"Because the more we all raise our hands and share our OWN motherhood stories, the less alone you might ultimately feel in YOURS."
May 9, 2022

E1 - Pandemic Pregnancy & Postpartum Experiences, & A Birth Doula to the Rescue

E1 - Pandemic Pregnancy & Postpartum Experiences, & A Birth Doula to the Rescue

Welcome to the very first episode of to the Raise Your Hand Motherhood Podcast - a place where you just might find (or hear!) a tiny piece of your motherhood reality! I'm your host, Rae Lynn Minke - an educator, writer, and emotionally-frazzled toddler mom.

In today's episode, we're talking about Pandemic Pregnancies and Postpartum Experiences (because they say you should share about what you know...). I'll share a bit of my motherhood journey to date, as well as how I ended up here behind the mic - talking to you!

The first guest on the podcast is Liza Randolph Hunwick - my very lovely and supportive Birth Doula. Listen in to learn about Liza's odd pivot into becoming a Doula, her experiences working with families and pregnant moms during the Pandemic, as well as her own pandemic pregnancy and postpartum experiences, struggles, and 'must-haves' for motherhood!

TIMESTAMPS:
1:17 - Introducing The Raise Your Hand Motherhood Podcast
5:18 - Non-ad Ad / Rae's personal motherhood 'must-have'! (Smash+TESS)
6:47 - 'Pandemic Pregnancy' poem
8:03 - Sharing my story
15:01 - Other moms share their pandemic pregnancy/postpartum stories (Thank you so much, Niamh, Victoria, and Jade)
19:31 - What is a Doula, exactly?
20:35 - Introducing the very lovely, Liza Doula!
55:21 - Hey, Mama...care to help another mama out? Don't forget to HIT SUBSCRIBE and SHARE THIS EPISODE with ONE other friend, before you hop on over to the latest episode of your true crime podcast!

LINKS MENTIONED:
Liza's websites:
 https://www.embraceyogawellness.ca/
https://www.embraceyogawellness.ca/doula
https://www.doulasofvancouver.ca/

Liza's 'must-haves' for motherhood:
Lavender weighted eye pillows
Haakaa

Haakaa clogged ducts trick
https://thebreastfeedingmama.com/haakaa-clogged-ducts/
https://youtu.be/tRg0N0z1FXI

Liza's Vancouver-based Acupuncturist

Wondering how you can afford a doula? Read Liza's blog for helpful tips:

Smash+TESS - Get $10 off on me!
Need a playlist for labor? Here's mine: 'Our Baby is Coming' (I listened on repeat!)

Have a story or idea to share for the podcast, or want to leave a review for the show?
https://www.raiseyourhandmotherhoodpodcast.com
Want to know how you can join the Raise Your Hand Motherhood Community?
Join the Facebook Group
Follow the Instagram account

 

Rae Lynn Minke

Transcript

Ep1. Pandemic Pregnancies, & a Doula to the Rescue

Episode Transcript - by Rae Lynn Minke

 

Hey Mamas! I’m Rae Lynn Minke, host of The Raise Your Hand Motherhood Podcast, and I want to say thank you for being curious enough to join me for our first episode.

 

The idea for this podcast was born out of the struggles - both expected and unexpected - that come part and parcel with motherhood. And if your motherhood crash-course hormonal-roller-coaster experience was anything like mine, then you’ve probably had your fair share of moments that left you feeling uncertain, overwhelmed (we need a new WORD for overwhelmed…!!), exhausted-beyond-exhaustion, and emotionally depleted. I’m only a year and a half into my OWN motherhood journey, but I can’t even TELL you the number of times I’ve thought "Why didn't anyone ever tell me about THIS before?!" 

 

It’s true that there is no amount of preparation that you can do in advance to prepare you for the reality of motherhood. Actually….I think that part might be intentional…like there’s some kind of protective mechanism in place until you actually have a tiny human being in your arms - and THENNN the curtain gets fully pulled back and those knowledgeable moms around you quietly usher you into the club of ‘motherhood’...

 

But even though we are literally surrounded by people who have gone through this experience themselves - motherhood can leave you feeling…..surprisingly lonely. BUT - discovering that you aren’t actually alone in your experience? Well, that’s the magic sauce right there - the secret ingredient that’s going to help any struggling mom. And that’s what I want this podcast to provide for you - because I know that’s what I needed when I became a mom…what I STILL need, on a pretty regular basis, actually. Support, community, and the knowledge that I don’t have to navigate the WTF moments of motherhood all on my own.

 

The mission of The Raise Your Hand Motherhood Podcast is to normalize talking about the struggles of motherhood…to have honest conversations with moms experiencing ALL those things you wondered if you were the only one feeling……..women, from every walk of life, living all around the world, raising their hands and saying, “I’m experiencing this….”, or “I felt that way too…”

 

Each episode will highlight a DIFFERENT shared motherhood experience or struggle, and feature informative, relatable interviews, with experts in their fields and conversations with the moms who have either already braved the storm or are currently surfing that wave of motherhood themselves. It’s my opinion that the more we openly share our stories - from one mother, to another, to another…the less alone we’ll all feel in our own motherhood journeys. 

 

The plan today is to share a little bit more about myself, my motherhood story so far, and how I ended up here behind the microphone, talking to you. Now - they say you should share about what you know….so today’s episode will be focusing on PANDEMIC PREGNANCIES & POSTPARTUM EXPERIENCES. I’ll talk about what it was like to grow a human, prepare for motherhood, and navigate the world as a new parent in the middle of a global pandemic, and you’ll hear some stories from other moms around the world who went through the same experience, but in their own unique situations and circumstances.

 

Later in the episode, I’ll be interviewing the most INCREDIBLE and SUPPORTIVE woman…..Liza Doula!! At least that’s what I call her, and how I’ve had her programmed into my phone since our very last-minute decision to hire a Birth Doula before the arrival of our son. This wasn’t something that was even on my radar AT ALL, until the final months of my pregnancy, but having a Doula ended up being such a comfort (both for ME, AND for my husband), with the Pandemic raging on. Liza and I will be talking about what EXACTLY a Doula is (I wasn’t really sure either, at first…..), her career pivot and curious journey into the profession, as well as her experiences working with soon-to-be and new moms throughout the Pandemic, while - drumroll please…..PREGNANT herself! Liza welcomed her own little baby girl in early 2021, and I’ll ask her all about what she’s learned, what she struggles with, as well as some of the mother must-haves that have gotten her through these crazy couple of years!

 

Before I share my story, here’s a brief personal motherhood endorsement (from yours truly)!

 

This is a non-ad, but it IS a personal motherhood recommendation. Each episode of The ‘Raise Your Hand’ Motherhood Podcast will feature my guest’s MUST HAVES FOR MOTHERHOOD - the thing that got them, their babe, or their family, through the thick of it.

 

My MUST-HAVE for today’s episode highlights a Canadian female-run brand, based out of Vancouver, BC - SmashTESS! If you ask me, it should be part of the package handed to new moms as they leave the hospital - “Here you go, some extra strength advil, some meds to prevent constipation (no seriously….TAKE those….), some extra EXTRA pairs of mesh underwear, ANNND a romper that you can be prepared to LOVE and LIVE in for the next few weeks (or months). 

 

Not sure what a SmashTESS romper is? Well, dear reader, it’s only the most comfortable thing you can slide your body into, especially postpartum. And they’re cute. And can be styled up or styled down. My personal favourite is the Romperall, a super soft overall-type experience that just makes me feel all the warm fuzzies when I wear them.

 

So, if you’re in search of a new mom-uniform, make your way over to smashtess.com and select your version - comfy mom, sexy mom, squirrel-pant mom (yep, that’s a thing)!  Oh….and while you’re at it? Tell them Rae Lynn Minke sent you….maybe they’ll send me a new pair of romperalls in the mail!! 

 

A mom can dream…

Get $10 off on me: http://i.refs.cc/P8YOLdHR



MY PANDEMIC PREGNANCY

 

When I first learned I was pregnant,

In a city, a province, a country

Far, far away from my family…

I relied on the knowledge that

The ones I would need were only

A flight away.

 

And then,

Out of nowhere,

My pregnancy nausea suddenly coincided 

With the start of a global pandemic…

And as I moved from bed to couch 

And back again, 

Flights in and out,

And across

Were halted. 

Grounded.

 

But surely, I thought…

Surely, our family will be able to visit by the birth.

Surely, our loved ones can share 

That special time with us.

Because that’s what happens 

When babies are born.

Families come together,

And hug and coo 

And ooo and aww…

 

But flights remained grounded.

So, we hired a Doula,

In the 11th hour.

Somebody to be 

Our family for, and in,

That crucial moment…

Those crucial days afterward…

 

And in the days and weeks

And months that followed,

We were our son’s ‘bubble’.

There were 

No hugs from grandparents, 

No cuddles with friends,

No Mom-and-baby groups…

 

But we did the best we could

To fill those voids,

As we clambered up the steep learning curve

Of parenthood.

 

It wasn’t how we planned it,

Or how we imagined it would be.

Nobody could have ever foreseen

That ours would be a

Pandemic pregnancy.

 

*****

 

This, my friends, is my story. My entry into motherhood, and the beginnings of the very podcast you’re currently listening to!

 

As I mentioned in the introduction, my pregnancy and postpartum experience happened to coincide with the Global Pandemic…..which came with its own new and separate set of struggles…and definitely INTENSIFIED the feelings that I was having throughout pregnancy, and as a new mom. 

 

As you can imagine (or maybe as you experienced yourself), it was really challenging to navigate pregnancy with the worry, uncertainty, and social distancing (UGH) that came after the Pandemic began…it was a really lonely time. I wasn’t prepared to go through such a monumental life change without my friends and family by my side (and I mean that literally - like, LITERALLY by my side!! There’s a reason they say it takes a village to raise a child…).

 

I know that 4th trimester can be trying…exhausting…eye-opening……but when I got pregnant in early 2020, I didn’t expect that I would be going through those first months as a new mom without anybody else, aside from my husband. I’d already gone almost my ENTIRE pregnancy without seeing people, as a result of the Pandemic - I’m telling you, if it weren’t for social media, there would have been a lot of surprised folks to see me pushing a baby around in a stroller in 2021! 

 

I had an idea in my head of what being pregnant might look like or feel like, and I just felt that I was missing out on a lot of that experience during the Pandemic. We told our parents and family over Zoom that we were pregnant, and HOPED that they’d be able to visit by the birth. My husband didn’t get to go to ANY of my midwife appointments - and he wanted to! I went through morning sickness alone, during the earliest days of lockdown in 2020. Working from home for me meant working from my bed - showering just often enough and putting on just enough make-up so that students Zooming into my classes wouldn’t think something was terribly wrong with me…I felt pretty awful, but they didn’t need to see that!

 

I remember feeling upset (and SHAME if I’m being really honest), when I had to start taking prescribed medication to counteract the nausea that just seemed all-consuming for months and months. Thankfully, my pregnancy sickness (and let’s please stop calling it morning sickness - ‘cuz it’s not just a morning thing for a lot of women!!) subsided somewhere around month 4 or 5, and I proceeded to have a relatively quote-unquote ‘normal’ pregnancy - although…what’s normal about literally growing a human being from scratch inside of your body? It’s practically a superpower! 

 

AFTER the birth, with the exception of my midwives and our incredible Doula, whom I mentioned we hired at the VERY last minute….nobody else even HELD our son, or got within 3 feet of him for the first 5 months of his life. And after that, it was only immediate family - there were no cuddles with aunts, uncles, cousins, and some of my oldest and dearest friends…the closest we got to this were, brief glances over medical masks, and waves from across rooms or parking lots.

 

I truly do not wish social-distancing or 2-people-per-household limits on ANNNNNY new parent. It sucked. It REALLY sucked. My husband and I CRAVED CONNECTION for our little guy (and for ourselves, let’s be honest!), and we wanted to be close to family as SOON as we possibly could be.

 

Let me back-up just a little bit for you…

 

To provide a bit of context, I met my partner in 2018, while teaching abroad in Europe. He’s German & I’m Canadian, and after a few years of dating, we made the decision to move somewhere together for a new adventure. We debated between a few cities around the world, and eventually settled on Vancouver, BC. The general plan was this - we’d go to Canada for 3-5 years, possibly try and start a family while we were there, and thennnn…reassess after that!

 

Well - Canada certainly provided a number of adventures. To briefly name a few, we got married aboard a water taxi in Vancouver as the grand finalé of a SURPRISE scavenger hunt we took my parents on while they were visiting over Christmas break…….we honeymooned and cold-water surfed together in Tofino, BC. And we discovered I was pregnant on our very first Canadian Valentine’s Day.

 

Oh…….and then we lived through a global pandemic, along with the rest of the country and the world.

 

After the birth of our son in October 2020, my husband and I did some serious thinking and re-evaluating. We’d spent the majority of the pregnancy and pandemic together, alone, and we came to the conclusion that being close to family trumped everything else at that point. We’d always intended on returning to Europe at SOME point in the future, so the obvious choice for us was Germany - and thus began our process of moving back across the Atlantic Ocean, LESS THAN 2 YEARS after we moved to Vancouver. 

 

It took months of planning, appointments, tears, and uncertainty - all while learning how to care for this new tiny human…..by ourselves. 

 

When moving day finally came, we boarded our first-ever flight as a family (not exactly how we’d planned it) and began a 4-month transitional period - quarantining, and staying with family members in Ontario, Canada, and then repeating the process in Germany, as we secured and slowly started setting up a new home…again. 

 

Needless to say, I haven’t set aside a whole lot of time to ‘fill my own tank’ throughout these past few years, and I’ve really felt it. Mentally, emotionally, physically….at times, I’ve just been running on empty - a common scenario for new parents, I’ve learned. So many days throughout this pandemic have felt like an out-of-body experience for me, as I try to process the last two years of my life.

 

I have to remind myself DAILY that I’m re-integrating back into a foreign culture and country, and trying to learn a 2nd language…all as a new mom. Talk about overwhelm….!

 

There’s also excitement - a LOT of excitement - for our future here in Europe, but I struggle a lot with the mental loads of motherhood, compounded by Pandemic aftermath and all the recent changes in my life. We’ve been back in Europe for almost a YEAR already, and I have to check in with myself EVERY. SINGLE. DAY….I often wonder if I should be doing more as a mom, or how I could learn to cope better, or…..well, the list goes on. These are definitely ongoing questions, and my answers to them change every single day. 

 

I know my struggles are unique to ME and MY situation, but we’re ALL carrying our own loads…I wanted to share some stories from OTHER moms I know that went through their own pandemic experiences and entries into motherhood…

 

Niamh from Australia had some really difficult personal experiences leading up to her Pandemic Pregnancy, and had this to share about it: 

Pandemic Pregnancy impacted me a lot as someone who suffered severe trauma leading up to the pandemic, with the loss of my first husband, and my mother 6 months later. Pregnancy was really hard for me. I was dealing with raw emotions, and now pair that with a pandemic. In Australia we weren’t allowed to travel more than 5kms, and I lived 2 hours from my father, and 3 hours from my in-laws….It was all too much. I didn’t get to have a baby shower as we weren’t allowed to have one - in fact, my baby is 4 months old and still hasn’t even met some of my friends or family. Rules were very strict here -  I couldn’t have my partner at my hospital visits and he wouldn’t have been allowed to be present at the hospital when I gave birth, just for two hours after she was born……this made us decide to go to a private hospital to have my baby and pay for the peace of mind, knowing that he would be there and get to stay with me after she was born. It was a very hard time and I felt very alone and isolated.

 

Victoria from Canada wrote about trying to find the silver linings in her Pandemic Pregnancy and postpartum experience. She said the following: 

Being pregnant and giving birth during a pandemic certainly had its ups and downs.

 

A major ‘up’ that I stay thankful for was my ability to work from home. Although I was lucky enough to have a pretty easy-going pregnancy, I experienced extreme fatigue. Being able to nap over my lunch, sleep in a little extra, and be “home” right as my shift was over was a huge benefit. I also didn’t need to worry about purchasing maternity clothes for work - I could lounge in my oversized leggings and sweatshirts all day! 

 

A downside to working from home during the Pandemic was my inability to prioritize any self-care. I had no motivation to get ready in the morning, often waking up exactly at the time my shift started. I stopped going for walks and exercising over my lunch – I fell out of my routine and my new work from home routine was missing a lot of things that I didn’t realize made me feel happier overall.

 

Going to appointments alone didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would. The midwives were very accommodating and allowed me to call/facetime during the heart monitoring so that my partner could listen in. My partner is also a small business owner so it would have been unlikely that he could have made most of the appointments anyways, so it was actually nice to have the virtual call-in option. The hospital staff where I gave birth were so kind and we are so grateful for the experience we had. Although there were strict measurements in place, we got the care we needed, a safe delivery, and left in tears because of how thankful we were to them. 

 

After I gave birth, one of the hardest parts was coming home with our precious bundle and having to set boundaries for eager family members and friends looking to visit. Our parents had to meet their grandbaby for the first time at a distance, outside, without the opportunity to hold her. Eventually we allowed it, but only after asking them to isolate for a week and getting a covid test – it felt like a big ask on our part, but they were happy to oblige. I know it was hard on them as much as it was on us, but we decided together that it’s not about us, it’s about our daughter. When she was born, I felt an immediate sense of needing to protect her and we weren’t going to risk anything just to let someone hold her. The snuggles would come, and it would be well worth the wait. 

 

Another layer we hadn’t totally considered was the inability to ask for help when we needed it during those difficult first few months. Due to the ‘stay home’ orders and our fears of our daughter catching COVID, we weren’t having any visitors indoors. There were many times that my partner was working long 12+ hour days, and I was extremely sleep deprived. I would have done anything to have someone over to watch my daughter while I caught up on sleep.

 

Overall, I look back on my pregnancy and I don’t feel sorry for myself in any way. It was what it was. It wasn’t terrible, or amazing, but it worked out. I see the good in the bad, and overall it brought us our beautiful healthy baby girl and that’s what counts.

 

Finally, a Canadian mama living abroad in New Zealand shared this: -

 

I was disappointed that my birthing story wouldn't be "normal" and that certain aspects would be different because of the pandemic...you'll never get this experience back - there are no re-do's and I was disappointed it may not be everything it could have been because of the pandemic.

 

Luckily my midwife was still able to see us - both in-office before our daughter was born, and at our home after the birth. The pandemic didn't affect our visits and I was so happy with that. I don't know how I would have coped trying to build a relationship with someone so vital to the experience without it being face to face ... that's a lot of trust to put in someone you've never met in person! 

 

The hardest part for me was the inability to share our pregnancy with family and friends... I really wanted them  around. I would have loved to be able to have my mom fly over and be there with us for the first few weeks, maybe even at my baby’s birth... And we were in full lockdown after I gave birth and it was so sad that no one got to meet my daughter when she was still tiny ... those moments are special and she won't ever be like that again and the only people who got to experience that was my partner and I, which was tough. Not only that, but being in isolation is tough as it is - it's even harder trying to navigate being new parents without any help from family or friends to vent to and keep you sane! 

 

Becoming a mom was the most exciting thing that’s ever happened in my life, and I wanted to scream and shout and show her off to the world but I just...couldn't. All her first times meeting friends and family were over the phone which isn't what we wanted for her.

 

I think the one thing that the pandemic did help with was our ability to tune in to our child - we didn't have the same distractions people normally would. My partner was able to be home full-time with us for the whole first month because of lock-down, and that opportunity doesn't often present itself to both parents.

 

*****

 

Link to A Doula to the Rescue: Interview with Liza Randolph Hunwick (my Canadian Doula) (interview starts at 19:01)

 

*****

 

We made it! So, now you know a little bit more about me, and what this podcast is going to be all about!

 

Thanks again for listening/reading, and if you know somebody who had (or is having) a pandemic pregnancy or postpartum experience, and might relate to some of what we talked about today….please share this episode so they can join in as well!

 

I hope you’ll consider joining the ‘Raise Your Hand’ Motherhood community so we can keep getting real together about some of the tougher parts of motherhood…. 

 

Because even though we all love our children (or future children) dearly, a duality still exists….and the more difficult feelings and thoughts and emotions of motherhood - that often feel like they don’t have a place to go?? They need to be SHARED, and we need to SUPPORT all of the women that are experiencing them. 

 

Because, in all likelihood….? 

We ARE them. 

And we definitely KNOW them.

 

HEY - Speaking of SHARING - don’t forget to subscribe to the blog/podcast, and tell a friend or two about the show..The more moms the merrier!

 

Thank you again to Liza, and to the women who shared their stories for today’s episode. If you want to reach out with questions about anything discussed today, or leave a review, please do one of the following:

 

 

That’s all for now - thanks for raising your hand with me, mamas! Until next time!



Liza Randolph Hunwick Profile Photo

Liza Randolph Hunwick

Birth Doula - Yoga Teacher (Prenatal, Baby&Me)

Liza Randolph Hunwick is a 39-year-old Birth Doula, and Yoga Teacher specializing in Prenatal and Baby&Me classes. She is a toddler mom of one, based out of Vancouver, BC!