The Importance of Registering for Services: Podcast Episode #142
Kristin and Kaitlin McGreyes of Be Her Village discuss the importance of registering for services vs. things and her groundbreaking new gift registry platform. You can listen to this complete podcast episode on iTunes, SoundCloud, or wherever you find your podcasts.
Welcome. You’re listening to Ask the Doulas, a podcast where we talk to experts from all over the country about topics related to pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and early parenting. Let’s chat!
Kristin: Hello, hello. This is Kristin with Ask the Doulas, and I’m joined today by Kaitlin McGreyes. How are you, Kaitlin?
Kaitlin: I’m so great, Kristin. Thank you so much for having me. I’m really excited to be here.
Kristin: Yeah, I’m thrilled to chat with you. So if you would give us a bit about not only your experience in the maternal space but also some info about Be Her Village, your online platform and registry.
Kaitlin: Absolutely. Well, I didn’t set out to be in the maternal space, actually, until I became a mother. I was a special ed teacher in New York City, and I went to go have my first child, and I just had a really underwhelming experience. And I feel like part of what was underwhelming about it or traumatic – I sometimes don’t embrace the word traumatic for my first experience, but part of it was like, I thought I knew what I needed. I thought that I had done the right things, and then it sort of just all fell apart anyway. And, like, the birth fell apart. The birth went sideways. I ended up with a C-section, which was fine. It was, like, the first time in my birth that somebody listened was when I was like, can I have a C-section? Can this be over? Can we just get the baby out? And what happened, though, is like I landed sort of in postpartum with a newborn with cracked and bleeding nipples with a C-section with my body sort of torn to pieces – sorry for anyone who’s pregnant and listening to this! But I was, like, in this really tough spot. My husband had to go back to work. There was no paternity leave for him, and I was alone in my nursery, and I was just looking around and I was, like, surrounded by all this stuff, and I was alone and I needed help, and I didn’t have it. And that for me was like my entry into motherhood. And so it set me on this journey of sort of trying to figure out what happened to me and why. Why an independent, intelligent, outspoken young woman could, like, sort of have this horrible experience of feeling voiceless and powerless and then alone and unsupported as I became a mother. And so the first place that brought me was into doula work. I actually had a second birth where I hired a doula. It ended up being a VBAC birth, which was wonderful and life-altering. But I’m always so careful to say that. The stuff that was hard about my first birth was not the C-section, and the stuff that was joyful and transformative about my second was not the vaginal birth. It was everything else. You know, it was, like, finding my own power and stepping into it and finding my voice and being more active in my care and choosing care providers, that sort of thing. And after having, like, this completely different experience the second time, I thought, well, I need to do something. I need to do something. I’ve always been the kind of person that wants to “change the world,” and at least I can work with mothers and I can help them have more of the second kind of birth, more of an empowered birth, more of an experience where they understand the choices that are in front of them and understand how to navigate their birth space and their birth team and how to have a better birth experience. So I ended up going through my doula training when my second baby was five months old, and almost right away, I started doing doula work full time. I ended up founding a doula team and just really went really hard into doula work for about five years after. And I had another baby in the middle of that, as well. And so it’s not really something I planned on, but I just – after going through the maternal healthcare system myself and experiencing the shortcomings of it myself, I really couldn’t just go back to normal life, you know? Motherhood just changed me and altered me, and it made me take action into it. So that’s my background in this maternal health space. What I’m doing right now is actually sort of a natural progression of that. So it’s like, okay, gave birth, jumped in, hands-on doula work. And at a certain point, I was just feeling like, all right, so we’re doing 50 births a year, let’s say, and that’s wonderful, and the people we were reaching were having really just incredible experiences deeply impacted by the work that they were doing within our practice. We were running workshops. We were – you know, it wasn’t just doula support. It was a lot. And then it’s like, all right, well, how do we make sure everybody can have this? I started learning about Black maternal mortality in our country and that four times as many Black women are dying as white women. I learned that 12 times as many Black women are dying in New York City, my city, versus white women. And I started really just waking up to – and still it’s sort of an unfolding, right, as a white person to wake up to this sort of thing – I started waking up to the inequities that exist in our country. I started realizing that the reason why people aren’t hiring doulas isn’t necessarily because they don’t know about us. It’s becoming a lot more popular. Often it’s because they don’t have the money and they don’t have access to our care. And so I thought, well, how can I change that? How can I do that? Without doing what somebody else is doing, like, what can I create? What can I add to this plethora of all these intelligent, creative beings that are working on this? And I started thinking about something I think – I wonder if you can relate to and what many people that are listening can relate to, which is, like, this idea that we have people walking around with, like, $900 strollers and the fanciest of baby gadgets, and they don’t have a doula because they can’t afford it. But, like, where did they get that stroller from or that fancy baby gear? They didn’t buy it themselves. Their families bought it for them. Their friends bought it for them at their baby shower. And so I started thinking about baby showers as this point of support going towards families, but that support is coming at them in the form of thousands of dollars of baby stuff that, as anybody who’s already had a kid knows, we don’t use at least half of it, right? It takes up space. And then you have mothers who are – I mean, parents in general also, but really mothers who are just left behind, who are ignored, who are just sort of, okay, you had your baby. Cool. Go home. We’ll see you in six weeks. And there’s no in-home support. There’s no support system that’s built in. Some of us are lucky enough to have one. Some of us are lucky enough to have thousands of dollars to pay for one. But the vast majority of women are struggling and are going without their needs met and are going through this incredibly transformative time in our lives completely alone. And the outcomes really support that. Like, we are just behind as far as, if you look on an international scale, the United States is the only developed country with rising maternal mortality, 50% of which of women are dying after their babies are born, after they’ve left the hospital. So there’s this huge gap in care, and while I don’ think Be Her Village and our gift registry is the answer to the entire maternal mortality crisis, I think it is one answer. I think what we’re doing is offering parents a way to line up their support team ahead of time to understand thinking about support, first of all. Like, identifying that support, and then most importantly, using Be Her Village as a gift registry to get the funds in their account to pay for that support because the support we need – doulas, lactation support, pelvic floor PTs, mental health care, birth doulas, childbirth education, community support groups and classes – all of these things are not covered by insurance, and if they are, it’s patchy and not accessible to everybody. So with Be Her Village, we are offering parents a way to line up that support and get the funds that they’re getting from their baby shower in the form of a support team.
Kristin: Exactly. And can you walk us through what the experience on the platform is like? And, yeah, for not only the pregnant individual but also for healthcare-related practitioners.
Kaitlin: Absolutely, yes. So we’ll start with the parents. We created Be Her Village thinking about parents, and thinking about the people who are supporting parents. So we want Be Her Village to feel like you’re shopping on Amazon. We want it to feel really easy and really familiar, right, because I think as gift-buyers, like, to go do something new, it’s hard enough to get someone to go to a regular registry, right? So we wanted to make it feel as easy as possible. So it’s actually – it’s super simple. You go, you create a registry, and you have two options. You can create your own registry listings if you know who your support providers are. You can put them right in there and register for all the different types of support that you’d like. Or you can go into our registry guide. You put in your location, and it populates with providers that are in your area for each different category. And what you do is you fill out your registry and, you know, you can put acupuncture, childbirth education classes, diaper services, mental health care, doulas, that sort of thing. Anything that you want; it’s going to look different for each person. You connect your bank account. It’s super simple. It’s just a couple of steps, and then your friends and family, you can give them a registry card. You can send them a link to your registry. Some people put us on their invitations. Sort of a variety of ways, but you share it with your family, and then they come and they shop like they would shop on anything else. If you have a $500 doula, they can put $50 towards that doula. They can give you an entire gift or a partial gift, and those funds go directly into your bank account so that you can spend it on the support that you need. So we’re really trying to take this $12 billion that’s being spent on baby gifts, baby stuff, baby gear, and funnel that towards parents and towards support for parents. So for providers, what we also do is we want providers to be able to use Be Her Village with their own clients. So we’ve made it really easy for providers to create a free profile. All of their services can be listed on that profile, and then they can share Be Her Village within their practice and with people who are thinking about using them so that they can get clients another way of raising the funds to pay for out-of-pocket costs.
Hey, Alyssa here. I’m just popping in to tell you about our course called Becoming. Becoming A Mother is your guide to a confident pregnancy and birth all in a convenient six-week online program, from birth plans to sleep training and everything in between. You’ll gain the confidence and skills you need for a smooth transition to motherhood. You’ll get live coaching calls with Kristin and myself, a bunch of expert videos, including chiropractic care, pelvic floor physical therapy, mental health experts, breastfeeding, and much more. You’ll also get a private Facebook community with other mothers going through this at the same time as you to offer support and encouragement when you need it most. And then of course you’ll also have direct email access to me and Kristin, in addition to the live coaching calls. If you’d like to learn more about the course, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check it out at www.thebecomingcourse.com. We’d love to see you there.
Kristin: Especially during these times of COVID where family member would normally want to be very hands-on and involved after baby or babies are born, they may not be able to. And, you know, that isolation is a real issue the last couple of years.
Kaitlin: It is. Kristin, when will it be over?
Kristin: I have no idea!
Kaitlin: I’m not even a new mom, and, like, I am feeling that, and I just feel so heartbroken for people who are growing their families and starting their families during this time. It is not normal. None of this is okay. It’s just not. I don’t have anything to, like, make it better. It’s just – yes. I think part of what’s so crushing about this pandemic is that moms needed support before this pandemic, and we need it now more than ever. The hospital system is really hard to navigate, and there’s not, you know, like, library groups. That’s where I always went when I had young kids. You know, like, library classes and little gyms and all these places where moms would find the support of one another. There’s just nothing like sitting in a room with someone who is in the exact same position as you or has been, like, a month before you, to make it feel okay. And yes, absolutely, I think it’s really a struggle. I think families are trying to keep their elderly and their older generations safe, which often means isolating them from the people that, you know, that need their support, quite frankly. Or there’s travel restrictions. People don’t feel safe traveling or can’t travel to come help a new parent the way they normally would. It’s extraordinarily difficult, and now more than ever, I think we need support. It hasn’t changed in the pandemic. If anything, it’s just gotten – the need is more pressing.
Kristin: And that’s exactly why we created our Becoming a Mother course, because our clients were feeling isolated. They wanted to connect. They didn’t feel safe connecting in person, and of course, you know, their providers and pediatricians are talking about isolating, restricting visitors after baby’s born and even in the hospital with visitor restrictions. There has to be a way to connect, and I know you have Facebook connecting groups and you’ve done things beyond just the virtual platform and registry.
Kaitlin: Oh, absolutely, yeah. So we are – I mean, we’re actually – it’s an active goal of ours is to really build out that community of parents because, you know, the people who understand the need for support, the people who are starting off their parenthood journey or in the middle of their parenthood journey and are finding Be Her Village, it’s really a select crowd, you know? It’s really, like, people that are thinking about themselves and thinking about their baby’s needs as their needs, too. Right? Like, it’s not just about the baby. It’s about the dyad of the parent/baby relationship. And so we are finding more and more ways with our Facebook groups, and we’re going to start introducing some virtual events soon of just, like, let’s get together in a room and let’s connect because it’s really special to have, you know, other people who are likeminded and who understand that need for support. It’s a completely different way of thinking, quite honestly. We have this reel that’s going viral right now or, I guess, went viral on Instagram, and it has 2.2 million views the last time I checked. It’s kind of wild, because we, like, put it up – we put reels up all the time, and nothing happened. And then three weeks later, I don’t know what happened in the Instagram algorithm, but it just started taking off. But the comments are so revealing because there’s so many people in the comments telling us – telling me, telling Janelle, telling us as Be Her Village, that we’re just – that we are being ungrateful and that we don’t deserve support as mothers, that if you become a mother, you’re on your own. And it’s just, like, this toxic poison out there. And it’s like, well, you know, you get what you get and you don’t get upset. And I’m like, literally about write a dissertation on, like, people-pleasing and how it creates – and how telling little girls that creates people-pleasing women, you know, and how we just need to stop and just recognize that. And so I feel like it’s tough because there’s so much that needs to shift, and a lot of it needs to shift within us. So to find other people that already sort of have this basic understanding of motherhood should not be punishment, and it’s not something that’s done alone, but it’s something that we do within a community and interdependence and being uplifted by others is not just a way, it’s the way. It’s the only way. It’s the only way anything moves forward, and I think there’s just a really unique set of people that understand that right now, and we’re growing that awareness as we go. But I think as a new mom, it can be really – there’s nothing better than finding your people, you know? Than finding people that really understand the experience that you’re going through, and I think that’s so valuable. So the course that you guys are doing, it’s just – I think the more options and the more access that new parents, especially in a pandemic but always, have to connection and support is – there can’t be too many, for sure.
Kristin: Exactly. And I feel like, you know, again, there’s this hustle and bustle in the US about getting your body back into shape, not asking for help, just getting back to work as soon as possible, and so much pressure compared to traditional cultures where they support families for at least the first 30 days, some into a year.
Kaitlin: Yes. So we were on NPR, and I had to do a presentation as part of the NPR fellowship, and I did research into what other countries have. And let me tell you, Kristin, it is, like, mind-boggling. There’s this, like, strange American individualism that is, quite frankly, toxic. This whole, like, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, like you can do it, and if you don’t, you’re on your own. I don’t get it. I think I probably should have been born in Europe or something. I don’t know. But I just don’t get it. I don’t get this idea that we are completely on our own and that if we are failing that, like, we’re bad. You know? And I just don’t – I just think that, like, if you look at any other developed country besides the United States, mothers are thriving. They’re thriving. And that’s not to say that things aren’t, like, needing improvement. But their maternal mortality rates are down and dropping, whereas ours are up and climbing, which is unacceptable right there. But maternal mortality is really – like, the mortality, mothers dying, is one end of a spectrum, right? So, like, yeah, women – maybe more women are surviving, but, like, are they thriving? Is their mental health intact? Are our pelvic floors intact? Are we breastfeeding at the rates that we’d like to be? Are we losing income? Do we have paid maternity leave? Like, there’s just so many pieces of this puzzle that we need to address, and instead of thinking of it as, like, I was able to get through this, it’s like, well, I deserve – I deserve – I shouldn’t have to be strong. I shouldn’t have to know all of these things. I shouldn’t have to have $10,000 to hire the best support team. It should just be the way. It should be easy for mothers to become mothers and to stay whole and be supported every step of the way. And so that’s the world I’m working towards, where we’re normalizing mothers being supported, where we’re normalizing thinking about them as we’re gifting. When we think of making a gift for a baby shower, usually it’s because you want to help. You want to make it easier for that family as they transition. And so with Be Her Village, what we’re doing is we’re saying, well, there is a way. There’s a way for you to give a gift that will be meaningful and impactful and will really help this family as they transition and welcome this baby.
Kristin: So much better than clothes that they’ll outgrow or an extra baby blanket.
Kaitlin: Yes. Kristin, let me tell you, we are making so many baby blanket makers very angry on Instagram. They’re very offended.
Kristin: Oh, no.
Kaitlin: It’s okay. We’re going to make people mad because we’re saying something that’s kind of a big deal. You know, it shouldn’t be a big deal to say moms deserve support and, hey, why don’t we gift them some support for their baby shower, but there’s lot of people that are really suck in their ways and stuck in, well, you have to – you know, you have to gift people this thing, or I used this gadget. What people don’t understand, though, is, like, baby showers were created by the baby gift industry. They created it as a ritual so that they could sell their stuff. It’s really all created and manufactured, and I think that what we’re trying to do with Be Her Village is in line with what you guys are doing. It’s like, it’s about getting back to the basics of coming together and supporting the mother and focusing on what actually matters. And the truth is, a bunch of plastic gear that you may or may not use is not really the thing that new parents need.
Kristin: No. So, we are running out of time, but feel free to give our listeners any last tips or advice about this amazing and terrifying journey into motherhood.
Kaitlin: Yeah. What would my advice be? I would just say – there’s so many things that come to mind. I would say to, if nothing else, look at your baby as needing first and foremost a well-supported caregiver. And so when you think about how can I care for my baby, it’s how can I care for myself. Oxygen mask goes on you first so that then you can take care of them because, I mean, it’s really – that’s what it comes down to is that we have to care for the parents so that they have the energy and the stability and the joy in parenting that they deserve and that the baby deserves. So please, think about yourself. Think about your support team. Create a support plan. You can go to Be Her Village, find out more about types of support available and create your registry and start getting the funds to pay for that support that you deserve.
Kristin: Exactly. Beautiful. And so you’re on quite a few social platforms. Outside of your website, how else can our listeners connect with you?
Kaitlin: Great. So definitely behervillage.com. We are also on Instagram, and Janelle, who’s actually a former doula client turned friend turned employee with Be Her Village, she does reels every week, and they are hilarious. So definitely go check out our Instagram if you’re not following us there. We’re also on Facebook, and so we have Be Her Village community group for professionals and families and support, not just actively pregnant people but, you know, their parents, grandparents, that sort of thing. And we also have Be Her Village professionals group for any professionals that are looking to network there. We are also on Facebook. We have a Facebook page. And we have a podcast, as well, actually. You can find us on podcast apps pretty much everywhere. And we do a little bit different from this. We talk to both parents and professionals. It’s a mishmash of the two, talking about the types of support that are available because I have to be honest, I’ve been a mom for almost ten years, which is absolutely nuts to say, and I have three kids, and I’ve been a doula for seven years, and I’m still kind of learning. Sometimes I get surprised about the types of support that are available and, like, the real nuance behind how important it is and what people are doing. So I learn a whole lot doing those podcasts. Really, really fun.
Kristin: Well, thank you so much, and I love everything you’re doing and appreciate your insight, Kaitlin.
Kaitlin: Of course, Kristin. Thank you so much for being part of this and for inviting me. I just love the work that you’re doing, and I think that the only way forward as an industry, and now I’m talking to birth professionals, is to work together. And so I’m really grateful for you for the invitation.
Kristin: Yeah, it’s so true, and we’re very thankful to be on your platform, and the Facebook support group has been great. So really appreciate it.
Kaitlin: Excellent. Wonderful. Thank you so much.
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