Write your Birth Story Workshop!

WritingJoin us for a special two-part workshop during which you will have time and space to reflect on, process, write about, and share (if desired) your birth story with gentle guidance from Health Foundations’ blogger-writer-professor-mama-doula-in-training, Jaime Fleres-Mizejewski.

We will gather at Health Foundations on two Fridays: September 6 and 20 from 4:30 to 6:30 PM

This birth story workshop is for you, whether you:

  • gave birth a few weeks ago or many months ago
  • love writing or get sweaty palms at the thought
  • have a draft of your story or wish to start from the beginning
  • had the birth of your dreams or a different journey than the one you’d hoped for

No matter where you’ve been or where you are, your birth story is unique, important, and sacred—and deserves to be expressed and heard! Just like birth itself, writing your birth story is a profound and cathartic experience, the results of which you and your child will cherish for a lifetime.

Workshop Details:

Our first time together, September 6, we will:

  • talk about the importance and benefits of writing your birth story
  • gain insight into how to write (or edit) your unique tale
  • go through a guided meditation/reflection time to evoke memories and emotions from your birth experience
  • have time to write or edit your story
  • enjoy tea and treats

Please bring a journal and a writing instrument (crayons, colored pencils, pencils, or pens) or your laptop.  To help evoke memories, you may also wish to bring birth pictures, your birth playlist, any notes you may have taken in the postpartum, or any special objects that hold meaning to you and your birth story.

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Between the first and second gathering, you will have time to edit and polish your writing, getting feedback from Jaime via email if you desire.

On our second evening, September 20, we will have an opportunity to share our birth stories or listen to other’s stories, as you feel comfortable.  We will celebrate your accomplishment (with chocolate)!

Babies are welcome to attend both of our gatherings.

The cost of this two-part workshop is $40, including a round of editing feedback from Jaime via email, if desired. Please register by emailing Jaime@health-foundations.com.

Writing, like birth, is a transformative experience with the power to help you make meaning from, process, heal from, celebrate and honor your unique experience of birth.  Come honor yourself, your story, and your child; and connect with community.

Interview: Sarah Longacre of Blooma

SLongacreBloomaSTPWe recently had a chance to catch up with the lovely and phenomenal Sarah Longacre, owner of Blooma, a fantastic Twin Cities birth hub offering yoga, fitness, education, wellness and more for pregnant and new mamas and their families.  If you haven’t heard of Blooma or been to one of their amazing classes, we recommend learning more about their many, many class offerings and workshops.  Read on to hear what Sarah shared with us on her business, the benefits of yoga during pregnancy, her advice for mamas, and much more.  A big thanks to Sarah for taking time out of her busy life to chat with us!

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Name: Sarah Longacre, owner of Blooma, yoga instructor, and birth doula extraordinaire

Hometown: Minneapolis

Current Hometurf: Minneapolis

Family: Married (Brian) with two step children, Levi (7) and Phoenix (4), and a baby due Fall 2013

How did you find your way into yoga?

I’ve been practicing yoga ever since my college years at Arizona State University.  I continued my personal practice through my 20s and I started integrating yoga into the births I attended as a doula.  I began attending births in 2000 in Portland, Oregon.

How did you incorporate yoga into the births you attended?

Really just the basic, basic fundamentals of yoga—mind, body, and breath—having breath be the foundation of a mother’s birth.  And then from there it is physically getting out of bed and moving and stretching and using really easy, gentle, basic poses to help moms open up space not only in their physical body, but also in their minds and hearts for the birth of their baby.

Can you tell us how Blooma came to be?

So I had been teaching prenatal yoga in half a dozen yoga studios in Minneapolis and I started realizing the priority of prenatal yoga for many studios was just not there.  You know, it’s challenging—you are working with an audience, a special population, that has a very short span of time and the turn over rate is extremely high.

But I felt very strong that there needed to be a place, a center, for women—not only to come and get education on yoga, but also education on childbirth and wellness.  And really connecting with others.  And at that time, in 2007, there were no birth centers or out-of-hospital childbirth education courses except for a few Bradley classes in churches and whatnot.  There was the amazing Childbirth Collective but, what the Twin Cities really needed with a home, or hub, for all of the resources women need during pregnancy.

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So we opened the doors of Blooma in October 2007 (this year we will be six!).  Our first location was on the edge of Minneapolis and Edina (44th and France). We were there for five years and we literally grew out of the space.  We just needed more and more yoga space and more childbirth education.  Our classes were growing.  The childcare we have at Blooma is one of our biggest perks.  Between all of those things, we knew it was time to expand and change locations.  Really what it came down to was looking at the demographics of our clientele and they were coming more from southwest Minneapolis as opposed to Edina.

We also used to offer classes out of Health Foundations’ amazing upstairs gathering space, but grew out of that as well.  So in 2012, we opened two new studios—one on Lyndale Avenue in Minneapolis and another on Selby Avenue in Saint Paul.  We also serve mamas in Shakopee at St. Francis’s Hospital—we love to have the support of a local hospital!

What services does Blooma currently offer to pregnant women and new moms?

In terms of yoga, we offer prenatal yoga, BYOB (Bring your Own Baby) yoga for postpartum mamas and their babies, Vinyasa yoga for everyone, Barre classes for everyone and yoga for tots, kids and teens.  We also offer New Mama groups, which really support and provide community for new mothers as they make this huge transition into motherhood.  We also have baby weigh-ins and childcare offered during many of our classes.  This summer we’ve been offering yoga camp for kids.  We regularly hold special yoga workshops.

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In terms of childbirth education, we offer classes and workshops in Bradley Method, Birthing from Within, HypnoBirthing, and offer our own courses titled “The Blooma Birth Class,” “Blooma Again, Childbirth Refresher,” and “Blooma’s Birthing Intensive for Couples”.  We hold workshops on diverse topics, including but not limited to VBAC, breastfeeding, postpartum, prenatal nutrition, and more.  We rent space for Mother Blessingways and offer personalized coaching for pregnant women and their partners/labor support.

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As far as wellness, we are proud to have many amazing practitioners offering acupuncture, chiropractic, massage (including Mayan Abdominal Massage), and belly + body art.

What are you most excited about when it comes to Blooma these days?

I’m hands-down most excited about our childbirth education.  We have the most incredible doulas that teach our classes.  And the thing I love most is that these doulas are at births every single day.  These women are literally out on the “front line” helping women at their births.  So when they teach childbirth education, they are teaching from such a real place and such a place of passion, and trust and intelligence for and about birth.

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Unfortunately, one thing I see way too much is women and families coming into childbirth education who are really full of fear.  I believe our teachers are so passionate about birth that they teach in a way that is so full of knowledge, but also really respecting every parent’s unique needs.  And parents do have such personal, individual needs.  It is hard to teach the masses as many hospitals do—you know they often have 20, 30, 40 couples in each class.

And so I am really very thrilled about our childbirth education.  We have a team of educators and classes coming up this fall that I feel very strongly are the best available in the Twin Cities.

What are some of the benefits of yoga for pregnant women and new mamas?

The physical benefits are unparalleled—when you are talking about your body changing and growing (gaining anywhere from 20 to 60 pounds) our bones, our ligaments, everything is adjusting and there is not a better way to learn how to strengthen, but also soften and breathe into, the places where we are feeling these constraints.

In my own pregnancy, at 30+ weeks, I can tell you I have never felt better physically in my whole life, but I have never needed yoga more in my whole life until now.  I’ve known the power of yoga, and I know the power of birthing, but until this part of my journey, I’ve never been so 100% sure that prenatal yoga is the best physical activity for pregnancy.

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While these physical benefits are huge, to me, one of the biggest benefits that people don’t often talk about is coming together in community.  With all the pressure moms have in 2013 in being mothers—from how to give birth, to cloth diapering, to “do we breastfeed?”—the pressure that is put on women to raise children a certain way!— to “do we go back to work?”, to “what do we have to give up?”—it’s a very scary time and it’s a very isolating time.  I felt like I was the only pregnant woman on the planet during the first 15 weeks of my pregnancy because I felt like no one else could be experiencing what I was going through

Until I go to Blooma.

When I go to Blooma, and I get on my yoga mat, when I look around at all the other women in our classes, I see women who absolutely have the same fear, the same excitement, the same challenges in their marriage, and challenges in their own hearts, and I realize that I have a tribe, that I have sisters, and that I am not alone.  And that, in itself, is worth stepping onto your mat.  It is worth coming and taking a deep breath in a circle of other women.

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Whether you take a class that is mostly talking or more of a movement based class, Blooma is a place for all women to come and connect with their breath, their body, and their community.

What are your favorite poses for pregnancy these days and what are the benefits of such poses?

{Laughs} Hands-down, savasana!  Resting pose at the end—I mean, to me, it’s like birth—that feeling women get towards the end, after all the hard work…“I just want my baby in my arms!” in yoga it’s similar—“I’ve worked so hard, I just want to lay down and relax!”  I say this half-jokingly but I also think it is so important to take the time to relax, especially in pregnancy.

But personally, for me, I love standing poses—I love warrior poses.  Because warrior and goddess poses make me feel bigger and larger than life, they open up space for me to extend and expand, but also really get grounded.  Getting grounded is key, I think, in pregnancy to having a sense of being in the present moment.  To get super grounded to the earth through your legs and then open up your heart to the sky—those poses have become so beneficial to me in prenatal yoga.  So it’s a good balance of standing poses, and yeah, I SO look forward to the end of my yoga practice when I am soft and curled up and I can feel my baby—there is just nothing better than that.

And for postpartum mamas, what are some juicy poses?

Definitely heart-openers—we spend so much time as new moms hunched over—whether we are breastfeeding or bottlefeeding, carrying baby, etc.  So poses that lengthen out the side body, draw the shoulders back and engage the core, help to lift the heart in a way that moms need more than ever.

Do you have any advice for expecting mamas? 

The biggest advice I have—and I feel like I have said this before but I mean it now more than ever—to be so loving, and so kind, and so gentle to yourself.  The pressure that is put on pregnancy and women—it’s huge.

One of the big things for me in my first and second trimester is—you know, people would say to me “Oh my gosh, are you so excited?! Are you so excited?!” and “This is such a blessing, this is such a gift” and it didn’t feel that way to me.  Because I was really starting to wonder, “How am I going to do it all?” And I was already mourning the loss of the life I have known.  And that is when I am called into the present moment and to trust that this child 100% chose me, this child wants to be with me and this child was given this opportunity to come into my family.  And I get to learn. I get to learn from my baby—I get to learn so much. 

Overall, I think that we don’t teach ourselves to love ourselves unconditionally.

I feel nothing but compassion for the pressure that women feel.  I can be in a class of 30 moms and ten of them couldn’t be more excited about being pregnant—they’ve been waiting and trying for years.  Another ten of them, they are scared out of their minds.  And ten of them, they go in between.  And there is nothing wrong with any of that.  I taught just this Saturday and half my class was in tears because they couldn’t even wrap their heads around: “What is it like to be a mom??”  And I am not just talking about first time moms, for some this could be their second, third, or fourth—and you know, they need the yoga more than anyone.  And many of them know the importance of stepping onto their mat to take care of themselves.

The other thing I would say is not to feel intimidated by yoga.  A lot of women are coming to yoga in pregnancy or even in postpartum for the very first time, which is awesome. So many women are intimidated, they think they have to be a certain way or look a certain way or be able to do certain poses—but I just want to break that myth down—you don’t have to be decked out in yoga name brands and look perfect throughout the entire class.  Here at Blooma, you know, we are all about crying babies.  It’s important not to feel ashamed or discouraged from coming onto your mat after having a bad day—that is actually when you need it the most.

And for some moms in the postpartum, they don’t love being a mom, they don’t know if they chose the right path and they are struggling with their relationship with their child—and how normal is that?  But we don’t talk about that.  We DO talk about that at Blooma.

At New Moms group, this is a key place, because there is more talking and sharing.  And this is a place where it’s okay for new moms to say, “I am scared” or “I feel alone” And if you do BYOB yoga before that, you open up a place in your body where a lot of that energy may otherwise get stuck.

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Any other advice you have for new mamas?

I would say New Moms group is the best place to start, especially after a C-section or otherwise difficult birth, for mom’s that aren’t ready yet for physical movement—New Mom’s group is a wonderful resource.  And, hey, come back in November and I’ll give you more advice for new moms.

Do you have anything else to add?

Yes! I want to extend a BIG thanks for the Birth Community of St. Paul and Minneapolis. My staff of 60+ and I could not be here without all of the unconditional love and support they give… and I pray we give it right back to them!

Interview with Lindsey Deeb, Pediatric Nurse-Practitioner

Recently, we had the good fortune of catching up with Lindsey Deeb—our fabulous pediatric care provider—to chat with her about her practice, her style of care, and her recommendations for expectant and new families.  Lindsey is accepting new clients at Health Foundations, where she practices every Thursday.  She practices out of her clinic in Inver Grove the rest of the week.

LINDSEYName: Lindsey Deeb, nurse-practitioner and owner of Dakota Pediatrics 

Hometown: Sioux City, Iowa, where her parents, brother, and his three kids still live. Lindsey’s family makes the 4 to 5 hour drive to see them almost monthly.

Family: Husband, Bobby, and two kids: Andrew (3) and Kathryn (18 months).

Education/Background:

  • Studied child psychology at University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked in inpatient child psychology for a few years before going into nursing.
  • Studied nursing at Saint Catherine’s in Saint Paul. Worked in pediatrics at the University of Minnesota for a couple years.
  • Moved to San Francisco to complete advanced practitioner studies at the University of California, San Francisco.  Spent four years in San Francisco, where she married her husband and had her son, Andrew.

Current Home Turf:  Lives in Minneapolis and is building a house on the Eagan/Inver Grove border, which will bring her closer to the clinic.  She’s excited to run or bike to work!

Can you tell us a bit more about Dakota Pediatrics?

We are a small private pediatric practice located in Inver Grove (and I see patients at Health Foundations as well).  The practice was founded by my mother-in-law and we had always planned on working together.  Unfortunately, she died suddenly of cancer, so now I own and operate the clinic with my husband, just like his parents did 30+ years ago.

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Vivian Rider is our pediatrician; she’s been practicing in the area for over 25 years. For a long time, she practiced at a small clinic that was engulfed by a large corporate clinic system.  Once the clinic transitioned to new protocols, she was seeing about 30 patients a day and would often get in her car at the end of the day and just want to cry—it was just a horrible way to practice medicine.   But now, she loves practicing in our atmosphere here and believes that she is practicing medicine the way it should be done.

We have three medical assistants, Leann, Kao Song, & Chrissy, who are all trained in pediatric primary care and triage.  They can handle the most common issues, and if they have questions about something they haven’t seen before, they always come to us for guidance.  And we have an in-house billing and referral specialist, Deb, who has been with Dakota Peds for over 20 years.  Jenny is our receptionist, but also handles some billing and administrative duties. Bobby’s aunt Linda, who is also an LPN, is our special projects coordinator.  And Bobby helps me with almost everything else that goes on “behind the scenes” or outside of the patient room in our case…so he’s like a jack of all trades and, like myself, is always available to any family if they have an issue or concern.

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Though we are small, we have a robust electronic medical record (EMR) that helps us provide better care and more services to our families.  Compared to a practice that still uses paper charts (many of them that still do!), our EMR helps take care of the busy “paperwork” more efficiently, so we have more time to devote our families.  Our EMR also gives each patient an online portal account where they can see their medical records and shot records, schedule appointments, see lab results, etc.

We have two patient care coordinators (social workers) who come in once a week—they can get families lined up with services that they may need or help navigate complex cases involving multiple care providers, such as situations of chronic illness, where families are maybe feeling overwhelmed and need some extra help.

We operate an on-site lab that performs the most common tests, such as blood draws, urinalysis, urine cultures, rapid strep screens, etc. right in the clinic.  Any complex test that we can’t handle in-clinic is sent to an outside lab (almost every clinic does this) and our courier comes twice a day so we can get urgent tests back very quickly.  We receive all our lab results electronically, so we get them very fast and the results are automatically posted to the patient’s online portal account and an email notice is sent the family, so it’s a pretty convenient feature of our EMR.

I anticipate that we may bring on another provider possibly within the year. I am not sure who that person will be yet, we’ve talked about family practice and sort of expanding that way a little bit.  So we’ll have to see.

How did you get connected to Health Foundations?

I approached Amy not too long after I moved back from California—I was trying to get to know other people in the area. Also, as a pediatric nurse-practitioner, and just personally, I really believe in natural birth (I had my kids naturally with a midwife) and I really believe in the midwifery model of care.

So I knew of the Birth Center, and I approached Amy, just to meet her. We seemed to hit it off from our first meeting.  And I think it was during that meeting that she brought up possibly working together—so things just slowly evolved from that point on.

I actually just saw the baby I did my first home visit with—he just turned one.   I’ve been doing home visits for a year and I have been at Health Foundations since February 2013—and I am really enjoying it.

How has your experience working at Health Foundations been so far?

It’s been really great.  Obviously, the entire team here is really warm and welcoming.  I like the atmosphere, its nice to be here and see people who really appreciate the Center for what it is.  My appointment times are a little longer here so I feel like I really get a good amount of time to see people.

The thing that I enjoy the most is home visits, which are done 6 to 10 days postpartum. It’s so nice to see people in their home environment—I get to know my patient families on a little bit different level and its nice to be able to sit and chat and not feel like you are in a clinic setting.  Even though I feel like our clinic is very inviting, it is still really nice to be at home with your newborn and not have to leave.

Also I think that home visits fit really well into how Health Foundations does their postpartum home visits—someone comes to you at 24 hours, at three days, and then I come a few days later, then [the family] is back at Health Foundations at 2 weeks—so its good continuity of care that way.

How about going forward at Health Foundations?

Well, long term, I would love to have another location here in St. Paul and I can see that happening if things keep moving in the right direction.  I don’t have any real specifics on when or how that might work, but I’ve really enjoyed working with Amy and the Health Foundations staff. So, I would hope that if we expanded further in Saint Paul, we would continue or strengthen our working relationship with Health Foundations. 

What do you love most about working with kids and families?

LINDSEYBABYI have always wanted to do primary care.  I’ve worked in several different hospital settings and I’ve always worked with kids.  I realized at some point, while I like working with people in the hospital, I really wanted to see kids grow over time and get to know parents and families.  Being in a small practice, that’s something we can really do, and I think it’s really hard to come by these days. That is, building a relationship with your provider and feeling like you are not a number when you come in.

I really like the preventative care part of my job.  Growing up, my mom was always very prevention minded—she always talked about being healthy and active—how taking care of yourself now pays dividends in the end. We had a big edible garden, we composted and canned so we had healthy food to eat all winter. Being healthy and taking care of myself and my family is a big part of who I am.  For me to able to share that with the families I serve is probably one of the things I like the most.  Especially today, because everyone is so busy and there is less time.  I strive to provide people with efficient ways to be healthy—easy things you can do here and there.

How does being a mom shape your practice?

Oh, huge, it’s huge. My work before kids and after kids looks completely different.  It actually caught me off guard.  Before I had my son I never realized that I would lose all objectivity in caring for my own children.  After kids, my empathy level went up even higher than before—I worked in pediatric hematology and oncology before I had kids and I don’t think I could do it again.

I am a worrier by nature—I would say that I worry about my patients a lot.  And I think that makes me a better provider, but it’s increased since I had my own kids because, now more than ever, I feel how important of a job it is to take care of other people’s kids.  I feel honored to take care of other people’s kids.  And, as a parent, I hope that anyone taking care of my kids really takes it seriously, because it’s a big deal.

I think having kids has ultimately made me a better provider.  I can definitely relate to everything people are going through—being up in the night, worrying about your child for this or that, yeah, all the experiences of having young kids.

How would you describe your style of care?

I really believe that the entire family is my patient.  Trust is a big component, too.  I hope people find me to be a really down-to-earth, approachable, trustworthy person.  I am really into relationship building.  And I want people to know that if I recommend something, its really coming from a good place and something I feel is important. I want people to feel included in decision making whenever possible.  It drives me crazy when people come in and they say they’ve been to someone else who was “scolding” them about something—that’s a word that people use a lot—or giving them a hard time or judging them.  I just think that no matter what the topic, doing that is so unhelpful.  I might not always agree with everything my families do but I certainly respect their decisions and I want there to be open discussion around everything.  I never want anyone who comes to me to feel judged.

In addition to that personal level of care we talked about, what are some of the benefits of a small practice setting?

Calling someone like us versus calling a larger corporate clinic to make an appointment, you are going to have a very different experience.  With us, you will probably get someone that you have talked to before, you’re going to be able to make the appointment then, and you are probably going to be able to get in when you want to get in.  If it’s important, we will fit you in or we will stay late and that is not something you’re always going to get at a bigger clinic.

And the other big thing is that if you want to get a hold of us, you can.  Vivian or I are always on call at night, and during the day our staff is great but if you want to talk to one of us just say so when you call.  There is not a run around, you are not going to get bounced all over the place to get your needs met.  For billing or insurance issues, any of my staff members can handle most issues, otherwise Bobby handles him.  And I’ve seen him email families with an answer at 11 pm or on the weekends, so it’s much simpler here.  We’re a small staff that takes care of you as best as we can.

I really hope that we convey a family atmosphere, that people feel welcome and comfortable when they come to us.  I know Dr. Rider feels the same.  And I think our practice is unique because we have a doctor and a nurse practitioner—we come at health care from a couple of different models and I think it leads to a more holistic way of caring for people.  She and I talk about patients together all the time and make sure we both feel like we are doing the right things.  We’ve built a solid network of good specialists and colleagues we can call on when we need to as well.

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One final benefit is that we charge about 20-40% less than a larger corporate group for the same service or test.  That’s something not everyone realizes.  Who wouldn’t want more personalized service while saving money at the same time?

What do you love to do when you are not taking care of patients? 

I’ve always been a really active person—I swam competitively, through college at Madison.  Then I started running after that and I’ve completed several marathons and a few triathlons.

lindseykidsI love spending time with my kids, especially outside.  This summer, we’ve been going to lots of parks, going on walks around the neighborhood, and playing with neighbors. We also hang out with Bobby’s sister and family, their kids are 5 and 3, so they are close in age to ours.

I love to knit, although I haven’t been doing it lately.  And I love to read—I still read lots of medical literature, but I have enjoyed a couple of novels lately. I really, really like to cook.  My favorite dish is a squash risotto with rosemary and its really good.  And though I like it, we are challenging ourselves to go light on meat these days.

 As far as travel, my parents have a log home in the Black Hills in the middle of nowhere, so we try to get out there a couple times a year.  I also try to get to Ontario, Canada’s Lac Seul to go fishing every year.

How do you feel about seeing pregnant women/couples before baby arrives?

I really love it when people come in before they have the baby—I always love that visit.  It allows me to see them before and get a feel for them, and we can see if we’re a good match, which I think is really important.  It’s good to know that ahead of time.

What do you recommend that families look for in a pediatrician?

There are many things you should ask.  If you are going to meet ahead of time, its good to really think about it and even write down the questions that you have.  I do think it’s better when people are a little prepared before they come in.

I can always speak to the things that most people ask me about, but that is not necessarily what everybody is wondering about. Everyone has some topics that are really important to them, for some people it is immunizations for others it’s antibiotic use.  So, directly ask about those things.  I think its okay to ask some personal questions too to get a feel for that person.  Ask if they have kids.

I think you should ask how long visits are and how easy it is to get in. Ask about how easy it is to get a hold of someone off hours.  Because those are the things that, once you have the baby, make you feel better—to know if you can get a hold of somebody,  to know that someone is going to have the time to answer your questions.  And its good to ask about experience and education as well.

What are your thoughts on well child visits? 

SONY DSCSome people ask “Are well child visits really that important?” I do think they are important for a few reasons.  Some people are worried that they may get hounded about immunizations during these visits or that immunizations would be the only reason to go to a well child visit.  And really, it’s more about questions and talking through things.

And growth is really important to monitor, in the first two years especially,—to make sure the head is growing appropriately, that baby is gaining weight fine, etc.  And well child visits can offer a lot of guidance—for example in terms of nutrition, making sure breastfeeding or bottlefeeding is going well.  Well child visits are an opportunity to do a full exam and to just to look over everything.   You might feel pretty bad, as a parent, if you knew you could have caught something sooner, but you didn’t go in.

Plus, since preventative care is completely covered by insurance in MN, you’ve already paid for your physical through your monthly insurance premium.  So if you don’t come in for the physicals, you’ve basically given the insurance company $120-$200 per physical and got nothing in return.  That’s a lot of money to give away.

I always tell people too, I am happy to sit and talk with parents but if someone wants to make it quick, that’s fine too!  I’m into meeting people where they are at.

Do you have any advice for pregnant or new mamas?

I jokingly tell people, do everything you really like to do by yourself now.  But I think it’s really important and something you don’t always “get” until afterwards. And do things together, because that changes.  That change is good, but it’s different and things are never exactly the same again. And I always say, too, make sure you get a lot of rest in pregnancy.

Nothing in the world will prepare you for that feeling you have when you see your baby for the first time—it’s just amazing.  So take it in, just really take it in.  And when you get really tired and sleep deprived—which I think is really hard for a lot of people—you can remember that moment. (And remember you won’t always feel so sleep deprived!)

And as far as breastfeeding, you need be easy on yourself because it’s a new thing to you, it’s a new thing to baby and you have to figure each other out.  That takes a little bit of time and it’s different for everyone.

For new parents, take lots of pictures and really take it in, because it does go really fast.  And I always tell my patients, don’t hesitate to call—no question is a silly question.  That’s what I am there for, I don’t mind the calls and it’s much better than sitting there and worrying about something.  There’s no point in that.  If you can call, we can talk and you can feel better—it’s well worth it.

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Preparing for Postpartum

newbornFamilyWhen we are pregnant, it is easy to focus on the pregnancy and the impending birth.  While is it great to focus on the present and important to prepare for the monumental experience of birth, it is also crucial that expectant mamas (and their loved ones!) think about and plan for Life After Birth.  And we’re talking more than just preparing the nursery and getting all the “stuff” of new parenthood.

Postpartum is a special time that deserves careful planning and consideration. While the postpartum period is customarily thought of as the first 6 weeks after birth; many midwives, health providers and mothers recognize that postpartum extends beyond this initial intense period of transition and healing.  In fact, midwife Raven Lang commented, “As long as the baby is still in diapers and you’re up in the night, you’re postpartum.”

While we could talk in much detail about that first year(s) of life with baby, today let’s focus on preparing for that initial month or two conventionally known as the postpartum period.

Here are five things to consider when planning for your postpartum.

 1.    Late Pregnancy Health: Nourish and Rest

A mama’s health in late pregnancy can have a profound effect on her experience of birth and the postpartum period.  A mama whose reserves are low going into birth and motherhood may find the journey much more arduous than the mama who makes self care a priority in her last weeks and months of pregnancy (of course, we encourage prioritizing self-care no matter where you are at!).

Given that our society favors the “masculine” energy of action and motion—working up until the last moments before birth, continuing to meet demanding social, professional, and other routines, and the like—it can be difficult to give yourself permission to honor the more “feminine” going-within and stillness that is needed in late pregnancy.

Late pregnancy should be a time to rest as much as possible.  Let’s repeat that, because it is important: women in late pregnancy benefit from resting as much as possible.  Light exercise and excellent nutrition are also paramount to this time.

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It won’t be long before your needs will be balanced against the intense and constant needs of another being that you will love and care for dearly.  This is a special time to really honor yourself—to treat yourself with the utmost kindness in preparing for the adventure to come.

Rest enhances recovery and reduces stress.  Lowered stress means a stronger immune system, better personal relationships, lowered risk of postpartum depression, and a more supported mother-baby bond.

So take naps, pamper yourself, eat well, take walks or enjoy light exercise (such as prenatal yoga), ask for help and invite in the calm and still energy needed to build up your reserves for the journey ahead.

 2.    Become educated about new motherhood

In our modern reality, many of us are not exposed to babies and new motherhood as much as our grandmothers and those before her were.  While so much of parenting is instinct and intuition, seeking community wisdom and knowledge can make you a more confident new parent.

Take time to learn about breastfeeding.  All our patients meet with our lactation specialist during their third trimester, but it’s also worth considering a breastfeeding class and other resources.  La Leche League is one great resource for all things breastfeeding and they have some excellent books available.  If you are interested in breast pumps, inquire with your insurance about reimbursement (more details about this can be found here).  If you plan to bottle or formula feed, educate yourself about these options.

Learn about newborns (their needs, rhythms, etc) and learn about what is common for mamas to experience physically and emotionally after birth. During your Early Home Care class at Health Foundations, offered by the wonderful childbirth educator and doula Rochelle Matos, you will learn all about what is common and normal for baby and mom during the early weeks at home.

An excellent book that delves further into the postpartum and beyond is Natural Health after Birth: The Complete Guide to Postpartum Wellness by Aviva Jill Romm.

3. Familiarize yourself with the common needs of new mothers (and share with your support circle!)

 Put simply, a new mama needs someone who will meet her needs so that she can meet the needs of her baby.  New mamas in the postpartum period also need:

  • Lots of rest
  • Time and space for reflection and processing
  • Someone who will guard her privacy
  • To feel honored, protected, and nurtured
  • Praise, encouragement, and validation
  • Noncritical support and advice
  • A good, nonjudgmental listener
  • Time out daily for a bath, nap, or quiet time
  • Nourishing food and drink
  • Time to bond with baby
  • Reprieve from the demands of daily life

4.    Make a Postpartum Plan

 Making a postpartum plan is an important pre-baby activity for an expectant woman and her partner and/or support circle (see below).  The first two weeks are all about mom and baby—establishing a bond, establishing breastfeeding, healing from childbirth, and getting to know one another.  The postpartum plan should be all about supporting mama and baby in those early weeks.

At Health Foundations, we really want our mamas to REST during the postpartum period and especially those first two precious weeks.  We recommend mamas stay in bed for the first week, except bathroom and bath breaks and NO stairs.  In the second week, we recommend mostly bed rest with a stair set once a day, max.  In the third week, you can begin slowly reintroducing additional activities, though we recommend a max of one short outing per day.  Evidence shows that the more you rest in these early weeks, the faster you heal, the quicker your bleeding will subside, and the better you will feel.

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Delegate Responsibility

Given this, it is important to make a plan for how your usual activities will happen (or not happen).  It’s a good idea to make a list of your responsibilities, delegate tasks that need to be done, and put off or plan ahead for other tasks.  Here are some examples:

  • Laundry—perhaps someone else washes the laundry and folds it, or maybe you fold it on the bed
  • Cleaning—don’t clean!  Don’t even look at what might need cleaning!  Or if something absolutely needs to be done, delegate.
  • Grocery and other shopping—try to stock up on non-perishables ahead of time (plan to have enough toilet paper, etc. on hand for a month).  You can also shop online for food and other items, which can be delivered to your door.
  • Cooking/meal preparation—if you can, try to prepare and freeze two weeks’ worth of meals to have on hand for the postpartum.  Nutrition is very important for new mamas so consider simple nourishing balanced meals.  Also, learn about take out and delivery restaurants in your area and give them a try or at least snag menus to consider for easy meals.  There are registry websites, like foodtidings.com and mealbaby.com that can help coordinate meal offerings from friends and family.
  • Bills—consider starting online bill pay, if that makes it easier (it may be easier to click a button than fill out paperwork!) or delegate this task to another house member
  • Older Children—if you have older kids, make a plan for how they will be cared for once new baby arrives—can they stay at a friend or relative’s home for a couple days?  Will dad or another family/friend be “in charge”?  Will these children attend daycare/camp/school and how will they get there?  How can you prepare them for the changes to come?  How can you make this time special for them?
  • Visitors—Just like in birth, your partner or other close support person should protect your privacy and your boundaries during the postpartum, communicating with eager loved ones about how and when you are up for company. If you are not ready for visitors, it’s okay to ask people to hold off on visits until you are ready (baby will still be there!). You might also consider a “visiting hour” during which people can stop by shortly.  Consider asking your go-to person to make it clear to others that visits are best kept on the shorter side and that visitors are welcome to bring a meal or help out while they are over—maybe they take out the trash, load the dishwasher, change over the laundry, water plants, etc.
  • Make it special—the first few weeks are dubbed the “babymoon” (like a “honeymoon”) for good reason.  This is a precious time of strengthening the love bonds between family members.  It’s also a time to treat yourself with the utmost care.  How will you make it special?  Consider gifting yourself with little treats during this time, you deserve it after the hard work of carrying and birthing your baby!

Ahead of time, maybe you:

  • Get a manicure, get your haircut, get a massage(s), or go to a spa
  • Buy new makeup, a new (nursing-friendly) nightgown, or the like
  • Save a book from your favorite author or stock up on magazines
  • Load up your Netflix or similar with movies and TV shows you’ve wanted to see.  (funny, light shows are especially good for this time)
  • Acquire some new music by a favorite or recommended band or artist
  • Put up a beautiful piece of art or a picture that you can look at from your bed (consider natural images, which have been shown to help reduce stress and boost healing)

During your babymoon, you might:

  • Consider placenta encapsulation
  • Take sitz baths at least once a day
  • Change into a new outfit, open the windows, and welcome each new day
  • Look through albums of favorite trips or special memories
  • Journal about your experiences (they are often profound even despite the sleep-deprivation!)
  • Rest, rest, rest!
  • Eat your favorite meals
  • Drink lots of fluids
  • Be unreasonably kind to yourself

5.    Create a support circle

Some experts recommend that mamas delegate a close friend or family member as postpartum support coordinator—this person can arrange “assignments” for those in your support circle such as bringing a meal on a certain night, watching older children, coming over to doing a little house upkeep, etc.  This takes any potential pressure and awkwardness off mom to ask for support from others, if this is the case.  Of course, you can also arrange your support yourself!  Consider these possible members of your support circle:

  • Husband or partner—while every partner’s ability to take time off is different, it’s helpful to take as much time as you can—whether that’s a few days or several weeks
  • Older children—older children may be given special helper tasks
  • Relatives
  • Friends
  • Other mothers (perhaps women you meet through childbirth ed classes)
  • Postpartum Doulas—these experts are trained to meet the physical, emotional and practical needs of new families
  • Hired Help—some families consider hiring help for cooking, cleaning, and other tasks

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Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself and enlist help in meeting your needs in the postpartum.  In the words of midwife Aviva Jill Romm:  “In order to fully nourish your family, you must have reserves to draw on—you need to be a full well.  Every bit of help you receive adds to your reserves. Planning ahead for postpartum care ensures that you will have the help and support necessary to keep your well full.”

What do you think?  If you have kids, what did you do or wish you had done to prepare for the postpartum period?  If you are pregnant, what are you doing to keep your well full going into new mamahood? 

Recipe: Lactation Cookies

This yummy oatmeal cookie recipe is one of the many ways for breastfeeding/pumping mamas to maintain their milk supply!

Lactation Cookies
Recipe by MilkinMamas

2 Tablespoons flax seed meal

4 Tablespoons water

1 cup butter, soften to room temperature

1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar

2 eggs, room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour (all-purpose or white whole wheat)

3-4 Tablespoons brewer’s yeast

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups rolled oats

1 cup chocolate chips

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flax seed meal and water. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl or stand-up mixer, beat butter and brown sugar well.
  4. Add eggs and beat well.
  5. Add flax seed mixture and vanilla, beat well.
  6. In a separate bowl, sift together flour, brewer’s yeast, baking soda & salt.
  7. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture, mix well.
  8. Stir in oats and chocolate chips.
  9. Scoop by rounded tablespoons onto baking tray.
  10. Bake 12 minutes.
  11. Cool on baking tray for 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.

Be creative and try these variations or additions:

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • flaked or shredded coconut
  • dried cranberries, cherries, apricots or raisins
  • white chocolate chips

Insurance Coverage for Breastfeeding Support: Pumps and Lactation Services

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The Good News:

Under the federal Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, insurance companies are now required to cover the costs associated with breastfeeding, such as breastfeeding pumps and lactation services, without a copayment or co-insurance to meet your deductible so long as the services are “in-network.”*

The Bad News:

The language of the act is a bit vague and so insurance companies are setting their own specific policies about what is covered and how to go about procuring the breastfeeding support services and supplies you need.

This has created much confusion about the law and what it means to mamas.  We are here to help you understand your rights and advocate for the benefits to which you are entitled by law.

Call your Insurance Company First

Contacting your insurance provider is the first step in understanding what breastfeeding-related coverage and benefits you are eligible for.  Generally speaking, lactation consultants typically fall under preventative care, while breast pumps are considered medical supplies.

We’ve seen mamas get lots of different answers from their insurance providers about what is covered.  Some will cover hospital-grade pumps, while others only cover hand pumps.  Some have specific brands of pumps they will cover, and many require that you purchase such pumps at specific medical supply locations. This is due to their “in-network” requirements.

It’s best to call your insurance company before your baby is born (but, of course, its not too late once they’ve arrived).  Your insurance card should have the company’s toll-free member services number on the back.

Questions to Ask about Breast Pumps:

  • What type of pump can I get? (hospital-grade rental pump, double or single electric personal-use, battery or manual pump)
  • Do I have brand options?
  • Do I have to get the “recommended” pump or can I choose to purchase one (aka “out-of-network”) and submit the receipt for reimbursement?
    • If yes, what amount will I be reimbursed? Is there a dollar limit on coverage for breast pumps?
    • If I have already obtained a breast pump, can I submit a claim for reimbursement?
    • Do I have to get the breast pump approved first?
    • When can I get my breast pump? Before giving birth? After the birth of my child(ren)?
    • Where can I get my breast pump? Does it have to be from a designated place (aka “in-network” provider) or can I choose where to get it?
    • Do I have a rental pump option? Do I need a prescription for proof of medical necessity?

 Questions to Ask About Lactation Consultations:

  • Is there a limit on the number of visits with a lactation consultant?
  • Do I have to get the lactation visits approved first?
  • Where can I receive lactation counseling services? Are there approved in-network providers? Can I get reimbursed if I use a lactation counselor out-of-network?

Medela has great tips on talking to your insurance provider, especially if you encounter difficulty getting the coverage provided by law.

Contact the Medical Supply Providers or Lactation Consultant

Once you have obtained a list of “in-network” providers, it’s a good idea to contact the medical supply providers your insurance company gave you.  Ask them about what types and brands of breast pumps they carry and if there are any specific requirements related to obtaining your desired pump as covered by insurance.  For example, some medical suppliers will not allow you to obtain a pump prior to birth.  Some will let you pick up the pump, while others will deliver it to your home.

Same goes for lactation consultants—be sure to call the ones your provider gave you to get details about the services they offer.

Breast Pumps and Minnesota Care

If you are receiving Minnesota Care you may also be eligible for coverage.  The same recommendations apply: call your insurance company first and then call the medical supply providers.  (You may also have to contact your Minnesota Care caseworker.)  Make sure the medical supply provider is aware that you are covered under Minnesota Care, as this can affect the type of pump you are eligible to receive.

Getting Help Getting Covered

If your insurance representative doesn’t give you the answer you’re looking for, ask to speak to a supervisor. If that doesn’t work, tell them your going to file a request for assistance with the Department of Insurance.  Often, this is enough to prompt action.  If not, the Department of Insurance can be of assistance.  They can be reached with questions at 1-800-657-3602 or 651-296-2488.  Select the Insurance option (choice #1) on message menu to speak with an insurance investigator who can assist you.

Wishing you a smooth and easy experience obtaining the breastfeeding support services and equipment you need!

*Note: This federal law covers private and commercial insurance carriers but does not cover Medicaid or WIC.