Meet Allison Cline
Meet Allison Cline. Allison is a certified birth doula and childbirth mentor based in Austin, Texas. In our Meet the Doulas series, Allison gives us a glimpse into her own growth journey as a parent and walks us through what a recent birth and labor experience looked like. She shares how COVID has changed the birth & postpartum experience, as well as some powerful reminders to trust your own intuition in order to make decisions that are best for you and your baby.
Can you tell us a little about your own experience as a parent?
I have 3 daughters: 9, 5 and 3. I was a stay at home mom teaching yoga a few times a week until about 2 years ago when I went back to teaching yoga full time and working as a birth doula. My oldest is in 4th grade at Highland Park Elementary and my younger two daughters attend International Montessori House of Children full time; we try to foster this type of environment as much as possible at home, meeting them where they are, with guidance, but not pushing them. This takes work! Lots of reminders to give myself grace as a mother when I mess up or lose my patiences. I’m only human and a constant work in progress! When I mess up, I take time to reflect alone, with my partner and with the girls so we can all do better next time.
Why did you become a doula?
During the birth of my 3 daughters, I was supporting my husband’s career as an active duty Marine Corps Officer. I was privy to the gaps in both private and military facilities’ lack of continuity of care. I provide my clients with the support that I wish I would have had; love, kindness and patience to allow them to birth how they want, where they want, feeling as if they have ownership over their birth experience no matter what twists and turns take place.
Can you tell us about a recent labor and delivery and your role in supporting the mother or birthing person?
I’m just coming off a long labor with a client yesterday. She had planned for a vaginal unmedicated birth, but due to the baby's position, mom spiking a fever and baby’s heart tones, this birth ended in a cesarean. Doulas are there for it all:
- Prenatal support via phone, text and email conversations and prenatal meetings
- Laboring at home and then their birth facility
- Helping to change positions
- Get in and out of the shower or birth tub
- Work with meditation, breath, affirmations and visualizations
- Supporting the partner
- Guiding them during pushing or just simply holding space while they do their thing
In this case, I accompanied mom and dad into the operating room and was present for the whole cesarean. When the baby was born, dad was able to go and be with the baby while they were checked out and I stayed by mom’s side the whole time. Once mom was in the recovery room, dad did skin to skin with baby so mom could rest. When she was ready, I stayed and helped with her first latch and took lots of pictures of them meeting their baby. Birth is a wild ride!
What are some of your favorite self care rituals for postpartum?
- Sleeping when baby sleeps; bed sharing
- Exercise. Yoga, barre class (I used to run before my 3rd kiddo entered the scene)
- Massage and facials. Facial massage is just the best for a tired mama’s face.
- Silence. Noise can be a huge trigger postpartum. It definitely was for me.
How has COVID changed the birth experience and support for mothers and birthing people?
At this point, my doula work hasn’t changed too much. I simply wear a mask now. Some clients feel more comfortable with mostly virtual meetings in the beginning, but for the most part we meet all in person now. Initial consults all take place on Zoom now, whereas in the past I would meet parents in person. Doulas and birth partners are the only people allowed in birth facilities now, so extended family cannot attend (which in some ways may be a blessing because there are no difficult conversations and hurt feelings over who gets to be in the birth room). Postpartum has become more difficult because the “it takes a village” aspect of postpartum care has changed. There's currently no Baby and Me yoga classes, group story time, or baby music classes where mamas can meet and greet. These spaces were important for moms to have adult conversations with other moms going through what they are going through. Many have missed out on extended family visits and support due to travel restrictions or not feeling comfortable with having family around babies. Resources like Ritual Meals help you to be supported during this time when you most need it.
What stands out to you when working with first time vs. second time mothers and parents?
First time parents are much more focused on being “ready”. They want to make sure they have all the stuff for baby—all the latest gear, the nursery completed, their birth bags packed—this was the case for me too! Even with a 6 year gap between my oldest and youngest I used all the same gear for baby number 3. I missed out on a lot of new trends, but also didn’t seem to know or care as much as I did with my first.
What are some of your favorite meals or snacks for postpartum recovery?
Anything you can eat with one hand! Babies need to be fed often and their needs often come before yours. If you’re nursing, you’re always hungry because the baby needs so much nourishment. I like protein balls made with oats, peanut butter, chia and flax seeds. Juiceland here in Austin, Texas is my go to! Or any mild smoothies that won’t upset baby’s tummy. I start my day with warm herbal tea and in the evenings I like to end my night with warm Golden Milk. I recommend the book The First 40 Days to get you started or Ritual Meals for an easy go-to, already prepped meal delivery!
What are your best tips for postpartum care?
I give all of my clients herbal sitz baths that I prepare. Whether its a vaginal or cesarean birth, herbal sitz baths are great for postpartum healing of tissues. If you birth in the hospital, ask them for a sitz bath to take home or order one from Amazon or Ritual Meals to have. Have padsicles made with witch hazel and essential oils in your freezer for perineum healing. I also used a flexible ice pack for healing, tucks pads and Mayinglong Musk Hemorrhoids Ointment. Take any of the “sexy” mesh underwear and all of the giant pads from the hospital along with any other supplies they send you home with! Keep your water and calorie in-take high and continue to take supplements designed for the postpartum period. Some of my favorites are by Mother Nutrient; formulated by a holistic nutritionist here in ATX. Oh, and definitely see a pelvic floor physical therapist! Locally in Austin, Texas, I recommend Dr. Rebecca Maidensky of Ladybird Physical Therapy.
Do you have any advice for new mothers or birthing people experiencing postpartum anxiety or depression?
It’s so important that we normalize postpartum mood disorders. I had mild postpartum depression with my first daughter that I was able to work through with a therapist. My third daughter woke up every 90 minutes for well over a year, and the lack of sleep brought upon major postpartum anxiety for me. Sleep deprivation can truly be a form of torture. I think it’s important to have realistic postpartum expectations for ourselves. I give all of my clients resources for postpartum mood disorders and a checklist at our postpartum visit to go through with their partner. Partners can have postpartum mood disorders too! Many doulas are trained to look out for these signs and will have a list of professional referrals. If you need medication, take it. Don’t let the stigmas of medication overcome your need to take care of yourself and your baby. Give yourself lots of grace.
What's the worst advice you've heard for postpartum & early motherhood or parenthood?
I am not a type A—and if you are, you do you! I feel like we are pushed to have our babies on schedules for feeding and sleeping. For me, this brought upon more anxiety. I fed my babies when they gave me the cues and tried to stick to a loose plan for sleeping. If bed sharing, co-sleeping, letting my babes sleep safely on their bellies instead of their backs brought good sleep, then that’s what I did. Do what’s best for you and your baby. We are all individuals.
What's the best advice you've heard for postpartum & early motherhood or parenthood?
Just feed your baby. “Breast is best” became a buzz phrase and I definitely feel that way. But it may not be what’s best all the time. I have been guilty of being judgy when parents choose not to breastfeed, but a few years ago there was an ad campaign going around to just feed your baby. Bottle or breast, just do what’s best for you individually and feed your baby.
Any closing advice for someone who's about to become a new mother or parent?
Trust your intuition, it’s a powerful thing. Put your “mask” on first. You cannot be a good parent or partner if your cup is always empty. You have to fill your own cup before you can fill others. Self-care is not selfish. It took me having 3 kids to realize self-care is important and makes me a better mother, wife and friend.
Allison Cline is a certified Birth Doula and Childbirth Mentor with Birthing From Within. She has attended births at several hospitals and birth centers in and around Austin, and has experience with vaginal births, unmedicated births, cesareans and vaginal births after cesareans (VBAC). She's an ERYT500, RPYT yoga teacher specializing in prenatal and postpartum yoga. She has taught in yoga studios all over the country and currently, you can find her on the mat at Wild Heart Yoga’s outdoor studio in ATX. She's a former public school art teacher with a Master’s in Education.