I’m so excited to have this interview with Christie Ellis, the Seattle based postpartum doula behind Nourished Postpartum. It’s always such a pleasure for me to hear how my peers began their careers in birth work and I’m honored Christie took the time out of her busy practice to answer a few questions about how Nourished Postpartum was conceived.
What inspired you to become a Postpartum Doula?
I was inspired to become a postpartum doula by my own personal experience as a new mom. Living in Seattle, thousands of miles away from my extended family, I entered life after childbirth very alone, except for the couple weeks that my parents and in-laws visited in the beginning. I was so grateful for their company, yet it didn’t take long to realize that it can take much more than a few weeks to integrate a birth experience and adjust to life as a parent. While I did have a supportive spouse, local friends and a mom’s group that I participated in weekly, the lack of in-home help led to isolation and suffering for me. After I emerged from the newborn fog of my second child, I resolved to be part of creating more positive experiences for other parents. I wanted to offer parents nourishment, encouragement, and nonjudgmental support as they find their way in those early days, and it turns out, becoming a postpartum doula let me do just that.
When we show up in parenting, tune in to the needs of our child, and respond to them in love, we are doing a great job. And that is more than enough.
Do you offer any other services related to your Doula work?
I do! In addition to being a postpartum doula, I’m also a massage therapist specializing in in-home postnatal massage. I love being able to offer soothing touch that nourishes parents’ nervous system, helps them reconnect with themselves as individuals, and places a value on self-care.
What is your philosophy?
My philosophy is that my job is to nourish and nurture new parents so that they have the energy and confidence to face the challenges of early parenting and discover their own unique parenting style. There are already many people in parents’ lives telling them how they should do their job. Instead of adding yet another opinion to the heap, my style is to step back, encourage parents to tune in to their inner wisdom, and walk with them along the way. In addition to emotional support, I also nurture new families with food designed to meet their physiologic needs during the postpartum time. By offering massage, belly binding, and support in mindfulness practices to my clients, I’m able to further support their well-being and optimal recovery.
Why do you feel Doula support is so important for new and growing families?
American society has become increasingly individualistic and geographically mobile, leaving many parents without much support after birth and thinking they somehow should be able to do it all on their own. Yet when we look at traditional cultures, we see notable trends of honor for new parents and communities that surround and support the new family, not only with baby shower gifts, but with wisdom, nourishing food, bodywork, and respect. Society has changed, but of course, our human needs have not. The support from a postpartum doula helps bridge that gap, especially for those with strained family relationships or whose relatives live far away. Parenting is not meant to be done in isolation, and having loving, thoughtful support in the early days can impact a family positively for years to come.
The best parenting methods are the ones that work for each individual family. When we consciously tune in to ourselves and our own children, our personal best will emerge.
How has being a mother impacted your work positively?
Being a mother has allowed me to tap into a deep capacity to empathize and nurture others without judgment; this is a skill that I think was always there for me on some level yet bloomed fully after giving birth myself. As a parent, I understand how challenging and frightening this role can be and how it can stretch us even when we feel we couldn’t possibly stretch anymore. I see the resilience, fierce love, and determination that characterizes parents after birth because I, too, have been there. This allows me to offer profound respect and empathy as I support others in this season of life.
What have you discovered through your doula work or training, which would have been of value to you in your own postpartum experiences?
That there really is no one right way to parent! Because of my fierce love for my daughter, I was determined to be the best mom that I could be, which at the time I thought meant that I needed to discover and implement the ideal method of parenting, whatever that was. This caused me great stress and distress, of course, when I found no such magic bullet, and I wish I’d realized sooner that the best parenting methods are the ones that work for each individual family. When we consciously tune in to ourselves and our own children, our personal best will emerge. This was more valuable to me than all the technique-oriented advice in the world.
If you could share some words of wisdom with a new mother who’s trying to do it all “perfect,” what would they be?
I would echo the words taught to me by MotherWoman, a fantastic organization dedicated to helping moms speak the truth about motherhood: “We don’t have to be perfect to be perfectly good mothers. You are the right mother for your child.” Parenting is so individual and the demands so relentless that we set ourselves up for disappointment when we expect perfection from ourselves. The truth is that when we show up in parenting, tune in to the needs of our child, and respond to them in love, we are doing a great job. And that is more than enough.
Photo courtesy of Christie Ellis