self care

LifeFuel Dietician

Podcast Episode #37: Meal Advice from a Dietician

What is a micro and macro nutrient?  What does processed really mean?  Today we talk to David Fisher, a licensed dietician and consultant for Life Fuel in Grand Rapids.  He is a wealth of knowledge and you won’t want to miss what he has to say about our eating habits!  You can listen to this complete podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud.


Alyssa:  Hello and welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, and I’m excited today to be talking to David Fisher, who is a consultant with Life Fuel.  We talked to Genevieve a few weeks ago now about Life Fuel, and David is their dietician, correct?

David:  That’s right.

Alyssa:  Okay, tell me who you are and what you do.

David:  Yeah, so I’m a registered dietician, and I’m consulting on the menus for Life Fuel.  And I’m also a few months away from finishing becoming a physician’s assistant.  And then also more importantly, I’m also a father of a couple of little boys, so that keeps me busy.

Alyssa:  How old?

David:  One and three.

Alyssa:  One and three.  Holy cow, you are busy.

David:  Yes, I’m busy and exhausted.

Alyssa:  So do you actually use Life Fuel, then?  Do you order their meals that you help create?

David:  Yes, it’s a savior to myself and my wife trying to feed ourselves and our kids healthfully without having any time.  It’s very helpful to have them.

Alyssa:  It’s definitely saved my life the past several weeks, too.  It’s been my favorite so far.  Everything has been so good.  So how did you connect with Life Fuel?

David:  So actually Genevieve and I knew each other a little bit before she started it, and it kind of started because she ran some nutrition questions by me trying to make sure her menu was nutritionally adequate.  And that turned into a couple more conversations, and before long, it was like, well, why don’t I just review all the menus and be a little bit more involved?  So that’s what we started.

Alyssa:  So what does that process look like?  Does Genevieve come to you with an idea, and then you tell her you need to add this; you need to take that out?  What does that even look like?

David:  Sort of.  She’s the chef behind it all, so she creates all the meals.  We had a lot of discussions in the beginning about nutrition theory and what I think adequate nutrition looks like, and then I review the menus that she comes up with.  So she’ll have a whole week’s menu, and I look them over for nutritional adequacy, macro nutrients and micro nutrients, and give feedback like this should be tweaked; this might be something that you’re missing; this is something that you’re doing excellently; that kind of thing.

Alyssa:  Tell me and anyone else listening who doesn’t know what a macro and micro nutrient is.

David:  Oh, sorry.  I’ll try to watch the jargon.

Alyssa:  That’s okay.  If I don’t understand, I will ask.

David:  So macro nutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.  And then micro nutrients are vitamins and minerals and other things that are in very small quantities like antioxidants, vital chemicals, things like that.

Alyssa:  So you just know which foods have what?

David:  I use software to help me know, but at this point I do kind of know.  I can look at a list of foods or at a menu and know you’re probably missing this nutrient or that, but I still use things to help me make sure I don’t miss anything.

Alyssa:  So what would you say – if we had a pregnant mom eating a meal versus someone who’s not pregnant or maybe a postpartum mom – are there different things they need to be looking for?

David:  Yeah, good question.  Fundamentally, no.  I’ll just say this: no matter who I’m consulting on nutrition; could be a pregnant mom or an 80-year-old with diabetes, but 90% of my advice is the same.  It’s only that last 10% that I might customize it to a particular person.  And that advice is always about eating food that’s unprocessed; eating food that is close to the way it comes from the earth.  Only once you get that down can you come and talk to me about whether you need this supplement or this specific nutrient, because none of that targeted effort is going to help if the base of your diet is not unprocessed, fresh food.  If it is, if that’s taken care of, and I have someone who’s pregnant or lactating and they want to come talk to me, maybe we’ll start to talk about a few extra things.  But if you’re eating a varied diet of fresh, unprocessed foods, your bases are covered.  Now, the one that people talk about is folic acid, folate, things like that.  And that’s true.  The need for that, though, is honestly before you even know you’re pregnant, most times.  So we have to get that base covered before you’ve even gotten pregnant.  Don’t come at 30 weeks talking about your folate.  That’s fine, but that ship has sailed.  And that’s where getting that base down before we even get to being pregnant is the most important part.

Alyssa:  Before conception, even?  While you’re trying?

David:  Yeah, exactly.

Alyssa:  Explain maybe what “processed” means.  At the very basic level, what is a processed food and why is it bad?

David:  I’m really glad that you asked this question because I used to think that you could just explain to someone, “Don’t eat processed food,” and they would sort of understand it, but I’ve figured out over time that people don’t know exactly what that is.

Alyssa:  They assume it’s – I’m trying to think of the worst thing, like a hot dog.  Which it is, but there’s so many other things that are not as bad as a hot dog that are still bad.

David:  Right, or people apply a very subjective meaning to it.  So to one person, a processed food is one thing, and another person says, “Well, I’m eating yogurt.”  Well, that yogurt has as much sugar as a Snickers bar in it.  That’s still a processed food.  So the way I’ve described it best is kind of what I mentioned, which is food that is close to the way it came from the earth.  If you get someone to conceptualize that question, like whether you’re evaluating a particular food or a plate of food or a week’s worth of menus, you can ask yourself the question, “How close is this food to the way it came out of the earth?”  And that allows you to think about the steps it took to go from a salmon swimming in Lake Michigan to the salmon that I’m eating on my plate.  And that answer is, it didn’t take a whole lot, versus the Twinkie, which is also my example of the opposite end of the spectrum.

Alyssa:  Is that even anything that came from the earth?  It’s all chemicals in a bowl, right?

David:  Right.  You know, the amount of steps that it took is kind of mind-boggling, right?  And most things fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, but it allows you to conceptualize how far something came from the way it came from the earth.  And your goal always needs to be shooting towards closer to the earth, something you could grow in your own garden.

Alyssa:  And looking at ingredients is kind of a first step of understanding how processed it is, correct?  Or not?

David:  Yes and no.  What I like to – so I have to teach people sometimes how to read nutrition labels, as a dietician.  And what I tell them is, okay, congratulations.  You now know how to read a label.  Now I want you to go buy nothing that has a label on it.  Because if something has a label, it by definition has multiple ingredients in it.  It’s in a box or a package, right?  But if you’re at the grocery store produce aisle, nothing is in a box or a package.  Nothing has an ingredients list because it’s ridiculous to put an ingredients list on an apple.  Everybody knows what an apple is.  Well, they all know what it is because it’s directly the way it came from the earth, right?  So if you to go to the store, the pretty healthy, unprocessed foods are the ones that have no nutrition label on them at all.  The ones with the nutrition label – some are healthy; some are not, but you’re already starting to get into that processed side of foods.  Now, of course, I buy things that have a label on them, and that’s when I start to evaluate, okay, what are the ingredients on this label?  Is this a slightly processed food, or is this a very processed food I should really be careful of?  So then it does become important at that point to be able to interpret a label and look at the ingredients list and try to avoid things that have things you don’t recognize in the ingredients and that kind of thing.  But I like to point out that the first thing is to eat foods that don’t have a label.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I started a garden a few years ago, and it makes me – forces me to eat because I don’t like wasting things.  So if I have a mound of cucumbers and carrots and tomatoes, I end up eating lots of veggies.  So that’s one good way to force myself to do it.

David:  CSAs are like that, too, because you get a lot of whatever’s in season.  You’re like, okay, my CSA gave me beets again; what am I going to do with them this time?

Alyssa:  Right, you get really creative.  And I also have a juicer, which for when I have a mound of cucumbers and they’re starting to get soft, I don’t want to throw them away, so we juice them.  What’s your opinion on juicing?  This is totally off topic.

David:  That’s okay.  I had a teacher who used to say the devil is in the details, and to me, that applies to juicing because it really – you could have juicing that I think is somewhat healthful, and a lot of juicing that I think is not healthful.  So my questions are going to be, obviously, what goes into it?

Alyssa:  Is it all fruit?

David:  Right, exactly, and what kind of juicing are you doing, and is it something that you just bought from the store versus your own cucumbers from your own garden?  I mean, that’s a vast difference from a purchased kids’ fruit juice at a store.  But also how much of the fiber and the actual pulp is in the juice because that affects how it’s digested and absorbed.  So it’s hard for me to give a straight-out answer, but if you’re more vegetable than fruit, and if it’s very fresh, then you don’t lose a lot of the nutrients, which you lose nutrients over time with storage.

Alyssa:  Because it sits.  It sits on the shelf for who knows how long.

David: Yeah, and a lot of the good – some nutrients aren’t very shelf-stable, so you’ll lose them over time, and then what remains is the sugar component and less of the fresh stuff.

Alyssa:  That makes sense.  Okay, well, back on topic to Life Fuel.  How do you – we talked briefly about the macro and micro, and you’re looking at carbs and things like that.  What’s your baseline for, okay, the meals each need to have this?  How much protein and how many carbs?  You don’t even have a ton of carbs in your meals, really, do you?

Genevieve:  So I would say we don’t necessarily have a strict baseline for macro nutrients, proteins, carbs, and fat.  We try to offer variety because we know that our customers eat a variety of different foods and have different requirements, so we try to just offer different variety so that each customer can kind of customize it to their own requirements.  David does offer a lot of advice as far as – carbohydrates aren’t necessarily bad, I think, is a thing we talk about a lot.  Even though a lot of our customers want a low-carb diet, they are necessary to fuel our bodies, so we do try to include a healthy amount.

Alyssa:  Like the sweet potatoes I ate yesterday?

Genevieve:  Correct, yes.  And we use healthy grains like quinoa and brown rice and things like that.

David:  I think the carbohydrate part is one that we’ve discussed more than anything else on the menus.

Genevieve:  Yes, it’s a very hot topic these days.

David:  It is, and she’s right that a lot of people want lower-carb meals, which is fine, but I think that there are a lot of healthy sources of carbs that people might be missing out on, and some people need more carbs than they’re allowing themselves.  That’s something I’ve seen working with people.

Alyssa:  What does a healthy carb look like?

David:  It has a lot of fiber.  Period.  That’s one simple way to look at it; it needs to have fiber, and so the classic example of that is brown rice and white rice.  White rice has zero fiber.  Brown rice or wild rice has a lot more fiber.  The fiber slows down how fast you digest and absorb it, so it slows down how quickly the starch, which turns into sugar, hits your bloodstream, so that’s what makes it healthier.  And that’s the kind of carbohydrates that we’ve eaten for thousands of years.  It’s only in the last hundred or so that we’ve had the modern techniques of removing all the fiber out of foods.

Alyssa:  Is that how you get white rice?  They just remove the fiber from brown rice?

David:  Yes.  I mean, they remove the coating on the rice, and that has not only the fiber, but also some of the other nutrients that you’re missing out on, so all you’re really left with is starch, plus some nutrients that we add back in the steps of processing, called fortifying.  So the other thing to think about with healthy carbohydrates is back to the question that I said before: how close is this food to the way it comes out of the ground?  Wild rice, we’ve eaten for a long, long time, and you can literally grow it in wet environments where we grow rice, and you can eat it just like that.  You don’t find white rice in the wild.  You have to go through these steps of processing, so there’s steps to get to the point of being white rice.  It’s removed from –

Alyssa:  I thought we grew white rice.  I had no idea.  I thought there were little shoots of white rice.  I didn’t know they literally had to pull it off – so if I took wild rice and took the hull off, like you said, it would be white rice inside?

Genevieve:  I think a good comparison might be whole wheat versus white flour.  It’s the same process.  They remove the hull and they remove the bran, which is all the fiber, where all the fiber is, to get white flour versus a whole wheat flour.  And so whole wheat is obviously better because you’re getting a lot more nutrients.

Alyssa:  Who did this?  And who started it, and why?  Like, how did this even come about?  Why would they say, I don’t like the color of brown flour; I want to make it white?

Genevieve:  From what I understand of the history of it, it’s just that for flour at least, the white flour was considered a luxury item, and so very rich, wealthy people, that’s what they wanted.  And so it just became more and more popular because obviously, everyone wants to imitate the rich and powerful, and so yeah, it just became the natural way that we eat flour.

David:  My understanding, too, is there’s better shelf stability when you remove some of those nutrient components, and so we can store these things better.  So maybe at first, we might have thought that was great, and now we’ve learned a few things about how that’s not so great.

Alyssa:  My mind is blown.  I had no idea.  I knew it was bad, but it’s like you don’t really know how – again, it’s the whole processed thing, and that’s what the definition of processed is.

Genevieve:  And we’re coming to a really cool point in time right now where people do want to be educated about what they’re putting in their bodies, and I feel maybe for the last 50 years, it wasn’t that way.  People wanted the things that were shelf stable and wouldn’t go bad, and that was the priority, and convenience, especially.  And now people are realizing this isn’t helping us.  We’re not healthy.  We’re going to the doctor for all these reasons that have been preventable for many years.  So people are really paying attention to their diets again.

David:  They are, but I think a lot of people don’t – we haven’t learned how to cook and how to be a home chef very well, and so people think, oh, I’m supposed to eat these things.  They go to the store and they buy these healthy vegetables, and then they come home, and they either don’t know how to make it and it goes bad, or they make something mediocre.  And that’s one thing I like about Life Fuel is that it’s healthy foods, but it’s all delicious.  You know, people would like the foods whether or not they were trying to change their diet or eat healthy.

Alyssa:  Right.  So we’re going to stop this one here, and I want to talk to you again because you have two little boys at home, and I want to talk about getting them to eat.  So thanks for joining us today.  And thank you, Genevieve, for being here from Life Fuel.  Why don’t you tell us your website?

Genevieve:  So the website is www.lifefuelbyvault.com.

Alyssa:  I’m going to go home and eat one for lunch today!  You can always find us at goldcoastdoulas.com, and you can listen on iTunes and SoundCloud.  Thanks for listening!

Podcast Episode #37: Meal Advice from a Dietician Read More »

rise wellness chiropractic

Podcast Episode #34: Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy

Today we talk to Dr. Annie of Rise Wellness about what chiropractic care looks like during pregnancy.  You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes or Soundcloud.


Alyssa:  Hi, welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa, co-owner and postpartum doula at Gold Coast.  Today, we have Dr. Annie with us.  She is a local chiropractor, and many of our clients have seen her.  Hello!

Dr. Annie:  Hello!

Alyssa:  So we get a lot of questions about what a chiropractor actually does during pregnancy.  How do you support women, and why should they go see you when they’re pregnant?

Dr. Annie:  Yeah, so chiropractic philosophy is kind of based on the premise that life expresses intelligence and that normal physiology knows exactly what it’s doing.  And this is probably the most prevalent in pregnancy or the most seen in pregnancy because we see this baby developing within this woman, and –

Alyssa:  It just happens.

Dr. Annie:  It just happens.  It’s an amazing thing, and I think a lot of times today that the beauty of that process kind of gets taken away.  So that’s something great about chiropractic is that we honor the system of the body, and we honor the mother.  And we just try to make sure that they’re communicating, brain and body, and everything’s developing properly the way that it’s supposed to.

Alyssa:  So for someone who understands chiropractic care and has maybe seen a chiropractor, does anything change when you’re pregnant?  I know there’s different things happening in your body as a woman who’s pregnant, but does the care change?

Dr. Annie:  Yes, the care does change.  So for one thing, the chiropractor is still going to address your nervous system and make sure that your spine and everything is in good alignment, but because of some of the biomechanical changes that are occurring during pregnancy, the woman has a lot more relaxin, which is a hormone that’s secreted during pregnancy that allows ligament laxity.  So that is in preparation for labor, for stretching of the pelvis and everything.  So the way the chiropractor would address this issue is they’re going to focus more on the pelvis and the bony alignment of the pelvis, where the sacrum is in relation to pelvic bones, and make sure that there isn’t any twisting there because that can cause muscle imbalances.  And the uterus is also attached and tethered to the bony pelvis, so if there is any kind of misalignment in the pelvis, then the chiropractor needs to address that because that tethering to the uterus can cause some constraint in the uterus, as well.  So we want to make sure that everything is lined up.  And then the nervous system runs through all of those bones, so we want to make sure that if all of those bones are aligned, that the nervous system is communicating the way that it’s supposed to so everything can develop correctly.

Alyssa:  And did I hear that you are now the only Webster-certified chiropractor?

Dr. Annie:  I’m not the only Webster-certified in Grand Rapids, but I am now Webster-certified.  But I will be, I think, the only one within the city of Grand Rapids fully certified for pediatric and pregnancy care.  So I’ve done all of the ICPA courses.  I have a three-month exam that I need to take in order to be fully certified, but I’m working on it.

Alyssa: So what does that mean to me, having no idea what Webster-certified means?   And you said you’re also certified for pediatric and pregnancy – there’s two different certifications?

Dr. Annie:  No, Webster is a technique and analysis of the pelvis, and it’s actually applicable to any gender, any age, but it’s used most in pregnant women to balance the pelvis and make sure that there is enough room for the baby to come through.  The Webster certification is done through the ICPA, which is International Chiropractic Pediatric Association, so that is a one-module course that chiropractors can take.  They go down for the weekend, learn all about the adjusting technique and the analysis and everything, and then get tested on it there and then become Webster-certified.  The full certification process for pediatrics, also through the ICPA, is 14 modules, 2 research projects, and then a big exam at the end.

Alyssa:  Okay, so it’s kind of like, in my world, the difference between a CLC, which is a certified lactation consultant, and an IBCLC, which an International Board-Certified.  It’s a lot more work, a lot more extensive.  You both know what you’re talking about, but one has just tons of hours and hours and hours put into this certification.

Dr. Annie:  Exactly, and the full certification covers not only Webster technique, but it covers chiropractic research in pregnancy and pediatrics; it covers nutrition; neurology.  So it’s a lot of intensive information about specific pediatric care; how to adjust babies; how to analyze babies; because we don’t want to treat them like they’re little adults and adjust them the same way that we would an adult.  We want to be able to recognize things because they’re going through growth milestones.  We want to be able to analyze, especially for a newborn, since they can’t communicate where certain things are or where they’re having symptoms.  We need to be able to analyze their spine in a different way and in a unique way and be able to adjust it.

Alyssa:  So that’s something your certification would include, but not the weekend one?

Dr. Annie:  Right.  The Webster technique is primarily for adults, but it’s really good for pregnant women, like I said.  So it is adjusting the pelvis and then working with some of the ligaments in order to facilitate the growth of the baby.

Alyssa:  So I think a lot of people when they hear Webster think that chiropractors who practice Webster turn babies.  True or not true?

Dr. Annie:  I would say not true.  So turning babies isn’t really what the premise behind Webster technique is for.  Like I said, it’s about balancing the pelvis, making sure everything’s in correct alignment.  Some of the benefits of that, though, are – let me back up a little bit.  So Williams Obstetrics talks about dystocia, which is difficulty during labor.  There’s three primary causes of difficulty during labor.  One is power; one is passage, and one is passenger.  So the power has to do with how well your uterus can contract during labor.  So neurologically, having chiropractic to make sure everything is in line will help the neurology work there so that the uterus can contact and coordinate its contractions appropriately.  With passage, that’s the bony pelvis; that’s what we’re talking about, so that’s the pelvic outlet; that’s where the baby’s going to come through.  So we want to make sure everything’s in line there.  And then passenger: the baby needs to be in a good position for everything to go smoothly so there’s no difficulties during labor.  So what Webster technique is focused on is making sure that those first two things are working appropriately, and then the baby, if it has enough room within the uterus and within the bony pelvis, if everything’s lined up, then most of the time, they can turn on their own.  They innately know what position they’re supposed to be in, so as long as there’s no interference to that system, then they should be able to turn themselves.

Alyssa:  I love that, the passenger.  That’s really fun.  So it’s really not about turning babies; it’s making – if everything else is lined up properly, the baby just knows inherently to do it on its own?

Dr. Annie:  Exactly, yeah.  It’s all about optimizing position and then the mom’s body and getting it ready for labor.

Alyssa:  So do you have stats on the passenger – like if a mother is seeing a Webster-certified chiropractor and maybe wants you to turn her baby, how often does it actually work?

Dr. Annie:  Well, there’s a couple of studies that have been done by the ICPA.  One in 2012 had 81 pregnant patients with mispositioned babies.  So they were testing it, just adjusting the pelvis, focusing on that, and 70% of the babies turned to the correct position after Webster care, which is pretty awesome.  I found another study that was in 2007 where they studies 102 moms, and 92% of them turned on their own with Webster care, which is really awesome.  They say that 9% will spontaneously turn anyway without any sort of care or intervention because the baby is supposed to be in the head-down position.

Alyssa:  That’s a pretty small percent, though.  If you’re nearing your due date and your baby is flipped, you have a 9% chance; that’s it?

Dr. Annie:  Exactly.  There’s a lot of C-sections that happen because of breech babies, which is kind of – I don’t want to say it’s unnecessary trauma, but if there’s something that you can do to prevent having surgery, then that is a pretty good chance.

Alyssa:  Yeah, 92% is really good.  So what else do we need to know about Webster-certified care that maybe most parents don’t know about?

Dr. Annie:  It’s safe.  It’s safe as long as you have a good, healthy pregnancy.  There are some contraindications to having Webster care.  And some of those things are modifiable, too, so Webster itself is kind of like a traditional chiropractic adjustment, but there are some modifications that you can do to make it a lot easier for the mom, as well.  So if there are any contraindications like preeclampsia, placenta previa, things like that, bleeding during pregnancy and stuff, those are all contraindications because we just want Mom to be in the healthiest position.  So if Mom isn’t having a healthy pregnancy, then we don’t want to go in and intervene with anything like that because we just want her to be as healthy as possible and make sure that the baby is healthy, too.  But that being said, there are modifications and gentler things that we can do, as well.  Not to say that Webster’s not gentle, but it is making sure that those bones are aligned in the pelvis.

Alyssa:  So is it more of the cracking technique versus –

Dr. Annie:  Some of it is utilizing the drop in the table, too, which can be a little abrupt.  We always say the baby’s going to hear this, probably, because it’s a loud sound, but it’s not going to hurt the baby at all, which I think is important for mothers to realize, too.  But we do modify a lot of things, like we use the activator technique in our practice.

Alyssa:  Which is very gentle?

Dr. Annie:  Yeah, very, very gentle, too, but it gets the same job done.

Alyssa:  Cool.  Well, I think that explains it really well.  I think we will have you on again to talk about chiropractic care for babies.  I think that would be a good topic.

Dr. Annie:  I would love that.

Alyssa:  Tell us where people can find Rise Wellness.

Dr. Annie:  So you can find us online at www.risewellnesschiro.com, or we’re also on Facebook and Instagram, and both those are @risewellnesschiro.

Alyssa:  Thank you so much.

Dr. Annie:  Thank you.

Alyssa:  And you can always contact us at goldcoastdoulas.com.  Email us at info@goldcoastdoulas.com.  Find us on Facebook, Instagram, and of course, iTunes.  Talk to you next time.

Podcast Episode #34: Chiropractic Care During Pregnancy Read More »

Mothership Certified Doulas

Mothership Certified Health Service Providers

Many of our doulas are Mothership Certified Health Service Providers. Sounds cool, but what does that mean? Here’s a simplified breakdown of what we learned in our training and why it’s so important.

The training involved learning the difference between empathy and sympathy. We understand that empathy never starts with, “At least…”. Here’s a great video that demonstrates the difference between the two.

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It’s important to allow a client to feel their emotions, and sometimes the best thing to do is to let them talk and not say anything at all. It’s okay to just be with someone. We don’t need to try to fix the person or the situation.

Storytelling is a great vehicle for release. Maybe it’s the release of a fear or anxiety. Maybe it’s the release of a traumatic birth experience a client hasn’t talked about yet. It can also be very uplifting. Sharing a personal story of redemption with a client can help calm fears. It can also make you more relatable if you open up and show some vulnerability.

We understand that everyone holds a certain level of bias, but knowing where those bias’ come from and how to eliminate them is critical. Being aware is the first step, the identifying them, and acting according to our values. But the best thing you can do to eliminate bias is constant exposure to diverse situations. To feel comfortable outside our bubble, you need to get outside your bubble!

Our training also talked about stress and shifting the way we think about stress. Maybe those fight or fight responses are there for a reason! Our bodies are preparing us to handle the situation at hand.

After our training we pledged to the following:

  • To better understand ourselves by reflecting on our strengths and challenges by practicing self-care, so that we an give the best care to our clients (because having compassion for others starts with self-compassion). We will actively work on understanding and challenging our personal biases which can affect how we deliver services.
  • To better understand our clients by thinking about our clients in the context of their lives, considering how we can best serve them given their circumstances, feelings, challenges, and strengths. We will look for nonverbal emotional and cultural cues so we know how to best approach our clients when delivering services.
  • To build better connections and promote empowerment by being intentional in how we project our nonverbal communication cues, and by our choice of words.

Mothership was inspired based on their own experiences and the experiences of friends and family. They started with values and a vision, and then spent about a year researching how they could best serve families in their important role as parents. Using a human-centered design approach, they listened to moms, dads, other caregivers, and various health care providers like nurses, lactation consultants, doulas, and peer counselors to better understand family needs, health system constraints, existing initiatives, and opportunities for making an impact. From there, they developed their mission, guiding principles, and programs.

At Gold Coast Doulas, we believe the client and health partner relationship should be emotional and relational. It’s a parent-centered relationship where we guide you and help you feel confident in our role. You will be seen, heard, and valued without judgment. We will listen to your unique needs and understand your unique situation.

To see which of our doulas are Mothership Certified Health Service Providers, look for the seal on their website bios.


Mothership Certified Health Service Providers Read More »

rise wellness chiropractic

Podcast Episode #31: Rise Wellness Chiropractic

Dr. Annie and Dr. Rachel of Rise Wellness Chiropractic in Grand Rapids talk about their approach to helping mothers and babies, as well as how and why they decided to start their own practice.  You can listen to the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud.


Hello, and welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner and post-partum doula at Gold Coast.  Today, I’m so excited to be talking to Dr. Annie and Dr. Rachel of Rise Wellness.  Hello, ladies.  I want of hear about your new business venture together, Rise Wellness.  We knew you when you worked for a different chiropractor’s office, and what made you both kind of venture out on this alone?

Well, we worked together, so when you work for another chiropractor, you’re kind of under their whole umbrella of their philosophy, their vision, which works for a while until you get to a point when you’re like, this isn’t my philosophy and vision, and there’s other ways I want to help people.  And so we talked about it, and we’re like, let’s open our own.


And we talked to you.  You were like, I got a great space for you.

Yeah, I did.  We’re neighbors.  We’re both in East Town now.

Yeah, it definitely helped facilitate that once Dr. Rachel went on maternity leave to have her twins.  We kind of changed our whole philosophy and our focus to wanting to work more with pregnant moms and babies, too, and we realized that was a huge subset of the population that wasn’t receiving the care that we felt like they needed.  So that’s where we wanted to focus.

Now, most people would get pregnant, and especially pregnant with twins, and not say, “Hey, let’s quit my job and start my own business right when I have these twins.”

It just seemed right.

But you did, and how did that work?  I mean, I know you said timing-wise, it worked because you went on maternity leave and then –

Yeah, I just never went back.

Like, you’re done.

Yeah, it worked out well for that.  I mean, I’m lucky I had Dr. Annie as a partner because she honestly did a lot of it.  And I’m lucky I have a husband that has an MBA and knows how to set up a business and has an accountant.  It really wasn’t that difficult, and it worked out for, like, how am I going to be a mom still but still work and do what I love doing.  And when you work for someone, I really didn’t have the option of working my own hours.  So it just made sense; I’m going to go do my own thing now.

Yeah, that was a big driver for us.

Yeah, that was a big driver.  Okay, I can work the hours I want to work, but I can still stay at home with the girls when I want to be home with them.

And you are my chiropractor, so I’m in your office quite a bit.  And I loved that you have a dresser filled with diapers.  And it’s not just because you have a lot of babies in there, but tell me what you said, Dr. Annie, when I was like, oh, why do you have all these diapers?

Oh, accidental blow-outs.  So after babies get adjusted, their nervous systems are working better, and so their digestion sometimes kicks on right after an adjustment.  And we just want to be prepared and have a space for moms so they don’t have to rush home or rush to the bathroom or anything.  It’s like we can just be available right there and make it easy.  We have a diaper genie, so you don’t have to worry about it stinking up the office or anything.

Yeah, it’s a very baby-friendly space.

Yeah, we want to be accessible and available for everyone who wants to come in, especially moms with kids and stuff.  We know that can sometimes be hectic and messy, and we want to make it as safe an environment for them as possible.

Yeah, I brought my five-year-old in with me last time, and she of course loved the coloring books and the dolls.

Oh, did she come in?

She did, yeah.  She missed you.  I’ll have to bring her in again.

I had my girls in on Saturday, and of course they pooped while we were there.

Which is another nice thing about owning your own space, right?  You owning your business; if you need to bring your daughters in, who’s going to yell at you?

Annie, I guess.  No, just joking.

I would never yell about having them in there!

Tell me about the different approach.  So you were NUCCA chiropractors before, and now you’re doing something completely different.  Can you tell me about what you’re doing now?

Yeah, so we’re definitely focused more on pediatrics and pregnancy care.  We still see everybody, but that’s where we definitely wanted to focus, and we’re both doing additional training in that.  Before we were at an upper cervical practice, which is the top bones of the spine, so we were focused on that.  And we just had a little different philosophy.  We felt like the whole spine was just as important, so we wanted to take what we had learned from the practice that we were at and still say, okay, this is really important, but we’re also going to focus on other areas of the spine and see where changes need to be made there, as well.  So now we’re scanning and checking everything and making sure that everything is lined up and working the way it’s supposed to.

Yeah, with kids and moms and stuff, kids definitely – it’s important to pay attention to the upper cervical area because a lot of things can happen there from birth trauma, but there’s also a lot of things that show up in other areas of the spine, too, especially in kids as they’re starting to pull themselves up and falling down on their butts.  The sacrum is going to be a big one that we’re going to be checking, too, especially if there’s any digestive issues or things like that.

Plus with NUCCA, it was very structural-based.  Like, what’s the structure of the spine.  It’s here; we want it here.  And you had to x-ray.  And obviously you’re not going to be x-raying pregnant women, and with children, you don’t really want to x-ray as often, either.  So there just had to be a different approach, and we use a different exam and we checked the functionality of the nervous system to really look at how is your body functioning?  Not just, well, are you in pain; are your legs level?  It’s like, is your nervous system functioning at its optimum?

Right.  I mean, structure is great.  Posture is great.  A lot of chiropractors use that, but we definitely wanted to take more of a functional approach and say, like, okay, we can actually look at how your nervous system is functioning, how your body’s adapting, how your body’s developing and growing, and saying, we can make that better?  And that to us is more important than is your posture perfect or is your head sitting right on top of your shoulders.  That’s really important too, but if we can actually dive into the nervous system and see how your body’s functioning and adapting, that seems way more powerful and way more –

That’s what changes lives.  It’s not like, oh, my head is –

Yeah, exactly.  At least I look good with my good posture, but is your body functioning right?

So tell people about the scans.  I had never seen anything quite like that, and when you did that to me – do you do that to kids too, the same thing?

Yeah, so that’s relatively new in chiropractic, those scans are.  And it’s really cool.  So we look at thermography, which is the temperature of the back, so we run it along the spine and see what the temperature differences are.

And to let people know, it’s like a tiny little handheld thing with rollers, right?  Is it rollers that I felt, up and down my spine?

Yeah, and then the EMG, which is electromyography.  That’s measuring the energy that the muscles are using to hold you up, so it’s measuring the electricity there.  And that one is just like sensors that go along your spine, as well, at different levels.  And then we do HRV, which is heartrate variability, so kind of similar to measuring your heartrate with a fitness monitor; this is looking at variations in that heartrate.  That’s been used in medical research and literature as a longevity outcome measure, too, so it really shows us how your body’s functioning and how it’s adapting and how your overall health and well-being is.

I’m going to live forever.

You are!  Yours is the best we’ve seen!  It’s better than Dr. Annie’s.

Well, I just – you know, we just opened a practice!

Yeah, it was a really interesting process.  I guess I didn’t really know what I was getting into when you did it, but it was really cool to see the different levels.

Yeah, and the cool thing is when we do those scans, it’s not putting anything into the body.  It’s just measuring what your body’s already doing, so there isn’t any radiation or anything like that.  And that was something that we really liked about doing this approach, more so than taking x-rays.

A pregnant mom can do it.  What about a baby?

Yeah, babies – I mean, it’s difficult, but you can.  It’s just my girls are so squirmy.  So they’re a little more –

Yeah, so thermography’s the easiest thing to do on an infant or on a child.  EMG is a little harder because they have to hold still because, again, you’re measuring what the muscles are doing.  And then for the HRV, instead of putting their hand on the reader, there’s an ear clip that we can use.  So sometimes they don’t like that either, but we just get as much information as we can so we can make the best clinical decisions.

Well, we’re so excited to have you next to us.  It just makes so much sense.

It’s a match made in heaven, right?

Yeah, we’re excited, too.

We know; we happen to know pregnant women.  You can help them.  So what would you like people to know about your practice?

I’m Webster-certified now, and I’ve gone through all of the modules for the full pediatric certification.  I’m just working through my exam right now, so by the end of the summer, I will be fully specialized in pediatrics and pregnancy care, too.  I think there’s maybe two others in Kent County or something like that, so that’s –

Not many.

Yeah, within the city of Grand Rapids, I’ll be the only one, which is just – I think it’s awesome, and I’m excited that I get to specialize in that and work with pregnant moms and kids because it’s so much fun to see those changes in their development and stuff.

Yeah, and kids love it.  Once they start getting adjusted, they know it makes them feel good.  They can tell, and they love it.

And pregnant women, too.

I wouldn’t have made it through my pregnancy.  Guaranteed, I would not have made it through if not –

As long as you did.   I mean, you did amazing.  You went, what, 38?

Almost 39 weeks, yeah.

Almost 39 weeks!  And then gave birth to two eight-and-a-half pound babies!  You did a really good job!

Yeah, and I worked out until about the end there.

And what pregnant mom doesn’t want an easier pregnancy and a quicker, easier labor?

Right.  Well, and I know from my daughter’s perspective, she doesn’t like the cracking kind of chiropractic.  That scares little kids, so yours is very gentle.

It scares a lot of adults too, yeah.  So we use a really kind of unique adjusting tool.  I don’t think a lot of people around here use it.  It’s called an activator.  We have a couple other adjusting tools that we use, but they’re so easy and it’s just really easy for the body to take.  And it’s, again, no twisting.

Yeah, really gentle; really specific.

So if you had to tell a parent who’s never had chiropractic care, if you had to tell them one thing, either about their bodies or their kids’, what do you think people are missing out on?

Optimal health.

Optimal health, yeah.  I mean, that you really – what is that saying?  You live your life through your nervous system.  I mean, your nervous system controls everything.  Everyone thinks chiropractors and they think bones; they think cracking; they think neck pain; they think back pain.  Those are a small piece of it, and the results you get from chiropractic care, like you feel better, but really, we’re dealing with the nervous system, and the nervous system controls everything; everything that goes on in our body.

Yeah, well, and it’s sensation for everything, too, so everything that we perceive in our environment, the way kids – they have tactile exercises and stuff like that for kids, so they want tactile toys and they want a lot of colors.  All of that sensation is helping their neurodevelopment, so that’s every sensation that you have, every emotion that you have, every experience that you have, is all run through your nervous system, and then your body takes that information and decides what to do with it, and then that’s your response to it, too.  So really your entire life experience is run through your nervous system.

And so what chiropractic really does is we remove any interference that might be from the outside world to how you’re interpreting –

In that communicating system.

So we remove it through adjusting the spine and so you really can just live optimally, then.  Your body can function optimally.

In the very, very most basic form, like, our brains run our body, right?


And that’s the center for the nervous system?


It’s where all the nerves come down, and if like you said, everything from a traumatic childbirth to some neck injury from walking and falling on their bums, to 18-year-olds – you know, like how many times did I fall snowboarding?  Who know what I did to my body, right?  All those little tweaks adjust how your nerves —

How your brain’s communicating with your body.   But not just that, but also toxins that we take in or being really stressed out.  That’s also going to show up in your nervous system, so not just trauma.  We call it the three Ts in chiropractic: toxins, trauma, and thoughts, yeah, are causes of subluxation, and so that’s what chiropractors specialize in is removing that interference and restoring that normal communication in the body.

Very well put. 

You can tell we’re pretty passionate about what we do!

Well, you guys should come check out their space.  So they are just a couple doors down from us in the Kingsley Building.  We’re in East Town.  The offices are on the second floor.  You guys are in Suite 201.  Would somebody – if they just wanted to drop in and say hi?  Because you’re there —

Yeah, please.  They can come check out the giraffe table, yeah.

Please stop in.

We’ve got LaCroix and bottled water, coffee.  Come hang out.

And then if they don’t want to stop in, tell people how to find you.

So our website is www.risewellnesschiro.com.  We’re also on Facebook and Instagram at Rise Wellness Chiro, or you can call us.  Or phone number is 616-258-8480.  Otherwise, wave to us on the street.  I usually walk to work, so you’ve probably seen me in my Rise and Shine shirt.

We wear our shirts all the time.

I’ll get a picture of you in your shirts.  Awesome.  Well, thank you both for being here.  I love what you’re doing.

Thank you for having us.

Thank you, yeah.

And as always, you can find us on our website, www.goldcoastdoulas.com, and we are also on Facebook and Instagram.  You can listen to our podcasts on SoundCloud and iTunes.  Thanks.  Remember, these moments are golden.

Podcast Episode #31: Rise Wellness Chiropractic Read More »

Amber Brandt Coziness Consultant

Podcast Episode #30: Amber the Coziness Consultant

How do you make a space cozy when you have children and babies taking over your house?  Amber, The Coziness Consultant, gives us some easy tips for maintaining your sanity during this season of life.  You can listen to this podcast on iTunes and SoundCloud.


Alyssa:  Hello.  Welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas.  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner at Gold Coast, and I’m also a postpartum doula.  Today we are talking to Amber Brandt.  She is The Coziness Consultant.  Hey Amber.

Amber:  Hello.

Alyssa:  We’ve actually gotten some of your advice for our new office space, and I wanted to kind of talk to you about what you do for specifically new moms.  We’re busy; maybe we’re working.  Even if you’re not working, you have a newborn; maybe you also have a toddler at home.  How do you create an environment at home that feels cozy?

Amber:  So the coziness consultant side hustle started as this idea that people need to be comfortable in their own homes, and if we’re not happy and cozy and our spaces aren’t working for us, then our sanity is in question.  And so for me, I just really feel like for starters, people’s homes need to be a reflection of who they are.  When you come home, you should be able to sit down and let your hair down, and people who come to visit should feel welcome and know who you are by being in your space.  So a couple things that I really try to focus on when I’m talking with a client or a new mom, especially, is the idea of capacity, for one; that we can only be and do so much, and there’s this idea that our lives are like a pendulum of work and rest.  When we’re younger and we’re single and we have very few responsibilities, we go to work and then we just rest.  We go to happy hour; we hang out; you know, we do our thing.  And our pendulum is really wide, that swing.  But when we’re a mom, especially a new mom, our pendulums are really short, and instead it’s like your work is picking up this toy and then your rest is a sip of coffee, and then you’re right back to work again.  So finding a way to make your spaces work for you in the season of life that you’re in, I think, is really important.  So capacity, yeah; the fact that you can only be and do so much.  You need to make your spaces work for you, quirks and all.  The other thing that I talk about is intentionality: looking at a space to determine how does it need to be used.  If you have a dining room that also you homeschool in, or you don’t have a good play area because your child’s bedroom is so small and toys are everywhere – figuring out how to wrangle that and make it work.  And then at the end of the day, how do you want to feel in this space?  If you have these issues that every time you come home and you look around, you’re like, well, there’s that pile of papers again, or oh, these toys aren’t wrangled, then it’s going to affect how you feel about the rest of your life.  And so if you can get your home comfortable and cozy and make it intentional and work, then it’s going to take a lot of pressure off of those other areas of your life.

Alyssa:  Yeah, I feel like I’ve had to let go of some of that as a mom.  I mean, it’s funny you talk about that pendulum because before baby, my husband and I – people would come over and be like, does anyone live here?  This place is so neat and orderly; there’s nothing even on the counter.  And now, in my mind, it’s like a toy explosion.  People still come over and they’re like oh, it looks so great still, and I’m like, oh, my God.  In my mind, it’s a mess, but I’m okay with it.  But I’ve figured out what works for me, like what messes – they’re still a little bit contained, like I keep the toy mess back in her room, and I just deal with that maybe once a week.  Have her help me, right?  But the rest is a space that I feel comfortable in, like you said, and I’m comfortable with a certain amount of untidiness.

Amber:  Right, and realizing that it’s a season, that your kids’ diapers are for a season, and that all the toys that make music and sing and drive you insane are for a season, you know, and it’s understanding the time of life that you’re in and finding that balance of making it work and accepting that this is where I am right now.  I have a client who had me come over, and their house is really midcentury-modern inspired, and she had this long channel in her living room, this narrow space, that used to – when the original builders built it, it was a planter, like a built-in planter.  And they had pulled everything out of it, and it was just this hollow, long, rectangular space.  And she said, it’s so awkward; I don’t know what to do with it.  But every Tuesday night, we have these families that come over for dinner, and the kids always just sit on it.  And I was like, well, then make it a bench.  Eventually you can make it a planter again if you want.  You can tear it out if you want.  But for now, if that’s how it’s used, put a cushion on it and make it storage, and make it work for this season of your life that you’re in.  You don’t have to keep it that way forever.

Alyssa:  Right.  It’s good to do things that you’re able to change.  Nothing’s permanent.

Amber:  Well, and I think, too, something as simple as the way that you look at throw pillows.  Knowing the season of your life you’re in, you’re like, okay, well, I can buy a lovely cream pillow that’s going to get trashed.  Or you can either choose a different color, or you can buy the cream pillow, but don’t spend a lot of money on it and it’s disposable.  Or buy an expensive one that has a zipper, and you can wash it.  Find a way that makes sense.  If you really are going to toss your throw pillow when it gets too trashed, that’s okay.  That’s the season of life that you’re in, and eventually you can invest more in it.  But figure out what makes sense for you so that they’re less of a headache, so that you’re not constantly yelling at kids to get their feet off of them, you know.  If it’s something that they can live with and you can live with, and it’s just the season you’re in, then that’s what works, and do that thing.

Alyssa:  We moved into our house and bought a brand-new sofa and had our baby, and I think a week later she spit up all over it.  And I was just, oh, no, it’s a brand-new sofa!  And my husband’s like, this is probably the first time of many that this is going to happen.  You’re just going to have to deal with it.  And it was.  I mean, I think she spit up breastmilk on it a couple times.  I’ve eaten a chocolate chip cookie on it and gotten chocolate on it.  It happens, so you have to just realize that it is what it is.  It’s kids and even me.  I’m messy, too.

Amber:  Well, and you can be mad about it, or you can just shrug it off and say this is where we are.  The same thing happened with us.  We bought a brand-new mattress for our bed, and it was the kind that comes in a box like a Casper.  And it came, and we unrolled it, and it looked so lovely.  And we sat down on it, and Winslow, our daughter, who seemed fine one second earlier, threw up.  Not spit up; just threw up on the new mattress.  There wasn’t even a sheet on it.  And we both just looked at each other like, okay, well, this is our life now.  And it’s like – it’s just what it is, you know?  And we’re all doing that thing, right?  We all have those stories, and we’re all figuring it out.  But whatever you can do to stack the deck in your favor makes a big difference.  Just a couple things that – when I was thinking about coming here today, I thought that I want to leave these women with something really practical.  So I actually came up with just a couple of things that I do that someone shared with me years ago that have made a big difference.  And one of them is buying all-white towels.  A super simple thing, but there’s that long period of time with interior decorating where everyone bought everything that was matchy-matchy, and how many loads of laundry is that?  So I remember someone told me once, buy really expensive, really nice hotel-quality towels that are all white.  Spend some money on it, and then just simplify your life.  And I was like, that’s such good advice.

Alyssa:  Then you can just throw them all in.

Amber:  One load.  One load, done.  And they’re elegant and lovely, and who doesn’t like stepping out of a shower and feeling like it’s sort of luxurious, you know?  The other thing is keeping a box in your basement or in the garage for garage sale items that have actual stickers.  Just put the stickers right in there, so anytime you walk out to the garage or you have something you need to get rid of, you go out and put a – if you’re into the garage sale thing.  If you’re into donating, by all means, donate it.  But if your goal is to sell it eventually, put a sticker on it with the price immediately.

Alyssa:  And then it’s done.  It’s ready.

Amber:  Yeah.  That’s one that I’m still not great about, and every time, I’m like, man, why don’t I do this?  It’s so good.  So two really practical things to take away from the conversation that are just about simplifying your life and making your head space clearer.

Alyssa:  Thinking ahead – sometimes, especially as a new mom, you can’t wrap your brain around it.  You’re living in the moment.  How do I get through this hour and this day?  Not thinking ahead about what will save me time.

Amber:  Yeah.  But if you can find things that are tiny, you know, like the actual effort to walk the thing to the garage and put a sticker on it, is so much more manageable and bite-sized than thinking about pricing an entire pile; collecting those things and then pricing them all.  So two really helpful things that simplify your life.

Alyssa:  I appreciate it.

Amber:  You’re welcome.

Alyssa:  So how do our moms find you?

Amber:  So my website is www.thecozinessconsultant.com.  Same on Facebook; www.facebook/thecozinessconsultant.  I’m also on Instagram, same handle, and I share little tips and some personal insights on Instagram, and that also feeds into my website.  So those are the best places to find me.

Alyssa:  Well, thanks for being here today.

Amber:  Yeah, thank you.

Alyssa:  We’ll have you on again because you are actually a past client, as well.

Amber:  Yes.

Alyssa:  So we’ll have you on to talk about some of that another time.  But thanks for your advice today!

Amber:  Thank you!

Podcast Episode #30: Amber the Coziness Consultant Read More »

Hulst Jepsen

Podcast Episode #27: Let’s Talk About the Pelvic Floor

Today on Ask the Doulas, we talk to JoEllen Bender of Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy in East Grand Rapids.  She is a physical therapist who specializes in women’s pelvic issues.  Listen as she gives some tips and dispels some myths about the pelvic floor.  You’re doing kegels right now, aren’t you?!

Listen to the podcast on iTunes or SoundCloud!


Alyssa:  Hello and welcome to another episode of Ask the Doulas!  I am Alyssa Veneklase, co-owner and postpartum doula.  Today we are talking to JoEllen Bender of Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy.  Hello.

JoEllen:  Hi.

Alyssa:  We actually had an event recently.

JoEllen:  Yes, we did.

Alyssa:  And I learned so much about what you do for pelvic floor.  I wanted to talk a little bit about what that actually means and what you do for your patients, but when we say pelvic floor, what does it even mean?

JoEllen:  So the pelvic floor specifically is a group of muscles that are at the base, where there’s the vaginal and anal opening.  It spans pretty wide, so it’s from both hips and then the front of your pubic bone back to your coccyx or your tailbone, and that’s pretty much the typical pelvic floor musculature, but it spans and helps the whole body.  So if you think about it, all the pressure that comes from the bottom of the body, so your legs when you hit the ground – your pelvic floor is your core.  It’s a shock absorber.  And then everything from above; so if you lift something, it also is a shock absorber for any of that pressure or weight.  So it’s a pretty big area.  The muscles themselves are in a smaller group, but it helps with so many things throughout your day.

Alyssa:  So it doesn’t just have to do with peeing when you do jumping jacks?

JoEllen:  No, it doesn’t.  It’s so much more.

Alyssa:  So you’re saying even when you’re working your core, you’re working your pelvic floor?

JoEllen:  Exactly, yes.  And that’s when issues can come in if you don’t use your pelvic floor and you specifically just use those six-pack muscles, those rock-hard abs type of muscles.  So it’s very important to train the pelvic floor along with the core.  I know when people typically think “core,” it’s those muscles in the front from your chest down to your pelvis, your hips, but it’s so much more than that.  You have to add the core, the base of it, your pelvic floor in there, too.

Alyssa:  So what does a typical woman come to see you for?

JoEllen:  So there’s a whole host of things.  A lot of it will be low back pain.  There will be pelvic pain, constipation, coccyx pain.  You could also have – there’s multiple diseases like vulvodynia, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, lots of those types of things.  But then the main thing that I like to specialize in is postpartum or pregnancy, so that is the bulk of my client baseload, but there’s a whole host of things that you could come in for with pelvic pain or things related to that.

Alyssa:  So a pregnant mom comes in.  Is she just doing preventative work, or is she usually having some leaking, or does it usually have to do with the bladder?

JoEllen:  It can be to do with the bladder.  There’s so many things that a pregnant mother could have issues with, so we would –

Alyssa:  Like pelvic pain?

JoEllen:  Exactly, yeah, so we can combat any of that.  A lot of the typical symptoms would be low back pain.  You start to grow a baby in the front there; it offsets your balance and your weight, and you’re using different muscles.  Elastin in the body increases by 30% when you get pregnant, which increases the laxity of your connective tissue and your joints, your ligaments, all of that type of stuff.  So back pain, I would say, is the biggest.  Incontinence, leakage, would be probably second, and then a lot of times they’ll even come in with lower extremity swelling.  So we can help with some of that, too, increase that lymph flow and all of that.  So whatever they come in with, we try to meet them where they’re at and then just progress through the pregnancy as they need.

Alyssa:  And then same with postpartum?

JoEllen:  Correct.

Alyssa:  Things have now shifted; you’ve had your baby, and there’s probably a whole host of other issues that now come along with the pelvic floor.

JoEllen:  Exactly.  So some of them can be the same of what happened pregnancy-wise, but then postpartum, I would say, biggest is probably leakage, incontinence; sometimes constipation still will happen frequently, and the low back pain is pretty constant, too.  Most of the time, if it’s more preventative, it will be someone that wants to return to, let’s say, running, or some type of exercise, and now all of a sudden, they’ve had this impairment of leakage or pain or something like that.  So then we’ll just take them through more of a postpartum exercise routine or things that you can reintegrate your pelvic floor to help get you back to the things that you want to do.

Alyssa:  Okay, so that was my next question.  What does that look like?  What do you do as a pelvic floor physical therapist?  And I know when we had our event together, you kind of mentioned that there were external things as well as internal, right?

JoEllen:  Yes.

Alyssa:  So how do those differ?

JoEllen:  So internal would mean that we would go in vaginally, one gloved finger.  It’s all up to patient comfort, and we can feel those internal muscles.  There are ways that you can feel the more internal muscles externally, so if a patient came in and they weren’t comfortable with internal, of course we could always stick to external.  It doesn’t mean that you always have to go internal when you see a pelvic floor physical therapist.  I think a lot of people are worried about that and so they don’t come in, but we meet you wherever you’re at.  So internal would be more releasing the muscles or giving tactile cues on how to find your pelvic floor or contract it.  Externally, you could do the same, simple type of things, but it would be more like those tactile cues on how to find your pelvic floor or contract certain muscles or relax certain muscles.

Alyssa:  So everyone thinks of Kegels; I mean, that’s what I think of.  But it’s so much more than that, right?

JoEllen:  Exactly.

Alyssa:  And did you tell me that you can even do Kegels too much and have the opposite effect?

JoEllen:  Right, so if you hold your pelvic floor at a higher tone, a higher resting tone – so it’s not in the good type of strength; it’s more of that high-tone irritability that can cause pain.  You can’t get a full release to then get a full contraction, so you need the muscle to go through its full length of motion, meaning it needs to drop down and fully relax so that you then can contract it.  If you’re doing Kegels all day, it’s the same as any other muscle.  Let’s say you contract your bicep all day, and then all of a sudden you need to use it.  Let’s say you feel like a leak’s coming on or something; it’s just going to give way and then you are going to leak; it’s going to go out.  So same thing with the bicep; use it all day, and then you go and try to pick up your purse or something heavy: it’s just going to give, and it’s not going to be able to do what it needs to do.

Alyssa:  Okay.  So are there different exercises then that you said – you mentioned the core, but the lower core?  So there’s different exercises like crunches and certain things that you would tell people to do?

JoEllen:  Yes; not typically crunches, though.  So there’s different types of muscles that are more postural and the ones that can transmit forces from, let’s say, your right side to your left side, which are the ones that we really want to get after.  So those would be your deeper muscles, your typical pelvic floor muscles, and then those smaller abdominal muscles, not that six-pack, typical type of ab muscles.

Alyssa:  These are abdominal muscles that you can’t necessarily touch by doing crunches; it’s a different exercise?

JoEllen:  Correct.  You can’t really see them; it’s a deeper type of muscle area.  So a lot of times the first thing that I’ll take someone through is breathing because the top of the pelvic floor is actually your diaphragm, so it creates this cannister within you.  The top is the diaphragm; the bottom is the pelvic floor.  When you inhale, your diaphragm contracts and drops down, and your pelvic floor can then relax and drop down, so that would be the lengthening of the muscle.  When you exhale, then the pelvic floor comes up; it contracts, and your diaphragm comes back up, also.  So it’s kind of like a piston; they both drop down together, and then they come back up together, so the way to activate the pelvic floor in the beginning would be first by trying to find your diaphragmatic breathing; get that good expansion.  A lot of people have that high chest-breathing; everybody’s stressed lately, and as a mother, postpartum, they have so many things that they have to think of, and it’s more of a stressful time.  So they breathe with that chest, when really, we need to activate the pelvic floor which would be breathing with your diaphragm.  So that would be first exercise, and then we would just progress from there.

Alyssa:  So is there anything else about the pelvic floor for either prenatal or postpartum, things that maybe people think of as a misconception or that you would want people to know about?

JoEllen:  So my big thing is, it seems to be that all of a sudden at six weeks you’re just magically better and you can return to whatever you want to do.

Alyssa:  Postpartum, you mean?

JoEllen:  Exactly, yes.  I wish people would not say that because it took nine months for you to get to where you are, and your body changed drastically.  It’s going to take about nine months to get back to where you were before, so I don’t want moms to think, oh my gosh, I’m not back to where I was.  Or they see another mom that is now running marathons.  Everybody changes so much differently, and we’re going to meet you where you’re at and then get you back to where you were, safely, rather than you trying to push yourself and then cause all these other types of issues.

Alyssa:  That’s good advice.  So how do our moms find you?

JoEllen:  So I am at Hulst Jepsen Physical Therapy.  It’s an outpatient clinic.  The address specifically is 2000 Burton Street SE.  We’re Suite 1, and that’s in East Grand Rapids.

Alyssa:  So are you near Anthropologie?  Is that a good landmark?

JoEllen:  We are pretty close, right in that area, yeah.  So the best way would be to call.  The number is 616-608-8485.  And then you would just schedule with me, JoEllen Bender.  Just ask to schedule for pelvic floor physical therapy, and then we can get you started on whatever types of issues you’re having or if it’s preventative during pregnancy or any of that.

Alyssa:  Now how far – this is something I didn’t ask.  How far postpartum can you see a mom?

JoEllen:  They could come in as early as they wanted, and then we would just space out treatment based on the timeframe that exercises would be safe to begin.  So they could come right after, and we could work on some breathing and postural type things, and then after that, I would be comfortable starting more of the typical strength training types of things probably around the four- to six-week area.

Alyssa:  And then what about a mom whose daughter turned five and still can’t do jumping jacks without peeing?  What about someone like that?

JoEllen:  Come in ASAP!  There is still hope!

Alyssa:  Speaking from experience…

JoEllen:  I would love for anybody like that to come in.  There’s always – I mean, don’t think you’re too far gone or anything like that.  We can always work on it, and you’ll get back to what you want to do.

Alyssa:   Good, awesome.  Well, thank you for all that information.  Get ahold of her if you have any questions, and then as always, if you have questions for us, you can email us: info@goldcoastdoulas.com.  Find us on Facebook and Instagram, and you can listen on iTunes and SoundCloud.  Thanks.

JoEllen:  Thank you for having me.


Podcast Episode #27: Let’s Talk About the Pelvic Floor Read More »

yoga self care

[uncommon sense]: The Importance of Quality Self-Care

Alyssa recently spoke at an event about the importance of self-care. This is a summary of her conversation. We hope you can take away some good advice about what quality self-care means to you and how to apply it to your busy life!

Self-care has become one of those phrases that we roll our eyes at and say, “Yea, I know I need to take more time for myself. Self-care makes me a better mother, or makes me a better wife, or makes me a more productive employee. Yup.” Then we do nothing about incorporating it into our life.

So I’ve been thinking about this topic, trying to figure out a way to define self-care in a way that makes it relevant to all us busy moms. Something to make us realize that in the midst of all the chaos, it is a MUST!

What are some things that come to mind when you hear self-care? Just think about it for a minute. Most of us think of manis and pedis. Maybe a massage. All that is great but what good does if do if we are only caring for our physical bodies? So we have pretty nails, did that do anything for our peace of mind? Was that quality self-care? Maybe for some. But I think we need to dig deeper into what self-care truly is.

Think about this – The quality of our self-care can determine outcomes. It can take us from where we are now to where we want to go. A pedi can’t do that.

Self-care is your path to well-being. When you take care of yourself you’re happier and you therefore attract help, support, productivity, positive relationships, and positive influences. You thrive. Quality self-care makes you radiant from the inside out. People can feel it and are drawn to it.

When we get “too busy” and overload our schedules, that in turn can have the opposite effect – unhappiness, poor relationships, and even physical ailments like migraines and insomnia.

Think of self-care as your fuel. It’s your on-switch. You have to fuel yourself, nourish yourself, so you’re not running on empty or just running on adrenaline. We all have busy lives, and making time for quality self-care actually gives you fuel to do it more efficiently.

Listen to your body. Think of quality self-care as your prescription. When your body is telling you something, be it mental or physical, ask yourself if self-care would fix it. Because your mind and body are not separate. They are fully connected and when you can relax you mind, your body will follow.

An example of this would be every single time I get a manicure. I was just joking with a friend that a manicure is actually stressful for me. I don’t have the use of my hands so I can’t answer the phone, I can’t check emails, or even just browse Instagram! I’m stuck there, staring at the wall, or the lady in front of me, in silence for an hour. I’m miserable. But my nails look good!

So that’s not quality self-care for me. The physical things we do should also be combined with mental practices and rituals. I think if I made it a ritual to get a mani with a friend, that would be quality self-care for me. An hour spent with a good friend is good for my soul. An hour staring at a wall stresses me out.

What could that practice look like for you? Maybe a float tank. Local peeps, has anyone been to phlot in Eastown? Maybe for you it’s meditating for 10 minutes each morning to set intentions for the day. Maybe it’s a massage or yoga (for me these work)! Maybe it’s working out, or reading your favorite book. All of these are great if they bring you some peace and joy. That’s mental wellness.

So think about all the things you can do for your mental wellness and add that to they physical things you are already doing.

What’s your current self-care ritual? Is it working for you? If so, great! Keep it up. If it’s not working, be open to trying some new things to create a ritual of self-care. Figure out what’s important to you and make it happen. No excuses. Remember, it doesn’t need to be lavish or expensive. It just has to work for you (not anyone else)! Like my example of getting a mani with a friend – the mani still only costs me $30 but now it’s quality self-care at no added expense because I have a buddy with me.

Maybe you like to soak in a hot bath, but can’t shut your brain off. So how about soaking in the tub and calling a friend. Or reading that fiction novel that’s been collecting dust. Or turning on a funny podcast. These are simple mental rituals to add to your physical self-care options!

Ok so how do we implement these mental rituals? First, you have to understand that they are a necessity. Something you must do in order to maintain wellness.

Think of that safety card on an airplane. You’re told to put on your own air mask before you help anyone else put on theirs. Even your children! Why? What would happen to you if you helped everyone else put their masks on and you forgot about yourself? You would suffocate. Without your own mask on, you don’t have the capacity to help others. It’s not selfish, it’s a necessity.

Make quality self-care a non-negotiable. Caring for yourself is not an act of indulgence, remind yourself it’s a necessity. Eliminate any shame and guilt that accompanies your self-care ritual.

Self-care is not selfish. Or maybe it is, and that’s okay!

I want to leave you with a quote from Ghandi:

“I had a really busy day today so I better meditate —- for two hours instead of one.”


[uncommon sense]: The Importance of Quality Self-Care Read More »


[un]common sense: Managing your guilt as a Mompreneur

Today’s blog is written by Alyssa Veneklase – mother, wife, doula, and business owner. She talks about not just mom guilt, but very specifically the type of guilt we have as mothers and business owners. Enjoy!

I worked full-time in an office when I found out I was pregnant, and my assistant at the time was pregnant as well, due a few months before me. She came back to work after a couple months of leave and decided after two hours at work she wanted to quit and stay home with her baby. That was that.

Even though I hadn’t had my baby yet, I knew for certain I did not want to be a stay at home mom. I was going back to work, no question. But I began to feel this sense of guilt. “Am I a bad mom because I don’t want to stay home all day with my baby? Is she a better mom than me because she loves her baby so much she physically can’t be separated from him?” This guilt came from somewhere outside of me – a perceived notion; a very conventional belief that mothers should stay home with their children. But it was not my belief, so why was it making me feel guilty?

I had my baby, went back to work, and everything was great. Except that I began to feel another sort of guilt. I resented my husband for having (what I thought was) an uninterrupted schedule. He still got to go golfing whenever he wanted, meet the boys for a beer without worrying about who was watching the baby… I, however, felt trapped. When I did go out I felt guilty. “I have a baby at home. She needs me.”

It took several months for me to realize that this guilt I felt was my own doing. I was not allowing myself the opportunity for self-care and time apart from my baby. “Why can’t I leave her to go out with my friends more often? Why don’t I get a babysitter so I can have an afternoon alone?” I felt like because I was her mother, I was stuck with this extra responsibility that my husband didn’t have, when in reality he just valued his own time more than I valued mine.

This type of guilt came from a place inside me. It was only mine. I created it, nurtured it, and then took it out on others (namely my husband). It took a while for me to understand, but now I make self-care a priority. I make sure if I want to do something, I do it. No excuses. And I don’t feel guilty about it. I’m still an amazing mom!

So let’s talk about that extra special type of guilt that comes with being a Mompreneur.

If we work from home, we get to play more often…right? We’re lucky because we get to spend all this extra time with our kids while they’re small. Or does it mean we just feel more guilty because we are home on our computers instead of playing with our kids?

For moms with office jobs they are more likely to be able to disconnect when they get home. I mean, we’re never really fully disconnected since our phones are attached to us, but I think the moment we leave the office something happens in our brain that allows us to focus on home. The physical disconnect creates a mental one. Unless you own that office, then going home is just an extension of your office.

When you own your own business, when are you ever able to disconnect? You are the one your employees and clients call. You may be the receptionist, the manager, and the marketing coordinator. You’re the boss.

When you have a newborn at home, you’re on-call for that baby. It doesn’t matter how important the project is you’re working on, baby needs to be fed or held or changed. As our kids get older they’re just as needy, but in different ways.

Even if your child goes to daycare during the day, we struggle to focus on them in the evening because we’re still at work. The phone still rings and the emails keep coming. And we just can’t put down our phones.

The thing that works best for me is to set a schedule and stick to it. If your child is home with you while you’re working, set specific times of the day that you are focused on work only. That means no laundry, no dishes, and no distractions from your child. So… you will need another care-giver there to help.

If your partner is able to help, make sure you set strict guidelines. “I’m working from 9-12, don’t bother me. That means you don’t need to tell me when she’s crying or when she poops. Handle it.”

You can hire a mother’s helper, babysitter, or nanny to help out part time during the day. You can find a childcare establishment that you trust. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in 3 hours without a kid around!

No distractions means no distractions while working, but on the flip side that means no distractions when it’s family time. If you can have dedicated times to focus on work, it should be easier to set work aside when it’s time for family. That means leave your phone in the other room. Don’t check emails or browse Instagram while playing with your kids. Physically separate yourself from it otherwise you will not be able to give them the quality attention they desire.

It’s much easier to focus on your kids when you know your work is done. And it’s easier to get your work done when you’re able to fully focus on your work. A half-ass day of work makes for a half-ass evening with family. You will be distracted. It seems so elementary, right?

The biggest thing I’ve learned from having a baby is it’s okay to be selfish. Being selfish does not have to be a bad thing. There’s still a gender bias that mothers need to be selfless especially when it comes to our children. Why do we have to give up our sense of self, sacrifice our passions, for our children?

Do you think men sit around and talk about Dad guilt? Probably not.

I see a shift happening, especially now with the amazing movements that women are making in politics and leadership roles. We are redefining what it means to be a woman. We can be strong leaders and also great mothers. But do not let this discount the significance and magnitude of our maternal urges. They are real. They will always separate us.

I’m not giving you many specific tips or secret formulas for managing guilt. I think instead I’m asking for a shift in how we see ourselves in our roles, therefore eliminating the guilt and pressures put on us whether by external sources or internal.

When you start to feel guilty, think about what a great role model you are for your kids. You are setting the standard high. They see a strong, independent woman who owns her own business! They see her working hard and providing for her family. I get to see my postpartum clients from an outside perspective, and they often feel guilty and scared and angry, but you know what? They’re doing a lovely job. We are sometimes hardest on ourselves. The fact that you feel guilty sometimes means you’re a good mother and care about the time you spend with your children. And more than likely, you’re doing way better than you give yourself credit for.

So remember you’re a badass Mompreneur! You’re making it all happen and when you start to doubt yourself or feel guilty, take a look at everything you’ve built and feel proud.


[un]common sense: Managing your guilt as a Mompreneur Read More »

self care

What Does Self-Care Look Like For You?

Today Kristin talks about what self-care looks like for her and gives some easy ideas for how to incorporate self-care into your routine.

I was camping at a music festival last fall and walked up to two friends, both teachers, who were talking about how they nurture themselves. It is so easy to feel depleted in a serving profession. These teachers also happen to be moms, so those acts of love and service never end.

After talking, I realized their acts of self-care look a lot like mine.

We choose to rise from bed early, before other family members, and enjoy some contemplation and silence. I create rituals in the morning. I wash my face in cool water, breathe deep, wake, and grace myself with some quiet time. Time for grounding myself in the day.

I write a few words and read a few more. I wrap my hands around a cup of coffee and refrain from picking up my phone or checking messages.

There is time and openness toward my personal intentions for the day and about where I want my sentiments to reside. I prioritize my goals for the day before the distractions begin.

I pause to offer my gratitude.

Many begin the day with a regimen of stretching, yoga, or walking. Any form of moderate exercise can be great care for your body and mind. Exercise gets the endorphins going and stimulates the mind.

Self-care need not be expensive nor luxurious. It can be lighting candles in your home or at your office. It can be savoring every bite of your fruit, every sip of your tea, on the balcony.

I break up my workday by going for a walk at lunch. I get some sun on my face and some added energy flowing through my body.

To nurture ourselves also means going solo to the store. Necessities are in play, but you can treat yourself by making the best of it. I never realized how relaxing grocery shopping could be until I was a mother and provided the opportunity to stroll the aisles alone.

We learn to love time when we can be individuals above all of our other roles as daughters, mothers, employees or employers, wives, and friends.

To wind down at the end of the day, try to treat yourself by soaking in a bath with essential oils or laying down early and listening to a podcast or meditation.

It could mean picking flowers from your garden or reading a book with your feet up.

Women are givers by nature, whether we are mothers not. It is important to refuel and refresh. We must nurture ourselves so that we may nurture others.

Tell us, what rituals do you create around self-care? What is your beauty-way?

Here is my favorite bath ritual:

Light candles and turn down the lights, turn on relaxing music, bring in a vase of flowers if you have them. Fill the tub. I like to use 2-3 scoops or handfuls of Epsom salts or Himalayan pink sea salts and a few drops of lavender essential oil with some flower petals.

Take some time to meditate in the tub as you soak and cleanse yourself. Set some intentions for the rest of your week and think about all of the things you are grateful for. Focus on raising your vibration and releasing all of the stress from the day.

After the soak, wrap yourself up in your favorite robe and slippers and hydrate after the warm bath. Try to practice this self-care ritual once a week.

What Does Self-Care Look Like For You? Read More »

Cindy's Suds

Podcast Episode #14: Grief


On this episode of Ask the Doulas, Alyssa talks with Cindy of Cindy’s Suds about her experience dealing with grief and how she found her purpose and mission to help sustain her.  This podcast is available to listen to on iTunes and Soundcloud.  

Alyssa:            Hi, welcome back to another episode of Ask the Doulas. On this episode, we’re talking about grief.  I am Alyssa, co-owner and post-partum doula at Gold Coast, and today we are talking to Cindy again from Cindy’s Suds.

Cindy:             Hey, how are you?

Alyssa:            Welcome.

Cindy:             Thank you.

Alyssa:            So I read a blog – it’s probably been at least two or three weeks ago, of some really tough stuff that you went through about four weeks ago.  Can you tell our listeners a little bit about what happened and then what you went through emotionally and mentally after this stuff kind of hit you pretty hard?

Cindy:            Sure, yeah.  Well, one of my friends that I’ve been friends with for 20 years or so had a daughter who was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer almost three years ago, and her daughter was about 19, I believe, when she was diagnosed.  They didn’t quite exactly know what kind of cancer it was initially just because it was a rare form of Ewing’s sarcoma, which is a rare cancer to begin with, but it had a very rare presentation for her.

Alyssa:            And what does that mean?

Cindy:            So for Ewing’s sarcoma, it’s a childhood cancer that usually develops in the bones, and it’s usually the femur, like the leg bones, or sometimes the pelvis bones.  But for her, it started in soft tissue.  It started in her uterus, and so her presenting symptom was heavy periods.  So for a 19-year-old with heavy periods, that is fairly common, you know, so she was not really concerned at first because so many teenagers have heavy periods.  I mean, that’s just kind of part of your body trying to figure out what kind of cycles you’re going through; if you’re athletic, if you’re dieting, if you’re whatever, your periods are going to be a little bit off.  So her period started getting a little heavier and didn’t think much about it at first.  Then she went to the doctor, and the doctor was like, well, you know, maybe let’s try a birth control to try to cycle you better, control your cycle.  And after several months, it just wasn’t helping, so they tried a different pill, and they weren’t getting the results they expected, so then they thought just to do a quick ultrasound, a pelvic ultrasound, to see if there was a fibroid or something causing the extra bleeding.  And they found a mass, which they thought was a fibroid, which would be very clinically acceptable, and yet that would make sense, but when they saw the fibroid, I guess it looked a little bit different, enough for them to decide to biopsy it.  And the biopsy showed it was cancerous.  And then it took several other steps to figure out what kind of cancer it was because it just wasn’t like a typical uterine cancer or an ovarian cancer.  And so when they found out that it was this Ewing’s sarcoma, it had been a few months.  It was a rare cancer to begin with, and it just presented differently.

Alyssa:            So instead of bones, they found it in the uterus?

Cindy:            In the soft tissue, yeah.  So she battled cancer for about two and a half years, and her body just couldn’t fight anymore, and at age 22 years old, she succumbed to the cancer, which was devastating for her parents, for her friends, for her family.  It’s just such a sad, incredibly awful situation because as a mom, you can completely relate to how you could put yourself in the shoes – you would never, ever want to, but you can just imagine the complete grief and devastation that would cause.  So we kind of knew it was coming just because we would get little updates and stuff that she’s really not responding to this medicine or that medicine, and we’ve called in hospice.  We could kind of see their progression, but it didn’t really sink in until you get that final text that she had passed because you kept thinking, “She’s 22.  She’s young.  She’s vibrant.  She’s got all this life ahead of her.”  And it just didn’t seem like it was actually really going to take her life.  It was just very hard to wrap your head around.  So that was four weeks ago yesterday, and it has just really rocked our friend group, and you just don’t even know what you’re going to feel like until it’s actually there, on you.  We were kind of going through the motions; we were trying to figure out what little ways we could help support our friend or just being in the sidelines, just praying for their family.  So in the midst of that, that same week, one of my close friends that I’ve known for 25 years – we lived together when we were in our 20s.  We’ve known each other forever.  She had been diagnosed with leukemia about a year ago and had gone through the treatment, had gone through a stem cell transplant.  Things seemed to be going great.  She had great energy; she was really starting to look and feel completely normal.  And that same week that my friend’s daughter Kate had died, I got a text from my friend and she said, “I need to tell you my cancer’s back.  We’re leaving tomorrow for Texas.”  So, boom.  You just don’t know when something like that hits you how you’re going to react, and for me, it – besides being so sad for my friend and for her family, as a mom, you just aren’t thinking through all these things, you know, what if she has to leave her kids?  This is now my adult friend.  If she passes, she’s leaving behind teenagers and a nine-year-old.  What is her new normal going to be now?  What is this all – how is this new chapter, this new season, going to look?  So I just really felt like I shut down.  For about two to three weeks, I had a very, very hard time just with normal activities because nothing is normal anymore.  You know, my friend’s family is still struggling, obviously.  They’re in Texas getting treatment, and her kids have been kind of back and forth, and her kids are there right now with her.  Her husband and her nine-year-old are staying down there in Texas.  It was just one of those times, I guess, in life where you really realize that we’re not in control, and it was just – it kind of hit me in a way that I didn’t expect it to hit me.  Just a lot of sadness, and the realization that so much of our lives we have zero control over.  And I’ve never really been affected this personally by cancer before, and so you hear people talk about, “Cancer sucks,” this or that, but man, when it really affects close friends and their family members, it is just is so eye-opening how pervasive cancer is in our communities, and how it is so indiscriminate for who it’s going to attack.  You can lead a super, super healthy life, and it can get you.  You can lead a really unhealthy life, and it can get you.  You can be rich; you can be poor; you can live in a great community; you can live in a poor community.  It’s so indiscriminate, and it is so everywhere, and I think that realization of – there’s this uncertainty that just really kind of hit me hard when this news came about a month ago now.  So for me personally, I just went through a little mini-depression, and for me to do any work, for me to do anything that was housework, I couldn’t bring myself to do it because it felt so inconsequential, so miniscule to what my friends were going through, that it seemed completely pointless to do the normal routines because their lives were completely shattered.  And so it was very interesting, yet I think healthy in a way, because I think when you can empathize and sympathize with people, I think that is sometimes the only way that you can really reach out to someone who’s hurting is if you are there at least with them and you can help them.  Just so that – I think if you’re hurting with them, I think you don’t even have to say any words.  You’re there with them, and you – grief is such a weird thing.  It’s such an individual thing, and everybody grieves differently.  So it’s just been a very interesting, sad, heavy kind of a last month, and I just now feel like I’m kind of starting to come out of this little hole that I dug myself into.

Alyssa:            I don’t know if it was in your blog or if we were talking, and you told me that you had a friend – I think it was in your blog.  A friend actually said to you, “Well, what are you talking about?  Your business doesn’t have to stop.”  What you’re doing for people; you’re trying to eliminate some of – screw cancer, right?  But that’s why you’re doing what you’re doing, and that kind of brought you out of the funk a little bit.

Cindy:            Exactly, yeah.  And that was something that I had dug myself in so much to this hole that it took my friend to say, “Well, wait a minute.  Yeah, cancer does suck,” and she actually has a parent who has cancer and her in-laws have both passed away of cancer, so she is very uniquely tied into the grief of cancer, herself.  But she jumped on it, and she was like, “Well, yeah, cancer does suck, and this is exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing with your natural products.”  And it kind of gave me that, wow.  She’s absolutely right.  So I could sit here and wallow in sadness and grief, which is also a needed thing.  I’m not dismissing that at all because everyone needs to grieve differently.  But it also – when she said that, it kind of gave me this tool to be like, wait a minute.  Yeah, there’s choices and reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing, and it may not feel as inconsequential as it did, you know, right after I got such sad news, but it’s a tool for me to at least feel like I can move forward, and I can help in small ways.

Alyssa:            Whatever small way you can.

Cindy:            Right, and that’s not to say that – you could do every single thing right, and you could still get cancer.  I’m not trying to dismiss that and say “Oh, you must not be following all the rules and therefore you got cancer.”  That’s not what I’m saying at all.  But we do know that if we can make our bodies as cancer-hostile as possible, we’re at least going to hopefully prevent certain types of cancers.  Some cancers are going to be more genetically predisposed or they just don’t really know why you get certain types, but we also do know that other types of cancer will grow faster, quicker, if they’re in an environment that’s going to promote disease vs. promote health.  So by her saying that to me, it really gave me almost like the fire again to be like, “Well, wait a minute.  What I am doing is helping, and it is giving people options.”  If you’re trying to be as healthy as possible, you’re going to choose products that are chemical-free, that don’t contain a lot of these chemicals that are known carcinogenics that are just kind of pervasive throughout the bath and body realm out there because they’re cheap or they provide a cheaper quality that you could get vs. a more expensive plant that you’re using in your products.  So it did give me that fire to be like, yeah, amongst the sadness and grief and pain, there are little steps that we can do individually to promote wellness and to promote health, and I feel like I’ve got my little corner where I can use Cindy’s Suds to at least offer families a chemical-free option for bath and body needs.  And so I’ve kind of had to keep grasping back to that to remind myself, “This is why I’m doing what I’m doing.  This is why I’m doing it.”  So whereas the reason I started Cindy’s Suds was because one of my sons had really bad skin issues, bad eczema, super dry skin, I feel like ten years later, I’ve got this renewed fire to be like, well, wait a minute.  Yeah, this is what started me, the skin issues.  And now the cancer is this newfound fire in my soul, that I can use this sadness and this grief that I’ve experienced with my friends and use that more as a fire to move on and to continue offering products that are safe just so that we have alternative choices instead of this sea of chemical-laden products that are out there.  I’m not they saying will cause cancer, but I’m saying we do know that there are so many things that are bad for our bodies, and why not try to eliminate as much as possible so that you’re trying to at least start out on as best a footing as you can because cancer does not pick and choose its victims.  And so if you can create a healthier, cancer-hostile environment in your body, you’re better off starting there than you are two steps backwards where you do have those chemicals in your system.

Alyssa:            Right.

Cindy:            So kind of a big mind-shift, philosophy-shift, heart-shift has occurred over this last month, and it’s just – yeah.  It’s been a learning month for me, I feel like.

Alyssa:            Thank you for sharing, first of all.  But I’m glad that you’re finding that new fire and you can still be a great friend to your friends.  Thank you for sharing.  We’ll have Cindy on again soon.  If you have any questions for her, you can find her on her website.

Cindy:            Sure, you can reach me at my website, www.cindyssuds.com.  There’s a link to get ahold of me directly from the website.  You can also email me directly at cindy@cindyssuds.com.  And if you have any insight into what we’ve talked about today or if you want to share your story, I just feel like we can all be connected in the stories that we share and how we support each other through those.

Alyssa:            Absolutely.  Thank you so much.


Podcast Episode #14: Grief Read More »

mom guilt

Mom Guilt: How to Survive it and Grow from it

Today’s guest blogger is a past birth client of ours, Nicole Vega, LMSW, CHC. Nicole is a fully licensed clinician and certified health coach. Nicole received her Master’s in Clinical Social Work in 2012 from Western Michigan University and became certified as a health coach in 2016. Her work is founded on the principle that individuals are the experts of their own lives, and therefore their own best healers. Nicole believes it is her role to establish a safe therapeutic space where she can assist her clients in focusing on their strengths and uncovering the tools needed to address what is causing them discomfort and stress in their lives; which may be manifesting as anxiety, depression, weight gain or other obstacles.

Today’s blog is going to focus on the guilt that many mother’s feel. Although both parents can experience feelings of guilt, it seems to be more prominent in mothers, but these tips are beneficial to all parents.

If you are a mother, or an expectant mother, it is likely that you’ve experienced at least some degree of “mom guilt”. In an article from BabyCenter.com, Top 7 mommy guilt trips – and how to handle them, the author describes mom guilt as something a whopping 94% of moms admit to having experienced. Mom guilt does not pick and choose who it affects and it does not simply affect stay-at-home moms, or working moms, or those who juggle life somewhere in between. It affects nearly every mom!

To the parents reading this today who are currently experiencing guilt, or who have in the past, please know this; you are doing enough; odds are you are doing more than enough.

So what is mom guilt exactly? Mom guilt often presents as that sinking feeling we as moms have when we think we are not doing enough for our children. That “I wish I could afford all organic everything, cook every meal from scratch, and not miss a moment of my children’s life” type of thoughts. That feeling of not being “enough” for your children. In some circumstances, mom guilt can even turn into anxiety or depression. The good news for all you moms/parents reading this today is there are ways to decrease these feelings of not being enough. As a mother of two myself, I can completely relate to mom guilt in its many forms. Though I do not believe you can eliminate all feelings of guilt related to parenting, I do believe you can find great ways to cope and to make the moments in which you experience this type of guilt less daunting.

So here is my go-to list of ways to combat mom guilt; but remember, for these tips to work you have to actually use them and implement them as much as possible on the days, weeks, and months when mom guilt has you struggling the most.

Tip #1: FIND YOUR TRIBE: Find a group of people to support you during these long days but fast flying years. Think of the expression you’ve probably heard a million times, “It takes a village”. Well, it does take a village. This group will look different for everyone. It maybe a group you create at church, with mothers from your children’s school, work friends, or maybe even people within your family. The amazing thing here is that you get to design this group and determine who will be a part of your tribe. It really is a beautiful thing, and is vital to getting through the trappings of mommy guilt.

Tip #2: DEVELOP YOUR OWN SELF-CARE TOOLKIT: There are about a million different articles and posts on what self-care is, or what people believe it “should be”. I, however, have come to understand that self-care is different for everyone. I have seen this in my own life and as a clinician and certified health coach working directly with other women. I think often we see self-care as having to be elaborate, when in reality, that just simply is not an option for the majority of moms. So finding simple things you can do that truly work for you is key. Your tool kit may include having consistent date nights with your spouse/partner, developing a yoga practice, taking a relaxing epsom salt bath, or maybe something as simple as having 10 minutes a day to read a book you love. This toolkit will require some trial and error, and in many cases require you to ask for help from others, but hey since you’re going to find a nice tribe to become a part of, you’ve now got a ton of built in babysitters just a call away!

Tip #3: FIND A FORM OF MOVEMENT THAT YOU LOVE: Similar to your self-care toolkit, finding movement that you love will require some trial and error, but once you find what works, it’s a game changer! Healthy-healing movement can be a number of things: dance, martial arts, yoga, kickboxing, running, walking, barre, or cycling. All these are just a few great options to choose from. An amazing thing about being a parent today, is we have access to so many great options of movement, many of which you can do from the comfort of your own home (some of which are completely free). When I’m working with clients as a coach (who have been cleared for adding movement into their routine) I begin by asking them what types of movement they enjoyed before it became about “weight loss” or “having to workout”. I do this because participating in movement that you actually enjoy creates a mindset shift, which in turn creates a shift in your body. It has taken me many years to find what “my movement” is, and I am still surprised to say that for me it’s yoga. I am surprised because when I was much younger I used to despise yoga and found it boring. I now have learned that yoga may not always be exciting for me, but it is always healing.

Now I could offer a few more tips in this article, but I find that once you give more than three, people become overwhelmed and have difficulty even choosing one to incorporate into their lifestyle, at least initially. As a certified health coach and therapist who works primarily with women (many of which being mothers) one-on-one I am able to help women learn to implement the tools I mentioned here, as well as, assisting them in developing more. My goal is to help my clients move forward feeling empowered in their role as a mother and less overwhelmed by it.

If you are feeling like you are experiencing more than just infrequent episodes of mom guilt and are feeling overwhelmed, depressed, or in a state of anxiety over the many hats you wear as a parent, I’d love to help! As a health coach and therapist, I create my sessions and programs to meet your needs, so you can achieve your goals. I am driven by a person-centered focus when working with clients, rather than a specific model of care. I can see clients both locally in my office or via tele-health services.

If you are in a stage in life where you would like to investigate therapy or coaching, you can contact me directly at http://healthforlifegr.com/experts/nicole-vega/ .






Mom Guilt: How to Survive it and Grow from it Read More »

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