The postpartum doulas behind Birdsong Brooklyn indulge us in a pregnancy face-off.
When the founders of Birdsong Brooklyn met, it was love at first sight. Pregnant with their first babies 3 years back, Erica Livingston served as Laura Interlandi's biggest postpartum supporter, then Laura returned the favor three months later. When they joined forces to provide postpartum support for a mutual friend, they realized that women were sorely lacking in the care they needed after birth….and that they made a great team addressing it together. And so Birdsong was born.
They've quickly made a name for themselves in the Brooklyn doula scene, filling a gap in the postpartum conversation. Their doula services that are equally esoteric and practical, from Blessingways to babyproofing and everything in between. And most importantly, these smart doulas understand that every journey is different. Which is particularly relevant right now, since both are experiencing their second pregnancies: Laura is due with twins any second(!) and Erica will welcome her second little one in August. We recently sat them down for a little conversation and Q&A -- about each other. Here's what they had to say.
Tell us about your own birth plan.
Erica: I am planning my second home birth and am very excited about it. This pregnancy has been so different as my life is so much more active (re: chasing a toddler and running a business = super tired at sunset.) It's been so sweet and touching to watch my son grow into a big brother alongside my growing belly. And as a postpartum doula, I'm really having a wonderful time planning for the time after our baby gets here. I can't wait for the first 40 days after I give birth!
Laura: My twins are due on May 12th (but twins are almost always early!), I am having a girl and a boy and am delivering at NYU with an OBGYN practice. Aria was born at home with a midwife so this birth will be a new experience in a lot of ways! Something felt different about this pregnancy from early on and I ended up being guided to an OBGYN office that just happened to be one of the best in NYC for supporting vaginal twin delivery. I'm hoping and planning for labor to begin spontaneously, progress naturally and (in my dream scenario!) show up at the hospital ready to deliver! I have an amazing birth doula, Rebecca McKeever, and I'm bringing in a lot of elements from my homebirth experience like eating/drinking through labor, music, essential oils, pictures of my daughter, a meditation practice and even a portable birth altar. Afterward, I'm planning for skin to skin and to initiate tandem breastfeeding right away. I'm also encapsulating both placentas.
How would you describe your Birdsong partner as a mom?
Erica: Laura is an incredible mother. She is the perfect mix of wisdom, creativity, passion, patience and humor. I always say that I wish she was my Mama and I really mean it. She's the best!
Laura: Magical unicorn wise woman mama! Erica is present, compassionate, crafty, fun, and always thinking of how she can be growing and shifting to learn more. Whether it is in the way her home runs and functions or silly sweet games they can play, Erica is endlessly thoughtful and creative. She is a powerful protector of her son's imagination and sensitivity and is always empowering him to be his authentic self.
What will your Birdsong partner be like during her birth?
Erica: Laura will be steady, strong and powerful. She'll be delivering at NYU but in her mind's eye she'll actually be on a shamanic journey to the center of the earth from an entry point in Lasqueti Island, Canada. She probably also be saying the most hysterically funny things anyone has ever heard. The texts she sent me in early labor during her last birth were priceless! I hope her birth doula writes down everything she says.
Laura: A total badass. Erica's first birth was even longer than mine and I think this time when she feels contractions start up she will just go about her day, nesting through early labor, playing with her son, and taking space to go inward until it comes time to bear down and bring her baby earthside. Knowing her she will have prepped little snack stations and playlists to listen to. When it is time to push, I visualize her standing or squatting and catching her own baby and then laughing really hard till she cries. I'm picturing it happening in her kitchen for some reason? Then She will laugh some more, and cry some more, opening up her already massive heart to the fullness of all the feelings. And then hopefully (after some sweet snuggles as a family) she'll text me. She's going to be amazing.
When we say newborn you say…
Erica: best thing you'll ever smell.
Laura: Snuggles. Twins. Heart expansion. Hard work. Foggy mind. Laundry. Support.
When we say cooking you say…
Erica: Bone broth.
Laura: Quinoa! My go-to base for most meals. Cooking used to be a joy, but since about week 20 of this pregnancy it has felt like a total chore.
When we say breast you say…
Erica: Mama milk! (Also, and I quote "When will it taste like ice cream again?")
Laura: Deet deets! My daughter's nickname for nursing.
When we say birth you say…
Laura: Transformational. Shamanic. Raw power. Gutsy. Epic. Unpredictable. The original dance.
The most important thing to get done before you go into labor is...
Erica: Preparing your postpartum plan including your rings of support and your village of people that will care for you and your family after the baby arrives. So many mamas, including myself in my first pregnancy, spend so much time planning for the labor and birth but give very little thought to what happens after.
Laura: I could write a list a mile long of things I'd like to complete, clean, work on, line up. But I know that the list will never end, that labor could start whenever and I'm really trying to release control and stay super relaxed. Things can always be ordered online, or tasks pushed aside til later. I'd like to go on a date with my husband though. And have one last family day, unplugged from devices, other people and baby prep tasks, and just enjoy the last moments of being a family of 3, showering our little girl (and each other!) with love and attention.
Best piece of advice for a mom-to-be?
Erica: You are not alone, Mama! Look around and open your eyes to all the support and love that surrounds you. And now cultivate the ability to ask for that love and support in a way that fills you and your family up. All the best Mamas are getting by with a little help from their friends.
Laura: Enjoy your pregnancy and definitely plan for the birth of your dreams (whatever that means to you!) but don't forget that there is a whole rest of your life as mama. When the baby (or babies!) emerges- you need support! Don't expect to feel 'normal'. There is a new normal taking shape. Don't judge or rush yourself. Take the time to rest and heal. Stay in bed and order food, or have someone cook for you and hire a postpartum doula! Tune out the noise, the over-saturation of parenting advice, and develop or nurture a practice that connects you back to your own intuition. And remember, there is NO right way! Everyone is making it up as they go along. I know I certainly am!
Want to see a Birdsong Blessingway in action? Check out their community Blessingway on June 12.
Photography by Laura Vladimirova for Well Rounded NY.