“…pregnancy and birth are natural, normal, and healthy events that a woman’s body was designed to accomplish.”
by Richelle Kimble
Amid the journey of pregnancy, labor, postpartum and childbearing, a woman and her partner gain an incredible inclination to nurture what is brought to life. The joy of parenting flows from each smile, laugh, cry and lullaby. Creating a concrete foundation of proper self-care and support for both parents to serve one another and their kin can impact the process immensely.
To be holistic means to care for something as a whole and to understand that something is so intimately interconnected that it must be treated as such. In the birthing world, to care for someone holistically means to support all functions, systems and both physical and emotional needs. The Greek word doula was first used to describe this supportive role in 1969, but the act was practiced long before the modern doula became an American phenomenon. Today’s doulas provide care beyond the historically standard labor assistance; now, a doula comprehensively assists a woman and her partner during all stages of birth.
Luckily for parents and parents-to-be in Michigan, the service of a postpartum and birth doula is an option for those seeking a more holistic pregnancy and postpartum experience. Gold Coast Doulas, co-owned by Kristin Revere, CD and Karlye McNeely, BSN, RN, was founded in 2015 with the intent to provide Michigan residents with a one-stop resource for everything related to pregnancy, birth and postpartum. Gold Coast Doulas now has seven doulas and additional affiliated professionals for placenta encapsulation and postpartum meal preparation.
Revere and McNeely collaborated to grow their passion for providing women a holistic option to supplement the birthing process of their choice. Gold Coast Doulas encourages natural processes while supporting women who choose unmedicated, cesarean, and epidural births as well as all parenting methods.
“We look at each client’s needs as a whole. We listen to their story and find out what they desire for their birth or postpartum care and give them resources to better support them,” Revere said.
Revere compared the job of a doula to that of a Sherpa, saying, “We can lead the women up the mountain, but they have to take the steps to the top on their own. We can be that guide.”
Those who choose to be accompanied by a doula at any stage of the childbearing process feel comfort in knowing their doula will be with them during the entire labor, as they may not have a relationship with their nurse or on-call doctor or midwife. “Women feel empowered and supported by hiring a birth and/or postpartum doula during this overwhelming and amazing right of passage,” Revere said.
Alongside the doula companionship is a heap of holistic methods and options for parents to explore. Gold Coast Doulas offers each of these and beyond with the partnership of other practitioners; below are some of the options a mother and her partner have to support their journey into parenting.
“Women in traditional cultures supported each other during birth and postpartum. This support is lacking in modern times and women feel alone and overwhelmed. Doulas offer the support and resources to allow a couple to better connect to each other and to their baby regardless of the birth they desire or the way they choose to parent.”
Some women may not consider this factor as an option, as the modern-traditional method of birthing takes place in a hospital. (According to a 2014 Center for Disease Control and Prevention data, only 2 percent of births took place outside the hospital.) Gold Coast Doulas encourages women to move forward with whatever birthing location and assistance they choose, whether that be a hospital and a doctor or the patient’s living room with a midwife. Wherever the birth takes place, part of a doula’s role is to create the comfortable space that eases the mother and her partner.
“Some clients like to use music in labor. Some wear their own clothes,” Revere said. “I like to bring in LED candles and turn down the lights. We may suggest our clients get in the shower or take a bath for relief, and we love to give partners ideas on how to best support the laboring mother.”
“The philosophy of hypnobirthing is that pregnancy and birth are natural, normal, and healthy events that a woman’s body was designed to accomplish,” McNeely said. “In the vast majority of healthy pregnancies, birth should not be treated or looked upon as a medical event, but instead as a normal life experience.”
McNeely, who is a hypnobirthing practitioner, first stumbled upon the process in search of options during her own pregnancy. Now, she is happy to accompany her doula services with hypnobirthing for clients interested in a birthing process that is absent of fear and tension. In preparation, McNeely said the parents gain an understanding of how the birthing muscles work in perfect harmony when a woman’s body is sufficiently relaxed and she is fully trusting of the birthing process. Visualization and relaxation methods and breathing techniques are used to achieve a birth where both partners are tuned in and trusting of their baby. “Partners [understand] an environment that promotes feelings of safety and trust will positively impact the birth,” she said.
At Gold Coast Doulas, approximately 40 percent of the doula clients take the hypnobirthing series for prenatal education, a number that according to McNeely, represents a growing demand for alternative preparation to the traditional hospital classes.
Although none of the doulas at Gold Coast are fully trained aromatherapists and do not apply directly to their clients, essential oils are safe to use during pregnancy, labor and postpartum. “I love to place lavender on wool cloths and put them around the room,” Revere said.
Oils to consider during birth include lavender for relaxation, clary sage to encourage contractions, frankincense or jasmine to soothe discomfort, and peppermint for nausea or to increase energy.
Although most see the placenta’s role to be complete at delivery, the placenta’s potential for nourishing continues well into postpartum. According to Revere, placenta encapsulation services are another option for mothers to focus on for healing after birth.
Benefits, according to Revere and McNeely, include promoting healthy lactation, energy boost, oxytocin for pain relief and increased bonding, a stimulated immune system, and replenishing iron lost during birth. Gold Coast Doulas offers multiple ways to preserve and reap the medicinal properties of the placenta post-birth, including encapsulation, tinctures, smoothie packages and skincare salve.
For the mothers and partners who wish to relieve the stress of preparing healthy, wholesome energy during pregnancy and/or postpartum, meal options are an incredible resource for worry-free nutrition. Using organic, non-GMO, hormone and antibiotic free, grass-fed food, a woman can ensure they are nourishing their body and their baby’s with healthy options.
Although Gold Coast Doulas doesn’t offer yoga programs through their services, by referring to local organizations such as Renew Mama Studio or Healthy Mamas, they encourage women to seek physical nourishment for a renewed mental state. Renew Mama Studio, for example, provides an atmosphere for women to support one another, strengthen spiritually, educate themselves, and bond with their newborns or children by offering infant- and child-friendly classes.
Further, Gold Coast Doulas is happy to refer women and their partners to any service which they believe will help nourish the body and mind as a whole for the optimal, holistic experience.
“We pride ourselves in referring our clients to other practitioners who can best support them,” McNeely said. “These include acupuncturists, cloth diapering stores, lactation consultants, chiropractors, physical therapists, prenatal massage therapists, naturopaths and counselors.”
Gold Coast Doulas is one of the growing communities that are available to support and sustain women who are nurturing others. Revere and McNeely are proud to be a driving force in holistic care for women and are confident the demand for a more personalized, wholesome experience will continue to grow.
“As more and more women share their positive experiences, ones in which they felt educated, empowered, and supported, others will seek out resources and services to prepare themselves for their own positive experiences,” McNeely said.
When she’s not editing for WLM, Richelle enjoys exploring, traveling, writing, reading, cooking, learning and playing. Follow her for adventure inspiration: @thekleerlife