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Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMADs) and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) – Holiday Delight

Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder (PMADs) and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

PMAD (Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder) is the name for a range of emotional and physiological responses to pregnancy and childbirth. SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is a type of depression that comes with the change in the seasons. Usually the symptoms will start in the fall and continue throughout the winter. Reverse SAD is less common and happens through the spring and summer. Every time I sat down to write this post, I felt stumped. I was at a loss and felt a complete lack of creativity. I was exhausted, drained, and craving sunlight. I don’t currently deal with any PMADs but I DO have SAD. It finally dawned on me, I can share how SAD can affect mothers at risk for PMADs and often show up together.

About 3 months after the birth of my second baby, I felt growing malaise, exhaustion, and anxiety. I was constantly in tears and never felt like I could keep on top of anything. I developed OCD and severe anxiety. As the days got shorter and SAD set in, I started having nearly constant intrusive thoughts. The pressure at social events to be happy and fun made me want to avoid holiday parties and people in general. I didn’t want to ruin the holidays for my husband and children, but I had no desire to join in any festivities or do anything besides sleep. I didn’t think anyone would understand or want to hear about how I really felt. It felt so permanent and hopeless. I was lost and felt like a horrible mother. I was lucky that my partner realized the severity of my depression and helped me find a therapist. With the help of my therapist and supportive friends, I learned to prepare for and recognize the early symptoms of both PMADs and SAD. I developed a “recipe” to help minimize the severity of my symptoms after the births of the rest of my children and during the fall and winter when SAD peaks.


Holiday Delight Recipe
(like Turkish Delight but less edible)

● Self compassion (daily)
● Napping (as needed)
● Dash of the word NO (as needed to maintain boundaries)
● Exercise or movement (daily)
● Time (to process emotions)
● Self care (in whatever form is necessary)
● Daily time outdoors (even a few minutes is helpful)
● Mindfulness or Meditation (several times a week)
● No thank yous (to excessive sugar)
● Omega 3 Supplements (daily)
● Time (with supportive family and friends)
● Therapy (as needed)
● Medication (as needed)
● Light Therapy (if possible, daily)

1. Combine all of the above and sprinkle some more use of the word NO to maintain boundaries and balance.

For the last 12 years, I’ve used this “recipe”. It helped minimize my SAD and PMAD symptoms and I hope someone else finds it helpful as well!

Written by:

Karen Phippen

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Loving your postpartum body

                                Loving your postpartum body

It was 2011 and I was pregnant with my first child. Every week was exciting as I watched my body go through this incredible transformation. It was so crazy to physically see my body grow week by week knowing that that growth was my baby girl inside. I was one of the lucky ones and had a really easy first trimester. I didn’t get sick like I had heard so many talk about and I had lots of energy, which I was not expecting. I was happy and excited and couldn’t wait to be holding my sweet baby girl. I had always been very active leading up to my pregnancy, so going into it all I felt great about my body.
As month nine rolled around I had gained 42 lbs! My doctor didn’t seem to be super concerned but I was most definitely feeling it and really starting to see my body struggle with the extra weight. I started getting stretch marks at 38 weeks and they were BAD. I started feeling sad about my body and was really hopeful that I would deliver soon so I could avoid gaining more weight and getting more stretch marks. I also was looking forward to nursing because I would lose all the weight nursing (just like my friends did).
I delivered my baby 1 week and 5 days later and it ended in a C-section. I had a lot of water weight in addition to the baby weight I had gained. Standing in the hospital bathroom looking in the mirror I remember feeling disgusted with what I saw. “It would all be okay”, I quickly reminded myself. I was going to nurse now and all the weight would just simply “fall” off. Or so I thought.
I got home from the hospital and my milk quickly came in. I started nursing and the weight didn’t come off. “Okay fine I just had a baby. I guess I will give it some time.” But month after month of nursing I still hadn’t lost the weight. WHY wasn’t I one of those lucky moms? I’ve always heard about nursing moms who just lose the weight so easy. It just “falls” off they would say.
Well apparently that was not me. I started to struggle emotionally. I was not comfortable in my own skin. Not only did I have stretch marks and a c-section scar, I still had all of this weight that just wasn’t coming off. I found myself really starting to struggle with my physical appearance.
My motivation and will to change just stopped. I decided to purchase some new clothes because clearly I wasn’t going to be in my normal jeans like “most moms” anytime soon. It wasn’t until my baby was 9 months old when I realized, WOW I have been way to hard on myself!!!
It is natural in life to compare ourselves with others, which is exactly what I was doing. I was so used to my “dancer body” that was so tight and perfect but the second it changed I didn’t feel pretty or attractive anymore. I would get really sad and almost depressed.
I truly had to learn how to love my postpartum body. But I didn’t know how.
I was talking with a dear friend one day about how I had been feeling and how I really just wish I could get a new body. She asked me one question that changed everything.
How did you get those stretch marks and the scar on your belly?
Simple answer…I had a baby. “YES! Yes you just had a BABY. You grew a sweet baby girl for 9 months inside of you. You took care of yourself and grew a perfectly healthy baby girl.” She told me to be proud of my body and myself. Be proud of those stretch marks on my body, they tell the story of how strong I am and how my baby girl got here.
Simple enough right! I touched by belly and a light went on. She was right. My body and its new imperfections were beautiful just like my baby girl. My friend told me that my daughter and my body were a team and you worked together to create life. Yes, maybe some other moms won’t get one stretch mark or have a scar from birth, or they will walk out in their normal jeans and that’s okay. She said YOU NEED TO LOVE YOURSELF. It was that day that I stopped rolling my eyes at myself in the mirror when I would get out of the shower. I also realized there was a lot I could do right then to lose weight and love myself again. I started going to a fitness class and eating healthier and it was amazing what that alone did. As I worked to get back to my postpartum weight I cheered myself on. I kept reminding myself I was strong, I delivered a baby girl who is beautiful and healthy and I was proud of that and all that my body did for me to get her here. I wish so badly that I realized this sooner but am glad I had my friend remind me.
I have had two other babies since and it has truly made a difference for me to cherish and LOVE my postpartum body and thank it for my beautiful babes.
I am writing this today to remind you all to LOVE your postpartum body. Remember how incredible your body is and all that it has done and gone through to get these tiny blessings here. Thank your body by giving back to it. Love all the imperfections because each one of them tells a beautiful story. These days there is a lot of pressure on us women to look a certain way. Remember not to compare ourselves to others because you are not them and they are not you. LOVE that body. Give back to it and tell it thank you for all its done!
Meagan Heaton
Birth Doula, DONA
Birth Doulas

What feeding a newborn really looks like

What feeding a newborn really looks like

Expectant parents often daydream of the little fingers and little toes that will be joining their family in the coming weeks or months. Daydreaming, for most expectant parents, will also include things like diaper bags, baby carriers, and feeding. We plan, we study, and we prepare for what those first days and months of a having a newborn will be like; and when your baby is born you begin to navigate the waters of feeding. With the movement and flow of modern life, feeding a newborn looks different for every parent; and when it comes to feeding your baby, the ‘right way’ is the way that works best for both baby and parent.

Exclusively Breastfeeding: This feeding method may seen like the most common way to feed and nourish a newborn, but surprisingly, it isn’t. Exclusive breastfeeding is defined as feeding a newborn only human milk either from the breast, expressed milk, or a wet nurse for the first 6 months of life. With many excellent breast pumps on the market, and a strong global community of women donating and selling breast milk, it is entirely possible for newborns to be exclusively breastfed without ever nursing at the breast. If a mother desires to feed her baby on the breast, having the help of an experience lactation consultant, doctor, or doula can make the difference in success and joy in breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is an art, and sometimes we are natural artists with our baby, and other times we need support in developing those skills. Ask for help when you need it, early on is best. 

Part Time and Full Time Pumpers: Part of breastfeeding, for many families, is expressed or pumped milk. Using a breast pump full time or casually to express extra milk allows babies to receive the benefits of breast milk even when parents need to be away from their baby for an extended period of time, or for families where lactation is not an option. Pumping is different than breastfeeding, and it takes finesse and often times a good amount of trial and error to find the right pump, the right settings, and the right schedule for expressing milk. For parents who pump exclusively, getting on a schedule early on will help your body respond better to the  pump.

Many parents find great success with looking at a picture or holding a blanket that their baby has slept in. The smell or the sight of your baby can increase your milk flow, allowing for easier and faster pumping.

Formula: When it comes to formula, there are many options available to parents including organic and even goats milk formula. This nutrient packed food is an excellent option for babies, and allows parents to care for and nourish their newborn. With the ever growing changes and new developments in formula, the micro nutrients your baby will receive are astounding, and can provide full nutrition for your growing child. Choosing the right formula, much like many baby products, can take a few tries; some babies have sensitive stomachs and need more specialized formula. Be sure to watch for signs that your baby is not handling a brand of formula well; signs may include: gas, diarrhea, or a rash. Make sure to speak with your pediatrician when you have questions about allergic reactions.

As you can see, there are several ways to feed your baby, and the most common way to feed a baby is…a mixture of all of the above. Most parents will combine breast milk with formula at some point in the first year of life.

For parents who are worried that they will not bond fully with their newborn if they do not breastfeed, there are many ways to encourage bonding and love that have nothing to do with the breast. Other ways to bond with your baby can include:

1- Snuggle while bottle feeding

2- Bathing together

3- Reading together

4- Skin to skin

5- Wearing your baby

Partners often want to take on the joy, and relieve some of the burden of constant feeding in the early weeks after a baby is born. Encourage your partner, or other family members to feed a bottle, snuggle skin to skin, or take the baby for a walk. Feeding a baby is more about bonding, growth, and nourishment then it is about what type of milk they are drinking.

We are a community of parents supporting parents, designed to build each other up, rather than tear each other apart. As your go through your pregnancy and the early stages of parenthood, well-meaning advice will find its way to you. As neighbors, strangers, and even family try to support or sway you in your feeding choices; remember that the the ‘right way’ to feed your baby, is the way that works best for your family.

Marinda Lloyd is the Co-Owner of The Doula House L.L.C
The Doula House provides support for families from pregnancy through the first year.


Gathering Community Support with a Postpartum Plan

*Disclaimer – This is one mom’s postpartum story. We hope that you enjoy reading her story and can learn from her experience.

On May 1st, I brought my third baby into the world. Week one of my postpartum journey was filled with urgency, as I worked to complete a final paper and final exam for my most difficult class of the semester. My focus was torn between staring at my sweet baby all day, and working my brain to get through what I needed to so that I could stare at my baby all day, but without having to worry so much all the while! I was very glad that I had taken time to plan ahead for my postpartum, and most of my meals were prepared for and brought to me right in bed. Most of my work was done with my baby soundly sleeping right on my chest. And at the end of that first week, my work was in, the semester was over, and I could relax. Side note: Yes, I am crazy for going to school with the end of the semester coinciding with my estimated due date. It was a rough one; but, I did my best, kept communication open with my professors, and hoped things would work out!

Anyway, after struggling through my previous two postpartum experiences, I went through my pregnancy with a lot of concern for the newly upcoming postpartum and took ample planning time. I spoke to those close to me and reined in my people beforehand, so I wouldn’t need to question who I could call in for help if and when things got rocky. These were people I could count on to help with cleaning, with my older children, or simply to be of emotional support – people I could talk to when I was feeling down, overwhelmed, or just had a bad day. I gathered a collection of granola bars, coconut water, and some plant-based protein drinks to keep at my bedside for quick snacks any time of day or night while nursing. During my preparations, and in the six weeks after birth, I clung heavily to two books I had come across early in my pregnancy – The First Forty Days by Heng Ou and Natural Health After Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness by Aviva Jill Romm. Wonderful books that I will be recommending to the mothers I work with for years to come!

When help started to dwindle after the first week, I struggled briefly to remind my people that I still needed their help – but, when I did, I was pleasantly surprised at how easily it all worked out. I was reminded repeatedly that I was not burdening anyone – they were happy to help and only wanted me to have a more pleasant postpartum than I have in the past. These reminders were especially helpful.

Nursing has been interesting. I started out thinking my girl was a natural and that we were just going to be lucky, until the pain started to come a few hours later. It turns out she has a tie (which has yet to be corrected), and things have not been quite so smooth as I’d hoped. We’ve continued nursing, and sometimes I can still help her get a good latch, but occasionally some pain and soreness will creep up on me again for a few days or so. I haven’t had any issues with mastitis, and she has gained weight beautifully, so I have been grateful to mostly avoid any other issues, aside from the pain.

My placenta had arrived toward the end of the first week – a little unorthodox, but I had requested that there be 10 pieces simply cut, wrapped, and frozen to use in smoothies, and the rest was encapsulated. I had my placenta encapsulated with my previous birth, and I did feel that it had been beneficial, but was hoping for even more potency. I was not disappointed! I hardly felt the effects of the notorious “baby blues,” which has previously left me in a rugged state. I know that many are not inclined to do what I did, which is totally understandable – when I made my first smoothie, it took me some pep talking to get myself to take that first drink – but, I thought it was worth a try, and I would definitely do it again.

Being a postpartum doula, I know the importance of taking time to really rest and let the body recover after birth. Being a part of the yoga and fitness world, as a yoga teacher and an exercise and sport science major, I also know of the importance of fitness and proper nutrition for health and wellness. Finding a balance between the two worlds is a work in progress. During pregnancy, I stayed fairly active, mostly with yoga. At around 18 weeks I started having pelvic pain in my symphysis pubis and sacroiliac joints – pain that only got worse and worse as my pregnancy progressed. So, the last two months of my pregnancy, I hardly practiced moving through yoga postures at all, and mostly just sat in a reclined position for meditation to maintain my practice. Of course, when I started falling asleep every time I tried to meditate for more than ten minutes, even that became difficult! At six weeks postpartum, I jumped right into it again – I worked out five days out of the week for the next two weeks. I thought I was doing a decent job of progressing things, going easy to start and working into higher intensity. But, rather than just focusing on one thing, I increased my steps, as well as my workouts. My mistake was not choosing one thing to work on at a time. About a week and a half in, I started noticing my ankles swelling and feeling some pain where my achilles tendon inserts into the calcaneus (heel) bone. I finished out the week anyway, and the pain only increased. The next two weeks I decided to rest, and tried to stay off my feet as much as possible. Throughout the entire semester I had just completed, I’d had it very embedded into my head how important it is to listen to your body, and to rest when you are having persistent pain. Hearing and learning those things, and practicing them are two entirely different things, though. I have since picked up on my workouts again, really focusing and to tuning into how I’m feeling and what I need each day. It’s been interesting, but I have made myself go a lot slower this time, and have been able to maintain regular workouts and yoga for about a month and a half now. I feel that this has played a major role in my emotional and mental well-being.

Going from two to three children, I decided that I really need to work to figure how to balance self-care and being my authentic self with all the other roles I play in day to day life. I’ve read, I’ve taken quiet tea times for myself, solo walks (and some babywearing ones), and I’ve been working on waking up earlier than the little ones – which I succeed at on occasion – to steal some early morning quiet time for myself to enjoy whatever it is that calls to me – be that meditation, yoga, a cup of coffee with a book, simply enjoying an episode of a show I like, or whatever else. I’ve even been able to build a steadier meditation practice than I have had ever before. All of these things have really only been made possible due to the amount of support I have been able to gather around me, for which I have endless gratitude!

This postpartum has been very different from my last two – no nights spent crying in the bathroom, and not even any moments of self-doubt. I have had some anxiety, once or twice a week or so I deal with uncomfortable thoughts of some random thing going wrong – but I’ve gotten quite good at gathering myself and my thoughts in those moments, and simply remind myself to stay present, rather than let those thoughts drive me into an immediate panic. Meditation has been key for this honing of my thoughts. Things have not been perfect. I’ve felt lonely or overwhelmed at times. Familiar feelings, but they don’t seem to get any easier to feel. I’ve made it through these moments by having a solid support system. Being surrounded by people who care for me, sharing meals – both preparation and enjoying of delicious and nutritious foods, board games and laughs. This postpartum I have been able to cultivate an attitude of mindfulness and gratitude. I have learned to better prioritize myself, which helps me to give more in all other areas of my life. My support system has been so incredibly vital to my experience, and to helping me move confidently into motherhood with three children. As I phase back into work, and eventually back into school, I feel equipped with all of the necessary tools to always give my absolute best and only continue to grow.

Stephanie Baldi

Owner of Blue Lotus Mama & Blue Lotus Yoga
Birth & Postpartum Doula
RYT 200

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Lying In with Your Baby: The First Two Weeks – Fiona Judd

Lying In with Your Baby: The First Two Weeks – Fiona Judd

We’ve all seen her—the mom who has her baby and two days later is back in the grind of carpools, shopping, and even laundry. We wonder how she does it. We secretly hope it happens to us. Our culture seems to value women who can “bounce right back” after childbirth and leaves little time for rest and bonding. But is this realistic? Is it even healthy? As it turns out, many cultures throughout history have embraced a time of “lying in” for women after childbirth, and the benefits may surprise you. Lying in is the sacred time after childbirth that allows the new momma to rest, heal and bond with her new baby.

Mothers who observe a period of rest after childbirth will probably notice a faster physical recovery. Their bleeding will stop sooner, and they will experience less pain in their perineum. They will also notice a faster recovery emotionally, as sleep can help with the “baby blues” that are so common as the hormones adjust after giving birth.

For breastfeeding mothers, lying in is a great way to establish a healthy milk supply and ensure that baby is gaining weight. Babies who lie in with their mothers are healthier overall, as their little bodies can more easily regulate things like breathing and heart rate when in close proximity to their mother. Finally, mothers and babies are much more closely bonded when lying in occurs, as it makes it easier to read the baby’s cues and learn to soothe and care for her.

It’s true that lying in can be difficult in a more modern society. Life keeps going at an incredibly fast pace, even after you have a baby, and there are lots of things that can’t be put on hold. But with a little preparation and help from those closest to you, you can create your own period of lying in with your new baby that will provide lasting benefits. Here are some ways you—as a modern mother—can observe a two-week period of lying in with your newborn.

Set up Your Space

It’s much easier to rest and relax when your space is conducive to relaxation. The first few days after birth should be spent in bed with your baby—nursing, sleeping, and bonding. Have someone with you all day if possible to bring you meals and take care of immediate needs. This could be your spouse, parent, or other close family member or friend. If you have other children, make sure someone is available to care for their needs as well.

Place items next to your bed that you know you will need. This may include a good book, feeding supplies like bottles/formula or nipple cream and a nursing pillow, diapers and wipes, snacks, a water bottle, a thermos with warm tea, and anything else you may find yourself using frequently. You may want to set up a similar “resting station” in another area of the home such as a living room sofa. Make sure you are near a bathroom that is well-stocked with postpartum recovery supplies like pads, bottom spray, and a peri bottle.

Clear Your Schedule

As much as possible, clear your schedule for the first two weeks after birth. This includes things like social events, volunteering, carpool pickups, and even church. If you have daily or weekly responsibilities, ask others to fill in for you for a couple of weeks. People are usually more than willing to help out a new mother. If you have other children, ask another trusted adult—such as your partner or a neighbor—to help get them to school and extracurricular activities.

Don’t agree to attend any events the first several weeks after giving birth. It’s okay to respond with a “maybe.” Let people know that you will try to be there if you are feeling up to it, but that your healing and bonding take first priority.

Stock Your Freezer

One of the best things you can do to prepare for a “lying in” period is have a freezer stocked with meals that are easy to prepare. You can choose to make these meals from scratch and freeze them yourself, purchase frozen meals from the store, or a little of both.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the idea of making freezer meals all at once. One of the easiest ways to stock your freezer is to double your favorite recipes as you cook meals prior to the baby’s arrival and use half that night and freeze the rest. It doesn’t require much extra effort to double a recipe, and you end up with enough for another meal.

If cost is a concern, watch for sales on the frozen food items your family likes to eat, or ingredients for your favorite recipes, and stock up. Things that freeze well are soups, stews, chilis, casseroles, and slow cooker meals.

Another way to stock your freezer is to request meals from friends and family who attend your baby shower or ask what they can do to help after the baby comes. You can even request a “meal train” from friends and family. Someone close to you may be willing to arrange it, but you can also arrange it yourself by sending out a list of dates and having people sign up to provide a meal on each date.

It’s also a good idea to stock your pantry with dry goods you use often. This reduces the number of trips to the grocery store you will need to make after the baby is born. Make a list of your essentials and watch for a sale on those items so you can stock up without breaking the bank.

Hire Help

If your budget allows, consider hiring some extra help for the first few weeks after baby arrives. A postpartum doula is trained to work with women after giving birth. She can help with breastfeeding, errands, light housework, laundry, breastfeeding, caring for other children, and even meal preparation. Some postpartum doulas can come during the night and help care for your new baby so you can get extra sleep during that time. Postpartum doulas usually work on an hourly basis and cost anywhere from $20-$40 per hour.

You may also want to consider hiring a professional cleaning service for the first few weeks postpartum so you don’t have to worry about a messy house while you recover. Some women don’t mind a little extra clutter and disorganization, but some find that their physical and mental health are affected by the appearance of the home.

If you don’t have anyone that can come help you care for your other children, you may also want to hire a nanny or babysitter for a few hours each day so that you can have time to rest.

Enjoy Your Baby

Last of all, remember to relax and enjoy your tiny new baby! The newborn stage passes quickly—almost in the blink of an eye. Taking time to slow down and enjoy each moment will really make a difference in how you feel and your relationship with your baby. The first two weeks are critical to your baby’s development, both physical and mental. The more time you can devote to cuddling, fondling, singing, talking, and playing, the more your baby will make those important connections in the brain that lead to healthy growth.

It may seem difficult at first, but with a little extra planning and preparation, you can enjoy a two-week “lying in” period after your baby’s birth that will provide long-lasting benefits for years to come. Instead of focusing on “bouncing back” from childbirth as quickly as possible, do yourself a favor and use these tips to make your first few weeks after birth really count.

Fiona Judd


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The Call to Build Villages

The Call to Build Villages

by Tresa Haymond (

The day I heard about Emily Dyches’ tragic death was the moment I felt a call to do something. As I sat sobbing on the edge of my bed, I felt a powerful force connecting my heart to Emily’s heart, as if I knew her well. This was a clear cry from somewhere very real, a plea “to build villages,” to let moms and all women know that we are not alone, and there is hope.

Thankfully, we know that there are answers for those going through perinatal mood disorders like postpartum depression, perinatal anxiety, PTSD, and OCD. Truly, healing is just around the corner, especially when we find a way to unite our hearts with those who understand. The aching desire that began in my soul that day was that no mom, no woman, should feel alone. Of course, Emily wasn’t alone. However, her family sensed that she would surely have benefitted from more awareness and better access to the most helpful resources, Emily has become a symbol of the need to build a village where women can invest together in healing.

A few years ago, Hannah* told me that she had finally reached out to someone who lived nearby. She told them that she couldn’t get through the day alone with the excruciating thoughts that were racing through her mind as she sat trying to nurse a sick baby, with a demanding toddler screaming to be fed as well. Unfortunately, the answer on the other end of the line was, “Welcome to motherhood, honey!” Sadly, this answer lacked the understanding that, though feelings of desperation are common, they are not normal or healthy. Amazingly, Hannah took courage again, this time trying to explain to her doctor how the voices in her head nearly caused her to crash on the freeway. His response was, “Anyone with a smile like yours must be doing fine.” Tragically, this doctor’s response demonstrated the ignorance of knowing that it is often the mom who looks the most “put together” that we may most need to worry about. It is very possible that she is putting on the make-up, the heels, and the smile in an effort to keep from collapsing, striving to maintain the appearance of independence, while her core is drowning. Thanks to recent awareness efforts around perinatal mood disorders, Hannah would probably be taken more seriously if she were to reach out for help today. Hopefully, someone would even have the preventative insight to ask how she was really doing. This would likely help to avoid terrible suffering and even tragedy by surrounding her with love and practical support, (such as nutritious meals, visits, and breaks from her toddler and baby).

Roberta* told me that she now takes an antidepressant through her last trimester of pregnancy because of former experiences with depression during pregnancy. Her doctor had also openly explained that this put her at risk for postpartum depression during pregnancy. She felt empowered to deal with this, as it was being addressed early on, and she had spoken to me as her doula about wanting additional emotional support. Throughout her last trimester and into the postpartum weeks, we discussed articles and books on the topic together, and I regularly checked in to see how her “self-care” was coming along. Was she staying hydrated, supplementing with Omega 3s, going for walks, and getting enough sleep? And when was the last time she had been able to laugh? Deliberately, we discussed Roberta’s plan for who would be there to help following the birth and how she and her husband could have time alone together each week. A few weeks after her precious baby girl arrived, things were going quite well until the day Roberta received a devastating phone call about the tragic death of her sister. I enfolded her in my arms as she broke down and eventually went into a sort of shock or numbness that wouldn’t begin to wear off until days following the funeral. She spiraled downward into sadness and anger and found it difficult to connect with her baby and older child. Often, she felt anxious around people and frequently experienced panic attacks, especially in social situations. Roberta’s closest friends and neighbors were aware of her struggles and offered support by checking in, taking over a few household tasks, and bringing in occasional meals. On one of her darkest days, Roberta bravely picked up her phone and began dialing numbers of friends until one of us answered. I couldn’t understand what she was trying to say, but I could tell she was at a breaking point and maybe in some immediate trouble. Calmly, I told her it would be okay and that I would be right there.

When I arrived, I found Roberta sitting in despairing darkness, on her lonely bed, with her quiet baby lying next to her. Between broken sobs, Roberta confided that she was fearful for her children and herself because of the thoughts that had been torturing her mind. I wrapped my arms around her again and assured her that these feelings were common with what she was going through and that it did not mean that she was a bad mom. It only meant she needed more help. When I walked outside of Roberta’s house, I saw her neighbor coming to meet me, and we called another friend to come and stay with Roberta until her husband came home. The three of us (part of Roberta’s “village”) planned who would check on her each day of the following weeks, and Roberta agreed to make appointments with her doctor and therapist to follow up on the best treatment. The days and months were long, but Roberta incrementally and steadily recovered, primarily because she knew she had a foundation of support that she could rely on.

“Joyfully, I look back on the day she posted a video of herself making her darling baby girl laugh as one of my very happiest occasions since I became part of the village building effort.”  Tresa Haymond

Jacie* found herself far from home, living in the U.S., with a new tiny baby, married to an American whose culture, language, and home in a winter climate were completely unfamiliar to her. In South America, she had been surrounded by constant love and social interaction, but now she suffocated in an isolated apartment throughout the day, not knowing any of her neighbors. Several of my friends who were aware of her situation drove to check on her from time to time and offered to help with the baby. Gradually, they began to notice signs of depression and decided to ask if I could somehow help her. I was surprised that Jacie agreed to let me visit, as I was a stranger to her. I think she viewed me as a sort of counselor and a professional who could rescue her. I kindly explained that I was “a postpartum doula” and that I could help her find resources and be there with her as she became well. As she shared experiences of pain and fear, her heart opened to someone for the first time. It became apparent that Jacie had been through several traumas since the birth of her baby. I pointed out to her that she had many of the symptoms for mood disorders listed on my papers from the Utah Maternal Mental Health Collaborative. I helped her locate a few therapists in the area that would accept her insurance. Fortunately, I was still with Jacie when her husband came home, and he was surprised that we were talking about such serious issues, as he had “no idea” that she had been struggling so severely. I gave the two of them an “assignment” to call their doctor. I also helped Jacie make a list of people she could ask for specific help and finally, I demonstrated ways to exercise with her baby boy inside through the rest of the cold winter, explaining that this benefits moms by producing some of the “happy chemicals” that our brains need to be healthy. One week later, as Jacie and I walked to my car after attending her first support group, she turned to me with a fresh light in her eyes and exclaimed, “I loved that so much! Thank you for bringing me here. I didn’t know that other moms feel the way I do. It helps so much to hear their stories.” That was another incredible moment when I witnessed the magical progress a village can bring about.

After hearing about this “village world,” Kay*, my best friend from high school, asked, “Where was this when I needed it?” My heart broke for her because I realized that I had been in my own world of going at it alone with my own babies, and I wasn’t available to be there or even see her need. Kay’s mood disorder came from getting next-to-zero sleep for about six months, and being completely at a loss of what to do with a more-than-fussy baby who rarely calmed down long enough to sleep for more than an hour at a time. Kay describes how she was raised to be “fiercely independent,” and how that became a trap for her after becoming a mother. Now that Kay is healing from this experience, she talks about how she wishes that she had known that there was such a thing as “Rent-a-Grandma” or a postpartum doula, who could give relief to sleep deprived moms. When I ask for what advice she would give to moms who are suffering emotionally, she pleads, “Believe that there is someone who wants to help you, and let them help you.” With tears in her eyes, she honestly expresses, “I would drop anything on my schedule to hold a baby for four hours so any mom can get some sleep and reset her brain.”

Today we may no longer have the village around us as we once did, but as women, sisters, and mothers, we are still villagers to the core. Therefore, building creative, consistent, and compassionate villages is our life and soul saving call. Emily Dyches and a multitude of women who relate to her story would agree: nothing could be more worthwhile!

*Names and circumstances have been changed to protect privacy. Go to join our online peer support group, the second and fourth Thursday of each month at noon. You can also listen to podcasts of moms who share their experiences of healing from perinatal mood disorders.

Birth Doulas Business Members Only

Postpartum Planning

Do I need a postpartum plan?

        Expectant couples can spend months researching their perfect birth. They need to decide the birth place, healthcare professional, doulas, and birth

photographers, etc. Often times a lot of time and money are allotted to creating a great birth plan. While all of those aspects are sincerely important

many expectant couples fail to consider the postpartum period. The postpartum period can take mothers and families by surprise. According to a recent

article, (Christiansen, 2014), Utah had the highest rate of mental illness in the nation. Many of us may not have expected the sleepless nights, endless

crying, sore body, sore breasts and completely dependent creature we were bringing home. Many of us may not have expected to experience a mood

disorder, postpartum depression or anxiety. While the new mom may also be healing from a vaginal birth or cesarean birth she and her family still need

to be cared for. Meals need to be made, the house cleaned, dishes and laundry done, naps taken, mom well rested, feed, supported and other children

care for (insert plug for postpartum doulas:). Because the postpartum period inhabits so much and lasts for months if not years it’s essential to plan


How can you make a postpartum plan?

Although a postpartum plan is similar to a birth plan, here are a few additional things to consider…

  • Who can offer assistance either by rallying family or friends or hiring a postpartum doula to support you.
  • How long your partner will be off work to bond with baby and help mom.
  • Who can help schedule the delivery of meals.
  • Who can transport older children to and from school?
  • Plan dates and travel arrangements for out of town family visits.
  • Decide who can come pick up toddlers and have playdates while you rest.
  • Can you pay for a housecleaning service?
  • How long will your maternity leave be?
  • Do you need to pump extra while on maternity leave to have a milk storage?
  • Do you need to start interviewing nanny’s or daycare providers?


  • Things to get done at home before baby arrives…
  • Prepare a bunch of freezer meals. Fill your freezer!
  • Buy a lot of healthy snacks to keep on hand when mom isn’t able to cook.
  • Wash and organize all the baby’s laundry.
  • Create a feeding area with a water bottle, snack supplies, books, phone charger, magazines, etc.
  • Talk to older siblings about you new addition. Enjoy the everyday moments!

Christiansen, B. (2014, March 09). Utah has highest rate of mental illness in US | Local News | Retrieved January 09, 2017, from

Tobie Baxter-Spears
Certified Postpartum Doula


Calling all birth photographers!!

Calling for Birth Photography! This year at our conference a slide show of birth photography will be featured.

If you have photos of doulas in action, of babies, of labor– send them to by FRIDAY, MARCH 13 for them to be included in the slide show.

It is to be understood that any photos submitted must first have permission of the photographer and any identifiable persons in the photos…


Dr. Jed Vandenberghe

Dr. Jed Vandenberghe is a pediatrician in Salt Lake City, Utah. He received his medical degree from University of Utah School of Medicine and has been in practice for 29 years. He will be discussing the current topic of immunizations. Register for the conference today.