evolution

Next month it will be 10 years since I took my first birth doula training. Something about a decade makes me reflective. So much has happened in that time, various jobs (both full and part-time), new doula-related skills and certifications, growth and loss in our family. So it goes. I’m grateful for the opportunity to do this work and I’ve learned so much.

As my doula work has evolved, I’ve been able to focus more on my strengths and preferences in the field and I’m on the cusp of defining a stronger practice that will benefit myself, my family, and of course clients! Here are just some of the changes hatching…

Building in Queens

I want to continue to build a practice in Queens, as supporting local families and not having to commute for hours is wonderful! One step on this is a new parent / breastfeeding support group I’m hosting on Tuesday September 24 from 10 – 11:30am at 2nd Story Pilates and Yoga in Jackson Heights. There will be SNACKS and FREE BOOKS. We’ll see how it goes and maybe it can become a regular gathering!

Secondly, as I was recommitting to evolving my practice and focusing on Queens, the amazing Leigh Cohen was ready to leave doula work. She put in so much work and heart into growing the Astoria Doula Collective and I was thrilled that it worked out for me to take over. I can’t wait to help doulas find work and help Queens families find support! I will revamp the website (it’s pretty glitchy right now, please stand by) and Collective offerings so keep an eye out for fresh new things. Our doulas have a wide range of talents, expertise, and skills to benefit growing families. Follow us on the socials (@astoriadoulas on FB and IG) and tag us when people are looking for support!

More Classes and Consults

I truly enjoy teaching and coaching new parents, helping them figure out newborn care and what works best for their family. And mostly reassuring them that they can do this! I’ll be doing more postpartum consults that focus on education rather than the “mother’s helper” tasks that can sometimes define postpartum doula support (which is also essential).

Next, the former Your Birth Experience has recently come under new ownership and been revised and updated as Flourishing Families. I’ve gotten back into the training and I’m excited to offer a very different childbirth/baby/breastfeeding course to local parents, hopefully as soon as November. As they state:

“Flourishing Families is now a holistic Childbirth Education and Doula Training designed to inspire and empower individuals to CONNECT with what is most important to them, IDENTIFY their needs and desires, and become EQUIPPED to create meaningful experiences they will cherish for a lifetime.”

It’s a unique course because it’s all about turning inward and figuring out your ideal birth (and breastfeeding/baby) experience rather than learning about ALL the things. So while it won’t be for everyone, it’ll be a great option for the local parents with whom this resonates, who want something short and intimate. There will an an option for a combined birth/breastfeeding/baby course (probably 8 – 10 hours over 2 – 4 meetings) or just taking one or two of the three! I hope to have dates and locations finalized soon!

I’m continuing on the infant sleep educator course with bebo mia. They are offering an updated course starting in February and I am excited about the revised content and its emphasis on infant neurological development. I’ve worked with so many exhausted parents as a postpartum doula and I look forward to helping them learn how to be more well-rested and instill healthy sleep habits for the whole family. This will eventually be a class so new parents will be better prepared for sleep challenges, with the option of private consults to help parents troubleshoot sleep issues. It won’t be sleep training, I know other amazing professionals to refer to for that!

I’m also completing a training in pregnancy and infant loss with Nneka Hall so I’ll be better able to support families as they navigate those painful experiences.

And one more fun thing!

I had an enjoyable meeting and interview with Jasmine and Shruti from Freshly Moms this summer, a small food company focused on nourishing, easy snacks and meals for the newly postpartum parent. I trekked out to Jersey in the melting July heat and of course got lost and ran late, so embarrassing! I don’t think the interview was shared (unless I missed it) but I loved the chance to meet the women who run it and help support their vision of supporting new mothers. Check them out here and get 15% off your first order with code PMC10! (If you sign up through my affiliate link AND use code PMC10 I will also get a small commission on your first 2 months’ purchases, so thank you kindly.) And say congratulations to Shruti who just had her second baby!

And so, as I add services that I’m more energized by, I have had to drop some as well. I’m no longer doing placenta encapsulation or belly binding. I enjoyed the times I was able to connect with clients for those services, but the time is right to move on.

Thanks for your support and be in touch!

Reentry Ruminantions

Happy boy even as mama heads back to the rat race!

My maternity leave ended about 3 weeks ago. I’m still readjusting and figuring out how to be a working mom again [yes, I know all mothers are hard-working mothers but you know what I mean].

By US standards, my leave was awesome! 12 weeks paid through maternity leave and disability, and I was able to add 2 weeks of vacation on either side, for a total of 16 weeks paid leave. I finished work at 38 weeks pregnant and had exactly a week to get the nest in order as Leo arrived at 39 weeks on the dot.

Being on leave reminded me of how critical that time is for the mother and whole family. I needed that time to establish successful breastfeeding, rest and recover from birth, help my older son adjust, and bond with the new baby. It is such an emotional and chaotic time that I can’t imagine trying to function at a job as well. But heading right back to work is reality for many new mothers in the US. Even now with Leo at 4 months, I’m still tired as he still wakes to nurse at night, but it feels like nothing compared to the exhaustion of the newborn weeks.

I’m also very fortunate to have a clean private room for pumping at work. Euphemistically called the ‘wellness room,’ it’s set up for pumping and helps to keep up my milk supply, ensuring Leo continues to get my milk when I have to be away.

In fact, there is a lot of attention these days to making sure that employers provide nursing moms with appropriate space and time for pumping. This is absolutely important– an investment in mothers, families, and the health of babies! However, I do worry that the focus on pumping at work distracts from something for which we should all continue to advocate and that is paid parental leave in this country! Both are crucial!

I’m sure industry appreciates the focus on pumping as this means: more sales of expensive single user breastpumps, bottles, nipples, and breastmilk storage bags; and employers not shouldering the financial and administrative burden (to put a negative spin on it) of paying for an absent employee AND someone to fill in for her temporarily. But if pretty much every other country in the world can figure this out, I’m confident we can too, America! Did you know we’re one of only FOUR countries in the world without paid leave for new mothers? Yikes.

Check out MomsRising.org which currently has a petition on paid family leave. Please sign and pass it along!

Further reading:

You can read more about the critical issue of family leave in the US on the MomsRising site here. It’s eye-opening and shows why our babies, parents, and families deserve better.

Sociological Images posted some maps which give a nice visual on paid leave (maternity and otherwise) around the world.

This article illustrates (with graphs!) why family leave is a class issue. They also link to this article which goes into more detail and has a cool interactive on how education and race/ethnicity impact access to paid leave.

What about you? Were you able to take maternity leave? If you have a partner, did s/he also have access to leave? Was it paid? For how long? How did it work out for your family?