In This Together: How Doulas are Changing the Way We Support New Mothers

by Elyse Wild | photos by the people picture company

Embarking on motherhood is to live on two ends of a vast spectrum: with boundless joy and unprecedented love also comes tremendous self-doubt and anxiety, concealed for fear of judgment. In our fast-paced world, new mothers and their struggles are often dismissed in favor of picture-perfect moments that are likable and shareable.

“We set such high expectations for ourselves,” Alyssa Veneklase, a postpartum doula and co-owner of Gold Coast Doulas, an award-winning doula agency located in Grand Rapids. “As women, we can often put unfair expectations on each other.”

Veneklase, along with her co-owner and certified birth doula Kristin Revere, is working to transform society’s notions about what it means to support new moms to help them, and their families, thrive.

Gold Coast

Since 2015, Gold Coast Doulas has offered mothers in West Michigan unequivocal support through a range of services that encompass each aspect of new motherhood, such as birth and postpartum doulas, hypnobirthing, gentle sleep consulting, lactation support, infant massage and more.

Both Revere and Veneklase emphasize that, while they support their clients, the new or expectant mother

takes the lead while the doula encourages her to listen to her instincts.

“We help women see their own power and the strength of their decision-making,” Revere stated.

Doulas are often associated with alternative lifestyles

with an emphasis on all-natural home births and child rearing. Revere states that this couldn’t be further than the truth.

“We support all births, not just home births,” Revere expressed. “Whether it’s a natural birth, a medicated birth, home or hospital birth — we are there supporting our clients’ decisions.”

Gold Coast employs nearly 20 birth and postpartum doulas. Birth doulas are available for hire at any point during pregnancy to assist mothers and their families as they prepare to welcome their little ones into the world. In an age of overwhelming resources, options and birth plans, these doulas help their clients manage their expectations and feel confident in their decisions, whatever they may be.

“We never tell our mothers what they should or shouldn’t do,” Revere said. “We provide information for them to make the most informed decisions based on what they want to do. We are judgment-free.”

“We help women see their own power and
the strength of their decision- making.”
— Kristin Revere, certified birth doula and co-owner of Gold
Coast Doulas.

Postpartum doulas help new mothers find their footing on the new path that has unfurled before them with the birth of the babies, whether it is meal planning and prepping, holding the baby while mom showers, breastfeeding support or lending an open ear.

“We walk into the house and say, ‘What does this mom need today, right now?’” Veneklase stated.

At the recommendation of her OBGYN, Lindsey Nicholson reached out to Gold Coast to help her navigate the unexpected obstacles she faced after giving birth to her first baby five months ago.

“I underestimated the physical and emotional toll of it,” Nicholson shared. “Stepping into this new role wasn’t easy for me—I expected to be more confident and instead I found myself second guessing myself all the time.”

Nicholson’s doula visited her home two afternoons a week to help her with feeding, resting, completing everyday tasks with a newborn and nurturing confidence in her instincts.

“I wanted an expert to help and be around us and guide me,” Nicholson said. “She came in and knew what needed to be done.”

Over time, Nicholson said, she and her baby formed a deep bond with their doula.

“There are few people you can have that kind of intimacy with,” she expressed. “It is the best gift you can give yourself and your baby. Whether it is your first baby or your third— it’s just priceless.”

Asking for Help

Workers in the United States are entitled to up to 12 weeks of maternity leave, often a combination of paid and unpaid. In addition to inadequate leave, one in seven women experience postpartum depression, a condition during which new mothers experience panic attacks, anxiety, fear of failure, disinterest in their babies, feelings of guilt, worthlessness and more. Women in the midst of postpartum depression often feel ashamed, putting them at greater risk for a mental health crisis. Gold Coast offers discounted pricing to mothers who are receiving treatment forpostpartum depression at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services.

Revere and Veneklase emphasizes, that, with a doula by her side, a new mother can maneuver through these difficult feelings without shame, and emerge with confidence.

“We need to be OK with asking for help,” Veneklase reflected. “You don’t have to do it alone, and you shouldn’t try.

To view packages, class offerings and more information, visit goldcoastdoulas.com

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