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A couple of weeks ago, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Margi Deneau-Saxton (RN, CCE, CLC, CIMI®, CPD), Teresa McCullen (BS, IBCLC, RLC, LCCE, CIMI®), and Leslie Saxton (LMT, CIMI®) about their business, MotherNurture. MotherNurture is a wonderful resource for local pregnant and newly postpartum mothers and is, by far, the most unique provider member we have – so unique, in fact, that we had to invent a new category for them because the categories we already had could not adequately convey what their business has to offer to our community!

So, you might be wondering, “What is a Collaborative Childbirth Service?” or “What is MotherNurture?” and we hope that this interview helps to answer those questions for you!

All three main women of MotherNurture – Margi, Teresa, and Leslie – are certified infant massage instructors. Margi is also a perinatal nurse, lactation counselor, childbirth educator, and postpartum doula. Leslie is also a massage therapist who offers prenatal as well as postpartum massage and is a doula. Teresa is also an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and a childbirth educator. These three women work together to provide a service that, aptly named, nurtures mothers so their clients can better nurture their babies and families.

MotherNurture also works closely with other birth professionals in the community such as South Carolina home birth midwife Tavish Brinton LM, CPM and artist Elizabeth Barnes who does belly casting.

The Interview – Part 1

Margi met with me at her daughter Leslie’s lovely massage space on a warm, bright Friday morning. Margi and I talked first about how MotherNurture began and then what a postpartum doula does when Teresa and Leslie joined us a little bit later.

Me – How did Mother Nurture begin?

Margi – I began my nursing career in 1967, worked in Women’s Health, then, married a military officer and chose to be a “stay-at-home mom”.  I birthed all of our six children while living several states away from my family. I think I soon realized that my local friends had the support of their mothers and therefore, had uniquely different perinatal experiences. Some of my children were a year old before my mother even got to see them. In 1996, I returned to work when our youngest was ten, and after my husband had a heart attack. I worked as a perinatal nurse case manager in Jefferson County, GA with the Rural Health Outreach Program of the MCG School of Nursing. Our Director had a real commitment to making a difference in the lives of the women we served.  My clients lived in matriarchal systems but they didn’t really have the support of their families or mothers. So, I studied infant massage and began teaching these women how to massage their babies and we saw their home environments begin to change. They learned how to communicate with and respect their children.

Margi’s training in infant massage, her community work, and her experiences raising her children away from her family all contributed to the beginning of MotherNurture.

After some thoughtful consideration, in 2004, Margi came up with the name “MotherNurture” and she and Leslie began teaching infant massage at several locations, including Lula Bloom Maternity Boutique in Aiken and then in North Augusta. There’s a doula group in New York City with the name “Mother Nurture” so Margi asked them if it would be fine to use the name before starting this group.

Their business is not only about infant massage though. Not by a long shot!

Margi – We had a client for the infant massage class and when she arrived, I thought she’d left the baby at home, but the baby was actually in a Moby under her winter coat so we got involved with and became a local distributor of Moby Wraps.

MotherNurture also provides Postpartum Doula services – a service that is uncommon in the CSRA.

Me – What do Postpartum Doulas do?

Margi – Basically, it is all about flexibility. Postpartum doula care is a continuation of the mother’s care from the birth. The doula “nurtures the mother.” Our focus is not on the baby but focuses on the mother being nourished, rested, and having time for self-care. This means a postpartum doula might take care of the baby so the mom can take a shower or bath without worrying about the baby.

Another key component of the doula’s function is education – not in a didactic way – but by modeling or making suggestions. The postpartum doula comes alongside the parent(s) and together they decide what support the family needs. Some clients have informational needs, like how to take care of a baby and the mother herself, and others have practical needs like running errands or helping with other children or fixing meals. Most doulas will step up to the plate and do what needs to be done.  This might include assistance with breastfeeding and comfort measures, helping family members learn how to mother the mother, teaching and modeling newborn care (baths, circumcision/non-circumcision care), and providing instruction in swaddling, holding and babywearing.

Postpartum doulas help calm nervous new mothers and are also there to meet the needs of older children – reading stories, overseeing games/play periods and/or bringing in new activities for them to do. This provides for a more peaceful environment!  Leslie is very good at finding activities for children. By the way, Dollar Tree is a great place to find those items!

A postpartum doula can also run interference and help modulate visitors or phone calls and keep curious onlookers to a manageable number.

Margi – Sometimes our hospital patients have rooms that are full of family and friends. One situation was like a viewing in a funeral home – extra chairs all around the room, Mom sitting in the bed and nobody actually talking to her. People were sitting around and were talking to each other…about the mom, the birth, the baby etc.

Teresa – That can sometimes cause a meltdown because the mother feels like she needs to be “together” all the time.

Margi – We do encourage mothers to wait a while before having visitors in their home.  It is so easy to slide into the entertaining mode.  We can do light cleaning for them, cook some meals, and help with baby laundry or organize nursery items. We can help create spots around the house to change the baby and we may get groceries or run errand, as needed. We give foot massages, back massages, or Leslie may come in, upon request, to do a full body massage. Infant massage techniques are taught to help with gassiness and we can instruct in infant CPR.  We might support babywearing if the mom has bought a baby carrier, and needs help with learning how to use it.

Every postpartum doula creates a referral or community resources information sheet.

It’s also important to be able to recognize when a woman isn’t doing so well emotionally and to be able to recognize if she might be going into postpartum depression.

Postpartum doulas can also help the mother address family questions – like if the mother-in-law keeps asking if the baby’s getting enough milk.

Postpartum doulas do not provide medical advice. Some postpartum doulas work nights, but MotherNurture postpartum doulas work only during the day.

Margi – We don’t perform health assessments on the mother or the infant, but as health care professionals we will certainly recommend follow-up with the pediatrician or obstetrician.

A postpartum doula does not replace the father or the family, but works alongside – she doesn’t tell the mother what she should do. Sometimes they’ll ask, “What would you do?” and the doula might say, “Many mothers do this or that” or…we might turn the question back around to, “What is your gut feeling about this?”  It is so important for mothers to learn to listen to their instincts.

A postpartum doula does not act as a maid and is not a nanny even though she may assist in those areas. She also does not do baby care, but instead assists the mother with caring for the baby. MotherNurture is about nurturing the mother, not about nurturing the baby directly, because that’s the mother’s job and if the mother is nurtured then the nurturing “trickles down” to the baby as well.

Margi – A postpartum doula’s main job is to nurture the mother – mother the mother.

Me – When is the most critical time after birth that a woman needs to have a postpartum doula?

Margi – At first, they have more support from family members and friends and then, a week or so out, the mother is sitting there in an empty space saying, “Where are those people?” and “They’re too busy” and “Oh, I’ll manage. I won’t bother them.” Basically, I would think, after 3 days maybe, or late in the first week. However, for some mothers that may be different because, especially in our community, we have military families who might need help immediately. Remember… husbands don’t always help because they don’t always realize how to help.

Teresa – I think, for some women, the doula should come the day after the birth or even the day they come home, but for other women who have that “busy bee network that disappears after a week or so,” that might be another crucial period when a doula is needed.

Margi – That’s a major reason why we do a prenatal home visit and consultation to assess the couple’s lifestyle and learn their particular needs. We seek to build a service-based relationship with mutually shared expectations and a mutually agreed upon set of guidelines.  

Intermission

Assessing a family’s and/or client’s individual needs and meeting women where they are is something that the women at MotherNurture are clearly experienced with!

As mentioned earlier in this part of the interview, MotherNurture offers babywearing help and classes with the purchase of a Moby Wrap. Babywearing is wonderful – especially for mothers who have a newborn as well as a toddler to chase around. Wrap Your Baby has some excellent video and photo series tutorials about how to tie a baby wrap.

This interview ended up being fairly long for just one post, so part 2 will be posted in a few days and we’ll get to hear more about how Teresa and Leslie became involved in MotherNurture, as well as covering topics like breastfeeding and both prenatal and postpartum massage!

In the meantime, please check out MotherNurture’s website for more information and like their Facebook page 🙂

~B.