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Hello, BIRTHFIT. This is Dr. Lindsey Mathews, your BIRTHFIT founder. Now, today’s episode is quite unique. It was recorded while I was in the upper east of the United States. I don’t know if you want to call it that, but the East Coast. I spent some time in New Jersey, New York and Brooklyn and this episode, in which Mark, the founder of Expectful, joins me, was recorded in Brooklyn. So I hope you enjoy this episode. I hope you get to know Mark a little more and can relate to him a little bit. He is an unmarried man with no children, so he’s kind of unlikely that he’s Expectful’s founder, but I think the universe is looking out for each of us, and I do believe his life’s path has led him here. Expectful is an awesome app for women looking to meditate throughout the motherhood transition. So check it out. Enjoy this episode and get to know Mark a little more.
For those of you listening, this is not live. This is in Brooklyn and I’m sitting here with Mark Krassner. Did I say that correctly?
Mark: You did.
Lindsey: Usually I butcher everybody’s name. He is the founder of Expectful, a meditation app for the motherhood transition. So Mark, do you want to share a little bit about your intro if I missed anything? Who you are?
Mark: So who am I? I am somebody that makes people go “What?! Who is this guy? Who is this guy?” I’m the founder of Expectful, as you mentioned, and it’s an app that makes it easy for women who are trying to conceive pregnant and new moms to meditate. I have no children and I’m not married, and so oftentimes people are just like confused when they meet me. It’s like what’s going on over here?
What I share is that I started Expectful because I have a mom who struggled with anxiety and depression when I was growing up and my mom loved and loves me very much, but during that time didn’t always have the tools that she needed to show up the way that she wanted to all the time. And just that growing up in an environment like that had such a profound impact in my life, and it was really the reason, the driving force behind my desire to start Expectful today. So I’m a guy that doesn’t fit into your average box who cares deeply about motherhood, pregnancy and the next generation. So I’m very passionate about that.
Lindsey: When was this conception of this idea? When did this happen?
Mark: Meditation changed my life pretty significantly, and it’s actually really fitting that we’re doing this podcast here in Brooklyn because it’s actually just a few blocks away from here that about four years ago I was getting out of a really significant relationship with somebody I lived with. The relationship, for those — I don’t know how many of your listeners have been there, but like when you go through a breakup, it’s horrible, and the relationship that I was in with this amazing woman, Jessie, was just going in hell in a handbasket really quickly just up the road. Jessie took a meditation course to try to cope with all the stress she was experiencing as a result of the deterioration of our relationship. After this four-day course that she took, I asked her what she learned and she told me and the principle she shared seemed relatively simple to me and I was like I could do that, and I decided to start. About a week later the relationship had transitioned. We’re no longer together. I was in an immense amount of pain and I clung very tightly to my meditation practice hoping that it would help me cope with all the challenging feelings that came up for me as a result of some really heavy heartbreak that I was going through.
About six weeks into my practice, I didn’t know if meditation was actually doing anything for me or not. I felt a little more calm and relaxed, but I didn’t have like — my whole life hadn’t changed at that point. I was biking to an appointment that I was running late for, and when I pulled up outside of the appointment, I went to go to lock my bike up with one of those wire locks and I couldn’t get one end of the bike lock to connect to the other. In that situation because I was rushed, and I really wanted to get to the appointment and the bike lock was just being really annoying in that moment, my typically go-to would have been frustration and I would have started grunting and breathing heavily and I would have just started smashing one side of the lock into the other as hard as I could trying to make it connect.
But in this situation, I remember I just looked at the lock and I remember feeling the beginnings of that frustration bubbling up inside me, and I had a conscious thought. It was I don’t want to get frustrated. I don’t want this. I took a deep breath and I focused more intently on the lock, and I slowly but surely made one piece connect to the other and I left and I walked towards the building I was walking into. When I touched the handle of the door, I had a moment where I was like wow, that whole situation occurred completely differently because of meditation. That was the beginning of meditation has been this amazing foundation for very significant transformation that my life has taken on over the years.
So I knew after about a year of meditating that it was something that I wanted to see more people experience. It was something I became very passionate about. I started to do research on how meditation affected children because I mean if I got to meditate sooner I couldn’t imagine what my life would have looked like. I found these breadcrumbs on pregnancy, which I thought was so interesting and I want to see what people were saying about that online, and I came up totally short. There was like no content on this.
Lindsey: It’s like anything in the maternal motherhood world.
Mark: Oh, my gosh, yeah, the content was like garbage and it was unbelievably poor, poor content. I mean it surprised me because meditation is such an intuitive practice for pregnancy, right?
Lindsey: You would think.
Mark: Yeah. So I was like, gosh, there’s got to be more here. There’s more to this story. So I ended up hiring a PhD student and had her look into all the available research on the topic of meditation during pregnancy and how stress and anxiety affects the pregnancy as well. When I got the research back about a week later, I connected with it so deeply because I read about basically how emotional states and mental health during pregnancy has such an enormous impact on the mental and physical health of a human being that’s gestating during that time for its entire life. It’s so significant.
I also read about how it’s really a very neglected part of pre and postnatal care. I mean pregnancy and new motherhood are some of the most stressful things a human being could possibly go through, and that stress has a direct impact on the health of a baby. Yet, nobody is doing anything to help support women during this time. I read about that in the studies I read about on stress and anxiety and how they affect pregnancy. Literally in those studies, researchers in there were saying more needs to be done. There’s almost no intervention. Nothing is done to help support women during this time. And then I read the studies on meditation and how meditation has been shown to do all sorts of amazing things like reduce the chance of preterm birth, reduce the chances of different risk factors from arising, reduce the chances of postpartum depression, enhance fertility and all those stuff and I’m like wow! This is such a great opportunity because there’s all the science and research on meditation and how it could help with emotional states and have a healthier, happier pregnancy and motherhood journey and fertility journey. There’s all this research on how stress and anxiety can negatively impact the pregnancy and nobody is doing anything about it. Wow! Whoa!
Lindsey: Let’s connect the dots.
Mark: Let’s connect the dots. But what really connected for me, the dots that I connected first was my relationship with my own mom who had, like I said, her own very traumatic life that she went through. She was the child of parents that who lost a lot of their own siblings and nieces and nephews to the holocaust and she just grew up in this incredibly tough environment, and she’s like the most incredible woman who’s like the most resilient person I know today but who, again, just didn’t have all the tools that she wanted to show up in the way that she wanted to in my life and I got really connected to how different my life might have looked if somebody showed her this research and gave her the tool to make the practice of meditation really easy.
So when I put that together it’s like this is what I want to be doing with my life, with my time. I want to put something out into the world and really we say make meditation as common as prenatal vitamins because there’s so much women already do. If you’re listening and you’re pregnant or you’re a new mom, you’re probably dealing with a ton of stuff for your body and that’s awesome because we’ve come such a long way. I forgot a long ago. It wasn’t even that long ago that women were cool to drink during pregnancy or smoke cigarettes. It was a thing.
Lindsey: Or eat for two.
Mark: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that’s right, and over time we’ve really honed that in and we’ve come to understand the significant impact that nutrition has on the process and exercise has on the process and it is very front of mind. But again, there’s just so much being done for the body. It’s awesome, but what’s being done for the mind? To me it’s been the missing link in the pre and postnatal care because it’s so important to get it right because again it could affect the health of a human being mentally and physically for its entire life.
Lindsey: Yeah, that’s 100% agree. For those of you listening, if you don’t know, our four pillars are fitness, nutrition, chiropractic and mindset. Mark just high-fived me. I used to say all four of those pillars were equal. But now, especially as we’re going around and doing seminars pretty regularly, like twice a month, I like to tell everybody mindset, mindset, mindset, that is the foundation. I just shared, like I’ll share a little bit about how my mind works. There is absolutely nothing, no support in any of those four categories as far as research and support for women through the prenatal and postpartum period, but more and more is coming out, and those are things that women can do in each of those categories — fitness, nutrition, chiropractic, mindset — to enhance their pregnancy and overall well-being. In fact, anybody can do those four pillars.
But what I share at some of our seminars is that basically, during pregnancy, a mom has to embrace the feminine energy and she has to go more in tune with her body and be really confident in her soul power, and for many of us it’s been neglected, and we’ve almost been taught at such a young age to depend on somebody else for support and care and for saving. I think we were talking a little bit about this or about our lives before this podcast, and I was sharing with Mark that I had to basically find my soul power again and that’s where BIRTHFIT came about. If I didn’t go through the dark shit that I went through, BIRTHFIT would not be here. But I almost view birth as this — and you may think I’m crazy, he’s looking at me with big eyes right now.
Mark: I don’t know what you’re about to say, but it’s unlikely, it’s unlikely, but I’m curious. Maybe you’ll throw me off.
Lindsey: So I view pregnancy as this training that we have to go inside. Like we have to go inside for training and mindset is the training there, where the physical training can enhance the mindset and be something that we cultivate more and more so that we give access to the mindset. People that train in a CrossFit gym or running ultra-marathons or hiking or whatever, you say things to yourself, you breathe, you moan, you do whatever. But in pregnancy, we start to direct that when we train for birth, and then during labor and delivery we start to climb this mountain and we go on top of this mountain.
Here’s where our conversation after my cat passed, all those listening know my cat, Angel, passed.
Mark: And Lindsey and I got on the phone and we were introduced. Just like have a chat, Expectful BIRTHFIT, let’s like have a little business chat to see what’s going on and what was it? Like an hour later we’re just…
Lindsey: Yeah, it’s all about life and death. But this is where this clicked for me because I view labor and delivery as climbing this mountain, and whatever birth you have, the peak of this mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro or whatever, and literally mom is up there maybe on one foot, maybe on two at the peak of this mountain, and she has to literally reach through and pull this being from another portal into this world and then she has to go back down this mountain. That’s the postpartum period and that’s where she has to recalibrate. We have to get grounded again. So in my opinion, we’ve been training or we’ve been viewing pregnancy and postpartum especially in the training sense so ass backwards like pregnant women are superheroes and they need this support tribe so they can climb this mountain, and they also need things like mindset training so that they learn their soul power. This freaking app is genius. I love it. I don’t think I’ve ever shared that with you, but that’s why I was like oh, my God, this makes so much sense. Life and death.
Mark: I think so too. I really do. That’s really what we’re about. I mean there are so many layers to Expectful. But another thing I learned about when I started to get just like crazy fascinated about this whole space, it’s just the most interesting thing to me, so many pregnancies happen from the top. It’s like there’s a head in the body and there’s a separation and this lack of connection like oh, the baby is growing and on my mind and it’s sort of like they’re not two things that are in harmony.
Lindsey: Yeah, I’m just checking the boxes.
Mark: I’m just checking the boxes. And there’s been this like — I think it’s society in general. I don’t think this is just a pregnancy thing, but there’s just been like this major, I think, disconnection from our bodies from our hearts, and what meditation allows people to do is to tap back in. The average human being in a given day has about — I’ve heard all sorts of different numbers, but the lowest number I’ve heard is 50,000 thoughts in a given day and 2% of those thoughts are new. The rest are just like rumination, all the same crap rolling around in your head over and over and over.
Oftentimes, people are like, “What is meditation?” The way I define it is it’s the attempt to focus on just one thing for a predetermined amount of time, whether that’s a guided meditation and an audio like Expectful or another app or your breath or a mantra, staying present, being in the present moment. Whatever it is, it’s the attempt to focus on a particular thing for a predetermined amount of time. What happens is inevitably, in that attempt, thoughts are going to come up because just like your heart beats and your hair grows, your mind thinks. It’s just what it does. Your mind will never stop thinking. It’s a big misconception. Listeners, if you think meditation is about not thinking, you’re incorrect. Let me break it down for you. If you’re not having thoughts, you’re dead. You’re not listening to this podcast from this dimension right now. You’re always going to have thoughts anytime in your life, including during a meditation.
But what inevitably is going to happen is you’re going to be attempting to focus on one thing, and then you’re going to be thinking about something else, whatever it is. So you’re trying to focus on a guided meditation and suddenly you’re thinking about your shoes or your email inbox or whatever it may be. Something comes up and what will happen is you’ll realize that you’re thinking about something that you weren’t meaning to think of. At some point you’ll go, “Oh, I’m thinking about my inbox,” and you’ll bring your mind back to whatever you were trying to focus on. That is actually meditation, showing up in like what happens is the brain like lifting a little weight every time that you catch yourself having a thought because normally you have those 50,000 thoughts in a given day.
Lindsey: And you’re trying to keep up with them.
Mark: You’re trying to keep up but you’re not even realizing you’re having them. They just run you because they’re just coming through. You have no control over them. But over time with meditation, as you start to catch yourself thinking and bring your mind back, again, most people think catching a thought is a bad thing, that there’s like failing a meditation and that’s a win. Every time you realize you’re thinking, that’s awesome. Even in regular life, when you’re not meditating, if you catch yourself having a thought, that’s a huge win because you’re training yourself to be more present with your thoughts so you can exert more control over them and have a happier life. So what meditation does, to go back to this whole thing about the disconnection between the body and the mind, is it helps people slow down and have more control over their mental chatter. And what that also does is it helps people get out of their head and get more in touch with their bodies where all the real answers are. That’s where their intuition is and that’s where all these natural amazing things that we have as human beings, especially moms, that help guide us, that help give us answers are there.
Lindsey: Yeah, makes so much sense to me. You’re just talking about catching your thoughts. For me the most practical sense, it’s like in labor moms experience contractions and if they’re distracted or if they’re waiting on labor to start, maybe baby is late according to their estimated due date or maybe there’s stuff going on, like what comes to mind is Erica, if she’s listening, she literally could to start labor because she kept thinking about payroll that she had to do. So literally, she went to the office, like she started labor on a Monday, labor stopped and then the next morning she went and finished payroll and then labor restarted again and had a beautiful home birth. But it’s like yes, you’re catching those thoughts or you’re shifting into focus at the task at hand which is a contraction, or okay, that contraction’s done now; that’s behind you. Bring on the next contraction, which is the next task at hand, which is pretty awesome.
So if you ran into a mom like at a grocery store or anywhere around Brooklyn do you share with her about Expectful? Because I’ve seen tons of pregnant women around here.
Mark: There are. It’s stroller central. It’s a fine line to walk because who likes unsolicited advice, right? Who likes unsolicited advice, especially pregnant women?
Lindsey: Everybody is giving them an opinion.
Mark: Everybody is giving you poor women advice. I’m so sorry, that sucks.
Lindsey: But we got the best advice.
Mark: There we go. That’s right. But people are coming to you for it. It’s for inquiries. It’s not being offered out of nowhere, you know what I mean? But I’m like really well aware of that. That said, I’m like no one in my team laughs me because I’ll meet people there is like almost single flight that I take anywhere there’s always an email that follows it. I email our ops personally and I say, “Hey, Leah, can you set this person up with a free subscription to Expectful?” and it’s inevitably a pregnant woman that I met on a flight or something. But I’m really careful. I think it’s important not to be prescriptive and to think that there’s one right way. I think just presenting it as like an opportunity. It usually starts like, “Hey!” like asking about the pregnancy and “Oh, do you meditate?” and then usually that there’s like a story ensues. But I always make sure that whenever I bring this up that I make sure to say, “Hey, look, this isn’t advice. This is just something that we offer that you might enjoy.” But be super careful not to be like righteous about it because it might not be the right thing for everybody.
Lindsey: For sure. It was funny, after our meeting yesterday, Bender and I went to a coffee shop and we literally were a part of a like stroller gathering there. We’re like oh, my goodness! They’re everywhere here.
Mark: How about when you did? When you see pregnant women, how’s that for you?
Lindsey: No, I’m a lot like you. If the conversation comes up, I’ll share and I’ll definitely share my experience with BIRTHFIT. I usually share about my experience as a doula because people like to hear positive birth stories because so often people share, “This traumatic thing happened to me” or “Watch out for this” and the trauma and the negative stuff is just like gossip. That’s the stuff that get shared more often. The positive birth stories need to be shared just as often because they’re all out there.
Lindsey: Yeah, that’s why we put some on the podcast.
Mark: Oh, I think that’s great.
Lindsey: Yeah. What does meditation look like for you right now?
Mark: Oh, my gosh. The first thing I do in the morning after I brush my teeth, I sit for at least 20 minutes and I focus on my breath. Sometimes I like to get in at least half an hour really. But if I can’t, 20 minutes is my go-to. And then I like to get in another 20 minutes if I can midday. Like around 3:00 is the perfect time. It is ten times better than a cup of coffee. At 3:00, I don’t know about you, but I get pretty drowsy, and I love meditating then because it blasts me through the rest of the day. I have so much natural energy. So I love doing it. And it used to be something that I resisted or it was uncomfortable for me and a challenge, and now it’s just such a blissful experience to get to tap into that on a daily basis. Yeah, it’s been really cool.
But what’s better than meditating actually is like we’ll go on a platform of Expectful and see on any given day hundreds, sometimes thousands of people in a week are meditating on the platform, and it’s just like it’s the best feeling to think about. All of those women and couples, because we offer couples meditations, and their children getting exposed to this practice that’s had such an enormous impact in my life and I really believe has the potential to so significantly impact other people’s lives in ways that — meditation is such a funny thing because it seems like it is a such a simple thing. You’re just sitting focusing on one thing for however long, 10 minutes, 20 minutes, 5 minutes, whatever, but it’s one of those things where it’s so subtle but really has the power to change everything, that simple practice.
Lindsey: Right. I think so often people feel like they’re not doing it right or that they’re grading themselves. Have people said that to you or I just can’t do it or it’s not for me. What do you say to those people?
Mark: I’ll use the words of my meditation teacher and our meditation expert on the platform, Emily Fletcher, who’s incredible, who says, “Thoughts aren’t the enemy of meditation, effort is.”
Mark: So whenever you’re making yourself wrong or saying that you’re not doing it right, that is like the enemy of your meditation when you’re muscling, trying so hard to get it right versus just like accepting the thoughts that come and being gentle with yourself and gently returning back to whatever it is that you’re attempting to focus on. It all comes down to understanding that it’s all an attempt. There’s never going to be a moment where there are no thoughts. You’re always in the process of attempting to do it and the attempt itself is successfully meditating. You can’t unsuccessfully meditate.
Lindsey: That’s awesome. Love it. Were there areas in your life — well, let me back up. Are there areas in your life right now where you’ve seen meditation help or take a pause or space before you react or how does it show up right now for you?
Mark: Oh, my gosh! Well, I’m going through a breakup right now, another breakup that we’re talking about just before this podcast, before we ever record. I can’t believe I’m sharing this, but I’m going for it. So I got into a relationship with somebody who was — I started seeing somebody who was like two weeks out of something else and it was like the most intense connection I think I have ever experienced with somebody. It was amazing and we jumped head first into the relationship.
And fast forward two months later, it’s been like an amazing, amazing experience to be with this incredible woman, and I’ve never felt things so quickly ever in my life. And now it looks like our relationship is going to transition because suddenly she is actually beginning to grieve the relationship that ended just before we got together. And instead of it hurts, I love this woman so much. Like I love this woman and still think regardless of everything that’s happening that she is somebody that I might spend the rest of my life with. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to happen. But instead of getting mad about it or getting upset, I can really see like I have so much compassion for the situation and I could really, one, drop my ego because there’s this little voice inside me that wants to go oh, you’re not good enough, man. Like you want to be in this relationship and this person doesn’t want to be with you right now. So there’s a little voice in my head that could be a lot louder telling me all the areas that I’m inadequate, all the areas that I could have been better, done better, been more, whatever, and I get to notice that that’s there but also choose not to really listen to that or give it space in my life.
I also get to show up with like a ton of compassion for this amazing woman who has the absolute best intentions and is just like feeling things that are very natural for a human to feel. And instead of getting angry, I get to show up for myself with love in this situation and I also get to show up for her with love and I get to, instead of making her wrong or getting upset, I just get to love her and how special she is and how I hope she gets everything that she needs. So that’s like one way that meditation has totally shown up in my life because the experience of this breakup would be completely different, how I showed up in her life would be completely different, the things that I would say to myself would be completely different, this conversation would be completely different, maybe I wouldn’t be able to be so vulnerable to share something so, so, so personal with your audience. You know how many people are getting to hear this podcast?
Lindsey: Uh, a lot.
Mark: Yeah, but meditation, it’s this thing where I get to show up in the world more the way what I want to. I’m really proud that I could be on this podcast and actually share something so incredibly personal to me because maybe somebody listening to this, maybe it gets through them and maybe they see an opportunity for themselves to start a practice that could help change their life. Or maybe they just feel more understood because I share this story and I’m sharing my heart with them. So that’s just like one example of how I think the practice impacts things because this conversation would not be going this way, my life would not be going this way of me sitting with you, I wouldn’t care enough about other people even to have started this company if I didn’t start meditating, to be honest with you. So it shows up in every way of my life, in every area.
Lindsey: Yeah, that’s pretty powerful.
Mark: Thanks. Do you want to talk about some of the research that’s behind this stuff? Yeah?
Lindsey: Yeah, go for it.
Mark: Okay. So there’s some really interesting stuff that’s out there around meditation. I’m just talking about my own personal experience here, how meditation shows up for me in that way. But if you’re pregnant, you’re wondering like what are some practical things that it does for me. So we can start with the beginning of the reproductive cycle. Before pregnancy actually there’s fertility. So meditation has been shown to balance hormones. It makes conception more likely. It’s been shown to reduce stress because high levels of cortisol and stress have been shown to reduce likelihood of conception. So women that meditate and also do yoga are much more likely to conceive. And then pregnancy, the research is showing, I think I mentioned this, but it reduces the chance of preterm birth.
Lindsey: Yeah, that’s pretty awesome.
Mark: Right. So there’s one study that’s been done. It was done at the University of Thailand. They took, I believe, it was 200 pregnant women and half the women had no intervention. They just were like their pregnancy proceeded without any intervention as a normal woman would in Thailand and the other half got meditation training at the end of their first trimester, beginning of their second trimester. They followed these women through pregnancy and the women that didn’t have an intervention had a preterm birth rate of around 15%, which is a really high rate. It’s about, I believe, around the rate of, unfortunately, minority preterm birth here in the United States. And the women that meditated had an 8% preterm birth rate.
Lindsey: Well, almost half.
Mark: I mean huge, almost half, almost half. Unfortunately, that study was done in Thailand. It’s not taken as seriously here in the United States. So we’re actually right now working with the University of Colorado with an amazing research team to do research on the same thing. We’re working with women to see how meditation and the Expectful app can reduce the incidence of preterm birth and also their level of stress and anxiety during the pregnancy, which is like really cool. But preterm birth has such an enormous impact on the health of a baby, and there’s been all these interventions that the medical community has tried to help, and really we haven’t significantly moved the needle on preterm birth in decades. So we’re really optimistic about this study and what that could do. Let’s see what else.
Lindsey: That’s pretty awesome because if you combine that with consistent exercise, exercise also, I don’t want to say causes, but is associated with the mom delivering more around her due date than not. Since fitness and mindset, they’re both part of the four pillars, why not try them both out.
Lindsey: And that puts baby around the estimate due date rather than early or extremely late.
Lindsey: Or some possible need for an intervention.
Mark: Yeah. And what’s really interesting about it is it sort of makes sense from this one perspective, right? So when the baby is in the womb, it’s trying to figure out what kind of environment it’s going to get into in the outside world. Is this dangerous place? Is this a safe place?
Lindsey: Because this feels pretty good in here.
Mark: Totally. So what happens is if there’s a lot of stress — and I want to preface this, by the way because we spoke about stress and anxiety and how it isn’t necessarily the greatest thing for pregnancy. But I just want to say everybody experiences stress. Your body is more than capable of handling stress and anxiety during pregnancy and producing a very healthy happy baby. The studies have been done that show that it could be challenging to a pregnancy or increase risk factors when it’s like high, high levels of trauma that the mother experiences or very prolonged periods of chronic stress and anxiety. It’s not your typical day-to-day stress. Chances are, I think, the average woman pregnancy is like totally fine with an average amount of stress.
But anyway, what happens is when the baby is gestating, it’s in the womb, it’s trying to figure out the environment it’s getting into. And if the signal that it gets is that it’s a very stressful environment based on the mom’s emotions, what will happen is the baby will do what’s called adapt ahead of time to its environment. So it’s going to develop the regions of the brain that are responsible for hyperactivity much more than the region of the brain that’s responsible for focus and intelligence. The other thing it’s going to do is, from a physiological perspective, it’s going to send more resources and develop more of the fast twitch muscles in the body than it will what’s called the viscera or the main organ systems of the body, like the heart, the liver, the lungs and things like that.
So what’s happening is if there’s a stressful environment, the baby’s adaptations are actually in most cases maladaptive because the baby is getting ready to run from like saber-toothed tigers that it thinks might be on the outside, that it thinks it’s getting into a world with a lot of predators. What’s really happening it’s getting into a world with overflowing inboxes and deadlines and to-do lists and stuff like that. So it’s like a maladaptive thing that when the baby experiences stress it thinks that it’s getting into a dangerous world. That’s where also preterm birth comes in because research shows that high levels of stress and anxiety lead to a way greater chance of preterm birth occurs.
Again, from an evolutionary perspective, that makes so much sense because the longer that a mom stays in a pregnancy in a dangerous environment where there are predators, the more that her and her baby are at risk because she’s immobile during that time. So if the baby is thinking that it’s getting into stressful environment, it’s going to birth itself, like birth is going to occur quicker because it’s evolutionarily the best chance of survival the baby can possibly have. Conversely, if there’s a calm environment, if there’s happiness, there’s love, there’s connection, then the baby gets the message oh, I’m getting into a safe world, and what happens is the organ system develops in a much more healthy way.
Lindsey: A little longer.
Mark: Yeah, more resources go to that and it’s made for the longevity because it thinks that’s going to keep — fast twitch muscles will keep you alive longer in an environment with predators than a healthy organ system that’s made to last a long time, right?
Lindsey: Yeah, that’s pretty awesome.
Mark: So what happens in the good environment is like all the organs get developed in a way where much more resources go to that to keep that human being that’s going to be born alive for as long as possible. And also less resources go to the part of the brain that’s responsible for hypervigilance and hyperactivity, and that goes to parts of the brain that are responsible for focus and intelligence and make it so when the baby adapts in the womb it’s actually adapting to the most successful human entity that it could possibly be in the environment that it’s actually getting into.
Lindsey: That’s pretty powerful. That’s huge. I’m thinking about my own birth experience. Like I revisited that within the last two years, like I said. My mom and my dad and my aunt all had like questionnaires about the experiences and it was really interesting, which if any of you have not asked your parents, even if you don’t talk to them, ask them about your birth experience because it’s very enlightening. But I sent them all this questionnaire and they either called me or wrote back or did both and it was interesting to hear. My dad, my real dad, and my aunt were pretty similar in their stories and my mom was like totally left field. So different perspectives, right?
But I was born a month early and I’m definitely more of a fast twitch. I used to be very hyperactive person, squirrel type thing. But yeah, that plays a role in the kid’s development, in their schooling, in the activities they participate in in life and their social circles, if they’re accepted or not. I’ve just seen everything as you said that, which is pretty wild.
Mark: It’s amazing. Life is amazing. It’s such a powerful thing. And it’s simple. It makes so much sense from a high level perspective of life why stress and anxiety doesn’t necessarily serve the baby who is just like operating with the knowledge that it has to get into a world it doesn’t like. But we already know love, connection, like all these things, like well, is it in service of the baby? Both during pregnancy and after too, because the first three years where the baby is exposed to, the type of environment it’s in has a significant effect on it. It’s actually the pregnancy. And for a woman listening, maybe you had a stressful pregnancy and you’re concerned about that. That’s okay because everything that gets kind of coded in during pregnancy, you have an opportunity to undo it and redo it and change things in those first three years that the baby is alive.
Lindsey: Our lifestyle can influence the gene expression.
Mark: Yes, in a very significant way, especially in the first three years, and then beyond that the first seven years of the baby’s life. I’m not scientist or anything, just should preface this.
Lindsey: But you should be.
Mark: I should be, right? But I have spent so much time geeking out on this stuff because I think it’s so fascinating. Yeah.
Lindsey: Okay, so you just said the first three years and then the first seven years. So it takes a baby’s gut about two to four years to develop, and then the blood-brain barrier about six, seven years to kind of mature, which is pretty amazing. We’re at a healthcare crisis. I would for sure say for the children in our country, like we are going to be at a 1 in 32 autism rate pretty freaking soon if we’re not there yet. We spend $100 billion a year on maternal care. This window from conception to the first year of life is called the primal period or the critical period because there’s so much that influences. Like all the neuroplasticity, just the exponential growth that happens and everything, all the systems happen in those periods. So for us it seems like common sense, like why would we not meditate, why would we not exercise, why would we not get chiropractic care or pay attention to nutrition? But it’s probably not a moneymaker for the big systems out there, huh?
Mark: Yeah. Well, I think that it’s also like up until now nobody has really had a tool to recommend. The thing is doctors, it’s been amazing to see because you think something like meditation will be a real uphill battle with Western doctors, but they get it. It’s really cool to have that. There are a lot of doctors here in the United States. What’s that?
Lindsey: They’re coming around.
Mark: They are, they are. And I’ve never had a single doctor push back to me on meditation. I’ve never had, shockingly so. I’ve never had somebody say, “I don’t think that this will work. I don’t believe in the science that you’re presenting here.” So we have doctors all over the United States that are now recommending meditation through these Expectful brochures, which is like it’s the coolest thing.
Lindsey: That’s awesome. Do you know anything about the study in Colorado like what that looks like?
Mark: I should off the top of my head. I forgot. It’s going to be women who we’re trying to get them around their 15th week of pregnancy who are going to use the app from that point going forward. We’ll be able to track usage and see that.
Lindsey: Is it mainly hospital births or birth centers or home births?
Mark: Oh, good question. I think it’s going to be hospital births, but I’m not sure. I should know more. Yeah, I should know more. I know that the high level stuff, and then I have somebody on our team, Leah, who is incredible. She put a PhD program on hold to come work on the team. She thought what we were doing and so she’s working really.
Lindsey: Is she in Colorado?
Mark: No, but she’s working really closely with the team to take care of everything. So Leah, if you’re listening, thank you for making my life easier so I don’t have to worry about these details which could eat me alive. But yeah, we’re just super excited about it.
And then we have another study coming out of University of Missouri to test, to see how our meditations affect milk production of women who have children in the NICU because that’s one of the main factors of healing the baby make it in a stressful situation. So yeah, we think that our meditations could really help with.
Lindsey: So tell me a little bit more about the meditations that you have available on the app.
Lindsey: I know you shared some at the summit, but share for all those listening.
Mark: I’d be happy to. Have I shared the fact that Expectful is an — I think people have picked up probably that there’s a team involved here, but it’s like right away.
Lindsey: You can name them all.
Mark: Anna, Deanne, Leah, thank you so much, Charyl, Emily, Lisa, Lucy, Jaclyn, thank you. These are all team members and advisers.
Lindsey: You’re the only guy?
Mark: No, there is also Francisco, our developer.
Lindsey: Oh, awesome.
Mark: Consequently, there was moms and midwife.
Mark: So everyone on the team is like super connected to this. Anna and Deanne are — Anna was on this podcast before, actually.
Mark: Anna was on our beta and joined the team when she became a mom. She’s an incredible, incredible woman. And, Deanne, our head of social media, the same thing. She’s on our beta and joined the team when she became a mom and fell in love with the product. So just to preface this here, you’re going to hear about all these meditations and they weren’t cooked up by the man with no kids. I very quickly surrounded myself with incredibly strong intuitive insightful women that helped create this and listened very intently to the community. But the meditations that we offer on the platform are trimester specific and mother specific and fertility specific. We have things like couples meditations to listen with your partner and walking meditations because it’s a big thing during pregnancy, meditations that help you connect with your baby, meditations that I call like trusting the body that you can listen to if you really want to get connected with your body and how amazing it is. We have meditations for preparing to deliver, for during delivery. Basically, we’ve mapped to every single emotional desire and need that women are telling us they have during this journey and we’ve created meditations specifically around that in our library. So women go in, they could choose and they could say, “Oh, how am I feeling today?” and that there’s very likely a meditation based on how they’re feeling, what they’re desiring, what they’re challenged with that really speaks to them in that particular moment and time. Everything is available in 10 and 20 minutes.
Lindsey: That’s cool. What about postpartum?
Mark: So postpartum in the motherhood library, we have the two most popular meditations is surprise, surprise, letting go of expectations.
Lindsey: Oh, brilliant.
Mark: Yeah. Well, actually, let me preface. The most popular meditation in every single one of our libraries is sleep through the whole thing. Whether it’s from fertility, all three trimesters of motherhood, sleep is the most listened to by far. People love our sleep meditations. So we developed one to get you to bed and one if you’ve woken up at night, so it’s specific to that. So there’s sleep.
But beyond sleep, the most popular in motherhood is letting go of expectations because oftentimes, from what I understand, this whole vision of how motherhood is going to look and it turns out to be a little different a lot of the time. So we’ve created a meditation to help specifically with that. We also have nursing meditations, so they could listen to a nursing meditation to help again with the milk production and also calm down and be present during a beautiful and sometimes stressful time.
Lindsey: Awesome. Amazing. What about anything for loss?
Mark: I’m glad you asked. We developed meditations with the bereavement counselor and our team of meditation experts and hypnotherapists to help women who have experienced a loss. So if you ever hear about it, like anytime anybody ends their subscription with us, they get an email asking hey, like saying oh, we’re so sorry to see you go. If you could just give us some feedback so we can make the product better for people. Can you share with us?
A lot of times we hear it’s heartbreaking like oh, I unsubscribed because I experienced a loss. When we hear about that, we have like the little care package that we send with these guided meditations for loss specifically both for the woman for her and her partner to listen to.
Mark: Yeah. I’m so excited about this, but there’s a woman, I don’t know if you know her, Jessica Zucker? Do you know Jessica Zucker?
Lindsey: Yes. I haven’t met her met her.
Mark: Oh, you should. She’s in LA. I’ll connect you two.
Mark: She’s very special. She started what’s called I Had a Miscarriage Campaign, I think you call it, to destigmatize all the shame and silence that often exists during this time and she’s been just incredible. She’s a PhD who’s gotten a lot of press as a result of her work in this area. We teamed up with her for infant — we’re recording this on October which is perfect because it’s Infant Mortality Loss Awareness month right now. So for this month we purposely teamed up with Jessica and we did an interview with her on the best way to cope and handle and move through a loss. We’re launching that on our website. We’re launching the whole resource library with the meditations that I mentioned and the interview with Jessica and best practices women and couples can use to move through loss.
Lindsey: Oh, I love that.
Mark: Thanks yeah, it’s really cool and it’s cool to team up with Jessica because he’s just such an incredible woman and has so much value to add. So we just love that we’ve created this thing that’s like a whole thing to support a women during this and a couple during an incredibly challenging time and a very common time.
Lindsey: It’s so common.
Mark: It’s not talked about too often. It’s one in five, some people say even more.
Lindsey: Yeah, maybe one in three.
Mark: Yeah, either way the number is, it’s a high number.
Lindsey: Yeah, probably at least one of your friends.
Mark: Yes, definitely, for sure. I mean for me, I know many, unfortunately. But yeah, so we created this resource center to just like help with something a lot of women very commonly struggle with.
Lindsey: And like how to just deal with that. Sometimes it’s just how do you start your next day. It’s a great way to start, with a meditation.
Lindsey: So if somebody is listening and they haven’t found Expectful yet, I know they can go on the BIRTHFIT website, but what is your website?
Mark: Expectful.com. It’s spelled just like it’s pronounced, expectful.com. Also, if you’re a medical professional, there’s a place if you want brochures for your practice. There’s a link on the site in the footer where you can request brochures. You can find us in the App Store on IOS under Expectful, same thing. You could find us on Instagram @expectful. Yeah, so lots of different ways to find us.
Lindsey: Can they find you in social media world?
Mark: Sure. I’m on Instagram as Mark Krassner. And you can email me — I love emails — if you want to get in touch.
Lindsey: You do.
Mark: Yes, I do. I mean I shouldn’t say that. I don’t necessarily love emails, like I don’t love checking my inbox necessarily. It’s not the highlight of my day, but I love to hear from people.
Lindsey: That’s cool.
Mark: Yeah, I want to know if I touched your life in some way, if you have questions, if you have some ideas for us and some way we could support you. We have what’s called a three-for-one program where anytime somebody gets a meditation we reserve — or anytime somebody gets subscription, a paid subscription — our platform’s $9.99 a month. I don’t know if we discussed that, but any time — after a free trial. But anytime somebody pays for one, we hold one for somebody in need and we call it three-for-one.
Lindsey: Oh, that’s cool.
Mark: Yeah. It’s three-for-one because every time a woman purchases a subscription, she’s helping three other people. One is her own baby, whether she has it or it’s coming or on its way, and then another woman and that woman’s baby. So one person is helping three people in that. So we reserve the subscriptions.
We have this amazing collaboration with the Motherhood Center in New York City. They help serve the postpartum population. There is an incredible center just made for postpartum care, which is so generally lacking in places. They’d done such an amazing job. And to their credit, they could only see affluent patients, but they don’t. They also see Medicare patients. So we work with them to provide all their Medicare patients free subscriptions to Expectful. But if you’re listening and you know about other people that can use subscriptions to the platform, please let us know. We’re always looking for good partners because we have more people paying for it than we have subscriptions that we’re giving away and we would love to be giving away as many subscriptions as we’re being paid for.
So mark@expectful is my email. If you have advice, suggestions, like a collaboration where we can do something to help other women that are in need, I’d love to hear from you.
Lindsey: Awesome. What has been the greatest email since you said you love hearing from people, email or story that you’ve heard about someone using Expectful?
Mark: I hear a lot of stories from our community guide, Anna, because I’m not like — you’ll see on the About Us page on the website, but I’m not like the face of the company, so I hear a lot about this stuff tangentially. But I could read one if you want to hear it.
Mark: Actually, I have one that was like — oh, wait, I got to grab my phone.
Lindsey: TV timeout.
Mark: Okay, so I get feedback all the time and I don’t always like save it or a lot of times it’s given to me verbally by Anna. I want to hear from somebody, I’ll read it in like the App Store, which is really cool to read different reviews that come up in there. But this one was like really, really cool.
So I got a text from Emily, our meditation expert that’s in the app. “How are you friend? Just got this message. She said I could share.” So here’s what it says: “Emily, it’s been so long and I was so pleasantly surprised to see your gorgeous face in the Expectful app. I stumbled upon the app about a month ago. My husband and I, Tony, who you met at that [0:56:13] [Indiscernible] too, have been struggling with infertility for a few years and we were finally preparing for IVF. I honestly have never liked meditating unless I was moving like yoga or something. While I wasn’t allowed to exercise and my mind, of course, was so anxious about the procedure and I happened to find the app and gave it a try and wow! It seriously changed my life. I’ve now been meditating for 20 to 30 minutes every day and absolutely loving it. And great news, the procedure worked and I am now pregnant. So anyway, thank you for your incredible work and I hope you’re well. XOXO.” That’s just one example.
Lindsey: That’s awesome.
Mark: Yeah, to touch a life like that, to touch a life like that is like — and to know it’s not just me. It’s like a whole team of people who came together who all really care. It’s like the best feeling, Lindsey. It’s incredible. I’m sure you too.
Lindsey: Very powerful.
Mark: Yeah, it’s such a beautiful thing to know to impact lives.
Lindsey: Well, thanks for sharing. Is there anything else you want to share before we hang up?
Mark: I’ll share a story to wrap this app. I’ll share a story.
Mark: I took a personal development workshop. There was a weekend where I took a personal development workshop. The workshop looks at — like it was just something to help you have a better life and one of the things that they explore is a relationship with mother and father for everybody there. They did this exercise to help explore that, which was they had everybody close their eyes and get into this meditative state that everybody take deep breaths and relax and release any stress in their body, and then they would ask questions to you, first with your mother and then with your father. So it would be like, for example, how did you see your mother treat your father, how did you see your father treat your mother, or how do you wish you saw your father treat your mother or your mother treat your father, how do you wish your mother or father treated you or something like that, stuff like this. They would ask these questions and you shout out the answer. So everybody has like got their eyes closed in this meditative state, and they’re asking well, what about this and what about that and people were just yelling out answers all at the same time. So it’s just rapid fire responding to these questions out loud. Have you ever said something you just surprised yourself?
Lindsey: Like how did that come out of my mouth?
Mark: What? I didn’t know that. So they’re asking these questions, and the question that really stuck with me was what did you need your mother to be and my response was happy. It was happy. I think that it’s just that simple. Like my mom is such an incredible woman, but I think that she thought through her suffering somehow for the family that it was doing us a service. And looking back, it would have been so amazing to just grow up with a mom who figured out a way to like have a family, really, who were just happy. So beyond meditation or any of the stuff we talked about, it’s like I just want to share that story.
I’ll segue into another thing, which is the list of greatest regrets of the dying. Have we talked about that, the greatest regrets?
Lindsey: No, not on here.
Mark: So there’s this amazing article in The Guardian about a hospice worker who recorded the greatest regrets of the dying and it’s an amazing list, but number 5 always hit me the hardest, which is the regret of I wish I had allowed myself to be happy. I wish I had allowed, and the word allowed says it all.
Lindsey: Yeah, permission.
Mark: Permission, that’s right. So just like what I’ll leave everybody with is just the message of if you not already like consider whatever you need to do to just allow to give yourself permission to be happy. Because beyond all the advice anybody can give you, it’s like that. I think it just comes down to that. Like it’s the best thing you could possibly do for the next generation is to just be happy.
Lindsey: Yeah, give yourself permission to just be who you are. I love that.
Mark: Yeah, totally, totally.
Lindsey: Awesome. Thanks for hanging out.
Mark: Oh, my gosh, it’s just been such a pleasure.
Lindsey: All right, go to expectful.com, Expectful in Instagram.
Mark: And Expectful in the IOS store.
Lindsey: Okay, got it. Until next time. Bye, everyone.
I hope you enjoyed my chat with Mark while I was visiting the East Coast. Now, if there’s one thing you can take away from today’s episode or that I hope you take away, it would be to try meditation. Try meditation, try creating a mindset, an awareness practice and it doesn’t have to look like any certain thing. It doesn’t have to look like humming, sitting on a yoga block, chanting and that sort of thing. It’s just slowing down, connecting with your breath or maybe walking and connecting with your breath. That’s all you got to do to start. I’d encourage you to try anything, any kind of mindset, awareness practice for at least ten minutes a day from here on out. Start tomorrow and let us know if anything changes, what you become more aware of, just anything that shows up for you, and enjoy.
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