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” Right up until the time I birthed, I was working 60 hours a week and so being home with my son and being able to rest and get to know him. It almost felt a like a vacation. Although I was sleep deprived and I kind of felt like I was in a dream those first few days. “
Episode 59 Jennifer Whelan Hoeprich is a Certified Professional Midwife with her practice Moxie Midwifery in Tempe, Arizona. She is a Board Certified Hypnotherapist and a Certified Meditation Teacher. She lives in Chandler Arizona with her husband and 12 year old son Vaughn.
Jennifer was born in small town Water Valley, Mississippi, whose claim to fame is having one grocery store called Piggly Wiggly. Her mother was born at home in that same small town and when she was 5 years old they moved to Lake Havasu, a retirement community, which is in Arizona. It also has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the state as there was not a lot to do. Jennifer was creative at home,she made magazines, got into journalism, and was writing little things that she has kept since then. This was all before blog posts were a thing. We laughed at how the paper journal is old school. Jennifer had an older brother and an older sister, who were both in their early to mid 20s when she was born. Since she never lived with them, she felt pretty much an only child. We talked about the return of coloring books and how adults are using them to explore the arts and relax. Jennifer mentions using them in her prenatal meditation class.
Preparing to breastfeed: She read Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth which was her “go to” book during her pregnancy. Her son was born at a birth center in Phoenix, (Bethany Birth Center) and she had a really great experience there. She remembers the first time she latched her baby on. She was still at the birth center. She put him to the breast for the first time and remembers the feeling being quite intense and said to herself: Wow really! this is what woman do! Well, I guess I am going to get used to this. It was a really beautiful experience. He was in my arms, looking around and when he started cueing to feed, my doula helped me get him to the breast. She was home within 2 hours as she felt fine and ready to go home. Her favorite picture is her at home, in her own bed and nursing her son.
Over the first couple of days the experience of breast changes from pregnancy to milk coming in, when she first got engorged, she was like WOW! My breasts looked awesome. I was lucky, I did not have to deal with anything more than 24 hours of tenderness and slight engorgement as I was in bed and nursing him whenever he wanted to. She did not have any concerns about co-sleeping with her baby, neither did her husband or her sister in law who spent a few weeks with her. Her sister-in-law helped take care of the house and meals while she could relax and bond with her baby. She was a manager at a health insurance company. Right up until she birthed she was working 60 hours a week when she birthed her son, she was sleep deprived, but she was so happy to be home and in bed with her baby getting to know him. She did not miss cooking or cleaning, taking care of the home or at work. She knew she was only going to be home for 6 weeks and wanted to make the most of it at home with her son. Besides being sleep deprived, breastfeeding went fairly smooth. By day 5 or 6, she started to have some nipple pain and started to bleed a little bit. The birthing center had a nurse who came to see her at home. She came out and watched me latch and helped me get a better latch. Once I made the adjustment, it took about a week for my nipples to fully heal. The adjustments she made were to make sure his mouth was open really wide and to bring him on to the breast quickly like he was going to take a bit out of a big hamburger.
Transition back to work: Jennifer says that she dreaded going back to work. She loved the connection she had and yet knew she had to return to work. Her baby had to go to daycare 5 days a week when he was 6 weeks old and stayed there for 9 to 10 hours a day. Leaving her son, returning to work, trying to return to her usual schedule at work, while keeping up with all things motherhood and keep up the pumping, was all really hard for her. With this mindset to keep up with everything at work, even though she had a great boss who was fine with her pumping, she pumped less and less and her supply began to drop. She got to a point where she was giving her baby half formula and half breastmilk. Within a few short months, she switched to all formula.
Jennifer did not understand to the full extent how a decrease in her pumping would mean to her supply. She was so caught up and distracted with work. Pressure to do it all was self-imposed. She admits to trying to keep up with everything in her life before she had her baby and now keep up with everything as a mom. Pumping is a lot of extra work. However, she would do things differently now.
What Jennifer would do different: She would not go back to work. She has observed with her clients that a lot of moms do well if they have a part time gig, where they can make a little money for the family, be social, but the majority of their time is spent bonding and being with their child. It seems like a lot of moms who choose this route, seem to have an overall sense of satisfaction and happiness. If I had to do it all over I would have quit that job, perhaps found a part time job in the company that I was already working at or found another part time job. She recognize that she may have been able to cut corners and even with her husband’s teacher’s salary, still have been okay financially. She feels she certainly would have been a happier new mother.
Jennifer talks about postpartum depression: As she looks back on her own experience, she feels that she suffered from undiagnosed postpartum depression ( ppd). I never saw anyone about it as it was not debilitating and I was still working 50 hours a week at that point. I felt that my own connection with my son, my own sanity, and level of happiness and joy in life. If she had to do it all over again, she would have prioritized her connection with him. She realized years later when she was studying as a doula that she started to learn about ppd. She realized that the signs and symptoms were similar to what she experienced pp. We talked about the fact that ppd is being talked about more now during the early days of pp, but not talked about so much about it happening in the first full year after birth.
Her midwifery practice: Jennifer talks about what policies she has put in place during prenatal visits with moms to help them learn what to expect in the early days of breastfeeding, as well as post partum depression. She has a built in program, where she connects with moms at 1 day and 3 days and 7 days, and 3 weeks and 6 weeks and in between there are phone calls and texts to ensure that all is well and they stay connected. Jennifer talked about visiting her local ICAN ( International Cesarean Awareness Network where they talked about ppd at length. This has prompted her to add another layer to her practice to help support moms pp. She is going to offer to her clients to see an expert who specializes in this. They can see her prenatally to develop a plan and a follow up visit with her as well. I just feel like it is not being paid as much attention to it in our culture.
Preparing for breastfeeding: In her practice, she begins talking about breastfeeding in the third trimester. She has a lending library and encourages moms to read. She talks a lot about community and how vital it is that moms get connected to other breastfeeding women in their community. She encourages her clients during pregnancy to attend a local LLL meeting as well as other Free breastfeeding groups that they can attend pp. It is the perfect place for moms to go once they have their baby. She talks about the first hour after birth. She helps moms with the first latch. She has a checklist that her practice reviews before leaving the home of her clients. She wants to be sure they are feeling confident with breastfeeding before they leave. There is also a lot of follow up for breastfeeding as well as a referral to a local IBCLC if there are issues beyond the basics. Jennifer feels strongly about referring moms to IBCLC as she recognizes the high level of experience that an IBCLC has.
Becoming a doula and training as a midwife: It was in the moments after her son was born, that she felt she wanted to become a midwife. She first trained and became certified as a birth doula when her son was 6 months old. She enjoyed a doula partnership for 2 years and accumulated attended over 200 births. Jennifer remarked at how there were only about 15-20 doulas in the Phoenix Metro area 10 years ago and she enjoyed her work. Most of her births were in the hospital. At a certain point, Jennifer began to realize certain patterns and she soon changed how she practiced and the clients that she decided to work with. She recognized that she could only do so much as a doula. It was so much more satisfying and she was able to do her job the best when the mom was with a care provider who truly did respect natural birth.
Jennifer started her apprenticeship in January 2008. Her son was 4 and he was a bit older and she felt like she was ready to be out of corp world and had enough. Her midwifery teacher, saw her at a long birth and was with client 40 hours straight with a hospital transport. the midwife pulled me aside a few weeks later and asked her out to lunch and said to me: Jennifer, you know that you are a midwife, right! And Jennifer knew this was true. She invited her to be an app and it was the best decision she ever made.
Weekly meditation group: They get together weekly on Monday evenings at her practice in Tempe. There is a different theme each week. They did coloring meditation last week. They have done candlelight and vipassana meditation. Every week the one thing that stays the same is ending the group with a guided meditation. Jennifer is creating different scripts to read at different stages – prenatal, breastfeeding, postpartum. She describes it kind of like hypnobirthing where she is encouraging moms to relax. This is a way to get into a meditative state without having to be an expert in meditation.
Benefits of guided meditation: There are chemicals that get released during meditation that cross the placenta. The main chemical is melatonin. This is the same chemical that is released when you are watching a sunset, relaxing, sitting in a candlelit room. Your baby is getting bathed in this hormone during meditation. When listening to the script while breastfeeding, you are relaxing and sending love to your baby, affirming all the numerous benefits that breastfeeding brings to you the baby and the environment. This is a wonderful way for moms to take time for themselves, to relax and rejuvenate. When a mother has a full cup, she then has something to give. She is currently working on specific scripts and plans on having an iPhone app of all these meditations that are s specific to pregnancy and birth and breastfeeding and postpartum.
Jennifer talks singing bowls: Small mallet that you use to run around the top edge of the bowl that makes different tones and creates this really beautiful and meditative music.
Jennifer’s parting words of wisdom to the breastfeeding mother: She just wants woman to reach out and find resources in their community. She wants women to know that they can breastfeed. You can do it!
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