Mother Run: Alexis Edwards of Birth 360

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    Alexis Edwards wasn’t always a birth worker.  “I worked full time as a social worker before transitioning home for a few years after having children,” she recounts.  “I still worked from home part-time for an adoption agency writing home studies and conducting post-placement home visits, while also keeping humans alive and shit was bananas. Shout out to all those work from home moms doing the impossible! In November 2016 I became certified as a birth and postpartum doula and then officially put my kids in school part-time to grow my private practice.”         

    She first discovered the new path she wanted to take during that time home with her kids. “I had a lot of time to think about my career and the populations I wanted to serve,” she explains.  “I also had a lot of time to realize that staying home wasn’t the best fit for me. I struggled emotionally and lacked support. I felt very isolated during my daughters first year and started my blog as a way to get everything I was feeling out of my brain.  Ironically, my blog connected me with other mothers and made me feel less alone. It made me realize the importance of community, especially during new parenthood, and it was then I started researching doula trainings. I knew I wanted to support new parents in the perinatal period and use my social work skills to serve the mental health needs that are often ignored during this huge transition in life.”  A big part of her decision to go into this new line of work stemmed directly from her own doula use. “I had a doula for both of my births and very much valued their support along the way,” she says. “I also suffered from severe postpartum anxiety after my sons birth and coming out the other side of that inspired me to support other women in normalizing and validating the struggles new parents can face that aren’t often talked about.”  Within her own practice she works to support every mother she comes across and knows that every birth and situation looks different.  “I support all types of birth and have supported women in a range of experiences, from a home birth to holding their hand in the OR,” she says. “My goal is not to try and sway my client into one type of birthing environment vs. another. Each woman is unique and will have unique needs and I will always support their decision to birth with and where they feel safe and supported. I encourage all of my clients, no matter their birth preferences to seek out a comprehensive childbirth education course. One that covers all the variations of normal when it comes to birth and that provides knowledge and information on all types of intervention and the risks/benefits involved so they can feel empowered in making an informed choice. The thing I’ve realized the longer I’ve worked with women in this stage of life, is that a satisfying birth experience has less to do with where or how the baby was born, and more to do with how the experience made her FEEL. And the thing that consistently determines whether a woman has positive emotions connected to her birth is significantly related to how she was treated by those surrounding her.”

    Her social work background has led her to create quite a unique, and much needed, business.  With a goal to bridge the gap between birth and mental health, her work serves to help many women who may otherwise fall through the cracks.  Her ability to connect more extensively with birthing people prenatally helps build a deeper relationship than one may typically have with a doctor or other healthcare provider.  “This allows for rapport and trust to build early on and I’m planting seeds about postpartum the whole time, reminding them that should they need additional mental health support postpartum, I am trained to do so,” Alexis explains. “It’s so much easier to reach out for support when you already know who to reach out to. As a doula, I’m also seeing my clients sooner than a medical provider in the postpartum period. Most women don’t see their provider until 6 weeks postpartum which is light years in new parent land. Doulas typically do a postpartum home visit around 1-2 weeks postpartum and are also checking in via phone/text during those early weeks so it allows me the opportunity to observe clients in the midst of the newborn haze when it’s more likely for issues to surface. Doulas are also trained to provide options and encourage informed choice. This means that I’m not just discussing medication as an option, but also offering referrals to support groups, lactation support, psychiatrists, etc. and especially those trained in perinatal issues. I don’t want to paint medical providers in a bad light.  Many are providing proper referrals in the same way, but not all have that knowledge and the best they know to do is prescribe a standard medication which may not always be the best fit depending on the patient and their unique needs.”

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    In addition to offering birth and postpartum doula services, Alexis also uses her education and experiences to advocate for trauma survivors in birth through her program Carry on Warriors.  “I am a trauma survivor myself and experienced traumatic birth with both of my children,” she shares. “I also primarily worked with trauma survivors as a counselor before having children, but despite all that, I didn’t really consider the impact my history would have on my own births and postpartum.  That’s the thing about trauma, even if you feel ok cognitively, the body still stores those trauma memories and they can come flooding to the surface during the perinatal period. So much of pregnancy, birth, and postpartum is this raw, primal, physical, and emotional journey and our body can interpret those sensations as unsafe and women might find themselves being triggered by the normal parts of birth or new parenthood.  I think this is one of those things that isn’t often talked about so I’m passionate about creating conversation around this issue, especially considering 1 in 3 women are survivors.” In addition to the Carry on Warriors program, she also offers a group called Growing Together which focuses on partners becoming parents. “There is so much emphasis prenatally on making a birth plan, decorating the nursery, or what to pack in your hospital bag, but no one is talking about the shit show you are about to navigate when you get sent home alone with a tiny human that is basically a digestive system,” says Alexis.  “Growing Together was created with the goal of educating both partners on the various postpartum issues they may face and equipping them with tools and support on how to better handle conflict and meet each others needs during this rocky time as a couple.”

    One of the things within her work that she is passionate about is changing the statistics of maternal mortality.  “There are many wonderfully compassionate and evidence-based OBGYN’s that also provide women centered care, but the truth of the matter is our healthcare system is significantly flawed,” she explains.  “There is an overall issue with unnecessary interventions that absolutely contribute to birth trauma which increases your likelihood of experiencing a postpartum mood disorder. The U.S. also has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the developed world, and black women are 3 to 4 times more likely to die in childbirth than white women.  Even more, as many as 1 in 5 women experience a mood disorder postpartum and that increases to 1 in 3 for women of color so it’s hard not to consider the correlation between what is happening in birth and what women are experiencing after the fact.” She even attended the March for Moms in Washington D.C. earlier this year to lobby for maternal health.  “That means I had to run around capitol hill in a pencil skirt and kitten heels to yell at Senators to stop letting mothers die in the U.S.,” she says. “No, that’s an exaggeration, lol. But that is essentially what I did. The first day was an actual March for Moms to build awareness around maternal health issues such as postpartum mood disorders and maternal mortality and survivors and family members that have lost loved ones were able to speak and share their stories.  I think that portion of the trip was meant to motivate and inspire us to speak from the heart when meeting with legislators. Our goal in the legislative meetings was to encourage their support and sponsorship of three specific bills related to maternal health. One was a bill that requires medical providers to screen for postpartum depression, another would strengthen maternal mortality review committees in order to collect more accurate data on why mothers are dying, and the last was to create paid family and medical leave, all causes I’m extremely passionate about as each could improve outcomes for mothers.”

    Her foray into birth work was slow and built around her family and the season of life they were in at the time.  “I started my doula training journey in early 2016 when my youngest was almost 2,” she says. “Our first year and a half with her was a hot fucking mess.  She slept zero. She only wanted boob. And I felt immense guilt that I wasn’t giving my older kiddo the attention he deserved. Looking back, I know I would have failed at starting my practice during that stage which is probably why I didn’t even consider it until we started to come out the other side of that sleep deprived, over touched torture.  I definitely took it slow in the beginning as I was still home with them full time, but just did what I could when I could squeeze it in and gave myself grace along the way, knowing I would eventually reach a place where we could transition them into more childcare. And that’s exactly what happened. They are now almost 4 and 6 and my oldest will start kindergarten this Fall and we will transition our daughter to a full time preschool.  It’s crazy to think I’ve come that far in the journey.”

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    The on-call nature of birth work provides an additional challenge to running a business with kids.  You never know exactly when a call is going to come in and you have to drop what you’re doing or sneak out in the middle of the night.  “Not gonna lie, on-call is fucking tough,” says Alexis. “I suffer from anxiety so I have to be mindful of those feelings creeping in and engage in the right self-care so I can stay well rested and not feel on edge waiting for the call.  But I also limit the number of birth clients I take on each month to make that process more manageable. Many full time doulas might take 5-6 clients a month, but I only take 1-2 which also allows me to manage the other services I offer and still ‘balance’ that family life.”  As working mothers that balance ebbs and flows as we move through different periods of life. “It definitely has gotten easier as they have gotten older,” she says. “They are more independent and really enjoy school and time with their friends vs. those earlier years where separation anxiety and thirst for nipple was real life.”

    Though on-call work as a mother is hard, Alexis says the biggest challenge she has had to overcome is “definitely affordable, quality childcare.”  “It was hard initially to start a business without childcare,” she continues. “I needed to make money to pay for it, but I also needed childcare to serve clients.  It was rough there initially and there were a few months I wanted to quit from the anxiety, but I just kept pushing through and eventually it all worked out and now that is less of a stressor.  I do still have it in the back of mind though since my income isn’t consistent. If I have a slow month, it can get stressful, but I’ve been working harder at adding in those unexpected periods to my budget to give us a cushion for when that does happen.  That’s been a big part of my journey that I’ve learned as I go. Managing money is uncomfortable AF, and I think many business owners struggle with how to manage a budget and make financially sound business decisions. I recently invested in a bookkeeper to keep my life right and that has been tremendously helpful.”

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    So often as small business owners we face criticism or doubt from others about our ability to not only run a business, but to run one with children.  Alexis has the perfect answer for those would dare to question her choices. “Fuck that noise,” she says. “It pisses me off how often I am asked ‘how do you do it all?’ when my husband is just being a dad and having a career no questions asked.  I constantly have to remind myself that women are given this ridiculous narrative that we can’t have it all so I know that’s where the question stems from. But the truth of the matter is I don’t have it all. I’m not perfect and I have good days and bad days, and no matter what I do or how I do it, one thing will suffer while I give energy to another.  And I just give that some grace and keep going. I know I have something to offer this world, and if someone wants to doubt that then they ain’t my people. This is another space where my village comes in. I surround myself with other female entrepreneurs and feel inspired and supported by how much they kick ass and take names on the daily.” That village is also what helps her get through challenging times.  “I’ve learned over the years to ask for help and seek connection when I need it. Our culture doesn’t do the best job encouraging a village. We are one of the only cultures that doesn’t raise families as a community and I do believe that contributes to the poor outcomes our country is navigating in regards to maternal health. So I try really hard to practice what I preach to my clients and ask for support when I feel myself getting overwhelmed.”

What’s on her business bucket list?

“Write a book!!!”

Her favorite creative and business resources:

“You are a Badass by Jen Sincero. The Courage to Become by Catia Holm. Also the Hey, Girl podcast. And Brene Brown. All the Brene Brown.”

Her advice for other biz owning moms?

“Keep doing you boo. When doubt or comparison starts to creep in, kick that shit in the face and keep doing that goodness you know you were meant to do. Also, wine.”

Connect with Alexis:

On the web

On Instagram

Top Knot Squad Podcast

 

Thank you so much for reading.

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany

Mother Run: Lindsey Maxwell of Blissful Transition

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      When Lindsey Maxwell, PCD (DONA) and LCCE, was an undergrad student, she took a class that set the course for her passion and business.  That class was called “Birth in a Family Context.”  “It was eye-opening and one of the most informative, interesting classes I have ever taken,” she says.  “It changed the way I viewed birth.  As a twenty year old, I honestly had no idea women were choosing to have their babies at home and that, at the time, it was illegal for certified professional midwives to practice in the state of Indiana.  Once the semester ended, I began volunteering at Bloomington Area Birth Services (BABS).  I owe everything to this nonprofit and the wonderful women who ran it.  During my time at BABS, I helped with childbirth education classes, attended breastfeeding support groups, learned about babywearing, and connected with many wonderful families and professionals.”

     Lindsey’s business has evolved a bit from her beginning as a birth doula eight years ago.  “Before going into business, I studied up on the perinatal period and attended birth and postpartum doula training workshops through DONA International,” she explains.  “At the time, I didn’t have kids, and although I personally didn’t know much about parenting I loved working with children and always felt bonded with the families I nannied for.  Once I attended my trainings I volunteered my time with a handful of clients to get a feel for the work and gain hands-on experience.  I joined a local doula group so I could collaborate with other professionals, make connections, share feedback, and process my experience as a birth worker.”  She got that entrepreneur bug during her training process.  “I remember coming home from my postpartum doula workshop feeling very determined to set up a business plan,” she says.  “That’s when I came up with the name ‘Blissful Transition.’  I wanted families to feel at ease welcoming a new baby into their family with the least amount of stressors as possible.  I have a very Type A personality and found that, eventually, birth work no longer fit into my life.  After four years of being a birth doula, I decided to focus on the postpartum world.  It was just too challenging for me to be on-call.  I was constantly stressed about missing important events, time with family, and working long hours.  Still, I liked assisting families in preparing for birth, and I’ve since added prenatal consultations so that I still feel involved in that realm.” 

     Postpartum support can be a lifeline to new mothers.  “Studies show that postpartum doula support helps reduce postpartum mood disorders and improves breastfeeding success,” Lindsey explains.  “It makes sense.  I understand hiring postpartum help can be costly but it’s so worth it.  If someone told me they couldn’t afford a postpartum doula, I would encourage them to gather resources and plan prenatally to make for a smoother transition after baby is born.  Taking a childbirth class, creating a meal train, finding reliable childcare, and joining a new moms’ group are just a few recommendations!”

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     After making the switch from birth to postpartum doula, she soon realized that postpartum support covered a large range of ways to help new mothers and families.  “It wasn’t until after having a baby of my own in 2015 that I added professional cleaning and organizing services to my resume,” she explains.  “When working with families in the postpartum period, I found myself helping out with housework, running errands, prepping meals, etc.  I was taking care of the practical day-to-day things so that mom and partner could focus on taking care of themselves and their new baby.  Of course I enjoy chatting with mom and holding her adorable baby (if that’s what she needs!), but most of the time it’s about loading the dishwasher, folding laundry, and helping folks maintain a sense of normalcy after a life-changing experience.”  The realization of how this type of service could benefit families as they adjusted to their new family dynamic came from one particular instance in her own home.  “I remember coming home from a day full of appointments with my newborn and my sister-in-law, Amy, had come by and cleaned while we were gone,” she says.  “Is there anything better than coming home to a clean house?!  It was such a simple gesture but the weight of the world was lifted off my shoulders.  I could spend time with my family instead of worrying about a list of household tasks that needed to be completed in my sleep-deprived state (with a newborn to boot!).  Adding cleaning and organizing services to my businesses just made sense--in a way, I was already doing it.  Sometimes my clients would say, ‘Oh, I’m not going to ask you to do that!’ but if that’s what helped their day run more smoothly, I was happy to.  Postpartum support looks different for every family and that’s okay.  I’m here to help you find what works best for you!”

     Lindsey got her business start before having kids so she was already well established in her work before needing to find her new balance with parenting.  “I stayed at home with my son, Bodhi, for his first year, which was lovely,” she says.  “It was around his first birthday that I decided I wanted to to get back to working with clients on a part-time basis.  We were still living in Bloomington and had a lot of support from family, which allowed lots of flexibility with my work schedule.  I definitely couldn’t have done it without them.  Taking on part-time hours created a way for me to get out of the house and do what I love without feeling burnt out in the work I do.  It felt like a great balance.”  Bodhi is now three and Lindsey’s balance changed again 11 months ago as her family welcomed their second child, a daughter named Frances.  “Staying home with two kids is a lot of work, and honestly, I’m still trying to find that balance,” she explains.  “Some days I feel like I have it all together.  Others are tough, messy, and stressful.  Frances refuses to take a bottle (we exclusively breastfeed) or a pacifier and is dealing with some serious separation anxiety these last few months.  Sometimes it feels like I never get a break!  I’ve found that it’s important I separate myself from the kids every once in a while--a trip to the nail salon, a night out with my husband, staying up to binge watch Netflix, or simply grabbing a coffee can make a difference.  Working for a few hours a week helps me recharge, too.  I feel like I can’t be a good mom if I’m not taking care of myself.”

     Eight years in and this mama still has some major business goals she’d like to accomplish.  “I love learning and enjoy attending webinars and trainings,” she says.  “I know it sounds super nerdy but I miss being in school.  I often think about going back to get my Masters in counseling or social work.  I could host support groups for moms with an education background like that.  I also love cooking--adding meal preparation and delivery to my list of services would be pretty awesome.  I’ve been to a few Mother Blessing ceremonies and I think they are just the coolest thing--I would enjoy coordinating get togethers like these.  I’m a big fan of encouraging women and coming together as a community to show them how much we care.  Moms don’t get acknowledged enough for all their hard work!  Baby showers are great for baby essentials but Mother Blessings are where it’s at!”

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     Like all of us, she also has some stress points as a business owning mom.  “Feeling inadequate is probably my biggest stressor,” she says.  “If I’m solely focused on work, I feel like I’m not spending enough time with my family.  And then when I am at home with my kids, I sometimes feel like I should be working more.  I’m trying hard to be present and feel content with where I’m at, knowing I’m giving my best each day.”  Another tough part of her job right now is the recent relocation her family made.  “The hardest part for me, right now, is that we’re fairly new to the Fort Wayne area--we just moved here in October [2017],” she explains.  “I’m still learning about the city, meeting new people, etc.  I’ve actually connected with another mama who trades childcare with me and it’s working out for the both of us.  I watch her kids while she teaches yoga and she watches mine while I’m meeting with clients but only for a few hours each week.”

     That particular struggle is the foundation of her best advice for other moms in business.  “Creating a support network is HUGE and can make all the difference in work and parenting,” she says.  “I obviously stress this with my clients but it’s important for me as a business owner, too.  When we moved to Fort Wayne, I kind of had to start all over again.  Making those connections and laying the foundation for your business in a new area can seem daunting.  But, little by little, I am connecting the dots and look forward to working more in the near future!”

 

Connect with Lindsey:

On the web

On Facebook

On Instagram

 

Thank you so much for reading! 

Yours in business and motherhood, 

Brittany 

Mother Run: Keisha Reaves of Push Thru

Keisha and her son.

Keisha and her son.

    Keisha Reaves has a passion for helping women through various stages of motherhood.  It all started with her private practice as a licensed professional counselor. “I’ve been in the mental health field for over ten years and I absolutely love it,” she says.  “It’s so rewarding making a difference in people’s lives and helping them reach their potential.” Maternal health wasn’t always her specialty, however. “I first started out working with children in the foster care system and I did that for six years,” she explains.  “Afterwards I worked with clients with developmental disabilities for a few years and truly enjoyed it. I later switched to working in a psychiatric hospital while also doing community counseling. Once I started working in private practice in 2015, I noticed that I received a lot of clients dealing with infertility, postpartum depression or just adjustment issues associated with motherhood, that’s when I found my passion and I knew that I felt compelled to do more work with this group of women.”

    Her background in maternal health counseling, combined with her own postpartum experience, led to the birth of Push Thru, a postpartum subscription box known as the after birth survival kit for moms.  “After having my son, I felt incredibly isolated and guilty and overwhelmed,” she shares. “Majority of the year 2017 I was completely selfless and basically threw myself to the wayside. I was so focused on my baby’s needs and everyone else that I didn’t bother to think of myself.  I had days where I questioned myself as a mother and I felt that I was losing myself in this new role. I then had several other women share similar thoughts and I wanted to create something to help them with this. I wanted to create something that focuses on the mother solely and also offer encouragement to her to let her know that she’s doing a wonderful job.”

    Keisha’s after birth survival kit for mothers is a much needed product.  A lot of times women don’t think about what the after birth experience will be like for themselves as people, instead focusing on how they will care for their new child. As Keisha explains it, “I think Push Thru offers preventative care in a cute little box.  The online platform on the website is where moms can chat with each other, offer support, and provide suggestions. I leave my card in each box that’s sent out with my email for mothers to contact me and I’m certified through Postpartum Support International. Each box offers support to help combat anxiety and feeling overwhelmed.  We are currently working on building a checklist for the website for mothers to use to identify their symptoms as well as creating a database of clinicians in the event a mother has postpartum depression, we can quickly refer them to someone qualified to treat them. I believe that the more we talk about postpartum depression and the difficulties that can occur after giving birth, the less shame there will be.  Women will feel more comfortable seeking out help. The more resources and tools we give women, the more they will feel supported and capable of being the best mother they can be.”

    The idea for Push Thru came to Keisha in the summer of 2017.  “Within a few months things just started rolling,” she says. “I had many thoughts of thinking that this is stupid or that there are tons, TONS, of subscription box services out there already, but I took the dive and just did it.  The research helped me know how to specifically make this service useful, different, and to set it apart from its competitors.” Subscription boxes are much different than a lot of other business models, as they require working with many other brands and keeping large amounts of inventory.  “The struggle at the beginning was start up costs,”: says Keisha. “It takes money to make money. Pinching coins here and there helped fund a graphic designer, develop the website, create the actual box, and purchase some of the items that went into the launch box. It was a risk because there was a possibility that no one would even buy the box and I could be left with all of this inventory.  In the end it was definitely successful, but certainly gaining funds can be hard in any start up.”

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    In addition to balancing her private practice with her new entrepreneurial journey with Push Thru, Keisha also has a 13 month old son.  “He was seven months when I started this process and he is the reason I do what I do,” she explains. “He’s incredibly patient with me and he’s taught me so much about myself.  He’s helped me grow as a woman, a mother, and a partner.”

Her transition from full time work to full time work plus a new business was “not bad at all,” she says.  “I’ve always been a person that enjoys projects and putting my creativity to work. I just have to be strategic with my time to make sure my job, family, kid, or myself isn’t neglected in the process.”  Balancing business and motherhood always comes with some struggles though, and for Keisha it’s no different. “I have a calendar and I try to stay organized,” she says. “I pick my little guy up from daycare at the same time every day and from that time until he goes down to bed I’m present.  It’s all about he and I. After he goes to bed is when I do emails, budgeting, phone calls, and everything else. So I try to get as much done as I can before I get him and after he goes to bed. The struggles that I have in trying balance are on weekends. Sometimes I try to get work in when he’s napping or for an hour or two in the mornings and I have some guilt around that.  I try to limit weekend work as much as possible.” By far Keisha’s biggest challenge though is “getting over mom guilt.” She says that “some weeknights I will have events to attend or meetings and although my husband is good about taking over at home, I have guilt about not being there as if I’m missing out on something or as if he’s going to forget me. It’s not a crazy thought, but I know the career and business I’m building and I’m doing my best to balance it all.”

    Her goals for helping women don’t stop with Push Thru.  “I would like to be able to travel around the world and learn more about different cultures and how those mothers handle the after birth experience,” she explains.  “I would like to learn what other cultures use in products or remedies for the after birth experience in order to share with everyone. I’d like to learn about other cultures’ customs and traditions in the after birth experience.  I find it fascinating. I would also like to fight for more maternity leave for working mothers. I would like to travel doing more work to bring awareness and support for postpartum depression.” Push Thru is only the beginning of her wonderful journey to helping as many mothers as she can.  

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    In addition to helping postpartum women, she also has amazing advice for the business owning mom.  “Don’t give up and buy into your own product,” she urges. “There will be days when you feel like this is a waste of time, no one’s going to be interested and you’ll want to just fall back into your comfort zone.  Don’t. Keep doing it. You won’t see results in the first month or the first year. There is no real overnight success. Everything great takes time to catch up. But keep at it. And buy into your own product meaning be passionate about it.  Don’t be critical or play it down, think of it just as amazing as it actually is. If you want people to be excited about it, YOU have to be excited about it. Excitement is contagious.” Another thing she suggests doing to help you in your business journey is to “create a support system.”  In her own journey starting Push Thru, she says that her “friends are truly the best and I save a lot of money by using them. My team of friends were a part of my focus group before I launched Push Thru. They witnessed the product first hand before I put it out there to the public, giving me feedback and constructive criticism.  They also listened to my pitches giving me feedback and reviewed my website from a customer perspective. They were able to seperate themselves as a friend and tell me their thoughts on products, marketing, pricing, and everything else. This helped save me money on outsourcing to a separate company for that. If I ever need to bounce an idea off of someone, my friends are my go to.  They’re mothers and consumers.”

    If you’re a soon to be mother, new mother, or looking for a special gift for a mom in your life, check out Push Thru.  Not only is it a a game changer for helping mothers care for themselves post-baby but Keisha also stocks her boxes with wonderful products from other mother owned businesses!  “Everyone in each of our Push Thru boxes are amazing,” she says. “Bee & Mae, Love Ground Candle Company, Olive and Elliot, Tailored Beauty, Butta Body, Abeadles Design, Hey Baby Atlanta, Jobbing with Jas, Bloom Voyage, I literally could go on.  What I love about each of these are that they are all owned by mothers and they’re literally killing it every single day.” Talk about a truly Mother Run community!

Connect with Keisha:

On the web

On Instagram

On Facebook



Thank you so much for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany