Podcast

 

 Joining me this week is birth doula, childbirth educator and founder of C and the Moon, Carson Meyer. We discuss the role of a doula and the importance of having an advocate and grounding influence in the delivery room and the interesting parallels between how feeling empowered and supported in our birth experience can lead to confidence and calm in our transition into motherhood.

Plus we share practical mental health strategies (like finding a community, getting proper nourishment and showing yourself grace) that can be implemented into your daily life. And we dig into the core principle of several different parenting philosophies – forming a trusting relationship with your child – and why that can lift some pressure off your shoulders, help you to parent with ease (most of the time,) and allow both you and your child to relax into a comfortable rhythm.

 

Carson (00:00):

A returning to an innate trust in the self. And I think we can’t go wrong in empowering parents to feel that there is no wrong way. It is hard, I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to fix, but I think we have the ability to fix it within ourselves.

Dr. Sarah (00:21):

Going into your birth journey, feeling supported, validated, and cared for can transcend far beyond just the day or two of your labor. It can set you up to feel more confident and capable in your early days of parenthood as well. I’m so excited today to be speaking with birth doula, Carson Meyer. In addition to being a doula, which you’ll hear in this episode, how much of a fan of doulas I am. She’s also a birth photographer and a childbirth educator and the founder of C And The Moon, which is a line of all natural and environmentally considerate skincare products. Now just like every child is different. Every birth is different. And it’s all about learning to be attuned to your own instincts and trusting in yourself and your support system. In this episode, Carson and I get deep into how we nurture this trust in birth and in parenthood.

Dr. Sarah (01:15):

Do you sometimes feel that while you love parenthood, it’s also overwhelming, messy confusing and not always exactly what you thought it would be? Do you wish that you could stop worrying if you’re doing it right, and just feel confident trusting yourself? Let me clue you into one of the best kept secrets that I have discovered through my own clinical practice and my years as a mother. When you understand the basics of child development, psychology, and neurobiology, you are able to work with your child’s brain and body rather than fight against it. You develop a true sense of confidence and you feel in control knowing that you’re prepared to navigate whatever challenge parenthood might throw your way. And that is exactly why I created The Authentic Parent: Finding your confidence in your child’s first year. Whether you are a brand new parent, or maybe you’re thinking about how to approach a second or third child with a different set of skills. This six-week course will arm you with all the knowledge you need to feel grounded and confident in your parenting journey. Enrollment is limited. So make sure to sign up for the waitlist now. Go to my website, drsarahbren.com/tap to sign up and learn more. Let’s increase your confidence and help you create a strong parent-child relationship to use as your parenting compass. Don’t miss your chance to take part in The Authentic Parent and learn to confidently move through parenthood during your child’s first year.

Dr. Sarah (02:55):

Hi, I’m Dr. Sarah Bren, a clinical psychologist and mom of two. In this podcast I’ve taken all of my clinical experience, current research on brain science and child psychology and the insights I’ve gained on my own parenting journey and distilled everything down into easy to understand and actionable parenting insights. So you can tune out the noise and tune your own authentic parenting voice with confidence and calm. This is Securely Attached.

Dr. Sarah (03:29):

Hi, I am really excited to welcome Carson Meyer to the podcast. Carson, thank you so much for being here.

Carson (03:36):

Thanks for having me. I’m so excited.

Dr. Sarah (03:39):

Yes, Carson, Carson’s a birth doula. She’s a birth photographer and she’s a childbirth educator and she actually has a really interesting class that she like a mother circle, and I’m really excited for you to talk to us a little bit about that today. But I have to say before we even get into all that good stuff, I was doing a little research on you before we got together and I realized that we went to the same college. I went to Gallatin and you did as well at NYU.

Carson (04:11):

I love that so much. Gallatin is the best and such a big part of, I think my journey, I mean, definitely a big part of my journey and I think a big part why I became a doula.

Dr. Sarah (04:22):

Yeah. And for people who don’t know about Gallatin, like maybe we could talk about why I think Gallatin is kind of unique and sort of special. But it’s a a school at NYU that’s like interdisciplinary. So you make your own major. And there’s lots of jokes within Gallatin about like, you know, people have direction or they’re so, so, so focused. And, but I think having that really open ended education experience and college was like really helpful for me. I’m curious what your experience was.

Carson (04:52):

Yeah. I mean, it was honestly the only way for me, like, I don’t think I could have ever survived in a traditional college environment or fit into a major. I’ve never, I’ve always had so many different passions and been very creative and curious and inspired. But I just was never narrow focused. It was kind of always all over the place. And Gallatin was really, I think it still is one of the only schools that embraces that. I mean, I look at, I remember going to college and thinking like, how can I not have it figured out by now, but you look back and you’re like, oh my gosh, you’re so young. Like how, how are you expected to know what you wanna major in? And even though I think most of us wish we could go back to college now, right? Like really understanding what our life like work is and passion is at this point. I do think that Gallatin gave me the ability to not to really get the most out of my education being 18. Right. And be, and not knowing what my path was. But anyway, I was very, so I started acting around the time I started college and that was what I thought I would go and study. I was studying, acting outside of college and was really, it was my first acting class. And I was just so blown away in this technique that I was acting or the teacher I was working with by how therapeutic I found acting class. It was really the first time I was in a group environment like that, where people were so vulnerable, so open so willing to work with the mind body connection and explore the depths of themselves. And so for me, I was like, oh, acting, is it like, I, this is what I wanna do. And then I realized it was actually, I wanna be in a space with people who are exploring these emotions and these aspects of being human. And that was really what I was drawn to. And so when I told my acting coach in LA that I was gonna switch to Tish or something, cuz I know what I wanna do now. He gave me the best advice in the world and he said, no, no, you’ll act with us here, but go learn, go take classes and you know, go do learn about what you’re curious about and take this college opportunity to really and expand your knowledge in other categories. And so I was so grateful for that. And so I did stay in Gallatin and use it as an opportunity to look at not just acting, but like creative arts in general and creativity as a form of catharsis. And so I ended up as we were chatting before about like what that major is often called. And I know, I don’t know if you remember hearing this, but people can major from anything from evil to happiness. Right? Like I don’t remember if you know, any of the like ridiculous labels of our majors.

Dr. Sarah (07:52):

Yeah. We would, I would always joke that you could either, you can, you know, basically major from like butterflies and glitter to like neuroscience applied to animals or something like you get so woo woo to like something so granular.

Carson (08:07):

So specific. Yeah. But I remember people majoring in love or whatever you wanted to so my, my topic or my like title ended up being, bridging the mind body connection through creative expression. And through that was taking art classes, art therapy is what I thought I would go into as a profession or use it towards. But I ended up being in a lot of the same track as art therapy students and was really curious and always passionate about women’s health. And so I was also taking classes around women’s health. And so look back, even though I wish I had titled it doula something or major in doula looking back it’s incredibly relevant to what I do today. And so much of that work and my acting work really inspired my work as a doula. So yeah, I feel so lucky to have gone there because I don’t know where I would’ve ended up had I not.

Dr. Sarah (09:01):

Yeah. It’s funny. I also, like I came into the psychology world late in the game. I went into college thinking I was gonna do studio art and, and then I got really interested in a lot of other things. And so my, my sort of senior thesis at Gallatin was comparing like blending the worlds of psychology and art. And I com I wrote my thesis on like comparing Carl Jung and Salvador Dali and looking at like the subconscious and dreams in psychoanalysis and surrealism. Cause there’s so many parallels and it was like, it’s just, it, it made me gave me this like permission to just explore what I was really excited and interested about, not what someone was telling me I had to had to read and had to study. But it’s interesting because there’s so many parallels to that experience. And the way I work with parents around child led parenting, right? Like not the child is leading, the parent’s leading, but the parent is tuning into the child’s interests. And and you know, you might be looking at your child’s play and seeing all these like seemingly unrelated things, but just let them go and let them emerge and let the child pull the thread that connects them all together. And so, I don’t know, I think I really like Gallatin style, but it sounds like your experience at Gallatin really led you to your work as a doula kind of indirectly.

Carson (10:32):

Well, I think in the same way it did yours kind of, it’s funny. Ours are actually, even though they’re different, they kind of have a very similar, I dunno foundation, I think in curiosity. And I love how art brought us both into fascination with the mind. Right. Like we both used art, I think as a maybe entry point into, I mean, yours is more space specifically psychology, but understanding human behavior and, and all of that is fascinating to me, but yeah, I think for me it was very much a part of, of becoming a doula. And then quite literally, I think I was assigned watching the business of being born in one of my classes. And that was the first time I ever thought of it in the context of birth.

Dr. Sarah (11:24):

Tell me a little bit about the work that you do as a doula, whether it’s working directly with mothers or birthing people and, or, or in your, in the classes that you teach.

Carson (11:38):

Yeah. So I, for those of you who might not be familiar with kinda what doulas do and every doula works a little bit differently in their approach or what they have to offer. I, with in working one on one with clients prep work is always a big emphasis for me and really helping both parents feel incredibly informed, empowered, and, and as the least fear as possible approaching the birth process. And then on the actual day of the birth itself, I’m there providing comfort measures. I’m usually with clients at home, if they’re breathing in the hospital before going to the hospital or for a home birth, obviously remaining at home with them and helping to cope with the sensations of labor and then also acting as an advocate in a hospital setting. And so that really looks like applying all of the stuff we’ve talked about through the pregnancy and helping the, my clients navigate the hospital system and really making sure that their needs are being met, their voices are being heard and that they know their options.

Carson (12:51):

And that’s, what’s really important to me and doulas do a bunch of different things where like the good feels and all of that. And then we’re also kind of a, you know, acting as, as a, I don’t know, I don’t like analogy, but I was gonna say like a birth security guard. Which is a little too, I don’t know if I love that explanation. But we do. We’re, we’re really there to like safeguard our clients and, and look out for the overall health emotionally, physically you know, spiritually, mentally, everything for mom and baby through the process.

Dr. Sarah (13:29):

Yeah. It also feels like you’re kind of like a bridge.

Carson (13:32):

Yeah.

Dr. Sarah (13:33):

Like you connect the two world, you help them cross that path. You know, you support them as they make that journey.

Carson (13:43):

Yeah, absolutely. And so the class came to be when COVID hit my clients. So obviously we all were, but especially, I think women giving and birth were in an absolute panic around, what does this mean for my birth? Right. Will I have my doula? Will I even have my partner, which is just insane. That that was even a question. I know what will look like in the hospital. And so my work was changing cuz I didn’t fully have the answers. I was able to be with some clines and then it would just change overnight where I wouldn’t be able to be with others. I found so many parents start to become interested in home birth people who maybe would never have thought about it before were all of a sudden like, wait, maybe this isn’t such a bad idea after all. Um and so there’s just, I was getting more calls, text than ever before people being like, okay, I wanna learn everything. And I felt this was actually a silver lining of what had happened. Because people were no longer relying on their doula as this person that was gonna come in and just like take care of it. And that’s never what doulas are. Right. We don’t, we don’t birth for our clients. We don’t make decisions for our clients. Right. We’re there to just help support someone and meet them where they’re at. But I saw the the demand for learning and being educated, informed power just grew overnight, which was so exciting. And I wanted my clients to go into the hospital if that was their choice with and not have me there, but feel like they could truly, and their partners could advocate for themselves for one another in their confidence and in their full power.

Carson (15:30):

And so I started Growing Together. It’s 12 week course because I just felt like, you know, the weekend classes or a two day course was just not enough to really prepare them. And then the community, right. All of a sudden the mommy and me and classes and baby showers and all of these cultural things we do to bring expecting mothers together. And as you know, such an important part of mental health and parenthood had just gone away overnight. And so I thought that, you know, bringing that community together and also no for these mothers, like there’s, no, it couldn’t look to their mothers or grandmothers or the other women in their tribe to get guidance. They were experiencing something so different, right. To give birth in the pandemic was something that no one has really navigated before. And so I felt like the mothers could come together and really be there for one another. Um in this new uncharted territory of new uncharted territory, which is birth. Um so that’s, that’s where it was inspired and or why it was inspired and the name Growing Together. When I was like trying to find a title for the class, it, it really, I think speaks to exactly how I practice, which is, I don’t know the way. I don’t have kids. Like, and I, even if I had a hundred kids, I still wouldn’t know your way of parenting or birthing or have an answer for you. I learn so much from my clients. I really do. And I always like to tease that with each birth I attend, I know less about birth, right. Because, we’re constantly, and you probably feel this way with each client, which each child you work with or each mother you work with like, well, that’s a whole new just a whole new, I don’t know box that opens of new experience that I challenges my, I think beliefs of a formula that we know doesn’t exist. And so growing together is about not just me teaching a class I lead circle and of course I utilized my experience as a doula and my obsessive need to learn about everything and read every book. And so I have a lot of wisdom to give, but really it’s about them turning to each other for answers and, and most importantly, turning to themselves for answers. And knowing that we’re all growing together all the time. We’re never really arrived at all knowing.

Dr. Sarah (18:01):

Yeah, no, I mean, I love that cuz I it’s very much aligned with the way that I approach parenting support and family therapy and maternal mental health. It’s like, I am a student of child development. I am a student of emotion regulation and the nervous system. I’m a student of mental health. I’m not an expert on your baby. And I actually like cringe a little bit when people call me an expert or refer even to themselves as experts. I’m like, you know, the only person who’s an expert on your baby is you. And my job, I sort of see my role is not to tell you how to parent or, you know, in your case, tell someone how to birth their baby. It’s I wanna help you. I wanna give you you a foundation of some basic knowledge that I over time have learned is the most important stuff to know. I wanna give you an ability to know what you don’t need to know. So to know where the boundaries live and say like, this is information that matters, this is noise. And I know the difference. And then to feel really confident that like you’ve got a, you have what it takes within you to do this. Like we have to unlearn some of the ways in which we’ve learned to doubt ourselves. And to just like, not trust our instincts a little bit.

Carson (19:24):

Yeah. And I think that the birth, although it’s just this one day, yes. I think it has a real opportunity to set a parent up on the right foot for that journey. And not as in they, oh, they’ll know how to parent, if they birth a certain way. No. But if they feel empowered, if they feel respected, if the, whoever their care providers are, give them the opportunity to recognize and acknowledge that they are, like you said, the authority over their body, their baby, and the only one who really knows how to parent, but also how to birth and how their body, what their body needs, what they need, what their baby needs. I think we can have an opportunity in that just one day, two day, three days of the birth to just propel parents onto a path of empowerment and confidence through parenting that, like you said, we’ve, we have to unlearn. And I do believe that in a perfect world, you and I would be unemployed or even just out of a job because we shouldn’t really have to, I mean, especially for doula work, like it’s, we shouldn’t have to have to advocate in a birth setting, but unfortunately we do, right. You shouldn’t have to have somebody there to protect you from maybe options that aren’t even based in evidence. Right. And that’s a whole other thing, but I, I think we’re here to help or I feel that I’m here not to teach somebody something they don’t know, but as you said, like unlearn and, and reconnect with the innate wisdom and what we, we do inherently have already.

Dr. Sarah (21:15):

Yeah. And also I think a big role in what I sort of think of when I think about doulas, cuz I had one I had a birth doula for the birth of my first child and then I had a postpartum doula for both my pregnancies. And my birth doula was like amazing her name’s Megan Davidson, she’s out of Brooklyn. And she like the, what, what was so helpful for me was the advocacy. But not in the terms of like, you know, being, you know, defending a decision that my doctor might be making as much as it is. Like I, there was a moment in my birth where my son’s heart rate dropped and because I, you know, there, I, and they were moving very fast. You know, everything was happening very quickly. And I instinctively in that moment just kind of tuned everybody else out and just listened to Megan. And she was just like telling me what was happening and just telling me to breathe because what, and I just somehow knew, I was like, the only thing I can control right now is my breathing. And if his heart rate has dropped and he’s in distress, the best thing I can do is get my body as calm as possible. And I don’t think I could have done that. Had she not been there because she was like an anchor for me in that moment when so much chaos was happening. And I was like, they were like, had me get on all fours. And they put like an oxygen mask on me and they injected me with, so at like a, I don’t even know at that moment what it was, but like just everything to like slow down the labor. And I would’ve panicked and the panic would’ve been the worst possible thing that could have happened in that moment instead I just breathed and everything kind of fixed itself and it was fine. Yeah. And so like sometimes I think people don’t realize that yes, there’s the advocacy part. Yes. There’s or a home birth, but this was in a hospital. Like you don’t have to have a home birth to have a doula and to have the benefit of it.

Carson (23:23):

Oh, I think doulas are even more important in hospitals.

Dr. Sarah (23:26):

Yeah, yeah.

Carson (23:27):

Frankly. Because of that.

Dr. Sarah (23:29):

Yeah. But she was like this anchor for me, because you don’t know when you’re gonna have a moment where you need someone to like, get you to center.

Carson (23:40):

Yeah, absolutely. And that’s, I think big part of what doulas do is just the, the space holding, right. The anchoring, but also holding space for what everybody’s journey is so different. And, and I think it, it puts a lot on the parents or, or the partner, right. To expect them to be like, in that situation, had your doula not been there, you would’ve been turning to your partner, I assume in that support. But I think this assumption that the, the partner or the dad is doesn’t have their own emotions in it is so kind of unfair to them. Right. Like they’re also, it’s their child too…

Dr. Sarah (24:19):

Oh God my husband was like, my husband would’ve been just freaking out along side me. Which is totally okay for him to do.

Carson (24:28):

Yeah. Like he has his own feelings in it. And I always tease that yes, doulas are for the mother, but at the end of the day, I feel like I’m equally, if not more for the partner too. And we’re, we’re a container for those experiences, like that are so scary that you just you know, described to unfold and to have someone to look at and turn to, like not, and not that we always have the answers to them, but for that grounding and to allow you guys to be, you know, in the experience and present in it and feel held at the same time.

Dr. Sarah (25:04):

Yeah. So you do awesome work. It’s very important. And I, I’m a very big proponent of, obviously I understand it’s a privilege and a luxury to be able to have a doula, but I also think if it’s something that you can have, it’s worth it. And that also speaks to sort of, you know, the need of our society to make that kind support more accessible, just, you know, which I think your things like your, you know, childbirth education classes, you can help a lot more people doing that. And I imagine you could possibly fit into your, you know, one-on-one client schedule.

Carson (25:42):

Yeah. And I think, you know, something that is really important and unfortunate in at least in Los Angeles, but I’m hearing it all over the country around these regulations. Although I’m excited that doulas are recognized in their importance within hospital settings and are allowed access. I also think a doula doesn’t have to be certified or, you know, like I don’t need a name tag or some sort of qualification to be able to like everybody deserves support and yes, my obsession with learning and my experience and my education can help that. But for those who maybe don’t have access to a doula, having being able to have your mother, sister, grandmother or friend who’s kind of taken on to learn everything and be that person that’s gonna hold that space. I wish that hospitals would recognize that support equally.

Dr. Sarah (26:36):

Yeah, yeah. Yeah. And I think, you know, we’re all, I mean, in my field as well, like mental health, it’s unbelievable how difficult it is to access mental health care right now. And, you know, I think a lot of us in this field have been trying to get creative with ways to expand how we can disseminate some of our support. And now out a little bit more that’s why I started this podcast and why I also have a course for parenting because I’m trying to like, you know, just being able to have private therapy is a luxury and a privilege right now, which is a problem. And also, you know, not that this podcast is therapy by any means, but it’s, like sometimes knowledge is a really big step for people.

Carson (27:32):

Oh, knowledge is power. It’s so powerful. I get so much, I think of my information and education and inspiration from podcasts.

Dr. Sarah (27:42):

Yeah. I, and so I think, you know, trying to give parents information helps them to feel safer, helps them to feel less anxious, helps them to feel more confident, which then kind of allows them to have a more present experience during their birth, which sets them up, can set them up for having a more present experience going into parenthood. And I think it’s funny, cuz like, I feel like you and I, we sort of like bump up against each other in this nice little way where like, or it’s almost like a, like a, a relay race, right? Like you get them through the birth and then I’m here or people that do the kind of work I do to like get them through that first like big stretch of like, oh man, I’m a parent now. Cause I don’t know if this is something that you experience or think about with your patients or with your clients. Um but like I feel like societally, there is so much pressure on women to have sort of this like perfect pregnancy and this perfect birth. There’s this idea of what a, what you’re supposed to do and think and feel during pregnancy and all this like and how, and there’s a certain way to have a baby that’s the right way. Or we believe this to be true. Someone is some things are kind of coming at us that give us this impression. And then I think there’s so, so as a result, women hyperfocus, they hyper focus on the pregnancy and they hyper focus on the birth plan and the labor. And maybe they’ll take a class on like, you know, bringing baby home from the hospital. But there’s just almost like this cliff where like all the support and all the education just drops off. And there’s just women don’t seem to have this same information access to maternal mental health and postpartum healing and early child development and developing secure attachment bonds with your new baby and the shifts in your relationship with your partner, when you have like all this stuff. To me, I’m finding that parents are, are surprisingly surprised by this period of time and how hard it is.

Carson (30:10):

Yeah, absolutely. I think postpartum specifically, we see that just the physical and emotional elements of postpartum alone are so under recognized in our culture.

Dr. Sarah (30:25):

And I’m wondering like when you are working with clients, how like, what are things that if you’re a pregnant person listening to this, or maybe you’ve just had a baby listening to this, like what are some things that we can help parents kind of keep in mind, new parents or parents to be, keep in mind about for this period, not just the birth, but setting yourself up while you’re pregnant for a healthy postpartum and beyond.

Carson (30:53):

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think community is such an important part of it really having support is also something, I think our culture lacks, especially now, but we don’t operate in the same way. I think that our great-great-great grandmothers did when it came to raising children. And it’s not something ever intended to be done alone in my opinion. And so that I think preparing for who your support team is gonna be, whatever that looks like for you and really practicing, asking for help is key. And I, I really have my clients start practicing in pregnancy. It can be asking for help, but also practicing boundaries. And I’m sure you, I would love to hear your perspective on this, but I always think that children feel safe within boundaries, right? Boundaries are in place to help them to be that container for them. It’s it’s how they, they feel a sense of safety. And the amount of times I hear my clients say like, oh, I don’t want her at my birth, but I don’t wanna hurt her feelings or, you know, I don’t, I just don’t wanna get into a thing with my doctor and they, they just I’m like, this is, these are bound. This is an opportunity to practice motherhood. Yes. To get comfortable with those boundaries that you’re gonna have to create or with the hard conversations you’re gonna have to have and let all of these be opportunities to really get confident in that. Because whether it’s with your child, you know, and, and having those conversations as they get older or with people around you, your partner, like these are just this part of the reality of, I think of that transition. So I think that’s huge whether it’s bringing community in, or also knowing when you need to create boundaries around yourself and your, your child nourishment, I’m a nutrition consultant as well. And I feel very strongly that nourishment is plays a huge role in physical and mental healing, post birth. Yes. So that I think is also a great way for community to show up for new mothers nourishing them through cooked meals and then treating yourself like the newborn you’re looking at, right. That it’s a birth of the baby, but also a birth of parents. And yes, mothers can get frustrated with their babies all the time happens, but it, I tend to see more greater frustration and less patience with the self, the mother herself than with her child. And they tend to have so much more grace and acceptance for the babies feelings and trial and errors or whatever we call ’em as they explore and figure out life on earth. But I think starting to help having them think of themselves in the same light, I think is really helpful.

Dr. Sarah (33:52):

Yes. I love that. I think it’s like, you know, we always tell moms to sleep when the baby sleeps, which yeah. Let’s be honest, just really, really, really hard to do, especially if you’re not a first time parent, but this idea of maybe instead of sleep when the baby sleeps, but give grace to yourself when you give grace to your baby.

Carson (34:15):

Yeah, exactly.

Dr. Sarah (34:17):

Like if you’re gonna give your baby the benefit of the doubt in this moment or that extra moment of patience, do that for you as well. Cause I couldn’t agree with you more like yes. In the newborn phase, rarely is it maybe when you’re really tired and they’re screaming for like the seventh time and the night you’re frustrated with your baby. Absolutely. But the vast majority of the time when new parents are much more frustrated with themselves and the bar they’re holding for themselves or their partners, definitely.

Carson (34:51):

Yeah. And like thinking of all the unit as a really, as all babies, like babies, raising babies. Is yeah, is a helpful way to look at it. And it is, I mean, so much of my advice and perspective around what constitutes a really healthy, postpartum experience or optimal postpartum experience for mother and baby which I have so many thoughts about is also really difficult in our modern world. And, you know, with the, that we, we live in and as I think, yes, we have a choice in most for, for a lot of it. We, we do have a choice to redefine our views around it and to restructure and prioritize that. But then also, you know, when we live in a country where you don’t get paid maternity leave, it’s a lot easier said than done. Right. And so I think we can, we can have both conversations for sure. I think there’s a lot that it’s up to, to us to start to change and lead by example for our children and when they give birth right. That we have to start being willing to slow down or we have to be willing to I think go back and, and learn from the wise women before us and from some of the ancient traditions and cultures and that it’s not in possible. Right. We can get there, but also there’s a whole other host of obstacles politically and right. Economically and all of that, that, that come in the way of it. So it’s, I think it’s complicated to be in, in this, in the modern world where we know, I think what, what we might be best for us, but it’s also not really right at our fingertips, if that makes sense

Dr. Sarah (36:41):

Yeah. Or it’s at least not evenly distributed across our society.

Carson (36:48):

But even I feel like those who do have access to a lot of support, I don’t find that it’s necessarily easier. Does that make, I don’t know if you get that experience too. It’s a mindset.

Dr. Sarah (36:55):

Yeah, it’s hard in different way. Or it’s hard, there’s so many layers to what make it hard, right? Yes. Some of it is just like you’re saying some of it is systemic. Some of it is political. And that’s very, very hard. And also that part is unevenly distributed, but still present for everyone. But then I think the internal stuff, the sort of hard time we give ourselves it doesn’t discriminate..

Carson (37:21):

The cultural stuff.

Dr. Sarah (37:22):

It affects absolutely everybody. Everybody has those nagging doubts, those, that critical self voice, or if they, everybody can have that, I think you gotta work really hard to turn that noise.

Carson (37:39):

Yeah. Or the expectations, like you said, of how it should go or yeah. The desire to wanna control it. Like all of that exists within, I think our culture has bred that and yeah. And weirdly I think that might be the easier one to change, Not the job that it’s easy to change.

Dr. Sarah (38:00):

Right. But we don’t have to like, it’s the one and rebuild systems. Yes.

Carson (38:04):

Well it’s the one that’s within, truly within our control.

Dr. Sarah (38:07):

Yeah. What are some, like taking that, that thread a little further, like maybe what’s one or two things that are in our control that we can do to reduce that kind of pressure we might be feeling.

Carson (38:21):

Hmm. That’s a really great question. I mean, I think what I kind of said before with the like rewiring and having that, that grace for the self for yourself is super important. And then I, I also go back to community. I think we underestimate the power of a sisterhood, and I don’t know if you feel this way, but when, when you are open, like right now in my growing together, we always have one postpartum follow-up session. After everyone gives birth and we catch up and share birth stories. But I think from the feedback that I get is that they leave that visit feeling so much better around maybe some of the feelings they had because they really truly realize they’re not alone in that experience. Yeah. and I know what is exciting is between Instagram, podcasts like, I think there’s more of that than ever to a certain extent. And they can also be flaws within that. Right. Of glorifying somebody else’s experience or comparing yourselves to others. And that, that is also why I do love the intimacy of a circle where it’s not, not just a bunch of floating stories, but it’s these people you build connections with and they’re there to listen to yours. Yeah. You’re there to listen to theirs. And you’re, you’re almost like building a system where the space holding becomes mutual. And then we have the capacity to then pass that on. And then I think like what, so much of what you practice right, is, is not that there’s a parenting formula or a birthing formula, but a returning to an innate trust in the self. And I think we can’t go wrong in empowering parents to feel that there is no wrong way. Yeah. And, and that, that’s a cultural messaging that I think we like, it is hard not saying it’s an easy thing to fix, but I think we have the ability to fix it within ourselves if we want to.

Dr. Sarah (40:26):

Yeah. That’s beautiful. Yeah. It definitely it’s it’s makes me think of like, so I’ve just, I have this parenting course. And it’s for parent zero to one. And the focus is really just like giving some fundamental information about child development and maternal mental health and neurobiology and attachment science and all that. And so that the course itself is like video modules. But the, what I love the most about the course is it’s six weeks of like group coaching with me and like a cohort of some of like, you know, eight to 12 families. And that’s where I think like the magic has happened. Like we ran it in October and like, it was, it was just this really amazing opportunity for these parents. And it was cool because there was a couple mothers who were pregnant. There were a couple who had just given birth and were in the postpartum period. There were some that had one year olds. And then there were some that were like, had that just had their second or were about to have their second. And so there was this, just, this we’re all in sort of different stages within that like window of zero to one. But everybody, like, I don’t know, these women like created these, like this amazing support system for one another. It was really cool to watch and to be a part of. And I think that’s the thing, like feeling, not alone in this, feeling supported by other parents, going through it, feeling like, okay, this thing that I’m struggling with, someone else is also struggling with it and it’s okay to struggle. And also they might have some ideas for what we could do and yeah. Learning to trust our kids and ourselves. Like that’s, I think really beautiful.

Carson (42:12):

Yeah. I, in my class when I get a lot of, not a lot, but every so often, there’s a second, third time mom in the group and I get so excited, you know, because I, like I said, I don’t have kids. So really once they’re born, I’m like, ah, I dunno how to tell you but you know, I, I love turning to their wisdom and like the other girls in the group really love how having that experience to turn to in like real talk. And even just those within the circle, there’s someone, some who are 35 weeks pregnant and some who are five weeks pregnant and even that alone. Yeah. I think it’s so important when we talk about community is also yeah. The different stages and, and bringing all the different chat of that journey into the conversation.

Dr. Sarah (42:59):

Yeah. And I think it’s a great opportunity for like the, the people who have more experience get to kind of shepherd or guide the people who have less experience, which helps them to feel confidence, to like trust in their confidence. And then the people who are on the earlier end stage of that have less experience get to kind of absorb some of the wisdom from the people who come before them. And so they’re also leaving, feeling more confidence. It’s like, it’s very, it’s almost like how like Montessori classrooms work with like mixed age classes where like you’ve got two or three years worth of children in the same classroom because the older kids get to be the leaders and it makes them feel really empowered. And then the younger kids get to look up to these people and watch them figuring it out. Yeah. And learn from that. It’s amazing.

Carson (43:43):

It really is.

Dr. Sarah (43:45):

That’s so cool.

Carson (43:45):

Can I ask you a question?

Dr. Sarah (43:47):

Yeah, please.

Carson (43:50):

I would, I’m so interested in the continuum concept. Is that a parenting? I know it’s a book, but…

Dr. Sarah (43:55):

I don’t know what the continuum concept is.

Carson (43:57):

Oh, have you not heard of it?

Dr. Sarah (43:58):

No.

Carson (43:59):

Oh my gosh. I have, no I don’t have the book here. It’s a book that a few of my clients have read and it is a parenting approach. I know you’re, you kind of talk a lot about the RIE method, which is, I think there’s some similarities. It’s it’s a fascinating book.

Dr. Sarah (44:21):

I’m gonna have check it out out.

Carson (44:22):

But essentially this, the, the parents who I know who practice it are very, very hands off. It’s very much like, like for example, I had a, and I’m a total, I’m a helicopter human. So I always tease that like the continuum concept sounds wonderful to me in theory, but I will probably be a leash mom in spite of, that not being what I want to be, but I’ll just put my future kids in like a 20 bubble plastic bubbles, and then roll them around a hamster wheel. But no, I just, I have a client recently. We were up on the trampoline with her little crawling little one, and it’s pretty high trampoline. The baby crawled to the edge and Aunt Carson over here was just like, ahhh. You know, I like leapt over, like, oh my God. You know? And it was like, I’m gonna rescue this baby. And the mom grabbed me, grabbed me and pulled me back and was like, yeah, she’s fine. She’s fine. She knows her boundaries. And I was like, oh, sorry, just thought I was saving your baby’s life over here, no big deal. But you know, sometimes I tease about being a non mom, because, you know, you’re like you see children and you’re just like, wow, you don’t, you don’t really get to experience how resilient and smart children are. I think when you’re not with them 24/7. And it was, so it was so incredible to watch her parenting technique really inspire what some might define as danger. Right. But really it’s an inherent, trusting relationship with your children’s boundaries.

Dr. Sarah (46:00):

That’s really interesting. So I, I have to, I’m definitely gonna have to check into this cause it sounds really interesting, but I, it does sound like it has some ties or like some parallels to RIE, which is, you know in RIE we, this it’s this idea that we, there is this, like you said, innate trust. Yeah. And a kind of airing on the side of not rescuing. Because we’re tolerating that struggle is a healthy and important part of life, which is different than letting them suffer. But, letting them struggle. Like, I don’t like if your child’s reaching for a ball and they so close, but they can’t quite get it instead of just handing them the ball. Maybe you lay down next to them and say, oh, you want that ball? You’re reaching, you’re reaching I’m here. Yeah. And you know, eventually, you know, you can give them the ball if they really need it, but maybe they don’t need it. Right. That’s I think the thing it’s not about, you know, withholding a solution it’s about not assuming we know the answer to what they’re seeking.

Carson (47:06):

Or not assuming that they don’t also that they’re not capable even at, obviously that comes at stages. But even at one, two, they’re very capable little beings. And very smart and intelligent. Yeah. That we don’t…

Dr. Sarah (47:20):

And maybe, and maybe approaching something that we see as a problem to solve as actually an experience to have. And I think that’s important that we not assume like my child’s reaching for the ball. That means they want the ball. It could be that your child is reaching for the ball and is really enjoying that feeling of reaching. And playing with their arm in space. Like maybe that process is special to them in some way. And so like, we are so logically problem focused outcome focused adults because that’s where our brain has learned to go, but that’s not really the way that infants brains work there. Everything’s new to them. They don’t maybe don’t even know that they want the ball. Maybe they don’t even know what a ball is. Maybe they just really like this feeling of reaching or, you know, or maybe as get frustrated, they’re practicing communicating that to us. Yeah. And so it’s just, it’s less about, you know, sitting there while your child struggles and not doing anything or letting your child like fall off the edge of a bed so that they learn what’s up. It’s more like, you know, I’m there. But, I’m gonna wait and see a minute and follow my child’s lead.

Carson (48:32):

Also in this situation that I saw, it wasn’t like, that was the first time that babies tried to do that. And she was neglecting, you know, she was like, so attuned to her, child’s understanding of space that she knew what her child was doing. And it was interesting cuz I didn’t have that relationship with, with her child. And so my assumptions came from more of the, like it, it was coming from a fear space. Yeah. Whereas the mothers wasn’t coming, wasn’t a reaction outta fear. She was fully observing and fully knew the boundaries of her child, which was fascinating to me. And I think ultimately like when I see parents who do knowingly or unknowingly practice, this, that, that continuum concept, there tends to be an ease that I, and this is all from observation, an ease that I notice with the parent. So it might not even just be beneficial for the child, but ultimately they feels like a, a pressure is lifted off of them. Do you ever notice that with RIE method parenting it’s actually…

Dr. Sarah (49:37):

Oh my God. So much to the point that I actually got really, really into studying RIE when I just had my second, I was, I was interested in with my first and I practiced it and learned about it, but I did like an in depth like training program while I was on maternity leave with my second. And it just so happened to be that I was having postpartum depression during that time. And I actually, during this training would go home every day and kind of practice the things that I was learning. And I was really started to like practice observing my daughter and not, not interfering as much, not in, you know, interrupting her as much. And in this process of just observing her and really attuning to her and really paying attention to the little things that she was figuring out. I’m not saying that healed my postpartum depression, but it brought this connection to her that I had not yet been able to have because I had been depressed. And, and it really sort of helped lift whatever it was that I was experiencing. And I, and I think it really, and obviously that’s a very sort of amazing example that I don’t know that everyone has just because they like start parent a certain type of parenting. But I will say that that attunement to my child, that ability to be present and watch her and let her like really be connected to her and follow her lead and feel that connection helped me to be really confident in my parenting with her. I was comfortable slowing way down. I didn’t have that anxious urge to jump in and fix something or worry that she was gonna get hurt or, you know? Because I wasn’t doing, I was, I was creating these safe spaces for her. In RIE we call them “yes spaces.” but there’s, there are these very safe spaces that you let your child be in. You can be there too, but like, yeah, you, you let them, you don’t have to hover being like, oh no, no, don’t touch that. Or, oh no, no, no, no. Don’t put that in your mouth or, oh no, no. Don’t climb on that because there aren’t those dangers. So we get relaxed, we get practiced in relaxing with our child.

Carson (52:01):

And ultimately even when you’re doing, and I don’t know if people can see us cause it’s an audio, but you kind of up your shoulders and, and, you know, look very anxious in your embodiment of that reenactment. And ultimately like, I can’t tell you, it’s just kind of beyond my scope of what I, I don’t know how much that parenting affects the baby. You would know the answer to that, but from what I witness it greatly affects the parent. Right. It’s arguably more stressful for the parent to say no, no, no. And do what you did in that moment then I think for the child. And so looking at these parenting techniques is not necessarily something that shapes a child, but shapes a parent’s ability to go day to day with ease.

Dr. Sarah (52:46):

We’re in constant interconnected feedback, you know, there is a bio feedback loop with our baby.

Carson (52:51):

Yeah, of course. If mom’s comfortable. Baby’s comfortable.

Dr. Sarah (52:53):

Yes, exactly. So if we’re white knuckling parenthood, our kid’s gonna have some feelings about that. And if we are able to take a breath and be still and calm and slow with our kid, cuz we’re really confident that we can kind of through parenthood and follow our child’s lead. And cause we’ve got a little bit of a foundational knowledge of stuff and we can be like, I I’ve got a strategy. I don’t know everything, but I, I trust that I’ll figure it out. Well, wow. Our kid’s gonna feel that too. And so it’s, we are, we’re two separate beings, but we’re very interconnected and our nervous systems are very interconnected. So a calm mom is going to make for a calmer baby.

Carson (53:37):

Yeah. And that’s something as a non mom just observing. I mean I think I just, all moms, no matter what their parenting day, I’m just, they’re just, you’re all super heroes to me that you can, I’m so focused on, you know, the birth part is what I do that I forget that you like get what happens after you’re like, OK, I understand the birth part. That’s great. And then I’m like, oh my God, they’re there for 18, forever. You have children now. But so I just think it’s just there. I mean, that’s the part that I’m, for me that birth isn’t intimidating because I think it’s where my knowledge really lies or my experience really lies. But I just think it’s incredible what parents can do. And, and I think what you give them and watching parents who do feel that ease in their day to day with their children, it definitely alleviates any, an anxiety or fear that I have of future parenthood in seeing that that’s possible. And I feel that’s, you can say the same around birth, right. That when we approach things without fear, I think there’s so much more we can gain from it. And it’s just so wonderful that people have yeah. You and people like you to help.

Dr. Sarah (54:52):

And you. I mean, honestly, it’s amazing that, I mean, support is really important cuz we don’t really, we also can’t learn if we don’t feel safe. And so like I think having, whether it’s a doula or therapist to help us feel safe, then we could take all this knowledge in. But yeah. Oh, well thank you so much for sharing your wisdom with us.

Carson (55:17):

I think I could talk to you forever.

New Speaker (55:19):

I know. I really, we should! This is so nice.

Carson (55:22):

I don’t have a podcast, but hopefully I will one day and then I’m gonna have you on and ask you all the questions I wanna know.

Dr. Sarah (55:29):

I’ll be there 100%. Yeah, this was lovely. Thank you so much. And we’ll talk soon. I have a feeling.

Carson (55:39):

Thank you. I hope you. Thank you so much.

Dr. Sarah (55:47):

I loved chatting with Carson and I love the parallels of our work. Setting women up for an empowered and confident birth experience can set the stage for that same confidence and innate wisdom to take them into the early stages of parenthood too. It’s important to be able to turn down the noise so we can hear what our own minds and bodies are trying to tell us and be able to properly interpret the cues our new babies are communicating as well. Having a foundational knowledge of psychology, child development and attachment science can also go a long way in allowing us to really accurately decipher and read those cues. And that’s exactly what I teach in my six-week guided course, The Authentic Parent: Finding your confidence in your child’s first year

In addition to six weeks of informational video modules, workbooks and reading lists, you also get to take part in a small group of weekly coaching calls with me, where we can troubleshoot your problems, dive deeper into specific topics, and I’ll help you to learn how to adapt these psychological principles to your own unique family. To learn more about The Authentic Parent and to sign up for the waitlist, go to drsarahbren.com/TAP that’s drsarahbren.com/TAP. Space is limited, so add your name to the list today and be one of the first to get access to register for my February session. Thanks for listening. And don’t be a stranger.

 


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36. Maternal mental health throughout pregnancy and parenthood: A conversation with birth doula Carson Meyer

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