Stop Those Kegels! Here's What you Really Need to Know About that Pelvic Floor!

Our friend and colleague Isa Herrera of the amazing Renew Physical Therapy center in NYC is our go-to resource for all things pelvic floor health.  And lets be real. Most of us know little to nothing about this extremely vital muscle group (And it's not just about Kegels, trust us!) We love her webinars which provide a holistic approach to help relieve any kind of pelvic pain and pelvic floor dysfunction. You definitely want to check it out!

We were lucky enough to get Isa's inside scoop on pelvic floor health to share with our community. 

What is the pelvic floor and why is it so important?

The pelvic floor muscles are involved in almost everything related to our femaleness. The pelvic floor is responsible for 5 main functions in the body. It is the connector between the upper and lower extremities. I call it “Grand Central Station”
a- Sphinctoric
b- Sexual
c- Supportive
d- Stability
e- Lymphatic

Why does no one talk about it?
There seems to be a lot of shame around issues that involve the pelvic floor, whether it be with leaking or pain with sex pain or other types of dysfunctions that related to our lady parts. I think also culturally, especially in the US, there is a belief perpetuated by a lot of the medical community that life events like motherhood cause pelvic floor conditions and this is normal and should be expected and we should suck it up. So many of my patients report hearing things like “Welcome to motherhood” or “that can happen” or in regards to pelvic pain, “just have a glass of wine and relax”. My mission is to blow the lid off this perception and to make sure all women know that pelvic floor dysfunction is a real physical issues and not a psychological disorder. There are natural and holistic ways that we can care for our lady parts and in my webinar “Say Goodbye to Pelvic Floor Dysfunction and Pelvic Pain and Transform Your Lady Parts” - I give away my best tips and techniques so don't miss it.  It will be up until July 13.

How do I know if I have a healthy pelvic floor?
Ask yourself these questions (there is a much more comprehensive list that I give at the webinar and in my online course “ Female Pelvic Alchemy”)

  • Do I have pain with intercourse, gynecological exams, using tampons?
  • Do I feel pressure or like something is inside my vagina or falling out?
  • Do I leak when I lift my child, cough, sneeze or laugh?
  • Do I have difficulty emptying my bladder or do I experience a slow urine stream or hesitancy of urination?
  • Do I have pain with prolonged sitting, wearing tight pants, or when being touched in the vulvar area?
  • Do I experience the urge to urinated a lot? (i.e. having to void >8x/day, or more often than every 2-4 hours)
  • When I exercise, do I ever leak urine, loose stool or does air escape from my vagina?

Are Kegels really all they are made out to be? 
So much mis-information has been posted out on the Internet that I have dubbed it “The Kegel Controversy”. When doctors tell women to just do their Kegels, more often than not there is more dysfunction created by doing them!

Some women have tight pelvic floor muscles to begin with (from birth, scar tissue, other factors) and if a muscle is tight to begin with, then you must first do what I call the “Reverse Kegel” to release and let go, to allow the vaginal muscles to regain its normal function, suppleness and flexibility. Unlike what the media wants us to believe, we are not all big in our parts after childbirth and pregnancy. We can actually be too tight and performing Kegels will cause more problems. This is the number one reason why Kegels don't work and they are not the nirvana we think they area.  A proper Keel program is all about balance and must incorporate a Reverse Kegel. I have about 13 different kinds of Kegels in my program and I also teach women to assess their own pelvic floor muscles because we need to know this care and know what is going on with or bodies. Anything less than this will disempower us.

Best tips for pelvic floor maintenance?

  • Don’t push with defecation or urination.
  • Don’t slouch when sitting.
  • Don’t lock your knees when standing.
  • Don’t cross you legs when sitting.
  • Don't hold your breath.


Fav fun fact about the pelvic floor?

Here are two! 

  • Vaginal farts or "varts" are due to pelvic floor muscle weakness! And, they can be fixed! 
  • Pain with sex after you have a baby is NOT normal. It’s common but not normal.


Thank you Isa!

Want to learn more? We can't reco her online program enough!

This Birth Center Does it All!

For most of us, when we think of giving birth, two options come to mind: the hospital or the home. And, since only about only 1% of people give birth at home, for the overwhelming majority of us, the hospital seems like our only option. 

But there is another option.

Birth Centers are neither hospitals, nor homes, but a facility with a more homelike environment. They are run by midwives or, in some cases, OBs, and provide family-centered care for healthy people before, during, and after uncomplicated pregnancy, labor, and birth. 

We chatted with Amy Johnson-Grass, the founder of Health Foundations Birth Center (Abby and Ricki recently participated in their Every Woman Can campaign) to learn more about what makes birth centers a unique option that people should know more about.

BOBB: Tell us a bit about Health Foundations Birth Center.

We were the first birth center to open in the Twin Cities, so we had to do a lot of education around what a freestanding birth center is. In fact, when we were first opening, there wasn’t a birth center licensure in the state of Minnesota.  We worked with a small group of dedicated women to get licensure. We put together a bill, and we got it passed in 2009. 

BOBB: Whoa! What a feat!  What was the process of getting the licensure like?  Were people receptive?

Actually, people were really receptive because we talked about it being a facility. We talked a lot about safety. 

The interesting thing is, we have a fairly robust home birth community here as well.  In trying to get licensure, many times the conversation would go back to home birth, and what the people’s perceptions of home birth were.  We continuously had to reframe the conversation and say, “We’re actually not talking about home birth.  We’re talking about birth centers.” That was an interesting piece, that education piece, of what a birth center actually is.  When we first opened, we would have hospitals, doctors or other providers come through and they would ask us incredibly basic questions, like, “So do you listen to babies in labor?” or, “Do your mom’s get labs?”

It was shocking to realize what their perception of a birth center is- and midwives too! People still think of midwives as being only hippies with Birkenstocks.  So we spent a lot of time talking through our routine maternity care.  We do see women for all the same type of prenatal visits other providers would.  We just tend to spend more time with them.  And we still offer all the same labs.  Many of our women get ultrasounds.  It was a huge education process, and it still is.  That perception piece is quite amazing.

BOBB: Well, thanks for all the amazing work you are doing to help expand that perception! Can you share more about what makes your birth center unique?

Yes! I think, in particular, we are unique because we are a lot more than just a birth center and midwifery practice. We are truly an integrative practice with a huge spectrum of offerings on-site.  We are not only familiar with herbs, homeopathy, nutrition, and counseling, but we are also prescribers. Plus, we have other providers that work with us too, like chiropractors and acupuncturists.  We’re a lactation center. We’re an education center with lots of different class offerings. And, we offer quite a few services for women, outside of maternity care, like annual exams, problem visits, and contraception offerings. This continuity of care (even extending to their kids with our Pediatricians!) really allows for us to focus on community building, which is so important because so many of us lack it. So we hold many events to continue and build those connections ranging from larger gatherings like Every Woman Can to smaller retreats, family picnics, and annual Valentine’s Day party...during Christmas we have about 100 kids come through to see Santa!

BOBB: Wow. You guys really are a one-stop shop! I love that you have partnered with pediatricians as well.  What happens if, for whatever reason, you are no longer able to best serve a patient?

There are multiple hospitals here in the Twin Cities, but we primarily work with two.  At one of the hospitals, our midwives have privileges.  So, if it’s something that allows us to continue care with the client, but our center doesn’t offer the care needed, then we transfer them to that hospital.  If it is something that needs an OB’s attention we will go to a different hospital which knows our practice well and with whom we already have really good protocols and systems in place.

BOBB: Having those types of relationships is key. How was it building those relationships?

The different hospital systems have been different.  Some have been really receptive and have been really open to building those bridges.  They come to the birth center and ask those hard questions of the things they are curious about.  They understand that we are for low risk people and that sometimes things do come up that makes a transfer necessary. What makes this system really safe is building these bridges and systems together ahead of time.

But there is that other camp too.  The other camp is still very skeptical.  They don’t think that anybody should deliver outside of the hospital.  They still have those different perceptions of what out-of-hospital birth is regardless of what the research shows.

BOBB: What’s something new and exciting happening at the Birth Center?

We just brought some tubs over from Europe that are super deep.  Women can squat in them and partners can submerge themselves in them a lot easier.  They’re super cool.  I think it’s really exciting; even the little things like that are fun and important.  And water birth feels like a hot topic now.  ACOG came out with an opinion statement a few years ago and it still feels like there are lots of questions about water birth and a lot of women seeking water birth, but they are still getting some push back from their hospitals.  We do many water births and we’ve been trying to do lots of education around them as well.

BOBB:  Are water births legal in your hospitals?

They are now.  But when ACOG came out with that opinion, and, it was only an opinion, water birth programs actually stopped in a lot of our hospital systems immediately.  It wasn’t even like they were giving women notice.  They basically put out a statement saying, “We’re no longer doing water birth.”  Women were devastated.  We got lots of calls, even women who were due, coming from other practices saying, “This was our plan and this was really important to us.  Is this still an option that we can do at the birth center?”  Since then, slowly, hospitals reopened their water birth programs. It’s something that we’re seeing now.  It’s surprising how volatile that is, and how easy that change can just happen.  And that was an opinion.  It wasn’t even research based.

BOBB:  Water Births are not allowed in any hospitals here in NYC. Can you speak to some other laws that allow your Birth Center to operate the way that it does, and what may be prohibiting other states to provide the type of holistic offerings and care you do?

Here in Minnesota, our accreditation through the Commission for the Accreditation of Birth Centers (CABC) really drives everything. That national accreditation is what drives our state licensure.

The state doesn’t have any specific room size requirements, where some other states do- It may be room size, bathroom size, or hallway size.  I know that can be really difficult for birth centers to abide by.  I think too, Minnesota is unique because we are independent practitioners.  We are not required to have a backup physician.  We’re not required to have physician collaboration.  I know that is quite a bit different from other states as well, which makes it a little bit easier to practice here.

BOBB: Thank you so much for sharing. I can speak for New York City and say, we desperately need a center like yours to move into town! When can you start?

Learn more about Health Foundations Birth Center here (and check out their rooms! Man, NYC, look what we are missing out on!)

According to Claudia

Claudia Booker is a doula, childbirth educator, breastfeeding counselor and homebirth midwife working in the Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia area. She has supported over 900 families and has been working in birth for over 12 years- So she has just a tad bit of wisdom on how to best support our birthing people (her website even has an “According to Claudia” section!) We thought we could learn a lot from her, so we sat down and chatted birth “According to Claudia.”

On the need for birth workers to provide culturally specific care:

I think it’s our responsibility [as birth workers] to let clients know of all their options and opportunities especially when it comes to cultural specificity- that culturally specific care is available.  For example, I’m an African American woman, been one all my life, born and raised in D.C.  I am not culturally specific to a Haitian woman.  She’s black.  I’m black.  She’s a woman.  I’m a woman.  But I am not specific to her culture.  She needs a doula and childbirth educator that are specific to her culture and to her lifestyle.  I don’t think the white birth community understands that. In all my practice I’ve never heard of a white midwife or doula say to an African American client, “I would love to work with you, but I need to let you know that in this community we have a wide variety of African American midwives and doulas…” I feel that not giving pregnant people full disclosure of all their resources is just like the stuff that doctors do.  How do they know they are making the best choice if they don’t have all the options?

Birth work is based on heart to heart; The client absolutely needs to find practitioners whose heart sings to her heart.  But we have to let our clients know of all of their opportunities and then hope that they still come back to work with us. I believe it’s our job [as birth workers] to take this on so that we can work to enable every group, culture, and society to have the best birth they can while we fight for universal change.

On how you empower your clients to be active participants and joint decision makers in their births: 

My clients and I spend a great deal of time going over how to best be joint decision makers (Because if you’re not driving the car, don’t be surprised where you end up), active participants (If you don’t understand say, “I don’t understand” and have them explain it until you do) and participate in full disclosure and informed consent (If you don’t understand, don’t say yes.)

To start, I always make sure that I am the right person to be working with that client because maybe there are doulas who are better at dealing with parents who are not interested in being active participants and joint decision makers in their births...Who can work with clients that say “I will never speak up. I’ll never ask a question.”  But that’s not me.

And parents need to start practicing before the birth.  You need to have conversations prenatally where you are counterpointing with your care providers so that you can get used to being in a position of power. Especially if you are working with a practice with nine million providers. You need to have this conversation with everybody so the providers get to know who you are, and you get to practice having a dialogue from a position of power with your clothes on.  It’s hard to start to have a conversation that has a power dynamic when you are sitting there with “the robe of disempowerment on”...The robe with your ass hanging out and your coochie almost showing.  It’s hard to stand up for yourself when you’re looking like that!  This is something that I really work on. 

And then I focus on ways to reinforce the messages that I am giving.  For example, I send all of my clients to this one yoga teacher because she’s reinforcing in her classes what they heard in their childbirth class and what they are going to hear from me.  They are getting the same message in like sixty different ways.  If they can’t hear it from me, or they can’t hear it from the childbirth education teacher, we’re going to keep saying this message until we find a way that really resonates with the client.

On the biggest challenges that come up while working in birth:

As a culture we have lost contact with what our bodies were meant to do and how they were meant to be because we focus our reality as women on what is presented to us in social and mass media. We wear tight jeans where we do get enough air in our bottoms and a nutrient deficient diet so we are getting yeasty.  We’re carrying huge $2,000 pocket books on our shoulders, which is causing our pelvis to tilt forward.  We’re absorbing xenoestrogens.  We’re not supporting our pelvic floor. Every year the shoe gets higher and higher tilting the spine... Our bodies were not designed for this and all of these things are external signs that we have decided are nomenclature for what a woman doesn’t look like, instead of taking any time to go back to the universal energy and recognition of our bodies, and how they function best.

And then there’s the fact that we’re all taking pills and people are choosing to focus on their careers so they are deciding to stop having periods altogether.  The internal biological and hormonal forces that we could have had our whole lives to adjust to, become attuned to, get to know, are being turned off.  We are not dealing with the internal pieces that respond to the universe, and to nature, and to who we really are because we have chemically turned off these systems. And it’s not always just turn it off, turn it back on. Because when we do decide we are ready for babies It takes the body some time to get back into rhythm.  And it may get back into rhythm, or it may not.  When we decide we all of a sudden want to be in tune with our bodies, it may feel like its not answering us. And then we start saying, Oh my god, my body’s not responding the way I want it to respond.  I can't trust my body.  My body’s failing me… But we haven’t been listening for the past however many decades! It may be answering us, but we don’t understand the language that it’s answering us with.  And even those who manage to conceive quickly, they have spent most of their adult life having no relationship with any part of their bodies except questions, doubts, and fears, and an overall idea that their bodies may fail them. 

And this is where we as birth workers meet them.  And it’s our job in what, 10 months? 8 months? 3 months? 3 weeks? to help them start relating differently.

My clientele that are gentrified come to me and say, Oh, I saw The Business of Being Born and I want a natural birth.  And so I talk about the birth preference plan at our very first visit becausewhat does “natural” mean? There’s no common definition. It’s like “free-range” “organic”.

I say, OK so what out of that movie do you want?  I make them really tell me what they are looking for. What kind of a birth they are prepared to work for.  Talking to them about who they really are and coming up with a birth vision that represents their lifestyle, their culture and their commitment. 

I always ask people, How do you handle pain? Frustration? Deadlines?  Because birth is the day all of those things come together at once.  If you were stressed, tired, hungry, your butt hurt, and you had to have your work in tomorrow, how would you proceed?  How would you handle yourself?  I have everybody talk about it.  I like them to write it down because it gives the couple a chance to really talk about it out loud and not just say, “Yeah Babe I really want what you want.” “ Well, no Babe I want whatever you want.” 

No.  What are you willing to bring to this party?  What are you bringing to the party?  What’s everybody bringing to the party? 

On the change you’d like to see for birthing people:

Respectful maternity care.  How do you get respectful maternity care? How do you get a medical system that will assist you and that will respect you?  I don’t yet think that we have made much progress on this, except for those who are lucky enough to have the finances to be real consumers. Also, there is this total lack of competence, lack of support and lack of access to accurate information.  There are families being sabotaged because they simply don’t have the correct information!  This isn’t okay.

We also need to figure out how to build pregnant people’s confidence that she can do it, help her to find peace, for her to appreciate the immense responsibility, the gift, of being someone’s mother.  I’m always saying to my clients, You’re already a parent.  You're just a parent with a baby inside.  You don’t need a stroller right now, but you are somebody’s parent. For everything you do, and everything you say, and everything you eat, and everything that goes on your child is watching you.  Let’s think of it that way- Think about this now.  There’s a kid who is absolutely relying on everything that you say and do now, not later, now.  If women are already thinking of themselves as mothers while pregnant, then they may start thinking about their choices a bit differently.

I would love to see women gathering more in small groups, intergenerational groups. I want people to talk and educate about menstruation in their homes.  Ask each other what these experiences are like. Create and foster dialogue from multiple perspectives and identities so that we can learn and share what it’s like to be a woman.  

Doulas and Nurses Collaborating at Cedars Sinai Hospital

Ana Paula Markel at Bini Birth

Ana Paula Markel at Bini Birth

At the end of September, BOBB Films Ash Spivak was invited to the 2016 Gathering of the Los Angeles Birth Community at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles; a collaboration between Cedars-Sinai staff and Ana Paula Markel of Bini Birth, to witness all of the change they have been able to implement by bringing together the doula and childbirth education world and the medical community.

Bini Birth is a staple of the LA birth community, and after Ash’s visit, it was immediately apparent why. The space is entirely unique both in aesthetics and in offerings. The building has stained glass windows, a grandiose staircase and chandelier- oh, and three whole floors (Which to a New Yorker like Ash was truly mind blowing).  Bini houses a yoga studio, home birth midwife, massage therapist, and psychotherapist office amongst other practitioners. Everything one can need in one place!

In addition to doula trainings, Bini offers a large variety of childbirth, new parent and newborn classes all with the emphasis on offering a variety of options (all from an evidence-based perspective) instead of promoting a specific method of parenting or childbirth. The message here is clear: There is no “right” way to birth or parent. The ultimate goal here is for parents to have a positive experience knowing that they are validated, supported and loved throughout the process.

For these reasons, you will often see medical professionals actually taking classes at Bini, and going to Bini for support. And this makes sense since collaborating with the medical community at large for enhanced maternal care is of extreme importance to Ana Paula. And she has really made some incredible strides on that front.

At the 2016 Gathering of the Los Angeles Birth Community. From Left to Right, Ana Paula Markel, Mykel LeCheminant, Hermine Hayes-Klein, JD. Below: Monica Lundry

At the 2016 Gathering of the Los Angeles Birth Community. From Left to Right, Ana Paula Markel, Mykel LeCheminant, Hermine Hayes-Klein, JD. Below: Monica Lundry

Ana Paula sits on two task forces at Cedars-Sinai helping to improve patient satisfaction and bringing her experiences as a doula and birth diplomat to the institution.

Some of the accomplishments of one of the task forces has been: skin-to-skin in the OR, creating birth plans for hospital patients with a doula's touch, aromatherapy in the hospital, and creation of a doula committee to address patient communication and quality of care.  This committee is called CDAC (Cedars Doula Advisory Committee) and allows for L and D nurses and doulas to report on what is occurring on the Labor and Delivery floor so that improvements and education can be provided when necessary.  In 2015 Ana Paula was hired to help improve Cedars-Sinai’s childbirth education curriculum and is now in full effect with new parenting and newborn care classes recently launched.

Wow, right?!

Ana Paula Markel with Abby and Ricki

Ana Paula Markel with Abby and Ricki

The theme of this years event was Shared Decision Making in Childbirth from Theory to Practice and was truly a celebration of all the they have accomplished together.The event was put together by Monica Lundry (an L and D nurse) and Ana Paula.  In addition to many staff members speaking on the importance of bettering maternal care, keynote speaker Hermine Hayes-Klein of Human Rights in Childbirth presented on our legal right to informed consent and refusal and how that can play out in the hospital system.

Even if Hermine’s presentation wasn’t as eye-opening and inspiring as it was (and oh man, it was!), simply the fact that this event was happening inside of a hospital and attended by doulas, L and D nurses, childbirth educators and OBs alike is a huge accomplishment in and of itself.

Ana Paula, along with former L and D manager Marle Shelton, Assistant Manager Mykel LeCheminant and Monica Lundry, some of the major players in this collaboration, have shown us that working together to provide cohesive, supportive, patient-centered care is both possible and fruitful. The system may not be perfect yet, but they are certainly onto something- something that hopefully soon, we can model at other hospitals across the country too.

First team of Ana Paula's nurses turned childbirth educators at Cedars Sinai. Mykel LeCheminant, first from the Left. Monica Lundry first from the Right.

First team of Ana Paula's nurses turned childbirth educators at Cedars Sinai. Mykel LeCheminant, first from the Left. Monica Lundry first from the Right.

We Went Back to The Farm!

It's been a while since we've been to The Farm in Summertown, TN but BOBB Films' Ash Spivak recently stopped by to chat with Farm midwife Deborah Flowers about all of their going-ons and recent successes.   

Entrance to The Farm

Entrance to The Farm

The Farm has really become a staple of the greater birth community, not only as a safe haven that honors and supports normal physiological birth, but as one that is willing to learn from and collaborate with the medical community at large so that birthing women can receive the best possible care. For example, a new policy was recently passed that requires an oxygen saturation test be performed at the time of the newborn screening to help prevent against congenital heart disease. In the past, newborn screenings were performed by the midwives, but the saturation tests were not.  So, local doctors actually invited the midwives to attend hospital trainings so that they were able to perform this test at The Farm. Additionally, The Farm receives infant resuscitation trainings from a local nurse, who also started an Angel Ambulance (like a NICU on wheels) that would come to The Farm (and other outlying areas) in the rare case a baby was in need so she could be treated while en route to the nearest hospital.  And, to even better build relations and trust, Deborah shared that she will sometimes go with a client to her doctor's appointment so that she can meet him or her face to face.  At times she'll even bring her resume to show them her license, experience, training and expertise. 

Exam room at The Farm Clinic

Exam room at The Farm Clinic

The midwives at The Farm have been instrumental in changing birth policies in their community and beyond. CPMs (Certified Professional Midwives) are now legally able to practice with licensure in Tennessee thanks in large part to Midwife Carol Nelson. (In some states only CNMs, Certified Nurse Midwifes, can practice.) Last year, they hosted a group of doctors, nurses and midwives from Alabama (where CPMs can't legally practice) so that they could learn more about how legalized midwifery works and to create a greater conversation and collaboration around working together.  And, at a nearby hospital, the midwives recently helped to make small doses of Pitocin available for VBAC patients. 

Ash Spivak and midwife Deborah Flowers

Ash Spivak and midwife Deborah Flowers

So, it's no wonder that women are still coming from all over the world to birth at The Farm.  Most recently, two women from Turkey come to give birth. One came because her doctor in Istanbul had a 90% cesarean rate and promised her she'd never be able to give birth vaginally because her baby was too big according to the ultrasound (She gave birth vaginally just fine and the baby weighed only 6lb 14 oz). They also had a woman from Senegal come (she came for all three of her babies) because at her very first prenatal her doctor told her she was going to need surgery.  She too gave birth vaginally.

Birthing room at The Farm

Birthing room at The Farm

So what's next for The Farm? Training more midwives!  In collaboration with The College of Traditional Midwifery, they have just launched a Competency Based Midwifery Education Program for aspiring midwives who want to become Certified Professional Midwives. Their first class of students started this month!

Want to learn more? Visit their site and check out this article about when the folks from Alabama came to visit.

And, don't forget to rent our past interview with Ina May Gaskin, the founder of The Farm!

Mural inside one of the birthing houses at The Farm

Mural inside one of the birthing houses at The Farm

An interview with Ashley Williams

You might recognize Ashley Williams from How I Met Your Mother and The Jim Gaffigan Show, but did you know she is also a doula and a mom who birthed her baby on her living room floor?!  We got to chatting with Ashley about how birth work has influenced her acting career as well as how it has colored her overall life perspective.

What made you become a doula?
I ended up being in town when my sister went into labor with her first child. She requested a “walking epidural,” and the nurse said they didn’t exist. I spoke up on her behalf and was removed from the room. She actually ended up having an amazing birth but I was angry. I told my husband I would never have a baby. He was actually the one that suggested we use a doula!  I read up on them and thought, “I actually think I could be really good at this.” I did the training, put in my time, and it’s the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done.  

What does the role of ‘doula’ mean to you?
We provide women and their partners with physical, emotional, and informational support prenatally, in labor, and postpartum. To me, that means providing options and empowering parents to make informed decisions, and helping them execute those decisions. I love the word ‘Ambassador.’ That word rings very true for me.  

What have you learned from your doula work that you apply to your acting work?
The root of doula work is all about empathy. I imagine myself in her place—If I were her, feeling pain where she does, what would I want? I listen to what she says as if it were research on cracking a character—what is she most scared of? I take into consideration her history, her hopes, the same way I do with a character. I’ve become a much better listener as an actress since becoming a doula.  

What have you learned from your acting work that you apply to your doula work?
Doula work is extremely rigorous, physically. As an actor my body has been put to the test – I once worked a 19-hour day with only one 30-minute break for lunch. BUT that is nothing compared to, say, an induction. It’s expected for me to be on my feet for a solid 24 hours, or even more, during an induction without so much as one bathroom break. I’m not exaggerating. My acting career taught me how to dig in and get lost in the work so I don’t feel fatigue or heat or hunger. It’s also taught me that once the birth is over, I need to let it go. I’ve still not perfected that… truthfully I usually have an enormous cheeseburger and cry in the car after a birth. Then I sleep for 12 hours. Actually I do all that after an acting job too…. I’m working on it!

What have you learned from the process of labor/birth that you find yourself applying to your own life regularly?
I continue to be inspired by the strength of women. Women are my heroes. I have stared into the eyes of women at their edge and have discovered the most fearless, resilient, patient, persistent, warriors who fight even at their most fearful and dark moments. I am honored to be a woman and don’t take my own power for granted.   

Does being around birth make you feel differently about your own body?
I think my doula work and research has taught me to trust my body. It knows what it’s doing, more so in pregnancy, labor and postpartum than almost anything else, I think. It’s rare to need procedures or medication when it comes to procreation. That idea really put me at ease throughout my pregnancy and birth.

What was your birth like?
It was awesome. We had a planned homebirth and I pushed my baby out on the living room floor. I remember several days afterwards saying to my midwives that I was actually a tough case for them because I may have said I was open to a transfer, but I actually would have been really upset about it. Luckily everything went beautifully.  For my next pregnancy I think I’m more open to going with the flow. I mean… I hope.

What was your process of deciding where and with whom to give birth?
The truth is I have a lot of fear when it comes to hospitals. I knew that feeling safe is paramount to labor progression, and I couldn’t imagine myself relaxing in a hospital.  We also lived so close to the best hospital in Los Angeles and I could have been there in less than five minutes in an emergency, which was a huge factor.  I trusted my midwives, Beth Cannon and Laura Monroe Burnett, implicitly and I am in awe of their expertise. They taught me so much about myself and I am forever changed by their guidance.  A home birth, surrounded by a team of my own choosing and on my own turf, was the only choice for me at the time.  

We would love to hear about your experience working on The Jim Gaffigan Show. We know Jeannie (the character you play) really had five home births with Cara, the midwife featured on The Business of Being born. How funny?!
Working on this show, at this time in my life, is a dream come true.  I was actually pregnant when we shot the pilot and every day thinking, “Please, please, please let this go.”  Miracle of miracles, it did.  There’s a killer playroom and Gus comes to work with me and plays with all the kid actors.  He’s in heaven.  AND it means that in between setups I can run up to the playroom and hang with everyone till they’re ready for me.  I knew no one in New York for prenatal care but Abby Epstein and Jeannie recommended Cara so she was my midwife until I got back home to LA.  I LOVE HER.  If I’m lucky enough to get pregnant again in the future at some point, I’d love to have her on my team now that I live in New York.