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Steph and Dr. Elana recap this month’s episodes on navigating the NICU. They share key takeaways from each episode and remind mamas of the essential tools they have to help them get through this challenging time. Whether you are currently a mama experiencing the NICU or have a friend you want to support, this episode will help equip you with what you need to transform one of the hardest experiences any mama can go through into hope and reassurance that you can get through this. We are here to support you mamas through any season of motherhood.
We’d like to say a special thank you to today’s Podcast Partner: Four Sigmatic, a natural superfood company that specializes in mushroom-based drinks that benefit immunity, energy, and longevity. Get 15% off your order on their website with the code WHOLEMAMAS.
Stephanie Greunke 0:03
Things feel so out of your control with what’s going on in the NICU and you can only do so many things. Sometimes it’s really helpful to be able to know that you can control what goes into your mouth. And so for a lot of moms, just focusing on the healthy diet feels like they’re doing something, in a time where everything else feels out of their control.
Elana Roumell 0:24
Welcome back to Whole Mamas Podcast. We’re here to give you tools, resources and evidence-based information so you can make the best decisions for yourself and your family. Whether you’re trying to conceive, or navigating life with a toddler or a teenager, we got you covered. I’m Dr. Elana Roumell, pediatric naturopathic doctor and creator of Med School for Moms, an online resource where I teach moms how to safely be a doctor mom.
Stephanie Greunke 0:49
I’m Stephanie Greunke, registered dietitian and Program Director for Whole30’s Whole Mamas Club. I’m also the co-creator of Whole30’s pregnancy program and our upcoming postpartum program.
Elana Roumell 0:59
Today’s episode Steph and I recap on this last month’s theme of navigating the NICU. We’ve had some incredible stories from both Erin Psota and Emily Hughes sharing their personal lives of life in the NICU -anywhere from a two month stay, to almost a one year stay. We also had Parijat on the show – she’s a NICU mom herself, but her interview focused on sharing her experience as a mind/body coach for high-risk pregnancies. She helps moms through their experience before during and after the NICU. So this month was packed with some tear-jerking stories, coupled with inspiring tools and resources to help any mom through this experience and also help equip all moms who want to help offer their friends who are living in the NICU some helpful tips.
Now before we jump into today’s episode, I want to introduce you to our podcast partner, Four Sigmatic. Four Sigmatic specializes in mushroom-based drinks that offer a wide-range of benefits supporting our immunity, energy, focus, and overall relaxation. All of this is something moms and moms-to-be can definitely benefit from. Stephanie got a chance to share her favorite blends on last episode and now it’s my turn. Now by far, my favorite blend is their mushroom matcha latte with maitake. I’m not much of a coffee drinker. So when I need a pick me up, I choose matcha. I love how their matcha latte uses coconut powder. So all I need to do is add hot water and I have this awesome creamy beverage to sip on. Its lightly sweetened with stevia. And I love all the added benefits of the maitake and the moringa, which are both safe during pregnancy and during lactation. And I definitely plan to continue this during nursing since moringa is a great galactagogue. So I’ll get the added bonus of increased breast milk production in addition, so cheers to that.
Stephanie Greunke 2:49
Yeah, and Elana, their matcha latte is one that I can stand behind because, as you mentioned, they’re very mindful of the sugar content of all of their products. They use just a little bit of stevia versus a ton of added sugar, like you’d find if you ordered a matcha latte from a coffee shop. And this is something that I learned from a client who went to Starbucks, thinking she was doing her body a favor by ordering a matcha latte instead of her normal sugary latte. But when she took her first sip, she almost spit it out because it was super sweet. And she wasn’t expecting it to taste like that. But it turns out that in a Starbucks matcha latte, and other coffee stores lattes, there’s a lot of sugar. There’s 32 grams, for example, in a grande matcha latte from Starbucks. And that comes out to about three tablespoons of pure sugar, which goes against what you’re looking for. When it comes to choosing matcha, you’re looking for a more stable boost and energy that doesn’t make you mentally and physically crash like caffeine and sugar. And this is not to say that you can never have a fun latte. But if you do choose to order one when you’re out, consider bringing a packet of Four Sigmatic with you and just ask for a cup of hot water from your barista. Or you could have the barista make your matcha latte with half the sugar, make it unsweetened, and use your own packet of honey or stevia to sweeten it to your preferred taste. For me, I love the benefits of matcha, and I love the focus and energy I get from drinking it. But I personally don’t love the taste. So what I do is I add the Four Sigmatic powder to my green smoothies in the morning.
Elana Roumell 4:17
That’s a really good idea Steph. It doesn’t have to be a hot beverage right, you can put it in any type of beverage. So that’s a really great tip. Thank you. Overall honestly, just with Four Sigmatic in general, I’m so impressed with companies who package up superfoods into a convenient way for us to enjoy. It’s rare for us to get mushrooms in our diet in such a variety of ways. And so I just love the concept that Four Sigmatic has done, and they’re really leaders in this industry and so they really inspire me. Now we’d love for you as our listener to head over to their website, look around and see what sounds interesting to you, since they have so many different options to choose from. If you decide to order, some let us know what you think by tagging us on Instagram @wholemamasclub. You can have her head over directly to their website at foursigmatic.com/wholemamas to receive 15% off your Four Sigmatic purchase. Or if it’s easier, just use the code WHOLEMAMAS at checkout to get this special deal. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
Now let’s start a recap today. And as always, we’re going to start with our popular nourish yourself segment. So Steph, what did you do today, or later today what are you planning on doing to nourish yourself?
Stephanie Greunke 5:34
So I did something this morning that really nourish me. But this kind of has been a mission of mine for the last couple of weeks. I’ve been learning how to ask for more help from my husband when it comes to things that really stress me out. So like many moms getting out of the door in the morning, to go to work to take your little one to daycare to school is a really stressful time. And for me, I was finding that I was the one getting up in the morning, getting the kids breakfast, getting the kids clothes, helping the kids put the clothes on cleaning up after breakfast, taking them to school, putting the garbage cans out, like doing all of these things, and looking at what my husband was doing in the morning, which was taking a shower, getting himself ready, and then leaving.
Elana Roumell 6:20
Stephanie Greunke 6:21
Right?! And you know, I was finding myself resentful. He would come down the stairs and he would try to give me a hug and I was just kind of in like, ‘I gotta get all this stuff done’ mode and I don’t have time for a hug. And so he wasn’t getting what he wanted, which was the attention/the affection from me, and I wasn’t getting what I wanted, which was help in the morning. And so we really started talking about what he could do in the morning. Since he leaves before we do, he can’t like take the kids to school or really help them put their clothes on, or clean up the food, because we’re not done with that by the time he leaves. But he can help get the breakfast set up for them, he can help pick out clothes and bring them downstairs, he can help get like their blankets,dairy-free milk and everything ready take to school. So you know, even though you might not have the ideal situation, where you have as much, help finding one or two little things that you can ask for so that you both are getting what you want and it’s not every morning, you’re running around with your head chopped off, and doing it all by yourself.
Elana Roumell 7:22
Steph, I love this and this every mom can totally relate to. So I think it’s so great that you guys are really working on what I call like ‘new agreements’ and ‘new structures’ that really work for both of you guys. Because like you said, he doesn’t want someone who’s resenting him and then not giving him the hug. And you definitely don’t want a husband that is just not helping you with certain things. And so I’m so glad you guys are now clear on on new little tasks. And I bet for him He’s like, ‘Okay, well, I may not want to do it. But in order for me to help you, I’m going to do this.’ So has it been happening? Or did you just make the request recently,
Stephanie Greunke 7:58
It’s been one of those things where, I made the request, and then life happens and he gets busy and he forgets or I forget, and I don’t ask for the help. And so it’s just coming back to it whenever we realize that we have like kind of gone back on our agreement, we just need to regroup. And so we’ve been trying this for a while and with him traveling and me traveling, we got out of our rhythm. And so just today it was that reminder again that, ‘Hey, look, you know, I’m doing these eight things in the morning. Can you help me out with these two?’ So yes, when he when he remembers, and when I’m good about reminding him, everything is great.
Elana Roumell 8:32
I love it. Well, it’s funny, because what I was going to share, my part of the nurture segment, was also kind of like a partnership new structure that we have. So I think that this can also perhaps benefit you and then some of the other listeners. So in the last I would say month or two, my husband Anthony and I, we’ve been fighting more. There’s just been like little things that we’ve been like nitpicking and a little thing that ends up blowing into a big fight. And both of us are like, ‘We are not committed to this, like what is happening? We need to get to the source of this and like ASAP.’ And so oftentimes, he’ll blame me because I’m working so much more. I mean, I’m pregnant, more than halfway into my pregnancy, so I’m tired. Plus, I’m working full time. And, I’m just managing a lot with my Med School for Moms launch coming up. And so he has often times blamed me like, ‘This is all your fault.’ And this is why we’re fighting. And I was like, ‘This is not all my fault.’
So, we’ve decided to just step back and create a new structure. And I wanted to share with you because we’ve only been doing it for the last two weeks, but it has just like totally changed our communication. And it’s been benefiting us so much, so I think that perhaps this can also help some other listeners. So we now have weekly check-in meetings. We chose Sunday night that we’re sitting down present to each other and available for talking. And this is really helped provide me a lot because I always feel so short and rushed for time with him that I like bring up complaints randomly throughout the week, and now this totally clears this up. So what we do at our weekly check-ins are three things. The first thing is that we acknowledge each other for what went well this week. So we just focus on all the positives like hey, ‘Thanks so much for helping me x y&z, that really provided a lot for me. I just want to remind you that on Wednesday night, that was really helpful,’ or he’ll say something back to me. And so it kind of just starts the meeting feeling like, ‘Okay, cool. We’re getting appreciation.’ Then the second part of it is that we give each other feedback, what didn’t work so well. Last night, one of Anthony’s feedback to me was like, ‘Hey, on Tuesday night, you came home from work, grouchy and hungry, and I was cooking dinner because that’s part of our new agreement. And you essentially just told me that I’m carmeliizing the onions wrong.’ So I like garlic, onions, like lengthwise, and he like dice them, and he was carmelizing them. And of course, that was rude. Like, who wants that feedback, right? But what he did was so awesomely is in the moment, Tuesday night, when I’m hungry and tired from just back to back patients, he didn’t even like react to it. And that would have started a fight, right? Because I was rude. And he would have reacted. And I totally could take responsibility for that. Instead, on Sunday, he brought it up and said, ‘Look, I wasn’t going to say anything, but it actually really did hurt my feelings. It made me not want to cook for you. But you commented on the caramelized onions, and in all honesty, if you’re particular, you have to tell me, or you just have to appreciate that I’m cooking.’ And I was like, ‘You’re absolutely right.’ And I was in the space of being able to receive it. And I noticed like, ‘Yeah, that’s not right. I’m so sorry. Is there anything I could do to help with that? I’m really going to commit to not doing that next time.’ So it’s like little things that we can just have the time and space to give feedback, but in like a calm and like available way. And I just think that that’s so helpful. So just preventing fights.
Stephanie Greunke 11:54
So then let me ask you, during the week, when you find something that frustrates you about him, or when you find something that you appreciate about him, do you kind of write it down?
Elana Roumell 12:03
Yeah, that was actually the next thing is that the third part is we keep now like a shared note. So in our iPhones, we can share a note (anyone could do that if you both share iPhones.) And we actually create a list of feedback and acknowledgement so that I remember to use at our meeting. But in addition to that, we also then have our to-do list. So we really realize that us running a house is like running a business. Like he has tasks, I have tasks, and we never have meetings to review what got done and what didn’t get done, and who is responsible for that task. I think oftentimes, he’s just always assumed, ‘Oh, Elana has it taken care of she’s the one managing the house.’ But you know, in all honesty, and Steph, you can relate working full time, I’m just dealing with so much, I don’t always have time to do every little task around the house. So he needs to help me and he’s willing, but I need to be clear about it. So this list has been a game changer. So we have like a Elana’s tasks and Anthony’s task. And throughout the week, we add to it. And if there’s something I need him to do, I add it to his list. If there’s something he needs me to do, he adds it to my list. And then we have like this list of tasks that need to be assigned, like who is responsible for it. And then at the end of every meeting, so the third part of our weekly check ins, we actually go over each task list. And in addition to just organizing who does what, we also then get a chance to acknowledge the person for what they did the prior week. So in the beginning, Anthony was like deleting what he got done. And I said to him, like, and I don’t want you to delete it, because I want to actually have the opportunity to: 1. know that it got done and 2. acknowledge and appreciate you for getting it done. He’s like, ‘Oh, this is great.’ So last night, I was able to say thank you so much for calling the carpet cleaners. Like, I really appreciate you setting that up. Thank you so much for calling the air conditioning place, because I know we’re having troubles with our AC, summers coming up. And then he was able to delete it from his task list. Or if he called, but he’s waiting for the call to come back, at least I knew it was pending, but he’s on top of it. And then of course, because life happens, there’s always things on the list that just don’t get done. And then it’s a time for us to just say, ‘Okay, well, when are we going to recommit to it? Okay, this week, it’s on my calendar on Tuesday, I’m going to go ahead and give them a call.’ ‘Okay, awesome. We’ll check in next Sunday.’ So anyway, I know that was probably a lot of information. But honestly, these meetings take maybe 15 minutes and we both leave so appreciative of each other, so clear on what our tasks are for the week. And in all honesty, I was so much more available for feedback that I don’t think I’m going to nitpick him about the carmelized onions again, because now I really understand the impact (and plus I was totally rude). So it’s a great time for me to take responsibility and like a space that I was available for. So I’m so glad I wanted to take that time. We’ll see how it works out. But so far, I’m loving this new structure.
Stephanie Greunke 14:59
No, I think that’s so great. All that was really helpful. Because we don’t have those weekly meetings, you know, we go so long until we’re ready to break to have that conversation, right? And then it’s not really productive, and it’s not helpful. And you certainly aren’t acknowledging the other person because you’re just so angry and focusing on the things that didn’t happen. So I love writing meetings. You know, that was something that Dr. Daniel Singley, who came on to talk about postpartum depression and anxiety in dads, talked about. And so Brian and I, we are better some weeks than others about doing it. But when we did do it consistently, that really helped. And, I think the acknowledging pieces so important too, because that means a lot for you, and that means a lot for him. And for somebody like me who the love language is words of affirmation, that just that just changes the game, and I don’t feel as resentful for doing all the things. Just one more piece to that to what we found helpful is actually listing out what the tasks looks like. So when it comes to making food for the week, there’s a lot of steps that come with that. So if you just write “meal prep,” that doesn’t take into consideration the fact that you figured out which meals you’re going to make for the week, you went grocery shopping, you volunteer time to do the meal prep, you spend an hour to doing the meal prep. And so you know, if there are tasks that aren’t just like I call somebody, they have lots of different some steps to them, make sure that that spelled out so that everything is equal, and you are getting acknowledged for all that you’re doing.
Elana Roumell 16:29
I so appreciate you saying that. And that was actually one of the things that I missed by explaining what we do is, when we go over the task list, it really helps honor me because my list is always longer than Anthony’s, or I shouldn’t say always, I mean, we just started this, but it’s like clear, and I knew that in my head. But I know he knows I do a lot around the house, but I think he doesn’t actually realize it. But again, that’s not his fault, because like you said, all those little sub tasks, especially us as women, we’re so capable of multitasking. So we just do, we don’t even like necessarily think, ‘Is this fair?’ We just do it. Things have to get done, we do it. With men, I think it’s different, their brains work differently. They’re very single focus, so they do one thing at a time. When Anthony sees my long list, and then he sees his shorter list, he’s like, ‘Okay, you know what, I’m going to actually go ahead and take over doing this because I know I can do this. You’ve got a lot on your plate. I don’t want to do it. But I’m going to do it.’ And I’m like, thank you so much. And so I think like the visual list also really helps. And that was actually Anthony’s request to do the list. He goes, ‘I really like lists, can we just have a list?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m totally down for that.’ So yeah, I think it’s just been great. And we’ll see how it goes. You know, and I think every life stage is different. Now that I am pregnant with the second one, we’re just going to be managing much more. And so we have to create these structures, or at least we don’t have to, we get to and we’re committed to, so that we don’t have massive fights and breakdowns when we have two kids or more. We really are committed to speaking to each other kindly, and just loving on each other. And these fights, we both just don’t tolerate them. We’re up to too big of things, and we love each other too much to fight. So we’re okay to disagree, but we just fight ugly. So we’re learning how to fight better. And this is really helping prevent them.
Stephanie Greunke 18:23
Thank you for sharing that because I think it’s important to know that you don’t have to wait till you have a lot of issues to go see somebody, or you know that it’s a stigma or you should feel shameful for going to see somebody to help with the relationship because I know you, for example, you were seeing somebody even before these fights started happening, right? It’s just like, okay, now it’s time to really reengage and find somebody to work on a specific plan with us. So yeah, I love that you’re normalizing the fact that relationship therapy and counseling is a really great thing to do. And preparing yourself for baby number two is such a smart ideas, I love that you’re doing this.
Elana Roumell 19:01
Oh, thanks. Yeah, we just invested in a three month intensive relationship program. And to be honest, we’re both just so excited, mostly because we know,it’ll just help better ourselves and our relationship. So, you know, we’re always constantly doing this and it is normal. I mean, we’ve been together now for five years. So it’s time to look at each other differently and appreciate each other differently. And so we’re just excited to do it. But you know, real life happens. We all fight, we all disagree. We’re still different human beings under a lot of pressure in our work and such like that. But we’re really committed to always getting through those. So thanks for mentioning that.
Okay, well, let’s go ahead. So sorry, we took so long in the beginning, but I think all of this is so valuable. But let’s go ahead and recap from the NICU episodes. Honestly, Steph, I loved this month’s theme. I’ve never really gotten the world of moms who had to navigate life in the NICU. And you know, one thing is yes, it was heartbreaking to hear these stories. But it also really gave me a lot of optimism and hope that if that is going to happen to me and my family, I’m going to get through it. And I know that there are so many great tools and support systems, and that really helped me a lot. And obviously, I’m pregnant now. So hearing all these stories wasn’t easy for me. But it also again, just gave me hope that like, ‘Alright, if I end up being a NICU mom, I got this. I’ve got, I’ve got the resources and I’ve got the the strength and the courage.’ So I thought that was really neat. What I just found so interesting is that no two stories are the same, every mom’s experience is different. And I think that’s a beautiful thing. For example, there was a huge difference between how Emily and Erin coped and they used food kind of as their way to cope. Emily mentioned how she requested a fridge in her room, so she could continue with a Whole30 compliant diet, which I just thought was amazing. And then we have Erin, the naturopathic doctor shared how she would have days of feeding herself Krispy Kreme donuts. I just thought it was an interesting perspective. And since Steph, you’re such an expert in nutrition. I just was curious what you thought about the different ways of coping for mom, specifically with food and just handling these emotional times?
Stephanie Greunke 21:20
Yeah, you know what, I wasn’t surprised that there were those two themes, you know, using food to cope. And then also understanding that diet plays such a role in mental and physical strength, and so wanting to continue a healthy diet. I mean, they’re completely different angles, but they both make sense for what was what’s going on. Ever since we are born, we’ve been taught to use food to cope with difficult emotions. So when we’re babies, we are tired or stressed or overstimulated and we’re looking for the boob or we’re looking for the bottle to calm us down that sucking and that sweetness. And then you know, maybe when we’re a little bit older, we fall down and we get her and mom comforts us with a hug and maybe a popsicle. And, you know, maybe we’re sad because of a breakup and our friend’s like, ‘Hey, let’s go out for ice cream.’ And so this is just kind of normal, a normal way to handle difficult emotions is to use food. It’s just easy and quick, and it tastes really good. And you know, who wouldn’t want to turn down something sweet after something hard? So, yes, I totally think that this is a normal way to respond. And even if you are somebody like Erin, who is an natural doctor, she usually follows a healthy diet. This can really happen to anybody. I mean, I use food to cope emotionally when I’m really struggling too, but this is just amplified when you’re in the NICU for three months or almost a year.
I think what was interesting about this was Emily. I don’t know this for sure, but I don’t think she was eating Whole30 the entire time. She decided that she wanted to do the Whole30 after that conversation with the nurse when the nurse said, ‘Emily, you need to really put your own oxygen mask on first.You need to start taking better care of yourself.’ And for Emily, what that meant was going back to her normal, healthy diet, versus, you know, veering off a plan, and she knew that the Whole30 really helped. And so that’s what worked for her. And that kind of takes awareness that food does have the power to influence how you feel, it takes the understanding of what foods do make you feel better, and and do not make you feel better. And it takes that that dedication to putting the time and effort in to make those healthy choices, like she did with requesting a fridge in her room and looking at what was in the cafeteria food and ordering meals from TrueFare. So yes, I think this is totally normal, they were both very tired. Their adrenals were shot from all the stress and those two conditions specifically, your body physiologically craves sugar to pick you up, to give you the energy because you’re not sleeping, to give you that kind of like numbing sensation to deal with all of the different stimuli that are coming at you. And so yeah, I think this is really normal. I think what can be helpful is giving yourself grace. When you do notice that you are consuming Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and knowing that this is the way that you’re coping right now, and you’re in survival mode. And then also understanding that, yeah, you do need to put your own oxygen mask on first and that may be something that you come to the realization from, when you’ve been eating foods that don’t make you feel good. And Emily, she’s like, ‘I gotta change because I need that strength. And I need to get through this for myself and for Abigail,’ or it may come from somebody telling you, there’s just so many ways you can come to this conclusion. But I think we will get there. I think most people get there at some point after eating kind of off planned, that they know that they need to do it. And you know, just others may take longer, because who may not be the first thing on their mind, they may not be eating at all. So you know, it’s really important that we are eating everything, and you certainly don’t have to eat Whole30 like what Emily did to eat well. It’s just what she chose.
Elana Roumell 25:17
I love your big takeaway that this can be normal, and just to give yourself some grace. And I think also with Emily, I mean, she had a whole year and the NICU, that is a substantial amount of time. Whereas Erin was just really there for two months, which still is a long time. But I see that there are days that that was just a survival mechanism for her. And I think there are some people who go to alcohol or drugs for survival. And I would say food is the best choice out of all those three, especially for nursing mom, right? So I mean it at any point, anything is poison in too much or in you know, poor quality, but, if that’s what she needed to nourish herself in that moment, then that’s fine. And I think I just wanted to keep on honing in on that this is okay, and it’s normal, and there’s just no perfect or right or wrong way. You just do whatever you need. And yes, just the fact that they’re eating is a win because most people wouldn’t even eat and Emily shared that when she was at her lowest low. She wasn’t eating, she wasn’t sleeping, she wasn’t doing anything even close to nourishing herself. And so if you know, whatever she did with food was that then that’s perfect for her, and same with Erin. So thanks for your two cents, I appreciate that Steph.
Stephanie Greunke 26:30
Yeah, I think I give a little bit more than two cents, I have a lot of thoughts on this. You know ultimately, when things feel so out of your control with what’s going on in the NICU and you can only do so many things, sometimes it’s really helpful to be able to know that you can control what goes into your mouth. And so for a lot of moms, just focusing on the healthy diet feels like they’re doing something in a time where everything else feels out of their control. So I think that’s what Emily experienced and a lot of other moms too. So but it may take time to get there. But anyways, okay, so let’s move on.
So when it comes to Emily’s experience in the hospital, she said of one of the hardest things was the communication with her doctors and her medical staff. Now something was going on with her daughter, they may offer medical information, but she didn’t really understand what they were saying at times. And sometimes it almost felt to her like they forgot she was a human, they told her some kind of scary things. And she was left just kind of feeling a lot of different emotions and almost, you know, helpless with the information that was given. So while they had a lot of good intentions of the hospital, sometimes how they presented that information about truly crushing. So I’m curious from a doctor’s perspective, what advice can you give moms that are listening to this episode that may also be experiencing this, that they’re not understanding what their providers are saying, or they kind of feel like they’re being treated as a number?
Elana Roumell 27:59
Yeah, this was really sad. When I heard this, especially being a doctor myself, I think many of us really work on our bedside manner and we work on communicating with patients, while there are other doctors or healthcare providers who may not have the best bedside manner. But man, are they brilliant at their craft, whether they’re surgeons, researchers or whatever they are, they are meant to be doctors for a specific purpose, but maybe communicating with the patients aren’t their strength. My only advice I would say, to give to these parents, any of them navigating any type of hospital experience, or just any challenging appointment with a doctor is, I would actually go in with the expectation that it may not be sugar coated, and that it may be hard to hear. And if you can go in with that expectation, I think it can only be easier to then hear because maybe that doctor does really tell you the news in a really kind and gentle way. Or if they don’t and it’s harsh, and it could be crushing, then really my biggest feedback would be is then if it’s just so much to bear, tell them just to stop, like, ‘I can’t hear this,’ and perhaps ask a nurse to talk to the doctor and then have the nurse then reiterate to you. You know, I think I’m so big into having the patient be proactive and really get what they’re what they need. If it’s just simply too hard to hear, just tell them, ‘I can’t hear this anymore,’ and just stop them. You know, tell them like, ‘I’m sorry, I can’t communicate with you, if you can please either talk to my husband directly or talk to the nurse and I want the nurse to talk to me, that would be great, thank you because you still want the information.’ And if you really want to talk to the doctor directly, then again, try your best to go in knowing that they’re really doing the best that they can. And for some, it comes much easier than others. And for some others who are just so brilliant in their field, they do try and they care. And at the end of the day, they’re just trying to communicate that the best they can. There’s truly an art to communication. And some of these scientists just don’t necessarily have access to that. And so I know it’s so hard to hear that coming from such an emotional place. So just know you can really advocate for yourself if it’s just too hard. Just stop, stop them and let them tell the nurse or just really come at it from a place of they’re doing their best.
Stephanie Greunke 30:16
The other point I would add to that is, it’s probably not that they don’t care. They really do care. But I think when it comes to looking at their job, from their perspective, they are seeing so many babies, and it’s not that one is more important or less important than the other, they almost have to shield themselves from the emotions. Because if you think about how many stories are hearing every day, and some of them are crushing, and some of them are happy stories, but I mean, just to be able to go home and kind of leave work at work, they almost have to put up a shield and that’s something that develops over time a lot of times with healthcare practitioners. They really do care, it is almost like that shield they have to add to to their outfit to protect themselves. Do you agree with that?
Elana Roumell 31:07
I totally agree. And now, I feel fortunate – I’m a naturopathic doctor in the space of outpatient care. So I don’t have that same kind of impact as working with like hundreds of really chronically ill near-death patients, right? I mean, that’s not something I was trained for, I’m of the approach of preventing disease, not necessarily saving their lives. And so I can’t really relate to those kind of doctors, but I definitely agree with you Steph – really their patients are somewhat numbers, and especially in the hospital, they don’t have the chance to develop relationships, like I get to in my clinic. I get to learn the whole family and build relationships because of our longer appointments. But they’re really just all about saving people’s lives, which are hugely important, and just staying really focused on their science and their craft. And so oftentimes without the intention of doing it harm, they could say something or do something and just like move on, even though it can crush the mom. So again trying as a parent to put yourself in the doctor shoes, although can be very challenging, especially with the heightened emotions, perhaps that can be a tool to help you through those difficult conversations.
Alright, let’s go ahead and move to the next point. You know Steph, you already brought this up quite a bit about how important it is for moms to put on their oxygen mask before their child’s and I find this to be a pretty conflicting topic or situation for for any mom. Emily really was very transparent, but remember, at her worst of the worst times, she was like calling the hospital every two hours, just to get a check in like. She wasn’t getting any sleep, she wasn’t eating, she would literally set an alarm so she wouldn’t call more frequently than every two hours because she didn’t want to sound like a crazy mom. And obviously, I mean, she’s in a survival state, she just didn’t know what to do and she just needed to connect. And she shared how she had a nurse tell her that she really needs to take care of herself, and if she doesn’t take care of herself, she can’t be Abby’s number one health advocate. And so that really helped transform the way she was dealing with this stress and pressure and fear. And she called that nurse her angel and I thought that was so sweet. In your interview with Parijat, she also talked about how it is important for moms to get their needs met, but simply it’s not their priority. You know, she comes from more of a clinical perspective saying, ‘Yes, we want to tell moms to get their needs met.’ But in all honesty, it just our children are our main focus ,nothing else is able to come in to the picture. And so I loved how Parijat was really just normalizing Emily’s experience. And although I thought Emily did a great job, Parijat does remind moms is that it’s so important to ask for help. It’s so important to reach out to your community and just start getting them to maybe help you as a mom with their basic needs, like the laundry and the cooking and whatnot so that you can pay attention to your child, but still, obviously get your needs met. So Steph, I was wondering if you had any ideas and that we can kind of reiterate to the moms some of the resources or some of the things that we can do, either as a friend or just as a mom in the NICU needing some extra help, that they know like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s right, I’ve got this resource, I can really do it so that I can focus fully on my child.’
Stephanie Greunke 34:33
There’s a lot of different things here. One of them is we talked about already with the food, you can use food as self care to really help nourish you. But I think identifying what self care looks like for you in this specific time. For Emily, she was saying that she needed that structure. So she needed to go back to work, she needed to have more of a routine and that kind of helped her get through and not be thinking about Abigail as every second of the day, I mean, I’m sure she still was but to kind of have some normalcy in her her life. And so for some that may be going back to work a little bit more if they can, some maybe cutting back hours, so that they can try to rest and take care of themselves, if they’re so focused on the baby.
There’s a ton of resources that are out there, like Hand to Hold is a wonderful resource. They work with hospitals to provide peer support to families and the NICU. And so each hospital that they work with has their own family support specialist. Basically, they do rounding at the bedside three to four days a week. And during this rounding, they check in with whoever is there – the mom, dad, grandparents siblings – and they make sure that mom is doing okay, and they can offer resources and support to the moms at bedside. So Hand to Hold is a fantastic organization that really looks out for the moms and the dads. They have handbooks that are available to help support families, they hold weekly support groups, they have a podcast that’s out there, they have a peer mentoring program where NICU graduates (moms and parents that were in the NICU) can mentor moms and dads. So you know, these mentors can say, ‘Hey, look, I was in the NICU and this is what I did to really get myself through that difficult time,’ and check in, maybe be helped mom be accountable for taking care of herself. And yes, I think you know, at the end of the day, realizing that we can talk about self care all day. But when you are in it, you are really thinking about your kid, and you’re hoping that your kid is safe, you are dedicating so much of your time and resources to their day to day life and the NICU. So it’s okay, if you identify that you haven’t been taking care of yourself like you may want to, but knowing that it doesn’t have to be extravagant. But you really would feel matter if you stepped away, as both Emily and Erin said, if you stepped away and maybe had a date with your husband, maybe found something else outside of the hospital so you’re not there all the time. And really, whatever you need to do, so that you can take care of yourself and ultimately, your little one.
Elana Roumell 37:17
Great, I love it. And I’m going to make sure to add this into the show notes that Hand to Hold as a resource. I didn’t know about that and you oftentimes just don’t know what your resources are. But I think once you know that there are so many tools and resources, you can really go in feeling much more empowered. I just I love hearing any of these organizations that are here to help. So just for moms listening that that’ll be in the show notes.
Stephanie Greunke 37:41
Yeah. And we actually interviewed them on our blog. We did a five questions with where we talked about how to help moms transition from the NICU to home, what friends and family members can do to support the loved ones that were in the NICU, other resources that are available. So that’s great and we can put the link to that in our show notes as well.
Elana Roumell 38:00
Perfect. Okay, excellent. Thanks so much. That’s such great work Steph.
Stephanie Greunke 38:03
Yeah, thank you, you know, anything we can do to help these families. You know, the food thing was really interesting to me, how they both approach that differently. And then also how they approached life after the NICU and how, when they were in the NICU, they didn’t even really worry about getting their nursery setup, or didn’t really worry about getting a ton of baby things – it was really hard to purchase things because there’s so many unknowns, and there is a lack of time. And so that was something that I found really interesting too. And these ladies, they both also found comfort in talking to other people about their experience, they found comfort in Facebook groups, and to learn about maybe their disease and the child’s diseases. I know you said Erin found a Facebook group really helpful for Edie’s diseas and I know Emily found support with the Whole30. And so these groups are really helpful. So they had a lot of similarities with their story too. And we talked about the differences. But what both of these ladies also said that sometimes strangers were even easier to talk about some of these things, than people in their real life because maybe their real life friends didn’t quite understand what was going on. Or they didn’t say the right things to them, or they couldn’t offer the resources and tools. So I love that they both use community to support them with their experience.
Elana Roumell 39:34
Yeah, and Steph, this is actually an opportunity – I really wanted to acknowledge you for creating the group you did when Emily spoke about how valuable being part of Healthy Mama, Happy Baby was. It was like her community,it was almost part of her oxygen during that whole year. And I just thought how beautiful that you are able to create and facilitate that type of group for her. And yes, strangers for her, like she said, were even more valuable than the real life friends and family since they just couldn’t really relate. And I just I thought that was really, really special. So, you know, getting a community, whether it’s online, or in person, whatever really works for you, I think is so essential. And I just think that that is so great that you have such a great strong community. I mean, it really inspired me to create my own community for the moms after the pregnancy and such. I just think it’s phenomenal and with Facebook these days and those private groups, you can really feel safe to share, in somewhat privacy, but right to that community and it’s not like the public can just go ahead and search anything.
Stephanie Greunke 40:42
Yeah, absolutely. You can share and then come back to it when you want to write, if you’re having a day where you’re like, ‘I don’t care what anybody has to say, I don’t want to talk about this,’ you don’t even have to respond. And then when you feel better, if you want the community support, that’s when you can log on and read and engage and interact. And so I think the right communication can be can be helpful, too, so it’s on your time because there’s going to be better days and others
Elana Roumell 41:05
I totally agree, I think that’s a great therapy. So in addition to that therapy, I also was really interested in Parijat’s work. So her therapy is really about like a mind/body connection. And as a reminder, she works with moms either before, during or after the NICU. But what she has found in her experience is that a lot of moms hold that trauma, or they hold those emotions within their body. And so oftentimes talk therapy isn’t always just enough to really get through it. But she also really does a lot of body work with them. And I just thought that was a really interesting perspective. And I’m sure stuff you believe in this too, but I do believe that we can hold our emotions in different parts of the body, whether it’s in your stomach, or you’re prone to headaches, or you’re prone to back pains, whatever that is. And I really like I Parijat was so open to that. I just wanted to really mention that because I want to remind moms how individualized these experiences are. And I just think that it’s okay to also have different timeframes of how we process things. For example, Parijat even said that men tend to process things in a very different way than how women tend to process things, and that’s okay. And that even your husband seems like, ‘Okay, now that we’re done with the NICU and now we’re out of it,’ he is easily able to get back to normal life. But for you as a mom, maybe it takes you months to get back to normal life. And that’s all okay. We just recommend that you reach out for resources and that you don’t discredit the option of working with someone maybe more on the physical, not just with talk therapy. I didn’t even think about this. But Parijat really even mentioned things like you could do therapy, whether it’s body work, or yoga, or massage or dance, or there’s even art therapy. I mean, there’s just like so many different outlets. And it’s important that when you do contact a therapist, you ask them if they’re trauma certified, or trauma experienced or whatnot, and maybe perhaps even taking it a step further as, ‘Hey, have you worked with moms who’ve gone through the NICU experience,’ just so they can really relate, since no two therapists are alike. So now I just thought that that was a really interesting aspect. And I think that I wanted to reiterate that on our recap, let me see if I have anything else that I wanted to share.
Stephanie Greunke 43:22
And while you’re looking, I just wanted to share that one thing that I found interesting was I did a bereavement training with a doula. And she was saying that with pregnancy loss or traumatic situations that come up, what can happen is that oftentimes the the mom will grieve first, right? It’s very personal to her, she’s got the hormones, it’s just something that’s deeply hurtful for her. And her partner will also be experiencing that grief, but the partner almost feels like they have to be the rock for the mom. And so they kind of suppress their trauma, they suppress the heart emotion, so that they can help support the mom as best they can. And when they see that the mom is recovering, and she’s starting to heal, and she’s getting back on her feet, then all of a sudden, that adrenaline kind of starts weeding down and then they start really feeling what’s going on. It’s kind of like if you’re in the middle of a football game, like a football player, they get hurt, but they’ve got to finish and they’ve got to make to the field goal, or they’ve got to make it to the line. They they want to make a touchdown, and they’re running and they like may have torn something or broken a leg, and they’re just they’re running and all of a sudden, they they get that touchdown, and they come off the field. And they’re like what just happened, they’re really hurting, that adrenaline wears off. So that can happen. You know, that partner really just trying to be there and then all of a sudden starting to feel those deep feelings after the fact. So, you know, sometimes moms will get upset that their partner’s not seemingly not as upset as they are, or that the partner is going back to work and seems like they’re good. They’re really not good, they’re also grieving, but it’s just a different way.
Elana Roumell 45:07
And I think really almost expecting that and honoring that is important. And so no matter why you just go ahead and you kind of sign up or you find a therapist automatically. I mean, kind of like back to our nourish yourself segment. Like even with our partners, life is just stressful, things get in the way. And then you add on top a NICU experience and you’re destined to have obstacles and things come up that needs to get processed, right, life in general is hard, even with very healthy kids. It’s just life. And so we can always use those extra resources and therapies and such. And, like Parijat was saying, and she really encourages people, if something isn’t feeling right with your therapist, and it’s not working for you, just stop and try another type of therapy, because there’s so many different practitioners, they’re different type of modalities. Don’t give up. I loved actually her quote, I’m going to read it because I took notes on this, I thought that was so sweet. She always encourages the moms to “look inwards for the light,” she reminds them, ‘You have it all inside of you. And it will help you heal when it’s all over. Like that light that’s inside of you will help you heal. You just need to believe that it’s there.’ And so I just thought that was really sweet of her to mention because she’s such a believer in this type of recovery, being a NICU mom herself. So personally going through it, coupled with her clinical experience, I think it’s such a brilliant niche that she has now. So thanks for bringing her on and sharing her with all the moms.
Stephanie Greunke 46:33
Oh, yeah, absolutely. And we like to always round it out with both talking about both partners, because both partners are involved. And so she’s a great resource for moms and also for your dads or partners that they’re looking for resources. There is a podcast, it’s pretty new, it’s called NICU dad discussions. And it’s a podcast for NICU dads by NICU dads and they cover topics like depression, and anxiety, and father’s relationships, and connecting with other dads. And there’s also thenicudad.com. And that’s a website created by a father who his daughter Emerson was born at 27 weeks, and now he’s helping families with blogs and resources about his experience and just really how to help them. So yes, I think we hopefully we were able to offer some kind of a resource to help support you, whether it’s for yourself or for friend or if you’re a practitioner for the ones that you work with. We’re really we’re really happy about sharing these resources this month and let us know if they helped you.
Elana Roumell 47:37
Great. I’m going to add that also to the show notes stuff and maybe it’s just a wrap up. I absolutely loved how you asked Parijat like if you had a dream team who would be on on every moms team. Do you mind just summarizing that again for moms? I think that’d be a great way just to end today’s episode.
Stephanie Greunke 47:53
Yeah. So she talked about having a postpartum doula on your team to help you with basic needs, like we talked about with self care. Sometimes, you’re so focused on baby that you don’t take care of yourself, like you’d like to. And so just really helping moms, whether that’s doing their laundry for them, or bringing them a healthy meal or reminding them to step away. I think a postpartum doula can be extremely helpful. And if you don’t have the funds to get a postpartum doula, really talking to your friends about how they can best support you, or talking to your partner about what the needs are that that are really important to you, so you can get that help. And then a pelvic floor therapist is really important because sometimes we, like you mentioned, we hold that tension in different parts of our body and there can be a lot of trauma and our bodies need a lot of help but this so and there’s a high correlation with increased pain and anxiety and depression. So pelvic floor therapists. And then community support – so whether that is finding people in person, or if I need people online, or a nice blend. And then what other kind of support you need, whether that’s body work like massage therapy, chiropractor, accupuncturist, talk therapy, yoga, dance, art, whatever you find that really makes you feel good and supports your healing process. So that was her dream team. And then I would just add, you know, a functional practitioner that can help do some lab testing for you too. If you had a complicated delivery that had a lot of blood loss or as a c-section, you want to look at maybe your iron levels and your thyroid levels and nutrient levels, just making sure that you are physically looking your best and helping to optimize that for you. So I think a functional practitioner would be great. And then yes, like I mentioned earlier, support for your partner is really great, too.
Elana Roumell 49:38
I love it. I think this is awesome, what a Dream Team. Honestly, I think I loved how you said that. I think that’s perfect.
Stephanie Greunke 49:44
Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I think it’s really important for you know, all of us to have that postpartum Dream Team.
Elana Roumell 49:51
I totally agree with you. I wish that was like standard of care, obviously, it’s not, but it’s okay. But I think in our circles in our communities, people could really value that. But even these NICU moms even more so, absolutely. Well, I just I loved this month’s series, really, it was so touching. I mean, I love all of our episodes, but you know, some just stick out more than others. So I really enjoyed putting this recap together and getting everyone’s insight and sharing resources. And I’m so excited and now I have this for other family and friends.
Stephanie Greunke 50:17
Yes, I am too. And thanks to all of you that listen to today’s show. And don’t forget if you would like to cheers with me and unwind from your busy day of morning with a delicious low-sugar organic hot cocoa that has the power of reishi mushrooms to support a more restful sleep. Or if you’d like to cheers with lana Eand her matcha latte that’s full of antioxidants and provides stable energy head over to foursigmatic.com/wholemamas to get 15% off your order. And while you’re there, you can also consider checking out their popular mushroom coffees, super food protein powder, golden milk latte mix, or even their natural beauty products that are so clean and therapeutic you can actually eat them. So go to foursigmatic.com/wholemamas to get 15% off your order.
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- Tips to navigate nutrition while in the NICU
- How to best communicate with doctors so you are getting the support you need
- Getting mom’s needs met during a NICU stay
- Support groups during the NICU
- Mind body therapy to heal from the NICU
- A mom’s dream team during and after a NICU stay
- Hand to Hold resource for parents in the NICU: You are Not Alone
- Article answering 5 FAQs from Hand to Hold
- The NICU Dad
- The HMHB Weekly Email Series
- Whole Mamas Pregnancy Program
- Dr. Elana’s Med School For Moms
- Dr. Elana’s Medical Center: Nourish Medical Center
- Follow Steph and Elana on Instagram
- Whole Mamas Podcast Archive
This episode's guest
The Whole Mamas podcast is led by Stephanie Greunke, a registered dietitian, and Dr. Elana Roumell, a naturopathic doctor, both trained in functional medicine and passionate about pregnancy, postpartum, and pediatrics. They invite experts on the show, answer burning questions, highlight key points, and make sure you feel empowered to take action. Find Whole Mamas and the Whole Mamas hosts on Instagram @wholemamasclub, @stephgreunke, @drelanaroumell, and at www.wholemamasclub.com.