Hello! A while ago we left you in the middle of an interview with the delightful ladies of MotherNurture and this is the second half of that interview! If you have not yet read part 1 of this interview, I invite you to check it out before reading this part. There’s a fair amount of back story about the company and a great deal of information about what services postpartum doulas can provide for new mothers.
We left off last time with our topic of postpartum doulas and when mothers might need or want to hire a postpartum doula.
Interview – Part 2
Me – Do you usually get more clients who contact you prenatally or postpartum?
Teresa – Some women know they will want a postpartum doula and they know ahead of time, but others don’t and maybe somebody else identifies the need and refers them to us.
Margi – One woman from France, and living in Aiken, searched for a doula online after her baby was born. She found MotherNurture and said, “Not many doulas around here. There are more in France.” Her baby was about a week old and we actually called Teresa in on that one. That’s what Teresa does, and does well. Teresa is an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and I’m a CLC (Certified Lactation Counselor). We kick it up a notch when there’s something I am not comfortable with. In that instance, since Teresa speaks French and the French woman spoke only broken English, this made a difference in the depth of support she got.
To further address the question: It kind of varies from person to person when they’ll know they want or need a doula. Additionally, some women are gifted with a Postpartum Doula!
Teresa – Breastfeeding has been my life! My 18 year old son is the webmaster for the CSRA Breastfeeding Coalition and he talks about breastfeeding all the time. He helped with a breastfeeding flash mob for World Breastfeeding Week last year at Holy Trinity. (Teresa and Margi participated as did Margi’s granddaughter)
It’s fun that teens and kids who grew up with breastfeeding are involved.
Me (nodding) – My mother-in-law nursed my husband for 3.5 years. He remembers breastfeeding and he’s always been extremely supportive of me nursing our children for as long as they want to nurse.
Margi – I remember the first time I saw a woman with a child who was 4 years or more breastfeeding. They supported breastfeeding in our church. We had an annual event on Jekyll Island and this woman was there with a pillow on her lap and her kid was taking up almost 2 chairs. I’m watching her while breastfeeding my daughter. Her son fell asleep and she managed to get her breast out of his mouth and she carried this tall boy out of the Mother’s room on the pillow. I was sitting there with my munchkin thinking that it was ridiculous. But then, you know, when you’re breastfeeding your own you cry when they don’t want it any more. And you are willing to continue as long as they are willing.
Teresa – I remember going to a La Leche League meeting when I was pregnant and seeing an 18 month old nursing and thinking that I just don’t think I could do that – breastfeeding is great and all – but almost all my children were well over three when they weaned.
Margi – I weaned my last two ONLY because my husband made a comment that he thought weaning might be a good thing because the child was manipulating me in public. In the home, the breastfeeding was very minimal, but out in public it would get to be more… insisting with pulling up my clothing, etc. I believe both would have continued well beyond two years. Then, we had another child that, at 9 months, decided that she was going to be like her older siblings and wanted a cup, saying “NO” to the breast and – “cuppy, cuppy, cuppy.” So they’re all different, that’s for sure.
Leslie – We don’t push breastfeeding on our clients. If the mother isn’t interested, that’s it.
Teresa – We meet the needs of the family.
Margi – If they are bottle feeding, we support them in that, and we never call Teresa in to push breastfeeding.
Teresa – If you’re talking about any aspect of care, we don’t push it despite our personal beliefs. With education, there may be a change as some of these people don’t know the pros and cons, but if they continue to want to do it their way, we let them. We are there to support.
Margi – We give information, but we’re not going to push them any way.
MotherNurture is a collaboration – not a partnership. Basically, for the present, when the calls come in, Leslie is the one who does most of the work or we share the work, calling Teresa in when needed.
With Elizabeth (artist) we share her information and at our MotherNurture events, she displays her belly casting.
As far as Tavish (Licensed Midwife, Certified Professional Midwife), I do referrals and she has her own connections throughout the state. I also serve as her Birth Attendant at local births.
Our collaboration is a loose one, and the reason I keep it that way is because we each have lives, and/or jobs. We can’t really be rigid because we each have to be flexible. And remember, with postpartum work, there can be more flexibility. In that regard, it is quite different from labor doula work. If I get a call and I’m working a 12-hour shift, then I have to coordinate it with Leslie. That’s where it also helps that there are three of us.
At this point Margi realized that we hadn’t talked much about Leslie’s role in MotherNurture so we asked her to talk a bit about what she does.
Leslie – Basically, I do clinical massage. I graduated 14 years ago and I started working in doctor’s offices. I never really did the spa massage, that’s why this works so well now because of my experience in the clinical side. I love my work – any given day I might see an elderly person or an athlete, my clients are varied. I work on a lot of elderly women as well. I do pregnancy massage – some of the military wives. I have a few who are at different stages in their pregnancies which is where I’ve been able to draw on Margi and Teresa’s knowledge and to talk to Tavish, as well, about pregnancy issues. I’m constantly learning – even after 14 years.
Me – How many pregnancy clients do you usually see?
Leslie – Only about 10% of my clients are for pregnancy massage.
Margi – If we get a call from someone wanting something that we don’t offer, we’re happy to make referrals. But, Leslie has been in the past a tri-athlete and she works on sports figures and several clients are local athletes. She’s had a very interesting career. She’s clinically-based and can also take referrals from physicians – she worked for 3.5 years for an osteopath warming up patients and doing post-manipulation massage.
Leslie – I am able to nurture the new mother and I love making peppermint tea and making sitz baths – creating a spa next to the bed. I have one daughter, she’s now 17 and I was very thankful to my mom (Margi) because I had my daughter at home and she was there to be a buffer for the curiosity seekers.
Margi – Leslie is also really good with kids – in her college days she was a nanny, “Super Sitter” – she traveled with families and did a lot of work with the horse families in Aiken. Paying attention to siblings is a big part of our postpartum work.
Leslie is very modest and very sweet – I could definitely see her creating a lovely mini spa right next to newly postpartum mothers. After the interview we went in to look at her massage space, which MotherNurture also uses as a teaching room for classes. When I walked into the room I immediately felt a sense of peace and calm – it’s a very welcoming room.
We asked Teresa if she could talk a bit about herself next, since she also hadn’t been there right at the beginning of the interview when Margi gave her background.
Teresa – I have 5 children and I’ve been, in terms of lactation, I’ve been helping families for about 34 years in breastfeeding. The career of lactation is not new any more, but there was not such a thing as an Lactation Consultant when I first started. I’ve been a Certified Lactation Counselor for about 27 years. I used to have a lactation business in the community before I started working at the hospital (MCG/GHS). I’ve been at the hospital for 19 years – first as a contractor because they didn’t think breastfeeding was that important in the beginning, but then they made a job for me. That first La Leche League meeting was my first exposure to breastfeeding.
I remember my mother’s stories of birth. She was in labor and they put her in an elevator and she’d had scope (scopolamine – twilight sleep) and she thought she was going up to heaven. When I started having children, breastfeeding and home birth, I found this very interesting. I’ve had three c-sections, but I had all home labors and one home birth.
I grew up in a military family and so did my husband. I wasn’t around my family and I didn’t want people telling me anything so I didn’t access any of the sort of help that we offer now. That’s why I want people to know about this because it’s nice to know you can have the support and it can make your journey so much easier. A lot of people don’t have the community support so this is something where people can plug into and access that sort of support.
Me – How long do women usually need or want postpartum care from a doula?
Margi – First of all, we are not a long term commitment for anyone. We’ve had some women start off wanting 3-4 months, but nobody has ever needed that much. Actually, six weeks is pretty long. We address this on our initial visit and I do have a contract..
Leslie – We have a true statement, “We work ourselves out of a job.”
All three women nodded and smiled in agreement.
Teresa – If they need extra lactation support then that would be outside of the doula scope.
Margi – For a postpartum doula there’s a four hour minimum shift for about $25/hour and people can add on a la carte items (massage, infant massage instruction, babywearing – Moby wrap with instruction, LC, infant CPR class) for a little extra fee. We work from 8-5pm normally but try to keep hours flexible to accommodate their needs.
Margi mentioned a meal scheduling and delivery service called Take Them a Meal.
Margi – Another option is for the postpartum doula to participate in the creation of a meal service schedule from the listing of family/friends who have volunteered. Then, when people bring a meal over, we can make sure it’s heated up or put ingredients together – light cooking – and serve it up. Some larger postpartum doula practices, like ABC Doula in Oregon, even offer menus for clients to choose from. We are not there… yet!
Teresa – Meals are wonderful after a birth.
“Amen!” I thought.
Margi – This (the Central Savannah River Area) really is a community of many different towns and we serve them all. As a nurse, I basically doula at work – at the hospital – that’s what a postpartum nurse does! Reassurance, teaching, and nurturing are all part of the job. Also, it’s a blessing to be able to teach over there at that institution.
Teresa – We have no specific prescription or overseers for what we teach so we have a real opportunity to help mothers explore their options for birth and beyond.
Postpartum doulas are rare in our area, but their job is so very important, especially in a city with a military base where new parents may be without a familial support system and may not even have many friends in the area yet. The women at MotherNurture meet their clients where they are and help them find the options that will work best for them and for their families while gently educating them and helping them to better care for themselves, their families, and their babies.
I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to meet with these amazing women for two hours and talk about birth, babies, and new mothers! It was an absolute joy to spend time with them and I can confidently recommend them to any pregnant moms in our community who might need some extra help and nurturing after their baby is born and to any new mom who is struggling with a lack of support in the early postpartum days, weeks, or months.
Thank you, Margi, Teresa, and Leslie for being willing to spend time talking to me and for letting us share with the community more about who you are and what you do!