Introducing Kristin Revere: A Mothership Certified Doula

By Martelle Esposito

This week we talk with Kristin Revere, a member of the inaugural class of Mothership Certified health service providers. She is a doula in Grand Rapids, MI who provides bed rest support, birth and postpartum doula support and infant care support through Gold Coast Doulas

What is your passion?

My passion is supporting women primarily and families as a whole. I believe judgment-free support during the childbearing years is critical. I want women to feel they have a place to turn. I don't empower women. They empower themselves.

What do you love about your work?

Everything. I get to support families during a major rite of passage. It is an honor to witness a baby come into the world and families form and grow.

What is most challenging about the work that you do?

The most challenging thing about my work is being on call all of the time. It is hard on my family even with a shared call schedule. My phone is always on. I am used to waking in the middle of the night, and I always have a bag packed ready to go. It is all worth it though. I wouldn't change a thing.

Can you describe a time when you were impressed by the strength of one of your clients?

I am impressed by the strength of each and every one of my clients. There is one client who slow danced with her husband through most of her induction. It was the sweetest thing to witness, and she demonstrated such strength through her long labor.       

In your opinion, what is the value of taking time to connect with your clients and build trust?

Building trust and developing a relationship with my clients is so important. Birth and the postpartum time are so vulnerable. It is important for me to build a strong connection with both the mother and her partner.

When a parent is having a hard time with some part of their parenting journey, what do you tell them to empower them?

I tell my clients to trust their instincts. Nobody knows their child or children the way they do.    

Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?

Breathe. it is important in pregnancy, birth and parenting. Deep slow breathes. Slow down and be in the moment.

What advice do you have for new parents?

Ask for help and be clear about the kind of help you need. Don't do it alone. We all need support. 

GCD-4013.jpg

“To One Person, You May Be the World,” and Other Perspectives from Christina Council-King, MD, MPH

By Martelle Esposito

This week, we hear from Christina Council-King, MD, MPH. Christina talks about being a mom and a family physician, and how these two important roles impact each other.  

What are you most proud of in your life?

My son! I truly feel like he is my greatest accomplishment.

What is your passion in life?

People! I love being around people, learning and immersing in various cultures, and traveling to different countries.

If you could compare yourself to an animal, what would it be and why?

An elephant! They are gentle giants and actually very intelligent with an excellent memory. They are extremely social creatures and family oriented, which is similar to me.

Can you describe a time when you felt on top of the world?

When I graduated from medical school. It has been a dream to be a physician since I was a young child, so to finally fulfill that dream was one of the greatest feelings in the world.

Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?

One of my favorite quotes is, "To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world." You never know the impact you may have on someone's life.

What's does the transition from not being a mom to being a mom feel like?

It is surreal. It is definitely exhausting, but it is a feeling that is just indescribable. In an instant, you have this tiny person who depends on you for everything, but there is an immediate feeling of unconditional love.

What has been most surprising to you about your role as a mom?

I never realized that we (as Americans) are not as breastfeeding-friendly as other countries. It's difficult to find sitting areas to breastfeed while in public.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting your mom journey?

Breastfeeding is not as easy as it looks!

Can you describe a time when you really felt your mom power?

There was one time when Jackson (my son) had a upper respiratory infection and of course because he is so young, he is unable to effectively bring up phlegm. After a feeding, he was extremely congested and had difficulty breathing. It was one of the scariest things to see him trying to catch his breath. I immediately flipped him over and started hitting his back as part of infant Heimlich Maneuver.

What have been the keys to unlocking your mom power?

I think love drives any parent to do anything and everything for a child.

How has becoming a mom impacted your work as a physician?

It's difficult! I want to give my patients 100% of my attention and provide quality care, but I also want to be able to spend time with my son after work and on weekends, which can be difficult at times.

As a physician, have you changed the way you approach your patients since becoming a parent? If so how?

Yes, I think my patience has improved, and I am more empathetic to parents, especially new mothers.

Can you describe a time when you really connected with a parent who was either a patient or whose child was a patient of yours?

Yes, last week I had a first-time mother who was having breastfeeding difficulties and was very stressed over it. I could completely relate and offered her the advice I received from breastfeeding support groups and my own lactation consultant. I also told her "you're doing a great job," which was something I really needed to hear when I was about 5 weeks in to my motherhood journey. By the end of the visit, I could see she was reassured and felt more confident in her natural abilities as a mother.

Christina's family.jpg

It Sort of Feels Like Bad Sex Education: Perspectives on Pregnancy and Motherhood with Jennifer Noll Folliard, RD, MPH

By Martelle Esposito

Today, we hear from Jennifer Noll Folliard, who is a dietitian and a mom-to-be. She talks to us about what she finds motivating and discouraging, about how pregnancy teaches humility, and how her perspective on nutrition for mothers has changed since becoming pregnant.  

What are you most proud of in your life?

My marriage. I am extremely grateful to have found someone who works with me every day to strengthen our partnership and continue to challenge each other to grow.  

What do you find most challenging in life?

 The loss of my mother. I lost my mother 17 years ago, and it still impacts my daily life. It continues to be my greatest challenge, which has shaped me and pushed me to be stronger and more capable. 

What motivates you? And, why?

Connection to people, and learning what makes them unique gets me up and out of bed in the morning. Understanding and supporting the gifts and talents that different people bring to the world helps me to understand the world better. I enjoy working through complex problems, which I believe can always be solved by getting the right people in the room.  

What discourages you? And, why?

When people are unkind to one another. Life is way to short to be that unhappy and to take it out on others. Unkind behavior goes totally against the idea that people working together can solve/do anything.

Do you have any words of inspiration to live by to share?

I never lose. I either win or learn.
- Nelson Mandela

What has been most surprising to you about pregnancy? 

The most surprising thing about this pregnancy is how difficult it was to get pregnant, and then from there how difficult physically the pregnancy is. My husband and I tried the old fashion way to get pregnant for five years, and with no luck, we sought out the advice of three different fertility specialists. The process of going to a fertility specialist, trying to uncover what the problem is/was, and finally coming to the realization that we should try treatments, was emotionally draining. We decided to give it one more shot (pun intended there because there are SO MANY SHOTS with IVF). We got one viable embryo, and she decided to stick around and make us parents. The other surprising piece of this process is that this little girl has made me so so so sick. I think I hit my lowest point when I had to run out of our dog’s vet appointment to throw up outside the office, and the strength of the vomiting also caused me to pee my pants. Getting pregnant, this pregnancy has been a lesson in humility and really giving up all control. Good practice for being a mom?

What are you most excited for as a mom?

Meeting this little girl, getting to know her, and the joy of helping her on her journey.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting your mom journey?

I should have asked more questions of my mom friends. I am a health professional but there are just things that books cannot and do not tell you. I wish that my mom friends had been more forthcoming and I had asked more questions of their experiences of getting pregnant and their pregnancies. It sort of feels like bad sex education … you only get half the story and then you are totally surprised by the experiences happening to your body.

As someone who works in field of health and nutrition, has your perspective changed since you became pregnant? If so, how? 

My perspective has changed to become more flexible and to see pregnancy as a natural process rather than a need for medical intervention. Also, nutrition and health in my own life has always been extremely important, but it is so fun to see the impact of different foods and food make-up on another person.

How have your experiences during pregnancy impacted how you approach or will approach your work in nutrition in the future?

YES! The prescriptive nature of nutrition during pregnancy, which I know inside and out from books, can sometimes be tough to accomplish with so many changes happening at once to the momma’s body. For example, I could not for the life of me keep any prenatal vitamins down. I tried so many prenatal vitamins, freezing the vitamins, taking them with/without food etc., and they all resulted in nausea or vomiting. I finally found a work-around. I could stomach fortified cereal and one chewable children’s vitamin. Working with patients or even thinking through policy changes for nutrition programs impacting moms and babies, I plan to bring in more flexibility of thought and action! 

Jenn Folliard_headshot_resized.jpg

On Being a Mama Through Loss and Trauma: An Interview with Marta Johnson-Ebels

By Martelle Esposito

What motivates you? And, why?

In general, what motivates me is to make improvements either in my life or in my community—that sort of thing. I think that applies to me as a parent as well. How can we have a better sleep schedule? How can we address a behavior that doesn’t seem quite right? How can we make things better?

What's does the transition from not being a mom to being a mom feel like?

I think my transition from not being a mom to being a mom was different than most because I had my son who passed away as an infant. So, there was this feeling of like, yeah, I have been a mom or I am a mom, but then there was a year and a half between that experience and then having my daughter. My onboarding to being a mom was also stressful in general. After the loss of my son, I had a miscarriage, and then I had my daughter, who ended up—we didn’t know it during the pregnancy—being born with congenital heart disease and some other medical issues. So, she was in the ICU for two and a half months and had six surgeries, one of them requiring life-long care. So, it was like loss, loss, trauma, and then getting used to a parenting routine that also included things like medical appointments. My daughter is starting preschool soon, and now our day to day is pretty normal. She’s extremely happy and resilient. MRI’s don’t even phase her. The biggest thing for her is, can I go play with kids? Normal kid stuff. So, we also had to adjust to figuring out what is something that needs medical attention vs. what is just being a normal kid.

Can you describe a time when you really felt your mom power?

It was during my daughter’s stay in the ICU. I had this feeling all day that something was different. Then she didn’t respond like she normally did, and I made it known that I thought there was something wrong. The medical team responded by taking her for imaging and found out that she had blood clots throughout her body. They told me that if I had not said anything and had not been insistent about looking into it, they would have never found this life-threatening problem. I was the only one who knew there was something wrong. It felt awesome that, yes, I know my kid. That was the first time I was like Booyah! I got this!

What advice do you have for other moms for unlocking their mom power?

Parents really do have this kind of inherent instinctual knowledge. So, I think the biggest thing is, don’t be afraid to voice your concerns, whether with medical providers or others. You know your kid.  

Can you describe an experience with health care where your expectations were not met or you felt disappointed?

I have been really disappointed in the process for the emergency room visits for threat of miscarriage, based on my own eight experiences across two pregnancies. The standard of care is usually just to confirm that either you have already miscarried or you are going to at some point. So, people talk to you like you are going through a miscarriage, and now you think you are going through a miscarriage, which is stressful. This is a problem because not all women with heavy bleeding have lost the baby or will lose the baby. I have a history of ER visits with heavy bleeding and no miscarriages. I had a lot of unnecessary stress in the ER.

Can you describe an experience with health care where you felt you were not treated the way you wanted to be treated?

I have mostly blocked out the worst experience, my first emergency room visit, because it was so bad. Since then, it still feels like they still aren’t fully considering the impact of their words on the patient. The clearest comments I remember from my most recent ER experience were, “we can’t do anything for this baby, if you lose it anyway.” I sat down with my actual OB the next day, and he said while it’s true that there is nothing that we can do if a miscarriage starts, there is a lot we can do to keep you calm and in your best position to have a healthy pregnancy. On another fairly recent emergency room visit, someone also said to me, you’ve been through this before, so you’re fine. Are you kidding?!

Can you describe an experience with health care where someone exceeded your expectations?

My current OB has experience with high risk pregnancies, and I feel like the practice has gone above and beyond, especially with my last pregnancy with my daughter. If you want an ultra sound every day, they’ll do it. They’ll do anything that will make you feel more reassured, no questions asked, no judgment. My stress level matters to them.

What would you tell other moms and dads experiencing infant loss and high risk pregnancies about moving forward?

While it was good for the first couple of weeks after I lost my son to share my pain in online mom groups, there’s a limit to what you can find on mom forums. They can quickly make you feel like you are in this bubble of hopelessness. Seeing a therapist helped me work through my pain, move beyond it, and open myself up to the future. Also, one of the best things I did to feel confident in any future pregnancies was go to the CSI of pregnancy loss, a physician who could explain why everything happened the way it did. For my particular situation, it gave me hope that I could have a healthy pregnancy. Finally, if a future pregnancy makes sense for you, find a provider who understands your experience. Providers who specialize in high risk pregnancies or who market themselves to take on high risk patients are more likely to know how to use their words and actions to make you feel supported.

Marta.png

My Mom Helped Me Find My Mom Power

By Marina Komarovsky

As the kind of gal who likes to insist on doing things on my own, I find it really surprising that two months into motherhood, what has empowered me the most has been getting help from my own mom.

When our son was born, I immediately felt a bit behind on the parenting front. First, having had a c-section posed a physical challenge. For the first few days it hurt so much to stand up that being able to both stand and respond to kicking, crying, and potential peeing during a diaper change seemed insurmountably demanding. My partner was changing all the diapers, and I still don’t know what meconium looks like. Second, as the youngest in a big family, my partner has seen all his siblings have their babies. The oldest in my family, I am the first to have one. Even when I felt a lot better, I found myself constantly asking him for instructions. While highly appreciative of such an involved and knowledgeable Dad, I couldn't help but feel that my role as Mom meant that I had to bring something important to the table, too -- not just the breast milk.

When my mother traveled from Chicago to Buenos Aires, where we live, our son was three weeks old and I was just beginning to get the hang of newborn baby care. My family had insisted that my mom come down for at least a month, "because you will need the help." I carefully counted out the latest day our baby could be born to ensure that she would at least arrive after the delivery, “because we want to do it on our own.” With our families far away, that had been how we’d done most of our pregnancy -- supporting each other, seeking out resources, and only occasionally reporting back to our home countries. The day before my mom arrived, my partner and I toasted a half-glass of wine to having been able to do the first weeks ourselves.

When we saw each other, my mom and I both cried. It had been more than a year, and so much had happened: first, pregnancy, and now, this little person who made my mom’s daughter a mom, too. It was so crazy to see each other and share a three-generation hug.

I hadn’t really thought about what to expect, but the next few days were a challenge. My mom was tired from the trip, and it was hard for her to get comfortable in our tiny apartment. I was tired from the nighttime wake-ups and c-section recovery, and it was hard for me to be an attentive host. It didn’t help that my partner and my mom kept looking at me whenever they didn’t understand each other’s English, usually exactly at the moment I had put a forkful of food in my mouth in the middle of trying to breastfeed.

And then there was helping with the baby: My mother was constantly expressing her concerns, and my perspective was almost always different from hers. “We decided to do it another way,” I would take my stand. “That’s not what the pediatrician told us,” I would argue. “That recommendation is outdated!” I would exclaim in exasperation.

My mom tried not to step on my toes, but it was hard for her sometimes. I tried not to be rude, but it was hard for me often. “I’m sorry I’m not being nice,” I told my mom that first week. “I am so happy you’re here. Sometimes I may say no to your advice at first, but I’ll think about it later. Please don’t be mad.” My mom just shrugged: “I’m not mad.” I was surprised. “How can you not be mad?” I would be mad. But then I realized it: This is exactly what it means to be a mom. I felt tension from all the debating, but I also felt so, so much love.

During her month in Buenos Aires, my mother taught me countless tricks of the trade: how to change a diaper without the baby crying, how to hand-wash onesies more efficiently, how to take the stroller up and down steps of different widths, and many others. She also learned enough Spanish to pinpoint the best deals on produce in our neighborhood, analyzed our appliances to help us save on electricity, showed us how to pre-cook base ingredients for simpler meals, and planted flowers on our balcony. I learned to argue less, say thank you, and absorb all her bits of wisdom. We had a really great time together.

All the tips definitely helped me become more confident, but even more importantly, I was inspired every day just watching my mom being my mom.

IMG_2124.JPG

Finding Strength and Identity in Motherhood: An Interview with Jenny Wiland

By Martelle Esposito

This week we talk with Jenny Wiland, a working mom of a beautiful baby boy and a passionate advocate for women’s rights and human rights. Jenny gets real about how hard, transformative, and worth it motherhood is, especially during the first few weeks.  

What are you most proud of being a mom and why?

For starters, being pregnant is not an easy feat. It’s so draining and full of a lot of judgments. Then there is the birth. Mine was a marathon 37-hours of labor, including three hours of pushing. And my epidural didn’t work, so it was basically like all-natural birth. But, I have never felt so strong in my life. It’s the hardest thing I have ever done, or will ever do, and I’m a different person because of it. I am so proud of that. I am also so proud of creating this beautiful person who exhibits affection, who is learning, and who doesn’t yet know of one bad thing in the world. I am just in awe of my son. The sense of privilege to be his parent is both humbling and astounding.

Can you describe an experience that brought out your mom power? 

I labored at home for 24 hours before going to the hospital (that’s when everything went to s***.) The doctors didn’t want to listen to me and what I knew was going on in my body. I had an overall rough start to breastfeeding. And, I was not getting enough support from the people I thought would back me up on my choices, even though their intentions were good. It really toughened me up for motherhood. And, once you emerge out of that “fourth trimester” and into your confident-mom stride, you feel like you can get through pretty much anything and with no sleep. I don’t even know how it’s scientifically possible. Looking back at my progress since my child was conceived, I’d say I went from a pretty strong person to a total badass.

What do you find most challenging about being a mom?

The healing process after giving birth takes a toll on you. Sleep is sparse. Anything your family says to do is easily going to upset you and make you feel like a bad mom. You feel you should be doing so much and you’re not physically capable of doing much. Showering was itself a challenge. Going to the bathroom- Woah. Just traumatizing. A whole other interview. Also, the sheer amount of things that you can and must get done within a day takes superhuman strength and a miraculous amount of multi-tasking. You’ll be holding your baby, feeding them while folding clothes, pumping one breast, and talking on the phone to your pediatrician about a rash. That’s a typical twenty minutes of a mom on maternity leave times 300 throughout the day. Then my husband gets home and asks why the house is a mess when I’ve cleaned it eight times and taken care of the baby all day, and I want to scream.

What has surprised you most about motherhood?

People will say things to you that will leave your mouth agape; unsolicited advice and really personal questions. They will intrude on your space, too.

How have you changed since becoming a mom?

I feel that I have had to assess the parts of me who are able to stay and what I don’t have time for anymore. I have been creating a new identity that includes being a mom. In the beginning, I didn’t feel like my whole self. I felt like superwoman yet a shell of myself. Eventually, I started to feel whole as I got more confident in my mom role. It sounds corny, but my child made me feel complete, and watching him learn something new or laugh is the highest high I’ve ever felt. It’s the happiest happy I have ever felt, and it all just feels so natural now.

What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were pregnant and starting your journey as a mom?

Hahahahahahaha! Breastfeeding is harder than you can ever imagine and harder than anyone, any book, or any class ever tells you it will be. I could. Not. Believe. The. Pain. Why?! I didn’t know if I was doing something wrong, but I soon developed blood blisters in my nipples, and I was so chapped, raw. It was awful. But you know what? Once you get through that dark chapter, it’s so worth it. The only thing that will give you the purest happiness is seeing your baby content. But, I wish people were more real. It’s going to be hell until you get over the hard parts. Then, it’s amazing.

What advice would you give new moms for finding their mom power?

First, you need a support network. For me, it was my other pregnant girlfriends or new moms that could relate. All my other friends or even my husband or mother could not empathize because it was not within their reach or fresh in their minds. Second, always, always go with your gut. You will know the difference between every cry (after a while) and no one’s advice outweighs what you feel in your bones. Whatever you think is best is okay.

Out Pops Baby: An Interview with Christine Mullan

By Martelle Esposito

In our first post on The Launch Pad blog, we talk with Christine Mullan about her mom journey with her two young boys, ages 4 and 18 months. She’s empowered, she’s vulnerable, and we are so glad she took some time to talk with us.

What motivates you? Why?

Praise. That sounds a little juvenile as I say it out loud, but it's the truth. Being told I've done a good job, or that I've inspired someone, or really helped someone—it makes me feel like I could take on the world. 

On the flip side, what discourages you? Why?

Criticism. I find it a little too easy to take any criticism to heart and let it discourage me. I could hear 100 good things and 1 bad, and that one bad thing makes me question everything I'm doing and have done.

Can you describe a time when you really felt your mom power?

The birth of my second son! My first child was born 2 weeks late after a 3-day induction in the hospital. I was so disappointed because I had been hoping for a natural birth. My second son, also 2 weeks late, was the exact opposite. He was born at 1:30 a.m. in my tiny pink bathroom after a 1.5 hour labor. I was standing over a toilet, and my husband Pat caught the baby. I remember saying "is he really out?" Then Pat put the baby in my arms, and he latched on to nurse right away. I felt pain, but I felt strong and ready. I knew I could do it, and I did. I felt like I was on the very top of the world for weeks after that. I still feel that way.

What advice do you have for other moms for unlocking their mom power? 

Never let fear get in your way. Be unapologetically you. Be the parent you can be and want to be, and don't let anyone make you feel bad about it.

Do you think you have changed since becoming a mom?

Yes.

How so?

I worked with moms and families before becoming a mom myself. I think I did a good job then, and I had some perspective because I raised my younger siblings. But, I don't think I truly understood the exhaustion, the pressure to know the right thing to do, and be able to do it until I became a mother myself.

If you could compare your mom journey to another experience, what would it be, and why?

Being a mom is like taking a long road trip. It's mind-numbing sometimes, and you're tired of driving, but you get to have cool experiences along the way, and you will look back fondly on all those memories. In the moment, you're punching your leg to stay awake, but later you say "wow, that was really great. Let's do it again."

As a social worker who works with moms, especially those considering adoption, would you say there are some experiences that are just universal mom experiences or feelings, good or bad?

I think all moms want the best for their children. They are always doing the best they can with what they have in any given moment.

Because Mothership is focusing on creating positive experiences with health care, we’d like to learn a little more about your own health care experiences. Have you ever had an experience with health care as a parent or otherwise where you were not treated the way you wanted to be treated?

Yes. After the birth of my first son, we went to our first follow-up appointment with his pediatrician. They made us wait for over 3 hours after 4 sleepless days in the hospital and breastfeeding challenges. The doctor came in and decided to give the baby a bottle, saying something about people wanting to feed babies with spoons and droppers like damn goats, and there's nothing wrong with a bottle. I remember I just sat there with tears rolling down my cheeks, feeling like a huge failure. Then, the baby burped and puked it all up, and I thought "see? you killed him!" A gentler approach would have made all the difference to me as a new mom. I'm proud to say we kept trying. We saw a lactation consultant the next day, and I went on to breastfeed for 18 months.

Shifting to positive experiences, have you had an experience with health care where someone exceeded your expectations?

Yes. I once accompanied a pregnant client to her appointment with a high-risk specialist. This woman was quite poor and did not speak English, and I had seen her be treated fairly but not enthusiastically by various other providers. This doctor spoke directly to my client and looked at her while she talked, even while using me or the phone service to translate. He explained carefully what was going on with her baby, and he let her know that everything would be all right. I was very moved by his actions.

Can you describe an experience with health care where someone made you feel like you were on top of the world?

After the accidental home birth of my second son, I went to a follow-up appointment with a different midwife. After hearing the birth story, she said, "wow, great job! That's amazing, good for you. You are so strong." Hearing her say those simple words out loud really made my week. 

Welcome to Mothership's Launch Pad!

We are a blog dedicated to feelings and connecting through storytelling. We share stories about how we feel as moms, dads, other caregivers, and service providers who are navigating the obstacle course of growing healthy humans.

Each month, we will create several posts on a theme in addition to posting organization updates and random hot topics. This month's theme is empowerment. Stay tuned for more posts! And, please reach out at mesposito@mothership.org if you have a story that you'd like to share.