Doula Rachel Nicks shares a bit about fitness, birth, and motherhood.
What inspired you to become a doula?
I grew up with a beautiful image of birth.
My mother told us about her birth stories, and although they were not easy or quick, she always spoke of them with an essence of confidence and beauty. As a result, I dreamed of the day I would give birth to my children. I knew it would be a challenge but I felt empowered and equipped. I did not know what a doula was until about 10 years ago. I was in a relationship, and we began discussing having children. I began reading about babies and birth and when I watched The Business of Being Born my life was forever changed. I was pretty disgusted with the way we handle birth and maternal health in this country. When I began teaching fitness many of my students were pregnant or postpartum and I never felt confident enough to serve them so I began seeking out pre/postnatal certifications to better serve them as their trainer. During this time, I discovered doula work and began to do research. I talked about it so much my boyfriend (now husband) was like, “just do it!” One of my students saw me reading The DOula Book and said, do it, I'll be your first birth. And that was that.
Why is it important to be educated on childbirth?
EMPOWER yourself by educating yourself so that you can make educated decisions for your pregnancy birth and postpartum. You want to make sure you leave your birth feeling empowered and part of the process. I would hate for any woman to leave her birth feeling like it happened to her. You may not get the perfect birth you envisioned, but you can certainly be an active participant making empowered choices. My mother always taught me, “Only you know what is best for your body and your baby.” I have held onto that wisdom as a mother.
What are some things you recommend to help the body heal postpartum?
Rest, Cuddle, and Hydrate.
Those are my top 3 suggestions. The six weeks mark means nothing; remember your body has to heal from the inside out. Everyone's journey is different, so NEVER compare yourself to someone else or one pregnancy journey to the next because my two postpartum journeys are different; not immensely, but they are unique and we all owe it to ourselves to be present and give ourselves grace and self-love to allow ourselves to heal. I believe in self-CARE. Make sure you nap when you can, shower by noon if you can, and put on some mascara and a little perfume- whatever makes you feel good. You can get mani/pedis, or get your brows and lashes done. It's difficult to recognize yourself after having a baby, so it's important to maintain the things that you love and that make you feel beautiful. I also love going to the chiropractor, acupuncturist, and getting massages. Whatever you can fit in, try it!
What are some tips to staying healthy during pregnancy and postpartum?
Rest, Exercise, and Nutrition
I highly recommend caring for your temple and your baby during pregnancy and postpartum. Rest is huge, and listen to your body because every day is different. Some days you need lots of rest and other days you are ready for a challenging workout. Movement always makes you feel better, so I suggest trying to move your body for at least 15 minutes a day. From a gentle stretch or yoga session to a more intense cardio or strength workout. I'm a huge advocate for pelvic floor health- please do you kegels. It’s important to know how to strengthen and release the pelvic floor and relaxing the muscles is important for birth. Strengthening the muscles is important because the pelvic floor is the foundation to your strength and will prevent incontinence. I teach a variety of pelvic floor exercises and transverse abdominal work for pregnancy and postpartum. Feel free to check them out on my IG TV or reach out for a private!
How did you find out about babywearing?
Women from around the world
I knew about baby carriers and always admired women from around the world who wore their babies. I was amazed when I traveled or saw women wear their babies, and I noticed the babies always seemed content or fast asleep. When I was pregnant with my first, my husband AND I took a baby wearing class because I wanted to learn how to use cloth to wrap my baby and sling carries. I was the most familiar with ergo baby’s carrier because my girlfriend used that a lot with her son. I am a busy body, so baby wearing allows me to multitask, snuggle, and breastfeed. Wins all around for mommy and baby.
When is babywearing most useful for you?
Babywearing is wonderful as a mom of two! I am able to play with my eldest while breastfeeding or holding my little one. It is also really helpful to get things done around the house or go on a walk. As a New Yorker, it was super helpful to navigate the city and the winter. I loved wearing Samuel on the subway, or during the winter, because he was close to me and warm and I could breastfeed easily.
What is your favorite thing about babywearing?
I love being close to my baby and being able to breastfeed without holding them. I have birthed two heavy boys so being able to use the carrier to have free hands has been really nice. Plus, I love how cozy they are when I wear them. They spend 40 weeks inside of you and you realize they just want to be right near mama to hear your heartbeat and to feel your warmth or have a yummy snack. I love being able to provide that comfort and affection, and wearing them really helps facilitate that.
How has the transition from one to two children been?
Two kid life is wonderful. I am blessed that my older son is really digging the big brother role. I realize that isn’t the case for all older siblings. Watching the brothers bond brings me immense joy all day, even when they are both screaming which happened the other day- I took loads of deep breaths and loud exhales and reminded myself that this too shall pass.
The challenge for me is making sure my eldest gets 1:1 time which might mean I sacrifice rest or things on my to do list and that is ok, because when we have that alone time we both enjoy it and it replenishes us. I find that when we get the time together we often end up gut laughing. Tonight he squirted “peepee” on mommy with his rubber duck and last night we laid in bed and giggled and talked about our day. It is the best.
Biggest challenge in motherhood/parenting?
You don’t have all the answers, there is never enough time, and you will never sleep the same again (haha). I welcome the challenge of not having all of the answers, but I realize for many of my friends and other mamas that it’s not fun for them at all. Two huge challenges that aren’t often discussed are: the importance of prioritizing your self care as a mother and the strain and metamorphosis that your relationship goes through with your partner. I miss the spontaneity of my marriage and I miss being the fun wife. I do not always want to be the responsible mom. That is a piece of me that I love, but I need my other pieces to get love too and that is challenging. It is so easy to put your children first but YOU and your partner really need attention and affection just like the kiddos.
What is your favorite piece of parenting advice?
Do not take anything personally. It’s ok for mommy to walk away and take a breather, kids cry, parents disagree/fight, nothing will ever be perfect, and that is the beauty of it all. Chaotic Beauty is my new normal.
See more of Rachel at rachelnicks.com or instagram.com/rachelnicks