This week, I'm talking to midwife and women's health expert, Rebecca Egbert.
I know what you’re thinking: What exactly does a midwife do? Don’t worry-- I ask her all about it. Rebecca also talks about the huge gap in healthcare for moms during the often crazy postpartum period. New moms aren’t exactly sure what’s happening with their bodies, their relationship with their partner (and friends!), and why their boobs are acting so weird. Partners, friends and family want to help, but aren’t always sure how. Rebecca gives some incredibly helpful insight for everyone who’s ever given birth or knowns someone who has—which is to say, all of us.
PLUS, she dishes on her awesome Kickstarter campaign that launched earlier this week.
Here's an excerpt of our conversation.
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So... are you a little stressed out about this upcoming Kickstarter campaign?
Rebecca: I’m not! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have some acne on my chin. But, uh, no this morning I checked in with my body and my brain and my mind. I just feel good and really excited. Stress is something that’s relative to me.
Perfect, well we're gonna get into what this fabulous Kickstarter thing is you got going on in a minute. But first, I want you to tell everyone a little bit about yourself, because, well, you are a midwife.
Rebecca: I am.
And one of my favorite words ever in the history of the world is midwifery because it sounds like a wiffle ball. It’s such a good word. How did you get into midwifery?
Rebecca: Midwifery. I love when people call it midwiffing versus midwifing. I've been doing women's healthcare for about 20 years. [I initially learned about midwifery] on a trip to New Zealand and where I met this kind of funky man, a teacher person.
There are a lot of funky people in New Zealand.
Rebecca: I know, right? And we were just talking about my love for medicine, my love for healthcare. I was thinking about going to medical school and this is in my early 20s. And he is just like "Why not midwifery?" And so I looked into midwifery and... I still was leaning towards going to medical school.
But every time I got close to like MCATS or whatever, people would just be like, "Stop, don’t do it, you're gonna get so frustrated with the system, blah, blah, blah, continue to go with midwifery." And in time, I made my way towards it. It turned into more of a advocacy thing.
Pardon the naive question, but what is the difference between a doula, a midwife and like a nurse?
Rebecca: Well, a lot. For a midwife, she’ll often have an advance practicing degree. So it would be someone who went to nursing school or someone who maybe was a doula and then did a three-year education process to get licensed, to either practice in a hospital or a birth center or a home birth environment.
A midwife can manage shoulder dystocia, hemorrhage, any complication that is medium risk to a mom during labor. A doula is going to be really there to help ahead of time and help a mom and partner prepare and get ready for labor.
Doulas are awesome during labor. They really do help you, whether nutritionally or emotionally or spiritually, whatever the word is for you. But the midwife comes in to check on the mom’s vitals, check on baby’s vitals, then deliver the baby, and then manage the immediate postpartum period. The most common place a woman will die in childbirth is related to hemorrhage or something like that in the postpartum period.
Oh, talk about scary!
Rebecca: Yeah, scary.
Yeah. It's perfect for my podcast.
Rebecca: So that’s what we’re trained to do. Resuscitate babies and whatnot. When babies come out and they're struggling to breath, they need extra oxygen.
Rebecca: I know, it’s full adrenaline.
Wow. I bet you have so many crazy stories.
Rebecca: I have some crazy ones.
Oh my gosh. Well, we’re not gonna talk about those today because what I really want to talk to you about is your passion for postpartum health. So can you explain a little bit what that means?
Rebecca: Yeah. And I call it both postpartum and postnatal, because it’s really anything after your pregnancy and childbirth. After a long time in the field, I saw just a massive gap where women have their baby and then there’s not a ton of information. I mean, we're the information age, but just being able to have a quick on-call, go-to resource, there just wasn’t anything yet.
So, I started working with moms that were six weeks postpartum out into that first year. It’s that time period after that last appointment that you’ll have with your doctor and your midwife, and then you go off to navigate waters that are new to you if you're a first time mom. Or even if you have a second or third baby, it gets more intense with each child. It’s just that place where you want information that’s going to help you feel better and feel good and take care of your body and make it easy to do so.
I started doing one-on-one coaching for the first year and a half, and then I started getting more into educational tools and health tools.
What are some of the really common things that many women experience after they have that last appointment with their doctor?
Rebecca: You know, one of the biggest stressors that shows up is the emphasis on getting our bodies back. That’s a big one. And no one is talking about how relationships can be affected, specifically one with your partner, but also with your friends and how hard that might be in the first.
And then body issues, and just not self-esteem. There’s definitely some self-esteem in there, but I’m talking about like breasts or feeding your baby or what your bum feels like after having a baby or recovering from c-section.
There's some really great resources that have been out there for a long time. But as I say often, they just sit there and gather dust. They're all about your baby and not all about you. What I specifically am doing is making it all about the moms so that she can help her family thrive.
You know, I think when men see this podcast, they'll think like, "Oh, we’re talking about giving birth and having babies and shit. Well, that’s not really for me." Yes it is about you! What do you wish men knew? How can they help a woman whose just had a baby?
Rebecca: Yeah. One thing that’s really great that I wish more men knew about is this concept of delegation. How do we delegate tasks together so that one person isn’t just doing all the grocery shopping? Or one person isn’t just getting the kids? You need to manage both of your lives and schedules and put it into a calendar. That’s one of the biggest things that is confusing to new parents: the overwhelm being who you were before and turning into this new family.
There’s a really great book called Overwhelmed and then I forgot the subtitle but it’s kind of hilarious. It's a great book that I think every parent should read prenatally.
What’s really hard for men to understand what a woman is going through emotionally. There’s a big alienation factor that comes up for women postpartum. Find time to check in with her, especially if she doesn’t go back to work. Remember to come home and have a check in with just the adults brains versus just making it all about baby. Because for that momma, most of the time she’s wanting some other engagement other than having someone attached to her.
Rebecca: And of course, the one thing that’s popping up in my brain is sex. Just give her a hall pass. You might want to get it on with your partner, but for a woman who's just had a baby, it's really the last thing on her mind. Understand that and give that hall pass for the first year. It seems like a long time, but it’s the truth.
I'm at the age where a lot of my friends are having kids. How can I be helping my friends that are new moms?
Rebecca: Yeah. Oh gosh I love this one. So I’m the 40-year-old woman who thought she was going to have babies at 27. I still don’t have children and so all my friends have, you know, almost teenagers at this point. The one thing I learned early was to just become two extra arms. It’s the whole Amy Poehler concept: every mom needs a wife.
We really do. Women need to be out there giving two extra arms. Specially if you don’t have little people at home and it’s easy for you to go to a friend, go over. Offer to for cook them, don’t go over to go sit with them and like see the baby. Go over and cook them a meal. Bring them a meal. Go wash the freaking toilet. Sweep their floors, do their laundry like help them out and let them talk to you. Let them feel like they're humans and adults and all that kind of stuff.
I love the concept of knowing your friends so well that you can either bring her like a latte, a smoothie or a bottle of wine and just pop in and be like, I know you need a lift!
I understand how that kind of help would be really fabulous if you're a new mom, but how do you ask for that?
Rebecca: I think that’s a struggle. That’s where again we all have to be intuitive enough that we can just call up or text her friends and say, "Hey babe I’m coming over. I’m going to pop by." And literally making it a pop by.That’s the best thing that can happen because then they will invite you in to stay longer or not. Scheduling for a mom with three kids or two kids and a new baby is just a lot.
The thing is to remove any guilt, because the mom is going to really struggle to ask. I don’t know if there’s a really great answer for that, because that’s going to be individual to each woman in her own stage of growth… When she’ll be able to call you up and be like, "Hey I’m lonely or I’m scared or I’m sad and I’m just having a hard day. Can you come over and hang out and have a glass of wine?"
So I want you to talk a little bit about your Kickstarter campaign that launched August 5th.
Rebecca: I'm launching a Kickstarter campaign for a project that I’ve been working on for about nine months. One of my tag lines for my umbrella business is helping moms help themselves. I wanted to put together actions, tools, motivation and encouragement on how to take care of your mental body, your physical body, your spiritual body and your heart after having a baby.
That's why I created Little Mother's Helper, a cool deck of cards and app guiding modern mothers in the days, weeks and months following childbirth.
They blend what’s going on with your physical and physiological body-- all the normal things that go on after having a baby. I wanted something that could go into the hands of every woman that would make them giggle a little, but also provide guidance.
The cards are cool because they're, again, chockfull of activities, but then there’s also a section of the deck is all mental health. It goes over baby blues, postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety or psychosis. A partner can go look at that deck of the cards and say, does my partner have this?How I can support her?
It's a great gift. It can also go to grandmas, it can go to partners. We made it for everybody.
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PS Support Little Mother's Helper on Kickstarter!
PPS Here's Still Kickin, my friend Nora's new venture dedicated to helping fellow humans.
It's a BIG little victory.
As I mentioned in the podcast, this is my last Hey Eleanor Podcast-- at least for now. Thanks so much for listening. You can always keep up with me and my adventures on this blog and via social media.
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