Today we're diving into a unique story of athleticism, artistry, and maternal care. Join me as I chat with Melissa, a former Cirque du Soleil acrobat, NCAA gymnast, and now, a dedicated postpartum doula.
Discover how she's redefining postpartum support through her work at The Atlanta Postpartum Doula.
What You'll Learn in This Episode:
- Melissa's Journey: From the heights of Cirque du Soleil to the heart of doula work.
- The Intersection of Art and Maternity: How gymnastics and acrobatics influence postpartum care.
- Revolutionizing Postpartum in America: Melissa's vision for new mothers and families.
- Melissa shares anecdotes from her Cirque days and the skills that translated into her doula practice.
- How athletic discipline shapes her approach to postpartum care.
- Exploring the Expansion Principle Energetic Practitioner's role in postpartum support.
- Personal stories of transitioning careers and impacting families.
Connect with Melissa:
Visit Melissa's Website: TheAtlantaPPD.com
Connect w/ Trish:
For more pregnancy & birth education, subscribe to The Birth Experience on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
Next Steps with LNM:
If you are ready to invest in your pregnancy & postpartum journey, you are in the right place. I would love to take your hand and support you in your virtual labor room!
If you have a scheduled cesarean, take our Belly Birth Masterclass and own that experience.
If you are a newly pregnant mama or just had the babe, you want to join our private pregnancy and postpartum membership, Calm Mama Society.
Remember, my advice is not medical advice. Always discuss what you learn with your team. See my Disclaimer here! Also, We make a small commission from some of the links (you don’t pay any more for using our links); however some of the recommendations, we do not earn anything; we love ’em and want you to know about them.
Trish: [00:00:00] My name is Trish Ware and I am obsessed with all things pregnancy and birth and helping you to navigate with the practical and the magical seasons of this journey called motherhood. I'm an all day coffee sipping mama of seven. I've had the amazing privilege of delivering many babies in my 15 plus year career as a labor and delivery nurse and as a mama of seven.
I'm here to help you take the guesswork out of childbirth so you can make the choices that are right for you and your baby. Quick note, this podcast is for educational purposes only and does not replace your medical advice. Check out our full disclaimer at the bottom of the show notes.
Hello everyone. I am so excited about today's episode and I know I say that a [00:01:00] lot, But I really am choosy about who we invite onto the podcast and Melissa is going to be with us today What's really exciting about Melissa? I'm gonna give you guys a little back story So Melissa was going to be on the podcast and y'all know I'm very transparent so Melissa was gonna be on the podcast and I was having a day from, where and Melissa showed up and she was so gracious to me.
She was just so kind and she did this amazing, like guided meditation with me, told me to take the space and the time and we rescheduled. So today is our rescheduled date and I have Melissa Fernandez with me. She is the Atlanta postpartum doula. And I just want to say, thank you. Thank you, Melissa, for coming back and being with us.
Melissa: You are so welcome. I am so happy to be here. [00:02:00] And that day where we rescheduled, it was so magical because we ended up having a very organic conversation and it was easeful and it was simply because we allowed the pressure of. Doing something that the timing didn't feel correct in that moment, but we allowed the pressure to fall to the side.
We said, yes, let's reschedule. And then we just started talking and it was such a beautiful way to meet you and lead off into today, which is our actual recording of the podcast. So I am really grateful to be here and I'm excited for what organically pops up again.
Trish: Yes, I am too. And I was telling Melissa before we started recording that what I really love about my podcast is that we don't really do a scripted podcast interview.
I really like for the interviews, the conversations to flow organically, as if Melissa and I are [00:03:00] just hanging out, having a cup of coffee. If you're me having a cup of. What is it? What's your, what's yours? Copy. Okay good. You are my people. And just chatting and letting the conversation flow naturally, because I think those are so much better than one that is scripted out.
Although we do have a direction. Melissa is a postpartum doula, but you guys... Just hold up because she has such a unique story and I'm so excited. So we always try to start out. I say we, like I have a person in my pocket, but I always try to start out asking how your birth experience played into your business.
But let's go back. Because you have a very unique history, and we were just chatting about that, but I haven't heard the whole story. Melissa, take it away. Okay, so I'll
Melissa: just start with the big, [00:04:00] obvious elephant in the room, and then continue the story. I used to be a Cirque du Soleil acrobat.
Yeah, which is insane. It is. It really is. And the story just gets juicier. So everyone will always ask me, how'd you get into that? And it was through gymnastics. I started when I was six years old. I was in the gym working like 25 and a half hours a week in high school. And I. I earned a scholarship to the University of Illinois, so I competed collegiately and then at the end of my college career, I decided I was going to go into Cirque.
I received an invitation and that was the start of my first job, which is so wild to think of it as a job because it is such a fun experience. I was traveling all over the world. I was doing touring shows. I was on the touring side of it versus the residential side, which is what over in Las Vegas.
And [00:05:00] so I was 22 years old, touring the world as a certain living the dream. Exactly. Yes, it was amazing. And I got to see a lot of cultures. I got to work together with so many different people from different countries. And it was quite an experience. And as I was touring, I met my husband at the well, we were not married, obviously, at the time, but we turned into husband and wife later on.
And within a very short amount of time, we became pregnant. Wait,
Trish: Wait. I have to hear. Where did you meet him, and how? Oh,
Melissa: I met him here in Atlanta, and I was on tour, and we met at a coffee shop. And since then, it was just, that, that was it, when you have that moment of, the person is the person.
Yeah, I do know.
Trish: So funny because my husband and I, we got married in 2020. I had just literally [00:06:00] gotten divorced and He invited me to have a cup of coffee. This is why I'm telling you this and My kids were like mom I mean I hadn't been on a date in 25 years mind you and my kids were like go just go so I met him For a cup of coffee and we got married 20 days later I so we our joke is that he was the best damn cup of coffee I ever had That's right.
So I love that you met for a coffee and got married yeah, it works when it works, right? That's right
Melissa: And so to continue the story, we became pregnant and I was still at that time I was still with Cirque du Soleil. I had been injured, so while I was in my repatriation, I got pregnant.
And I went through the pregnancy, it was a very easy pregnancy. I did end up having a C section, which of course I wanted to have a vaginal birth, but In the moment, it was a requirement to have the C section, and then I experienced my [00:07:00] postpartum, and I was living in Atlanta at the time, I didn't have my family or friends, and the experience of my postpartum was particularly isolating, as I didn't have my community, my support team, and I decided around 10 months to go back to work, which for my work is acrobatics at the time, which meant I had to get my physical body back in shape after a major abdominal surgery.
But what I found was that there were no protocols in place. For women who have a C section and their recovery afterwards. I remember feeling so shocked when I went to my midwife for my six week appointment and she said, you can do anything you were previously doing, no problem. And I said, are you sure?
And I showed her a video of what I do. And she was like, yeah, no problem. You can go do it. And I was like, this is not accurate because with my background, [00:08:00] if any of my coworkers had a major surgery, they were doing physical therapy for two to four months and they were, it was a rigorous. Period of recovery and strength training to rebuild all that was that had occurred with the trauma of the injury, the surgery itself, the fascia, the ligaments, the tendons, all the pieces that come together when you have a surgery right and are recovering.
So that was really shocking to me. And then I went back to work, everything was okay, but I still had some struggles with my abdominal, my core, all of that. Fast forward, I got pregnant again, but at that time I was training and touring in South America. And so I was performing on stage, pregnant, up until I was 13 weeks.
That's insane. Yes, it is. Even thinking back on it now, [00:09:00] it's wild that I was doing that. But it's quite an experience. It's amazing that it's part of my story. And again, I went home, had the baby. experienced another postpartum that was even more challenging because I now had a two and a half year old and a newborn.
And this is when I finally found out about postpartum doulas. And I was like, that is what I want to be when I finished my career with CERC. And so those journeys really led me to where I am now. And the final push into the career was. COVID because I was up in Montreal for a brand new creation, a new show that was going to be, it was getting created.
We were going to be performing in April. And of course, March of 2020, everything really shut down and I was sent home. And that was the end of my acrobatic career because I decided at that point, this is when I'm jumping into postpartum doula support. And I'd had two kids. [00:10:00] I was ready to be in one location and it was a really good Push.
And so here I am, but with one extra kid. Yeah.
Trish: So you had another baby since then? I did. Yes. Nice. I love that. And I I just, it's insane to me that women are expected to have a major abdominal surgery without any therapy or recovery involved. That is provided by insurance or any of that. It's every time I think about that, it is insane to me.
And then on top of that, the expectations that family members have, like I've posted this so many times, like it's the only time that someone has surgery that not only are they expected to take care of themselves, but they're also expected to take care of another person. a brand new person. It's insane to [00:11:00] me.
Like it's just outrageously insane. I don't get it. And I, unfortunately I feel like a lot of us like really didn't think about it until we thought about it, like it just was accepted.
Melissa: Yeah. I think a lot of this, I think a lot of this really lies with the pregnancy experience and the really big focus point that we have on.
Childbirth education, which is vitally important, and also we have a few other components that are vitally as important that we're not talking about, which is part of this discussion about what the what's the physiological recovery process of a human being after a major abdominal surgery. And that is totally left out.
And even if it's not a surgery, it's a vaginal birth. There are so many layers and varying degrees of what that vaginal birth could look like, [00:12:00] that you could be okay. After a week, some women recover. not fully recovered, but they feel good after a week. Some have major tears and need months of recovery after a vaginal birth, but there is no discussion around it.
And I do think we're really missing the mark with having such a high focus on childbirth education only. And I do think it's not with the doulas and the birth professionals, because we already know all these components. We know this. It's more with the mainstream that Involves a lot of societal programming and conditioning that we see in play after the baby arrives where we're at home with our baby, and that's it.
Everyone goes home. Everyone's like you had the baby by and that's where I think we're really missing the mark because it's like preparing for the wedding, but not the marriage.
Trish: Yeah, and I think the other aspect of this and I say this [00:13:00] all the time because you know I have my postpartum membership and I'm gonna be real I got Like it took me by surprise the power of what is happening amongst these women and myself like I've had things that The very first we do a weekly hangout slash coaching slash support slash bitch session, whatever you want it to be, whatever they need, we meet them there.
We do some like mindset and focus and whatever, but one of the first. times that we met as a group, one of the moms shared, and it brought healing to my own postpartum journey. He's eight, because no one had ever voiced what she said. In my presence and I did not even know that it was a normal thing I thought it was some wackadoodle experience I had And I think so to add to what you're [00:14:00] saying You have a mom who goes home with a human being And she's too afraid to admit how bad she's struggling or how hard it is because every other mom is pretending that they have it together and they're doing fine.
And no one is being real about how hard it is because we have so much pressure on us to do it right. And I put that in quotes because who the hell knows what right is. So I think it's, I say this to my team all the time. We have a biweekly team meeting and part of that is how do we.
Let these women know you need us when they don't even know they need us. They don't even know they need that help. And I love now that in a lot of, I don't know all the things. One of my team members, this is her thing, but I know that insurance is paying for postpartum doulas. A lot of insurance is [00:15:00] now covering it.
Can we just acknowledge what a win that is?
Melissa: Absolutely. I think it's definitely as a start in the correct direction, and I think to part of this conversation that we're having and what you specifically asked about, how do we teach and guide to the things that they don't even know that they need? Because that's definitely a sticking point.
And. I believe fully this is part of my mission in the business and one of the big anchor points to why I started this is it starts with postpartum education and bringing that to the forefront of the focal point and alongside childbirth education, not a module or two within the childbirth class, but a full standalone postpartum education class and alongside that the importance of community.
Where we [00:16:00] can gather, like what you're doing, gathering women together to discuss, to share, to heal. It's vital to have these conversations because what occurs is when you get into that state, you are thinking in your mind, this is normal. I should be doing, I should be okay. What's wrong with me? I can't handle it.
Something's not right because everyone else is doing it, but I'm not able to. And the reality is what you said. They're not doing it. They're not okay. We, as a female collective, on the grander scheme of it, not everyone we're going to have the those who are doing really well and those who are really not doing well, but the big chunk of it is that the way that women are having babies and their families, it's not working anymore.
And we need a shift because we create life. We need our nervous [00:17:00] systems to be regulated to hold the pulse of the family. And we are so dysregulated with all the requirements that are placed on us from society and with ourselves. That we've been programmed. We've been conditioned that we have to be the mom who also works, who also stays home, who takes care of the house, who cleans everything, who makes the nutritious meals that are super healthy, but that's not life.
That's not accurate. That's not a regulated nervous system. And so what postpartum education and the community is a recognition of ourselves. And the work that we are doing day in and day out, and where can we recognize and become aware that the hustle and bustle and the busyness no longer needs to [00:18:00] be the only way to be pregnant, to be postpartum, to be raising a family?
Where can we settle in the pause and allow the recognition that what we're doing is enough?
Trish: Yeah, it's it really. It really is I'm taken aback because I'm think just thinking about how little credit we give ourselves for how many hats we wear and what we're expected to do and maintain. And be responsible for. It's a lot. It's a lot. And when you first enter into that realm, it's overwhelming.
It really is. Not that you guys are not boss and that you can't do it and you can't find your footing because you can. But it takes a, it, it [00:19:00] does take a tribe. Like it really does. And I was just sharing this story. Oh my goodness, what was I talking about? Was I teaching or doing, I might've been doing a hangout.
I don't remember, but I was just sharing the story that one of the most significant moments in my journey as a mother. Was when I moved from Tampa Clearwater, Florida to Chattanooga, Tennessee It was a very small little hole in the wall at the time and here I was this city girl young with I was a young mom and I moved there And I really didn't have a lot of mom friends in Florida because I was so young, most of my friends weren't even married, weren't having kids, and so I moved to Chattanooga and there's literally nothing to do except for story hour.[00:20:00]
And so here I am with the kids at story hour and I get plugged into the most eclectic group of mothers you have ever seen in your life. So shocking to me as this, girl from Florida, I'm wearing my Doc Martens and I've got my tattoos and these moms like, To me they were the epitome of like I'm never gonna do it type moms They you know, one of them had eight kids and I was like eight kids, you know now I have seven but hey They you know, like they knew how to sew and bake and all these things that I was like that's what my mom does, and but I get plugged into this group of mothers who were so transparent and so genuine.
And they just pulled me in. They didn't judge me. They didn't like, look at me like, Oh, you're a young mom. They [00:21:00] just did me as a mom. And they started mentoring me and they mentored me for years, decades. And I'll never forget some of the advice that they gave me because they were real. And that is what.
New moms need they don't need this BS. They don't need this fluff They you know, I'll never forget on one of our hangouts one of the things that really sets me apart from other birth classes is that I have the membership aspect where they can come to A weekly hangout and they hang out with me or a doula and I'll never forget I had I mean I can still see the zoom call and where she was on the call I had this mom and she you know, she was pregnant and very overwhelmed with emotion because she was really hating her pregnant body.
And she was seeing all these people, it's the opposite of I don't even know if I'm going to explain [00:22:00] this well. I know it's good in my head. So let's see if it comes out. Good. But there's this thing on social media where people present the Bad, but make it look good and that they've accepted it and how much they love their body that is different and their boobs are sagging and, their thighs are bigger and they love it because their body's making a baby.
But there's some. tHere's not a, there's some aspects of that's not genuine because it's not showing the people who are struggling with those changes and who are having a hard time loving their changes in their body. Women need to know that it's okay if you hate your pregnant body.
It's okay if you don't enjoy being pregnant It's okay. If you don't like your newborn, it's okay If you don't enjoy having a baby all those things if there is a wide range of us and it's okay and so I can remember that hangout and I remember thinking [00:23:00] because there are times like I'm like, man, I give too much.
I'm there too much for these girls, and those are the moments where I realized like we have to give too much. We have to be there for the new moms because they need to know that there is a wide range of us. There's not one size fits all. It's hard. It's overwhelming. Hopefully that all made sense.
Melissa: No, it really does. And it really speaks to authenticity. And I do think that having the real conversations around. What motherhood is really is important while also keeping it like a vibrancy and a frequency of love and joy, because there is the other side of it where there are platforms specifically on social media, because a lot of pregnant women are on social media, but there are a lot of platforms that speak to the scarier [00:24:00] aspects of it.
Labor, birth and postpartum and motherhood, which is never the intention. So there is a fine line between speaking authenticity and what the realities are while doing it with the thread of joy and love and ease. And the piece that comes from that. is having a safe place to share what comes up as you're moving through pregnancy and postpartum.
Because what happens is when you are with a group of women, or you're safe people, and you are laughing about this stuff that's really ridiculous and really hard, and everyone else is also going through it. The diaper explosion that came up the back that's just terrible to clean up, but everyone else experienced that too, that same day, and you get to laugh about it?
What happens is you just, sigh. [00:25:00] Or
Trish: laughing about how... The rage that overcame you because your husband loaded the dishwasher wrong, and you're like, who is this woman? Like I never cared, but now I do. And being able to sit back and say, okay, my hormones are a little out of whack right now. And the other moms laughing with you because in all reality, it's funny, you work through those things.
So yes, I totally agree with you. There is so much power in that and knowing it's not the end of the world.
And we can
Melissa: move through those emotions, which emotions are fleeting. It can be, they come in waves. And when you have others to, who are, validating you and going through the same thing, it allows us to just move through it with more ease, which allows us to feel more grounded within ourselves, so that we can be aware when we are being, [00:26:00] When, when we're in a space of our hormones are taking over a little bit, I notice it and I can go reset myself.
Trish: and forgive yourself because and have grace on yourself because I think that's where a lot of my mama's struggle is that they just want to do it good and feel like they're doing it good and really the person who's the harshest on them is themselves and to have a space where You know, others can reassure them this is normal and you're doing amazing.
Look at, yes, like you're looking at that one thing that you feel like you did so bad, but look at the 90 other things you did today, so good. And I think that's where, again, we just... Don't give moms enough credit of how much you get done. And I have to laugh sometimes because [00:27:00] I love my husband so much, but sometimes he'll be like, I have so much to do today on a weekend day.
And I'm thinking that's literally a smidge of what I do every weekday. Come on it's we just, we juggle a lot and that's commendable. That's why we're able, like you and I, to run a freaking business like a boss. Because we've learned it, we've managed it in our homes, I just think there's a lot of credit that women need.
Melissa: Deserve. Absolutely.
Trish: And dads, I don't wanna say not dads, but we're speaking to mamas here
Melissa: now, . Yeah, that's, yeah. This is definitely not like one or the other, but it, what I think comes up as you're sharing this is the concept of what is good, what does it mean to be a good mother? And where we get tripped up is that we take on.
What is good for a mom [00:28:00] out here, versus what is good for me as a mother? What do I want to place in that bucket? This is what I think a good mother is. And that means all the things I'm doing right now, that make me a good, that makes me a very good mother. And that comes back to the concept of recognizing ourselves.
Because if we cannot recognize ourselves for the good work we're already doing, and we are choosing to look at the parts that I didn't get done that day, nobody else is going to recognize us. It has to start from within. And simply saying, I recognize myself today. I am celebrating myself today. Because I am the best dang mom every single day.
I show up and I [00:29:00] am the CEO of my business. I am X, Y, and Z. But when we start recognizing ourselves, speaking to ourselves in that way, our outer world really starts to shift.
Trish: I agree. And I think also, the other thing is, Recognizing where you need help and what you need growth in because growing as a mom, as a woman, as a person is an everyday thing.
And so reading books, seeking knowledge, looking for understanding, finding an older, that's one thing I love about my group. I am an older mom. I've been, I have a son in my third, in his thirties. Having an older mom who has life experience, who isn't your mom or your mother in law who's bringing in emotions because emotions You know they shade things up a little.
So having, that is [00:30:00] also wisdom. Knowing where you need growth and where, yeah, I am genuinely struggling in this area. I can't tell you how many parenting books I've read and how many, workshops and Retreats and things that I've done to grow as a woman and as a person and as a parent and as a wife and, I think there's also value in continuing education as well, and being open to.
Change, because I think one thing I love is when you have a young mom or my ex daughter in law and I have laughed about this before when, how much she judged me for co sleeping and then my grandson would not sleep anywhere but on her and
when you know, and just being willing to, to this might not [00:31:00] always be set in stone and I'm willing to change and I'm willing to grow and I'm willing to learn, so I think that's an important part of our journey as mothers as well.
Melissa: Absolutely. Because a lot of what occurs is your identity shifts.
And so you're almost placed into a limbo type of state of, do you stay stagnant or do you grow? But really the requirement is only that you grow because you have a child that you are caring for. And they are growing and they are changing daily, almost hourly, sometimes in those early months where what they just did yesterday is no longer working today.
And so you are having to seek out other tools, other information, and having the awareness that you need support. is huge. But when we live in a culture right now in a society that says you shouldn't, you should be able to do it by [00:32:00] yourself. That's where a lot of women get tripped up. And there's a lot of shame that occurs if we are asking for help and healing that large collective wound.
is really challenging. And if you're, if you don't have community support, if you don't have family support as you're, entering into pregnancy postpartum, how do you move past that block to say, Hey, I need help. You oftentimes you don't.
Trish: aNd sometimes their circle of community or other new moms are young moms, so they don't, they can't help.
So yeah, and I love the virtual aspect of community as well. Like I say this all the time, because you're able to be. You're able to share and say things that you might not say or share if you're sitting in a coffee shop with other moms who are chasing after their little ones and it's just so [00:33:00] different.
Not that I don't think there's value in an in person relationship because there 100 percent is, but there is something. About that virtual aspect that I love, especially about my postpartum membership, my pregnancy membership, and you get to know I've got moms from all over the world and it's just insane that we have, like, when I was a young mom, I could not have hung I didn't have the opportunity to hang out with a mom from the Middle East and a mom from the UK and a mom from Australia, it's just such a beautiful thing that we have that ability.
Absolutely. It's really
Melissa: neat. Yeah. I think it's really connecting us in so many ways that it's allowing for a new way to be held and supported by other women. And it's birthing this new direction of how we are going to change the status quo of the things we were this podcast episode. How do we shift [00:34:00] into a new paradigm of Pregnancy, birth and postpartum motherhood, particularly with like women in America, there's a lot of systems that don't work, right?
Other countries have much better systems in place for families that support families. Here in America, it's not, it's just not there. And this is part of that shift and birthing into a new space is that using the virtual space is going to allow us connection, community, ease, trust. when you find the right circle that is for you.
Trish: Yeah, I agree. This has been a great conversation. I love it. I would love for you to share with everyone where they can find you.
Melissa: Okay. So my place where I hang out is Instagram. I am the dot atlanta dot postpartum dot doula.
Trish: And don't you hate those dots? [00:35:00] I have those dots too. ? Yeah. Yeah.
Melissa: And I also have a website, theatlantappd.
com, and I'm always open for DMs and emails but those are the two places I hang out the most.
Trish: I love it so much. And I love your story. It's just so incredibly unique. Thank you so much for hopping on here and sharing with us. And I've just really feel honored that you spent two conversations with me because our first one, I wish we had it recorded.
Cause it was really amazing, but thank you so much for coming today.
Melissa: Thank you so much. I appreciate it.
Trish: I hope you guys enjoyed this episode of The Birth Experience with Labor Nurse Mama. Hit subscribe and please leave us a review. We so appreciate it when you take the time to do it really means a lot. As always, we will see you [00:36:00] again next Friday. Bye for