Hello, everyone. Today, I get to hang out with Ashley Brichter. She is an educator, speaker, consultant, and entrepreneur. Despite her experience with hundreds of families as a doula and birth educator, like so many, her birth did not, quote, go as planned. Better for it, she founded Birth Smarter in 2019, which provides unbiased, inclusive, and award -winning practical wisdom and guidance to the next generation of families. Ashley was born and raised in New York City, though she's relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah and is enjoying the mountains and red rocks of the West with her husband and two amazing kids. She's a certified Fair Play facilitator and sits on the board of Pronatal Fitness. I had the pleasure of meeting Ashley in real life. Ashley, we have a mutual friend, Jamie Jones, and she had reached out a while, I guess, probably around 2019 when y 'all were kickstarting Birth Smarter or whenever she came on board. And she was like, you would love this. You should check it out. And I was like, Yeah, totally. And then honestly forgot. And then you showed up in my real life at a conference. And it was so rad to get to like, circle back. And now I've been diving into Birth Smarter, and I'm super jazzed that you created it. And then I have the privilege of diving in.
Hey there. I'm Alyssa Blask Campbell. I'm a mom with a Master's degree in Early Childhood Education and co-creator of the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. I'm here to walk alongside you through the messy, vulnerable parts of being humans, raising other humans with deep thoughts and actionable tips. Let's dive in together.
So thank you.
Thank you! I feel so similarly about Seed and Sew, yeah, it's mutual.
That's sweet. Thanks. I'm stoked because I, first of all, this is like a personal episode. So thanks, because we get to chat about having another baby, like if you're welcoming a sibling and I'm right now out of breath because I am pregnant with a sibling and want to dive into like what that looks like as you prepare for birth and the postpartum experience because preparing for Sagey's birth, honestly, I did have a pretty rad birth experience. They did a home birth and it was the right choice for us. And it's totally different versus now when I'm thinking about it, I'm like, okay, what are we going to do with Sage? He just told me the other day, he doesn't want to be there. And I think that's the right move for him. Like he was asking, a friend of mine had a baby and I said, well, yeah, Kylie's baby came of her vagina today and he was like hurt and I was like yeah probably hurt and he was like cry and I said oh I don't know if she cried when you came out of my vagina I didn't cry but I yelled really loudly I was it was a really loud scream and he said too loud mama and I was like yeah I think it probably would have been too loud for you and he said when baby comes out Sagey Sagey, go away. And I was like, you want to go away? And he was like, yeah, too loud. Come back all done. And I was like, you want to come back when I'm all done? He was like, I was like, I think that's the right move here. But even just considering those sorts of things, like postpartum and navigating postpartum in a partnership and all that collaboration. So I very selfishly was like, Ashley, can you walk me through with all this will look like, and can I ask you all my questions?
I'm so excited. I think that that's how we should do it is let's go through, how do you prepare to give birth? What does it mean when there's a sibling, a toddler, a bigger kid around? And then how do you think about postpartum and what does that mean for your relationship? And then how do you think about actually bonding these little ones? So we can like go chronologically through it.
I love it. Okay, let's rock and roll. So I would say first and foremost, like preparing for another birth. What's that look like when you got another kid there are other kids in your space.
Yeah, I mean, I think that the beginning of it is what was your first birth like? And are you trying to replicate an experience or are you trying to do something different? And that's where the conversation is separate from sibling stuff and toddler stuff. But like, I'm so excited that you had a positive first birth experience. And we both know that that's not the case for everyone.
So whether you had a vaginal birth or a C -section and you're trying to have a VBAC or a vaginal birth after cesarean, or you're thinking, hey, I had a baby in the hospital and now I wanna try a birthing center. Now I wanna try a home birth. Like, it's interesting trying to sort out this experience that you wanna have for yourself while it's also a conversation that's like in relationship with your family and what makes sense now for all these other people.
Yeah. And so do you guys have a thought? Like, are you going to try for another home birth?
And then we're going to run it back. Yeah. I learned for myself, two things about home birth for me, I'm a sexual assault survivor. And so for me, it was really helpful for me to feel safe. If I know who could potentially be in my vagina, like that helps me feel safe. And so the idea of hospital and just like whoever's on call, that feels hard for me. So that was like a huge push for me for home birth. And then Sagey's birth was really fast. And also the idea of like getting in a car, going through a check -in at a hospital, like is my nightmare. I didn't want to talk to anybody. I didn't want to be touched. I needed to stand and squat. Like all of that sounds hard. and I don't want to do it. So yes, we are planning another home birth. Yeah.
So I'll situate your story like in the context of how we talk about things at Birth Smarter. So we have what we call the Birth Smarter Framework. And if you can imagine a Venn diagram, this is how, cause we really strive to be the most unbiased and nonjudgmental like birth education and parenting support sort of organization out there. And so the way we bring nonjudgmental education is by thinking about this venn diagram. So one part is, what is the physiological process of birth, right? And in there, you get to dive into all of the like, super cool science behind hormones and how the body works. And so like what you said about wanting to be somewhere where you felt really safe and where you could trust people. I think that there are folks who don't understand birth physiology that maybe think of that as somewhat of a luxury, right? But when you understand how the body gives birth, in order to have uterine contractions for a baby to be pushed down and out, you need to release a hormone called oxytocin. And oxytocin is our love trust bonding hormone, right? Sort of oversimplified, but it's the cuddle feel good hormone. And so if you're producing too much cortisol or adrenaline, if you're stressed out and scared, your body cannot produce enough oxytocin to have contractions. And so really a feeling of trust and safety is paramount when we're striving for a physiological birth. And so it's just, I think when people hear something as simple as that, you can go, oh, that's interesting. I get why, hey, that last OB that showed up or was not helpful for me. or, right, again, like why driving in the car to the hospital slowed my contractions down? What happened there? And then it can help shed light to why people might wanna be in an environment like a birthing center or like at home, because they get to control their environment and therefore the release of hormones that are gonna allow for the birth process to happen.
Sure, or in the hospital when like friends of mine have been like, oh yeah, I loved my OB or I loved my midwife, right, the best nurses. and the hormones that that will produce.
00:10:46 Speaker 3
Yeah. Right. So trust and safety is paramount. And then the other part in terms of physiological birth is freedom of movement. And you mentioned that too. So in order for the baby's head, like in order for your cervix to get out of the way, we really need the baby's head to press down on the cervix to release prostaglandins, which is this hormone like substance. And so in order for the baby to like, I think about it a lot, like you're trying to get something out of a cookie jar. Like you're not totally sure what position it needs to be in, but we like shimmy and shake and rotate that cookie jar enough with our movement throughout labor. And the baby will find its rotation through the pelvis. So you can give birth in a hospital, you can get induced, you can have an epidural, you can give birth at a birthing center at home. Really as long as you have that combination between this is a place and these are people who make me feel safe and I can move around.
Yeah, that makes sense. That makes total sense. And for me, I mean, I know they're both sphincters, but just connecting this, it's the same with like, oh, I can't poop in a public place or, you know, at my friend's house where it's like right next to wherever everybody's hanging out or whatever, because your butthole literally won't open.
Yeah, absolutely. It is very much the same as that. And in a way that is different, but we just taught a class for professionals that ended yesterday called Birth Smarter Pro.
Did they use the word butthole? Was that a part of it?
No, but so, I did not know I was gonna say this. So Caprice, who's our director of education, she sometimes talks about pushing a baby out in like an unmedicated physiological urge sense of there's a baby coming out of my body. She talks about it as vomiting out of your vagina.
Oh, we were just talking about this in our team meeting. Yeah.
Oh, okay. Our team meetings must be very similar.
Yeah. Yeah. Because when my midwives showed up, I was 10 centimeters, but nobody knew it. And they walked in and I was pushing and they let me go through that contraction. But then one of them was like, so it's not time to push yet. And they try to breathe through that next contraction. And I was like, I can't. And then, so I tried to just like breathe. And then she was like, can I check you? Because my water had broken. And so I didn't, I wasn't sure how I felt about checks, if my water was going to be broken. And I was like, yeah, go ahead. She didn't. She was like, oh my gosh, I'm so sorry. You're 10 centimeters, do whatever you want. But it was like that, like vomiting out of my vagina. Like I didn't, I couldn't stop pushing.
Yeah, it is an uncontrollable urge. And the thing actually that I will say about that, that is a pet peeve of mine and something that we're really trying to change the narrative around at Birth Smarter, is that there is a certain right or wrong time to do anything when you're having a baby, especially when it's connected to something as arbitrary as dilation. So like the fact that we even check people's cervical dilation is based on a very small study in New York City in the 1950s that then dictated all of modern obstetrical management of birth. And it's really a very, like, it's a very patriarchal understanding and a very linear understanding of, well, your body will dilate 1, 2, 3, 4 to 10 centimeters at this rate over time. And if you talk to anyone who has been around, let's say more than four births, right, let alone hundreds or thousands, people are like, oh, that doesn't really happen. But this is the only until now, like we weren't really trying to change this at Birth Smarter until now. This is the only way we can understand what birth progression looks like is this is how dilated you are. You know what another way of it like to look at it is you saying, I really feel I have to push my baby out and somebody saying, I really trust you and your body.
Yeah. Dig that answer.
So, all right. So when somebody is getting ready to give birth again, they get to go through this exercise of saying, where am I going to feel really safe and really supported? And then how can I move around? And what location is that going to be? Do I want to do a lot on my team? I'm just really giving someone permission to make different choices than they did last time because we never know. I don't think that any birth preparation should be outcome -oriented, but hopefully the goal of preparing for a positive birth or preparing for a VBAC, if that's relevant for somebody, it just gives you life lessons that make you feel good and connected to yourself and your ability to really advocate. So I think those are like the ways I would want to support someone's thinking to prepare for what that birth is going to look like. But then to your point, there's all these logistical challenges of like, if you're home, childcare is less of an issue, though also he's already told you, right? Like, I don't want to be there.
Get me out of here, mom. And he's a sound sensitive human and I was so loud. I was like raspy for days. So it's not the right space for him.
I want to give you all of my book recommendations and we can like put them in the notes, but there's a great, great book called Hello Baby. Have you heard of that yet?
Oh my gosh. It's going to make me cry just thinking about it. Um, cause I had a home birth with my second. And so Hello Baby is this beautiful story of a family with two or three kids and the mom has a home birth and all the kids are around and it says things like, you know, the toddler went to answer the phone, but she was making too much noise, so they just hung up. And the illustrations are really beautiful, where you get to see a home birth happening with siblings around. And our favorite line in the book, and I don't know why, it just always hit a chord. At the end, I think the mom has offered food, and she turns it down, and she needs some water. And the line is just, it's thirsty work having babies. And we talk about that all the time, like, oh, it's thirsty work having babies or it's thirsty work, but it's, it's beautiful. So anyway, you don't need childcare, but you want to be considerate, but certainly if somebody is going to the hospital and is going to be leaving now, you need a plan in place.
Yeah. And I will say for home birth for me, I want, I don't want to be thinking about him. You know what I mean? And then I think that like one of my, one thing that was really powerful for me in his birth was that I didn't think about anybody. I didn't think about a single other human in the room. No one was coming into my space and touching me. There wasn't anyone saying, mom, mama, mom, mom, mom, mama. Why are you breathing like that? Mama, why are you yelling? Right, like that wasn't there. And I got into a headspace that was really helpful for me. And I don't want to think about him. Which sounds rude, but I don't want to.
I think that there are times that we get to be fully ourselves, you know, um, yeah, and it's why it's really nice to be in community with others. And so, um, I mean, I'm sure we totally agree about this, but the thing I think when you're about to ask someone to be around to watch your kid or your kids is how nice it is to be asked for help, right? Like if a friend or family member comes to you and says, Hey, I have a situation and you are the person that I thought could help me through this. It feels like such an honor and a privilege to be let in.
But yeah, do you have the other thing I'm thinking about too, is, um, that it, it usually doesn't have to be all or nothing, right? Like there, there get to be pieces and ways that our kids experience or pregnancy and experience bits of like, this is a contraction or a baby is coming or here's the story where it's not like, okay, I'm going to leave and I'll see you in two days. Right?
Right. Right. Exactly. And yeah, it's not like there's no lead up to it. Like there's a lead up that happens. And, but so, yeah, for folks who are going to go into a hospital and we have had two friends in the last six months who had planned cesareans and then went into labor beforehand. And so what I've observed in the last six months too, and these were second kids that they were having where they're like, have this plan in place for their toddler. They are like, yep, great. We have childcare set up. My mother-in-law, my mom's coming to do here or whatever. And then they go into labor and they're like, wait, wait, wait a minute. And so I would like to chat about, about that, of whether you have a planned cesarean or you're hoping for vaginal birth, that you're going to a hospital for a birth and you're like, I guess how to prep the older kids for the unknown of it.
Yeah. Well, I will say I am generally speaking a fan of people having labor doulas with them. I think that our society, so the other part, so the birth, martyr framework is that physiological process, the societal context, like what's the world that we're navigating, right. And like the biggest one for us right now is that for-profit medicine and physiological birth are a bit at odds with each other. And then the last piece of that framework is your personal circumstance. So what are you bringing to the table? And so in a situation like for-profit medicine, going into a hospital system in the U.S., I think that having a doula by your side as a continuous source of support and somebody to help you advocate is great. But in the context of welcoming another baby into your family, should there be a situation where there's a childcare hiccup or birth plans change and your partner needs to really hang with your kid, right? You're not alone. And so there's often ways that people can find a doula that is a good emotional fit or a financial fit, but that's just like another layer of protection um, where like we didn't hire a doula for my first birth and we did for my second, because all the people who could have been supporting me, I was like, I actually really want your eyes and your support on my daughter. And I'm going to find somebody else who can be in my corner.
Sure. That makes sense.
And then when you're going to the hospital, I think that this is where it's tricky too, in terms of societal context, because most hospital associations we have in our society are really scary, right? And so it's not to say that we need to like tell stories around our kids, but I think there are ways instead of saying I'm going to the hospital, like we're going to go have the baby or we're going to go to like the birth unit or we're going to go to labor and delivery. And it depends on how old your kid is too. Right?
But certainly setting, setting them up for potentially how long you're going to be away is, I think, really interesting and where they're going to be or who they're going to be with to the extent that you can plan it ahead of time. Like, obviously, like you're saying, plans change, right? And I think that there's no one right answer, right? I'm sure you have so many families in your network where for one kid, it might be like you're going to go to grandma's house and for somebody else, it might be like, hey, you know what? Your nanny is going to stay overnight for these two nights, because this is the place or this is the person where you're more comfortable.
Yeah, exactly. And I I think from the like emotional development side for kids, I want to let them know that we will give them all the information we have when we have it, that we will let you know. And and honestly, like as a pregnant person, it's hard at the end to know, Am I having this baby tomorrow or in four weeks? And that's also hard for a kid to know when is this baby coming? And what does that mean for me? Because they're reliant on other humans to keep them alive. And so like from a really primitive primal space, they need to know, is somebody going to keep me alive when you go someplace to have this baby? And really just like that is where I would start is just making sure that they know, yeah, here's who it'll be this person or this person or whatever, like whatever your plans are. And once we know when this baby is coming, we will definitely tell you everything we can with the information we have. And it can feel uncomfortable to not know when it's going to happen.
[AD] I don't know about you, but when I scroll through Instagram or I'm tuning into podcasts and diving into parenting resources, resources for myself as a teacher, I can feel overwhelmed. Like, where do I start? I need a guide for what this looks like in practice. And I don't want something that's one size fits all. Because every child is different, right? And if you have multiple children, if you're a teacher, you know that it's not one size fits all. Or if you have seen what works for your sister in law or your best friend or your neighbor, and you're like, oh my gosh, my child does not respond to that. That is how I felt. And then we created the Collaborative Emotion Processing method. It is a guide for building emotional intelligence. And y'all there are five components of the CEP method. One is about how to respond to the kids and what it looks like to have adult/child interactions. The other four are about us. Because I don't know about you, but I did not grow up getting these tools. I did not grow up with them. didn't grow up in this household. Where I was taught tools for self awareness and self regulation and how to do emotion processing work. And now, as a parent and as a teacher, I'm supposed to teach those skills to a tiny human? But we can't teach what we don't know. And so my first book, Tiny Humans, Big Emotions, is here to support you. You can head to www.seedandsew.org/book and snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions today. This is a game changer. It's going to build these skills with you, for you, so that you can do this work alongside building these skills for your tiny humans, so that they can grow up with a skill set for self awareness, for regulation, for empathy, for social skills, for intrinsic motivation. A skill set of emotional intelligence so that they can navigate all the things that come their way in life. Snag Tiny Humans, Big Emotions at seedandsew.org/book.
And I think just validating that and maybe even sharing, like I was just telling Sagey the other day, because he's been saying I'm doing December when Santa comes. And I was like, yeah, it'll probably happen. It between when we get our Christmas tree and when Santa comes. And I said, when I was pregnant with you, we were waiting and we were waiting and we were so curious when you were going to come and then you surprised us and you came. And, but then we had so many days we were waiting and wondering. Cause I was like 7 billion weeks pregnant with him. But just like laying that foundation of like, we don't know and sometimes you're waiting and just validating that the waiting is uncomfortable and you will be safe. Here's who will be here with you.
Totally. The other thing that is really nice in that situation is, again, this can look really different depending on how old they are, but is making a birth plan for them, right? And so if there may be part of you making your birth plan, like, oh, I have to pack my bag or, Oh, I have to get this stuff ready. Right. And like, now let's make your plan. Right. And we don't know exactly what it's going to be. But, you know, I think on my daughter's list, we did things like, um, we drew a piece of paper and one had the sun and one had the moon on it. Right. So it's like, if the baby is coming during the day, you could go to the zoo. You could go get ice cream. You could do puzzles. Like we had the activities that we knew we would lean on. And then if it's at night, like you might sleep in Grandma's bed or you might, you know, your Aunt might snuggle you or something. And so we made the list and sometimes you can put pictures on it and all of that. And then my, just my all time favorite suggestion for siblings of any age and that we were, we were able to pull off, um, with the second is that siblings get to make the baby a birthday cake. And that's like such a great labor activity, right? So whoever's with you, like you guys have to go buy or make a birthday cake so that when you get to meet baby we get to sing the baby happy birthday and it's like a very lovely thing that they get to do to start that that bonding relationship.
Sure yeah I dig that, I dig that a lot um that also that was something we asked my mother-in-law to do when I was pregnant because I felt like it was a good her activity I was like you know it would be great, and that was helpful. So with birth, is there anything else that you, I personally think this was helpful, are thinking about in terms of birth that we should mention or should we move into postpartum?
I think we move into postpartum because I think the biggest questions then are like, how does it go? And what does that mean for after, right?
Great. Yep. Perfect. So let's enter into postpartum.
Stay tuned for part two of this episode on navigating postpartum in partnership with multiple kids.
Thanks for tuning in to Voices of Your Village. Check out the transcript at voicesofyourvillage.com. Did you know that we have a special community over on Instagram hanging out every day with more free content? Come join us at seed.and.sew. Take a screenshot of you tuning in, share it on the gram and tag seed.and.sew to let me know your key takeaway. If you're digging this podcast, make sure to subscribe so you don't miss an episode. We love collaborating with you to raise emotionally intelligent humans.