ask them to push my fingers out.  They actually tighten their pelvic floor.  That happening at birth can create those stage 3 or stage 4 tears that go into the anal structure.  We really want to try to avoid that, and we do that by making sure the muscles lengthen when you’re pushing.

And tearing is one of the biggest concerns my childbirth students have, as well as my birth doula clients.  That fear of tearing is really overwhelming to them and they want to know how to prevent it.

People talk about doing perineal massage, and the research isn’t confirming one way or another saying that it’s helpful.  But my thought is that we need to be focusing on the pelvic floor muscles themselves, not just that perineal area, like the opening of your vaginal space.  That opening is not where we need to focus.  We need to be getting our fingers in deeper and working with the pelvic floor muscles because I feel like the skin is going to follow the muscles.  So if the muscles can lengthen and relax, the skin is going to follow.

That makes perfect sense.  So after delivery, then, let’s get into concerns.  You mentioned tearing, of course.  Let’s talk about healing and what your tips are, whether it’s a minor tear or you’re dealing with something fourth degree. 

So one of the biggest issues that I find postpartum is that the bones of the pelvis actually need to open up for a baby to come on out.  So the two sit bones that you’re sitting on, your tailbone, all three of those bones need to open up, so your sit bones go wider and your tailbone should lift backwards, which is really hard to do when you’re laying on your back, trying to push a baby out.  So that position that the doctors find so convenient for them is actually not always the best position for a birthing person to be in because the sacrum needs to lift backwards in order for that baby to come on out, and if you’re laying on it, then the entire pelvis has to lift up for the baby to come on out.  The pelvic outlet, from the tip of the tailbone to the ischial tuberosities, that needs to widen for baby to come on out, and I have found, what I want everyone to know, is that that not all the time do those bones go back to their original position.  I find open birthing pattern in the majority of the clients that I work with in the clinic, whether they’re coming to me for back pain, pelvic pain, symphysis pubis dysfunction, pelvic floor tension or tightness or pain, pain with intercourse, prolapse, stress incontinence.  All of those issues that are very common after having a baby can be attributed to the bones of the pelvis not being in their original position.  And when you know what to look for and you know how to close the bones back up to help them get into their proper place, a lot of those problems go away, especially the back pain and the pelvic pain.

Now, some of the signs that your pelvis may be stuck in an open birthing pattern is when you lay on a hard surface, your sacrum doesn’t feel good.  It hurts to lay on a hard surface on your back.   If you’re sitting, sometimes sitting feels off balance or off kilter because one of your sit bones had to move out to the side more than the other one.  One of the key factors that you know if you go see a pelvic floor PT and you’re working in the postpartum period and they don’t ask you what position you were in when your baby came out, they’re not going to be looking at the bones of the pelvic.  And a lot of the pelvic floor PTs do not get this concept, unless they’ve trained with me.  I’m the only one out there talking about this idea of an open birthing pattern.  And so I do have a directory on my website of practitioners that I’ve trained so that you can go and see if there’s someone in your area.  But this idea that the bones don’t always go back to their original position is not something that every practitioner out there is looking for.

Very interesting.  I do have clients – we have postpartum doulas at Gold Coast as well as birth doulas who are working with our clients up to the first year, and they have that lower back discomfort, especially with breastfeeding in those healing first six weeks.  So that sounds like obviously an issue that could be prevented and addressed early on.

Absolutely.  And there is an exercise that people can do resisting their knees together and resisting their knees going apart.  I have a video on my YouTube channel, which is Institute for Birth Healing.  That’s the channel on YouTube.  If you go on there and just search for closing the bones after birth and exercise to close the bones after birth – I think it’s titled that.  But it shows you how to do it.  And I believe in the video I show someone doing it to you, but if you just bend your knees up, you can use your own fists and your own hands to resist those movements, so you don’t need someone externally to help you.  You can do this to yourself; just bend your knees up toward your chest and do the exercises.  But we’re using the adductors of your hip muscles and the abductors to help bring the bones of the pelvis back together again.  So sometimes that can be really helpful for some people.  The sooner we do that, the better.  I really wish every doula knew how to instruct their clients in doing that because that can be done right after birth.  We don’t need to wait, as long as it doesn’t create pain.

If it creates pain, then try the opposite direction, and then if that’s still painful, that person needs help.  They need to find a practitioner who knows how to work with the bones of their pelvis to help bring them back into place.  And if you are a mom and you’re working with a pelvic floor PT or chiropractor, let them know.  I have online courses.  Treating the Postpartum Pelvis is an online course that I have that a practitioner can take.  My courses are only for practitioners because you need to have a license to touch, to do these techniques that you’ll learn in these courses.  Let your practitioner know, go take that course, and then come help me.  That’s the best way for you to get help because in the Treating the Postpartum Pelvis course, there’s four different patterns I find in the pelvis after birth, and it teaches practitioners how to close up the bones, how to get rid of those patterns in the pelvis after birth.  And I tell you, every day in my clinic, moms get off of the table and they feel so much better.  So different in their body after birth, because I’ve adjusted their pelvic bones and gotten them back into a better position.  The pelvic floor muscles attach to those bones, so if the bones are splayed open from a baby coming out, your pelvic floor muscles are now lengthened.  They’re on stretch.  And sometimes the tension or the heaviness that you’re feeling in your pelvic floor or in your perineal area could be because those muscles are trying to keep your bones together.  They’re trying to help you out.  And so if you go and you see a pelvic floor therapist and they try to release the tension without adjusting the bones, then it could make your pain worse.  They’re taking the job away from the muscles.  The muscles are trying to stabilize you, and if they try to release those muscles and they haven’t stabilized your bones, your pain can get worse.  So please know that, and if your physical therapist or your chiropractor – I know chiropractors are adjusting the bones, but they’re not looking at the bones of the pelvis in the way that I teach.  There’s different motions that the pelvis goes through that everybody agrees on, but nobody is really agreeing to this idea that the bones of the pelvis can stay stuck in an open birthing pattern.  And it’s funny, Kristin, because so many laypeople and doulas, as well, are like, oh, that makes so much sense.

It does, absolutely.  And I remember in my early years as a doula, I attended a Zulu workshop, and there was a closing of the bones ritual.  Now, that was more symbolic and healing after birth.  It wasn’t necessarily dealing with your topic, but that term was very familiar to me.

Right, and that’s a beautiful ceremony.  It’s a beautiful idea.  I love it.  But it may not address everything because the hip bones are in the way to really moving the ischial bones back into place, and that sacrum being backwards might need some external mobilization.

I do have a free course on my website.  It’s the Sacral Flexion Pattern.  Again, this is for practitioners.  The common postpartum patterns, anyone can sign up and take a look at.  I go into more detail of all the different things that can happen in the postpartum body, but the sacral flexion pattern is really for practitioners.  And I teach practitioners how to treat the sacral flexion pattern, and that is a game changer.  Again, like I said, the pelvic floor muscles are on stretch.  When we bring those bones back together, then the pelvic floor muscles are in a much better position to be stronger.  And there’s a couple other things that can limit pelvic floor muscles’ strength, and tearing is one of those things that we talked about.  When we have scar tissue in there, scar tissue is not as flexible as normal, healthy muscle tissue.  And so the scar tissue can inhibit that muscle from being able to function well.  But you yourself can get in there and massage that scar tissue.  Just offer compression to it and squeeze it and see if you can’t get it to, like, melt between your fingers, because that can help minimize the amount of scar tissue in there.

The other thing I want to make people aware of is when we’re stuck in this open birthing pattern and these pelvic floor muscles are on stretch, trying to have intercourse can be really, really painful because the muscles – the vaginal opening is on stretch.  It can’t open up more to allow the penis to come in.  That insertional pain is the pelvic floor muscles are not happy.  They need help relaxing so that the penis can insert without pain.  We need to release that scar tissue, and we need to relax the pelvic floor muscles to help with insertional pain with intercourse.

There’s also deep thrusting pain with intercourse, which can be from the cervix not being able to move out of the way, and scar tissue from C-section scars can cause that.

Back to another issue for why the pelvic floor muscles can’t be strong after birth is that as that baby comes on out, it smushes the bladder out of the way, and it can smush it off to the side, and then the bladder gets stuck over there.  And I can find the cervix in any position intravaginally after birth.  It can be stuck to your right wall, your left side vaginal wall.  It can be pulled back.  It can be poking into your bladder.  If it’s poking into your bladder, you feel like you have to pee all the time.  So getting that cervix back into its midline position by balancing the uterine ligaments and getting the bladder back into place instantaneously changes the strength of the pelvic floor muscles.

That’s amazing, because that is a common concern is that, yeah, frequent urge to urinate after that postpartum healing phase.

And that stress incontinence.  When the bladder is off to the side, the pressure from your abdomen can’t reach the urethra.  And so that’s why the pressure only hits the bladder and so that’s why we leak.  If we can get the bladder back into place, then some of that abdominal pressure can hit the urethra and the bladder and keep the differentiation of pressure inside so that you don’t leak.   That’s a bigger concept than most people might understand there, and I’ve really simplified it, but there is a reason, with the bladder being off, that can cause stress incontinence.

Another thing that can cause stress incontinence is that your lower body is jutting out when you go to laugh, cough, sneeze, which increases pressure on your bladder.  So your upper abdominal muscles are pushing down, causing your belly to jut outward, and that can increase pressure and every time you do that, you can be leaking urine.  So you need to learn how to get your lower belly muscles activating stronger than your upper ones to keep the pressure away from the bladder when you laugh, cough, sneeze.  So if people just put their hands on their lower belly and they cough, the belly should draw up and in.  If it’s pushing out, that’s something that you need to work with for your belly.

Excellent tip.  Another common postpartum concern is hemorrhoids.  How would some of your tips factor in there?

Yeah, so the hemorrhoids are around the anal sphincter muscle, and the anal sphincter muscle, I find, knots in most every single postpartum person that I work with.  And the anal sphincter muscle gets so stretched out from the way the baby has come on out vaginally.  And those knots can create problems with hemorrhoids and also fissures.  A fissure is a tear inside the rectal anal canal that every time you have a bowel movement, you’re opening up that wound, and it really feels like you’re pooping glass.  It’s so painful.  So any time anyone is dealing with hemorrhoids or fissures, you need to release the knot in your anal sphincter muscle, and it’s super easy to do the top half.  You can just put your thumb in vaginally and your finger in on the anus and just kind of press around and see if you feel any knots or tenderness.  But to do the lower half of the anus, you need to maybe put your thumb in on the anus and kind of push down.  If you think about the anus like a clock, you should be able to push in all different hours of the clock, and they should feel nice and mushy and mobile.  But if it’s harder or thicker, that’s a tension in that muscle, and it needs release work.  Compression of that knot in that muscle can help it to release.  And so if you can check that out yourself and try to release what you can – if not, one of my practitioners who have taken my postpartum course can help you out.  They know how to release it, and then they can show you how to continue to do it yourself because you definitely – if you’re dealing with a fissure, you definitely want to release your anal sphincter muscle before every single bowel movement.

Excellent.  So is there a point where it would be recommended to release some of that tension?  Would it be immediately after birth or waiting for six weeks?

It depends on if you have any tearing.  So you need to let any tearing or episiotomy scar tissue heal well because it’s going to be way too uncomfortable if you still have stitches in there or if you have an open wound.  With a fissure, I find the open wound is opposite of where the tension is.  So if you have a sense of where the pain is in your rectum as you’re having a bowel movement, try assessing the opposite side of that circle and seeing if you can release that tissue.  That can help because it’s a circle muscle.  It all needs to open up evenly to allow the stool to come on out.  When we have those knots, that knot area can’t open up as freely, so the opposite side has to open up more.  Something’s got to give in order for that stool to come out, and that’s why tears open is because too much pressure is happening there because the opposite side can’t open as well.  So releasing that allows that sphincter muscle to open up more evenly, and it takes the strain off that open wound.  And that’s what helps it to heal.

But I’m saying if you tore vaginally and you had an episiotomy, wait for that tissue to heal before you go messing around in it.  But if you have a fissure and an open wound, you want to try to work with the anus outside prior to having bowel movements to help that to heal.

Okay.  Thank you.  Any other tips or healing conditions that we didn’t discuss?

Oh, there’s so much.  There’s diastasis recti, and you need to release the oblique muscles for that.  There’s an oblique release that needs to happen to help speed up the healing of diastasis.  And then understanding how the belly gets messed up from birth – all that is covered in my Confidence in the Core, Floor, and More course.  That course is designed for moms, so you guys can check that one out.  All the other courses on my website are for practitioners.  But that has a ton of information in it that can help you understand why your body is being the way it is and what you’re experiencing.  And that Confidence in the Core, Floor, and More online course is appropriate for anyone to take.  There’s more information there.

And then I really just want postpartum people to know that healing is possible.  Doctors don’t give you that sense.  So they’re just kind of like, oh, well, you had a baby.  What do you expect?  And there is healing that can occur, no matter how old your baby is.  Please know that there is support for you to feel better in your body after birth.  And if you’ve been working with a pelvic floor PT or you’ve been seeing a chiropractor for a while and you’re not getting results, please check out one of my birth healing practitioners on my website.  Check out the link to the directory and see if there’s someone nearby.  And also recognize that if you feel your birth was traumatic, you need to work with the trauma from that birth first.  And that is something that I can assist people with via Zoom.  You do not need to be in person to do that trauma release work.  That can be done over Zoom.  So you can reach out to me at the Center for Birth Healing.  That’s my clinical practice.  Just reach out and fill out a form and we’ll get in touch and we can set something up.  That is how I would like to support moms, knowing that there’s practitioners that I’ve trained that know what I’ve talked about here today, and they can support you.

I also have a Facebook group, Institute for Birth Healing Community, that not all of my practitioners who have studied with me are on my directory yet.  I’m working on it.  But there are lots of others who have taken my courses that just are not in that directory.  So find my Institute for Birth Healing Community group.  It’s another avenue to try to connect with someone in your area.  Ask the join that.  And there’s practitioners and moms in there alike, and you can see if there’s someone in your area that people recommend.

Excellent.  You shared so much wisdom in 30 minutes.  Any other social channels you’d like to promote outside of the Facebook group and your website?

Yeah, @instituteforbirthhealing on Instagram.  Join me there, and you can hear what I have to say on Instagram, too.  And then I talked about the YouTube channel, as well.  Those are the best channels for me.  Thank you.

Thanks so much!  We’ll have to have you on again, Lynn.

Absolutely.  I would love that.

IMPORTANT LINKS

Institute for Birth Healing

Lynn’s directory of practitioners

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother course

Postpartum Recovery with Lynn Schulte: Podcast Episode #232 Read More »

Kelly Emery of Gold Coast Doulas holding a boob mug

Breastfeeding Gadgets with Kelly Emery, IBCLC: Podcast Episode #231

Kelly shares the pros and cons of top breastfeeding gadgets with Kristin in the latest episode of Ask the Doulas.  Check out her free gadget videos here and subscribe to her YouTube Channel and her Breast Friends Forever Club for more videos as Kelly comes across more gadgets and the latest lactation research.

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with our resident breastfeeding expert, Kelly Emery.  Kelly teaching breastfeeding classes with Gold Coast Doulas, and she owns Baby Beloved.  She is a registered nurse and international board certified lactation consultant.  Hello, Kelly!

Hey, Kristin.  How are you today?

Doing well!  So our topic of the day is breastfeeding gadgets.  I know that you encounter – there are so many new gadgets that I can’t even keep up with everything on the market.  I would love to hear your thoughts on what you and your clients are loving, what you feel neutral, and what is a negative in your book.

Sure.  It is hard to keep up sometimes.  I’ve been doing this since 1994, and these gadgets have exploded.  I think it’s the internet.  There’s a market for all these things.  It spreads like wildfire.  If somebody says, oh, I used this product and it helped me a lot, it’s going to spread like wildfire.

Exactly.  Whether it’s TikTok, a moms’ group, influencers.  There’s just so many more ways to communicate new products on the market than there used to be.

Yeah.  And more moms are breastfeeding, too, and there’s inventive people out there trying to get some solutions for some nursing problems, so I get it.  I understand it.  I try to, with my clients that I see, go over the pros and the cons, and is this really helping or is it making things worse?  Just like with any product, there’s going to be a little bit of detective work to see if this is really working or not.

Definitely.  So what is your first product?

I have ten little gadgets that I gathered together that I think are some of the biggest ones that I see in my practice.  The first one is the Silverette.  They’re these silver cups, and they look like little rounded hats.  You put them on your nipples, in between your bra and your nipples.  It has a cooling effect.  It has silver in there, which has some antibacterial properties.  And it stops your nipples from rubbing against the bra if that’s something that irritates you.  Pros and cons: they can be very soothing.  One of the cons is they’re very expensive.  They’re in the $60-70 range.  There are some that I’ve seen that knockoffs, probably less silver in them these days, so there are some out there in maybe the $30-40 range.  But typically the really good silver ones are $60-70.  They come in two different sizes, so if you have a smaller nipple or a larger nipple, you can get those.  It’s hard to tell when you’re ordering it on the website.  I don’t know what their return policy is, but hopefully they would take it back if you got the wrong size.  Typically, they would both work.

One of the cons that I see and other lactation consultants that I see is when moms are using them too long.  We even have a word for it, called the Silverette sign.  If moms are eight weeks in and still using the Silverettes, something might be going on here.  Do you still really need those?  Why are you still in pain six to eight weeks in?  The Silverette sign is something that we look for if moms are still using them on a daily basis for pain.

The other thing is they kind of collect if moms leak.  Not every mom leaks, of course, but if you do leak and your Silverettes kind of are wet all the time and your nipple skin is bathed in wetness 24/7, that can irritate the skin.  Think of wearing a bathing suit all the time; you’re going to irritate the skin.  So if you’re leaking a lot into them, I would definitely give them some dry time in between, or else it’s always wet.  It’s going to damage the skin.  That’s my two cents on Silverettes; the pros and cons.  If you do use it, I would use it for a short amount of time, and if you’re not getting better with them, I would reach out for help.

Excellent advice.  What’s next?

The next one  is the massagers.  There’s many on the market.  One is called LaVie.  They can heat up; they can vibrate, and it’s a little thing that you can put on if you have some tenderness or some hardness on your breasts; you can put it over that area.  A lot of moms swear by them.  I think you can turn the heat on or off, so you can do just vibration or just heat or both.  That’s kind of nice.  And sometimes it feels really good to maybe unclog some stuff or if you feel like you have some hardness in your breasts, you can pop it into your bra and it just sits in there.  It’s kind of thinnish.  It’s not that big, so you can kind of pop it in there and just go about your day.  But one of the things with the massagers – I would be careful of them not getting too rough because some of the things that we find with mastitis, which is basically inflammation of the breasts, any kind of hardness that you may feel, you don’t want to be too rough with the breast tissue.  You don’t want to push really hard on the breasts.  It’s kind of like petting a cat.  You want to do gentle breast manipulation.

Similar to what you do in the shower when you have some clogged ducts, yes.

Yes, just something kind of gentle.  Just don’t try to bruise yourself.  We’re finding that with too much pressure on our breasts, it just inflames the tissue even more, which makes total sense.  And then all the tissue around that area is even more inflamed, so that’s no good.  With the massagers, I would use cold instead of heat.  There’s a new protocol out this year about breast pain, and it’s a lot caused by inflammation.  And what do we do when we’re inflamed, like when we twist our ankle and it swells up?  We put ice on it.  We don’t put heat on it.  So if you did want to use one of these massagers, I would be hesitant to use too much power, but also, I would focus more on cold if you did like the sound of this massager.  That’s about all I have to say about that one.

Excellent advice.  What’s number three on your list?

Number three is the hydrogel pads.  I actually used these.  They’re for moist wound healing, and in my days when I would work in the hospital, like with elderly patients – I’ve worked in nursing homes with elderly patients and stuff like that a long, long time ago – during nursing school, we would use these pads that would be kind of like loose dressings that would go over the skin, and it kind of helps the skin prevent a scab from forming.  It helps kind of heal from the inside out, sort of.  So sometimes moms who have almost like a rugburn on the face of their nipples – these can be very soothing.  Soothing for moms.  And you just wear them for 24 hours, maybe 48 hours, and it should heal you enough.  Again, if you’re using the hydrogel pads for weeks and weeks and weeks, that’s another reason to reach out to a lactation consultant, too.  These should be temporary things.  They’re cooling, and they feel wonderful.  They’re cheap.  You can get four of them for, like, $5 at Target.  They’re easy to use.  You don’t have to really scrub your nipples or anything; they’re safe for baby.  Sometimes I tell moms to have some before you have a baby.  Put them in the fridge, and then if you do happen to get sore nipples, they’re there, and they’re cold and nice and soothing.  If you’re super cracked and bleeding and stuff like that, you may want to reach out to your lactation consultant or your doctor about another kind of healing method.  But those are nice for a little bit of minor pain on the tips of the nipples.

Right, and since it’s inexpensive, it’s good to have on hand.

Yeah.  If you don’t need them, you can always regift them to a friend.  Or use them on any other cut on your body, actually.  Like if you cut your knee or something like that.  They’re good for moist wound healing for any purpose.

So what’s next, Kelly?

The next one is a very popular one.  Milk collectors, so things like the Ladybug or the Hakka.  There are tons of brands.  It’s just exploded.  They’re sometimes circular or oval, and you can pop them right into your bra.  Sometimes you can have suction on them and sometimes not; they just hold them there.  But if you leak, say you start nursing on one side and you’re leaking on the other side, you can collect some milk.  You can get milk passively, because when you let down on one side, you also let down on the other side.  Sometimes, some women who leak can put that little collector in, and then they have a little bit of milk to put in their freezer or whatever they want to do with it.

I could have used those for sure when I was breastfeeding.

I know.  I would just put a cloth diaper into my bra because otherwise my whole bra would get soaked on the other side.  So there’s good and bad.  It’s nice and convenient, a way to get a little milk, and everything kind of passive.  The downside that I see of this is that, number one, it’s something you have to carry around all the time.  It can become another thing I have to wash, another thing I have to carry around, all that stuff.  The other downside that I see is if you start getting too much milk in this thing.  If you’re using it eight to ten times a day and you’re getting two ounces each time, that’s 20 ounces a day.  That’s another baby.  You’re telling your body that you’ve got twins, basically.  And this perpetuates an oversupply, which can be – sounds like a good thing, but then it’s a job.  It’s a job if you’re having to do both.  Now you have to take the collector with you to take out this milk, otherwise you’re going to be uncomfortable on the other side.  So pros and cons of it, I would say just use it sparingly and judiciously.  And also, I’ve seen this too, Kristin, where a mom nurses – say she starts on the right side.  She puts that collector on the left side, and it takes out two ounces.  Now when she moves baby over to the left side, they’re frustrated because somebody – the Hakka – just took out all my milk.  Like, what are you doing here?  Not that your breasts won’t regenerate more milk, but it’s going to be a little harder for the baby to get the milk out because we just basically pumped out or removed two ounces from the left side.  So I always tell moms to give baby first dibs on both sides.  So if you start on the right and then you go to the left, then you can put the Hakka on the right side that baby is already done with.  Does that make sense?  Let the baby have the first dibs at the milk, and then whatever’s left over – half an ounce, a little quarter ounce, anything like that on the other side, you can squirrel that away for a nice little stash for going back to work or whatever.  But it’s not like removing so much milk that it’s going to make the baby upset.

Good point.  Okay. 

The next one is alcohol strips.  You may see them – well, all over Target and on the internet.  So if moms want to have some alcohol and they’re kind of wondering if it’s going to be safe for me to give my baby this milk –

It’s one of the most common mom Facebook group questions.  I have to go this event, like a wedding, for example.  Can I have a drink?  I’m still breastfeeding.  The whole bit.  It’s still a very common question.

Interesting.  That’s probably why this product has come along and is still on the market because there’s that question about this education.  And I will tell you that just from a physiological standpoint, your blood alcohol level and your milk alcohol level are the same.  So if you start drinking and your blood alcohol level goes up, at that same time, your milk alcohol level is going to go up as well because alcohol crosses over so well.  However, as you sober up – say it’s been a couple hours since your last drink.  As your blood alcohol level goes down, your milk alcohol level is also going to come down.  So you don’t have to pump and dump.  Your liver – your whole system, your body is going to filter it back out, into your liver, out of your body, out of your milk.  So it’s not something that you have to really worry about if you give it some time.  Time is what’s going to make your alcohol level go down in your milk.  I usually tell moms, feed your baby, and right after that, then you can start drinking.  Or say you’re at a wedding and you don’t have your baby.  Pump, and then you can start drinking, and then, say, three hours later, if you didn’t drink a lot, that alcohol should be out of your system, and you can just pump that milk and keep it.  If for some reason you’re drunk when you’re pumping, then that’s a different story, because if you’re drunk and you’re not even safe enough to drive, then I know your alcohol level is high in your bloodstream, so I know it’s high in your milk, as well.  So for those instances where you’re like, okay, overdid it here; I’ve got to pump, though, because my breasts are going to explode – for that milk, I would still keep it, but I would label it high alcohol milk, and then what you can do when you go home, you can dilute it with your other stash.  You can dilute it with 20% of the high alcohol milk and 80% fresh milk without alcohol.  Does that make sense?

It does.

A little bit of alcohol is fine.  If you’re safe enough to hold your baby, you’re safe enough to breastfeed your baby.  We’ll put it that way.  If you don’t feel safe walking around holding your baby or driving or anything like that, yeah, then I would pump and either dump it or label it and save it, like dilute it with other milk if you want to go to that trouble.

The alcohol strips, they will work, but sometimes they’ve gotten some false positives.  I’ve seen this in a lot of literature that we look at; it’s not 100%.  Those alcohol strips are not 100%.  I think moms mainly can just trust their body.  If they have an alcohol problem, this is a different conversation to have with their doctor and lactation, everything like that.  But if they have someone around them, if they have a friend, if they have someone else who – definitely if they’re sober and they can kind of tell, oh, I think you shouldn’t be driving – then hopefully that person would kind of step in and say something, too.  Like, you should probably dump this milk if you’re going to pump it, or we can save it.  We can do a milk bath with it, for heaven’s sakes.  You don’t have to totally throw it away.  The strips are okay, but I just wouldn’t make that the only definitive thing.  I would say, what was my state of mind?  What was my alcohol level at that time when I was actually pumping?  Does that make sense?

It does. 

Typically, we process alcohol about a drink per hour.  So that’s, like, a beer, a glass of wine, all of those.  We process it out of our body about a drink per hour, if that makes sense.  So if you had one drink, definitely by two or three hours, that’s going to be out of your system.

Right.  So meeting a friend for happy hour, going to a wedding, that would be fine with one drink.

That would be completely fine.  If you have four drinks within two hours, then that’s a different story.

Thank you for clarifying.

No problem.  The next one is cooling packs.  Number six is cooling packs, and those are – you can’t not see them on the internet.  You can put them in your freezer; you can put them in your refrigerator.  Sometimes you can put them in your microwave to heat them up.  They’re nice.  Some of them are very – like, there’s booby tubes that are nice and soft and you can just kind of wrap them around and put them inside your bra.  So especially with cooling packs, for anything with inflammation, when we get a hard area in our breast or red on our breast or if we get engorged for day three, four, five when our milk is coming in and we’re engorged, or say we’re ready to wean and getting engorged – cold is the way to go.  It’s going to help inflammation go away.  It’s going to constrict your blood vessels.  Lots of good things about being cool.  So the cold packs – especially the softer ones fit really nicely.  If you don’t have the money for that or if you’re in a pickle, I also have moms take just diapers, like baby diapers, and fill them with water and put them in the freezer.  They have a nice shape around them that they fit around the breast really well.  When they leak, they usually just go into the diaper again.  They’re not going to leak all over your bra.  The other one is just some frozen peas wrapped in a towel, if that’s all you’ve got and you have, like, one little area that’s kind of hard or painful to touch, you can get some frozen peas.  Right next to your skin is probably going to be a little too cold, so wrap it in a thin towel and then just put it on that area.  You can go all the way from those fancy things all the way down to just some frozen corn in your freezer for that.

Excellent. 

And then the next one is pillows.  There are so many pillows on the market.  We don’t have Babies R Us around here anymore, but on the internet, it’s a ton of options nowadays.

Yeah, it’s not just Boppy and My Breast Friend.  There are so many on the market.

So many.  And whenever moms come to my office to help with lactation, I always broach it as this is going to be a personal thing.  When moms are first starting, especially if they have a C-section, and they don’t want baby even potentially bumping into their C-section scar, their incision – they like the thought of a pillow.  So, cool.  You can use pillows.  And a lot of moms do in the beginning when they’re first getting – it’s kind of like training wheels.  You start with all this stuff that helps you focus and helps you feel your confidence when you first start this.  But over time, moms usually will ditch the pillow because it’s in the other room and I’ve just got to feed, or I’m out and I don’t want to have to carry this big pillow with me.

Exactly.  Or with baby two or three, it’s like, all right, I’ve got this.

Yeah.  Sometimes just using your arm and sometimes if you’re out, you can put your diaper bag underneath your elbow for support or find a chair that has an armrest with it.  When they’re in my office, I usually take that opportunity to say, would you like to try without a pillow, just old school?  Like it’s 1624.  It’s not 2024.  And they don’t even have nursing pillows.  Do you want to try it old school mammalian way?  And they usually do, and it’s so cool to be able to show them how they can do this without any devices.  That gives them flexibility for going out, or if I forgot my pillow or I’m in the back of my car and the baby’s screaming and I have to feed in the car.  Then you can just do it old school, and it’s nice to have a pillow, but it’s also nice to know that you can do it without it, too.

So what’s next?

The next one is breast shells.  One is for inverted nipples or nipples that kind of fold in.  So there are shells that you can use that are kind of smaller.  They fit at the base of your nipple and they kind of help draw it out.  There’s no crazy good research saying that using them prenatally will actually make your nipples stick out postnatally, but sometimes it helps to – what I find it helpful with is if moms are engorged.  It’s kind of like reverse pressure softening, which means you’re putting a little pressure at the base of the nipple, pushing fluid back into the areola.  So sometimes if we’ve had a lot of IV fluids in labor and delivery, sometimes we can get some edema around our nipples or areola area, and the nipple kind of flattens out.  You can either use reverse pressure softening with your fingers, or you can wear those little shells inside your bra.  Another one is for – the wider opening of the breast shells is for sore nipples.  You can put those inside your bra, just like the Silverettes, so your nipple is not rubbing against fabric if you’re tender.  I will tell you with both of those things, breast shells too, make sure your bra is not too tight.  Because I’ve had it where moms put it in, but the bra is really tight, and then you take it off and there’s a big ring, like it’s been pushing into your skin.  That’s not good, either.  If you did want to use a tank top or something that’s not so tight against your breast, that’s better.  If you’re using these for too long, past the first week or two, then I would reach out for help to see what’s going on about why you’re still sore and needing those.

Then number nine is nipple everters.  It’s Lansinoh brand.  That’s the only one I know of, Lansinoh brand.  It’s purple.  It looks like a little bicycle horn, like you’d have on your bicycle.  You put it over your nipples, and – well, you squeeze and then put it over your nipples, and then you let go.  It suctions your nipple in there and pulls it out.  That’s something if moms have flatter nipples or their nipples kind of dimple in or they’re inverted, sometimes that helps bring it out long enough for the baby to latch.  Sometimes in the hospital, they even have them in the hospital and the nurses will give it to you right after delivery.

Pros and cons of that – pros is that it can work well to pull out your nipple, for some women, not everybody.  The cons are, I’ve seen some moms use it and it’s too much pressure and it leaves a hickey.  So if you are going to use those, be really careful about your suction level and don’t bruise yourself or leave yourself a hickey around your nipple, because that can make you sore.  That’s no good, either.

Again, going back to old school, if you didn’t have your everter – it fell on the ground, you can’t find it – you can just take your pointer finger and your thumb and just roll the base of your nipple.  Not the areola, but just right at the base.  You can roll it gently between your fingers, and often it pops out enough for baby to find it and to latch, as well.  So that’s another idea.

Excellent tip.  One more?

Yes, we made it.  The last one is going to be about lubrications and ointments.  With lubrications, there’s a lot of things out there.  A ton; again, a ton of ointments on the market out there, and some are very helpful.  There’s some with lanolin, there’s non-lanolin, there’s coconut oil.  Calendula oil.  There’s tons of little things out there.

So many organic ones.  Earth Mama.

Yeah.  So many to choose from.  Earth Mama, Angel Baby, Mother Love.  There’s just a lot on the market, and they’re all going to be probably pretty soothing to you.  Usually hypoallergenic, and they’re not going to cause any problems.  You’re always going to want to look.  If it’s got some weird things in there, you’re going to want to test it on the inside of your wrist a little bit to make sure you’re not allergic to it.  I have had some moms who, even though it’s supposed to be hypoallergenic, lanolin is irritating to them.  If they use it on other parts of their skin, they’re like oh, I had a reaction.  No wonder.  I’ve been using this ointment for four weeks.  No wonder I’m sore.  So just kind of test it just to make sure that you’re not allergic to some component of it.  Again, some babies, you put on ointment and the baby doesn’t like the taste of it, so you’d want to dab it off.  Some are like, oh, what is this?  This does not taste like you, Mom, and it’s too slippery; it’s too oily.  I’m not going to do it.  So you can just gently dab it off before you nurse.  Then there are lubrications, like for pumping.  There are pump sprays out there.  Sometimes it can make a really big difference.  You’re going to want to get the right size of brush shield flanges, and a lactation consultant can help you with that.  But also, especially if you’re a little tender, a dab of that stuff around the base can really help with comfort, too.  You can use coconut oil.  Anything food grade, like coconut oil or olive oil if your skin isn’t sensitive to that, or any of those pumping sprays on the market.  You can go all the way up to buying a pumping spray all the way down to just grabbing some coconut oil from the your kitchen from wherever you keep it.  And just a tiny dab will do you.  With any of these ointments, you don’t have to overdo it because it can get too slippery, and that can make you increase your suction on your pump too much, and then we cause damage.  Just a little dab will do you.  Everything in moderation.  And some moms don’t have time or money for any of that and will just use their own milk.  You can hand express some of your own milk and rub it into your nipple or rub it onto the breast shield while you’re pumping.  That might be the old school way to do it, as well.

Thank you for sharing all of your gear tips!  I appreciate your expertise!

You know, and Kristin, I’m not someone to take away a gadget that’s working for someone.  I know that sometimes you find something – if you’re desperate and you’re looking for hope and you find something and it works, you’re going to say, I don’t care.  This works for me.  I’m not going to give this up.  This one thing really works for me; I’m not giving it up.  So, cool.  If it’s working for you, beautiful.  If it’s something that is going long term –

It’s like a crutch in a way.

Yeah.  Say with the massager, you’ve got a lump, and you get rid of it.  But then it comes back again.  If you’re needing this massager, like if you keep getting lumps and you need the massager, yes, it gets rid of the lump, but then why are we still getting lumps?  I would recommend doing some true detective work about figuring out why we keep getting this issue.  Why are we still sore a month later?  What’s going on?  And that’s where it would be good – if you find you’re using too much of these gadgets all the time, it might be a good point in your lactation journey to reach out to a consultant to figure out why we’re needing these going forward and how we can maybe get rid of some of these training wheels so maybe we don’t need it anymore.

Exactly.  Any final tips for our listeners, Kelly?

No.  I mean, I went through these quickly, but I have a YouTube channel, and on my website, I’ve got videos where I go through all of these ten things and more, just about old school breastfeeding stuff and – there’s lots of stuff on there on my free resources page.  That’s where I have all the videos, and I go more in depth about these ten things that we just talked about.

Excellent.  And I wanted to give you a shout out.  You are an amazing contributor in our upcoming book, Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby, in the feeding section of the book.  That will be out on Mother’s Day, actually.  So very soon!  Thank you for sharing your wisdom with our readers and our Ask the Doulas podcast listeners.

Yeah, you’re welcome!  And congratulations on this book!  It’s no easy thing to write a book, so congratulations to you.  I cannot wait to get my hands on a copy!

Can’t wait for you to see it in person!  And I would love for you – you shared your website, Kelly, but for you to share your other social media channels.  You mentioned your YouTube channel.  You’re on Instagram, Facebook, and so on?

Yeah.  All of the things.  You can find me – usually, it’s going to be “inc.”  Somebody else had Baby Beloved, so I had to do Baby Beloved Inc.  So @babybelovedinc.  That would be my handle for Instagram, Facebook, and my website, too.

Thank you so much, and we’ll have to chat about pumps next time.

Absolutely.  There’s a lot on the market for those, too.

Definitely.  Thank you!

 

IMPORTANT LINKS

Baby Beloved

Kelly’s free resources

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother class

Kelly’s lactation class at Gold Coast

 

Breastfeeding Gadgets with Kelly Emery, IBCLC: Podcast Episode #231 Read More »

The Benefits of HypnoBirthing with Fear and Now Documentary Director Liat Ron: Podcast Episode #230

Kristin chats about the Fear and Now Documentary with Liat Ron, producer and director.  Kristin and Liat discuss how HypnoBirthing impacted her second birth and why she decided to create a documentary about her experience along with the experiences of other families captured in the film. 

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Liat Ron today.  Liat is a filmmaker, among many other things.  She’s also an actor, writer, producer, Middle Eastern dancer, and co-founder of Techealthiest.  Welcome, Liat!

Hi!  I’m very, very excited to be here.  Thank you for having me!

Yes!  Gold Coast is all about HypnoBirthing, and we’ve been teaching the HypnoBirthing childbirth preparation method since we launched the agency in 2015.  So when you approached me about your new film, Fear and Now, I was all about chatting, and not only about the HypnoBirthing method, but also about birth trauma and some of the other topics that your documentary covers.  I’d love to hear a bit more about your background and why you chose this particular topic for your new documentary.

Well, I think the topic chose me.  I did not intend to become a documentary filmmaker.  I mean, I do come from the film, acting world.  I’m a producer.  I produce theater.  I haven’t considered becoming a documentary filmmaker, until my second birth.  I’ll take you back a little bit before my second birth.  Not just a little bit; my whole life I was scared of birth, I would say more than anyone I knew.  And it was, I think, in the level of phobia if somebody had to analyze me.  And then I was pregnant for the first time, and I thought I did all the proper preparation, and that birth wasn’t a good birth, but I expected it not to be good.  But what happened is that the fear intensified after the first birth.  In other words, when I got pregnant again, I was more terrified.  So when I came across HypnoBirthing – actually, the first time I came across HypnoBirthing was in a Barnes & Noble when I saw the book, and I really dismissed it, although I was really drawn to it.  I just basically browsed it in the store, and I was like, okay, this is too good to be true; bye bye, in my second trimester.

And then when I was in my third trimester – actually, week 30-something – somebody mentioned a class opening, and again, I just – it just sounded too good to be true, really.  And I only signed up for the class because it was becoming – I had nothing to lose.  It was my last resort.  Let’s see if something good can happen.

Yeah, what could hurt in trying the class?  You can always take something from any class or book that you read or podcast you listen to.  There’s always a good takeaway.

Yeah.  And I was still resistant.  Actually, the first class, I was like, okay, this won’t work for me.  I’m sorry.  I’m not someone who meditates.  I’m not – I can’t, like, sit and let go.  And the teacher told me, Liat, it’s not about letting go.  It’s about hyperfocusing.  I can do that.  I can hyperfocus.  Actually, I feel like HypnoBirthing is so beneficial for Type A, even more so.  We’ll get into that in the name.  It’s like the crunchy mama, but all the elements of HypnoBirthing are very mainstream, very scientific.  It’s just that it hasn’t been exposed to mainstream world.

Exactly.  I do agree that it gets a different reputation, almost like the crunchy, only want a homebirth or unmedicated.  But HypnoBirthing is for everyone.

Totally.  What I love about HypnoBirthing is it gives you so many tools, and you choose what works for you.  Everything about HypnoBirthing is customizing your experience to what works for you and being in the driver’s seat of your birth.  So I’ve come a long way from someone who lets people make all the decisions, because they really know best, to really learning what makes me, Liat, feel safe.  What makes me feel supported; what makes me feel fear-free.  So that birth was incredible.  I blew myself away.  My son was born – and by the way, my feeling about what’s right for me was birthing in a hospital, but in a birthing room that won’t feel like a hospital, so I feel safe if there’s special circumstances.  There are all the interventions available, but I don’t want the atmosphere of a hospital.  And I got that.  I found that hospital.  I chose the people who would be my providers and my doula.  But I still didn’t expect it.  I applied all the tools, and the tools are actually fun because it made my experience of pregnancy more enjoyable.  You relax.  You take your time.  I loved rainbow relaxation.  I came to the birth.

My son was born in that room, not in the water, which, again, water, I thought – it’s about in the moment.  And HypnoBirthing, it’s about being in the moment.  My body did not want water.  My doula actually was very wise to do let me touch water, to put a little water on me, before we went into the water, and my body just rejected it.  So water would not work, but for other people, it does.  So I really led myself into this birth that was intervention-free.  I would say as pain-free as could be.  My son was 9.6 pounds, and after that birth, I really came to the conclusion that that was just a rare miracle and those things don’t happen, and how lucky and amazing it was.  And then I realized – I learned.  I did a lot of research.  That’s actually a typical HypnoBirth.

And did you stay in touch with any other students?  Did you hear their birth stories, or did your instructor facilitate any communication?  I’m curious about that.

We were in a small class, and I did not stay in touch, but I do know that at least one did not go with a provider that honored HypnoBirthing, and that – you know, the tricky thing with providers is that they can tell you, oh, HypnoBirthing, no problem.  But when you get to the moment of birth, they totally take the agency away from you and they take charge.  So you really need to choose your providers, and they don’t have to be experts on HypnoBirthing.  In fact, we filmed providers who you can see they don’t know exactly what HypnoBirthing is, but if they’re not conducting themselves based on their big ego, then their job is easier.  They love it.  You know, doctors that really don’t operate from ego, they love it.  They’re not the god of the birth.  They’re not the owner of the birth.  And it makes it more enjoyable for them.  So there’s really no reason for providers not to support HypnoBirthing.  But yeah, in my case, it was that I did have the right providers, and I think it says a lot.  We should all have access to these providers, and all providers should consider it.  But I think that a film like my film will show that there’s nothing weird or esoteric about HypnoBirthing.  And we’re also going to make our choices, and then providers that don’t support HypnoBirthing maybe won’t do so well.  I mean, we live in a capitalistic, patriarchal system, so we’re just going to make our choices.  That is really my goal.

But after that birth, when I realized that that is HypnoBirthing and it wasn’t just a rare miracle, I decided that the world should know about it.  It should be in what I call mainstream consciousness so people can make the choice, and also that HypnoBirthing should be accessible to all is another goal of mine.  But how do you do it?  That’s the next step.

I love that your personal experience translated to wanting to create this very important film.  So how many different couples did you interview?  What was your process in creating the film?

My process was very intuitive.  Maybe like HypnoBirthing; my husband keeps saying that the process and the film itself is almost like HypnoBirthing.  Intuition from the gut was very visceral.  I did not – I just – I would meet one person.  They would lead me to another person.  And you know, in the beginning, it was very difficult to find people who were willing to be vulnerable on camera, to share their births, to let us follow them.  It was hard as it was, but somehow our first day of filming after maybe a year of pre-production was scheduled for the end of March of 2020.  So that was a hurdle!

Definitely!

So everything was delayed, and actually, we restarted that summer, social distancing, and being very creating.  Actually, the pandemic made the film more creative than it would have been if it wasn’t for the pandemic, and once we got vaccinated, we started flying and really traveling and we were less limited.  But we traveled across the country.  We just followed different families with different experiences, and somehow everything I wanted to show in the film just happened organically.  I knew that, for instance, HypnoBirthing works for every birth, right?  You could birth free; you could birth in the OR.  And somebody asked me, does that mean that you don’t use anesthesia?  Well, exactly.  You need a film to show you.  It can be HypnoBirthing along with a C-section as it’s done in the hospital.  But we didn’t follow anyone who wanted a C‑section, and I don’t wish a C-section on anyone, so we ended up having what we call in HypnoBirthing special circumstances with a few of our couples, and you can really see the difference.  It’s amazing.  I’m very excited for the world to see it.

Another thing I wanted to show – I remember this nurse friend used to tell me, well, HypnoBirthing works for a second birth.  It worked for you.  But it doesn’t work for first births.  Well, half of our couples were first birthers.  There you go.  So it’s really incredible.  And the providers we met along the way – just, really, everything that I had in my mind that needs to be shown in my film happened and happened on camera, except for the things that we made a lot of discoveries, and some discoveries, we weren’t prepared for, and that happens when you make a documentary, especially a personal documentary.  But those, of course, ended up in the film, and I’m also very excited for the turns that the film took to become what it is right now.

Yes, I cannot wait to watch it!  It’s so needed, and I do feel like you having these organic journeys with couples where it’s not a predictable documentary, does make it even more perfect, and adapting as you do in HypnoBirthing to whatever comes your way and using the tools that you have.  We have students in our HypnoBirthing classes that have a fear of a surgical birth and need to have a planned Cesarean birth due to medical issues, and they used the relaxation and the pregnancy practice to overcome those fears.  So as you mentioned, it really is for everyone.

Totally.  This is the platform I’m comfortable with, film, but we just need to get it to the masses.  We just need to get this knowledge to the masses, and in the form of entertainment, I think, is pretty optimal.

Agreed.  And people do love consuming video, and there’s so many ways to access films.  I’m sure you’ll be having many launch events for the film in different locations, especially involving some of the couples that you filmed.  It’s got to be so fun to have them see their journey on film.

Yes.  All the couples that we filmed and followed were people who are normally private people, people who don’t like to be exposed to the world with their vulnerabilities, with their most intimate moments of giving birth.  But they were so dedicated to the idea that this is really the only way to show the world what HypnoBirthing is.  And the film is not a birth video that you would Google and see on YouTube.  The film is really an entertainment piece.  It follows a journey.  It follows stories.  There are obstacles that we all meet and conquer, and really, it took the people’s comfort level to be as high as can be, to be in this film.  And they were comfortable because they wanted this film to be out.  I’m very honored that they chose to share those moments with us, with the world.

Definitely.  And did you get in touch with HypnoBirthing International, or how did you collaborate with the – because there are similar methods, like Gentle Birth or HypnoBabies.  But you’re specifically talking about HypnoBirthing?

Yes.  I am talking about the original method.  The reason I’m talking about the original method is, A, I create from what I know.  I don’t know anything about the other methods.  I know what I was trained with, and it wouldn’t make sense for me to create from another viewpoint or needing to learn about other methods.  And it was also the first one.

Exactly.  They all were offshoots of the original concept.

I’m just putting it out there; it’s also on homage to Marie Mongan, who started this revolution.

She was amazing.  So birth trauma is a topic that you’re passionate about.  How do you feel this film and awareness can prevent some future trauma or help people in processing past trauma as they’re preparing?  As you had even mentioned, your first birth didn’t go the way you wanted, so you had some fears going into the next one.  I would like to explore that a little bit with you.

I touched on it a little bit before, about the discoveries I wasn’t prepared for.  Okay, so I was not passionate or invested in working through birth trauma or the idea of birth trauma.  My original idea was to bring a film to the world that shows what HypnoBirthing is and is inspiring birth revolution from within the system, which I can explain later what it means, but really, HypnoBirthing accessible to all, and to show what it really is.  I was carrying birth trauma from my first birth.  My assumption was that we all expect births to be terrible, and then they’re terrible, and that’s it.  A trauma is really – like, what happened to me, I was healthy, and my daughter in my first birth was healthy, even though it was very traumatic.  I suppressed that trauma because everything was sort of okay, and it was normal.  But I was holding on to trauma, and I wasn’t aware of it, and I wasn’t aware of what it was doing to me.

Now, throughout the journey of filming Fear and Now, I suppressed my trauma even more.  I actually developed guilt and shame whenever things came up for me because I met with people who almost died at birth.  So really, there was really no place for me to let myself think that I had birth trauma.  So I buried the trauma even more.  But I guess trauma is trauma.

It is.  That’s what I believe.

And every trauma has to be acknowledged, but the thing is that it’s so normalized in our society that we don’t even know that we have trauma.  All I knew is that whenever I started talking about that birth, I would start crying, and then I would just change the subject and do something else, and that was it.  So I had never talked about that birth until nine years later, accidentally, unintentionally, on camera towards the end of filming Fear and Now.  And that became the second theme of the film.  I did some research.  I learned that 30% of women who birth go through birth trauma.  30%.  And I found out that the research is based on self-reporting, but if we don’t know that we have trauma, then how would we self-report that we have trauma?  I believe that closer to 100% have trauma.  So what do we do with that?

First of all, we acknowledge it and we don’t minimize it.  We don’t suppress it.  We find a way to release it.  And I think there are many ways to release it.  It doesn’t have to be a fancy way.

The fear release in HypnoBirthing, for example, is one way.

To me, it was just talking about it and really letting it out and letting myself cry and letting myself really tell the story, and it’s as simple as that.  For deep trauma, you might need to release or process a few times.  But the bottom line is, the first thing is to be aware.  And it’s hard to be aware in a society that normalized birth trauma as really what you’re supposed to experience.  And I know that just as much as HypnoBirthing changed my life, the trauma release changed my life, as well.  So that became the second theme of Fear and Now.

I love how it organically unfolded!  What are your tips for our listeners as they prepare for upcoming births?  Or even pre-conception?

Especially, I come from really profound fear.  As a child, I remember, it was so scary.  And it took one birth, and then the second birth, I educated myself.  And I find HypnoBirthing is the most thorough course that’s offered.  That’s personally how I see it.  It’s really about awareness, right?  This film is about HypnoBirthing, but any type of education that teaches you physiological birth and how to release fears – I can’t tell people that everyone should do HypnoBirthing.  But I can tell people that everyone should know about it.  You should know about it, what it really is, because there’s so many misconceptions about it, including the name.  So I suggest, yes, exploring what this class is.  Actually, one of the reasons I was drawn to taking the class the second time around, that I thought it would be a refresher course.  It is very thorough in teaching you about birth, if anything.  But the tools are so powerful, and what I love about it is that it offers you so many tools that a few, for sure, would work for you, and really, also people who have had previous births or any traumas, to sort of – I mean, when you watch the film, you realize that it can just come up in the worst moments.  And I think that when you give birth – I think that if I didn’t have HypnoBirthing, my second birth would have been more traumatic because I was still holding onto trauma from the first time.  So finding out what trauma is, really.  It’s not – a lot of things that are trauma, we don’t consider as trauma.  I guess, cleanse yourself of your traumas as much as you can before you enter this world of birth.

Great advice.  So how can our listeners support your film, Liat?

Well, we are deep into post-production, which – we are basically in labor.  The film is in labor.  And baby Fear and Now is crowning.  We are, right now, in our last phase of fundraising.  You can go to our website, fearandnowmovie.com, to explore more about the film.  You can follow us on social media.  We’re mainly active on Instagram, @fearandnowmovie.  Also, on Facebook, we are @fearandnow.  You can sign up to our newsletter on the website.  You can reach out through our website or DM us, and we’d love to hear feedback or if anybody is interested in learning more about our plans for the future, we are here.

Love it.  Well, thank you so much for sharing your beautiful journey to creating Fear and Now!  I can’t wait to watch the film!

Yes, I’m very excited to be in this phase of post-production and really to get this film to the masses because that is the goal, really.  It is not – the film is not an esoteric, sort of grungy film, which there’s room for that, too.  It is a very mainstream documentary that is meant for the masses.

Perfect.  Thank you so much, and we will share information with our audience and our Gold Coast clients as we get updates on when the film is coming out!

Thank you so much, Kristin!  Thank you for having me!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Support Fear and Now!

Fear and Now

HypnoBirthing classes from Gold Coast Doulas

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

The Benefits of HypnoBirthing with Fear and Now Documentary Director Liat Ron: Podcast Episode #230 Read More »

Jessica Hull, founder of Mother Me, sits with her three children.

Do More Than Just Survive Postpartum with Jess Hull of Mother Me – Podcast Episode #229

Kristin Revere and Jess Hull discuss the concept of matrescence and the changes that happen to women when they become a mother.

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am thrilled to chat with Jess Hull today.  Jess is a former Facebook and Google executive who founded Mother Me, which is an app and online course and support framework for successful women who want to do more than just survive their postpartum.  The system Jess developed is called the Mother Me Method, and it’s based on the science and data of matrescence as well as incorporating global perspectives on how other countries and cultures support postpartum women.  Welcome, Jess!

Thank you!  Thanks so much for having me!

I am very excited to dive into the major transition that I don’t feel like gets enough acknowledgment in becoming a mother.  I actually have an online course called Becoming A Mother that started during the early stages of the pandemic when we had to move everything to virtual, and it’s all about women supporting women and a mix of preparing for birth but also the transition to motherhood.  So we have a similar concept, but I love that yours is so research based, clinical, academic focused.  So I would love to hear more about what drew you to this rite of passage and major life occurrence.  Was it a mix of personal and professional coming from the tech industry?  It’s a big change.

Yeah, absolutely.  So I had two children very close in age.  They’re 18 months apart.  And with those postpartum experiences, I felt like my world was rocked both times.  The first time, I like to say that I was comically naïve on what to expect.  Then the second time, you’d think, okay, you’ve been through this.  You know, you should know a little bit more, be better prepared.  But the reality was, my mindset going into it was really just about surviving.  And I was like, I got through it before.  I can get through it again.  And after getting through it, I realized I didn’t really want to have more children, not because I didn’t want to grow my family, but because I didn’t want to have the experience of postpartum again.  And that mindset of just struggling through something that’s meant to be such a beautiful time, I realized, was what was holding me back.  So I started just looking at some data and research, and again, that’s where my background in tech came into play.  I saw that 90% of women felt unprepared for the postpartum experience.  So that helped me feel validated, number one.  But number two, that gave me hope that 10% of women were doing something that helped them feel better about it.  So I used that insight to say, well, what are they doing?  I’m really curious.  What works well for people?  And it’s not just a naïve first time mom problem.  As a second-time mom, I experienced it, too.  And the more I talked to other friends, family, and coworkers going through it, it was shockingly universal how many people felt the postpartum stage was truly something they just wanted to survive.  Like, how low the bar was set that we didn’t even want to enjoy it.  We just wanted to get through it.  So that was really the key catalyst in getting me to explore this space.

And then I started to talk to my husband about it, and we said, what would need to be true for us to feel confident in expanding our family, that it wouldn’t rock us again and that we could do more than just survive?  That’s really how I started down this path and used my background in data and research to understand, again, the insights that would help me feel more empowered rather than just survival mode that we sort of default to.

Yes, and it makes perfect sense with your background in tech to transition to an app to be able to merge your personal experience and your background and also just being able to promote a multi-option business, between the online course and the support that you have.

Yeah, and again, sort of in work and in practice, we know that people can have the best information in the world, but if it’s not convenient and it’s not actionable, they’re not going to do it.  So convenience, I think, is a key part to changing an outcome, whether it’s in postpartum or in any aspect of life.  So I really wanted to design a program that would fit somebody like me who was a busy working woman who has a lot going on but wanted to take care of herself and not have it be a massive time commitment or a huge learning curve.  I’m a very visual learner myself, so developing the app with the video modules was something that I felt as a user I would really want.  And as somebody who’s creating content, you know, I didn’t want to blast it all over social media, either, so having a private community that felt like a safe place for moms to learn and grown and connect was really the heart of how I designed the business.

I love it.  So in your research, I’m curious about what you found that 10% of women were doing that helped them to feel confident and prepared in the journey to motherhood and becoming a parent, whether it’s baby one or baby five.

Yes.  So in the study of matrescence, we know that women go through universal changes and transitions in becoming a mother.  So for those who may have not heard the term matrescence before, it’s exactly like adolescence, which is the process of a child becoming an adult, except matrescence refers to a woman becoming a mother.  And just as in puberty you go through hormonal changes, social changes, identity, you have different nutritional needs, your brain evolves and you have neurological changes – the same exact things happen to women when they become a mother.  And I think that when we holistically embrace the process of becoming a mother, we feel not only more prepared but more at ease with the transition.

So much of what makes this process difficult for women is the cultural narrative on getting your pre-baby self back and feeling like your old self, and there’s this sort of obsession with who you were pre-baby.  Matrescence is really focused on embracing and evolving into the new version of you.  It’s almost like surrendering to the process.  If you think about an adult sort of clinging to the naivete of childhood, you’d be like, buddy, you got to grow up.  It’s just part of life.  And yet for women, it’s sort of like almost a source of – an unrealistic, unobtainable goal to say, I want to be my pre-baby self.  And that sort of unintentionally shames this new version of the woman you’re becoming who’s stronger, who’s more compassionate, more empathetic, and maybe knows herself more.  So it’s embracing this new version of you and accepting this idea that you are meant to change and you’re meant to be somebody new.  I think that’s the foundation to having a better experience.

And in my research, I looked at other countries and cultures and the things that they do to help prepare the women in their communities as they become mothers, and they really celebrate this rite of passage, and they have rituals that honor not only what the body goes through, but what the spirit and mind go through, as well.  So I think there’s lot of different aspects that play into overall feeling more prepared, but the first foundational element is understanding that you are meant to be somebody new.  And when we look towards nature, we see that all the time.  A butterfly started as a caterpillar.  They’re not meant to want to be their caterpillar self again.  But it can be scary embracing the new you, so I understand why so many people sort of fight that urge and that change.  Surrendering to that, I think, helps.

And motherhood in our culture can be so isolating.  And again there is that pressure to get back to work, get back to getting your old jeans on, and just back to that former life, that is really hard to embrace when you’re going through so many changes.  And after giving birth, it’s all about the baby, and the mother often feels left alone and behind.  In so many cultures, with your studies, as you said, it’s all about celebrating this new journey and mothering the mother for oftentimes at least a month, if not longer.

Absolutely.  That’s actually the reason I named my company Mother Me, because I wanted it to be a call to action for women and everyone to recognize that women deserve the same love and care that we give our newborn.  And I think in the US, our culture is sort of women priding themselves on being super mom and doing it all and having it all, and that contributes to the isolation that you mentioned.  Where in other countries and cultures, there’s much more community support and the village support that we hear about, and I think women yearn for that connection and support.  We don’t necessarily want to do it alone, and we feel like it’s a sign of weakness to raise our hand and ask for help, but in reality, it’s a sign of strength to recognize, I need help at this moment.  And guess what?  I deserve help.  I’ve gone through a major medical event of nine months, and labor and delivery, of course, is no walk in the park, either.  So there’s no shame in needing help and actually recognizing that the mom deserves the help, I think, is another sort of cultural aspect I’m trying to support women in, in saying it’s a sign of strength to ask for and give yourself the support, just like you’d say that a baby needs help.  You’d never deny a baby love and care, so why would you deny it of yourself?

Right.  And so with this change, what has your research shown you about the shifts in relationships and how do you teach students in your course and in the app how to navigate relationship changes?

Another very compelling data point that I found from the Gottman Institute is that 70% of couples report a decline in relationship satisfaction after becoming parents.  And as somebody who went through that experience of having two under two, I’m quite honestly shocked that number’s not higher.  Having a baby and becoming the mom and dad or partners in parenthood is a wild ride in and of itself, and the dynamic and resentment is one of the biggest factors to that decline in relationship satisfaction.  In my own personal experience and in my research, I’ve focused a lot on the dynamics between the parents and supporting them as they evolve into new roles of individuals, of being a mother and father, and also being parents together and having different parenting styles, different family of origin values, different expectations of what this time will mean to them and sort of the traditions and rituals that they want to create with their family.

So one of the things that I teach in my program are – I call them mad libs for adults, if you remember those games that we played as kids.  Giving people language to ask their partner for help and communicate their experience – that is very unique.  What a mom goes through versus what a dad goes through: completely different, right?  And so much of what the woman goes through is invisible.  So even my husband, who’s very attuned to the female experience – he has three sisters – he still would be like, well, you look the same, or you look okay.  And I’d be like, how I look is not how I feel.  What I’m experiencing is completely invisible.  So let me tell you about it, and let me use language that helps me explain to you the complicated feelings that I’m having so he could have compassion for what was going on beneath the surface.

In my program, I have scripts where I have a list of emotions, a list of experiences, and you can fill in the blank with your partner in a way that’s kind of fun and a little silly.  Like, we want to have fun, and we don’t need to be so serious that it’s overwhelming or uncomfortable for couples, right?  So we have a little fun about it and say, like, here’s how I’m feeling, here’s what I need from you.  And sometimes it’s really just acknowledgement.  There’s no action that the man can do other than listen and acknowledge and say, I hear you.  I see you, and I appreciate you.  And that does wonders for making a relationship healthy, especially through this vulnerable transition of becoming parents.

And that avoids the resentment that you described earlier, if couples aren’t communicating and then the partner goes back to work and the mother is left alone with this baby and could have other kids at home and wants her old life back and is resentful that the partner even gets to go to work and listen to music and go out to lunch with colleagues, whatever it might be, missing that old life.  Even during just a short maternity leave.

Yeah, and I think that’s where your work as a doula and helping women, especially to get more sleep early on in the recovery – the sleep factor is a huge source of resentment for a lot of couples because the mom is traditionally the one waking up in the middle of the night, and if the male partner doesn’t have paternity leave, which is, again, another systemic problem in the US – there’s sort of an expectation that because the mom is staying home, that she should be the one getting up all throughout the night.  That deteriorates the quality of her recovery massively.  What I focus on in my program is, I have a whole module on sleep deprivation and the impact on not only your physical recovery but also your mental and hormonal recalibration.  Sleep is a huge factor, especially in that first four weeks.  It is critical that the mom gets enough sleep and that the partner steps up in those early days and weeks to allow the woman to recover and have constructive rest in that time.

Exactly, and as overnight and daytime postpartum doulas, we find that some partners have to go back two days after the birth, so they’re there in the hospital, but they’re back at work, working long hours, and then that depletion and exhaustion begins.  With some families, even coming in a couple nights a week can get them at least caught up a bit on rest, no matter how they feed their baby.  For exclusively breastfeeding moms, we can bring the baby to them or wake them and have them go into the nursery, so then they’re optimizing the rest they have.  The doula – or we also have newborn care specialists – do the diaper changes, the sleep shaping, burping baby, and you’re able to get support and ask questions about feeding.  The parent is awake at that time.  So it can be helpful.  But I have found that with some of the media attention, overnight doulas, newborn care specialists, night nannies – there have been a lot of negative public comments about getting help or investing in that much-needed support.

Right.  I mean, I am truly shocked that anyone would view that as negative because it is recovery needed for the woman, and I think that we’re recognizing the toll that pregnancy and labor and delivery takes on a woman’s body, obviously, but also mentally.  It’s critical to get that help, whether it’s from a partner or whether from a third party.  And I think that having a doula or a night nurse or somebody to come in and provide that peace of mind so that the mom can rest – again, there’s constructive rest, and that is the type of rest we want our moms to be able to get in this time.  But if it’s something that’s within the family’s means, I would ten out of ten recommend that people get a doula and support to provide them the opportunity to rest because that will not only help their recovery; it will help their relationship.  It will help how the mom is able to show up with her other kids as a mom, and it’s something that, I think when you look back, this time goes back so fast.  And again, the goal is not to survive it, right?  You want to actually enjoy that time.  And how can you enjoy it if you’re sleep deprived and you’re anxious?  You can’t.

Exactly.  Then it’s a blur, and all you have are the photos to look back and be like, all right, I got through it, as you mentioned before.  We should be embracing and celebrating this change and have the support we need and feel confident in asking for support.  But as you said, having those conversations early on with your partner and even with family members is so important to set expectations.  Otherwise, we can feel like we’re overwhelmed and drowning.

Absolutely, and the majority of women are overwhelmed and drowning, and it’s through no fault of their own.  One of the things that I talk a lot about in the program is that I went through this twice, feeling exactly that way, overwhelmed and drowning.  And I thought it was my fault.  I thought it was a reflection of me as a mother, or I just wasn’t the type of person to enjoy the newborn stage.  And through my research, again, I found the validation that a lot of women were set up to fail.  And this is not a reflection of me as a mom.  This is not a reflection of me as a woman.  This is a reflection of the lack of support that our society provides people, and we need to recognize that not only is it okay to get the support, but we deserve the support and we need the support.  So I’m really trying to, of course, address the immediate term of how to take care of yourself in postpartum and have a wonderful experience, but also, I feel like it’s honestly a movement of women feeling empowered to say that we deserve more and we need more, and this is again not a sign of weakness at all.  Really, it’s not.  We should feel truly empowered to get this help, and not to feel shame in telling other moms when we get this help.  I think that’s where social media for me is a slippery slope because you see people’s highlight reels on Instagram and Facebook and you think, oh, that woman has it all together.  She’s thriving in motherhood.  How is she doing it?  And it’s not the reality for the majority of women.  Or if they get help, they don’t want to publicly show that they’re getting help because they feel maybe ashamed that they’re getting help, and they really shouldn’t.

Right.  Not at all.  And I do appreciate – I feel like there are two sides to social media right now.  There’s the vulnerable side of really expressing that.  Some influencers, if you want to call them that, moms, have shared some of their struggles, and it has led to more openness about how the house doesn’t have to be perfect, and women showing their house with kids running around, and it being okay.  Or that you can have a bad day.  And then of course, there is that highlight reel, very filtered, Pinterest perfect, that is hard to live up to.  It can be overwhelming, but if you find the right accounts, then it can also make you feel like you’re not alone in the journey.  You just have to be connecting with the right people, I guess.

Absolutely.  And again, I talk a lot about tech usage in my content, and I recommend doing sort of an audit of who you’re following and just unfollowing anybody that brings you any type of comparison instinct.  I realized that there were certain people, when they would show up in my feed, I’d be like, oh, how do they do it?  And then I was like, wait a minute.  Let me have some awareness around how that’s coming up for me when I see this influencer or this person or this celebrity, and I’m just going to detox.  And I unfollowed probably about 100 or so accounts while I was pregnant because I realized it’s not serving me.  It’s not serving my child.  And those people will be there.  If I want to go back to them at another point in my life, they’ll be there.  So it’s a temporary thing, and I think that’s what pregnancy and postpartum is all about.  It’s recognizing that it’s a temporary thing, so what can you do?  It doesn’t need to be forever, but what can you do in this moment right now that will serve you, serve your child, serve your relationship, and set you up for what should be a happy and peaceful time of your life.

Exactly.  So Jess, what are your top tips for setting yourself up for postpartum success?

I would say starting in pregnancy is key.  A lot of people will take a wait and see approach, and they’ll say, you know, I’ll be fine.  And some people may be fine, and I hope truly that they are.  But again, we know from the data that unfortunately the majority of people are not.  So recognizing this is something to plan for.  I mean, how many women are planning their baby nursery, right?  You know you’re planning that.

Yes, and showers, and all the planning that goes into those.  People aren’t planning for birth and baby the way they are for a wedding, that’s for sure. 

Right.  For sure.  And I think that recognizing that having stuff and being organized – of course, that’s important.  Of course, that helps you feel calm.  But take care of your insides, your brain, your body, your spirit, with the same love and care that you’re preparing your external environment.  Right?  Imagine if we spent as much time thinking about ourself and our spirit as we’re transitioning to motherhood as we did planning the nursery.  It would be incredible.  I’d say that’s number one.

Great tip.

And number two, I would say, is getting help, whether it’s from a doula, whether it’s from somebody like me who’s working with you during pregnancy, whether it’s from the support of family of origin that you can tap into, friends, coworkers, whoever it is that you feel you can rely on, getting help and recognizing that you are not meant to do this alone.  That’s a big step, too, for me.  And I would say step three would be a very practical thing.  One of the things that I encourage all women to do is get paper plates or little things that make your life easier for the short term because we know that bending over, whether you’re pregnant or in your early postpartum days, is a way many women do too much, too fast.  Emptying the dishwasher, switching the laundry.  Little household things like that are adding up and actually creating longer term injuries for people.  So making temporary accommodations to not do so much in those early days.

Right.  It’s not just avoiding vacuuming and stairs.  There’s so much more to it, as you mentioned, with lifting.

Yeah.  And even if you have a toddler and you’re going to say, like, how could I possibly not lift my toddler?  It’s really challenging.  But having your toddler climb on the couch and give you a hug that way.  For me, bending over and picking up my big kids was really detrimental, so I would have them walk up the first few stairs, and I would say, that’s the bus stop.  I’ll meet you at the bus stop.  And they would jump into my arms that way so I wouldn’t have to bend over to pick them up.  I would say practical things like that, and of course, there’s a lot more on that front.

And then I think valuing your partner and using this as an opportunity for connection to talk about how your experience is different than their experience and opening up rather than keeping it all to yourself.  I think that’s the other part we didn’t totally go into when we talked about the partner aspect, but feeling like I’m going to keep it to myself.  I’m just going to struggle through it, or when my partner comes home from work, they had a tough day; I don’t want to burden them with my tough day.  And it’s fighting that urge to stay silent.  You know, really open up, and that’s where having scripts or language to use makes it a little easier for people to open up.  But we don’t want to keep these things to ourselves, especially in the vulnerable postpartum recovery stage.

Beautiful tips.  So how can our listeners and our Gold Coast clients work with you, Jess?

Yes!  I am on Instagram.  My account is @motherme.io.  And that is the same as my website, motherme.io.  And people can find me through Instagram and book a call with me, and I’m happy to discuss their individual circumstances and recommend sort of a pregnancy prep path.  I’d love to work with anyone who feels confident to say, I want more help and I need more help, and guess what?  I deserve it.  I really feel like that journey through recognizing help and feeling empowered – that’s what I love most about what I do.  So if you’re of that mindset, please reach out to me, and I’d be happy to chat with you.

Excellent.  As you mentioned, during pregnancy, it’s ideal to prepare early, similar with hiring a doula.  The earlier, the better; the more they’ll get out of your different programs.  But what if someone just had a baby and is feeling isolated?  What would it be like to work with you immediately postnatal?

Yes.  I have several women who actually DM me when they’re in the hospital.  And they’re like, I just had the baby.  I need help!  And absolutely, it’s never too late to raise your hand and say, I need help.  So definitely still reach out to me if you just had your baby and you want a little bit more support mentally, nutritionally, or guidance in your relationship and supporting this transition to mom and dad or from individuals to partners and parents.  It is absolutely always a good time, if you need help, to get help.

Excellent.  Well, I could talk to you forever.  We’ll have to reconnect again, Jess.  Thank you for sharing all of your tips and wisdom with our listeners.

Well, thank you for having me.  I could talk to you forever, too.  I’m so grateful that there are services like Gold Coast Doulas to really help women get that support they need because that is a huge part of the experience, so you’re doing wonderful work and we’ll continue talking.  Maybe we’ll do another session.  If the listeners have any more questions, we can go deeper on any of it.

That would be great.  I love everything you’re doing with Mother Me.  I will add you to our resource list.  It’s great to have another excellent app to use for preparation.

Thank you.  Thank you so much, Kristin!

Thanks, Jess!  Take care!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Mother Me

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Do More Than Just Survive Postpartum with Jess Hull of Mother Me – Podcast Episode #229 Read More »

Kristin & Alyssa from Gold Coast Doulas cheers two coffee mugs in front of a neon sign that says "but first, coffee"

We Wrote A Book! Podcast Episode #228

Kristin Revere and Alyssa Veneklase chatted about their upcoming book “Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby.” Their book will be released on Mother’s Day.  Look for it on Amazon and ask for it at your favorite bookstore.  The e-book and audiobook will be available in early June.    

Hello!  This is Kristin Revere, and I get to chat with Alyssa Veneklase today, all about our big reveal.  Welcome, Alyssa!

Hey!  It’s been a while.

It has.  So we’ve been working on a project for a couple of years.

Oh, my gosh.  Seems longer than that.

I think because the project started with our Becoming A Mother course during the early pandemic and sort of branched off from there, it does feel like a lot longer, but certainly similar concepts.  I feel like we’re giving birth to something, or about to, anyway.  So do you want to reveal what we’ve been working on?

Sure.  So we turned our course and all the course work and all the topics of the Becoming A Mother course into a book where Kristin has written the first half about pregnancy and planning for birth, and then I wrote the second half on planning postpartum and newborn care and sleep.  It’s really exciting.

It’s exactly the way we have our Becoming A Mother course.  I facilitate the first section, being the birth doula, and then you, being the sleep consultant, and both of us are postpartum doulas, you took on the feeding and newborn care.  So we divided the book up the same way, and the title is Supported: Your Guide to Birth and Baby.  We’ve been working with an amazing publisher, McLaren Press.  We did the – I want to call it exciting, but it was also nerve wracking – experience of recording an audiobook. 

Yeah, that was interesting.  That was a lot of talking in one session!  But we got it done.

We did, yeah, with the amazing Ben Zito of Centennial Sound.  Many different people involved in this project.  The book will be out on Mother’s Day.  We’re just in final layout stages with our publisher.

Yeah, it will be exciting to be able to offer it as a gift or a guide to friends and family, a guide for students or for any new parent.

The perfect baby shower gift.  We created it not just for first time moms and parents but also for seasoned moms, to understand all of their options when it comes to planning for birth and baby.

Right.  And I know in my sections, I talk about, how do you deal with feeding a newborn when you have a toddler who’s also vying for your attention, and then how do you deal with sleep when you have maybe a toddler who’s not sleeping and you have to feed a baby and get a baby to sleep and nap, and then also try to find time to sleep yourself?  It’s definitely – no matter how many kids, if it’s your first or your third, there’s definitely information in there.

Exactly.  So what is your favorite part of the book as far as the process?

Oh, the process of it?  Just getting thoughts down and writing.  I’m not best ad lib, so when I have an idea, I really like to think about it and change it and talk to other people about it.  So I think getting things down on paper is just good for my brain.  And then having you – when you have someone who can read it and edit it and maybe help you make changes.  And then obviously the sleep portion is my favorite.  That’s my favorite thing to talk about.

I figured sleep would be your favorite chapter, and certainly our most talked-about section in the Becoming course.  Whenever we have live calls or questions in our private community, it’s almost always about sleep, whether it’s infant sleep or toddlers.  And you deal with age 3 to 5, even with your online sleep class that you offer.  It is definitely the hot topic, and there’s so much more awareness now about options like sleep consultants and overnight postpartum doulas to help families when they don’t have support nearby.

Yeah, and I think the sleep chapter is interesting because it’s not a one size fits all, like here’s how you do it.  It’s more of an educational chapter on what is sleep and how does it work for your kid at different ages, and how can you fit that into your current schedule and your current parenting style.  It’s really about finding the best fit for you and your family and not just saying, oh, well, my cousin did it this way, or my best friend did it that way, and now I feel like a failure because it’s not working for me.  Really, really hammering down this idea that every family is different and you have to figure out what’s right for you, and if everyone’s happy, then you don’t need to change anything.

Right.  Because some of those online sleep courses and books on sleep are not customized to unique schedules and situations, and they don’t work.  And then people are frustrated.  So yours definitely has more of that customization and tips on how to make it work for your lifestyle.

What about you?  What’s your favorite part?

As far as the process, I think – I had started on a different book concept back in my early days as a doula, so taking some of those original concepts and what we gathered before we launched the course in serving women that were either Gold Coast clients or in different moms groups about what they wished they would have known about pregnancy, birth, and early parenting.  And I really liked getting those concepts and making it work into a book about other people’s thoughts on what they would want to know, thinking that those are the people that would buy this book for friends, or might be having another baby and want to be told the real truth, that maybe your friends are embarrassed to talk about or don’t think that it’s a normal thing to share.  I mean, we talk about leaking.  We talk about pelvic floor therapy and what is normal and cramping after birth and your legs shaking – so many things that aren’t discussed in your provider prenatal visits or in moms’ groups that I think are important to share.

Yeah, and your chapters do a good job of sharing stories from other people, stories from moms, different writeups from other people.  You give a lot of different perspectives.

Yeah, and that is also key.  I love reading different birth stories with different outcomes, and w share postpartum and sleep stories, all from our own clients and their voices, and we even have a pandemic chapter that covered what it was like to go through pregnancy, birth, and early parenting when things were shut down and maybe some of the options you had planned for weren’t available to you.  Those stories are very impactful, as well.

And hopefully we don’t have to go through that again!

Hopefully not!  But even RSV and flu season –

If we do, at least we’ve been through it.  We’ve learned a lot, and things could be different.

Exactly.  I would say as far as takeaways, hopefully, whether it’s the stories that resonate for you or knowing your options in assembling your dream team for birth and baby, there’s so many different options that aren’t commonly known, from car seat safety technicians to different types of mental health therapists to support group options and so on that aren’t something you’re going to even learn in a childbirth class.

So as far as resources, what was your favorite resource to compile in our final section?  For me, it would be – I know you had a lot of feeding and sleep-related websites and trusted resources or books that you would recommend.  And I would say for me, it was gathering some of the resources that our expert contributors had thought were valuable, so everything from Jenni Froment from VBAC Academy and her favorite VBAC resources to Cristina Stauffer, who is our mental health therapist expert.  She talked about different support groups that were available.  So I would say some of those outside sources and trusted resources that they use within their own fields.

Yeah, I mean, again, just with sleep, I’m always intrigued looking up sleep statistics and how important it is and how devastating it is when we don’t have it, for adults and kids.  It’s probably the most rigorous research that’s done for the book is the sleep related topics.

Agreed, yes.  In the citations, I would agree.  There’s a lot of sleep research.

Well, it is exciting, and we will be updating you when we have the exact release date for the e-book and audiobook.  It should be in early June.  The print version will be out on Mother’s Day.  We’ll update about any events coming up, whether virtual or in bookstores, and we can add that to the blog.  We will have the book available in so many different formats because everyone consumes content in a different way.  So it will be Kindle download ebook format to the paperback or the option to do an Audible download and be able to have the book consumed in that way, especially if you have a membership and you don’t even need to pay for the book.  It will just be part of your monthly membership. 

Any final tips for our listeners that you’d like to share on either the book writing process or your favorite nugget from the book?

No, I’m just excited to have it complete and then hopefully it becomes a really great resources for new parents.  I want it to be something that people put on their gift registries and give to anyone they find out is pregnant to read while they’re still pregnant.  I’m just really excited for that.

Yes.  Me, too.  I think it will be a great shower gift and something to pass down.  You can purchase it for relatives or friends.  You don’t have to be pregnant to purchase it.  And I would say my takeaway is, we talk about it not only in your section on postnatal prep and recovery and early parenting, but also in mine – really trusting your own instincts as a mother during pregnancy, during birth, and listen to your own instincts versus relying on the way, say, your mom birthed or your friend chose to sleep train her baby.  Follow your own compass, and obviously, use evidence based research.  But each pregnancy, birth, and parenting journey is unique, and we talk about that throughout the entire book.

Right.  I agree.

Well, thanks for chatting with me, and we will keep spreading the word about the book.  But this was our first reveal, so very exciting to share it with our Ask the Doulas audience.

Yeah.  We will keep everyone posted!

Sounds good!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

We Wrote A Book! Podcast Episode #228 Read More »

Kristin Mallon poses in front of a brick wall wearing a purple long sleeve top

The Role of a Nurse Midwife: Podcast Episode #227

Kristin Revere and Kristin Mallon discuss how certified nurse-midwives support women in all stages of life.  They also chat about how Kristin Mallon transitioned to supporting menopause and feminine longevity when she co-created FemGevity.   

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Kristin Mallon today.  Kristin is the CEO and co-founder of FemGevity.  She is a CNM, MSRNC OB and is a highly accomplished and passionate board-certified nurse midwife with over 20 years of experience in women’s health.  Her expertise in menopause and feminine longevity has made her a respected and sought after expert in her field.  Kristin is dedicated to providing the highest level of care to her patients. 

Welcome, Kristin!

Thank you so much for having me!

I am so excited to chat with you about your background.  From what I read on your bio, you actually started as a DONA doula in Maryland.  So let’s explore your passion and pivot in so many different ways in women’s health.

Yeah, so I started as a doula.  I knew I wanted to be a midwife, so while I was in school, I worked as a doula, and then once I got my nursing degree and then ultimately my midwifery degree, I transitioned from that type of support because now I was able to work as a midwife.  There’s a lot of blending and lot of understanding both roles really well because I had been a doula before I became a midwife.

Yes, so that emotional support and physical support and just being with women in pregnancy and then transitioning to more of the medical aspect of care.

Right.  Exactly.

So for our listeners who are not familiar with nurse midwifery, would you mind sharing a bit about how you work with women in pregnancy, childbirth, and the postnatal phase?

I think unfortunately “midwife” and “midwifery” is really confusing in the United States.  When you go outside of the United States, I think most of the people of whatever country it is – Central America, South America, Europe, Asia – they understand midwife kind of means midwife, and there’s one word for midwife, which is someone, a medical professional whose sole job is to help women during pregnancy, maybe a little bit of the time getting pregnant, delivery, labor, and the postpartum period.  It’s a very specific medical role, a very specific niche.  In the US, it’s really confusing, and most of the time when I meet people, they’re like, oh, you’re a midwife?  You deliver babies at home.  You have no medical training.  You were trained by a group of women in the Amish country.  That’s a very common misconception that people have about midwives.

Most midwives in the US, over 90% – I think some years it’s even as high as 96% of midwives – work in the hospital setting.  They work in a very acute care setting, and only about 6% or 4% or 5%, depending on the given year and depending on the state, are actually working in the home.  So the majority of us are working in hospitals.  I think even that is confusing for the average American.

And then within midwifery, we have certified nurse midwives, which is what I am.  I’m technically a board-certified nurse midwife.  Midwifery does have a certification board.  We have certified midwives who have the same type of board certification that I have, but they don’t have a nursing degree.  They’re not a nurse.  We have lay midwives, which are midwives that are just trained in the communities, very similar to doulas, but they tend to have a little bit more understanding of the medical aspects of things.  And we have professional midwives.  Not all states recognize all of those.  All 50 states recognize a certified nurse midwife.  Not all states recognize all of those other types of midwifery.  And so it’s very confusing and I think overwhelming for the average consumer.  It’s hard in the US, I think, to understand midwifery fully.

I agree.  And I definitely agree about the assumption that most people think of midwives as a homebirth midwife versus a CNM or working in a hospital.  A birth center could be freestanding or attached to a hospital, for example.

Right.  And now a lot of hospitals – I mean, we’ve evolved so much.  I’ve been working in this field for 20 years.  We’ve evolved so much.  Now we have birthing pavilions.  We have birthing adjuncts.  We have birthing wings.  We have birthing hospitals.  There’s so many different venues for birth to take place.  And I think it’s even people that I know very personally – I don’t think they have a full breadth of understanding of all the options that are really available to women in the US when it comes to birth.

Exactly.  In one of my area hospitals, we have a birthing suite which looks less like a hospital room.  It’s pretty cool, and it’s attending only by a CNM.

Right.  There’s so many different opportunities.  And my experience – I’ve really only worked in the New York City Metro area, so New York City, and I’ve worked in New Jersey, northern New Jersey, which is where the bulk of my practicing has been.  For my schooling, I went to NYU.  I went to John Hopkins, which is in Maryland.  Very limited experience in Maryland during my schooling.  But it’s very regionally based as well.  So my friends that I went to midwifery school with – I know a lot of midwives.  I’m very fortunate to know a lot of them.  When I hear about what it’s like in Chicago versus what it’s like in LA versus Boston and San Francisco, it’s very different than what it’s like in New York, and even it’s incredibly different from New York to New Jersey, and we’re four miles apart.  We’re separated by a river.  So it’s really hard, I think, for women to understand their options.  A lot of women don’t think about their options until they’re already pregnant, and it’s kind of like this rush to get it situated and to get it sorted out.  Some women do think about it ahead of time, but I think the majority are kind of trying to put together the pieces of what childcare looks like in the US during pregnancy.

Yes, good point.  So Kristin, who would be eligible to work with a certified nurse midwife as a patient?

I was a high risk midwife.  I’ve attended over 2000 births.  I did the majority of the births in the hospital setting.  Very few in a birth center and even less at home.  And I never risked – very, very rarely did I risk anyone out.  I had the fortunate opportunity to work with a maternal fetal medicine specialist as my collaborating physician.

That’s amazing.

So we were only sending people out of our practice that had really complicated things.  You know, needed fetal surgery.  Almost zero.  And in a year, sometimes zero people got risked out.  Some midwives can only take low risk women, the absolutely low risk women.  Sometimes anemia will make a woman need to transfer.  Diabetes, high blood pressure, breach – the baby being in a breach position.  So I would say that any woman – and I know a few midwives who work like myself and work with a maternal fetal medicine specialist.  They work with a very high risk doctor.  Anybody is eligible for midwifery care.  Really, any woman.  I mean, very few – less than 0.01% of women would be ineligible for midwifery care.

That is amazing.  And as you mentioned, it depends on the hospital policies, the state, and it can be very different in other areas.

Yeah, and a lot of it really has to do with the collaborating physician.  So what the collaborating physician’s comfort level is with that particular midwife.  This is just kind of a generalization, which I think there isn’t really in birth.  I think it’s almost impossible to make any generalizations.  But most of the time, the longer a midwife works with any given doctor or any physician group, the comfort level between the two of them or the groups of them in terms of what they can handle is going to only increase exponentially as the years go on.

That makes perfect sense, yes.  Thank you for that explanation.  And of course, insurance covers nurse midwives in the hospital.

Yes, so insurance – we were very fortunate to get a bill in legislation passed in 2022 called the No Surprises Act.  This means that pretty much any woman with insurance can go to a midwife in or out of network.  The way that bill works, labor and delivery is considered an emergency.  So it pretty much has opened up the field.  Even if your midwife is out of network, you can still use that midwife.  And I think a lot of midwives and consumers, patients, don’t fully understand this bill and don’t understand the full benefits of this bill.  This is a bipartisan bill that was passed by both sides.  Not many bills are so bipartisan.  Patients were getting surprise bills.  You would go to a hospital.  You would see an anesthesiologist.  You would see a plastic surgeon because you busted your lip open and you needed some stitches.  And then you were getting this huge bill from an out of network provider.  Because that has stopped, that has enabled birth workers to have access the benefits of this bill, which include being out of network and being able to bill an insurance that has in network only.  So I think it’s a really – and I’m happy to talk to anybody so that they can understand it, or they can have it explained to them.  But for midwives and consumers both, your insurance now will cover an out of network midwife.

Wow.  Well, you are definitely educating our listeners and certainly myself, so thank you, Kristin!

My pleasure!

As far as the role of a doula, how do doulas and nurse midwives work together during labor?

I think this is another kind of big, convoluted understanding in the birth community to people who are outside of it.  A lot of people think midwives are doulas, and it’s just – they’re not the same.  Doulas, as you know, being a doula, are really nonmedical professionals that really are about emotional, physical, spiritual, mental support.  And the midwife is really more about the physiological process of labor, the path of labor, the progression of labor, the safety of the labor, and kind of the captain of the labor ship, making sure that it’s on the right course, safe, effective.   I think that these two roles get confused.  I think every woman should have a doula.  So whether they have an OB-GYN or they have a doula, I think every woman should have a doula.  I think that should be standard of care.  I think that should be a no brainer.  I think we would see a huge shift in birth from a cultural perspective if that was the case.  So how doulas work with midwives is they really kind of work as part of the birth team.  The birth team usually consists of a medical professional – either a midwife or an OB-GYN – the family or whatever family members that entails; it could be one, could be friends, could be ten people – and then a doula is there to kind of be the bridge between the world of medicine and family.

Beautiful.  And as far as prenatal visits, how are visits with a nurse midwife different than an OB appointment?

So I don’t know that they necessarily have to be.  The practice that I had was called Integrative OB-GYN.  I was the only midwife in that practice, and there were four doctors.  The visits were no different between myself and the OB-GYNs.  Very comprehensive, 30 minutes to an hour each, really about making sure the woman and her family and support network felt comfortable, educated, understood what was going on, and we gave her tips and tricks to prepare along the way.  So I don’t know that they necessarily have to be.  I do think there’s a difference between the in-network model of birth and childbirth care, which is more of a number.  You show up.  And I think that can happen in midwifery or OB-GYN, where you show up, you come in, you get your heartbeat checked, you get your blood pressure and weight and urine, and then you’re kind of just moved through and you’re kind of like a number in a system.  I think that’s a very in-network model of care that doesn’t support how birth is really meant to be, which I think is much more in the out of network model of care where the clinicians, midwives or OBs, have the luxury, because the reimbursement rates are higher for providers in an out of network model, to take the time with women that they really need.  I am such a big proponent for having birth move to an out of network model, especially because we had this gift given to us from the 2022 No Surprises Act.

Yeah, that makes sense.  I certainly had the latter experience, out of network, and had longer appointments and worked with both nurse midwives and OBs with both of my pregnancies.  I just felt like there was a lot more time for questions and a lot more emotional connection in some of those appointments.

Absolutely.  And I think that’s the number one difference between the two models of care, midwifery or physician based.

That makes sense.  And then as far as the postnatal care, what does that look like?  It sounds like it depends on the model and may not be much different.  In my community, I know that some of my clients are able to see their nurse midwives sooner after delivery rather than waiting for that six week appointment.   But it may be, again, different depending on the practice.

Yeah, I think that the postpartum care in our country is pretty atrocious.  We give women, if you’re in a birthing center or at home – I mean, home is probably a little bit better, but in a birthing center, you’re given 24 hours of support, and then you’re seen once or twice in a six month window after that.  I think pediatricians, to be honest, are picking up a lot of the slack that’s left by the significant dearth in the postpartum care that we have in the US.

Absolutely.

Generally, it’s the same thing like you said in an out of network model.  Physicians and midwives are doing the same thing when it comes to labor, birth, pregnancy, childbirth, postpartum, typically.  So when people ask me what’s the difference, I’m like, there’s really no difference.  The difference between a midwife and an OB-GYN is that I’m not doing advanced gynecology.  I’m not doing fibroid removals, myomectomies, ovarian cyst removals.  I’m not doing any type of high end fertility, IVF, those types of things.  So when it comes to the pregnancy and the care, they really kind of do the same thing.  It’s kind of about what type of provider or what culture within a group of providers do you more resonate with, versus it being midwife or doctor.  And then for postpartum care, like we said, in the out of network model, you’re going to get a little bit more than in network model, but not much.

And nurse midwives can certainly see patients beyond that postnatal visit, with well woman care.  Can you explain a bit more about the role of a nurse midwife beyond the birth?

Yeah, so nurse midwives are very similar, like I said, to your regular OB-GYNs.  They can do anything that has to do with wellness, prevention, and your average gynecological care, like a yeast infection, a UTI, need birth control, need for birth control counseling, and mild primary care work.  A lot of us are very well versed in the management of blood pressure postpartum or hypo- and hyperthyroidism, very similar to our OB-GYN counterparts, just because of the sheer volume of women that we work with and their health challenges that come up with them just naturally being a woman and being 44 when they give birth or 34 when they give birth or 24 and the sequelae of what happens after that.  So it’s really more about – I think for midwifery versus an OB-GYN, it’s really about finding and connecting with a person or a group of people, a group practice, that you like and that you resonate with because a midwife can do pretty much what a lot of internal medicine can do; not all, but a lot, and then also what an OB-GYN can do in a primary care setting, like in a wellness, preventative, annual, yearly check in kind of setting.  I think that providers specifically all kind of sometime have different niches, and this is where I also kind of tell my friends and family, like, if they do have more of the complications that go along with gynecological care or women’s health – breast concerns, fibroids, ovarian cysts, endometriosis – that’s really when you want to seek out a specialist within that type of medicine, anyway.  So if you have endometriosis or suspected endometriosis, you don’t really want to go to an OB-GYN or a midwife.  You want to go to an endometrial specialist, someone who is an OB-GYN and then within their day census of who they’re seeing on any given day, they’re seeing 20 patients in a day, half of them are endometriosis cases that they’re working with, and then that’s really their expertise and their specialty.

The same thing with ovarian cysts or PCOS or menopause, perimenopause.  Those are really niche specialists that I think the general OB-GYN or the general midwife is probably not the best person to go to when those kind of issues arise.

That makes sense.  Speaking of perimenopause and menopause, how did you come to found FemGevity?

I’ll be honest, I don’t think that – again, there’s so many things in our system – and I try to be an optimist in my life.  Maybe I’m not coming across that way right now.  But I think that unfortunately, the US does not support birth workers in the way that it should, and so burnout is very high.  And I’m no exception.  I fell into that kind of category where it’s very difficult for birth workers to kind of continue because there’s no respite.  The system, in terms of making a living out of this job, does not have built in respite where you can rest and rejuvenate and refresh and then come back to the system renewed and able to continue a career that could be 20 years, 30 years, 35 years.  I, like most birth workers that I know, unfortunately, had to kind of hang up my hat of birth and transition.  It worked out well for me because my clientele that I had worked with for 15 years was older, and they were kind of in their post-reproductive years.  It kind of made sense for me, and it worked out.  I always believe everything works out, anyway, so it kind of worked out that my clients who I’d had for years and decades were asking me different questions.  They were asking me questions more about perimenopause, menopause, post-menopause, the longevity medicine.  And so I was able to morph my practice into that type of practice and then become a specialist and niche into that field and that area.  So now I would say, if you’re looking for someone in perimenopause and menopause, I am that type of expert, whether it’s OB-GYN physician or midwife, I am that clinician to come to when you have questions about those issues and concerns because I’ve been doing it as an overlap of my birth practice for about 10 years.  And so that’s kind of where FemGevity was birthed, no pun intended, because of that transition ramping up so much in my own practice and in my own life.

So as far as working with you, how do our listeners connect, and what is the process like?  Is it a mixture of in person and virtual?  Fill us in a bit more.

What we’re doing now – so what FemGevity Health is doing – anyone can go to the website, femgevityhealth.com, and take a look at what we’re doing.  But it is a virtual type of care because we’re not meant to replace OB-GYNs and not meant to replace primary care physicians.  We’re not the go-to for a pap smear or any of those types of situations that need hands-on and need in-office.  We’re very specifically managing hormonal shifts that happen after 40.  And that kind of looks different in lots of different areas.  All of our visits are virtual, and so we’ll have a virtual appointment, an initial consultation, usually advise lab ordering, depending on what’s going on.  Most of the time, we’re recommending labs.  We also have functional medicine or longevity medicine labs that we offer, like gut microbiome tests, micronutrient testing, allergy and food sensitivity testing, genomics.  And those tests help us put together all of the pieces about how to properly balance hormones in different decades of a woman’s life.  It’s all done virtually because we can mail the kits to women’s homes or if they need bloodwork, we can send them to their local LabCorp or Quest Diagnostic or a BioReference lab and get the bloodwork done, and then we’re able to kind of consume all of that information virtually and then come up with treatment plans and recommendations based on what’s going on.  It enables us to keep the cost down for women because we don’t have the overhead of a brick and mortar practice, and we don’t have to have a whole bunch of staff and a lot of overhead that goes with having an in-person office.

That’s fantastic.  And you do offer free consultations?

Yes.  We offer a ten-minute free consultation at FemGevity Health if women aren’t sure if what they’re experiencing is something we can help them with.  And we also do Instagram Lives on most Monday nights around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. Eastern time where we also answer questions live that people send us, as well.

Perfect.  So you’re on Instagram, as you mentioned, @femgevity.  And you have a website.  Where else can our listeners find you?

We’re on all socials.  We’re on Facebook.  We’re on TikTok.  We’re on LinkedIn.  I’m on LinkedIn personally as Kristin Mallon.  And we also have live chat on our website.  We have a Contact Us form.  We have email.  So it’s really easy for people to reach out.  People can call or text us, as well; call or text FemGevity Health if they want to have a chat conversation via text about what they’re experiencing or going through and they don’t want to get on a free consult or they don’t want to make a phone call.  Lots of ways for people to reach out and get the information they need.

And the website is femgevityhealth.com?

Yes.

Any final tips for our listeners, Kristin?

Yeah, I think we’ve really covered a lot.  What I say about birth specifically, so for the people who are more interested in birth and childbirth, the real experts to kind of consult with are people like yourself, like the doulas of the community or a lot of times there’s – I know it seems kind of strange, but WhatsApp, Facebook, or some sort of communal chats that have a lot of really good information about birth, birth workers, who to go to, what type of places to go, and it’s usually very regional.  So I always kind of encourage women to get involved in their regional group chats, doulas, birth workers, because a doula from Ohio isn’t going to be able to really tell a woman in Oregon a lot about opportunities, resources, support, et cetera.  I think that’s my best tip for birth.  For perimenopause and menopause and hormone balancing specifically, which can happen – some women have unbalanced hormones, unfortunately, in their 20s, even – you really want to seek out an expert like ourselves.  For women that are 40-plus, a lot of what they’re experiencing is probably perimenopause or changes in their hormones or shifts in their hormones because I think a lot of women just sweep it under the rug.  They’re tired; they’re fatigued; they’re not sleeping well; they’re having more anxiety or depression or night sweats or insomnia, and they just think it’s aging or they just think it’s having little kids.  And there’s usually something shifted that we can help them balance.  It’s not always HRT and hormones.  A lot of what we do is with diet, lifestyle, supplements, nutraceuticals, to help them get back on track.

Fantastic.  Well, it was wonderful to have you on, and thank you so much for sharing your wisdom, Kristin!

Thank you so much for having me!  It was great to talk with you.

IMPORTANT LINKS

FemGevity

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

The Role of a Nurse Midwife: Podcast Episode #227 Read More »

A chiropractor working with a pregnant mom checks the baby's position

Webster Certified Chiropractic Care: Podcast Episode #226

Kristin Revere and Dr. Annie Bishop discuss how Webster Certified Chiropractic Care can be beneficial during pregnancy.  They also discuss other options for prenatal and postnatal support.

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am excited to chat with my friend Dr. Annie Bishop of Rise Chiropractic Wellness.  Welcome, Dr. Annie!

Thank you so much, Kristin!  I’m so pumped to be here again.

I’m excited to chat with you!  It’s been a bit.  We’ve had you on over the years, multiple times, as well as Dr. Rachel.  But our topic is all about the importance of overall chiropractic care during pregnancy, but especially focusing on the Webster technique.  So let’s dive into that.

Awesome.  Thanks, Kristin!  So I really wanted to talk about Webster technique: what it is, why people seek us out, and why it’s so important as a preventative measure for your pregnancy.

So the first thing is that Webster technique was started by Dr. Larry Webster, who was a chiropractor, and he developed this technique that was specific to the anatomy of the pelvis to help moms during pregnancy to make sure that everything was in good alignment.  So that’s been taught now over the last couple of decades to a lot of different chiropractors.  So when you’re searching for, like, prenatal chiropractic, Webster technique is really the certification that you want to check for.  So that has been kind of going on with ICPA, which is the International Chiropractic Pediatrics Association, for several decades now.  They’re the ones who do the training.  Both Dr. Rachel and I have taken that training, as well as some other advanced perinatal techniques.  It’s really important at helping support women during their pregnancy and help support their bodies.  I wanted to go in depth a little bit with what Webster technique is, what it’s actually looking for, and why it’s so important from a neurological aspect, from an overall body tone, how your biomechanics are changing, that aspect.  That’s what I wanted to focus on today.

Beautiful.  Before we begin, you did mention some of your certifications, as well as Dr. Rachel’s, but give us a bit about your background.  I know you have many certifications.  Why did you choose to work with women in childbearing years versus all of the different focuses and types of chiropractic care out there?

Oh, thanks for that question, Kristin.  So both Dr. Rachel and I went to Life University.  We actually went at different times.  She’s my best friend’s oldest sister.  After she graduated, she told me where to go, so I followed suit.  But while there, you take some family, like pediatric and pregnancy, courses in the curriculum, and then you can take some optional ones if you’re really into it.  I think it was during those ones when I was learning about neurodevelopment and all of that when I became really interested in this idea of helping babies and helping with that neuro development, making sure babies are on the right track, and the impact that you can have in a kid’s life that way and in a person’s life.  And a lot of that initial help with infants starts in pre-conception through pregnancy, so doing the prenatal and pregnancy support was a really important aspect of that.  It’s helping moms just have their best possibly pregnancy.  I mean, both Rachel and I are women.  We care a lot about women’s health and are very huge proponents of just women’s health in general and having good doctors and not dismissing women and being really supportive of their whole journey.  That became really important to both of us.

And then when Rachel got pregnant with her twins, we realized how absolutely important and vital it is to have good chiropractic care throughout the pregnancy and how supportive that is.

Absolutely, not only with relieving discomfort, especially with twins, but certainly positioning.  It is so important for vaginal deliveries to have both twins head down, as you know.  I know you worked on Dr. Rachel.

Yeah, absolutely.  And she carried those twins to 39 weeks and had two eight-pound babies.

I was her doula.  She was amazing!

Yeah.  It’s so important.  It’s great support for the mom’s body, for the position of the baby, for all of these factors that go into having a good birth.  That also leads the way so much to prevent birth trauma, to prevent interventions so that baby has the best outcomes, too.  That’s why we’re so passionate about what we do.

So if our listeners see a general chiropractor and then they become pregnant, is that something that you temporarily switch over to a Webster certified chiro, or is there any co-care if they have this longstanding relationship?

That’s a really good question.  It’s up to the comfort of the individual.  I would say if your chiropractor doesn’t have any pregnancy training, I would switch during your pregnancy.  There’s just a lot of important things and changes in your body that you want to have someone who is really educated on it and really prepared for it.  We have a lot of moms who will come to us just during their pregnancy and then go back to their old chiropractor afterwards and take their families there and stuff, too.  We have no problem doing that.  It’s kind of like medical doctors.  You have different specialties, and some people are really good at some things.  I think that’s a really important thing when it comes to chiropractic.  We should really focus on each other’s strengths and give people the best care possible, right?  Having somebody who’s really well trained in perinatal care during your pregnancy is going to be so much more supportive, and then switch back to your old chiropractor afterwards.  I think that’s great, especially if you have a great relationship with them.

Or if your chiropractor is not a pediatric chiropractor, the way your practice is Webster as well as pediatric.  Then potentially having a pediatric chiropractor adjust baby, and then transition as the child ages to a general chiropractor.

Absolutely.  Babies are not just littler, smaller spines.  They have a lot of differences, too.  You want someone who, again, knows and is really good at adjusting kids and works well with kids.

So, Dr. Annie, what are some of the top reasons that your patients seek out a Webster certified chiropractor?

A lot of times, people seek out Webster certified chiropractors because they’re pregnant, but also because a lot of times, it goes along with pregnancy discomfort, what they’re feeling, changes in their body, but also because baby is malpositioned.  I feel like that goes along with the Webster technique.  Usually when baby is not in the right position, moms will start seeking out Webster technique certified chiropractors.  I want to talk about all of that, too, how it all works together.

Webster technique is kind of based on ways to prevent dystocia, which is difficulty during labor.  And so if we go into Williams Obstetrics, which is the textbook that OBs use in their education and their schooling, there are three main causes of difficulty during labor.  There’s power, passage, and passenger.  Those are the three things that they talk about.

Power is talking about the uterine contractions and how well neurologically your body is able to communicate.  The uterus is a huge muscle, and it gets its innervation from the upper lumbar and also from the sacral plexus, too.  It gets those nerves from the spine, coming and talking to the muscle of the uterus.  The power component of that is really making sure that there’s good neurological communication there, which ties directly into chiropractic.  We want to make sure everything is in good alignment so that communication can work well, so that when your uterus and all the muscles are contracting, it’s all working together symmetrically and working together really well.

The passage is looking at the pelvic opening and the shape of the pelvis and how all of that moves during pregnancy, too.  During labor, the pelvis kind of opens up.  You know, the sacrum kind of kicks back.  The pelvic floor muscles have to be pliable and movable so that the baby can have the best chance of going through the birth canal.  If there are subluxations in the pelvis – that’s really what Webster technique is looking at is how the pelvis alignment is working, how everything is working together, because if ligaments are tight on one side, if muscles, pelvic floor muscles, are tight on one side, that’s all going to cause more intrauterine constraint, which is also going to lead into the next one, which is the passenger, which is the baby trying to come through the birth canal.

If there is twisting in the pelvis, if there is intrauterine constraint because of those ligaments or muscles, baby is going to have a harder time getting into the right position and getting into that head down, ready to go position.  Those are all the three main components, and Webster technique addresses each one of those in kind of a different way.  Chiropractic is working with those subluxations to make sure there’s good neuromuscular communication.  We’re making sure everything is in good alignment so baby has the best chance of doing the right thing.  And then we also work on ligaments in the belly and stuff, too, to just give baby optimal room.  Innately, they should be able to get into the right position.

Right.  And what is the best time in pregnancy to start seeing a chiropractor?

I would say the earlier the better.

I would agree.

I think we have the best outcomes.  The earlier you start – I mean, there’s so many factors to chiropractic, too.  It’s not just about being uncomfortable or having the correct biomechanics, making sure that things are in alignment.  There’s so much to the stress component of that sympathetic and parasympathetic balance in the body.  Making sure your body is recovering well and that you’re just functioning as well as you can.  I would say that I think everyone should be under chiropractic care, everyone with a nervous system, but especially early in your pregnancy, you are going to feel so much better.  Your body is going to adapt so much better to the stresses and the challenges of pregnancy.  Then we can just support you all the way, too.

Exactly.  And so for our listeners who may be seeing a physical therapist, how does that relationship connect between a Webster certified chiro and maybe getting certain exercises from their physical therapist to relieve discomfort?

Oh, I think that’s awesome.  I love it when people are so invested in their pregnancy and they have all of the tools.  It’s the best.  Pelvic floor therapy is super important, too, both pre- and post.  But also, yeah, working with a PT just to – I think, again, I go to a  PT monthly just to keep my body working the way it should, to make sure I’m doing the right exercises and balancing my muscles and stuff, too, in addition to getting adjusted weekly.  I think both are so super important, and they work so well together.  So if you have a PT and they’re working with you on strengthening, the beauty of strengthening the muscles in a well-aligned position is just like chef’s kiss.  Just perfect.  They work so well together.

Agreed.  I do feel like there’s a misconception that if someone is seeing a chiropractor, they don’t need PT.  I’m glad you cleared that up.  Or if they’re seeing a physical therapist, then – and obviously, some people, if it’s self-pay or limited HSA funds, or insurance only covers so many visits, they might really try to optimize their budget.  But as someone who is nonmedical, it makes sense for me, if a client has the time and funds or insurance, to utilize all of the options for support that they can.

Oh, yeah.  Absolutely.  And realistically, there’s a lot of different things that you can do, and really finding what works for your body and who’s willing to work with you on it.  I think it’s the best option.  We do those scans in our office that are, again, no radiation.  They’re all functional tests.  And we give our recommendations, but we’re always willing to work with people.  If they’re like, well, I’m doing this and this also.  It’s like, great.  This is supportive care.  So let’s see what we really need, and then if you’re doing all these other things at home, we can kind of modify that because you’re already putting yourself a step ahead of someone who’s only doing this one thing.  It’s a little different because, again, things work synergistically.

Right, exactly.  And I would say certainly I’ve sent some of our clients to you if baby is breach or is malpositioned, for those positioning issues, or, again, discomfort.  But there’s also some of those last minute calls that you would get for someone who maybe has a VBAC and wants to optimize their changes for a vaginal birth after Cesarean or someone whose baby is measuring big and they really want a vaginal birth, so they want to get that extra support from a Webster certified chiro.  What else are you seeing?

Those are big ones.  I mean, we do get the 36-week patients who are like, my baby is breach.  We just found out on ultrasound.  What do we do?  And it’s like, okay, we’re going to do probably close together visits and just try to optimize whatever time we have and also send you to someone who does body balancing technique.  We’re going to hit the ground running and just try to optimize whatever time we have.  Obviously, more time is more beneficial, but we’re always willing to work with those situations because we get it.  A lot of times, you don’t get the ultrasound until that point, so you don’t necessarily know.

Exactly, and then you need to make decisions.

Exactly, but yeah, we’re always willing to support any of those kind of game time things.  But I would say those are pretty big ones.  You kind of nailed it on the head with, like, the breach baby positioning.  VBAC support is huge.  We have a really good success rate with VBAC support, which is so exciting.  There’s also great care providers in town, too, willing to do VBACs, and I think that’s awesome.

And even with induction pending, wanting to get your body as ready as possible if that induction conversation comes up with a provider and you aren’t seeing a chiropractor – similar to what you described with a breach baby, trying to get in as many visits as possible before the induction date would be beneficial.

Yeah, that’s a great point.  Inductions are stressful on the body.  And so the better adaptability and the more ready your body is to have a baby, the better outcomes you have with the induction, too.  That’s a really, really good point, too.  Just again supporting moms, getting them as ready as possible so that their body can handle what’s coming.

Right.  And then certainly reducing headaches or balance issues.  I could name off 20 reasons why I send my clients to you.

Or the SPD.  No one knows what to do with the symphysis pubis dysfunction, which is awful, but we can adjust it, which is great, and that helps.  So if it hurts when you go up the stairs or why you try to put on your pants one leg at a time, it helps a ton.  But that’s the benefit of your body working more efficiently is a lot of those symptoms go away, and it’s not just about the headaches or the pain and stuff, but it helps a lot with those things, too.  Let’s not discount pain; it’s a huge motivator, for sure.

Yes.  And then also in a women-owned practice, supporting women.  When I go in for adjustments or to work on the diaper drive with you, I hear – it’s almost like confiding in that close relationship you would have to your hair dresser.  It’s like you are following their journey.  You’re offering emotional support the way a doula would.  It’s truly a sense of community.

I think that’s my favorite part of our practice.  We do the open adjusting.  There’s so many mom conversations.  Kids will be playing in the corner, and moms are just chatting, like, oh, what do you do about this?  Where do you guys go to play?  What parks do you like?  Just little conversations like that.  And I just love to be witness to that.  But that’s going with moms through – we have a lot of second and third time moms right now that we find out so early in their pregnancy because we’re one of the first providers they can tell, one of the first people they can tell.  We’re just so thrilled for them because a lot of them, sometimes it’s taken a little while to get pregnant again and stuff, and so we celebrate that with them.  We work with them through their pregnancy journey.  They can tell – there’s no shame in our office.  You can tell us literally anything, and we’re just here to support.  And then getting to enjoy that birth, getting to go through all the highs and lows of pregnancy, all the highs and lows of motherhood, and just create a community around that – I love it so much.  I love that aspect of our practice.  And that’s what just keeps us motivated and keeps us wanting to do more and more of this work.

Yes, and I think your practice is unique is that you do home visits and you do have that follow the journey from pregnancy to early parenting with the pediatric aspect of your practice.

Yes.  Home visits are so fun.  Getting to meet baby – sometimes it’s before a lot of the other family members get to, too, which is – what an honor for us, with a mom where we’ve helped support her pregnancy, to then be like, here, adjust my baby, too.  It’s such a tremendous honor to be a part of their lives like that.  I love the home visits.  I think it’s so fun to feel like an old-timey doctor, bringing my whole kit over to someone’s house.  That’s a big fun part.  We always offer those during pregnancy.  We love to follow up with moms, too.  We understand that your focus now is on your baby or recovery or any of those things, and so we always want to check in with you, but not push too much.

And then in pregnancy, if someone’s on bed rest at home, of course you can help there, since you do home visits.

Absolutely.  And if there’s a home birth, too, with stalled labor, we can come during the labor process.  There’s a lot of things.  Even after a Cesarean birth, we can still adjust seated.  There’s always ways that we can modify.  If you’re on bedrest, if there’s certain things, like if you have an incision, we can adjust you different ways, and we’re very flexible with that, too.

Exactly.  So what are your final tips for our listeners, Dr. Annie?

Oh, find a chiropractor that loves you like us and wants to just support you and be psyched about your birth outcomes.  I feel like we have such a good community of birth workers in this area that all feel the same way that we do.  If you’re listening in a different area, find a birth team that really cares about you.  In Grand Rapids, we’re so lucky because there’s so many doulas, so many midwives.  At Gold Coast, you guys crush it all the time with your classes, with your support, with your Becoming course, to just support moms as they are and as they show up and just love them and help them through this challenging time.

It’s such a vulnerable time, and I do love that you have the all-inclusive that we do at Gold Coast.  We follow families through the first year with our day and overnight support.  And so we get to know them on a much different, more intimate level, and you have a very similar model. 

Yes.

You did mention resources for our listeners who live elsewhere.  Remind us again on how to find a certified Webster chiropractor in your area.

Anyone who’s taken a Webster certification and keeps up on it will be listed on the ICPA website, which is icpa4kids.com.  But if you Google ICPA, too, it will take you to the website.  And then right on the main page, it says Find a Doc.  You can type in your address, your ZIP code, even just city name, and it will populate who’s closest to you.  It will show who’s Webster certified, who has a CACCP, which is the certification that I have.  It’s the pediatric certification.  And then there’s also a DACCP, which is a diplomate, which I’ll probably work on here in a couple of years, too.  Those are the different levels of pediatric and perinatal certification, but if you’re pregnant, find somebody who’s at least Webster certified.  I think that would be just tremendous support for you.

Excellent.  And how can we find you?  Fill us in on social.  I know you’re everywhere on social.  Your website, all of it.

Oh, we have a lot of fun on social.  We are on Instagram.  We’re @risewellnesschiro.  Facebook, same thing.  Our website is risewellnesschiro.com.   You can find us on any of those.

And you do Facebook lives.  You have in-office events quite frequently for listeners and clients who are local.  As you mentioned, there’s so much going on.

Oh, yeah.  We like to do Yoga Bumps and Bagels in our office.  We’ve got Jessica, who’s a pediatric OT, working out of our office.  She’s doing a bunch of events every third Saturday now.  Tummy time support, breastfeeding support, all sorts of things.  And then we host Fit For Mom classes, too.  So we like to have events in our office, for sure, and just make it a safe space for moms.

Well, thanks so much for chatting with us, and we’ll include all those links on the blog.  We’ll have to chat again soon, Annie!

Yes.  Thank you so much, Kristin!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Rise Chiropractic

Find a Webster chiropractor

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother course

Webster Certified Chiropractic Care: Podcast Episode #226 Read More »

Daniela Procopio of SOLMA Tea poses with her arms crossed in front of a brick wall with greenery wearing a maroon shirt and jean jacket

Breastfeeding and Pumping Tips from Daniela of SOLMA Tea: Podcast Episode #225

Kristin Revere and Daniela Procopio discuss how her breastfeeding journey led her to create SOLMA Tea.  She also shares tips for support and balance as both a mother and an entrepreneur.    

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am here to chat with Daniela Procopio.  Daniela is the founder of SOLMA Tea, and she is also a mother and obviously fellow entrepreneur.  Welcome, Daniela!

Thank you so much, Kristin!  I’m excited to be here!  Yes, I’m a mother.  I’m an entrepreneur.  I, just like you, wear different hats.

Yes, I’m excited to chat about all the different hats you wear in your own personal journey, as many of us who work in the birth and baby space, our own journeys really help us to solve issues we had with our own pregnancies and early parenting phases of life. 

That’s how things get started, right?  You start solving something that you went through, and you think to yourself, wouldn’t it be great if I’d had this?

Exactly.  So fill us in about your own breastfeeding journey and how that led you to solve issues you found.

Absolutely.  I am a mom of three kids five and under, and I remember when I got pregnant, everybody would talk to me about the road to pregnancy, and then pregnancy, and then childbirth, and then that was it.  Nobody really spoke to me about anything post-childbirth.  So it wasn’t until I had my first and I came home with a baby, and I started on the breastfeeding journey that reality hit me right in the face.  Honestly, I was just shocked at the many, many different challenges that I experienced while on my breastfeeding journey because everyone had always spoken to me, when I’d heard about breastfeeding, “Oh, it’s so beautiful and it’s natural, so it will come natural.”  And yes, it’s beautiful and natural, and it can also be hard, and it can also be challenging, and there can be a lot of unknowns.  Sometimes there’s pain in the beginning, and the list goes on and on and on.  And it wasn’t until I was on my first postpartum journey that I realized all of this.  I was shocked.  I personally encountered latch issues, and I also encountered undersupply issues that became very, very challenging when I went back to work.  Because I had those undersupply issues predominantly, I started looking at various products in the market to help me boost my supply.  And the products worked for me, and I loved them.  I loved the cookies.  I loved the mother’s milk teas that you steep.  The only thing was, as one child became two, and two became three, and life got busier and busier, I realized there was really a need for me for a ready-to-drink product that I could grab and go and still deliver the same ingredients.  So when I couldn’t find something like that that existed, I created it.  That’s how SOLMA was conceived, from that idea.

Beautiful.  I love it.  How did you go about the process of research and product development?  Obviously, you would have hired experts, physicians and lactation consultants to begin this process?

Absolutely.  Absolutely.  I have the experience as a mother who tried these different products, but also, I know that my experience is limited in certain areas, and it’s very important to reach out and hire experts to help you get over the finish line.  So I did work with a lactation consultant.  I worked with a doctor.  And then I also worked with a beverage developer who was able to help me finalize the formulations and really do the production in order to get to my formulation exactly as I wanted it with the ingredients and the dosages, exactly as I want.  So I worked under the guidance of many different experts in order to get me the product that I ultimately ended up with.

Obviously, as far as having some focus groups and hearing from other mothers and what their struggles are, it seems that, again, the convenience factor is missing with having the steep tea.  The ready to go is important for busy, working moms or even stay-at-home moms who are juggling, say, three kids and trying to get out the door for all of the appointments and school, daycare, whatever it might be in a day.

That’s exactly it, Kristin.  And the thing is, for me, I can only take from my own experience.  I had three kids, working full time, so I was the mom on the go in that area.  But other women that I’ve spoken to, perhaps they only have one child, but they’re also helping take care of an elderly parent, or they have other caretaking responsibilities, or they also just have a very, very hectic schedule for whatever reason.  Sometimes they don’t have time to steep tea.  Or sometimes – one of the reasons I started shying away from the steeped tea is, when you have so many little kids, you don’t want a hot beverage near them where they could easily knock it over and possibly hurt themselves.  Because of all those reasons, and to meet women and breastfeeding mothers on their journey wherever that may be, that’s why it was critical for me to really create this product and address that need.

And so as far as balancing everything, how did you go through this product development, marketing concept, branding, and maintain a busy household and take time for yourself and your family?  I’m curious as a fellow entrepreneur how you balance all of that because a product is so much different than a service-based business like my own.

Right.  I’m still figuring out what works.  Every day is different.  I can only say from my own personal experience, and that is that I’m lucky that I have a very supportive partner.  As you know in the entrepreneurial space, every day can be different.  I have a partner who is able to pick up on the days where I can only give 10%.  We have what we say “office hours” at night.  Not every night, but once the kids go to sleep, we take a look at our schedule for the next few days, and we sort of map it out.  Hey, can you do drop off?  Can you do pick up?  Our oldest needs to go to the doctor.  Our youngest needs a dentist appointment.  Can you do this, that, and the other?  And sort of just having somebody on your team that is able to help you manage all the various logistics was really helpful to make sure that, as best we could, we didn’t drop any balls at home.  And then just in general, it was – I will say it.  One of my biggest things is you cannot pour from an empty cup, and it’s important to practice self-care and be gentle with yourself because it’s so easy as a mom, as a – if you work in or out of the home, if you have different dreams, like having your own business, it’s really easy to be go-go-go all day, every day and run yourself down.  It’s so important for me to practice self-care, and that can be something as simple as taking five minutes for yourself in the morning and journal a few things, or meditate a bit.  If you have the ability to make it work, meet up with a girlfriend or grab a coffee or something like that.  Anything – whatever self-care looks like for you, that you’re able to wing at that stage in your life, given the support that you have – I’m a big, big advocate of that because those are the two things that I feel have brought me the success and where I am at this point, having a strong support person that will help you through on the most challenging of days and also making sure that you take care of yourself so you can continue pouring out, into your business and into your family.

Very helpful.  So Daniela, we did address, obviously, the challenges of breastfeeding moms, but SOLMA Tea would also be a great resource for exclusive pumpers or working moms who pump while they’re at work and breastfeed at home and the supply issues that come with pumping.  How did you address that when researching and creating SOLMA Tea?

Yeah, so when we say breastfeeding moms, that’s just like you said; it could be if you’re breastfeeding all day.  It could be if you’re solely pumping.  We wanted to make sure to have a product that would both hydrate and also deliver five of the most well known galactogogues and to promote milk supply.  So that was one of the reasons that was very critical for me.  I wanted to have the bottles.  The SOLMA bottles come in 16.9 ounces because I wanted to make sure that in addition to delivering the ingredients, the galactogogue ingredients to help boost milk supply, you’re also hydrating, because I feel like no matter where you are in this stage, if you’re solely breastfeeding, if you’re solely pumping, if you’re supplementing, whatever it is, wherever you are in your postpartum journey or however it is that you’re choosing to feed your child, if it involves breastfeeding or pumping or anything like that, we wanted to make sure our product was able to support women through hydration and through deliverance of the galactogogue ingredients.

I agree, hydration is so important, and it can be a very depleting phase when you’re breastfeeding, pumping, supplementing.  There’s not enough time to continually nourish yourself and focus on drinking enough water.  It’s very helpful that you kept that in mind to make it easy to drink, and again, not anything that you need to watch or could potentially burn your child.

Right.  And for me, I will be the first one to tell you, I am not the best water drinker.  I don’t really get thirsty.  But every single time I started breastfeeding, I would get this unquenchable thirst.  My husband would know – when you come home from the hospital, they give you this big water bottle, and my husband would know, the minute the baby latched on, he would go refill this water bottle because I would get this unquenchable thirst.  So for me, as a breastfeeding mom, I realized, okay, I’m so thirsty.  It’d be great if I had something that could help quench my thirst and continue to hydrate me because sometimes those teas that you steep are really great for early morning or late night or when it’s cold outside, but if you’re unquenchably thirsty, it doesn’t really quench your thirst.  Or also in the peak of summer, you don’t really necessarily want something hot.  And so all those different reasons were our inspiration behind SOLMA and the ready to drink format.

So where can our listeners find SOLMA Tea?  How are you working on distribution at the moment?

Your listeners can find SOLMA Tea – we are exclusively ecommerce at this point, solmatea.com.  And so you can order directly on our website.  Also, if your listeners have any questions, any comments, or anything like that, anything they want more clarification on or they’re just curious and want to know, we also have a chat service on our website.  I personally answer all the messages that come through.  You can also contact us through social media @solmatea or through email.  Again, I’m the one who fields those questions.  That’s how your listeners can find us!

And what’s next for SOLMA Tea? 

Oh, so what is next?  We are actually in really exciting conversations to continue expanding.  Like I said, right now, we are strictly ecommerce.  We’re looking to get into a few retail locations, so a few exciting conversations in the works there.  Later this year, we are also looking into adding an additional flavor.  Right now, our product comes in three different flavors: chamomile, rooibos, and lemon.  We have one more flavor that we currently have in the works.  So lots of different expansion plans and exciting plans for SOLMA as we continue to grow.

Love it!  Very exciting!  So what tips do you have for our listeners?  As you mentioned, there isn’t enough focus on that postnatal time and planning.  What can our listeners do to make their life a little bit easier?  I know some of the highlights in our conversation, as you mentioned, convenience, talking to your partner, developing a schedule, and having that teamwork.  But what else comes to mind when you think of just the need to really ask for help and create a postpartum plan the way you would a birth plan?

Yeah, so for me, like I said, the biggest thing that I felt was really helpful for my second and my third postpartum period was that now I had the experience of my first, and I knew what to expect.  Obviously, not everybody has that when they’re going through.  They don’t know what to expect.  So being open to that.  Being open to realizing, this is your first time going through it, so be okay with some of the unknowns.  Understand that it’s important to have support, whatever that may look like for you.  So if you have support at home to help you on your postpartum journey, that’s great.  If your support is through a community online, that’s great, too.  Have some sort of support lined up so that in the middle of the night, when you’re in the trenches, you are able to reach out to somebody if you have questions, if you just need a shoulder to lean on.  I think that’s also very, very important.  And something that I always like to say, for women who do have a job outside of the house and are planning to go back to work after a certain time, I think it’s very critical to be able to set expectations with your employer if you are planning on breastfeeding or pumping or anything of that nature, just to understand what sort of facilities and what they look like where you’ll be pumping at work and things like that.  Because for me, having an understanding of what that will look like and setting schedules helps, obviously, ensure that you will be able to have success by having put steps in place to make sure that you are successful.  I’d say those are my few little nuggets in order to help prepare for postpartum.

Thank you!  And so you did mention, again, the research that went into creating SOLMA Tea, but I’m wondering what resources you would recommend for our listeners who are preparing for their breastfeeding journey, whether it’s baby one or baby five, or who do have plans to pump when they go back to work?  What are your favorite resources, whether it’s local or national, to get that help and support when it comes to feeding their babies?

Absolutely.  Two things come to mind.  When I was in the hospital, the lactation consultant came by, and I didn’t realize how important her visit was until later on.  But the hospital where I delivered, and many hospitals, I’ve found since then, have a lot of lactation support groups in order to really help you and other women who are in the same phase as you, the same postpartum phase as you, going through similar challenges, going through similar experiences.  I would definitely tap into that.  If you have a local hospital near you that has this sort of support, I would definitely start there because it’s so much easier when you’re in the middle of the fourth trimester if you have something close to you to be able to support you.

And then for me, the baby center, baby cafés.  We have a few locations near me, and that was another very, very helpful group have nearby because, again, you meet other parents that are in similar stages of the postpartum period.  You meet lactation consultants.  You meet experts in the field.  And you just meet people who’ve been there before you which, honestly, sometimes just having a friend who has had an experience, who’s six months ahead of you and has had that experience, is really helpful.  It’s like having a big sister to tell you, this is what to expect, or don’t worry about this, or oh my gosh, I’ve been there.  This is what I did to fix that.  So I’d say those two things.  Definitely lean on your hospital support, and then look for community support like the baby cafés in your area.  La Leche League is also very big, and if you go on their website, you can also find chapters near you that you might be able to find.  So lots of different resources.  It can be a little overwhelming, but there’s lots out there to help ensure that however you decide to feed your baby is something that you are comfortable with.

Perfect.  And many of those support groups are free, or some are covered by insurance.  For those who are in a rural community and don’t have access to some of these community groups or La Leche League groups, certainly there are many virtual communities that you can get that support.  But nothing replaces the in-person connection and just sitting with other moms and having that camaraderie and community, even if you’re not struggling with breastfeeding.  Sometimes I would go just to chat and get out of the house because it can be quite lonely in that postnatal phase.

Exactly.  I agree with that.

Well, if you would fill us in on your website one more time, Daniela.  It was so lovely to chat with you today.

Kristin, it was so wonderful to chat with you.  Thank you for giving me the opportunity.  Yes, our website is solmatea.com.  Our social media is @solmatea.

Thank you!  And can’t wait to see what’s next beyond your upcoming flavor.

Thank you so much!  We’re so excited.  There’s lots of growth coming for SOLMA, and we’re just excited about our journey from where we started and the people that we’ve reached thus far.  We’re excited to continue growing and see where the year takes us!

Yeah, and getting into retail is exciting!  I’ll be looking for you!

Thank you so much!

IMPORTANT LINKS

SOLMA Tea

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Breastfeeding and Pumping Tips from Daniela of SOLMA Tea: Podcast Episode #225 Read More »

Danika wearing black scrubs outside in front of green trees

Preparing for the New Parenting Role: Podcast Episode #224

Kristin and Danika discuss ways parents can prep for baby during pregnancy.  They also touch on the role of social media in parenting.

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Danika Sanchez today.  She is the president and owner of Baby Steps Concierge Nursing.  Welcome, Danika!

Thank you so much!

I would love to have you fill our listeners in a bit about your impressive background in nursing.  I’d love to hear how you transitioned to this role as more of a concierge support in the postnatal phase.

Okay.  Well, I am one of those people that kind of changed careers late in life and decided I really, really, really wanted to work with babies.  So I went back to college at age 40, went through nursing school, and started in the NICU, which is where I wanted to be.  That’s the neonatal intensive care unit, all the little preemies or ones that need a little extra support.  I worked in that department at a couple different hospitals for about four years, and then I decided I wanted to see what it was like upstairs in our hospitals upstairs where the moms are.  So I’m now a postpartum nurse, helping parents after the baby is born from the time that the baby is born until they go home from the hospital.  And, you know, you’re only in the hospital now for 24 to 48 hours after your baby is born, which is very little time, and the first, I would say, at least half of that time, most of the parents I have conversations with have zero recollection of anything we spoke about when they first got there.  And it’s not anyone’s fault.  You are tired.  You’ve been in labor.  You haven’t eaten.  You haven’t slept.  You’re excited; you’re overwhelmed.  There’s a lot of things.  So doing my best to try to get them ready to go home and teaching all the skills and the swaddling and the feeding and the diapering and all those things, and it was one week in particular, I had three different sets of families say, we are not ready to go home.  Can you just come home with us?  And I laughed and said, oh, ha ha, I wish.  That would be great.  But by the third time, I was like, well, maybe.  Maybe there is a way to make that happen.

There’s a need.

Yep.  That’s where this company was born.  And that is what we do.  We just help ease that transition from having the baby to being at home with the baby and figuring out, what does that look like for your family, because every family is different, as well, right?  So what does that look like for your family?  What skills do you want more practice with?  We give the first bath in the hospital, but that means you didn’t give any baths before you got home.  So, yeah, just being there to answer questions, to be hands-on support, to help you figure out what next, or how do I know if my baby is hungry or tired or whatever.  All of my employees are nurses as well.  They all work either in NICU and/or postpartum, so we all have experience with not only babies in a variety of ways that babies are different, but in helping parents to learn to be a little more confident in that role of being a new parent.

That makes sense, and it’s much different than, say, the role of a postpartum doula or a newborn care specialist in that you have that nursing medical background.

Right.  So especially if you have a baby that is going home maybe from the NICU or has a feeding tube or is on oxygen or has a wound, something that needs maybe a little extra care, even though you are fully able to do those things on your own.  I’m sure if your baby has a wound, the nurses and doctors showed you how to change the wound dressing.  But it’s scary.  It’s still scary, and it’s scary to do it on your own for the first time at home.  So we do have that nursing license and background and experience to kind of help you get more comfortable with those situations, as well.

Beautiful.  So what are your tips to help parents prepare for their new role?

That is the big question!  I mean, everyone nowadays is taking childbirth classes or going to a class at the hospital before they give birth, but those classes tend to focus so much on the labor part, which absolutely still needs to be addressed.  That’s scary, of course,  But then I think there’s kind of a drop off in what to expect after that.  And so when we have brand new parents coming up to our floor after giving birth, they’re like, we don’t know anything.  We don’t know how to diaper this baby.  I mean, everyone kind of knows how to put a diaper on, but –

Some dads may not have, though.

Some dads may not have.  Also, I had this family, I walked in, and they were like, we need more sheets.  This poor baby has peed through his diaper every single time the last four times, and I was like, okay, how about we talk about diapering?  There’s probably some things we can do better so that there isn’t a leak next time.  And sure enough, a couple little adjustments and he was like, oh my gosh, I never even thought about that.  And then they never called for more sheets after that.  There’s lots of little tips and tricks, and this is where social media is both wonderful and overwhelming.  There are – I mean, myself included, I have little videos on YouTube of how to diaper, how to swaddle, how to bathe, how to do those things.  But so do a million other people.  There’s a lot of information out there.  And it can be overwhelming.  You don’t know who’s right or who’s wrong.  And to be honest, with most of these things, there’s not necessarily a wrong way.  I mean, there are a couple wrong things.  Like, don’t ever leave your baby alone in the bathtub.  That would be wrong.  But there’s swaddle baths and there’s submersion baths and there’s different types of bathing, different ways of doing it.  One isn’t necessarily better than the other in general, but one might be better than the other for you and your baby.  Some babies have preferences.  It sounds odd to say; I think people don’t realize it.  Those babies have that personality before they even come out.

Right, and twins can even be so different from each other.

Absolutely, 1000%.  And it cracks me up; even the babies in the NICU.  The preemies that are born at 28 weeks, they already have personality.  Where I think it’s helpful to have someone be there with you and be hands on with you is that we can go through all the different options.  Like, okay, let’s try this, this time.  And if the baby didn’t seem to like it, all right, let’s tweak it and try it this way next time.  And really help narrow down what’s going to work best for your family, your baby, your sanity, all that stuff as a new parent.

And some people as you mentioned – you know, you have all of these YouTube demonstration videos, but some people need the hands-on learning.  Every individual has a different learning style, so having someone in home to help can be beneficial.  Others need more written instructions or watching a video is great for them, and they can figure out swaddling or baby wearing or feeding questions and so on.

I agree.  I do think hands-on still is beneficial for everybody at some point.  And also people, I think, don’t take into account that it’s different when it’s your own baby.  I had another couple, and they – this was in the hospital.  They had had their baby, and the wife says, oh, we’re not really going to need you.  I’ve been a caregiver forever, and my husband – whatever, he was a nanny.  And I’m like, oh, well, that’s great!  Those people called me every 15 minutes.  They were like, did we do it right?  Does this look okay?  She doesn’t seem to like it.  So you can have knowledge before you go into the situation, but it’s so, so different having the actual baby there, having to touch, hold, handle.  Some of the videos I have up on my YouTube channel is how to pick up the baby.  I’ve had dads going, I don’t really know how to hold it.  How do I grab it?  How do I pick it up out of the bassinet?  There’s just so many things you don’t really think about and aren’t real until the baby is actually there and you’re trying to maneuver it and you’re so afraid because they just seem so tiny and fragile.

Right.  I’m interested to hear – it sounds like you made videos based on what your clients were asking for help with.  What are the top questions or concerns that you’re hearing from new parents?

It’s definitely the picking up, holding, swaddling.  Those are big ones.  Diapering, of course.  Feeding is a big issue.  I don’t really have a video up yet on feeding, but a big issue that we have is some babies take longer to what we call transition, so to get used to being out of the womb and being out here in the regular world.  Some take longer than others, and the ones that take longer tend to not eat very well, or they’re very sleepy and they don’t latch very well, and parents get very panicked, which I understand.  A lot of it is just kind of reminding parents that there is a transition period.  Every baby is different.  Your baby might just take a little bit longer to transition.  Here’s what we can do in the meanwhile.  And other babies that maybe have to have formula for some reason or their parents can’t breastfeed or don’t want to breastfeed – there are certain ways of feeding, of holding the bottle, that are better than others for certain babies in certain situations.  So we’re going to get some feeding ones up.  I also had a client call me once.  Her baby had been discharged from the NICU two weeks prior, so we thought everything was going great, and she called me one day, and she’s like, oh, my gosh, he was eating great, and now he’s not eating at all.  What do I do?  And I said, I’ll be right there.  And I came over and we fixed it within ten minutes.  It just was the wrong sized nipples.  So there are different sized nipples and different flow rates, and those need to be adjusted for different babies at different times.  And so there’s just a lot of that kind of stuff that it’s hard to know when, and you can read as much as you want about it, but until you experience it, you don’t really fully understand what you’re looking for, what to watch out, kind of some of those signs.

I love it, yeah.  Every baby is so unique.  There is no manual that will be the perfect solution for every question.

Exactly.  If I can mention one other thing, it’s this kind of soap box I jump on all the time with swaddling.  Everybody likes to swaddle.  They put the babies arms down next to their sides, and they swaddle the baby.  Well, some babies hate that.  They break out of that so easily.  So I ask all my mamas, when you had your ultrasounds, did your baby ever have one or both hands up near their face?  And sure enough, they’re like, yes, she always had her right hand up, and I’m like, then let’s swaddle her with her right hand up.  If you think about it, this baby has had access to her right hand her whole entire life, her whole nine months or whatever.  And now we’re taking that away from her.  She’s in a new environment.  She’s cold.  It’s loud.  It’s bright.  And we’re taking away the one thing that soothes her and comforts her, which is being able to have her right hand up near her face, sucking on her thumb or just touching her face or whatever.

It makes perfect sense.

You can swaddle your baby with one or both hands out and still have it be a very tight, efficient swaddle.

And now there are so many different types of swaddles.  Some have the arms up, like Love to Dream, and others are more the traditional with arms down. 

Yeah.  And some babies like the arms down, and that’s okay, too.  But again, it’s all about figuring out what’s best for your baby.  And as new parents, I don’t know if you remember, but our biggest fear is that the baby is going to cry.  We think that crying means we’re doing something wrong.  And it can mean that, but it also – that’s how they communicate.  So sometimes we need for them to cry so that we know what’s going on and what they need.  But parents in the hospital when they first have the babies are just so afraid to hear their baby cry.  They think that they’re failing the baby.  They think that they’re failing parenthood.  A lot of it is just like, hold on a second.  Let’s take a deep breath.  We’re going to be okay.  And let’s take a moment and figure it out.

Perfect.  Yes, because babies can sense if you’re anxious or upset, so then they become more distraught and will cry more.  So if you take that moment and pause and breathe and relax, it can be better for everyone.

I am a huge, huge, huge proponent of energies.  The Dog Whisperer is one of my favorite shows, and what he always says, right: it’s not the dog’s problem, it’s the owner.  The owner is uptight.  The owner is anxious.  It is the exact same with our babies.  If we are anxious and uptight, our baby is going to be on edge.  If we are calm, our baby will be more calm.  It’s easy to say, of course, but as a new parent, it’s hard to find that center, to find that calm place when you don’t know what you’re doing and you’re panicking and you’re trying to hurry and fix something but you don’t really know what you’re doing.  So, yes.  Deep breaths, take a deep breath before you go over to the baby, and then finding the people that can help you.  Finding the resources, finding whether it’s a company like me, a doula, or just a family member or a friend.  But finding someone that can also kind of help center you and remind you to breathe.  That’s a big deal.

It is.  Absolutely.  So let’s transition to social media and how that affects parenthood.

Okay.  So I mentioned earlier, it’s both good and bad.  I think there’s a lot of good information, but there’s also just a lot of extraneous information that just gets overwhelming.  I had a client who bought five different bathtubs for her baby, because she’s like, number one, everything that I saw on social media had some reason why that was the one I needed to buy, and she was like, I’m afraid of getting the wrong one, and I’m going to make sure I have them all.  Well, she also kind of got herself into a panic over a bathtub.  So I’m all for doing your research; that’s fine.  But your baby doesn’t need five bathtubs.  We can probably start with one, and that should be fine for a while.  So there’s kind of this pressure, maybe, on parents before the baby comes to have all the latest gadgets and make sure that they have every single piece of supply or equipment that they might possibly need.  The Snoo; the Snoo is wonderful.  If you don’t know what the Snoo is, it’s a bassinet that kind of vibrates based on the baby – the activity of the baby.  So if the baby cries more, the Snoo will actually vibrate faster.  And we use it in the hospital a lot for babies that are going through withdrawal.  But some parents have it, as well.  It is very, very expensive.  It is thousands of dollars.

It’s even expensive to rent, because they do have rentals.

Yes.  But some parents are like, oh, I’ve got to have a Snoo.  What if my baby is fussy?  I need to have the swing; I have to have the – you don’t have to have everything right off the bat.  It’s okay to start with just the baby, and let’s see how it goes from there.  You might have a really chill baby that doesn’t need any swinging at all whatsoever.  I also show my parents all the time, as soon as you get your baby in the car seat, buckled in the car seat, swing the car seat a couple times, and a lot of times that calms them.  Most babies hate being put into the car seat, but kind of swing the car seat back and forth just a couple times.  That tends to calm them down enough so that you now are not dealing with a screaming baby.  So your baby might just need that.  And you might not even need the swings and the Snoo and all the other gadgets.  I think there’s an overwhelming aspect on social media regarding gadgets and supplies and equipment for babies.

Exactly, and what works for your friend might not work for you.

Exactly.  Exactly.  Or like you said, even your first baby might be different from your second baby.  Or Twin A might be different from Twin B.  You just never know.  The place where – let me talk about the good of social media.  There is a movement – it’s still kind of grassroots, but there is a movement towards postpartum mental health being much more important and talked about than it is currently, and for that, I love, love, love social media.  There are some phenomenal people to follow, pages to follow, and trauma – with birth trauma, as well, Birth Trauma Mama is one of my favorites.  And there’s so much support there for women who have gone through a delivery that didn’t go as expected or are experiencing postpartum depression, baby blues, how to tell the difference between the two.  There’s also more evidence showing that dads are going through postpartum depression at a rate that we didn’t realize before.  It’s not a huge, really high incidence, but the fact that it’s even out there is something a lot of people weren’t aware of at all.  I think social media is fantastic for finding support for whatever your particular situation is.

Yes.  And I do love the vulnerability in the current social media movement.  More authentic, like showing a messy house and kids being happy and the joy of parenting versus having to have the Pinterest and Instagram perfect life.  I definitely agree with everything you said about just people being open about their struggles and that making it easier for others.

Yes.  Absolutely, 1000%.  That’s definitely the good side of social media, for sure.

Yes.  And I would say the negative or confusing side of social media is getting into some of the mom and parenting groups on sites like Facebook where if that’s the only information source, you could be given incorrect information, bad advice from other moms who are not experts like yourself. 

Right.  And that’s a very good point.  Consider the source.  Any time you see anything anywhere, consider the source.  If it’s just, this is my first kid and so I’m writing articles on how to raise your kid the best way ever, that might not be a completely reliable source.  Make sure you’re looking – and it’s okay to read those things, but also fill in with articles from pediatricians.  Fill in with articles from RNs, from doulas, from people who have education, like formal education and experiences and licensing in those areas so that you can, like you said, see what’s real, what’s not real, what’s safe, what’s unsafe.  I haven’t, luckily, seen too much out there that’s completely unsafe, but it only takes one.  It only takes one person to give bad advice to have something really bad happen to your baby.  So definitely something we want to be aware of.

Exactly.  So how can our listeners connect with and find you?

We can be found online at babystepsnursing.com.  We are getting our YouTube channel all up and running there.  We have some article resources on there.  There’s an inquiry tab if you ever have any questions about either our services or just something related to baby.  You know, we’re more than happy to answer any questions that you have.  So those are kind of the best ways.  We are also on Instagram @babystepsnursing.  I’ve been posting some of the YouTube videos up there lately.

I’ve seen those, yes.

Okay.  We try to be very down to earth.  This is not a formal – you don’t have to have a degree to understand these videos.  These are for everyone to hear, for everyone to follow, and if you have any suggestions or if anyone wants videos on more topics, we’re more than happy to do more of those.  So yeah, those are kind of the best ways to get ahold of us.

And your location geographically for listeners who do want that in person support?

We are in the Los Angeles area, but we can travel pretty far.  I would say LA to San Diego for the most part.

That is a far distance, yeah.

It is a far distance, but there’s not a lot of services out there like ours, to be honest, that we have found.  So we want to help as many people as we can, and to be honest, we do work with the LGBTQ community and with surrogates, and I have some dads who are going to be having triplets.  They weren’t expecting triplets, but they’re getting triplets.

So they’re getting help; good!

They’re getting help because they have to transport these babies.  The babies are going to be born in South Dakota, but the dads live here and are like, there’s only two of us.  We need to transport three babies.  Can we get anyone to help travel?  Yes, absolutely, we can do that.  So we can help technically across the country.  We also can do a lot via Zoom.  Obviously, the hands on stuff can’t be done via Zoom, but we can always have conversations if you just have a quick question.  We can talk about some preliminary things before you go to the hospital.   A lot of that can be done via Zoom so therefore can be kind of anywhere in the country, as well.

Beautiful.  What an amazing service.  Any final tips for our listeners?

Oh, my biggest tip is always build your village or find your village.  Make sure that you know who you can reach out to for different things.  We all have friends that have various roles in our lives, and that’s going to continue into parenthood.  So make sure you have the friend that you can call and vent to without feeling like a horrible person, because you’re going to have a day where you’re going to be like, I don’t think I can do this parenting thing.  Find the friend that will make you laugh because laughing will take you so far in parenting.  Find the friend that has the resources that did it before you, that says, oh, you know what, when my baby had trouble eating, we used this bottle, and it worked for me.  Maybe you should try that one.  Just make sure you have people around you that can support you and that you are comfortable reaching out to because that’s the important part.  So many times, we’re just plowing through.  We’re just putting one foot in front of the other, trying to get through the day, maybe just trying to get through the hour.  But we have to be aware enough to ask for help if we need it, and having a list of people at top of mind or written down next to your phone so that you don’t have to think about it.  You can just look down that list and be like, oh, my gosh, yes, I need to call my mother or I need to call my neighbor.  It can really, really be helpful for stressful times.  I would say the biggest tip is find your village, build your village, yeah.  Find your resources.

Excellent advice.  I loved having you on Ask the Doulas, Danika.  Thank you for sharing all of your tips and wisdom with our listeners.

Thank you for having me on!  This was great!

IMPORTANT LINKS

Baby Steps Concierge Nursing

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming A Mother course

Preparing for the New Parenting Role: Podcast Episode #224 Read More »

Bianca Sprague of Bebo Mia wearing a pink blouse

Exploring the Rising Need for Doulas: Podcast Episode #223

Kristin Revere chats with Bianca Sprague of Bebo Mia about the rising need for doulas and how their care transforms family experiences.

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with Bianca Sprague today.  Bianca is a passionate educator and advocate in the doula community, focusing her expertise on supporting women and queer individuals in the fields of fertility, birth, and postpartum care.  As a self-identified super lesbian and a dedicated mother, Bianca brings a unique perspective to her work, emphasizing the importance of balancing professional doula responsibilities with personal life, especially for mothers.  She is deeply committed to addressing issues like queer care, combatting fatphobia in medicine, and exploring women’s rage and its implications.

Welcome, Bianca!

Thank you so much for having me.  I’m really happy to be on the show.

Yeah, I can’t wait to dive into this important topic.  We’re going to be chatting about exploring the rising need for doulas and how their care transforms family experience.

I have a lot to say on this topic!

Let’s start with a bit more about your background, and then we’ll get into exploring the topic.

Yeah, so I came into doula – I mean, I would say most people come into doula work because they either had a really incredible birth experience and they want to make sure everybody has that, or they have a terrible or traumatic birth experience and they want to make sure nobody has that.  And I sat – out of all the statistics, I sat somewhere in the middle.  So my plan was actually to be an OB-GYN, and it wasn’t until the birth of my daughter that I realized the relationship I wanted to have to birth was way more the relationship my doula had, versus my doctor.  And I actually could very clearly identify that I was not prepared to perpetuate the harm that comes from a system that is designed to have us not trust our bodies.  I mean, if we look at the stats for birth outcomes in Canada and the US, our medical system is not looking so good.  I remember pacing after my birth – like, I’m bouncing.  You guys can’t see me, but I’ve got that newborn bounce with the hands on the chest.

It never goes away.

It never goes away.  And I remember pacing with my daughter.  She was days old, and I was like, what just happened to me?  I had the birth that I wanted, but I didn’t have it where I wanted it.  I was in a hospital suite, and I really wanted a homebirth.  And I was like, that was way too hard for me to have an uninterrupted experience.  I felt a lot of rage around it.  I felt cheated and robbed.  And I knew that I didn’t want anyone to feel like how I felt.  I also was in an unsafe living situation, so I very quickly – you know, once you become a dependent with a dependent in a cycle of abuse, I was like, I’ve got to get out of here, and I need to change the world, and I need to protect birth.  And so I started my doula organization, and so that was about 16 years ago.  Now, we train birth workers and folks who work in fertility, birth, and the postpartum period.  And then I think as of right now, we’re in 49 countries, which is pretty wild.

That is amazing!  So much growth!  Tell us a bit about your training organization.  I know some of our doulas have gone through your program.

Yeah, so my organization is called Bebo Mia.  You can find us at bebomia.com.  My experiences as a parent have caused me to want to go into doula work, and then the experience I had with my doula training, which at the time, I loved, but it wasn’t until I went to my first birth that I was like, oh, I’m wildly unprepared because you can’t learn everything you need to know in a weekend.  Then I started building a community where we were building a training together of all the things we’d wished we had.  That’s really how Bebo Mia came to be.  We used to teach in Toronto, and then we had so much – you know, there was a lot of requests from people who lived outside of Toronto.  We moved exclusively online in 2012, so we’ve been teaching in the digital space for a while.  We really want people to come out and go into the field of doula work feeling really supported, understanding how to run their business, understanding feminist values, and having them and their family ready for the type of work they’re going to do.  Tying into the question that we’re talking about today about the rising need for doulas, there’s something particularly magical about doula work.  It’s a cycle.  And so doulas protect birthing and new families, and the work of being a doula also is really healing for the doula and their families because you get to be that voice you didn’t have, or you get to reconnect to that feeling of empowerment that you did have if you were supported in your birth.  So I would say being a doula – not only have I protected hundreds and hundreds – no, thousands of families over the almost 20 years, I also became a better parent and a better partner and a better human and had a better relationship with myself.

Beautiful.  And I feel like your program is one of the first in the fertility space.  There are a lot more fertility doula trainings, but you were early on seeing that important need.

Yeah, I mean, anybody here listening – how you got pregnant impacts how you feel about your pregnancy, which impacts how you experience your parenting journey.  I mean, we know – recently, you had somebody coming on talking about their IVF journey and the risks of postpartum depression.  We see this.  We can’t break up, which is why in our training, every person leaves certified as a fertility, birth, and postpartum doula because it is one journey.  It’s not like you can just look at any one part of it in a vacuum.  So that’s something that we’re really proud of to have that.  We also were the first to remove gendered language of the training organizations.  We were the first to adopt an anti-racist, anti-oppression policy.  And we are the first and only to include therapy for all of our students and alumni so that we send healed healers out into the world rather than folks who have their traumas activated or just reliving it in a cycle with their clients.

Changing the system, and not only the work as a doula, but training future doulas to better support families.  I do feel like – I’ve been a doula over 10 years, and certainly, there’s so much more awareness about birth doulas.  Postpartum doula interest is rising, and awareness is becoming more common.  I felt like people knew about postpartum doulas in urban cities like New York and Chicago, but in Grand Rapids, Michigan, I had to do so much education in the past.

Yeah, I bet.

It is exciting that doulas are getting a lot of national publicity and the field is growing with more and more people.  I’m sure you’re seeing through your training program that people want to consider doulas as a profession.

Actually, the market research is very promising.  I look at it as promising because it means lots of folks are interested in becoming doulas, which I love because I want to train really amazing, grounded, healed doulas.  But it also – I get really excited that it’s expected to double over the next ten years, the market.  But more importantly – I mean, I love that I’ll have students, but my main focus is to have the field of reproductive health protected and have it be a place of safety and joy rather than a place of survival and trauma and the goal of just surviving.  I’m very excited to see how many families are reaching out to inquire about doula support, especially postpartum, which is on the rise.  Anybody that loves squishy babies, there’s definitely a need for you to go out and help parents.  It is really exciting to see how many more families are inquiring about doula services, as well as how many more states are really increasing their awareness and insurance programs for doulas.  As a field for both people who want to work as doulas as well as families who want doula care, it’s looking really, really great.  I’m excited.

I am, as well.  And Medicaid has expanded for birth doula support in many states, including Michigan this past year.  That certainly makes a difference.  And then programs like Carrot Fertility covering both birth and postpartum has been a real breakthrough.

Yeah, there are some good things on the horizon.  Check out what’s available locally.  There’s also lots of doulas who have really cool programs that they support under-resourced families.  So if you are a low or no income family, you should check out your local doulas and see what they have, what kind of programs.  We have a program, as well, where we have scholarships, so if anybody’s interested in becoming a doula who’s under-resourced, you can head over to bebomia.com/scholarships, and you can find out all about that.  We don’t want any barriers to folks accessing doula care or becoming doulas.

Love it.  So Bianca, for our listeners who are not familiar with doula support, whether it’s birth doulas, postpartum doulas, share with us a bit about how doulas can transform your pregnancy, birth, and postnatal journey.

What a good question!  So doula care comes down to supporting through the three pillars of physical, informational, and emotional support.  And so if you ask most doulas, they’d say they support birth or parenting or the trying to conceive journey.  But what I think is the best part of doula care is that it really allows parents to have that pause and to feel like they are making informed choices throughout their reproductive health journey.  And so unfortunately, what’s happening in our current system is there’s a real – this goal of risk management.  And so we have all these really wonderful obstetric tools that are there if we need to jump in and save somebody.  So I like to think of the medical system like a lifeguard, if it’s functioning properly.  If you were out swimming, in a crisis, the lifeguard would run into the water and help you.  But otherwise, they let you swim because you’re doing your thing.  And so these tools are available, but just like if every lifeguard jumped in and grabbed your arms and legs and tried to do the motion of swimming with you, we’re going to run into more issues than if they just let people swim and jump in if there’s a crisis.  And so we have these tools – so I don’t want anybody listening to think any one of the tools have any judgment associated to them.  All of the tools we have save birthers and they save babies and they’re wonderful.  What happens, though, is we have this practice-based care rather than evidence-based care, and so when we go into our hospitals or our birth centers, all the tools just come at us.  And typically, without consent because this belief is, if we use all these life-saving tools all the time, this will make it extra good.  It’s like when kids are like, well, if one piece of cake is great, I bet five is really great, and it’s not.  We’re actually seeing a decline in outcomes when we use all the tools, and it’s not recommended by ACOG or the SOGC, and those are the governing bodies for Canada and the US for obstetrics, or the World Health Organization.  Everyone is saying, doctors, stop doing this.  We need somebody in that room with clients saying, doctors, stop doing this, and literally, like, stopping it if the client is not being listened to.  So it’s really about protecting our clients, whether we’re doing an egg retrieval or we’re going in for an induction or we’re at home and trying to decide where baby should eat or where they would sleep or how they would eat.  You really want somebody there that’s going to help you navigate through the actual research around the topic you’re struggling with, as well as giving you the space to use your intuition because you do know what you want and you don’t want, even if you’re not sure why.  You have this leaning towards one of the options.  Your body does know.  We want parents to feel really empowered and to trust that they know how to make the right decision, and if they get to have that protected in birth, they have that reinforced, that they’re ready to be parents.  And they go into parenting feeling really empowered and knowing that they know what is best for their baby and their family, rather than having the complication of noise around them.

Exactly, yes.  And I feel like there’s so much importance in that preparation during pregnancy, whether it’s taking a childbirth class, understanding your options, getting resources from your doula, like a prenatal yoga class or a therapist.  Really feeling like birth isn’t just happening to you, like you have this education and support team behind you.

Oh, that exactly.  We really want birth to be happening through you and not to you.  I love when my clients at the end of the birth, no matter how it went – we’re also open to having that pivot, like, I really hope it’s going to look like this, but I’m prepared if it’s going to look like this or this or this.  And so even if they don’t get their first choice, my clients, like 95% of the time at the end are looking up at me like, this is exactly – like, this was right.  This felt great because they chose it and they felt really present and that they got to say no when something was a no, and they got to say yes when it was a yes.

And certainly a doula’s presence in that postnatal phase.  If they’re not seeing their provider for six weeks and they have questions, we have that follow-up visit, or sometimes depending on the doula, multiple visits and check-ins and just knowing that you have someone that you can reach out to if you’re struggling with feeding and need a lactation consultant.  Or if you need to know if your hormone fluctuations are normal, for example. 

Yeah.  I mean, your doula is really this combination best friend and walking Wikipedia in your pocket at all times.  Whatever your questions are, you have that support.  We’ve lost that experience of the village and those intergenerational relationships within families.  That’s been severed.  That’s been severed.  Thank you, patriarchy, for rearing your ugly head yet again.  We have to pivot and we have to create something that is going to create the best outcomes for families, working with what we’re working with.  And a doula can really fill a lot of those gaps that have been left by the shift of how we’re birthing in this really isolated way, and then we go home into the postpartum in a really isolated way.  And one of my favorite parts of postpartum doulas – I think it’s the particularly magic element of postpartum work is that there’s so much focus on the baby after the baby is born.  It’s all about the pregnant person during the pregnancy, and then it’s like they’re forgotten, and they really should be centered because if they are well and centered and nurtured and taken care of, they can do a really great job with the baby.  Between the combination of kind of being an afterthought or being an extreme afterthought, as well as the fact that everybody feels like they are entitled to comment or recommend once you have your baby, it creates this really interesting place of isolation and suffering for parents because they have to keep explaining that they’re not spoiling their baby or they’ve chosen to – whatever, keep the foreskin intact or they’re having the baby sleep in their bedroom or not in their bedroom.  Like, all the myriad of choices that parents get to make for their children, they’re always questioned and challenged.  And a postpartum doula might be the first person that that parent has been listened to with no judgment and they don’t have to defend their choices.  I know when I do postpartum work – I mean, I haven’t done it in a few years because I’m mostly teaching, but to just watch people stare at me, waiting to defend themselves.  They’ll be like, so I think I’m going to start just pumping, and I just don’t – I just don’t think it’s working, and, you know, I know that, like, if I pump, they’ll still get milk from my body – and they’re just going so fast.  And I stop, and I’m like, if you want to pump, that’s fine.  Do you need help cleaning your pump?  Do you know how to use it?  And to watch their shoulders drop of, like, I don’t have to defend myself, and this isn’t wrong.  I’m like, great.  Do you want to talk about why you’ve chosen pumping?  Tell me about it.  Otherwise, let’s get you set up and get you some more water and we’ll talk about what a pumping schedule can look like.  And to see that they’re like, you’re not going to make me explain myself or tell me why it’s bad.  And I’m like, are there any other changes you’re thinking about for feeding your baby?  Tell me about those.  And just watching, and they’re like, wait, what is happening?  Everybody has something to say about what I’m doing and if it’s the best thing and if I’m a good parent.  And a postpartum doula salt of the earth, like, just going in and letting new parents know that whatever they’ve chosen is perfect, and they don’t have to do that dance of defending why they’re parenting the way they are.

Exactly.  It’s such a good description of the work that we do postpartum.  Even looking at moms’ groups and all of the judgement if somebody is posting a question, let alone family or friends giving advice.

It gets real – I don’t even go in parenting groups.  Sometimes I’m like, oh, I should see what parents are talking about when it comes to sleep because I’m on this nurtured sleep revolution where I’m really trying to talk about sleep in a different way, and I’ll stick my head in, and it is terrible in there.

It is.

It’s terrible.  People start with the most harmless question, and then by the end of it, how did we tie this back to these deep rooted valued and judgments when all they wanted to know is, is this car seat – I don’t know, do you like the color of my new car seat?  At the end, they’ve been told they’re a bad parent in 14 different ways.  Oh, man, it’s pretty wild.  But I mean, we do see really, really magical statistics around parents who have the opportunity to have doula support.  There’s actually pages and pages and pages of studies showing just the improvement in birth outcomes as well as in parenting outcomes around mental health, the ability to feed from their body if that’s what somebody’s choosing to do.  Like, there’s so many really great things.  And we actually, over 2020 – I don’t know if everyone remembers how wacky the world got.  And we actually had a really unique environment where we got to – you know, there was lots of areas of research that came out because when else have we ever had in modern history these really bizarre circumstances where the world was shut down and medical had shifted?  We have really great research from this.  And we had the opportunity to see what happens when care providers have no witnesses.  And yes, I’m using that language very intentionally.  What happens when doulas are not allowed in the birth space?  What happens if for a certain period of time when even partners or family members were not allowed in the birth space?  What happens when people went into those birthing suites with the doors closed and they were left alone with doctors?  And so we have this – I think they did it over 14 months, and the maternal and fetal outcomes were abhorrent.  And when we look at mortality, morbidity, and stillbirth and depression – it was so bad.  And so I found this fascinating.  I mean, I was devastated to see how many birthers for those 14 months had to experience birth in these ways and then go into their parenting journey after these extremely terrible – after the environment was so not conducive to joy and protection and empowerment.  But it was a huge wakeup call for folks that do want to protect birth and for parents.  So we’ve actually seen a huge rise of parents being like, oh, hell, no, when they’re going into their birth again, if they did have a birth or they heard about births over the pandemic.  So from this terrible experience, we are seeing this rise for people wanting doulas, for people demanding more from their hospitals, for the ability for – this was one of the major turning points for insurance being – there’s been a fast track for insurance policies in so many states.  Tricare stood up and listened and they’ve improved their care.  Everybody was like, oh, man, we actually can’t trust the medical system as far as reproductive healthcare.  So really great things came from this, but it was very stark.  The outcomes plummeted over that time, and it was purely because we didn’t have witnesses and protectors in the space.

I’m so thankful that doulas were considered essential in Michigan due to our governor, and most hospitals followed suit.  As long as a doula was certified, they were able to go through the process and support.  So I had very few clients that I wasn’t able to support during the early pandemic.

That’s amazing.  It was not great in Canada, the lockdowns, so I managed because I know the midwives really well.  I was doing homebirths and still allowed, but doulas weren’t even allowed to be present at homebirths.

Devastating.

Oh, it was, like, 18 months.  And there were some hospitals that literally no one could come to the hospital, and no one was allowed in for birth or postpartum.  I think especially in Ottawa, they had it for the longest, but I believe it was almost – don’t quote me on this, anybody, but I believe it was about 60 days where it was no contact, that people birthed alone, alone, and went to the postpartum floor alone, alone.  Like, nobody went into their rooms.

That is just – I mean, devastating overall, for the partner, for the doulas, for the nurses who are obviously overwhelmed when they don’t have doulas supporting in the hospitals.  Wow.

Yeah, it was bad.  There was a time where they actually got pretty dragged, but they weren’t even allowing folks to Facetime or Skype.  Oh, man.  I can’t believe the babies – like, I hope we do some really great community care for these parents, which can still happen even years later, just to really protect and reconnect and do some healing around that because these circumstances were just really not ideal for all these families to be growing and feeling really confident in their ability to parent and to trust themselves and know that they feel safe.  There’s a lot of aftercare that will need to be done for this.

I totally agree, and as you mentioned, the positive aspects of all of that is that we have some good research for the value and benefit to doula support and the need for support in general, partners being there and the importance they make.

Oh, for sure.  You know, birthing, you require the people that make you feel the most safe around you.  We need the environment that really lets that oxytocin flow.  That’s that love hormone.  And you want to just feel safe and relaxed and have that ability to let go and trust your body as much as you can in labor, and the conditions of a cold room with all the lights on and not your people that you love the most around you?  It’s not the best environment for you to feel really safe and relaxed and to let those hormones and those muscle groups do what they need to do.  We always say as doulas that we want people birthing in similar circumstances to how they would probably have sex.  No, I know not everybody likes a dark room, and some people are a little more interested in something zanier, but most people have a certain circumstance that involves privacy and intimacy and security and the ability to feel comfortable and vulnerable, and so we really want to try to recreate that as much as possible, even if you are birthing in the hospital.  We can do that with lighting and music and candles and different scents, if that appeals to you and your hospital says okay.  And then your people: people that keep you safe and they’re cheerleading and protecting you and creating this bubble of safety for you.

Yes.  So any final tips for our listeners, Bianca?

Well, if you are not sure about doula care, I would highly recommend checking out some of the research because some of the things that you might be the most worried about – like, you might be worried about an episiotomy, or you might be worried about if you’re going to be able to feed from your body or not, or worried about a postpartum mood disorder or a C-section or an operative birth or a belly birth, whatever term feels the best for you.  If any of these are your worries, doulas are the fixes for them.  And so you can check out some of the research there.  You can literally just Google “benefit of a doula” and there will be journal after journal after journal.  And if you are curious about becoming a birth worker, we’ve put together a page for you that you can check out at bebomia.com/ask.  And there’s a code there, too, if you want to find out more about our classes and services, and it’s ASK15, and you’ll get 15% off of everything.

Love it!  And you’re also on quite a few social media networks, if you’d like to share those, Bianca.

Yeah, sure.  You can find us at – you know, pick your channel, and it’s /bebomiainc.  And you can check us out.  Our TikTok is just growing, so it’s not the best place, but our Instagram is awesome, and we have lots happening over on Facebook and on YouTube, so you can hang out with us there in all of those places.

Love it.  Well, thank you so much for spending time with us today and sharing all of the great need items for both birth, postpartum, as well as fertility doulas.

Thank you so much for having me, Kristin.  I really love your podcast, and I love everything you guys are doing.

I feel the same way about you!  Thank you so much, Bianca.

IMPORTANT LINKS

Bebo Mia

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother class

Exploring the Rising Need for Doulas: Podcast Episode #223 Read More »

Kristin sitting in white jacket in front of colorful geometric background

Childbirth Prep When You Don’t Want to Take a Class: Podcast Episode #222

Kristin Revere offers tips on ways to plan and prep for childbirth if you don’t have the time or funds to take a childbirth education class.  Some ideas include: YouTube videos, listening to podcasts, reading books or blogs, downloading meditation or pregnancy apps, Pinterest, and more.    

Hello, hello!   This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am excited to share a solo episode today, all about childbirth prep when you don’t want to take a class or don’t have time to take a class.  So before we dive into that, I would love to give those you who don’t personally know me a bit about my background.

I have been teaching childbirth classes since right after my son was born in 2012 and became a doula shortly after that.  I am a certified elite birth doula as well as a certified elite postpartum doula and infant care specialist.  I am a newborn care specialist trained through Newborn Care Solutions, and I’m also a transformational birth coach through Birth Coach Method.  I love educating my clients and my students.  I teach a virtual as well as in person Comfort Measures for Labor class.  But not all of my doula clients have the time or extra funds or interest in taking a childbirth prep class.   So I wanted to chare some resources that I give my clients with those of you who are in a similar position.

My number one tip is to look into books.  There are so many great books on everything from feeding your baby to newborn care to childbirth preparation.  We offer HypnoBirthing at Gold Coast Doulas, and there is an amazing HypnoBirthing: The Mongan Method by Maria Mongan that you can certainly either check out from the library or get a printed copy from a bookstore, or even get an audio book for many of the books I’ll be recommending, depending on if they’re in that format.

Natural Hospital Birth; Ina May Gaskin has a variety of books.  You can look into spending some time reading and even having your partner read.  The Birth Partner is an example of an excellent book to read with your partner.

We have a book coming out, but it won’t be available until later this year, so stay tuned for more info on that!

Podcasts are excellent.  Of course, I love our own Ask the Doulas Podcast, where we interview experts in the birth and baby space, our own doulas, our own clients, and our own HypnoBirthing students.  You can get birth stories in past episodes and stories from students of our HypnoBirthing course and other classes that we teach.  If that is inspiring to you, The Birth Hour is great with birth stories, and you can look into Evidence-Based Birth.  They have a podcast.  There are just so many great ones.  So choose one that works for your schedule.

YouTube is also amazing.  You can learn everything from a hip squeeze to paced bottle feeding to information about how to use a baby carrier and info about all the baby gear questions you have.  You can pretty much learn anything on YouTube.  Gold Coast has an awesome YouTube channel, so check that out.

You can also look at articles and read anything from blogs to subscribing to a parenting magazine or just read articles in a bookstore related to parenting.

There are so many different ways that you can get information that can be free, from online articles, or certainly paid.  And Gold Coast has a blog on our website that has everything from expert guests who contribute blogs; we have each of our podcasts transcribed into blog posts, to our own blogs that we write.

You can look into documentaries related to childbirth.  One of my favorite streaming sites is Informed Pregnancy+.  They have everything from The Business of Being Born to information about different feeding options and loss and maternal mortality rates.  Definitely check out some documentaries related to issues that you want to become more educated on.

Another option is Pinterest.  Pinterest can be great for planning a baby shower, setting up your nursery, figuring out what to pack in your hospital bag, coming up with a birth plan.  Those are some things that a childbirth class might cover, like birth plans and packing your bag, some of that postnatal preparation, information about breastfeeding and resources.  Gold Coast has an amazing Pinterest page with a lot of awesome resources for you to check out.  I often send my clients some of that information, as well.

Another thing that you can do: it may have a fee with it, or some of these apps are free, but you can download anything from a contraction timer app that you would be able to figure out when it’s time to go to the hospital based on the frequency of your contractions.  I don’t have a favorite, but any contraction timer, I would recommend and use.  Looking at apps like Expectful could be a great one, or even looking into some guided meditation related apps to doing things similar to what you’d learn in Gentle Birth.  I know they have an app, or in HypnoBirthing, with some of that calm breathing and guided meditations.  That can be very helpful because, as I say, and I feel like I can’t say it enough, birth is as mental as it is physical.  It is helpful to prepare in many ways, and also get your partner on board.  You can send your partner articles or have your partner listen to a podcast about how partners can be supportive with newborn care, or the partner role during birth and so on.

Again, so many different options.  Sometimes that childbirth class comes at a time where your due date is too soon and the class is offered weeks before and so it doesn’t work out.  I know at Gold Coast, we offer some self-paced classes, like our Becoming a Mother birth and baby prep course, as well as some different options for just thinking about a private class or something that doesn’t have to be as planned.  It could be an individual class if having a group is intimidating to you.

Depending on where you live and what options you have in your area, you might have more childbirth ed examples and options than you previously thought.

Again, it’s all about knowing your options.  If you don’t know them, then you don’t have any.  So just a few of my top of mind tips, and I hope that can be helpful.  I would love to hear from any of my listeners and doula clients about things that you’ve done that I may not have mentioned as far as prepping for your upcoming birth.

 

IMPORTANT LINKS

Birth and postpartum doula support from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother course

Comfort Measures for Labor course

Gold Coast Doulas blog

Our Pinterest

Our YouTube channel

Childbirth Prep When You Don’t Want to Take a Class: Podcast Episode #222 Read More »

Endira Davis is a postpartum doula and newborn care specialist with Gold Coast Doulas.

Caring for Newborns with Endira Davis: Podcast Episode #221

Kristin Revere chats with Endira Davis of Gold Coast Doulas about everything from infant swaddling to feeding in this fun episode on newborn care.  They also discuss caring for twins and NICU babies. 

Hello, hello!  This is Kristin Revere with Ask the Doulas, and I am so excited to chat with one of our own doulas, Endira Davis, today.  Welcome, Endira!

Hi!  I’m so glad to be here.  Thank you for having me!

I am excited to chat about caring for newborns.  You are one of our amazing elite certified postpartum doulas and infant care specialists, so you work with families through the first year at Gold Coast, but oftentimes we do get hired right after families are bringing their baby home from the hospital – or they’ve delivered at home – while they’re in those first few months, where they especially may have questions for postpartum doulas about caring for baby. 

So, Endira, let’s get into a bit about your background and why you chose to work with newborns.  You, of course, are a postpartum doula.  You’re also a nanny, and you work for a local nonprofit that supports families with volunteers helping out in the home, MomsBloom.  We actually had Carrie from MomsBloom on Ask the Doulas about a year ago.

Awesome!  Yeah, so my background – I have kind of a mix of everything.  I worked in early childhood, and I worked in more of a clinical role with midwives and OB-GYNs, and I couldn’t figure out how to mesh the two together in a way that felt like I was honoring my desires and what my journey was in work, but also offering something that’s really necessary.  And so I found doula work was like, oh, wow, I can start this journey from the beginning and kind of lean into in a way that starts the process with heart and a great foundation.  Newborns are so fun, too, and being able to create that connection with families and a process that can be really difficult and isolating has been such an honor and something I hold really close to my heart.

And newborns can be intimidating for first time parents.

Absolutely.

It is helpful to have an expert in their home to learn everything from swaddling techniques to support with any type of feeding to some basics on creating a safe and comfortable nursery.

Absolutely.  I think people see little babies and they immediately think, oh, they’re so fragile.  They’re so vulnerable.  We have to be very, very careful.  And I think that is true to a certain point.  They are fragile, and they are vulnerable, and we do have to take care of them, but also, they’re humans, and we can handle them with a sense of fragility but also, like, it’s okay.  They’re trying to figure it out, and we’re trying to figure it out, as well.  That can kind of alleviate some of the anxiety in conversation of being like, yeah, we’re just figuring this out together.  We’ve never done this before.  Let’s give ourselves some grace.

Yes, that is what it’s all about.  And certainly even those baby sounds and trying to communicate and understand what your baby needs, having a doula there, even as a reassurance during sleeping – I mean, some parents wake to every single noise the baby makes, but it’s normal for babies to grunt or make noise and self-soothe versus needing that constant touch and pick-up from the bassinet.

Yes.  Active sleep is a huge thing, and many people don’t know about it, so they are keeping themselves awake to kind of soothe a baby that is actually sleeping, but just going through the normal process of a baby who sleeps.  So being able to educate on that and then finding ways to support you so that you can sleep while your baby is doing their normal development sleeping as well.

Exactly.  And feeding is obviously a big topic, as postpartum doulas, so what are your clients asking you for support with?  Is it more breastfeeding, or do they have questions about their pump or bottles to purchase for that transition or storing pumped milk?  What questions do you get with your clients in a typical shift?

So it’s all across the board.  Every client is different, and every parent decides to feed their baby in different ways.  I would say probably the biggest thing is, am I doing this right?  Does the baby seem okay?  But I think that for the most part, it’s just watching me do things and kind of giving that extra push of like, yeah, this is – you’ve got a great thing going on.  That can be like, how do we assemble this pump?  What recommendations do you have for pumps, because this one doesn’t feel like I’m getting enough milk.  Or how can we get you more water so that your milk can increase?  Or what does your diet look like?  Bottles, if baby’s having gas or baby is colicky.  Okay, this is a bottle that I really recommend for that.  Paced feeding.

That’s a big one.

It’s a huge one, and I think there’s a lot of transitions of, like, a lot of different things work, and a lot of thing don’t work.  And so we give it an amount of time to be like, hey, is this the one for us, or is it not?  And it’s okay if it’s not, because there’s so many incredible products that we can trial and find something that works really well for you and your baby.

Exactly.  And baby gear – I’m sure you get questions about assembly, especially some of those new swaddles or even some of the bassinets.

Yes.  There are so many products.  It can actually be really overwhelming.  I have my go-to favorites, and sometimes I’m being educated by the parents.  It’s like, oh, this is a new thing that I found, and then I go home and I do my research on it, and we talk about it.  But there are so many things always coming out, and I always look for a quick YouTube video and we watch it together if I don’t know how to do it properly.  But really just learning together and leaning in with curiosity, finding baby-wearers that work really well for your body and for your baby, and finding a bassinet that can come up to your bed, if that’s what you desire, or finding a car seat that is able for you to lift well.  Things like that can be an overwhelming process, but there’s so many good things, and we’ve done a lot of research, and so we’re able to encourage you to buy things or help you decide what kind of thing you want.

I’ll never forget my first postpartum doula training.  The trainer did mention that if you can’t figure out an appliance for your client, if you need to figure out a gadget, go to YouTube.  There’s a video for everything.  Again, babywearing, as you mentioned.  You can figure it out with your client.  You don’t need to have all the answers because things change constantly, especially with technology.

Absolutely.  I will never forget when I first started nannying.  I was in the parking lot of the zoo, and I couldn’t figure out how to close the stroller.  And so I’ve got a baby that I’m holding, and I’m watching a YouTube video, and I’m trying to figure out how to close this stroller.  And years later, I was at a client last week, and we are setting her up with her baby wearer, and it’s her first time wearing this baby, and it’s such a surreal moment of, hey, I knew how to do this, and I can pass this knowledge on to you now, and you can have this really special, intimate moment with your baby.  And we don’t have to look at YouTube.  So it was a full jump ahead of learning and all the growth that comes with this work as we meet new people.

Exactly.  And we have a big team of postpartum doulas and newborn care specialists, and we’re able to – we have a messaging platform that we work with, so if a doula is not familiar with, say, the Snoo or another product, I’ve seen questions fly when they’re with a client trying to figure out a product, and our team is able to give each other advice, as well.

I think the continuity that Gold Coast has created within the doulas and the team – we’re able to really all stay on the same page and provide a level of service and care where, even if you’re not within that client, you are able to know kind of what’s going on and how we can potentially relate it to someone else and be able to support with things because you never know what’s going to pop up.  So if you’ve heard somebody else’s experience, you’re able to kind of take what you need and bring it to the next.  So that’s really helpful within the communication platform.

Exactly.  As postpartum doulas, we’re a bit different than a newborn care specialist, who’s focused on the needs of the baby and, of course, supports feeding and does a lot of overnight work which postpartum doulas do, as well.  But as postpartum doulas, what would you say the main difference is in the care that you provide?

I would say it’s caring for the parents through caring for the baby.  That would be the biggest highlight, and that can look like a number of different things.  We have clients who we don’t hold their babies at all, and we offer sibling care, and we wash bottles, and we set them up for when we go home.  And then we have other clients who we go in, and we hold the baby and they take a nap and they shower and they reset themselves to be able to feel like the human that can sometimes be lost in the early days of exhaustion and the realities of having a new baby in your family.

And one of the questions that I get asked the most when it comes to postpartum doula support is what happens if I breastfeed my baby, and how is the doula involved?  And how does that overnight work make sense for me?  The biggest part of that is we do support feeding.  We can bring baby to the parents, or we can have the mother come in to the nursery and feed and we can give suggestions.  But it does optimize their sleep, I would say.  You don’t have to do the diaper changes.  Your partner is not having to wake up and take different shifts as they’re returning back to work.  And the sleep shaping that parents do, the burping – all of that does help.  I mean, you’re still waking to feed if you’re breastfeeding or even pumping throughout the night, but it’s a different – you’re sleeping more, and your baby is also getting into some patterns and routines that are very helpful.

Yes.  Bringing in a baby to feed in the night and still being that go-to person, where you are awake and you are conscious and you are fully aware of everything that’s going on for safety – but also, the person who’s feeding is able to really just kind of be in a state of relaxation, and no, they don’t have to get out of bed.  We can bring the baby right to you and then go do the poopy diaper that’s definitely going to follow and the burping and the reswaddling and all those things.  And you’re really able to just stay in that moment of hibernation and relaxation and be taken care of.  And I think that’s so necessary and healing.  Our brains want to be productive and go-go-go.  We see dishes in the sink and diaper changes that need to be done and diapers on the floor that need to be done, and just being able to exist and be cared for is so necessary for healing and bonding and preservation of your family unit.

And you did mention sibling care.  Sometimes clients will want that time for the doula to care for the newborn and then they spend time with the other kids.  As you mentioned before, sometimes the doula is getting snacks for the other kids, and the parent wants that one on one time with baby.  Having some entertainment, some help with the household tasks and the other children can be very helpful.

That’s a huge thing.  I always set up my days when I come in.  I go in and immediately wash my hands, because that’s the number one thing you do.  But then we just have a conversation.  What are your goals for today?  How have the last couple of days been?  And that can kind of set the standard of what the time that we’re together will look like.  If the past couple of days have been difficult and siblings are needing a little extra support, that’s definitely going to be a time where mom or dad is like, hey, I need you to tap in with the baby, and we are going to go spend some one on one time.  And if it’s the opposite, then we get out a craft, and we do crafts and snack and dance parties while mom or dad goes and snuggles with baby.  It really is just a matter of the day, what have been the hours leading up to this, and how can we support you in this moment.

And there’s just so much to that after baby, postnatal time where sometimes in my time as a postpartum doula, clients would just want a friend and someone to talk to and spend time with.  If the partner goes back to work immediately, there were times where I felt like I needed to keep myself busy and do different tasks, but really, when it came down to it, I learned that my client just wanted my presence and to talk through things and to have reassurance about their role as a new parent.  And I didn’t have to do a list of tasks at each visit.  And of course, each family and each day can be very different, as you mentioned before.

Yeah.  This can be really exciting as you get into doula work to know that there’s a lot of variety in the care that we offer.  It can also be really difficult for doulas to go into a shift and have there be no requirement and they just want to hang out because you feel like, wait, I’m here to support you.  How is this supporting you?  And so I think really recognizing and capping on the fact that support is what support feels like.  So if you have a parent who wants to do the bottles and wants you to talk to them about whatever while they do that, then that’s the support and the care that they need.  And if that’s watching a movie together while folding new baby clothes, or even just sitting and watching a movie together and having that companionship and letting them know, you’re not alone.  You’re supported.  If anything happens, we can tag team it together – really just knowing that that is something we can do.  We are there to support you, and support is what support feels like.

And with a lot of our families working from home and having Zooms, I found for a while there that clients hire me so they could get onto work Zooms and focus strictly on the newborn care during a short daytime shift while they needed to concentrate, to get dressed up.  That can also be a difference in our work, and again, the remote working.  A partner may never go to the office now with the changes after the pandemic, so there is a need to have someone in the home, even though two parents may be there the entire time.

Yeah, that one is huge.  And the variety of what we’re able to offer, of like, hey, we can come for three hours, and that may be that you want to hop on the Peloton and you want to take a shower and you want to watch your favorite episode.  Or we’re there for eight-plus hours, and you have a work shift and you need to put away a grocery order.  All these different things; it can vary, based on what the need is.

Exactly.  Endira, what are your favorite tips for caring for newborns?

I would say – oh, that one’s tricky.

Yeah, it can be different for everyone, but generally, in your experience, what are your top tips that you share with families?

I would say just get to know them.  They’re new humans, and it’s such an odd way to think about it, but they’re new, and they’re new to the family and they’re new to earth and they’re new to breathing, and trying to get to know them is really important, and figuring out what they need and how you can better connect.  Sometimes that just means you’re holding them and you’re just looking at them and you’re talking to them.  Just creating that bonding and that connection that will not only release all the hormones that our bodies want and need, but also just create this level of connection and intimacy with your new baby that is so important in the development of both your parenthood journey and them joining your family.

That’s beautiful.  Such a great tip.  And I would say, yeah, just noticing your own emotions would be my tip.  Baby can sense if you’re stressed, and if you’re doing skin to skin with baby, the baby can pick up on that, and the baby gets cranky.  So as you said, get to know your baby, but also take a minute for yourself and breathe and relax because they can sense your stress, and then they feel stressed and start getting a bit cranky and cry.  The more calm a parent is, the calmer the baby can often be, unless there are some medical issues going on.

Yeah, absolutely.  Recognizing, I think, probably in reflection, the biggest tip I would actually have, also, is it takes a village, and we often hear that saying, and it’s quite cliché, but it is necessary.  It does take a village.  It takes a community.  It takes togetherness and connection and being able to build that and see it flow in.  People want to support you.  People want to love on you.  Creating those boundaries in that, but really allowing yourself to be taken care of is the biggest thing in healing and growth.  Having a good experience in something that can be hard.

Exactly.  There is this perception that you have to be wonder woman and do it all and that asking for help in our society is a sign of weakness.  But it’s honestly not, and we need each other.  In many countries and traditional communities, the village takes care of the mother and the newborn, and they don’t lift a finger.  In Malaysian culture, there are so many different traditions that still exist where the mother is mothered for 30 to 40 days. 

Yeah.  Changing the narrative is really the work.  Changing the narrative so that we know, and people who need support know that they can ask for it.  We may not be able to meet the exact need, but we can find and network and create a way to get the needs met.

In between postpartum doulas and organizations like MomsBloom who offer families support, and certainly just asking for help instead of feeling like you need to do it all.  Look into your budget and find options, whether it’s meal delivery service or a housekeeper, someone to help out, paid or unpaid.

Absolutely.

So Endira, you work with twins, and we also work with triplets at Gold Coast.  What are your tips for managing more than one newborn?

I would say finding the things that work for each baby and really leaning into those.  So each baby is – you can think that they’re duplicates of each other, but they’re very much not.  They have different needs, and they may want to feed in different positions, and they may like different bouncers.  Really allowing yourself to get rid of the idea that everything’s got to be matching and the same and really lean into the individuality of the babies, because it will allow you to have an easier transition into the fact that there are two.  And I would say another thing would be trying to keep the schedule, but also not too close that you feel over-capacity when you’re trying to feed.  So if feeding two babies at once is too much, that’s okay, but let’s try to get it to be in a way that they’re both being fed at a close time so that you do have that break in between and you are able to reset before it’s time for another feed.

Excellent advice.  And any tips with NICU babies?  I feel like having a NICU baby myself, they can be so intimidating.

Absolutely.  NICU babies are so intimidating.  You’re filled with anxiety.  You’re trying to recover from the fact that you just had this whole experience in the NICU, and now this baby is at home.  I would say the biggest thing would be, obviously, keeping germs at bay as much as you can, so washing hands.  And finding things that make you feel supported and safe, so finding a swaddle that feels really good, or finding a baby monitor that you feel really secure with, or having the bottles.  Really ensure that you are handling this with fragility but you are also encouraging the baby to figure things out as it develops and gets older.

And sometimes you need to chart things and make sure baby is gaining weight.  There is more organization that’s needed and structure with a NICU baby, oftentimes.

Yeah, keeping track of things.  And I would say that goes back to multiples, as well.  Get a little whiteboard, and track everything, because it can be so easy to forget these things.  When did Baby A eat last?  Baby B is seeming like – just track everything.  Write it down.  Don’t pressure your brain to remember everything because it’s just too much.  A little whiteboard with a little marker will do the trick perfectly.

Yes, and I know some of our clients use different apps to log baby feedings.  We also keep a written log, so doulas coming in are on the same page, as well as our communication platform, to understand how a day or night went with baby and anything that should be noted from a pediatrician appointment and so on.

Yes, yes.  Making sure everyone’s aware of what’s happening and on the same page is really important to make sure that things all flow smoothly.

And I feel like even if families aren’t using a postpartum doula, you may have grandparents caring for baby.  You may have a part time nanny.  Again, just having some way that all caregivers are on the same page and also understand your goals.

Yes, that’s really important.  Understanding the goals and being on the same page – I like to highlight that.  We can’t be there for every moment, which is the reality.  We can’t be there for every moment.  At least insuring that the people who are caring know what our desires are, so those can be followed through on.

Yes.  And grandparents may be used to – I know with having a big family myself, my siblings had different ways to parenting and feeding their kids, so as grandparents trying to help out, it can be completely different from family to family, and certainly when they had kids.  I mean, everything is different, from feeding to sleep to car seat safety.  There’s a lot to learn for new grandparents or even just different family goals or having one child that has twins and another has a baby that has no restrictions and doesn’t need a log and is less complicated to deal with.

I would say also with having other people care for our babies and care for us, that’s when the education for them is really important.  So, like a grandparent class or a video that you’re sending that’s educating them on the ways that, if you’re doing baby led weaning or you are doing paced feeding, having them be able to be educated so that there is no room for pushback.  It’s like, hey, this is what we’re doing.  This is the evidence on our choices, and this is – any more information you want to know, this is how you can find it.  But this is the track that we are choosing for our family, and we invite you to come along, but I’m not going to be the one that has to do all the education.  I’m going to leave it with you to be curious and figure it out.  Because that can be difficult at times.  Everyone has a different philosophy on things.  And when we have a new baby, it can really exhausting to feel like we have to do all the education or set all the boundaries.  Finding ways to do that is really important.  I always encourage people to use the resources available for other people to be educated as opposed to you having to be the primary educator.

Yes.  And as you mentioned a grandparents class – Gold Coast offers an in person and virtual option.  We find that more of our clients gift their parents the class than grandparents actually seeking the class out and registering themselves.  It is a lovely way to get them up to date on overall newborn care and the differences and understanding how to support, with the changing times today and again, all of the different swaddles and safety and feeding changes in caring for a baby.

We are ever changing, and that be really exciting, and it can also be very exhausting.

Yes, for sure.  So how can our listeners learn more about you?

Well, if I’m your postpartum doula, that’s one way.  Another way is on socials or just interacting in the community.  I am always in the community, and I’m always doing things.  Just being able to connect in those ways.  MomsBloom is a great way to connect with me, as well.  Gold Coast; I’m on our website, so you’re able to see me there and we can set up interviews if you need a postpartum doula.  Those are the main things.  And I think the biggest thing for everybody would be community connections because we have a really cool community, and there’s always ways to connect with each other.

Exactly, and for our listeners who are local to West Michigan, you’re certainly out in the community at tables representing Gold Coast Doulas and MomsBloom.  There’s a baby expo coming up in the spring, so excited for the in-person connections that are opening up.  But yes, you have a fantastic bio at Gold Coast Doulas’ website.  Our listeners can certainly work with you if they’re local.  Otherwise, we do have, as I mentioned, the grandparents class on our website.  We have a newborn survival class led by Alyssa Veneklase that is self-paced and comes with a free call to answer questions after the class is completed by parents.  So no matter where you live, you’re able to take that class.  We also have our birth and baby prep course that covers a lot of newborn care, as well.  That is called Becoming A Mother.  So check out some other options if you’re not able to work with Endira directly.

Thanks so much for sharing all of your wisdom, Endira!  It was so lovely to chat with you today.

Absolutely.  Thank you for having me.  It was such a pleasure to be able to have conversation and reach a larger platform than just the people we connect with day to day.

IMPORTANT LINKS

Endira Davis

Birth and postpartum support from Gold Coast Doulas

Grandparent classes from Gold Coast Doulas

Becoming a Mother course

Caring for Newborns with Endira Davis: Podcast Episode #221 Read More »