Real talk time. One of the hardest aspects for me as I move through pregnancy and postpartum comes from my changing body.
While I deeply respect and understand the work my body does during the childbearing year, I'm also a person who struggles with transition. And, the constant transitions of my body are hard on me both physically and mentally.
After finding out I was expecting baby #4, I vowed to be even more intentional this go-round in how I prepared my body for the work of carrying this baby and giving birth.
Then first trimester exhaustion plus the work of keeping up with my trio of kiddos, homeschooling, and business hit me like a truck - survival became the name of the game.
As I emerged (finally) from the fog of that rough trimester, I found myself with energy again (yay!) and the desire to put it to good use. Looking around at the options for prenatal fitness, I knew that in this incredibly busy season that found me solo parenting and juggling all the things while also growing this baby, I would be squeezing anything into the nooks and crannies of my days.
Perhaps even more importantly, I needed a program that would help me turn my focus away from the noise and the numbers of my changing body and instead toward meeting my needs for support with understanding and gentleness toward myself.
A chance recommendation in a local parenting group led me to find my way to MommaStrong. Immediately, I was drawn to the message of MommaStrong, a message that eschewed the narratives of "transformation" so popular in the fitness industry writ large for one of function, strength, and treating yourself with kindness as you navigate the tricky seasons of growing and raising tiny humans.
The first video I clicked on discussed the way in which our culture has normalized incontinence after birth - a normalization that does not equal the health or wellness for those who deal with this issue. As a postpartum doula, I found myself nodding and yelling "yes!" at that video, pretty much sold at that point.
I signed up early in the second trimester and have been "showing up" regularly to my mat now for several months. Below are some of the many reasons MommaStrong has been such an important part of this pregnancy.
As a professional who works with families before and after baby, I love being able to refer clients to this fabulous resource. And, MommaStrong has a specific section dedicated to clinicians, so if you are a doula or birth professional, check this out!
So far I've seen the benefits of MommaStrong, but I'm excited to see how it impacts life after baby - I'll be sure to follow up with a blog on that in the coming months.
If you anything like me, you came to doula work because you felt called to support parents and families in and around birth.
But, the running a business part - that part was COMPLETELY foreign to me.
Today, I'm going to share a bit with you about a tool I've found so helpful in keeping my little business running smoothly - Dubsado.*
Now when I say tool, you could think of, say, a can opener or a power saw, and Dubsado is most certainly the latter.
So what is Dubsado? Dubsado is a client management system that seamlessly puts together client inquiries, intake forms (they call these questionnaires), service selections (they call these proposals), contracts, invoicing, and scheduling.
Do you struggle with getting contracts signed, consults scheduled, or invoices paid? Dubsado can significantly lighten your load, allowing you to automate your workflows. The path from scheduling a consult, filling an intake form, selecting a package, signing a contract, and paying an invoice can all flow automatically.
Do you spend significant time crafting emails that essentially say the same thing again and again? Dubsado's canned email feature can save you a ton of time. You still have the option to customize and edit before one goes out, but having a blueprint to follow can be an amazing help.
Do you want to keep all your client information organized and easily accessible no matter where you are? Dubsado makes that possible keeping all client emails, forms, appointments, and payments together in one tidy and easy to navigate client file. I love that I can access it on the go, no matter where I am, making it easy to pull up my appointment schedule, a client's preferences for in-home overnight support, and more.
Do you want to streamline communication with your clients and make it easy for them to access all client materials? You guessed it - Dubsado does that, too. The client portal feature give clients a clean, professional user interface to represent your brand.
That said, Dubsado does require some time and effort on your part to set up forms and workflows - but these are infinitely customizable so they can truly reflect your brand. And, they offer tutorials as well as extremely responsive customer service, so if you find yourself a bit confused, help is just a chat box away.
Want to give it a whirl? When you sign up, Dubsado let's you experiment with three client leads for FREE without a time limit. That means you can take your time setting things up and exploring the platform before you commit. And, when you are ready, you can use my affiliate code nestedmama to save 20%.
All in all, Dubsado let's me spend less time on the mundane business aspects and MORE time with client support - and isn't that what we all want in the end?
*This post includes affiliate links for Dubsado.
Are you a prospective doula looking for information on training and certification? Head here for more info!
Are you considering make the jump into doula work or a related field?
Exploring all your options is sure to be exciting. Exciting and overwhelming, too.
As I shared in a previous post on my experience with another doula training and certification organization, I'm frequently contacted by those thinking of making the leap into this amazing work of supporting families in the childbearing year. While sometimes these individuals are interested in my work as a doula, more often they are seeking advice on where to go for training and for certification.
As I've written about before, any deep dive into doula training is sure to turn up some polarizing divisions between different organizations, and some doulas can be quite vocal in their preference for one organization over another. That's all well and good - and as I'll share later in this post, I've have my own preferences, as well.
But, what those conversations often fail to discuss is that you are an individual investing in this training, and it needs to be the right fit for your values and goals. So, even as I'll share with you my experiences with Bebo Mia *- and why I think they are a phenomenal option for training and certification - know that all that enthusiasm comes with the caveat that you should pick the best program for YOU.
Bebo Mia is headquartered in Toronto, Canada, but their programs are fully online, which means you are likely to encounter a diverse group of classmates when you enroll in any of their programs. Each certification can be selected individually or in a bundle for a discount - woohoo for that!
One of the aspects that appealed most to me as I explored Bebo Mia's options was their manner of course delivery. Being a busy homeschooling parent, I knew I needed any program to be self-paced and available online for me to make this work with my life.
When I jumped into my first Bebo Mia course, I was so pleased to find a smart course design that makes learning truly a pleasure. Each module includes a video of class instruction as well as any supplementary videos, a detailed PDF document covering the class content, and engaging homework and assignments.
As an educator myself, I always value sustainable assignment design - that is work that has a purpose and a longevity rather than just a checkbox on your way to the finish line. I consistently found Bebo Mia's course content and individual work to further my understanding of the material and produce homework that actually moved me down the path of my knowledge and business goals.
Additionally, with each Bebo Mia course, you will be added to a private Facebook group just for that particular course and session. These groups allow you to engage more deeply in the course content, ask questions, and gain a sense of community with your fellow learners.
If you are on the hunt for a doula training program, know that Bebo Mia offers an in-depth MSP (Maternal Services Practicioner) Program that covers fertility, birth, and postpartum. Where other organizations may try to cover any of these topics in a weekend, Bebo Mia takes a seriously deep dive over 16 weeks. (While I haven't completed this particular course, my experience in three other courses leaves me confident that this 16-week program would be a solid choice for doula training. And, as I LOVE taking classes with Bebo Mia, I could see myself circling back in the future to take this training, as well.)
Currently, I've completed EcoBaby Certification and Infant Sleep Educator Certification, and I'm finishing the last steps in my Fertility Specialist Certification. I've found Bebo Mia's course design, support, and lived values to be incredibly consistent despite the varied topics and additional instructors.
If you are on the hunt for additional training, know that they also offer Diverse Families Certification, Childbirth Education Certification, and Breastfeeding Education Certification - all of which provide excellent opportunities for continuing your education as a birth professional.
If you are already a trained doula but looking for more support as you grow your business, I'd highly recommend you check out Bebo Mia's Don't Doula it Yourself program. For a super reasonable monthly fee, you get access to their library of business videos - covering everything from getting started, branding, social media, and more - as well as their private Facebook group moderated by a business mentor.
Additionally, that library of content is always growing with more masterclasses as well as live Q&A sessions where you can get answers to your most pressing business questions. Starting a doula business can leave you feeling overwhelmed and lonely, but with the encouragement of this generous DDIY community, you can get the support and community you need to grow your business.
If you haven't already, I'd encourage you to spend some time exploring the Bebo Mia website. Each program has a course outline, certification requirements, and ethics statement all right there, so you can get a good sense of what they offer and their values as an organization.
*This post contains affiliate links.
Are you considering becoming a doula and completely overwhelmed by the options for training and certification? I know I was when I started looking into the education I wanted to build my skill set as a doula.
Because I field this question so frequently from prospective doulas, I'm sharing a bit about my experience with training and certification with Madriella Doula Network. (And if my review makes you jazzed to get started, you can use my affiliate code* TOMLINSON154 to save $50 on the Professional Membership - woohoo!!)
If you've already made a foray into the many large doula groups on social media, you'll know that people often feel VERY strongly about their choice of training and/or certification program. While I am pleased with my training and experience, I tend to be a little more tempered in my recommendations because I think that your individual fit with a program is more important than my personal experience. You want a program that is the right fit for YOU.
So when asked about my recommendations the first thing I point out is that in my community, doulas have trained and certified with a variety of different certifying bodies. Because the doula industry isn’t regulated, my general recommendation is to look closely at the philosophies and method of training offered by those that interest you and find one that aligns with your values as well as learning style.
As I searched various doula programs, Madriella's philosophy resonated with me. (You can read about their philosophy, code of ethics, and history here.) Specifically, I like that the organization didn't seem invested in the divisive language that I found in some other programs. I also appreciated the efforts made to keep their training affordable.
When I dug into the program, I was thrilled to learn that the Professional Membership included not one but EIGHT courses including birth doula, postpartum doula, professional development, massage for labor, breastfeeding education, childbirth education, loss and bereavement, and placenta specialist.
If you know me, you know I am a serious serial learner, so the opportunity to have all of that knowledge accessible to me was a huge draw. A little over a year into my professional membership, I've completed five of those courses, and I'm currently in the midst of my sixth.
I also wanted to know that the courses were rigorous, and I would emerge from my training with the knowledge and skill I needed to feel confident in this work. Madriella's curriculum is written by a midwife and the birth course, in particular, is a major deep dive into what you need to know.
Because I was an avid reader about birth before my doula training, I wasn't expecting to be challenged as much as I was - but I was certainly pleased that this was the case. Because Madriella requires all members to complete the first three courses in order - birth, postpartum, and professional development - the courses naturally build on each other. Once you complete those three, you can move onto any of the other courses in any order you wish. I found this really helpful, because it naturally developed my knowledge and meant the other courses didn't feel repetitive.
When you look at doula training programs, it is important to consider your learning style and what course design can help you succeed. For me, reading and writing is my jam, and Madriella's course design works well for this. If I was a different kind of learner, however, Madriella may have not been the best fit - so here is where I really emphasize knowing yourself and what works best for you.
The other thing I needed from any training program was flexibility, and because Madriella is self-paced it fit this need quite well. As the primary homeschooling parent to three little ones, I knew I'd be fitting in this training into the nooks and crannies of life. Because I wrote my dissertation that way after having my eldest, I knew I could make it work if the program was flexible enough.
The flip side of that, of course, is that a self-paced program requires motivation on the part of the learner to complete it. Here, Madriella's online community can be a great help in finding accountability partners or engaging in the community as you move through the program.
In a nutshell, a rigorous program, a supportive community, and a self-paced course design made Madriella the right fit for me.
Is Madriella Doula Network the right fit for you? Jot down my affiliate code* TOMLINSON154 and you can save $50 on the Professional Membership - how awesome!
Got more questions about my experience? Feel free to reach out! And, I'll be following this blog detailing my experiences with another doula training organization - Bebo Mia - soon.
*One of the ways Madriella succesfully keeps the program so affordable is by utilizing affiliate advertising. Please note that as an affiliate, I receive a small commission when you use my code to save on the membership.
My reaction: I love reading books that gather and work through the research, and Nichols certainly does that in this book. She also nicely includes highlighted statements and summary sections, so if you are more interested in her conclusions than how she gets there, you can get a nice handle on the material in a short amount of time. I especially enjoyed Chapter 4 where Nichols works through recommendations on lunch meat, alcohol and more. I also appreciated the balanced approach she takes when she notes that first-trimester nausea may make a diet overhaul unrealistic, but that it is something you can work toward as you feel able. And, she also shares that eating "real food" doesn't have to be all or nothing. As with so much in pregnancy and parenting, having the information you need to make the best choices for your family - even if those choices include small-scale changes in prenatal nutrition rather than following her advice to the letter - is what truly matters.
Some quotes of note:
"Part of listening to your body is recognizing when your food choices don't leave you feeling well and making a mindful choice to opt for a more nutritionally balanced option the next time you eat. Your body deserves nourishing foods and you deserve to enjoy your food. There is a place for these two things to coexist" (27).
"Calorie and macronutrient needs vary widely and there fore there's not a single meal plan that will work for all women" (82).
"When you ignore your hunger cues, you tend to ignore your fullness cues as well" (26).
Real Food for Pregnancy gives you all the research with practical ways to apply it to your eating during pregnancy. While some nutrition books can load you with pressure, this one incorporates mindfulness and emphasizes that we are all different, making plenty of room for you to take what you need from the book without feeling completely overwhelmed. I'd recommend this book to anyone looking to trouble shoot their pregnancy nutrition or make changes preconception.
Looking for more evidence-based info as you prepare for birth and baby? Nested Mama offers a full range of classes including childbirth education, breastfeeding, infant sleep education, and planning for postpartum.
Siegel, Dan J. and Tina Payne Bryson. The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind. New York: Bantam Books, 2011.
In a nutshell:
The Whole Brain Child offers parenting advice based on neuroscience and a developmental approach to parenting. Instead of expecting children to behave like miniature adults, Siegel and Tina point to the ways in which children's brains are still under construction. Instead of feeling frustrated when our attempts to communicate and handle tricky situations with our children go sideways, the book encourages us to see these moments as opportunities to parent in a manner that ultimately promotes the growth and emotional resiliency we hope our children will one day possess.
I love how practically the authors approach each of their tips. For each situation, they offer case study examples and a cartoon briefly summarizing the strategy they suggest. Additionally, they provide a kid-friendly cartoon breakdown of each idea such that you can work with your child to develop his or her own understanding of how the mind works. And, each chapter ends with a section for parents, which draws attention to the fact that we, as parents, have so much growing to do in how we handle our own emotions and frustrations.
Some quotations of note:
"It's also crucial to keep in mind that no matter how nonsensical and frustrating our child's feelings may seem to us, they are real and important to our child. It's vital that we treat them as such in our response" (24).
"Even though we will want to help build this metaphorical staircase in our child's brain, there are two important reasons to maintain realistic expectations when it comes to integration. The first is developmental: while the downstairs brain is well developed even at birth, the upstairs brain isn't fully mature until a person reaches his mid-twenties" (41).
"Your state of mind can influence your child's state of mind, letting you transform fussiness and irritability into fun, laughter, and connection" (133).
The Whole Brain Child is a parenting text with longevity - helping you understand your toddler to your teenager and even some of your adult relationships, too. If you are looking for a straightforward parenting text grounded in neuroscience that will challenge you to grow alongside your child, The Whole Brain Child is that book.
Tsabary, Shefali. The Conscious Parent: Transforming Ourselves, Empowering Our Children. Vancouver: Namaste Publishing, 2010. Print.
In a nutshell:
Where many parenting books focus on how to change our child's behavior, Shefali Tsabary's The Conscious Parent suggests the opposite. According to Tsabary, the first step in improving the parent and child dynamic is for the parent to move from unconscious to conscious parenting and to see the task at hand as a path of spiritual growth. Tsabary outlines the trajectory from parenting an infant to a teen in terms of how we need to accept our children for who they are while also acknowledging and accepting ourselves. When we do, we no longer tread the worn paths of the way in which we were parented. Instead, we do the important work of healing ourselves and our relationships with our children. In terms of what this looks like on a practical level, Tsabary saves a discussion of discipline for the end of the book - which she terms constraining and behavior shaping.
I found much to love in this book, particularly the way in which it acknowledges that parenting is a paradox involving both the utmost joy and a whole ton of inner turmoil and questions of self. The book doesn't cite research or offer heavy footnotes. Instead, it narrates the struggles of parenting in a manner that makes the reader feel understood, and offers examples from Tsabary's own experiences with clients as well as her own parenting journey. The the language of "spiritual awakening" and "consciousness" may not appeal to every reader - and if that is the case for you, there are other books that also examine the connection between our own feelings and triggers and the work of parenting that may better suit you. (Like this or this.)
Some quotes to consider:
"The transition to parenthood is complex, requiring us to surrender to an irrevocable loss of our identity as we have thus far known it. To create the internal space required to embrace the tending of a new spirit, the pillars of our old lifestyle have to crumble. Who we were before becoming a parent doesn't and cannot exist with the same ferocity. Once children enter our life, their impact is indelible and we are required to reinvent ourselves in response" (96).
"When you are able to respect the unfolding of your child's particular journey, you teach them to nurture their own inner voice and simultaneously honor the voice of others" (31).
Have you read The Conscious Parent? If so, I'd love to know what you think! Share in the comments below. Find more Nested Mama reviews here.
Wiessinger, Diane, et. al. Sweet Sleep: Nighttime and Naptime Strategies for the Breastfeeding Families. New York: Ballantine Books, 2014. Print.
In a nutshell:
If you've ever paged through LLL's hefty The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding, you will find many similarities in Sweet Sleep. Most notably, the authors attempt to bring you the intimacy of a support meeting but in book form by speaking directly to "you" the reader and filling the pages with first-person accounts of sleep struggles and successes. While most sleep books on the market focus on training your baby or scheduling feeds, Sweet Sleep offers a different perspective on nighttime parenting.
The book opens with a checklist of The Safe Sleep Seven. If met, these seven requirements "make your bed as SIDS-safe as a crib and greatly reduce other risks in just a few steps" (3). Indeed, Sweet Sleep suggests that if you can meet these criteria, bedsharing may provide a low-risk option to get more rest while meeting your baby's needs for nourishment and attachment.
The middle sections of the book work through developmentally normal expectations for the naps and nighttimes of your nursling at all ages and stages. Throughout it all, the book maintains that needs for nighttime nursing and reassurance are normal into toddlerhood. The book saves the nitty-gritty work of wading through research that often is cited to warn against bedsharing for the end of the book and makes a thorough but accessible argument in support of their view. The book concludes with a guide to handle any negative responses you may receive from family and friends.
For those who meet the Safe Sleep Seven criteria, Sweet Sleep provides a welcome perspective different from most sleep advice books on the market. If you are a breastfeeding parent and committed to responsive, attachment-promoting parenting, this book could provide much needed reassurance.
Other quotes of note:
"Our immature babies don't have much choice in how they behave. But we as mothers, with our fully-developed brains, can choose our behaviors. Our brilliant little still-developing babies, who are helpless without us, count on us to choose well. We're not just filling their stomachs; we're feeding their souls. And our own" (44).
"All children move out of your bed and your room and sleep through the night, without your having to do a thing. Sometimes you can make it faster with well-timed nudging. Sometimes you need a change for your own sake. And sometimes the best approach is no approach . . . yet (or maybe ever). The essence of nudging is that you can always relax about it for now and trust that time - with or without a little nudge - will take care of it. It will" (193).
"Probably the single best tip is to step outside each day, even if it's raining or snowing. Throw your shoulders back, look up, and take a couple of deep breaths. You're one of billions of mothers, now and across time. You're built strong, and you're built competent. You're going to find happiness and skills that you never knew you had in you. Even if it doesn't feel like it yet" (239).
Are you finding yourself exhausted and looking for sleep support? Nested Mama offers a heart-centered holistic approach to family sleep. Learn how you can get the support you need today and the rest you need tonight.
Richardson, Cheryl. The Art of Extreme Self-Care: Transform Your Life One Month at a Time. 6th ed. New York: Hay House, Inc., 2012. Print.
With Nested Mama Bookshelf, I offer short reviews on books related to Pregnancy, Birth, Postpartum, and Parenting.
In a nutshell:
Richardson offers a 12-month plan for you to take on the project of “extreme” self-care. As a buzzword, self-care can denote anything from a chocolate biscuit to a 10-day trip to some exotic location. What makes Richardson’s view “extreme”? Rather than a bucket list, Richardson’s plan overhauls how you see yourself, your time, and your worth. Emphasizing boundaries, rituals, and an honest look at your values, Richardson (gently) calls out the reader’s tendencies to blame obligations or others for stress and unhappiness.
Richardson writes, “To practice Extreme Self-Care, you must learn to love yourself unconditionally, accept your imperfections, and embrace your vulnerabilities” (10). Simply put, this is a project not for a year, but for a lifetime.
While the cover art made me doubt that I was the book’s target market, the book’s content felt like it was written just for me. More than that, she was writing ABOUT me.
For example, Richardson writes in the first chapter, “When you hear yourself complaining, ‘No one appreciates the things I do,’ what you most likely mean is: ‘I take on way too much hoping someone will notice and tell me how good I am or how grateful they are’” (5).
Has she been spying on me?! Truly, so many of the examples resonated with an honest look at my own behaviors and feelings.
Other quotations of note:
“So many of us, especially women, have taken on this ‘noble’ role. What we don’t realize-until it’s too late-is the high price we pay for being ‘so generous’. . . a price extracted from our very bones” (x).
“For example, I had to stop being a martyr and focus on getting my needs met. I had to stop expecting others to read my mind and start being direct about what I wanted. I was challenged to try to ask for help before I needed it” (xi).
“The truth is this: if your life is chaotic, your schedule is overcrowded, and your brain is too full to think straight, the key to reclaiming your life has a lot more to do with what you remove from your life than how you organize it” (44).
In some respects, as a mom of three little ones, I felt that implementing her 12-month plan may be out of reach in this season of life. But, if you are looking for accountability and encouragement as you learn to set boundaries, say no, or embrace those things you truly value, she provides a resource to do just that.
Are you beginning your family and looking for ways to carve out space and boundaries? Check out Nested Mama’s upcoming Planning for Postpartum Workshop June 2, 2:00-4:00 p.m. at Robinson Family Wellness in Coralville.
Looking for more support before and after baby? Learn more about Nested Mama doula services here.
Johanna received a Ph.D. in English in 2014. Now a postpartum doula and educator of childbirth, breastfeeding, and infant sleep, she blogs about pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and parenting.