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What is a Postpartum Doula? And why everyone needs one.

We live in an era of women over-giving and under-receiving. Data shows it is not working for us. Postpartum depression/anxiety is at unprecedented rates and we currently are offering new...

We live in an era of women over-giving and under-receiving. Data shows it is not working for us. Postpartum depression/anxiety is at unprecedented rates and we currently are offering new parents too few options for support. 

Season 2 of Womb Stories Project is a collection of interviews with the people who were involved in my conception, pregnancy, birth, and postpartum journey. It is for the listener curious about holistic and non-hormonal fertility treatments, the ins and outs of home birth, and how to thrive in postpartum. 

Listen into this episode to hear an expanded perspective on what it means to receive in the earliest days of motherhood. 

  

Timestamps

  • 3:21 - Connection through Vaginal Steam Certification
  • 6:27 - Integration of Steaming Practices
  • 12:50 - Magical Pregnancy Experience with Midwife
  • 15:12 - Value of Community Support in Birth Care
  • 17:32 - Journey into Postpartum Care
  • 27:15 - Description of Postpartum Care Services
  • 30:56 - Processing Birth Experiences with Doula
  • 46:24 - Embracing Empowerment and Boundary Setting
  • 1:00:32 - Nurturing Connection to the Womb

Connect with Kit on IG @bykitara

Connect with Muriel on IG @heldpostpartum or at www.heldpostpartum.com

Mentions:

Hannah Nuemann, CPM, LM - Midwifery, Abdominal/Womb Massage, and Ayurveda of Meadow Street Midwifery.  

Transcript

Kit:

(0:05) Hello, I am so glad you are here listening to Womb Stories Project Season 2, Episode 2. And because it's been a minute, or actually nearly a year, since I have published an episode, I wanted to orient you briefly into this episode, but also the wider project. 

(0:25) And Season 2 is a collection of conversations that I'm having with folks who were incredibly pivotal to me in my experience bringing my first child into the world. And that is our son, Mark, who was born in May of 2022, and now it is May of 2024.

(0:43) And I have recently brought forth our second child, a baby girl, Dorothy Mathilde, in March of 2024. So I am seven and a half weeks postpartum from that experience at the time of this recording. And I'm feeling my energy coming back to me, and I'm feeling this really big desire to release these conversations that I've been having over the past year about the birth of Mark.

(1:10) So I'm going to be doing that under this umbrella of Season 2. And today, with this Episode 2, is a conversation with a very, very special human, Muriel Webster, who has a beautiful company, and you can find her on Instagram, at heldpostpartum, to learn about the depth of the care that she offers as a postpartum doula. Muriel is actually in my home right now, tending to me and to our whole family, as she does. I just poked out of my office to make sure everything was okay before I pressed record, and saw her there with our daughter strapped to her chest, and I can smell the amazing aromas from our kitchen, from the food she's cooking.

(1:53) And this is a conversation about what it was like to receive her support the first time I was in the postpartum portal.  I certainly hope that you enjoy it, and I also hope that you share it with whoever pings to you as might need to hear it also. As always, sending lots of love.

Kit: [2:12] Okay, Muriel, thank you for being here on Womb Stories Project and part of this.

Kit: [2:18] Very special and dear series, particularly to me, which is season two, which is connecting with folks who were present at the birth of our son, Mark, in May of 2022 and the immediate aftermath. math. And so I just thought it would be fun if we could start sharing how we met, because that journey is also a huge part of the journey that brought you into being such a champion of support to me in my postpartum time. Do you remember?

Muriel: [2:54] Yeah, thank you for having me, Kit. It's really sweet to be here with you today. I, if I remember correctly, we were both doing the, the, the vaginal steam certification through steamy chick, which at the time there weren't a lot of us. It was kind of closer to the beginning. That was, I was pregnant with my second kid. So that was 2019.

Muriel: [3:21] I believe was when we were both enrolled in that course and we didn't know each other but we were both in Maine and she has kind of a an online directory which now I think is probably very robust of practitioners but at the time there was maybe three or four of us in Maine that were had either finished the course or were in the course and I think you reached out to me did you find me on that directory I found my directory I reached out to the.

 Kit: [3:47] Four other practitioners.

 Muriel: [3:49] Just hey I just Just like you study.

 Kit: [3:54] Things like this. I study things like this. I don't know anybody else want to be friends. And you were the only one who reached back out to me.

 Muriel: [4:03] Well, and we were living actually pretty close to one another geographically at that time. So I was like, oh, my gosh, there's this other person. And yeah, in Yarmouth.

 Kit: [4:14] Right.

Muriel: [4:15] Where do you want to have coffee? So that was really powerful. That was, I remember meeting with you because, yeah, I was pregnant.

Muriel: [4:24] I was, I think I was well along my second or either third trimester.

 

Kit:

[4:28] You definitely were a member of 2019. You were beautifully big belly pregnant. Yeah.

 

Muriel:

[4:38] And I think I came from probably a visit with, I think I came to meet you from a visit working with a client because at that

 

Muriel:

[4:49] time I was probably a year into my postpartum practice. Yeah.

 

Kit:

[4:54] I remember correctly, you had had this beautiful day that I was in such awe of. You had started with supporting a postpartum client and then you had gone to see our now mutual beloved Hannah for a womb massage.

 

Muriel:

[5:08] She was my midwife for my second baby. Yeah.

 

Kit:

[5:12] And you had come into this little tea shop for a meeting and you were like, I'm so blissed out. And you described this womb massage and this care with Hannah. And I just, I was just in this moment of like, oh my gosh, like let me into everything that this woman has going on. I was in what I had thought was maybe the middle of my conception journey, but actually really at the beginning of it. And you had just, yeah, you just had this glow and this beautiful grounded presence to you and shared with me about Hannah. And at the time it was known as our Vigo massage. And now I think it's more known as, as womb massage. Is that right?

 

Muriel:

[5:58] Or a lot of people call it abdominal massage. I'm not sure Hannah would be the person to really directly speak to that, but yeah.

 

Kit:

[6:07] Yeah. And so it was so great. And it was also just, I remember like you, we were in this just little tiny tea shop and it just also felt like you kept bumping into people you knew and it was just so magical and delightful.

 

Muriel:

[6:26] It's main for you it.

 

Kit:

[6:27] Was mean i've only been in for a couple of months i didn't like fully, understand the beauty of that now i can see that there are times that that happens to me as well and so it was just such an amazing you know um yeah we got to talk about steaming i remember i had the first prototype of the seats that katara had created i had like left mine in the car, and then I said to you something like, can I just get your feedback? Would you mind if I like brought it in?

 

Muriel:

[6:58] That was so inspiring to me because, you know, I took that steaming course, that certification to facilitate steaming for my clients postpartum, because that's how I found steaming. I listened to an interview with Kelly Garza, who's the founder of Steamy Chick, and And it was with Kimberly Johnson.

 

Kit:

[7:21] Mm-hmm.

 

Muriel:

[7:23] Who a lot of people are familiar with and it was specifically about fourth trimester steaming and i was just like i need to know about this i quickly started a practice myself just kind of like not knowing much alongside enrolling in the course and just was really excited to integrate it into my practice but i loved meeting with you because it was just like oh my gosh and here's kit and she's gonna start a business making these like amazing steam stoves and we were coming at it at two totally different angles, but there was so, I mean, obviously there's just so much shared ground. So it felt like a really rich connection for me because now I use your herbs, all of my clients get your herbs. And whenever someone wants to buy a steam stool, I'm like, I've got the steam stool for you. Cause I have a little travel steam stool that a lot of my clients use, but oftentimes after they use it during my care, they're like, okay, now I'm going to take off and I want to buy all my own stuff. So I love having that connection with you Kit, because it's just really rich to have that human connection and be like, this is my friend who makes these beautiful things and you should support her and not just like, here's a link to Amazon to, you know, such that richness. And that's like, why I love Maine and I love being in the birth community because I feel like the longer I'm in the space, the more robust those connections are.

 

Muriel:

[8:49] And it's just so good to support one another.

 

Kit:

[8:52] Yeah, it feels amazing. There's joy in every order. And there is something really special when we get a message from somebody in Maine who wants to come by to the barn and pick up the seat themselves. And often that has been facilitated along the way one way or another by you. And it's just like, it's extra special and wonderful. So... Thank you for that. And you mentioned a bunch of things that I just want to at least touch on.

 

Kit:

[9:19] Kimberlyann Johnson and then her talk with Kelly, yeah, that had a huge impact on me. And her book, The Fourth Trimester, had a huge impact on me as well, because I really early on when in the conception journey, I figured out I had a lot of blocks around postpartum. And they were really coming up for me with even sort of stating an intention around wanting to get pregnant. I was so scared of what I assumed was almost like an inevitability of lack of care for myself after giving birth that I read that book as a way of trying to understand an alternative to what I thought was kind of the just, I mean, it is sort of the societal reality. Norm, but I just thought maybe there was an opportunity for me to receive differently.

 

Kit:

[10:14] And I'm so grateful for that book and sort of the seeds it planted to allow me to take some real self-responsibility in queuing things up so that I had as much support as I kind of could fathom.

 

Kit:

[10:30] And what I tell people is I actually had more support than I was comfortable receiving at the time. And I see now that it was actually like unbelievable support and what I hold for the baseline for myself and what others, what I would like to invite them into consideration of receiving.

 

Kit:

[10:50] And so connecting with you is such an important piece of that. And then just to celebrate you and that meeting, because then I think the next day I was like, well, who's this Hannah lady, like I should reach out to her. She makes marriage all glowy and wonderful.

 

Muriel:

[11:08] That, yeah, that was really fortuitous for me because Hannah was the student at my first birth. And when I got pregnant the second time, I reached out to her because I just really connected with her during my first pregnancy. And I reached out to her. We hadn't talked in a long time. And I was like, what are you doing? Are you a midwife yet? And she was like, not yet. And I was like, well, will you be my midwife? And she was like, well, I'm not a midwife yet. And I kind of like coaxed her into doing it. And so, you know, I think she felt like, wow, you're putting so much trust into me. And then at the time she was doing this abdominal massage, this womb massage, and she was like, this is something I think I would like to integrate into midwifery practice, will you kind of be my trial person? So I kind of was treated like I felt like such a queen my whole pregnancy because I, Almost every single prenatal visit, I got like an hour and a half massage on her table.

 

Kit:

[12:13] Oh my.

 

Muriel:

[12:16] It was so funny because I was like her only client because she wasn't established yet. And each prenatal visit was like two and a half hours. We would just like talk for an hour and then she'd be like, okay, get on the table. And I'd be like, okay. So when I saw you, I was coming off of like a two and a half hour prenatal, which, you know, now she has a practice and that's not obviously, but I, I kind of got this like really special little pocket of time in which she wasn't sure what she was doing yet. And I was kind of open to everything. And so I just, I was her little Guinea pig and it was amazing for me.

 

Kit:

[12:51] That is amazing. Oh my gosh. That brings me to a couple more things I really want to highlight, which is, yeah. So then I went to her, I mean, I want to say the next day it can't have been, but it was definitely within the week.

 

Kit:

[13:03] And just, she also has just such a beautiful presence and was so supportive and encouraging. And she, probably not in my first visit with her, but about a month later, really intuitively felt into my support team and referenced a few people she thought maybe I would want to reach out to. And that led me to Tiffany, who then led me to Carrie. And so these are all the other people who are on the season of Home Stories Project interview because they are my magical 14. And just to say too that, so Hannah wasn't my midwife, but she was my, amazingly, she was my doula who was, you know, also like a very highly skilled birth doula in that she was also a midwife and worked really beautifully with Carrie and Tiffany with me as well. But just this, just what you said, like, so you had this special experience with being with her for two hour prenatal visits, but also like the standard of care in the midwifery community that we get to experience is about an hour visit, right?

 

Muriel:

[14:15] Totally, totally. So it's, yeah, it's, it already, I mean, I felt so beyond supported and like so seen my first pregnancy with our first group of midwives. And the only reason I didn't go with them was because we had moved. So we were out of their radius because I loved them, like really loved them. It was who Hannah was working with at the time as a student. But I knew we were like geographically too far because the first pregnancy, we were like right on their edge. And then we had moved north. So I was just like, I have to find someone else. And And that was my move to Hannah. But absolutely. I mean, in the home birth world with midwives, often your visits are in your home. And if they're not, they're in this usually lovely little office or in their home. I've had some prenatal visits in my midwife's home, which is actually now my home because I live in my midwife's old house.

 

Muriel:

[15:12] So, you know, it's a tight little community. and yeah there's just an intimacy and a spaciousness around being able to ask questions and not feeling like you're on the clock like I have 15 minutes I forgot that thing that I wanted to ask and now I miss my chance so yeah there's a absolutely which I know you experienced yeah with Mark's care just a real like generous amount of space to be and to be vulnerable and to ask ask questions and feel really informed and empowered to make decisions that are right with and aligned with your family values. And I've always felt so lucky to have access to that care for both of the births that we had. It's really, really special. Yeah.

 

Kit:

[16:02] So special. And just something I so look forward to, you know, and with Tiffany, she has the two different rooms. And so if you're just in for a visit that's more about chatting, you're in sort of the extra comfy room with the tea.

 

Kit:

[16:20] And if you need an exam, you go into a different room, which has its own coziness because the table, of course, has like beautiful pillows and blankets. And it's like, she reminds me if I brought a crystal to pull it out.

 

Kit:

[16:33] Or any sort of special... Amulet because she knows i often have something to hold or to carry with me but just how just how special that is and how much spaciousness there is and it's something that i actually haven't done so yet but i will be speaking with reno my partner who you know well and and he's usually there with me on those visits and i think sometimes we both like but for him he has no context of I've obviously never been to like a GYN appointment or a traditional one. No context of just how different the experiences are from one another. I do think that a piece of the journey of working with midwives and Tiffany, it showed me just a different level of care than I knew I could even dream of.

 

Kit:

[17:26] I just didn't know what I didn't know. And that certainly is the case with you as well. And so I'm just hoping that we can talk a bit about the particulars of our dynamic and the care you offered me and my family, as well as I'm really so curious for myself to learn what brought you to this work and that journey for yourself as well. So however, you know, most clouds to enter both of those would be wonderful.

 

Muriel:

[17:55] Yeah. So I got into this work. I had a baby when I was 26 was our first baby so I was on the younger side for our generation I was definitely like didn't have many friends I didn't have any friends my age who had kids but I had a lot of older friends who were like well into their parenting journey and were kind of done having kids and had like elementary school to junior high age kids I was farming at the time And so I was really a part of like the farming community here in Maine and we were living on our friend's farm. So when I had our first baby, we were living with them. He was born in their house because we lived in this tiny little cabin in the woods. So he was kind of like the fifth child almost like.

 

Muriel:

[18:43] That family who is still like our family to this day just totally surrounded us. It was living intergenerationally, really, like living with people who had all the wisdom of parenting and knew what the needs were. I mean, it's not embarrassing because I'm not embarrassed by it. I think it's more a testament to like how little education and awareness is around postpartum. But when I had our first baby, I literally didn't have pads. Like he was born and I was in bed and I was like, oh my gosh, I'm bleeding. I need pads, you know? No, it wasn't like I was like, I had researched anything. I never took a childbirth class. I really went in with like full trust. I was just like, it'll be fine. And I don't know, we'll just need some things, but I don't know what they are. And we'll just figure it out. And, you know, our Lucretia, who's the one who she, I mean, she's a very dear, close person to me. Her husband like went to the store and got me pads and brought them back and her children, her daughter was at the birth.

 

Muriel:

[19:51] And then the three brothers were there shortly after. And I was never alone. I was so well cared for. And I just, I didn't even have to ask for what I needed because Lucretia and her family and the farming community knew what I needed because I was a new mom. And they were all these just slightly older moms, a little few steps ahead of me. And it wasn't until having a baby that I really started making friends with other people who had little kids with like babies. And so I came into postpartum care at a kind of unusual angle, I would say, based on the conversations I've had with other postpartum doulas, because I think the majority of stories that I've heard from other postpartum doulas is like they had a horrifying, unsupported experience. They were traumatized by it and they got into the care because they were like, I don't ever want that to happen to someone else. Right. So that's an entrance point for a lot of people into whatever you're going to do is that you experience something, you learn about it and you're like, I want to make it better. I want to make the system better.

 

Muriel:

[20:56] And my angle coming into it was like, I had the best and I want everyone to have what I had. Like, that was amazing. And it wasn't because of anything that I did. It was just because we were living in community. It was not something I bought or paid for, or we were so lucky. It's just like we were living in an unusual societal structure, which isn't as common now. And so I feel like a lot of my work as a postpartum doula is not only working directly with my clients who are paying me an hourly rate to be in their home with them, but community community education and offering resources to help people figure out how to assemble the community. And I saw this great thing the other day that like.

 

Muriel:

[21:46] The community doesn't exist anymore. You have to buy it. And as sad and depressing as that sounds, I think for a lot of people, that's really true. And it's by no fault of their own, but it's just we are so fractured culturally and socially from being connected to one another. The past few generations have really come up with this idea that the more independent dependent we are, the less dependent we are on one another. That's what strength is. That's success. And it's all based on capitalism. Really. I think it's really like capitalism depends on us feeling that way. Consuming. And so I hold both as someone working in the birthing community is

 

Muriel:

[22:37] like, okay, this is my job. This is how I support my family. I am making money doing this work but historically this is the work of the mother and the grandmother and the anyone in the family who's a nurturing presence to that birthing person so it's my that's my job when I walk into someone someone's house is to provide that level of care and that level of safety for that person who might not have it in their community and that's why they've reached out to me. Yeah.

 

Kit:

[23:10] I love hearing that. I didn't know that until this moment. And yet it tracks. It feels like.

 

Kit:

[23:20] It feels like you exude that, like just that, that want for people to experience something so beautiful. And I do think like at first it was like, you have to buy it. And even though that's true, and this might just be like semantics, I feel for myself that I felt really fortunate to be able to invest in it. And that just like slight switch of wording kind of just feels differently in my body and in my understanding of what I was really consciously trying to prepare for. It's like, how do I invest in receiving support and lining it up and simulating or creating community? And the financial structure of that does look differently than it might have hundreds of years ago. But I also think that hundreds of years ago, there were ways in which healers were tended to. And so it might not have been as, we might not have seen it as transactional, but there was some transactional element to it. And so I really honor that this is now how we tend to healers. It looks like an equity rate rather than free rent in a home on the land or I'm looking for.

 

Muriel:

[24:44] Someone next month who's trading me a pig.

 

Kit:

[24:46] Of course you are.

 

Muriel:

[24:51] So really familiar and I know so much value and I also would say you know to kind of speak to that I also really once you said that I'm like yeah I think I prefer that wordage to that wording to like investing instead of buying but I think also I think of investing not only financially but that we have to invest ourselves in our community to get community so it's just it's just not there for us anymore like it was. It's not just a default. It's something we have to build. It's something we have to invest our time in. And the majority of birth workers have a really hard time turning anyone away from care. So as birthing people who engage with their community.

 

Muriel:

[25:41] You know, I think it's really, you're going to be hard pressed to find someone who you reach out to seeking care to have that person turn you away you know and so I think the the investment in community piece is like the more we connect with one another the more generous we all are with our resources the more generous we all are with also our connection points you know like what we were speaking to early just like we met for tea and all of a sudden your life just like bloomed because you were like I didn't know about these people and now all these resources are are available to me. And I think of that, we're so focused on financial capital in the world we live in, but social capital, I think is more valuable.

 

Muriel:

[26:25] And I think having babies and people who work in the birthing community and really any community members know that. You're never going to, be down and out when you've got like a social net to catch you. And I find that again and again with this work and I work with all sorts of different people and I find it really inspiring actually when people reach out for care, even though I can sense that there is like a financial barrier for them. And I feel really lucky to be able to provide that care.

 

Kit:

[27:09] Yeah.

 

Muriel:

[27:10] So yeah, that's a whole other, I feel like we could do a whole other podcast on that.

 

Kit:

[27:16] We can do that. We will. It should be wonderful. So can you describe the care that you do provide?

 

Muriel:

[27:24] And yeah so typically I work with families one to six weeks postpartum is about the average length of time I work with folks although it certainly varies all of my care I'm.

 

Kit:

[27:41] Giggling because I just remember really vividly the day you had to tell me that you'd.

 

Muriel:

[27:46] Only be.

 

Kit:

[27:47] Back one more time. I was like, deep breaths, deep, deep breaths. Like you have to release her back into the world, but okay. Totally. I think I may have received eight weeks, but.

 

Muriel:

[28:07] That's hard for me too, you know, because my clients most of the time feel like family by the end. I mean, it's a very vulnerable space that I occupy. And I, I feel like really, I, it's one of my favorite parts of the job, just the connection point that I get to experience with family is because it's such a vulnerable raw season of life. And it's just, it's always such an honor to be welcomed into that space and be trusted that I'm a safe person in that space I'm always like floored that people trust me to be there yeah it's it's really amazing so.

 

Kit:

[28:47] Back to what you offer I mean you.

 

Muriel:

[28:49] Yeah so I yeah typically work with families one to six weeks postpartum I'm a little unconventional in terms of I think most doulas work I know most Most doulas work in packages, so you have to basically commit to a certain level of care, whether it be three visits or six visits. That's kind of the majority of the birthing world operates in that kind of package system. I really intentionally don't because I feel like there's an accessibility issue with the package structure just being for a lot of people, they'll see that number, which is usually at least $1,000 for like the lowest package. And it's immediately, that's a huge barrier for a lot of people. So from the get go, I've worked at an hourly rate, and I will absolutely see someone once if they have $200 to spend on one day of care or a parent who could gift them a day of care. So I tend to see...

 

Muriel:

[29:53] It tends to range a lot because, yeah, for some clients, they're long-term, which I think of as like one and a half months to two months. And, yeah, sometimes I'll get, oh, I just have a one-off visit with the family this week. This is their one little, you know, treat for themselves, which I hate to even say that because I think it shouldn't be even thought of as like an extra special thing. It should just be standard of care. But I've been really grateful to experience this care in that way of just knowing like one day of care is better than none. And I'm happy that I've been able to make it work so that more folks can experience this. Yeah um so yeah it's quite a spectrum and my my work is centered around nourishing food so the backdrop of my time with most people is lots of food being cooked in the kitchen and making sure the whole time i'm there with you you're really well fed and nourished and inevitably.

 

Muriel:

[30:56] Rubbing your feet and helping you process the birth i think even for people who have births at home and have a really strong relationship with their midwife, processing their birth with their midwife is often not the right thing. Even if the midwife is like really well-intentioned and the most amazing person, they could have created some unintentional trauma to the person or something might've just kind of gone amiss that again, wasn't the midwife's fault, but the person experienced it not in the way they were expecting. And I think it's really really nice to have someone in your space you can process those things with and not be afraid, speak them out loud and let them go. Um, so I think there's, but also sometimes your midwife's the perfect person to process your birth.

 

Kit:

[31:45] So I just like, for me, but just, I hadn't thought about that, but it was so powerful and not to jump too far ahead, but I just remember so vividly when you walked into our bedroom and me just having this like full release of like instant cheery gratitude. I just was like, oh my gosh, I made it to this point and Mariel's here, which means, you know, there is a baby and I'm just going to be held so beautifully. And I did have the postpartum hemorrhage and I had received such amazing support from Tiffany and Carrie and Olivia and my Midway Furry team. And yet hearing you right now, I'm resonating completely. Our conversation about that experience was decidedly different. It was telling somebody who wasn't there, who didn't hold any sort of responsibility in that experience, but could hear and reflect and ask in a very different way of supporting and witnessing me than would have been accessible to somebody who was there as part of the acute.

 

Muriel:

[32:52] Yeah, who was responsible, you know? So, yeah, absolutely. I think it's really powerful to have someone who you can speak with who wasn't necessarily in that space and didn't, just like you said, like a real blank. Because, yeah, both conversations can be really powerful, both the processing with your midwife and then, yeah.

 

Kit:

[33:15] Yeah. Yeah, exactly. And just, and just to say, I remember describing your work to my husband, before, I kind of want to say before we hired you, but it was like, we were clearly going to I was like, I think we should do this thing that I've already completely decided we're doing. And, and Reno, I mean, flash forward, just like adores, loves you so much. And in that moment, I do understand that he was like, well, I'll, I'll look after you. I'll cook for you. You know, I'll be there for you. And I was like, I don't know fully how to explain this to you, but it will be different. And you just need to trust me on this. Like, I need this. We need this. Like, please suspend your, your hesitation because this is my ask. And then after like the first, I want to say 10 minutes, but it probably was even faster than that. If you in our kitchen, is what he says like completely changed his perspective and then by the time you left a few hours later he was like so how do we get Meryl to come every day yeah.

 

Muriel:

[34:24] Well, and so to speak for that, and then to go a little bit into like, speaking about you, like, as an individual client, just like a kind of pearl that I want to share with everyone that I got to witness being with you is that the job of a postpartum doula is actually very counterculture. Like when you think about it, like my job is to walk into someone's house and host them. And as a society, we're like really programmed to like someone walks into your house, especially someone you don't know, because most people that I'm working with are not dear friends of mine. Maybe I've met them a few times, but a lot of times I'm meeting for them for the first time when I walk into their home for a first visit. it. And I think of my job as like, how quickly but how gently can I reverse the role here so you don't spend an ounce of your energy hosting me or thinking you need to care for me because I've come into your home. I'm actually here to care for you. And it's hard, like even for people who reach out to me for care, sometimes it can be a real barrier to receive the care because it's just not a muscle that we practice all the time. Really, I think until we have babies, then we really start exercising that muscle of like asking. And so to speak to just how amazing you are, Kit, and how like inspiring it was to be with you.

 

Muriel:

[35:50] It's really unusual, actually, for me to hear from first-time parents seeking care. I'm usually working with, like, second, third, fourth-time parents because they've gone through the first time and they're like, oh, yeah, that was really hard. We want some help. We don't want to do that again. I do work with first-time parents, but it's just not the dominant group or demographic. I'm usually working with, yeah, people who've already had babies. And so it was so beautiful to work with you because you were already working on this like intuition and wisdom that you knew you needed more that you deserved more that you wanted the support and you received it so deeply and so openly and so beautifully and it's such a rich experience for me as a care provider providing care when it's being received so openly and there's such trust.

 

Muriel:

[36:48] And that's not always the case. Not everyone can get there. And that's okay. I mean, we're all working with our different sets of trauma and what we're holding and how comfortable we can get in situations. But I think that it's just something that anyone expecting a baby, it's such a good muscle to start slowly working on during pregnancy. And as you're thinking about growing your family is like if you know you struggle to receive and you know you struggle to ask for help what are like the little ways in your life you can start practicing so that your experience can be like as rich as possible and what you need will be provided for you because you can receive it and so I just loved working with you and Reno because it felt so easeful to provide the care because you just so openly trusted me and like you know I just always felt like you were just like yeah you've got this like I don't there was never I didn't feel like I ever had to check in with you and make sure that you were you know it was just I felt really trusted, and there's a real richness to the care when that dynamic is in the room so So that's just a little bow to you. Wise, wise mother.

 

Kit:

[38:15] Thank you. I'm networking to receive that.

 

Kit:

[38:21] And, you know, I've, I think I've already shared in this season of this podcast that this mantra that came to me about a couple of weeks before birthing was, I trust my body, I trust my baby, I trust my team. And that carried with me through the birthing portal, but way through postpartum. And really, I carry it with me. You know, Mark is 15 months old and I still keep thinking that. And if I say that to myself and I feel a little wobbliness in it, then it is instructive to me to look like, okay, what's coming up for you that is blocking you from really trusting your body or your baby or your team? And the members of the team shift through each phase. But just feeling so fortunate that you were part and are part of this team and so trustworthy. Worthy and to me it's like yeah I mean you were so so thoughtful to say you know would you like to review the menus would you like to I just was like nope anything that I have to throw out there that could limit your magic like I am not here to do that I wouldn't have known to come up with a chia seed stirred with fresh berries from your garden I'm not saying anything I will just have I mean.

 

Muriel:

[39:47] I love the like background is that, yeah, my clients usually like I'm like ahead of the visit. I'm like, OK, what are we going to do? Actually, at the time we were working together, I didn't have an established menu. Now I do. But at that time, I would just kind of week by week do a check in ahead of the visit and be like, how are you feeling? Are we wanting what what level of food prep are we wanting this week? How many meals are we going to go for? Are you in the mood for anything? I mean, I feel it was really individualized. And I think you're the only person ever that's just been like, whatever. Whatever you think. And I'd be like, oh my gosh, this is so fun. Okay, you asked for it. You know, it was just, I really had to hang around.

 

Kit:

[40:30] I mean, everything was our favorite dish, right? And so that's what just kept like building the trust and the really like we would have to hold like, no, no, don't say we want that thing again. Because she'll either magically provide it or it will be something else that will be our favorite dish. Like there's no, there's no.

 

Muriel:

[40:51] Yeah that was really fun I kind of forgot about that.

 

Kit:

[40:54] Yeah it.

 

Muriel:

[40:55] Was that was really great yeah.

 

Kit:

[40:57] Um and just to say yeah that that check-in that I mean one day I talked to you for what felt like hours about my teeth like that for me right and just to have somebody listen and validate that like I wanted to go to the dentist and I was freaked out about we were negotiating like new insurance. I don't know. I was just experiencing all this stress in this sort of strange vertical of my life for being two weeks postpartum. And just having somebody hold that and be with me in the way you can be was really so important.

 

Muriel:

[41:37] Well, and that I think speaks to, you know, I think of like people having babies and the elderly, strangely, in like kind of the same demographic of kind of invisible to the rest of society and that kind of disappear. And unless you are in either of those worlds intentionally as like an elderly care provider, or you have someone elderly in your life, and then again, unless you're having a baby or your sister's having a baby or whatever, you're not really operating in that kind of world. And both of those populations of people can be very isolated and very shut off. Right.

 

Muriel:

[42:12] Because it's a lot of energy and time and it's the both seasons of life of those, both of those seasons of life move at a much slower pace. Right. And when we're out of that, we're like, boom, boom, boom. Now I'm going to go to work and I'm going to come home. I'm going to cook for my kids. But when you're home with a new baby, you're just like in your bed. And when you don't have people coming to check on you and you don't have regular contact with people, it's hard because I remember that day and you were having trouble with your teeth. And it was just like, oh, yeah, well, this is the dentist I go to. And it's just on a really human level, it's just like, OK, you need some resources. Let's let's brainstorm this out where especially after having a baby, kind of your brain's mushy and it's hard to think straight. And you a lot of times question yourself a lot. And I think it's really helpful to have regular contact with people you trust to have these check in points, whether it's like literally just being together and feeling connected Or like helping brainstorm like an actual real life thing that's going on that you don't necessarily have the capacity to deal with, but you're still a person in the world that has to deal with it.

 

Kit:

[43:22] Yeah. So yeah, that level of care, the food, the conversation, the support, your magical ability to tidy up and leave little flowers places. places and all of that. It was also really inspiring, I think, to people around me and to Renaud and my parents who were in and out and just, it felt like, not that they weren't doing this also, they were helping tidy up and everything as well, but it just set a nice sort of template, I think, because you were there being so supportive and people could follow that lead and see the ways in which that was offering such value to me and my journey. So that was really powerful as well.

 

Muriel:

[44:08] And yeah, I'm realizing one more thing as you say that, like remembering being there with your parents who were so amazing. I remember one day your dad, I think, and Mark were just, your dad had him all morning and he was just sleeping on him. And when we have loved ones come into our house, they are partially usually wanting to help, but they also partially are wanting to bond and connect with their new family member, right? Their new grandchild, their new nephew, their new niece. And what's unique about working with a postpartum doula is they're coming into your house with no expectation to hold your baby, no expectation to have moments of bonding. They're really just there for you. So it is a very different energy because there's no other agenda than to help you. And there's no, like for a lot of people, they feel obligated to like make sure the visit was okay. And they got The parent got enough, you know, their mom got enough time with the baby. And it's just, it's the absence of all of that. It's actually just like, okay, now you can just close your eyes, go to sleep. I can hold the baby if you want me to, but I don't need to. Like, what do you need? And that's kind of the great thing about.

 

Muriel:

[45:26] Support that's not necessarily a family member, even though I feel like there are plenty of family members out there. And I've also witnessed this who have unbelievably supportive, unconditional love for the birthing people in their lives and do show up in like incredible ways. And it's been cool to be alongside that too. And your parents included. Yeah.

 

Kit:

[45:46] Yeah. They were so amazing, thing but also I think they understood and I think I did my best to allow it to be again that I wasn't hosting and yeah you did a.

 

Muriel:

[46:00] Really good job at that yeah.

 

Kit:

[46:01] Yeah my midwifery team I'm now remembering in the home visit a couple of weeks before the birth spoke a lot about that a lot about like cautioning me away from that and being mindful of where I would slip into because I did I wanted to know what foods they wanted in the house. And I love them.

 

Muriel:

[46:24] And the majority of our life, that is how we're operating with people that we love, right? It is the role reversal, even with our family. To be like, actually, this short season, I'm not thinking about you at all or your needs at all. Because there's this other need that is pressing and demanding. And that's where all my attention is going to. and yeah I feel like you held that boundary beautifully like you did such a good job I think it was only maybe our last visit that you came downstairs to the kitchen you were in bed for, which I love I like love that it was the best and I think I was surprised that like it was at eight weeks I was like oh you're downstairs what are you doing yeah.

 

Kit:

[47:10] I was like what are you doing your kids.

 

Muriel:

[47:14] Okay.

 

Kit:

[47:20] Well, will you tell us also about the work you do with placentas?

 

Muriel:

[47:25] Yeah, so I encapsulate placentas both for my postpartum clients, but actually the majority of the time, it's not my postpartum clients. It's just people that reach out to me that hear about me through their midwife or strangely, I'd say 90%, not strangely, but it is surprising to me, probably like 90% of the placentas I encapsulate are actually for hospital births. I very rarely encapsulate placentas for home births.

 

Muriel:

[47:54] Partly because I know there's a lot of midwives that do placenta encapsulation. So I think a lot of times when you're in the home setting, if you already have someone in your team that offers that service, you're just going to keep it in house because it's just easy and they're there. But a lot of midwives don't. And so, yeah, and so and I encapsulated your placenta after birth and I got into that my My first kind of foray into placenta work was actually the first birth I ever attended. I'm not a birth doula and I don't do that professionally, but I've attended a handful of friends' births. And the first birth that I attended, just as a friend, she asked me to do it following the birth. And it was just kind of this magical moment for me of like, her baby was born, I think around like midnight. night and it was like three in the morning and I was like in her kitchen processing her. I had just like called my midwives from my first birth and I was like, how do I do this? You know, which is like so old school, so old school. It's just like, isn't that the way that this work has been passed down? It's like really passed down and we can commodify it and we can source it out. But I was like, I'm just going to ask my midwives, how they do it. You're on the phone. You just talked me through it because it was a really last minute decision on her part.

 

Muriel:

[49:21] I, I don't remember, or maybe she had decided, but yeah, it was just, it was so amazing. And then, you know, the following day, just like she was in bed and I brought her her pills and the whole thing was just so magical. And I felt like it was so full circle. And then the more I learned about the placenta and as an endocrine organ, the job that it does for us during pregnancy and our body and hormone regulation, it intuitively made so much sense to me that consuming the placenta traditionally can be a really powerful way to support your hormones postpartum. And then also on a nutritional level, there's this This really amazing woman, Lily Nichols, who's.

 

Muriel:

[50:10] Dietician and she does extensive research into pregnancy and postpartum and she's done some really incredible research into placenta consuming placenta as iron supplements following childbirth and so I kind of love the duality of both you know that kind of like we can support our bodies and our hormone regulation and also it can be a really powerful way to support our iron levels is postpartum when the majority of people have a bit of blood loss. And if you're already starting at an anemic low place, you can really struggle postpartum with anemia. And so I really loved, I feel like I continue to learn more. My acupuncturist three or four years ago told me that the placenta in Chinese medicine is actually considered medicine for the baby. be.

 

Muriel:

[51:07] And so it's actually typically not consumed in China. It's not consumed by the mother. Maybe it is a little bit, but it's also saved for the child and kept in the freezer. And then in early childhood, as they're developing, it's used if they develop allergies or if they get really sick, the mother will put the powdered placenta into their food. It's like, I almost think of it as like homeopathy, this really gentle way to support the system from this organ that kept them alive, you know, it was like part of them and you.

 

Muriel:

[51:44] So I just find the placenta to be this really miraculous organ and this really miraculous thing that our body makes. And then magically we don't need any more. And it's cool to think about like how we could still use it and how we could still like utilize and harness its power postpartum. So yeah, I do that as well.

 

Kit:

[52:08] Yeah. I mean, I just loved receiving the pills. I felt so fortunate to have them when I was trying to rebuild my blood and support my hormonal health as well. And we do still have more leftover in our freezer and it just feels really supportive. It's like we have this like magic in our freezer for Mark. Yeah. Yeah.

 

Muriel:

[52:32] It's total magic.

 

Kit:

[52:34] So, so beautiful. Well, I just, I'm wondering if you'd be open to sharing a little bit about anything that comes up when I say your, your womb story and your journey with your womb and any ways that you intentionally support that relationship and yourself and your womb.

 

Muriel:

[52:54] I feel like my children have been my connection point and almost like my pregnancies and my postpartum, especially my first pregnancy and postpartum, was the first time I feel like I had an active, engaged relationship with my womb and my reproductive center. And again, I like the first word I want to use is embarrassed, but I'm not going to use it because it's not my fault that I grew up in a society that didn't educate me about my reproductive system. But I knew almost nothing about my body until I got pregnant for the first time. I mean, when our first child was conceived, which was not a planned pregnancy, the next day after my husband and I had sex, you know, there was a little like, I think he looked at me and he was like, Oh, could you be pregnant? And I was like, I don't know. Cause I didn't know, like I wasn't tracking my cycles and you know, it was just kind of like a one-off like whoopsies. Yeah.

 

Muriel:

[54:07] And I had no idea when I was ovulating and I just knew nothing about my body and I was not engaged with that part of my body. And I was actually on birth control for a really long time from being in my teens until my like early 20s. That gate that I can't remember the name of specifically what I was on, but I only had a period like twice a year. And that was not an empowered decision on my part. It was like, I was a teenager. I was like interested in having sex. And I didn't feel like I had a lot of people to talk. I just, it wasn't an empowered decision. It was just kind of like, what do I do? And I just feel so excited now as mother to two little boys that I get to raise them in a way that they see my blood every month and they ask questions about it and they think it's like really cool.

 

Muriel:

[55:08] And they want to talk to me about my body and they want to hear about the work that I do and are really engaged because I think and again this is no like I don't think it's my mother's either or like anyone around me I think just societally we've just for so long shut the door on that conversation and there's just so long this stigma around our bodies and what they do which is magic and it's beautiful and it feels like we're in this awakening of just like we need to know we need to know what our bodies are capable of and we need to understand them to be healthy in the world and so I'm excited to live in a time where there's community including you're a part of that community of just engaging with our wombs and our, and the power of our bodies.

 

Muriel:

[56:04] And yeah, I think I got, I mean, I think I was one and a half years postpartum. I learned about fertility awareness, which is how I found Kimberly Ann Johnson, which is how I found steamy chick, which is, so it was like my interest in like tracking my cycles because realizing after I got pregnant, like I had no clue. And just the little that I learned in pregnancy about my cycles, I was just like, oh my gosh, I can't believe I don't know anything about this. This is crazy. This is so amazing. I need to know when I'm ovulating. I want to understand these parts of my cycles. And I just like really nerded out in it for a long time. I love talking to people postpartum about their cycles and about tracking their cycles postpartum and their period returns. And I just feel infinitely more engaged and connected and powerful in that part of my body since having kids. But I wish for everyone that that empowerment comes before. I'd love to have felt that before having kids. But I won't bemoan it or feel resentful or sad. I will just be happy that I do now. But I think that how exciting would it be if 13-year-old girls felt that way.

 

Kit:

[57:26] Oh, I'd be with you on that visit, holding that.

 

Muriel:

[57:29] Yeah.

 

Kit:

[57:30] I mean, just amazing because also let me just share, you know, you came to all of that in your late twenties, which on the one hand sure is after you were pregnant for the first time, but also I came to it in my late twenties, early thirties as well because of a different series of events, but similar age. Right. And I think, and I too was like, I have been studying women's health now for years. How was that? And I don't think about the four different phases and understanding that tracking your cycle isn't some myth. It's actually available to us and available as a way to experience the most potential vitality and connection to intuition and everything else that it can offer us so to hold that not only can we carry that with us in our lives moving forward but just for younger younger people of all genders and sexes to know and to just be raised with the normalcy of like seeing menstrual blood and seeing women and folks steam like I get asked that a lot like like you know I hope that our kids just.

 

Kit:

[58:51] Are sort of think steaming is ubiquitous or, and start to understand, you know, different steaming schedules and stuff. And that paying attention to your body and to the rhythms and to the changes is part of growing up, you know, part of growing up and conversations are normalized and way, way deeper and richer than they certainly were for me growing up as well.

 

Muriel:

[59:15] I don't know if you have like show notes where you link any like resources, but if anyone listening to this is feeling like, I don't know anything about my cycle and I want to learn more. My favorite book about this, about our reproductive centers and our cycles and fertility awareness tracking is called The Fifth Vital Sign. And it's Lisa Hendrickson-Jacks. And she's amazing. And she has a podcast called Fertility Friday. And that's where I, that, again, I think it was all through Kimberly Ann Johnson. I think, I can't remember how I found her, but I think she interviewed Kelly Garza one week. She interviewed Lisa Hendricks and Jax one week. And I just, she's like, this is amazing. I don't know anything about any of this.

 

Kit:

[1:00:06] I remember the first time. I think I first heard of Lisa Hendricks and Jax through Kimberly Ann Johnson's podcast. And then I've done five of Fertility Friday and the fifth vital sign and all of that work is so pivotal. So I'll absolutely link that. And thank you for breaking that down for people that, yes, there's so much to learn. And there are actually really accessible

 

Kit:

[1:00:29] ways to start engaging with that.

 

Muriel:

[1:00:33] For sure. I knew nothing. I knew close to nothing when I read that book. And it felt so intuitive. And I really, really like my favorite book on the topic to this day. Yeah.

 

Kit:

[1:00:45] So beautiful. Can I ask, when you say your boys are seeing your menstrual blood, how are you doing that? What are you doing with it?

 

Muriel:

[1:00:53] Well, most parents, most mothers know that you rarely go to the bathroom alone. So it's just that my children follow me into the bathroom. Even when I'm like, I want to go poop by myself, please. Especially when I have my period because I'm like crampy. I just want to like sit on the toilet for a minute. But usually one of them is, especially our three and a half year old is like right at my feet. Or, you know, our seven year old will wander in. We're in this funny, all the doors in our house. like none of them actually close. They're all just like swinging doors. So it's like, even right now I'm just praying no kid will like barge into the room because there's no lock on it. It's not even like a latch.

 

Muriel:

[1:01:35] So they just, I wouldn't say I'm intentionally trying to involve them in my cycle. I think I'm, I think I feel more like I want them to engage in it and come to it and be interested in it in a way that feels like true to them. And maybe they'll grow up and not be interested in it at all. But maybe one of them will have a partner one day who menstruates. And how cool would that be for them to be a supportive and knowledgeable partner to that person? So I just feel like when they ask questions, I love to engage with it. And I love to answer and our three and a half year old for a while I mean for a long time it was really scary to him like when he would see blood in my underwear he would be like, mama you know look at me with a really concerned face and so it's been really cool to kind of have that evolution of him with him where now it doesn't scare him at all and he's just like that's your blood look at you there's your blood mama you know so that's his little evolution which which is probably developmentally appropriate is just to use to scare him. And now he knows it's normal. So it's really gentle, like normalizing of like, yeah, this is what my body does. It's every month. And I'm a little grumpy too.

 

Muriel:

[1:03:01] I'm crying. And there we are. You know, I feel like I really lay it all out to bear in front of my children for better or worse, but I hope that I hope that they grow up. Knowing they can lay it all out and bear it all in front of the people that they love and feel safe so i think of vulnerability as like every time we're vulnerable with someone we give them the permission to be vulnerable that's the same in my work like when i'm vulnerable with a client i know i'm giving them permission vice versa that's i think how we like kind of reweave the the fibers of community and connection is like exercising again that like vulnerability muscle and I think about that with my kids too oh.

 

Kit:

[1:03:46] My goodness so beautiful, are you still making your beautiful calendars.

 

Muriel:

[1:03:54] I this year we're taking a break but we don't have a new one this year but I do have their it's kind of cool because they're not year specific specific because they're not, the numbers, the days don't correlate to the way it's structured. It doesn't, it could be any year. So I do have a small pile of last year's that I'll put up for sale soon for anyone who wants like another version of last year's to go into next year, because yeah, it's not year specific, but we don't have like a new edition coming out this year, but probably next year we'll pick it back up. But I do actually have digital downloads on my website there are digital downloads of the chart part it's just the full calendar has artwork that my dear friend does for it and the digital download doesn't have any the artwork it's just printable, sheets of the charting part which is also still fun I tried to like approach it in a more like, just in a different angle than I've seen on any other charting and what felt intuitive to me and I thought maybe it would feel intuitive to other people wonderful absolutely yeah I.

 

Kit:

[1:05:02] Will link to that as well you know thank you so much for your time today your your love to me and my family and the love you share world is it's so wonderful and it reverberates and you're just so special and dear and i'm so grateful to you thank you.

 

Muriel:

[1:05:23] Thank you for having me kit i feel all those things for you my dear one.

 

Kit’s Outro:

Thank you so much for listening to this conversation with Muriel. I hope you enjoyed it, and I am really looking forward to publishing the conversations that I've had over the past year with my midwife and my parents and my husband about what it was like to either be at the birth or to be such an active supporter of my decision to have a home birth with my son Mark. So all of those conversations will be coming out under the umbrella of Womb Stories Project Season 2.  

 

I mention this because we're going to be doing something a little bit unconventional, and it feels really good, which feels very emblematic of Womb Stories Project.

 

So we are going to be launching a Season 3 simultaneously with the release of the Season 2 conversations, and you'll learn a lot more about Season 3 soon, but let me just say that it is a series of conversations with my beloved soul sister, Rachel, who has been walking a path of pleasure for many years, and we met through my work in celebrating pleasure as a North Star for our sexuality and what that means and how it might shift our world. And this is a concept that I've been playing with, dancing with, screaming from the rooftops about at different times, retreating at other times, and now coming forth for the first time in a little bit,  in about five years, to really speak intentionally about the power of pleasure as healing, particularly for our wombs, and really name the potency of orgasm into this conversation and field. So these are very exciting conversations.

 

They're super fun. We do go deep, but we laugh a lot, and we invite you to learn and laugh and enjoy with us. And so those conversations are coming soon.

 

Please stay tuned. They will be under Season 3 of Womb Stories Project, and in the meantime, I invite you to go over to KataraLove.com. You are welcome to sign up to emails there and receive womb wisdom from me to your inbox, as well as be the first to know about new products that come through for Katara and other special treats that I like to share with the Katara community. So that is KataraLove.com, and until next time, as always, sending loads of love.

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