Mother Run: Alexis Edwards of Birth 360

photo1.PNG

    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.”

photo4.PNG

    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.”

photo 3.PNG

    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.”

photo2.PNG

    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: 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.”

Push Thru.jpg

    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.  

IMG_7551.JPG

    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







 

Mother Run: Emily Frigo of Wise + Wild

Emily and her four kids--ages 7, 3, 2, 1.

Emily and her four kids--ages 7, 3, 2, 1.

    Balancing a thriving, on call business while raising four kids (and homeschooling!) is no easy task, just ask Emily Frigo from Wise + Wild.  “Just last night, I had asked a tarot reader ‘how do I balance business and motherhood,’ she said I’m doing pretty good, ha, so that was reassuring.”  

    Wise + Wild is a doula and birth photography business owned and run by Emily.  She mixes her passion of supporting women through their birth while also using her amazing photography skills to capture beautiful moments that mothers can cherish forever.  The name Wise + Wild was chosen because Emily believes that “everything surrounding birth is a balance between being both wise and wild.  Wise represents using modern knowledge so that we can feel confident in making the choices and wild draws in our primal, instinctual parts of our minds, bodies, and souls so that we can feel deeply connected to ourselves.  Combining both instincts and science together tend to make families feel empowered and in control of their birth journey.”

    Before she wore the many hats that make up Wise + Wild, Emily worked as a barista and a full-time nanny before deciding to stay home and focus on mothering during her child’s second year of life.  The stay at home life was not all she had imagined and soon she found herself isolated, bored, and spiraling into depression.  “I don’t love anything more than being a mother,” she says, “but I had lost my identity.”  

    Finding your identity after embarking on motherhood can be a tough and long process.  

In her happy place, behind the camera!

In her happy place, behind the camera!

After being gifted a camera during her first child’s first year, she began offering photo sessions to other families, but the joy in the work never came.  “It wasn’t until I started supporting births as a doula and watched these phenomenal birth stories unfold, that I combined my passions and started offering birth photography...and that is where I found my ‘happy place.’”  

    Describing herself as being “naturally an over-thinker and an over-planner”  she obsessively discusses the pros and cons of all decisions she makes and embarking on an entrepreneurial journey was no different.  “Since the beginning, my biggest struggle has always been self-confidence.  I’m always fighting with Imposture Syndrome.”

    Emily has always been fascinated by birth.  “For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been intuitively inspired by the childbearing year.  Even as a child, when I’d be near a pregnant woman, I’d experience these waves of energy that I couldn't explain.  But it wasn’t until I started witnessing birth trauma in communities I was involved in that my connection to birth turned into advocacy.”  The journey into birth work has been a “slow and steady one.”  While some people may be able to point out the exact moment they realized what they wanted to do, for Emily there has never been a single defining moment, “just small reminders to continue down this path.”  While she loves being a doula and helping other families, her favorite birth stories are those of her four children, saying that “each birth has changed me for the better, gifting me so much wisdom and compassion.” “I have carried ten sweet babies in my womb,” says Emily, “four of whom are living today.  Each child holds a special part in my heart, including the ones I’ve lost too early.  My living children are ages 7, 3, 2, and 1.  They really stretch me to be a better human, I always learning from them (especially about patience)!”

    Supporting women through being a doula and taking birth photos is not all that Emily has to offer.  She has an impressive list of qualifications from Birth Doula, Stillbirthday Doula, Birth Photographer, Childbirth Educator, Placenta Encapsulator, herbalist, and Reiki Master.  She recently made the step to begin the process of becoming a Midwife.  “I always knew I would grow into Midwifery,” she says, “But I wanted to take it slow, to allow the journey to unfold naturally.  One recent morning, as I sat under the rising sun, I intuitively knew that it was time to enroll in school. Midwifery is a long journey, I’m just taking it one day at a time right now.”

    When it comes down to the balance of mothering and business, a never ending struggle I’m sure we can almost all relate to, Emily says that “I’m really hard on myself...It’s not easy for me to turn ‘off’ work and that’s probably intensified because I’m always on-call and must be ready to attend a birth at all times.  I push myself to wake up before my kids do, to spend time with myself before the crazy begins. Sometimes I answer emails and other business stuff, but most of the time I simply drink coffee on my porch in quiet.  When they rise, I try to be fully devoted to them, this is when we focus on each other and our homeschooling.”  While she has struck a pretty amazing balance between work and family, she couldn’t do it alone and is thankful for her husband who takes over when he gets home and allows her to get some work time in.  

    In a society that often paints the intricacies of birth as sterile and even shameful, something to be hidden away and not discussed or shown, Emily’s family has taken a different approach.  Her four kids are “absolutely obsessed with birth and anatomy.  They find birth so magical and women so powerful.  They are always asking about birth stories, to look at pictures and videos, and to learn about bodies.  I hope this helps raise them into truly respectful adults, ones who look at women as powerful and equal humans instead of just property.”  It is parenting like this that will hopefully allow the next generation to be more accepting and open about the birthing process as a whole and maybe begin to move away from looking at birth as something clinical and medical and instead see it for the amazing, personal experience it can be.  

Wise + Wild, the perfect mix of intuition and science.

Wise + Wild, the perfect mix of intuition and science.

    Doulas do not just help with the birth itself, but can also be an amazing resource in the postpartum period.  Emily says, “birth trauma is in the eye of the beholder, so sometimes even the most intervention-less homebirth can be traumatic,” something I can agree with from personal experience.  “The postpartum period is just as important for long term health as birth. Research has shown that the more a woman is part of the decision-making process during birth, she will be happier about the outcome, no matter what happens.  It’s important that families feel like they are in control of their birth, which will help facilitate a more peaceful and bonded connection during their postpartum and beyond.”

    A common misconception is that doulas and homebirth go hand in hand, but in reality anyone can have and benefit from one.  Emily believes that “every woman, in every birth situation, deserves to have a doula present...Studies show that doulas help women have more positive birth outcomes.”  While she agrees that it’s “not easy to step out of the hospital model of care, we are a society so conditioned on birthing in the hospital, it’s easy to ignore that women have been birthing in the comfort of our homes since the beginning of our existence.  It’s important not to allow fear to get in your way.  Research confirms amongst low-risk women, planned home births result in low rates of interventions without an increase in adverse outcomes for mothers and babies.  And while some interventions are necessary for the safety and health of the mother or baby, many are overused, are lacking scientific evidence of benefit, and even carry risks.  If you’re looking into birthing in your home, I recommend reaching out to your local homebirth community!”

    While our businesses may differ, our journey to balance to home and work are the same.  What’s Emily’s advice?  “Owning a business while mothering our children is not for the faintheart.  It takes balance, it takes patience, and it takes forgiveness.  But you’ve got this.  You can do this! And please, make time for self-care...don’t allow yourself to be neglected.”

 

Connect with Emily:

On the web at http://www.wisewildwell.com

On Instagram @wisewildwell

 

Additional reading provided by Emily:

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jmwh.12172/full

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3647727/

https://www.jpmph.org/journal/view.php?number=283




 

Thanks for reading!

Yours in business and motherhood,

Brittany