Why You Deserve Professional Postpartum Support (And How to Afford It!)

When it comes to postpartum, EVERYONE needs support. And even after accepting that you WILL need the help, it can be tricky figuring out how to ask for it, especially when most of our friends and family members don’t really know how to help (nor have the time!). Kaitlin McGreyes talks with Adriana about how combining community help with professional support can set you up for the perfect combination of care and knowledge to have the amazing postpartum experience you deserve. She also shares insightful tips on how to afford it!

 

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Transcript

Why You Deserve Professional Postpartum Support (And How to Afford It!)

Adriana Lozada: Welcome to Birthful,  Mighty Parent or Parent-To-Be, and welcome to this episode that is part of our series called Get A Head Start On Your Postpartum Logistics… to help you do just that! 

I’m Adriana Lozada, and today I’m going to be talking to Kaitlin McGreyes about why you deserve to be supported during postpartum, and why professional help could and should be an integral part of that support. 

Kaitlin started working as a birth doula in 2014, and then quickly became passionate about creating access to perinatal care for all. She has supported hundreds of families through their parenthood journeys, founded a doula team, ran a doula mentorship program, and has lobbied on behalf of birthing people as part of her commitment to improve family-building experiences overall. 

In our conversation, we highly acknowledge how tricky it can be to ask for help, even after you have accepted that you need it, especially when most of our friends and family members don’t really know how to help (nor have the time!). Which is why reaching out to professional perinatal support providers can be so pivotal in setting you up for the perfect combination of care and knowledge, so that you can have the amazing postpartum experience you deserve. 

And we also know that often the bigger question is how to afford that professional help— because, yes, the barrier to accessibility is real— so make sure you listen until the end, when Kaitlin shares so many great suggestions on how to be able to pay for that invaluable support.

You’re listening to Birthful. Here to inform your intuition. 

Adriana: Kaitlin, welcome to the podcast. It’s so great to have you here!

Kaitlin McGreyes: Thank you so much! It is absolutely my pleasure to be here.

Adriana: And why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and how you identify?

Kaitlin: Absolutely. I am a doula, I’m a mother of three, and I’m the founder of Be Her Village, a gift registry for moms to get support instead of stuff. I identify as a woman, if that was part of the question, and I really identify as someone who is deeply passionate about getting moms care and about getting birthing people care, at all stages in their experience and their transformation during pregnancy, during birth, and in the postpartum time.

And all of that is sort of… stems from my own experience being an unsupported mother myself. And so I’ve turned that experience into my life’s work and my passion and my mission.

Adriana: And I so appreciate all the work you’re doing, because I feel like we all need to really get on a rooftop and shout, over and over again, how important it is that people get support during— I mean, all of life— but postpartum especially. And it requires that level of shouting, because we need to change a paradigm of “I do this all by myself.” I feel like that’s a trap that’s really hurting us. So let me just ask you my first question, instead of answering it: Why is prioritizing support during the postpartum period, so vitally important?

Kaitlin: Well, that’s a great question. I think the really, really short answer is because the postpartum time is really hard, so we should be prioritizing support. I think there’s this vision that gets set for moms, through lots of imagery and marketing, that, like, ‘Bringing home your baby is the best time of your life,” and “Enjoy every moment! It’s all sweetness and newborn snuggles and your baby mostly sleeps.” 

And that is really not the reality for most of us— definitely not for me, and definitely not for the people I’ve supported. It’s actually one of the most intensely confusing and transformative and difficult and wonderful… And just every single emotion and every single experience, every single pattern you have is amplified. It’s the most I’ve ever lived. 

And I think what happens for people who are coming home with a baby, is that the patterns that they’ve set both for themselves and then their relationships, but also that we’ve sort of like patchworked together in terms of our own care and the way that we function in our lives, is deeply, deeply tested when we have this little adorable creature that requires 24-hour care. And it’s really not that hard to take care of a newborn, right? It’s like… they’re just little newborns. They need to be fed and they need to be cuddled and they need to sleep, and maybe a diaper changed every now and then. 

It’s really hard to take care of a newborn and live your life as normal and also take care of your own needs and also be in a relationship if you’re in a relationship and also run a household and also maybe possibly care for other children at the same time. All of that is really difficult, and so that is why we need care.

Adriana: Oh my gosh. While you’re also… you’re also recovering from whatever birth experience you had, and integrating this new identity of yourself as now a parent. I always say that the birth needs to be such a huge physical event to reflect the tectonic plate shifts that are happening in your identity— like, you need a mirroring of everything changing. And, oh, by the way, you can’t sleep and you have to take care of a newborn.

Kaitlin: Yes, there’s almost… I mean, I would argue that there’s almost, like, no— when you’re handed that baby or you get the baby yourself— you just, there’s no even, like, shred of who you were behind before this moment. And that is sort of intentional in the process, because you have to learn who you are now in this new existence in this new universe. And sometimes we don’t have the tools to transition into that and it requires physical recovery and emotional recovery and exploration. And it impacts every single area of our lives: it impacts our sleep, our eating, our relationships, our work, our friendships, our family relationships, and our ability to like… eat a sandwich.

You know, like, the things that I struggled with in my postpartum time were figuring out how to eat— which, I have to be honest, I’m sitting here a little heavier than I’d like to be. That’s never really been a problem that I’ve faced before! And yet it is such a momentous task to even get basic level needs met in that postpartum time, and it is wildly fascinating to me how every single other culture in the world has built in this rest and nourishing and acknowledgment of the incredible journey to parenthood. Honestly, whether you’re carrying a baby in your body or not even an adoptive situation, there’s a journey that has happened that has exhausted yourself and your being of energy, and now you have this little thing that you’re caring for, and it takes other people’s care to keep the entire family afloat. And there is this uniquely American independence that we have sort of woven into our culture of like, “I’m gonna do it all by myself. I’m gonna do it. I’m gonna snap back into my jeans, I’m gonna slap some makeup on. I’m gonna go back to work in three to six weeks.” And the whole thing is really alarming. Right?! 

It’s really alarming, because mothers need care and parents need care in that time period, and really throughout the entire caregiving decades of our lives. But it is most acute in that postpartum time, I would argue, is the six weeks to six months of postpartum—.

Adriana: Yes, at least… 

Kaitlin: —at least. 

Adriana: At the very least! And we were talking before we started recording about the intergenerational gap that we have, that then means that not only is it not supposed to be something that you do alone, but we’re doing it alone without the knowledge that used to be passed down generations, through generations, when you saw all other members of your family either taking care of babies or feeding them, or caring for others, bringing food, like, more of an interconnectedness that we don’t have right now.

Kaitlin: Yes. And it is… it’s hard maybe for someone who’s listening to even understand what we’re missing because, because we don’t have it. And it’s sort of… to me, it feels like this intangible thing, but there literally is knowledge and wisdom that has been garnered over millennia of mothering, of parenting, of raising the next generation, of how we take care of our children, of how we make this transition, of how we latch a baby on, of how we manage, various things during pregnancy, and how we prepare and how we bring our babies home, and these rituals that used to exist around motherhood, around parenthood, around welcoming a little one into a family. And there are still holdovers of these rituals, but we have lost so much in that knowledge that gets passed along and it’s been lost in many ways. Right? 

I mean, some of it is interruption in birthing, right? I mean, thinking about the twilight birthing period where it became this fancy new thing to not feel any discomfort during your labor, right? Like, how much was lost when an entire generation of women were numbed during their births? And how much was lost when formula companies came in and marketed their products to new moms and interrupted breastfeeding knowledge? How much was lost when mothers were forced to go back to work soon after having their baby?

I… Listen, I’m a working mother myself. I have nothing against working mothers and none of this is meant to judge or pass judgment on somebody. But there is this interruption in the knowledge that families and communities passed on to new mothers to support them. And it’s part of why many of us feel like we’re floundering when we have a baby, because it’s sort of like… Where do we go for information? Facebook groups and Google. Instead of calling grandmothers and neighbors and midwives and aunts and aunties and mothers and sisters. We’re asking Google, and we’re asking anonymous people.

Adriana: Yeah. And I hear so often how the same disconnect that you are talking about, what that looks like in the conversation of a person who just gave birth with their parents. How many times have I had a doula client say, “Well, I was trying to ask my mom, but she doesn’t know anything because she just had formula,” or like, there was definitely an interruption, [it was] very intentional. And I think it’s important for us to have an eye-opening conversation of context. I’m all about context, context of where we are and what our challenges are, that they’re not intrinsic. It’s not that “I can’t do it.” It’s that “I’m not meant to do it alone.”

Kaitlin: I mean that’s… I hear that all the time from people that mother-in-laws or mothers feel almost threatened by the choices that they’re making, because they were different from what they made. It is… It’s really interesting to see how this generational knowledge has sort of become co-opted by these companies and by an industry— a birthing industry, and a formula industry, and a culture that forces parents out of the house and disconnected from their children and back to work. It’s really… it’s a system that has removed the community from mothers at every single step of the way. And then we sit here struggling and saying “We need help!” and it’s like, “Just go ahead, go do it on your own.” 

And it’s one of those things that I try to talk about as much as possible, because there is such a tendency for people to blame themselves for not being prepared. You know, there’s all this blame that we give to ourselves when really there is… there’s interruptions in this knowledge and wisdom. There’s forces far bigger than ourselves that are really leading us to flounder and to be struggling in this postpartum time.

Adriana: So in that case, how can people…? I think it’s a two-part: How can people set up a “friends and family support” when their friends and family don’t necessarily know how to care for them, or that dynamic of offering and receiving care is not well-honed? How can people dig into that? And then we’ll talk about what has been developing over the past few years to fill in that gap, which is professional support.

Kaitlin: I think that there are two parts to that struggle with friends and family, because one is the knowledge, right? Friends and family don’t even know how to help a new mom anymore.  And number two, they don’t necessarily have the availability that used to exist. They’re not always close by. They, even if they are close by, they’re working full-time, they’re struggling on their own, they’re busy, busy, busy (the way we all love to be so busy). And there’s this sort of like, “I love you,” you know, “Good luck!” And there’s like a gift at the baby shower and maybe a meal dropped and that’s it.

And so I think the best thing you can do with friends and family is first of all, acknowledge that there is some sort of limitation in their own capacity and it has nothing to do with their love for you. It has to do with sort of the system that we’re all living in that requires us to be doing other things.

And I think that for me, one of my favorite things to do just generally, but also for new moms, is to make lists. I think making a list of your basic needs and making it not when you are in crisis, making it well before the baby is out, and really taking time to think about the things that support you in your daily life.

So, for some of us, it might be like, for me: I love my 20 minutes with my hot cup of coffee and my phone and no interruptions. It is, like, one of my favorite parts of the day. So a friend coming over and taking the baby for 20 minutes so that you can go have a coffee ritual or a breathing ritual, or a yoga ritual, or a journaling ritual or some ritual, or you could just sleep for 20 minutes… but you creating rituals for yourself can be really, really impactful. It’s like low effort/high impact in those ways. 

Adriana: And without guilt! 

Kaitlin: Oh my goodness, yes. That’s like a whole other episode, of mom guilt and how we avoid it. 

The other thing that I think is really great is just having this sort of list of fresh foods that people can bring, because there’s a lot we can do to prepare ourselves. There’s plenty of takeout right at the touch of a button; you can have a greasy restaurant meal in your hands in 20 minutes! But having people drop off cut-up watermelon or a salad or a freshly homemade chili or something that’s not accessible at the touch of a button can be so, so, so impactful.

You can also develop a really small list of chores or activities that people can participate in. Like, “Come and empty my sink,” in whatever form that looks, whether it’s loading the dishwasher or doing, you know, washing dishes by hand. Come and sort of contribute, so that you are not feeling like you must host people, but rather people can come and nourish you.

Adriana: And that is so huge! I love hearing you say that, ’cause that’s something that I always stress to people, also, is when you have… They’re not visitors, they’re helpers. And you are not a host. Do not host. They’re there to take care of you. And I love the list! I love the list on the fridge and to sort of bridge that awkwardness of “I don’t know how to ask for help and maybe I’m feeling guilty that you don’t like folding clothes or whatever.” There’s a list on the fridge. “Pick a thing that you like, just do it.”

Kaitlin: Yes. Yes, and I also would recommend making this sort of list, this visitation, like, “how you can help” list, and also just having a reminder about visitation time… because, you know, my mother of course, welcome all day, all day long. My father actually had no idea how to help, so he would come to my house, he would drive 45 minutes to my house and sit in my living room and watch TV, and it was actually so helpful to just not be alone. It’s just amazing to not be alone. And so they were welcome for hours and hours, but when other people would come 20 minutes in and out. There’s really small things that people can do that have a really big impact.

You could also set boundaries, within this sort of pre-made list, while you’re pregnant, that’s either hung on your front door when people come to visit or distributed via text to people who are curious about visiting— by your partner or your mother, please not by you. And it can have, you know, “Hey, if I offer you the baby, then you can hold the baby, but come without the expectation that you’re gonna be holding the baby.” 

Because there is a huge thing that happens. I remember it stressed me out to no end when people would come and visit me and I had a high-needs baby who turned into a high-needs kid, and I was deep in the throes of postpartum anxiety, post-C-section. I didn’t know which way was up, but I did know that I was not interested in handing my sweet little one or two-week-old baby to my husband’s, like, fairly distant relatives or even my friends from childhood.

It created an enormous amount of anxiety. And the truth is, and I wish somebody had told me the way I’m telling all of you right now, “It’s okay to not let people hold your baby.” And “It’s okay to say, ‘Come and visit, bring us food, do a chore, and then go. Just your presence is a present.'” You can even put a little rhyme on there. You can really… It can make setting a boundary feel better for everybody involved.

Adriana: I remember feeling so incredibly disrespected when people came three/four weeks— I love staggering care, right, I love people not all coming in the first week, but coming in week three and four and five or whenever there’s a big transition— but them having waited four weeks because they didn’t get an invitation, then say, “We’re coming over to see the baby.” Not “help you out,” not “how you doing?” And they showed up to hold and see the baby, like that was their right. And I remember feeling so disrespected, right? So we could go on and on about that. But we understand that the conversation of figuring out how to get friends and family to help is a complicated one.

And so fortunately there’s been all these professionals that have popped up to help fill those gaps. Talk to me a little bit more about how to integrate the two and what even professionals are out there that you can reach out to.

Kaitlin: So, yeah, so sort of, like, going back to this conversation about intergenerational wisdom, the good news is, while it has been lost in many ways, it has not been completely lost, and there are entire professions that have retained this information, this knowledge, that have deepened it, that have even quite honestly done the work of traveling and experiencing the cultures and regaining and reclaiming some of this knowledge to bring it back to the mothers, so that we don’t have to rely on our mothers and grandmothers who might not be around or might not have the knowledge themselves. And these professionals look like many different people. I mean, there’s childbirth educators, there’s doulas, there’s podcasters, there’s postpartum professionals, lactation consultants. There’s postpartum professionals— meaning doulas that are, I like to call them “fairy godmothers”— they just come into your life and make everything better. It’s really hard to explain postpartum doulas, except that they just make everything feel better when you’re in your postpartum time.

Adriana: I do have an episode about postpartum doulas, so I’ll link it to our notes!

Kaitlin: Awesome! I love that. There’s also so much care for the mother, because I think so much of what we worry about right in this postpartum time is, like, “Is the baby gaining weight?” We go to the pediatrician. There’s, like, lots of… If we are… you know, have a pediatrician that’s supporting our breastfeeding, maybe we’re going to a lactation consultant, a tongue tie consultant. But there’s also pelvic floor specialists for mothers. There’s also maternal mental health. There’s also support groups for mothers. There’s also all kinds of rituals that I am just seeing more and more and more pop up in communities— there’s closing of the bones ceremonies. There’s acupuncturists. There’s bodywork. There’s Reiki. There’s energy work. There’s all of these people that have sort of collectively taken this knowledge of how to care for mothers, how to care for parents and babies, and the people who are transitioning into this role, from basically medically-adjacent into full woo (and I say that respectfully). There’s so much knowledge and so many professionals out there right now!

Adriana: And part of the conversation of how important it is, like, taking away the guilt, right? Of how important it really is for you to figure out what combination of help is most helpful to you, but to actually get the help. Recently, there was data from the CDC, on the maternal— what was it, the committees, the review committees? And that came out, 2022. And the leading cause right now, of maternal mortality in the first year after baby is born, is mental health. You know, second to that, and depending on what population it is— for Black people, cardiovascular things are higher, and then for Asian Pacifics, hemorrhaging is higher— but in general, all population, mental health is the highest leading indicator. And then if you are Hispanic or non-Hispanic White, mental health remains the leading cause of maternal mortality that is beyond, right? 

Kaitlin: It is. I think, for me, when I’m listening to you read those stats? It is infuriating and rage-inducing, and helps me continue to show up to work. Because it is not cardiovascular disease. I’m not sure… I don’t know how to solve that, right? I don’t know how to solve hemorrhage. But mental health— and I’m sure there are people that do, by the way— but mental health, thank goodness, mental health for mothers, it’s so solvable, it’s laughable. They know exactly what to do. They know exactly how to reduce mental health issues. They know how to help mothers. Every single thing that we have just talked about the support before, during, and after. People coming to visit, people helping mothers, not feeling alone. Other mothers being connected to them, having the time to care for their babies, having access to actual mental health resources, all of this care for mothers. All of this restoring, all of this sort of pause and acknowledgment of how incredibly momentous and tremendous and awful and wonderful birth and becoming a mother can be, is how you fix mental health problems that lead essentially to someone hurting or killing themselves. How awful that we can see the problem so clearly, and no one is acting on it right now? It is similarly mind-boggling to me. And it’s why this conversation… I feel like I have it a lot, maybe because it’s my life, right? I feel like I have this conversation with so many people, and I feel like so many people are having this conversation about why support is so important, but it needs to be had because until we collectively as a group say “We are not doing this anymore! I deserve to be supported as a mother. I deserve to be cared for. I deserve to be safe. I deserve this and my baby deserves me having it.” And sometimes I like that reframe because it can be really, really hard with our independent American thinking to think, “Well, I should care for myself,” right?

But if I think about “Well, my baby really needs one thing only, and that’s a caregiver that is present and healthy and safe.” Well, then that can really kick me into action, that is it right there. I mean, this is how you save lives. You save lives and you keep mothers and babies, and parents and babies, healthy by supporting their mental health. And that does not just look like talk therapy, right? That looks like so many things. It looks like food and community and connection. And you can have all the medical problems, and having a village and a group of other people to validate you and see you and hear you, it can really just relieve all of these… the pressures that exist for new moms. That isolation is such a big factor.

Adriana: My gosh, the isolation is really cruel. I mean, there’s so much of this that I hope people really take to heart. The fact that, for early postpartum period, if you are the primary caregiver, it can be not only isolating, but then you’re also over-touched, because you are never… you’re isolated, but you’re never alone. And that’s such a difficult place to be. And like you were saying, your 20 minutes with your cup of coffee, that is lifesaving, because it’s that re-energizing. Or being able to go to the bathroom alone— like, you should have that. 

Kaitlin: Yes. I mean, it really… I feel like, for someone who hasn’t been through this, it might sound strange for us to be saying, “All of these women are in crisis and or at-risk because of mental health issues, so really just make sure somebody comes and helps you drink coffee and get alone for 20 minutes,” and yet… that’s kinda it, right? That’s what’s so difficult about motherhood and knowing the problems that face mothers in our country, is that it really doesn’t take that much to set yourself up on this path, where you can restore and reconnect to yourself. Babies demand 24/7 care, and they were never, ever, ever meant to be cared for by one or two people ever. 

Motherhood is not supposed to be done alone. It is supposed to be done in community. And we used to live— I mean, way back in the old days— we used to live in villages. We used to live in places where women would work together to raise the children. Then we got, you know, a little more industrialized, and we have multi-generational homes and farms and communities. And now I’m sitting in my suburban house, my one-generation suburban house, and I’m lucky enough to have put some real energy into building my community. But I have a 10-year-old, you know… ’cause I didn’t know to do this when I had a newborn or before I had a newborn. We’re incredibly isolated from one another. And the act of parenting needs community. The act of parenting needs multiple capable adults to support one another as they bring up their youngest.

Adriana: And we have spent all this time trying to really get people to understand that they need to shift the paradigm, that the system is letting them down, and, like, trying to make sure you understand that you have to put yourself first— that if you don’t do it, nobody around you nor the system will, because we’re culturally focused on the baby, not on the person that did the work.

Kaitlin: Yes!

Adriana: So by now, both Kaitlin and I are here cheering you on and saying be “selfish.” Prioritize yourself. You are worth it. You deserve it. It is for your health and your family’s health. Prevent complications. Prevent a lot of mental health issues. So hopefully you are convinced that you are gonna set up your village of support!

So when should people start setting up this village of support and how long will they need support for? What should they plan?

Kaitlin: I love that! So when you should build your village of support is as early as possible. Quite honestly, when you’re thinking about getting pregnant, if you have the privilege and luxury of planning your pregnancies, get connected to people in your community who are doing the same thing. Get connected to people online who are doing the same thing. Get clicked into resources there. But absolutely when you are pregnant, when you’re expecting your baby, if you’re not pregnant, that is the time to start lining up the support for your postpartum time, because it’s almost like graduating college, right?

You’re gonna be living life this certain way and then as soon as you graduate, it’s this wide open canvas that you get to paint for yourself. And that is similar. It’s that abrupt of a transition, and you want to set yourself up so that when this transition happens, everything you need is lined up. You have both the friends and family, the connection with other people that are in this circle of life that you’re in, and also these professionals that we’re talking about that can bring these generations of knowledge into your experience. It’s an incredible thing to do. And doing it earlier rather than later is best. 

That being said, do it whenever you need it, ‘cause, like, I don’t want… There’s so many people that are like, “Oh my goodness, I’m 38 weeks pregnant. I’m so far behind!” No, listen, you’re not sitting here, you know, seven years postpartum going, “What just happened to me?” So, you’re ahead of the game to even be listening to this and even be thinking about this! It’s better late than never, but start as early as you can to line up those supports. Especially because as you start speaking— especially to professionals, as you start looking into doula support or looking into, someone who can help you reach your breastfeeding goals, or someone who is gonna specialize in pelvic floor therapy or return to exercise or returning to work, or whatever you’re really trying to focus on— they are gonna open up all of these places for you to start exploring. So you don’t even need to know necessarily. 

You can leave here, leave this episode and think, “Oh, I really have no idea. But someone so-and-so used that doula, let me call that doula up and start.” It doesn’t have to be as much work as it sounds— like, sometimes it’s just about having conversations and letting your gut follow or lead you, excuse me, into the next place and the next conversation and really lining up people that feel good for you. And once you’re tapped into this, once you’ve opened yourself up to this possibility of support, these things have a way of sort of unfolding exactly how they’re supposed to. But the big important thing, which is why we spent so much time talking about it, is having this mindset shift into needing support, into understanding that you’re going to need it. 

Actually, that’s not even, that’s not even a question, but that you deserve it, and your baby deserves it, and that’s where the focus should be. Because I’m guilty of it! I spent my entire first pregnancy painting a mural— a beautiful mural, but still a sort of useless one, when it came down to it— painting a mural on the nursery wall, sourcing all the cloth diapers, the clothes, and building the nursery out. All of my time and energy went in there. And that was where I sat and struggled. So it was at least a nice place to sit and struggle. But had I taken that amount of energy and built out my team, and built out connections with other mothers, and built out the lists that I now know I needed, right? Things really would have felt different for me.

So the mindset shift is 98% of the work, and it really takes just a few phone calls and a few intentions set after that to get the ball rolling on your support team.

Adriana: So much, and I love that you mentioned doulas because doulas. One of the things that we do is have that referral system in place and be able to identify, you know, “It seems like, from your exercise history, it might be good for you to connect with a pelvic PT even before birth, so you have a baseline and you find out if you’re hypertonic so that you can balance those muscles, make birth easier, make recovery easier, lessen chances of tearing, like one connection with one of these providers.”

Because we’re like perinatal geeks, we love connecting around this and talking to each other and getting to know each other! So it’s very easy for somebody to then just say, “Oh, you set up your lactation consultant yet? It might be good for you to get a baseline and then you know this person you’ve created some trust and connection along with confidence of your body specifically, and then you have their phone number to reach out day three, when your milk’s coming in.”

Kaitlin: Exactly! Exactly. And that’s if there’s one thing you come away with today, I want you to know that it really just takes that first step and it will all really get itself where it needs to be. The big shift is for you to make that intention and that one aligned action to setting up your support team.

Adriana: Now we do have to acknowledge though that having a baby is so incredibly expensive.And so one of the biggest barriers to setting down your professional postpartum support is being able to afford it. And especially with our short paid or unpaid family leave policies, whatever you can get, we’ve got people going back to work at three weeks after their baby is born. I mean, forget about being able to even observe… have time to think about integrating what they’re going through. How can people figure out how to afford this care? Because they definitely need it.

Kaitlin: Yeah. That is… to me, that’s the question that I’m answering with my work because it is the question, right? We can… so many people can and do try to get that mindset shift happening and then there’s an entire population of moms and women and parents to be that “Okay, I deserve the support. I’m gonna go out and get it. […] Uh oh, I don’t… I can’t afford any of this. What do I do? What do I do?” I now know it’s almost worse. Now I know how impactful… now I know how my health can be, you know, affected by this care, and now I know I deserve it. How do we have this system where the people who have money get that care and the people who don’t have out-of-pocket funds to spend don’t get it? 

I wish I had a better answer! Number one, I wish the answer was “It’s, ‘Oh, just go to this XYZ website and you can get everything for free!'”That would be my ideal answer! That is not the answer I have. But there are a lot of resources that people don’t know exist, and so I would recommend that anyone who’s listening who’s like, “Alright, I definitely was thinking about a doula before. Now I’m definitely gonna get a doula, definitely want a postpartum doula. Gonna make the call right now. But what do I do if their price is, let’s say, it’s gonna cost $2000 or $3,000 all in for this care?” What I would recommend is to be scrappy, is to be crafty, to really dig in and create different ways for you to access this care.

So, number one, there is short-term disability if you are not pregnant yet, or if you’re not pregnant with your next pregnancy, or whatever. If you look into short-term disability, it’s an incredible program. You have to not be pregnant yet. If you purchase it before you get pregnant, you can do the math where you, pay a little bit each month, and then by the time you have your baby, you can get $10-$15,000 to pay for this type of care that you’re getting, or your maternity leave, or whatever it may be. So short-term disability, if you’re not pregnant yet (or if you’re pregnant now, maybe for your next one) is something that everybody should look into, because it’s an incredible tool. And I personally don’t think it’s advertised nearly the way that it should be. 

There are also increasing numbers of practitioners— both IBCLCs, pelvic floor therapists, maternal mental health therapists, and even doulas— that are being covered by insurance companies. So I would strongly, strongly recommend that you look into your company’s benefits or however you’re accessing insurance. And beyond that, though, even if your insurance company says, “Oh, we don’t cover that,” when talking to your insurance, to never take the first “no” as a “no,” because really some days it depends on who you’re talking to. Sometimes by design they say “no,” and you have to call back and, you know, apply again. And there’s like all these sort of… there’s red tape by design.

So be scrappy, be diligent, be determined. And the next thing I would say, in the insurance conversation, is to reach out to the practitioners you’d like to work with and talk to them, because oftentimes they know which insurance providers will pay them, which out-of-network, you know, applications you need to use, and they can really help you navigate this incredibly complicated system.

It’s sort of like the village begins there, right? You don’t have to call your insurance by yourself and figure this all out. That’s very intimidating for many of us, myself included. There are people that will help you through that. 

The next area— and this is where my expertise comes in— is actually through your gift registry. So there are $12 billion a year spent on baby shower gifts and baby products, and that’s a whole lot of money. It’s about $3,000 to $5,000 per baby and per baby, which you have to think about. Too many of us are only having a shower for our first, so there’s an exceptional amount of money being spent, and part of it is sort of what we went back to in this… in the beginning of this conversation, where our friends and family want to help. They are so excited to give us a gift. They are so excited to shower us with their love. They just don’t necessarily have the right tools to do that. And so one of the ways that you can capitalize on that generosity and the sort of built-in experience of having a baby shower and having a registry is by creating a registry for this support.

And there’s a couple of ways to do it. You can do it on a GoFundMe, although that’s not really my recommendation, ‘cause that feels a little desperate. And charity… and it’s not the same thing as giving a gift. 

Babylist.com is a really popular baby registry website that’s very product-focused but does have a place to leave a Venmo link if you wanted to fundraise for a doula or maternity leave or postpartum care.

But our platform BeHerVillage is something that a lot of moms choose in addition to their baby list registries, because BeHerVillage (which is BeHerVillage.com), is really all about everything we talked about today. It’s about lining up your support team and having it paid for through your baby registry and through baby shower gifts.

And so that can be a great option for someone who’s listening to this going, “Alright, I don’t have the insurance. I’m already pregnant. I can’t get short-term disability.” Right? But you do have people— every single one of us has people in our lives that’s going to be, giving us a gift or thinking of us or helping us prepare for this baby and asking people for not only the products that your baby needs, but also the support that you need to take care of your baby is a really great option for sort of building your team and getting the funding to be able to afford this care that you very much deserve.

Adriana: And it makes it easy for them to give you something that… you know, one of the things we said at the beginning is that they are also really busy. They might want to come and help and just spend the day cleaning your house, but they don’t have that kind of time. I just last week I was telling a doula friend of mine who’s gonna have surgery “I can’t bring you a meal, but I’ll send you a GrubHub,” like, that’s ‘cause that’s the reality. I don’t have the time for this, but I love how BeHerVillage really becomes sort of that list on the fridge that we were talking about, of “go and pick something that’s really gonna be helpful.” They know that then the gift they’re giving you is a gift that’s gonna be super helpful, and not just a onesie that may or may not get used ‘cause the baby outgrew it too quickly, but they sent that because they didn’t know what else to give.

Kaitlin: Exactly. That’s exactly it. There are so many people that are very excited to take care of new moms, but we don’t necessarily have the tools to do it. And there’s nothing like hiring a professional or sending money towards your care and saying, “Hey, I’m thinking about you. I love you, and here’s the care that I wish I could provide myself.” It’s really… it’s a beautiful option. And we’re finding that people are pretty excited about it, which feels really good to see that.

Adriana: Now, what if you create a plan, and then when you’re in it, it’s not working out or some unexpected circumstances showed up, so things are different than what you planned or prepared for? Like, say you had a preemie, or you had planned for a homebirth, and then you had a transfer to the hospital and ended up with the cesarean. Who knows? Do you have suggestions on how to adjust your support?

Kaitlin: I think that probably whatever support you line up for yourself is flexible. I think that most of the support that you’re lining up, quite honestly, due to the nature of babies, most of them are flexible for call time regardless. And they can help connect you with resources, whether it’s gonna be a NICU resource or a c-section recovery resource— you know, there’s Mayan abdominal massages, there’s things we can do for c-section scars, there’s all sorts of things that sort of exist. But, as you said, I love that perinatal geeks, we all know each other. We all work together in collaboration and community ourselves in order to get mothers supported. 

For me, I think the best thing you can do to prepare for your plan shifting is actually that internal work of envisioning what your life and what your birth and what your reality looks like in each scenario. Because there is this tendency, right, to not want to feed in or manifest or create a negative outcome or an undesired outcome.

But there is also— and I’m speaking from personal experience here— there is also some serious benefit from putting even a little bit of time and energy into sort of “What could this look like?” and “What are the things I should think about?” Think about it for 20 minutes, write it down on a sheet of paper and never look at it again, but at least have created this reality that could exist for yourself, because it can really help when there are uncontrollables— like preemies, like some c-sections, like other circumstances— it can really help to keep your mind and your heart really flexible and really open to what is to come.

Adriana: Yeah, and so you’re not completely blindsided. I’m of the mind of: “If you have a spare, you won’t need it.” Like, do it, just in case— so you won’t need it. Like, instead of this manifesting it, let’s flip it.

Kaitlin: Yes!

Adriana: Kaitlin, thank you so very much for all the work you’re doing for helping new parents to not struggle, or lessen the struggle, be more supported— there’s always struggle, but be more supported! Is there anything that you wanted to mention that we didn’t get to?

Kaitlin: Nope! This has been so incredible and I’m really, really grateful to be invited to have this conversation. Thank you so much for having me! 

Adriana: That was Kaitlin McGreyes, who has supported hundreds of families through their parenthood journeys. She is also the founder of BeHerVillage. You can find Kaitlin on Instagram @behervillage.

I hope you really take to heart how vitally important it is for you to start right now setting up your village of support, and I also wanted to clarify that the full name of the review committees I was talking about is the Maternal Mortality Review Committees. In terms of the timing of the pregnancy-related deaths found in their data, 22% of deaths occurred during pregnancy, 25% occurred on the day of delivery or within seven days after, and 53% occurred between seven days to one year after pregnancy.

Let me repeat, because it’s important, more than half of these deaths occurred between one week to one year after giving birth. On top of all that and echoing what Kaitlin was saying on the episode, the data found that 80% of all pregnancy-related deaths were preventable

This data is just looking at mortality rates, so it doesn’t include the people who experienced the much more prevalent postpartum mood and anxiety disorders, postpartum PTSD, and birth trauma. So make sure you set up the support you need! We’ve linked the data that I just mentioned and a bunch of other resources in the show notes. 

You can connect with us @birthfulpodcast on Instagram. In fact, if you are not driving, go ahead and take a screenshot of this episode right now and post it to Instagram sharing your biggest takeaway from the episode. Make sure to tag @birthfulpodcast so we can see it and amplify it.

You can find the in-depth show notes and transcript of this episode at Birthful.com, where you can also learn more about my birth and postpartum preparation classes and download your free postpartum preparation plan. 

Also, if you find this podcast to be your go-to resource for all things perinatal, then, the best way to support us is by taking any one of my perinatal classes, doing one of my doula workshops, or trying out some of the wonderful, amazing products made by our sponsors. This is what allows us to continue doing this work. 

Birthful is created and produced by me, Adriana Lozada, with production assistance from Aysia Platte.

CITATION

Lozada, Adriana, host. “Why You Deserve Professional Postpartum Support (And How to Afford It!)” Birthful, Birthful. June 28, 2023. Birthful.com.

 

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Kaitlin McGreyes, a white-presenting woman with long straight blonde hair, is wearing a floral patterned dress and bends toward the camera, with hands on her thighs, smiling

Image description: Kaitlin McGreyes, a white-presenting woman with long straight blonde hair, is wearing a floral patterned dress and bends toward the camera, with hands on her thighs, smiling

About Kaitlin McGreyes

Kaitlin McGreyes is the founder of BeHerVillage. She started working as a birth doula in 2014, and became quickly passionate about creating access to perinatal care for all. She has supported hundreds of families through their parenthood journeys, founded a doula team, ran a doula mentorship program, has lobbied on behalf of birthing people, and is committed to helping birthworkers break into the retail baby gift industry.

 

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