A Candid Conversation with Postpartum Doula Taylor O'Bryan of "The Ginger Goose"
Updated: Sep 2
Taylor O'Bryan of The Ginger Goose is a Postpartum Doula serving Delaware, parts of Pennsylvania, and the Eastern Shore of Maryland. What is a Postpartum Doula you might ask? Well, I wish I had known during those tender first weeks of new parenthood.
When I had my first, I was a clueless 21 year old. I was the eldest of my siblings and we were all born "boom, boom, boom" as my mom would say-- so close together that I don't remember my siblings as infants. I didn't have any experience with babies growing up. The first words out of my mouth when my daughter was born were "I have never held a baby before". The midwife's response? "Well, you've got one now!" So many mothers, like myself, enter new parthood without any practical knowledge or preparedness for how to care for their newborn let along how to care for themselves postpartum.
A Postpartum Doula provides compassionate support though education, meal planning and prep, house cleaning (they will fold your laundry and take out the trash!), sibling and newborn care, dog walking, night feedings, errand runs, appointment scheduling... the list of the ways a Postpartum Doula can help you is over a mile long.
In our conversation, Taylor shares her passion for helping new mothers and how her expertise and unique skill set empowers families with the knowledge and confidence they need to navigate the challenges of the postpartum period.
I hope you enjoy!
What is a postpartum doula and how are you different from a birth doula?
So a doula in either sense comes from the Greek word meaning “servant”. Our job is to come in and assist women during that time of pregnancy and postpartum. There is a little bit of overlap between birth and postpartum doula with that. We both come in and provide emotional support, we are providing education, providing physical support, we are providing encouragement. We are both non-medical practitioners so we don’t diagnose anything, but we are giving referrals where needed. Postpartum doulas are coming in after the birth has happened. Sometimes we are providing some prenatal appointment to help get you ready for that period, but we are not in the labor and delivery room. As soon as that placenta is delivered though, we are able to start stepping in right then and helping you from that point forward.
Some doctor’s say that Postpartum is twelve weeks, however, the bigger medical definition is a year. There are others who are saying 18 months, and some who say 10 years. My personal definition is a year, so I am there to help you transition through all those different starts. As soon as that 12 weeks is up, we’ve gone from a newborn to an infant and that’s a big transition. And then in a year we’ve gone from an infant to a toddler. Along the way there are so many other transitions that happen that you could definitely use help with.
Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and what led you into postpartum doula work?
My name is Taylor and I run the Ginger Goose which does antepartum (which is before birth) and postpartum doula work. My journey to this work began when I was thirteen and my mom gave birth to my younger brother. I had a very hands-on experience with her postpartum journey then and my first experience of taking care of a newborn. I also had an Aunt when I was a teenager who had a rough labor and I went to help take care of her and her newborn after that birth. Throughout my life friends and people I was close to were having babies and I was assisting them. I was really absorbing what they are going through. I have always working health care adjacent fields, and even though I never wanted to be a practitioner, I come from a family of pharmacists and nurses and so it was always my sphere educationally.
I also went through my own experience as a foster mom where I know looking back now how much more support I needed. I had a very long journey to have my daughter, who I gave birth to last September, and when I had her, I had a totally different experience because I had done the planning, I had the support, and I saw what a world of difference that made for my husband and I. He and I have even had lots of conversations about how if it had been our first time ever having a newborn in our house, my postpartum would have been way more stressful. And I wanted to be able to provide that support to other women.
After I had my daughter, I was having a not-so-great time in corporate America where I found certain leadership that was not supportive of me being a working mom. So when that experience ended, I wanted to go work for myself. I come from a family of entrepreneurs as well as medical professionals. I wanted to work for myself so I could have leverage to do above and beyond for the families I serve. I wanted to be able to work in my non-working hours if someone needed it, I wanted to be able to travel to help someone if they needed.
I was talking to a midwife I knew who I was telling her about this idea I had about wanting to help moms who have just had babies and she said “oh, you want to be a doula!” and I said “That’s disgusting. I didn’t want to be in my own labor and delivery room let alone someone else's! I am not going to stare at other women giving birth.” She told me "No, there is a special kind of doula called a postpartum doula. You would be great." and when I read about what a Postpartum doula was I had this unlocking of the universe moment and where all my talents and skills and the things that I like were coming together.
I am a very administrative minded person so when a new mom needs to figure out how to get a birth certificate or needs to travel outside of the country-- I can deal with vital records or help her navigate the passport system. And if she needs to set up a 529 plan, I can help her with that as well. There are all these little checklist items that you have to do when you become a new mom-- what is a hassle for other people comes easy to me.
My favorite outside-of-work passion is cooking. That is a big part of being a postpartum doula. Many families need someone to come in and cook. I love kids, my daughter, my nieces, and my honorary nieces and nephew are some of my favorite people in the world.
And while I love kids, but I love moms more. I get to sit there with them while they are at this precipice of going from maid into matriarch. And then there are these women who are doing it for the second time and third time and just watching the levels that they are exploring in themselves, watching the transformation that they have brought their whole families through is amazing. I love getting to talk about what that means for them!
That is really beautiful and I know exactly what you mean about the personal growth that comes when your family grows. My sister just had her second baby, and although it was amazing watching her become a mother with her first, her newest addition has really unlocked this well of strength and confidence within her.
Yes. One of my favorite things to talk to moms about, especially first time moms. Is the transformative power she has. Because when she became a mom, she made her partner a parent. And then she made grandparents, and she made aunts and uncles. She transformed the lives of everyone around her in a way that only she could. It is so special to me. And to help couples talk about it. I am always surprised the many times that couples haven’t told each other the baby's birth story from their perspective. It’s beautiful the things that women are hearing for the first time when their partner tells her “I knew you were strong but I didn’t know how strong you were” or men are realizing that they felt scared and vulnerable during the birth process. I love helping them get through the emotional side, and then explaining the scientific side. Things like the hormonal changes the men are going through. Changes the siblings are going through- how birth order has been shown to affect different kids. If you don’t want to ascribe to birth order, the different things that you could be doing. It is really fascinating to talk to people about that.
As I befriend more Doulas, I am realizing that doula work is so much about education. And it is so nice to have someone come to you and explain anything that a family might be curious about as it comes up-- in there home! They don’t have to go seeking for it because you are right there to hold their hand through their experience.
It is really surprising we don’t have more of it. There is nothing else we have in life that we receive so little education for. If you are going to learn how to drive a car, you are going to have to sit through a mandatory-- 60 hours was it?-- a large amount of time in a classroom. And then you have to get behind the wheel with someone who has the ability to stop the car, and then you have a period of time when you are driving and someone is supervising you, and then you have a probationary period. We have less guidance when it comes to giving you a whole human. It’s crazy. Blows my mind!
In terms of the educational aspect of working with you, what are the common things that come up that families aren’t aware of, don’t have the base knowledge of, and need education on?
One of the biggest things is bottle feeding. I support breast feeding and I believe in that, but a lot of people don’t know how to bottle feed.
(raises hand) That’s me. I have four children, but have no confidence in my ability to bottle feed an infant. This means that I can’t even babysit my infant nieces and nephews. Seriously, it causes me anxiety even thinking about it because I have no clue how to do it!
So you would probably benefit from being taught things like pace feeding and how to position them. All things I go over with the families I serve.
I would have loved somebody to come in and show me how to do it!
The other thing is purposeful play-- teaching people how to interact with their babies. If you have never been around babies before, you have no freakin’ clue. People just sit there looking at them. There's so much that we are seeing about neural connections that form from reading, and talking, and singing, and playing. It’s not something that comes organically for a lot of people. So I help parents learn how to actually do that. How to interact with their babies. Just teaching people how to talk with their baby and bond with their baby. We also go over all the stuff that parents learn in infant care classes but they have a real baby, their baby, in their space. You can be shown a month before you have your baby how to burp them but you need someone to evaluate it. We go over how to burp your baby and if your baby is not liking it, then I show them how we adjust your baby for comfort.
So, as a postpartum doula, you are helping people learn hands-on each aspect of newborn care with their own baby in their own home. Do you do that all at once, or is it overtime that you touch on the different areas?
Yes, it’s overtime. The process is that there is an intake survey I send out asking which areas you think you need help with. We have a virtual consultation and then when I get there the first time, that first visit is really just assessing the situation. And from there whenever we meet, I bring my goals which I differ first with the parent’s goals, and then afterwards the parent's get a follow up email about all the different topics we talked about because you are a new parent, you are exhausted and you can’t carry all these things in your head. When I come back we assess where we were, see how things have changed, and the we keep formulating the plan from there.
Do you work with just first time parents, or do you work with parents that have older children as well?
Parents who are on their second, third, or forth child are still very important to work with. They are at least 50% of my clients because it is a huge transition. I will share one of the most beautiful way I have seen someone use my time. There was a mom I worked with who had a toddler. She wanted to have that bedtime routine with her toddler. So for the time I was with her, part of the time I would just take care of the baby, so this mom could have that time she was missing so much with her older child. She could focus her whole attention on her toddler-- "It just me and you. You don’t need to to worry about you sibling taking me away from you. It’s just me and you." But that switched when the toddler realized there was a person in their home that was fun and new and exciting. and he was like, "I want to go play with that person." So the mom and I talked and we adjusted our plans. And it was like "OK, tonight I’m going to hang out with the toddler-- go enjoy breastfeeding, go outside or hang out in your room go wherever a space is that is just you and the baby so you can focus on the baby with out the toddler running around."
How you help with the sibling transition in other ways?
I always recommend giving that sibling as much excitement and ownership for the new baby as possible. Refer to it as their baby. What about painting the nursery? What about decorating? Do you really care about what the nursery’s theme is? Allow that sibling to be involved in the decorating. That is one way to give them ownership of this big change. They were involved in the process of it changing. One great thing my mom did was that the baby would bring home a gift from the hospital for the older siblings and usually it was a disposable camera. You can still get them, you can still get the film developed. If you give a six year old or a seven year old a disposable camera you are going to get some really cool shots of those early days.
What a great idea! I’m thinking of some film for one of those Fuji film cameras too if you had one around. I know my older girls would have loved that.
That would work, and from there, keeping a special box of toys or books that you can play with one handed if you are breastfeeding or doing something with the baby. So it’s not that the baby is detracting from time with the sibling, it's you saying “I’m breastfeeding please get a book from that pile, we only use that pile when mommy’s feeding the baby” so that is something they can get excited about. You are avoiding saying I can’t do this because of the baby, but instead if you can say I can do this because I am sitting down, it will help with that sibling rivalry.
In addition to providing infant care and helping with siblings, what is the support like for the mom?
All of it is emotional support. We are talking about her birth story, mom and I are talking about the things that she is going through. It is also providing physical support. I don’t want to steal her snuggles, I want her to be able to sit there with the baby (unless she is touched out-- then I will take the baby) I want her to enjoy that. That could mean meal prep, meal planning, running errands. the first things I ask when I arrive are: Have you eaten today? Are you hydrated? Have you gone to the bathroom today? Have you showered? Have you been stimulated in a way that you like? If the answer to any of those is no, then that is the first thing I work through with her.
From there it is providing resources. I work with moms to get connected to those in her area, help them find virtual ones if they are not able to leave the house. If they have got a few kids at home, it is not reasonable for them to going to a mother’s group that is going to be meeting in person. But if she can get a mother’s helper, or I can can come so she can attend the virtual mother’s group than that's great. So finding those kinds of things for moms.
Community is so important during postpartum, but sometimes it's difficult to find on your own. It would be so nice to be handed a list of moms groups or meet ups to consider. It's awesome that you provide that for new moms.
Have you ever encountered instances of postpartum depression or anxiety during your time working as a postpartum doula?
I am not a clinician, so our conversations are educating them about the warning signs. If i am seeing a red flag then I am honest. I will say something like "X is concerning me, I am going to give you a resource". We talk about the people in her life that she trusts to be honest with her. So if she trusts her husband, then she can talk to her husband about intrusive thoughts. If her husband says to her "I think you need more help than I can provide. I think you need to see a doctor", then she will trust her husband. If her husband says "we need to take you to the hospital because 72 hours in the hospital is better than a lifetime without you". Then that is where they are going. We talk about trusting that person and that doesn't necessarily need to be a spouse.
We connect with community resources: postpartum support international is a good one; they have a Delaware chapter that is having a couple events in the fall. and then there is Josie’s Grace. That is where I refer to lots of my clients who I’m seeing those warning signs too.
Interested in Maternal Mental Health? You can learn more about Josie's Grace HERE.
What about dads? Have you come across instances of perinatal mood disorders among any of the dads you have worked with?
A little known statistic is that when it comes to postpartum depression and postpartum mood disorders, 1/10 dads are going to suffer from postpartum depression as well. It’s shocking no one ever feels like they have heard about this. I always make a point to talk about how this looks in men and how it can look a little bit different. We talk about what the steps would look like if the mom is not suffering and she feels that she needs to support the husband who is.
We talk about postpartum stress disorder. Basically everyone gets this. You are going through a period of decreased sleep. There have been studies done on neurotypical people, who are not showing signs of depression, and they were deprived of sleep in the same quantities and patterns of a newborn parent. And all study subjects walked away from it reporting that they felt like they had clinical depression or showing signs of it. Everyone is going to end up with some kind of postpartum stress disorder. It’s making sure that they have the support they need. It’s also working through some of the social stuff around. Your house does not need to be perfect.
We talk about social media’s influences, we talk about the intergenerational changes. Because that is a big thing today. Things are different today then when their mother’s and grandmother’s gave birth and were raising children. I give my moms one of my favorite phrases to use when a mom or a mother in law says something like “oh that must be nice” or “i never had any help with this”. I say turn around and say to her “it really is nice, thank you for being happy for me that things have changed” or “That sounds really hard, you never had any help from your husband to change a diaper? I am so glad your son is helping me. It is really making a difference. Do you want to talk about how hard that was for you and isolating that was to not have any help from your partner?”
This is an attitude that has come up with family members every time I have had a baby. I have never known how to approach it. This is really great advice.
It is disarming, it’s compassionate, and it’s a way to alert the person to the fact that they may be coming off as judgmental. Why would they want you to suffer?
My response was to close my bedroom door and cry.
I don’t want that. I want my moms to be empowered. To be able to own their spaces. We talk about things like that. If people are coming into your home. You not supposed to be relegated to your bedroom. You are living in your house. If someone is coming to your house and your going to breastfeed and someone is like “please don’t do that in front of Uncle Jim” then Uncle Jim doesn’t need to come over.
If someone comes over and comments on how the house looks. My suggestions is to write down a list of your recurring chose, put it in a clear slip, like a binder protector and put it own the fridge and when people come over to your house they have to complete something on the list or bring food before they can hold the baby and if not, you just hold the baby. and say "this is what I need right now". You’ve got that list there and that way it’s easy when people say “Hey, what can I do for you? What needs to be done?” and if you can’t think of anything because the mental load of having a newborn is already enough. You can say “Our chores are marked on the fridge with what has been done and what hasn’t been done, I don’t even know what hasn’t been done. Can you just pick one? Anyone who loves you enough to come over is going be “Oh, it says your dishwasher needs to be emptied, I’ve got that real quick” or "Oh, it says the litter box needs to be changed- alright, tell me where the is the scooper is?”
I just love this tip so much! I'm implementing it every time my mother-in-laws visits-- whether there is newborn baby for her to hold, or not.
So, I know that you have a parenting class specific to dads. Could you tell us about this workshop?
(If interested, you can register for Taylor's "Finding Fatherhood" course HERE)
Yes, It’s called Finding Fatherhood and it’s a workshop we are doing that is in four parts. During the first part, we talk about research around dads which is very new. Reasearch into fatherhood wasn’t even started until the late 70’s. So the dads of many people who are around birthing age right now were the ones being studied, or their parents where the ones first seeing any kind of research on the effects that dads have developmentally on their children. Or the way that dad affects genes. Things like schizophrenia and autism used to be blamed on how involved or uninvolved mom was in their life. We were telling people - something you have probably heard- that you need to have children young as a woman because once you are 35 everything changes. There are studies that are saying that the quality of men’s genetic material after 35 takes a hit also. No one talks about it.
There are studies that have shown that if a dad leaves his daughter before a certain age she will start meneses almost a year, like 10 months to a year, sooner than a girl whose father is actively in the home. Which is a crazy statistic.
That is pretty crazy. What is the biological reason for that?
In the book “Do Father’s Matter” by Paul Rueben, the researchers postulate that the girls are learning that their partner is not going to stay with them, so they need to go out and get other partner’s and reproduce frequently and that needs to happen sooner. Versus is if your dad is there and he is providing for your family and involved you are not seeing that you need to find a partner or start reproducing. Your dad (your partner) is there.
Up for a deep dive? I found an interested podcast featuring Paul Reuben who discusses the research you can find in his book "Do Father's Matter" (to answer that hypothetical question-- yes, yes they do!) You can listen to that interview HERE.
So interesting. I guess this is the reason for “Daddy Issues?” What are the effects of dads who leave their sons?
One of the things chalked in there-- it’s more of the inverse-- is that sons tend to do better in school and go further in school if they have their dad around because it promotes a good competitiveness between fathers and sons.
The other thing is that the involvement of a father in a child’s life-- it didn’t give a gender-- at age four is a predictor for how socially successful they are in school. The book states that this is because of the way dads play with their kids. Dads, especially dads with boys, will play very rough. Moms do more quiet play where they are matching energies, but dad’s are amping it up. Kids need both and if they don't have that, it changes the way that they socially interact with one another.
How are you supporting fathers during your home visits?
Education is the biggest way I support them. There is willful incompetence sometimes from dads. I hear a lot of: “I don’t know how to do that.” My response? "OK, let’s learn then". When I have a dad with me, I try to have opportunities for one-on-one conversations with because it’s talking about what his partner is going through and then there is what his relationship is going through.
Michelle Obama in her second book, Becoming, talked about there were ten years of her marriage she hated her husband. This cracks me up because publicly they are one of the strongest marriages this country has. It was during the years her kids where just small. I see so many people quoting that because the changes in our relationships during those years are very, very hard. There are so many things you don’t talk about when you are getting married (and I use marriage here, but it's not like you have to be married for this to apply). Marriage is something in our culture, that a lot of times you will do something, some sort sort of lead up to it where you will meet with the person who is officiating and they will talk about prep for the marriage. Talk about finances, talk about what kinds of schools your kids will go to. But you don’t talk about those kinds of new parent things that you have to make decisions together on. Like: “What is the safe word if I need to get away from the baby?” or how to start a conversation that might go something like “Hey, we are not in the same place sexually right now” and sometimes the mom is sometimes like; “I am getting used to my new body, it’s freaking me out, there are things happening that I’m not used to have happened, and I feel like every time you touch me, it’s sexually. And then the dad can be like “oh, I need to have some non-intimate physical contact with you" or "Oh, we haven’t had a real conversation in the last three months”.
I relate to this strongly. Every time after I have had a baby, I have to reprocess trauma and for me there is always a period of feeling like a virgin again. I have to ease into my sexuality again, and it can be a long process.
It is so common. In that instance, it’s recognizing that you might need to just make out with your partner. “We haven’t made out in months, and I need your expectation to be no further.”
I'm all about 2nd base!
It seems as if you discuss sex after baby candidly with your clients. What else do you address on this topic?
We talk about things like sex can be different, especially If the mom has had stitches, even if she hasn’t she could be having some pelvic floor things going on. We talk about how her hormones have changed and how important lubrication is. And I always look at dad and say, "that’s your job, your job will be to mentally make sure everything is staying lubricated. don’t put that stress on her.” We talk about birth control before your 6 week appointment. So that way when your doctor asks you about you can be like “these are the methods I am considering” instead of being like “we’re just not going to have sex anytime soon” and then having Irish twins!
We have covered so much. Is there anything else you would really like to share?
I think for moms. Postpartum doesn’t have to be hard. There are people who want to help, and I know I do it professionally, but at least for the first year, ask for the help because you are going to be a better you. You want to be the best you for your baby and you need that help, you need that strength, you need that village. I realize that not all of us have the physical people to provide it, in that case use a postpartum doula. I would look that up!
And I do find that I am not the right doula for everyone. I just had a conversation during an intake the other day and I had to be like "I don’t know if I am the right person for you, but I am going to give you the names of a couple of other people." I have done that in plenty of intakes-- been like, "I'm not sure we are the right fit, talk to this other person before you make our decision". Find the help you need.
Remember there is nothing more important than you being here for your baby and I mean that for people suffering from postpartum depression and having some dark and scary intrusive thoughts and for people who do not know what to do with your baby. It all comes down to your baby only needs you in your healthy, authentic, truest self.
I love that. Thanks so much for sharing Taylor!
How can people get in touch with you?
My website is: https://www.thegingergoose.com/
on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/thegingergoosellc/
and on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100089452126681
Want to hear more from Taylor? She was featured in this local podcast: