Folks We Love with Jessica Diggs | doula + childbirth educator
Jessica and I met through a mutual friend, and I adored her immediately. She is a doula in Los Angeles, studying to be a midwife, and we spoke here about her experience of childbirth from her unique doula perspective. I so appreciated her upfront, insightful observations that we Mother’s can tend to miss because we are so wrapped up in our world being turned upside down post baby. I love Jessica’s advice to moms who are preparing for birth. She encourages moms to be honest about the type of person they are and to make a plan for birth around your authentic self, rather than the mom or person you think you ought to be. We also discussed post birth essentials, and the most helpful/unhelpful things that affect birth and labor. Jessica is a beautiful soul and we are so appreciative she has shared with us here...
Interview contributed by Kacy Byxbee, editor, Your Zen Mama
Where are you from?
I'm originally from Greensboro, North Carolina. Cue the Petey Pablo song.
I am a birth doula, childbirth educator, and DTI (Doula Trainings International) Educator.
What brought you to Los Angeles?
I moved to LA for medical school. I had an interview with UCLA medical school, and as soon as I got off the plane, I was like "I am moving here!". My pursuit of that particular program at UCLA is what brought me here, but the birth community and the weather is why I have stayed. Since my arrival four years ago, I have abandoned the medical school journey and decided to become a midwife instead.
From your perspective what are some of the most helpful ways for mothers to get through labor and delivery?
In my experience, the most helpful ways to get through labor and delivery would be a comprehensive childbirth education class and a supportive provider (midwife or doctor).
Knowledge breeds peace and helps pregnant women know what to expect. A class also allows one to learn their options, ask all their questions, and practice comfort measures. For partners, it is one of the best ways they can learn tools and tips for being supportive birth companions.
A supportive provider is so important. This one is the hardest to convince people to take seriously. In our culture, we think that doctors (and midwives) must be experts and whatever they say is best for us. In labor and delivery, this is not always true. Selecting a doctor or midwife that aligns with your preferences for childbirth is the best step to a smooth journey. Our hormones flow in labor the best when we feel safe, heard, and secure. Labor is not the time to be negotiating your preferences, which you should not have to do anyways!
Some of the least helpful?
The biggest mistake pregnant people make when thinking through their labor and delivery experience is trying to fit into this made up box that "this is how you get it done".
People approach birth and parenting preferences as they do beauty standards - putting themselves into this box of what the perfect experience looks like. Often times, it does not even slightly resemble any aspect of them. In labor, I see people trying to mimic this type of birthing person or wanting support that does not really work for them.
An example is probably easier to explain this. If you do not typically like fluffy visualizations in your normal life, you are probably not going to vibe with them in labor. You're going to want to punch someone in the face. If you draw strength from words of affirmation or touch or silence, start there when building your toolbox of comfort for labor and delivery. Also, if you're anxious, own it. It's better for your team to know and help you ease versus you to pretend it's not there and suffer in it alone. Share your authentic self, we'll likely see it anyways!
What are some of the most helpful and essential things to have on hand for a newborn?
My favorite newborn things to have are the Solly Baby Wrap, the DockATot, and the Haakaa Silicon Pump (which is technically for mom). I am a huge fan of babywearing and the Solly wrap allows you to create a womb-like snuggle with the baby on your chest. The DockATot gets new parents extra sleep. It also travels well; it's a great product to put on the lawn and hang outside in those early days. The Haakaa pump is a really inexpensive hand pump that let's the lactating parent catch leaking milk or relieve engorgement without further stimulation. These are my go-to recommendations or the gifts I give to friends because they improve the postpartum transition. And let's be real…new parents need things that make life easier!
What are some of the best ways for a mother to mentally prepare for labor, delivery, and motherhood?
Oh, the best way is to discuss and nurture what comes up emotionally and mentally. The transition into motherhood is so profound and so life-altering. I do not think we spend enough time preparing at all for this shift. I would suggest being very intentional with the concerns, fears, excitement, strengths, and preferences that come up during pregnancy. That could mean seeking talk therapy to discuss, attending a pregnancy coaching session, reading books, and journaling regularly. It is best to get out the thoughts that arise! Many would be surprised to know that they are not alone at all. My clients have benefited the most from feeling heard, validated, and eased. That was only possible because they were vulnerable enough to share.
Do you have a preferred information source for all things baby?
I am LOVING LOOM!
LOOM is a place of health education and community for reproductive empowerment, pregnancy, and parenting. It is really hub that offers groups classes, one-on-one coaching, and community! All the things I mentioned before from seeking knowledge, practicing comfort measures, to preparing mentally for labor and motherhood, LOOM has a class for it!
Take an in-person childbirth education class and/or newborn support class. Especially as first-time parents, it is a great way to "check out" other parents. The community aspect of the classes is by far so worth it in the postpartum period. No one gets what you're going through like other parents!
How do you stay rested with such crazy hours as a doula?
I do pride myself on my self-care practices. I am the Queen of boundaries and rest! A few proactive measures include: sleeping with my phone on Do Not Disturb. So no ones' text messages or random calls can come through unless they are in labor. This is so helpful because as a birth worker, you get the most trivial messages as if they are emergencies. It is also helpful to get uninterrupted sleep. I'm from the east coast and my mom still hasn't quite gotten the time zone difference down. I also try to eat well, stay hydrated, be naked at the K Spa and move my body a few times a week. Other measures include very expensive vitamins, liquid chlorophyll, and regular bodywork (acupuncture and chiro). And I take time off. This year, I am taking 4 weeks off. I lead a pampered life!
What is your favorite book?
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is by far my favorite book of all time. It is a cool depiction of the little devil on your shoulder while also clueing us into how much God loves us as humans. It's written from the perspective of an devil/demon tempter. Regardless of your faith, its an interesting read!
What advice would you give to a young entrepreneur?
1. Lean into the desires of your heart. Even if they are big, no one is doing "it", and you don't even know where to begin. Lean into it!
2. Abide in the path of your dream or calling. Others, not always intentionally, try to plant their fears, their mistakes, their "wish I would have" onto you. Don't let them distract you from your goals.
3. Collect good mentors like valuable cars. Personally, I am not someone who lets just anybody speak into my life. Mostly, because I know that people do not give wise counsel - they typically share their fears, concerns, and excuses. However, having support, encouragement, and advice from people you see bearing the fruit you want is invaluable.
4. Save the money! Spend a little but save a lot of it!
5. Don't forget to be young. Mess up, travel, and be "irresponsible" from time to time.
What advice would you give to a new mom?
Don't be critical of yourself; be your own hype man! It's okay to reflect and grow in areas, but criticism depletes you of confidence. Make sticky notes or post-its of affirmations you wish others were saying to you. "You're a great mom!" "That was a wise decision." "Damn, you look good!" Put them where you can see them daily.
Secondly, build your village and reach out to them.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
"You may not be able to change the world, but you can put a hell of a dent in it." - my mom.
What are 4 things you can't live without?
- Good food
- Jesus (He should probably be first but it's his own fault; he made good food.)
- Bomb friends
- My journal