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Hello, BIRTHFIT community. This is Dr. Lindsey Mathews, your BIRTHFIT founder. Today, I have a very special postpartum doula. Her name is Megan Ameral and she is out of San Diego. So we have not had a birth -- well, we've had a birth but not a postpartum doula. Sorry, a tongue twister there. Postpartum doulas definitely, definitely, definitely have their space in this world today, and I think if I could hire a postpartum doula for every family, I would. I mean, they sound like a dream come true. So check out this interview, lots of good stuff. Megan definitely hit on it, like if you were living in a city where it's just you and your partner and there's no family around, no support system, then hire a postpartum doula. They are well worth the investment so that you can connect with baby, you can connect with partner, partner can connect with baby, and you don't have to worry about all the chores, everything else that's going on around you. You can basically lean on this postpartum doula for support. So check this interview out, and if you have any questions, go to meganameraldoula.com, and you can hit her up there. She's also with the nightanddaysandiego.com group and they have midwifery services, birth doulas, and postpartum doulas there. She'll talk a little bit about that as well. So enjoy the interview.
If you can, give everyone listening right now your two-minute, three-minute elevator speech about who you are and what you do.
Megan: Okay, great. Yeah, I'll start right now. Well, my name is Megan Ameral. I'm a postpartum doula here in San Diego. I am a certified postpartum doula. So I went through the training at Bastyr University, but I would really say the experience has shaped me as a doula. What I do is I provide postpartum support during those first initial weeks which can sometimes turn into months, depending on what momma needs, but I work along with mom and baby, and mostly my main goal is transitioning and supporting the family and helping them become this new unit, this unified family. So I really say I'm supporting the growth of a new family.
Lindsey: That's pretty cool. We have not had an official BIRTHFIT podcast with a postpartum doula.
Lindsey: Yeah, so you're the first.
Megan: Well, I'm super excited to be a part of it.
Lindsey: Yeah. So I want to get into that more and talk about the transitions and stuff like that, but I want to hear a bit more about your journey and how you decided to become a postpartum doula.
Megan: Actually, my journey, definitely I feel like that has brought me here. My passion actually started, my sister was born seven years younger than me so I was about seven years old. And my mom, she actually had a C-section and I remember really vividly the breastfeeding ordeal of just trying to get into this thing of breastfeeding again after seven years, and I remember my mom dealing after her C-section. And I felt like at that time, I was a doula. I was running around doing all the little things, supporting my own mother at the time. And it kind of just like later I transitioned into nanny work and I felt like, okay, I found my calling. Nanny work is what I want to do.
But then later I met Sarah Burns who is an amazing -- right now she's a midwife, but before she was just a birth doula. Not just a birth doula but she was a birth doula, and she is fabulous and she had this nurturing quality about her, and I felt like, "Wow! Maybe I can do something like this," and she encouraged me to start looking into supporting the role of motherhood versus a nanny takes over more like helping a role of caretaker but supporting moms in that role of helping them become that primary or that supportive caretaker. So that's really now a big part of my journey is my first experience with my own mother and then later Sarah Burns who was just so amazing in helping me become a doula. And now, four and a half years later, I'm like this is my passion. I feel like it definitely has chosen me.
Lindsey: That's awesome. I love when people find the path that has been made for them. So that's rad. So how did you find Bastyr University?
Megan: Yeah. So Bastyr University, it's like in Sorrento Valley Area. They had online, I remember. They had this like really great workshop that Simkin Center was doing and DONA was coming in and they were doing this great training, and I was like okay, it's super close, and I feel like I would love to be under DONA. I've read good things. I know there's different organizations out there, but I really felt like having that certification would just be nice to have and training to have so that I can come in and really support families. Families really trust having that organization backing you up and showing that you went through all of the courses and the reading. So I felt like that was important. I applied for a scholarship actually at the time because I was helping the deaf community with American Sign Language, so I felt like I could bridge the gap of having a doula that knew sign language and to come in and help low-income or just families in general that needed someone to be able to do sign language, and that's how I got into Bastyr, just for that course.
Lindsey: Oh, that's awesome. What was, if you can remember your training because some of us block all types of training out, what was, I guess, the most unique thing or a pearl of wisdom that you took away that you can remember from your postpartum doula training?
Megan: I would say I know I appreciated all facets of it, for sure. It was very thorough. I know some people don't have the best training experiences. I've had good friends that their experience through doula training wasn't the best, but mine was really thorough. I really appreciated one of my trainers. I have to get her name again because it's been a while, but she was so helpful. She was originally a NICU nurse who became a doula here. Before she was in Switzerland as a NICU nurse and her experience of how nurturing and supportive they are with the babies and moms. She actually like physically brought her portfolio and showed what she brings in her doula bag, and she would bring like bags of lavenders so that she can put it under momma's pillows and like make everything super cozy, and candles. I thought she threw a whole new level where it was more than just care. It was like emotional and just human care where she just thoroughly wanted the person to enjoy that postpartum experience. So that really made it for me, realizing that such an intimate moment that you have with these people, you can really help them.
Lindsey: I love that. So for those that are listening who may have never heard of a postpartum doula or even a doula, can you explain like what you would tell somebody what you do and for how long, what that would look like?
Megan: Yeah, definitely. Well, I get arranged different people that call me somewhere. Like yesterday, I had a momma call me and she's due on Friday. And then sometimes I get a call and it's like I just "I'm pregnant, and I want to start making, move storage, my plan and my care that I'd like." So they book me six months or three months in advance, which is all over the place. But really, it's that supportive care when moms come home from the hospitals. Sometimes, I have a prenatal visit so I'll come in and help moms organize meals or just get their house and nesting mode and make little baskets, breastfeeding baskets, wherever they're going to stay, and they want to feed their baby. We'll just put like treats and things for themselves so that they can have like a reward system for themselves during that time or put snuggly blankets everywhere, and just those things kind of help when that postpartum time comes. It's like healing. I feel like they're very healing and remind yourself to self-care during that time that you're solely supporting your baby, feeding them and nurturing them, but also nurturing yourself. But I get called in mostly for right after babies are born. I come in for that first initial three weeks to sometimes three months. It really varies. So sometimes mommas will ask me to stay at the first initial couple overnights just to help baby be able to sleep, and mostly it's for mom and dad to be able to get that recovery, or mom and partner to get that recovery. That's really important.
And then also it's daytime care. It could be two to three times a week. Sometimes parents want seven times a week. It's really all over the place, but my goal is really, as a postpartum doula, is to walk myself out of the job and make sure that they can feel strong in those world and confident and not feel like they're left at all. So we build that village around them. Maybe it's chiropractic care or acupuncture or breastfeeding group or just building that village so that when I do step out, they feel like they have all the resources they need and tangible, real people that they feel comfortable with versus just like, oh, here's a great reference but they never really get that for them.
Lindsey: Yeah. This sounds like a dream. I don't know why people would not hire a postpartum doula.
Megan: No, I want one. I just adopted a puppy and I'm like I want a postpartum doula for my puppy.
Lindsey: Yeah, absolutely. So it sounds like you come in either during the day or spend the night and you can start from anywhere, like you're committed for about three weeks to sometimes even three months. So I'm guessing the price of a postpartum doula varies all over the place too.
Megan: Yeah, it varies all over the place. I mean, you have the experience of like San Francisco and New York, that or just like the locks price that you're like [0:16:34] [Indiscernible] family can afford that. My goal is I want to support all families and I work with well-income families, military families, and just day-to-day, I want to be able to be accessible. I mean, I'm just a person. I really just want to support people with my passion, but I also have to make money for my own family. My real goal is being as flexible as possible, but the standard price here in San Diego is pretty set, and that helps all doulas all across the board be able to be paid and acknowledged for their work.
Lindsey: Absolutely. What would you say is the standard price range in San Diego?
Megan: Sounds like 35 is the going rate in San Diego for postpartum. I know that some doulas are a little bit lower depending on if their experience is a little bit less or they're just starting out or they only reside or they only work in a couple places. But it varies really here. I think twins multiples, prices start going up. For myself, I stay at 35 standard for day and night, and that helps me be able to be accessible. If you're local and I'm in North, Park and you're right down the street, which I've had a bunch of different moms that live really close to me, we wiggle it. We move it around and make it work for them.
Lindsey: I love that. So how do people find you? Like I know for sure, twins -- I'm a birth doula in Los Angeles and for sure, the first thing I tell my twin moms is like, "Hey, you need a postpartum doula." But how does the rest of the world find a postpartum doula?
Megan: Well, I'd say number one, I get found on Yelp. I mean, these days, people are all about reading reviews and I think that that's really a great way and seeing like "Okay, who's this doula? What's her personality?" How you work with people says so much and how you make people feel, and that experience, they only get one time in a lifetime. They only have a baby maybe three or four times in their lifetime, but that's their chance so they really need somebody that works for them. So Yelp is really accessible. I think most of my clients come from Yelp, but I get a few from like the DONA website. Or if you are a doula ore you're looking into becoming a doula, I think getting under an organization helps you be able to get your name out there. But really, our community here in California for doulas in general is so warm and kind. You probably know that, that there's a good referral system of if you worked with a past client or you worked with a midwife and may refer you. It's like a good community of referrals.
Lindsey: That's awesome. Would you say most of your clientele is single moms or twins or varies?
Megan: It varies, but I would say San Diego is all about families that have moved here for work or military, and they don't have their family here maybe for the first two weeks here, but it's really young couples or just couples in general that need that extra set of hands because their family is not in the country or in the state.
Lindsey: That's a great point.
Megan: But there is always those twins, triplets, or just mommas in general that have read quite a bit about postpartum depression and they're really knowledgeable now about what can possibly come up, and they just want to have that filter of having someone there that say what's normal, what's not.
Lindsey: I love that. So you mention that you do sign language.
Megan: I do. I love it.
Lindsey: Can you elaborate a little bit on that and how you integrate that into the work you do?
Megan: I mean, my high hopes from the very beginning has been to walk into a family that is deaf, and I have friends that both parents are deaf and then their babies are hearing, but they needed that warm feeling versus sometimes having an interpreter and then having a postpartum doula, and having all these people come in. It feels like this entourage. My dream was to just come in and be able to help these families. I know they exist. In North Park here, we have quite a bit of hard-of-hearing or the deaf community is quite big, but I have got calls before, and it's exciting but it just never has turned out it all worked out. My goal is that's there, but in the meantime, a lot of the mommas ask for baby sign language. So hearing moms, they're like, "Oh, you know, how can I teach my baby some early communication?" So I'll show them like simple signs and that's really fun. It's really exciting.
Lindsey: I see a bunch of families incorporate sign language early on, I guess, because the babies, they get that sooner than the verbal language.
Megan: Yeah, I mean, it definitely doesn't -- like some people think that stops them communicating, but really, studies show that it just helps them in teasing, like whetting their appetite and getting them to want to tease sign language in general, and it helps a lot of moments of frustration and being able to give moms and dads a clue as to how they're feeling or what they're thinking at that young.
Lindsey: It's awesome. So if you were to show up at a family's house, what's the earliest you show up for a family? Like two days? Three days postpartum?
Megan: Yeah, two days, three days. I had my earliest client that ever contacted me was 32 hours out of the hospital. It can be all over the place, but I really love it. I like it when mom and dad or mom and partner get to take that moment, that heartbeat to like breathe and center themselves before having me come because it helps them stay grounded where they want to be and just realize, "Wow, we're a little family" before they have that another come in, but it varies.
Lindsey: So what's the first thing you do when you come in? I know you said you'll set up like breastfeeding areas and things like that. So what would you do first thing in?
Megan: Well, those first initial days or hours, so hopefully we have our prenatal before if we have time, and then I already know the lay of the house or their apartment or place and know exactly how mom like her towels folded. All those things to me matter, and I always want my clients to be super comfortable. Communication is key because if I'm doing something like completely opposite than what they expected or wanted, I like to know because this is their experience. It's not mine and I'm just there to help them and support them. So I come in and basically I'll know the lay of the home and maybe just making a light breakfast or lunch, helping mom. If she wants to take a shower or a bath, I'm just there to hold baby. Sometimes light laundry, dishes. It's really more home stuff in the very beginning and helping mom relax. Baby's pretty sleepy. Newborns are so sleepy in the beginning so that's the good part is that they can just snuggle up while mom is able to sleep, and really, if that's mom's goal is breastfeeding, we really want to get that established. So waking mom up every two hours, waking baby up every two hours, and getting baby to feed, a lot of skin-on-skin time with mom and dad.
And then just really getting nutritious foods around the house. What I mean by that is I'll make really good, like healthy bars or cookies and fortify them with like ginger and cinnamon and just grounding. It's all about helping mom support her immune system, so like getting her some stews or soup and have those things accessible in their home is really important. So it's just more getting things nested and grounded in a couple of days.
Lindsey: That sounds awesome. I need that all the time. What about like their parenting philosophy? Do parents ever ask you about that or want a certain parenting philosophy to start right away? I can imagine some people may seem very structured or want some structure right away.
Megan: I mean, definitely at the interview, I can usually see like the vibe of the family, like what they want. I am all about supporting people in any of their parenting styles, any role, as long as it's healthy and emotionally it's not going to challenge baby or challenge momma. I always want to provide like education and support, but I will never sway moms or dads or partners any other way than what they want. I just provide the facts, but there has been moments I come into homes and it's more structure and schedule, and it's just really important to show. Babies are able to kind of show that in the first couple of days I'm there. There won't be a schedule and there won't really be a strict sleeping schedule or a feeding schedule in the first three months. It needs really until five months. You can't really sleep-coach or sleep-train.
So just a gentle approach, and usually like the families that want more structure, they find out in the first couple of weeks. They're like babies do eat two to three hours, so there is a structure. And we can't really control babies because they're so individual. But we can influence them, give them great habits, and then in the meantime, kind of just sit with the whole idea of baby is kind of in control in a lot of ways, and that's okay. Babies experience too postpartum, so I do see a lot of structure, but I always encourage to like just letting things just be because the first three months, it will be frustrating if you try to have things a certain way.
Lindsey: Especially when I see new moms come in to like the chiropractic office or they do a consult with me or something, and they're trying to sleep-train their baby at three months, I'm like, "Oh, man." Do you like have any other allies, anybody else, that you can talk to because I know this is not good right now.
Megan: And I mean, there's like, and I've read it, there's a bunch of books out there that are about French babies out. French babies sleep at three months perfectly. And not like downplay, I mean, everybody has their own thing. Every culture is different. I mean, sleep studies show that babies, they really can't soothe themselves. They need that extra support and they do wake up frequently to feed during the night, so all these things kind of help you have balance. But, I mean, who doesn't want a sleeping baby during night? That sounds fabulous, but it's just being okay with the fact the first three months, the first five months, things are going to be a little like all over the place. I mean, baby's going to sleep fabulous one day and they're going to be a great sleeping child and adult. So it will come.
Lindsey: Yeah. I'm thinking of a few in particular right now. Just go with the baby. The baby is deciding the schedule.
Megan: And the thing is babies, newborns, have day and night, for the most part, they tend to have them mixed up.
Lindsey: They're like college kids.
Megan: Yeah, at night, they're going to want to party. I just recently worked with this little girl and she's adorable, and she's only maybe six days old when I came in, and she was a partier at night. She wanted to make faces and coo and smile, and I was like, "You're six days old and you have night and day confused so we need to work on this" and we did. Now she sleeps a lot better and she knows the difference, but it was like that first couple of days, the mom and dad were like, "Is she ever going to sleep?" I'm like "She'll get there." And she did. So it's just in the very beginning and it will work itself out for sure.
Lindsey: Yeah, totally. I'm totally skipping over to a new subject, but whenever I take on a doula client, or a birth doula client, I have a backup. Do you all work in a similar way?
Megan: I mean, I work with birth doulas in general so like they have multiple -- they have birth doulas as backups and they'll have postpartum doulas they know and then we have postpartum doula backups as well. I do too. So I work along with Night and Day Doula, and we're not an agency by any means. We're just a collective of us four girls that are best friends. Brittany and Sarah are midwives. Sarah was my mentor so I work along with her and she is a midwife and a birth doula, and then we have Rachael Oeffner who is a postpartum doula, and then eventually she'll be a lactation consultant. So she's in the works for that.
So between us all, we all refer to each other and we do that because, I mean, I believe Sarah felt this because it's nice to have referral and a group of women that you know all work seamlessly together. We can come in and provide the same amount of care, the same amount of like comforting and consoling. I feel like our personalities are similar. So we work there. And then I have other backups that I'd really love to refer to but I'm really choosy and picky about like referring out because there's so many people out there, but the community is amazing and there's a lot of great doulas out there for sure.
Lindsey: That's awesome. So would you take on more than like one family or client at a time? How does that work?
Megan: It just depends on how much is booked and how much in advance it is booked, but I do take about two to three clients, sometimes just one depending on if I'm kind of like not in a retirement mode, but like that month, I'm taking it pretty nights easy. Yeah, I'm taking it easy and focusing on that one client, but about two to three clients per month, and that just allows me so that when their estimated due date is on my calendar, I kind of like block out the week before and the week after knowing that baby might come in those days.
Lindsey: There's got to be a lot of up-in-the-air for your calendar, which is tough, huh?
Megan: Yeah, I mean, you probably experience that too if you're doing birth doula work. I mean, it's kind of like estimated due date, we'll see.
Lindsey: But I was thinking your calendar may be harder than a birth doula because you're like, "Okay, even if she goes two weeks past her due date, then I would start for three weeks." That's wild.
Megan: It's a big chunk to block out for sure.
Lindsey: Heck, yeah.
Megan: You have to like have things in contract and be just honest and know exactly what they need, and sometimes mom and dad don't know what they need. So you just block a certain amount of time and realize that you might need to book more later but it's kind of up in the air, like you said. You just have to kind of these are a family and you take their work when you get it, and there's some months when you just you know that due date kind of rolled into the next month, and you were just kind of sitting and working on other projects. It's [0:32:56] [Indiscernible] for babies.
Lindsey: Do you ever schedule time for vacation for yourself?
Megan: No. I'm getting better at that. I just got married. So when I got married, it helped me be a lot more balanced and the fact that I need to have vacation time, but I will definitely say when I was single, I was like workhorse-mode and I was like I want to help every family, and I was on this high up just working with every family possible all the time, and then now I'm married, it's like there's balance. You need to go [0:33:29] [Indiscernible] but I feel like when during the holiday time when families tend to, even if they have a baby born, a lot of them have family around, so that's when I can take the most amount of time off is the end of December, it seems.
Lindsey: That's nice.
Megan: Yeah, I take advantage of it and hang out with my puppy and my husband. So what do you see in your postpartum doula future? Or what would you like to see?
Lindsey: I want to be able to open it up for more families. I'm trying to figure out how I can possibly open up for like low-income families because I get those inquiries quite a bit, and I want to take that work but at the same time I have to like feed my family, and I have a lot on my own plate. So I'm just trying to balance that. So hopefully in the future, I'm trying to figure out how I could possibly be able to give more to families that need that support.
And then also, there's a lot of question to just about babies sleeping and helping support their sleep patterns, and I would love to learn more and go back to school and get a little bit more information on this, helping them with sleeping, and just honestly, being a postpartum doula is more than enough for me. I know there's a lot of birth workers out there that always seek to learn more and put more under their belt and that's amazing, meeting those people, but for me, I feel like my cup is well filled, like I'm just so content with what I'm doing and I feel like if everybody's doing more, then there won't be that many doulas, so I'm really happy just being where I'm at, but just becoming more accessible to people.
Lindsey: That's cool. So where can people find you? Like your websites. I know you mentioned you are postpartum doula with your own website and also with another company.
Megan: So I have my own company. It's meganameraldoula.com so that's my own website, and it's pretty accessible and easy to find. Then I, as well, work with Night and Day Doula which is us four best friends working together, that shared company which is I love working as independent via worker as well as just having my own business. So between the two, that's where you can find me. It's pretty easy.
Lindsey: Awesome. What would you say, if you could give new moms three pieces of advice, what would you say those pieces of advice are?
Megan: So new moms, I definitely would say the first one is just be okay with being home. And I say that because nesting is okay. Being home, snuggling, being in your PJs is okay. Sometimes I see moms, you can see that like uneasiness of like, "I have to get back to my schedule, my original routine, my agenda, my coffee-session, my job, all of that." But it all comes, and I think that just being at peace with the fact that this moment is a secret, seeing as a doula, I see it so much. Like the weeks go by and I always see baby from three days old to already like four months old and it goes by so quickly, so just enjoying those moments and being okay with yourself and have peace with that moment.
And then the second would definitely be is just really reaching out as a mom and getting that village, like I said. Prenatally would be awesome, but if it's postpartum, go on Facebook. Connect, get in groups. There's a lot of great mom-exchange groups that you can exchange clothing or go on stroller walks or go to coffee shops, hearing your partners like this huge group of moms that like go to a bunch of really hipster coffee shops. I'm like, "Good for you, guys" [0:37:35] [Indiscernible] you guys because then they get out of the house. They connect with other moms and it helps have perspective and exchange experience because it's so important in building that community.
And then third is just I think communication with your mate, your partner is so important. Sometimes, that gets lost and rekindling that fire is so important because you are a team, and this is a new transition from romantic to now you are these teammates who are supporting each other in this different way but really grounding yourself. And sometimes, I'll say that to my clients postpartum, like "Leave me your baby, even if it's in the other room, just go have dinner together and reconnect" and that is just so important to build that core again because that's how your baby will thrive and that's how you'll thrive.
Lindsey: I love that. Alright, so before we depart, what is one of your most favorite memories? It can be recent or right when you started, but one of your favorite memories.
Megan: I would say, I moved to Hawaii for – it was going to be indefinitely but it turned out just for a month. [0:38:51] [Indiscernible] and I missed San Diego so much and my family here, but when I came back, I worked for this family so sweet, and they have this little baby girl and it was a moment where I didn't know if I should be in Hawaii, if I should be in San Diego. I wanted to help families in Hawaii because there is a very little amount of doulas there and they really need that support, but back here I felt like I got re-centered and grounded, like this is where I was meant to be, just because of this one baby girl, and the momma really needed support in all aspects. So I really got to fill that as a doula. I was challenged in different ways, but this little girl just totally warmed my heart and I felt like I connected with that family so well, and I felt like they really got what they needed during that postpartum experience. And then the parents like gave me this necklace that like goes along with her name because her name's like a very celestial name. So it was really cool because to this day, I wear that necklace and it reminds me being a doula and how families really need that support and where you're at is where you need to be. So that was really good.
Lindsey: That's powerful. I love that. Well, I really appreciate you donating sometime today for us, especially since my schedule got backed up, but I really appreciate it and sharing your story and all about postpartum doulas.
Do you feel like you want to add anything? Did I miss anything about postpartum doula work?
Megan: No. I mean, that's exactly – like every question you asked is really I could never have thought of. You helped lead me to because I'm a very quiet person so [0:40:33] [Indiscernible] but it's important. I feel like BIRTHFIT and everything that you guys do there and all the pillars that you're supporting, mommas, I feel like that's so important and I'm referring all my clients to BIRTHFIT all the time.
Lindsey: Thank you.
Megan: Because I feel like that community is so important and helpful in being moms get that support system. So thank you for just reaching out to me.
Lindsey: For sure.
Megan: Like Kristen has been so helpful and I've been referring clients to her on BIRTHFIT.
Lindsey: Yeah, she just started her craniosacral training so you'll have to go ask her about that and see if she'll practice on you.
Megan: I would love that.
Lindsey: But yeah, Megan, thank you so much and I will definitely send moms your way in San Diego because you were doing some magic work done there. So thank you.
Megan: Thank you, Lindsey, and I hope that one day we cross paths again.
Megan: Thank you for interviewing me. I really appreciate it.
Lindsey: For sure. I'll let you know when this goes up.
Megan: Okay, sounds great. And let me know if I can do anything else.
Lindsey: For sure. Alright, enjoy the rest of your day.
Megan: Thank you. Bye.
Lindsey: Bye, Megan. All right, ladies and gents. I hope you enjoyed the postpartum doula talk with Megan Ameral and I know we touched on this earlier, like pre-interview style, but use a postpartum doula. That would be my biggest takeaway is there are resources out there. There are people that are specializing in things that you and I don't specialize in. So use them. They are passionate. They love what they do, and somebody like Megan would be amazing to hire, to bring into your house, to make little breastfeeding areas, to make soups, stews, anything to help you transition, whether it's three weeks or three months. I strongly encourage you to look into a postpartum doula. All right, I will talk to you all soon. Enjoy the holidays and we'll see you back in 2018. Ciao!
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