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In this episode, I’m talking with Malisa Dekker, a Postpartum Doula and Chef based in Brooklyn, New York, about her profound journey through two contrasting birth and postpartum experiences that shaped her passion for postpartum wellness.

Malisa’s first birth took place during the tumultuous times of the COVID-19 pandemic, where interventions and a lack of support left her feeling disconnected and overwhelmed. With the desire for change, Malisa embarked on her second pregnancy, seeking empowerment and a holistic approach to birthing. She details her transformational shift to a home birth with the support of a dedicated midwife, her partner Taylor, and a community of friends who understood the importance of empathetic care and emphasized the profound impact having one’s emotional needs addressed during labor can have on a birthing person’s experience. Malisa’s experience led her to become a passionate advocate for postpartum wellness and support, driving her to become a Postpartum Doula. Through her unique combination of skills as a Doula and Chef, she aims to provide nourishment, care, and empathy to new parents during the challenging postpartum period.

Content Warnings: postpartum anxiety, a pandemic birth story with isolation and interventions

Resources
  • Follow Malisa’s work on Instagram: @plantedpostpartum
  • Learn more about Malisa’s postpartum nutrition mentor, Alicia Allison: CloverandTimothy.com
  • Check out training opportunities from:
    • Birthing Advocacy Doula Trainings (BADT) website
    • EBB’s parent workshops and classes calendar
    • Read “The First Forty Days” book to prepare for postpartum nutrition and self-care needs

Listen to EBB Episodes

Transcript

Rebecca:

Hi everyone, on today’s podcast, we’re going to talk with Malisa Dekker, Postpartum Doula and Chef, about her two very different birth and postpartum stories and the importance of postpartum wellness. Hi everyone, my name is Rebecca Dekker, pronouns she/her, and I’ll be your host for today’s episode. I wanted to give you a head’s up that today, as well as tomorrow which is Thursday, October 26th, are the last chances to get into the Evidence Based Birth® Pro Membership at more than 20% off. So if you’ve been looking for support and learning more about evidence-based care, earning contact hours as a birth worker, nurse, or midwife, or you just want to surround yourself with a community and get doula mentorship, these are all things we provide inside the Pro Membership. Just go to ebbirth.com/membership and sign up now before the sale expires. And with that, let’s turn our attention to today’s episode. I wanted to let you know that if there are any detailed content or trigger warnings, we always post them in the description or show notes that go along with this episode. And now I’d like to introduce our honored guest. Today, I am so excited to welcome Malisa Dekker, pronouns she/her. Malisa is a Brooklyn, New York based Postpartum Doula and Chef. She had two drastically different postpartum experiences herself that led her to this work of wanting to help new parents feel nourished and supported through homemade food and in-home postpartum care. I’m so excited that Malisa is here to share her story with us. Welcome Malisa to the Evidence Based Birth® Podcast.

Malisa:

Hi Rebecca, thank you for having me.

Rebecca:

And in case any of you are wondering since we share the same last name, Malisa is married to my husband’s cousin.

Malisa:

So I think cousins-in-law might be the technical term.

Rebecca:

Cousins-in-law and we are both from Kentucky originally and our husbands are both from Michigan. So, and I met Malisa for the first time or one of the first times. So Taylor came to Kentucky for college, her husband, and we used to hang out with Taylor from time to time, have him over for dinner. But then when he started dating Malisa, we were trying to film the very first Savvy Birth workshop in Lexington, Kentucky. And Taylor was, you know, training to be a Videographer. And we were so excited to have a family member who could help us. So one of the problems we had is we needed more people in the chairs for the workshop. And Taylor’s like, no big deal, I’ll ask my girlfriend to come. And so I think that’s how we met, Malisa.

Malisa:

Yeah, I don’t know if we met before that.

Rebecca:

Yeah, so Malisa was this college student, you know, not having kids anytime soon, sitting in this workshop for doulas and pregnant parents. And she was kind of pretending to be with Dan, my husband, and he was like sitting next to her. So tell us, I know this wasn’t on the list of questions I sent you, but what memories do you have from that experience?

Malisa:

I have a lot of memories from that actually. I really, I could trace that back to being like when I really started to be interested in birth because I had never heard anyone advocating for yourself in a hospital setting and like all these things were so new to me. And I remember thinking about that a lot after the fact. Like I knew I always wanted to be a mom, you know? Taylor and I had just started dating, so it was a little early to be thinking about having babies. But yeah, but I definitely remember that being a moment where I was like, oh, birth is this whole world that I just didn’t know anything about yet. And I really started to think about it that day. Yeah, and being like Dan’s partner in, I remember there was a game where we had a plush placenta being passed around. And I think Dan and I won the game, but only because he knew, like so much more than anyone else in the room. So I was honored to be his partner.

Rebecca:

Dan does know a lot about birth, probably more than he should. Yeah, those are some interesting. And we don’t use those videos anymore because we’ve kind of, that was a while ago.

Malisa:

It was probably 2014 or 15.

Rebecca:

Yeah, so we’re getting closer to maybe 9 or 10 years ago. And then you went on to eventually one day get pregnant and have babies yourself. So I’m really curious if you could take us back because I know you felt yourself called to birthwork as a result of your experiences. And you had this unique opportunity when you were still young to get this information about evidence-based care. And then years later, you found yourself pregnant. Can you kind of walk us through your journey?

Malisa:

Sure, yeah. So when I got pregnant with my first in, let’s see, 2019, I had gone through some fertility struggles. So I was with this big OB group. Because I had been with them for fertility treatments. So it was kind of the natural going with the same doctor. I was familiar with them. It seemed fine. But in the back of my mind, I was always aware of this, okay, I need to make sure I’m asking these questions about am I gonna be supported in trying to have an unmedicated birth? Are they gonna support me trying to labor in different positions in the hospital? So I had all those questions in my mind for them. I think it was just a bit naive that this OB that I saw was like, oh yeah, yeah, yeah. You can totally labor in whatever position you want. Oh yes, unmedicated birth, that’s all the time. I do that all the time. Hindsight, it’s like, it’s kind of a little bit of a bait and switch. The kind of weird, interesting thing about that pregnancy is that I was due in May of 2020. So we all know what was going on in the world. Right about 30 weeks pregnant is when COVID hit. It was kind of a scary time. I remember getting an email from you, a bit concerned.

Rebecca:

Because you were in New York City and some of you who may have been present there, you remember the news stories. It was pretty bad.

Malisa:

Yeah, there was a whole week where partners weren’t allowed in the hospitals. That was still in March, so that got lifted before I gave birth. But yeah, there were some weeks in there where we were really contemplating leaving the city to go, to be with one of our families. In the end, we decided to stay, I think mostly out of just being a little bit frozen and just not knowing what to do. Long story short, I had my first in the hospital during COVID. Our cab drove up Sixth Avenue and Manhattan was dead. There was no one out. It was very, very sobering because it was the first time we had left our neighborhood in eight weeks. It was very scary, but we got to the hospital and my husband was allowed to come in, but we were separated for a while while I was in triage because we had to get COVID tests separately. So we were separated for a little while. And that’s, I think for myself, when things started to unravel. Feeling a bit overwhelmed and being by myself. My doula was also not allowed to be there, so she was kind of supporting us virtually, but that in the hub of it all, it was like, I couldn’t also be on time. Like, you know, it was just a lot going on, as happens with labor a lot of the time, but there were just these extra factors because of COVID. And so, yeah, things just started to kind of go downhill where it was just like intervention after intervention that I just didn’t feel like prepared or equipped to say no to was given Pitocin with the, assurance that like I could get off the Pitocin when my body started to kind of take over. And then, you know, later on turned out they were like, oh, no, you can’t do that. We can’t, we can’t stop the Pitocin. So there were a few things like that that were just really made me feel like I had no control over what was going on. Like I was just kind of being told. And I think at some point I was just so tired that I just like let it. I was just like, whatever, like, we just need to get through this.

Rebecca:

And all this kind of started, you said when you were alone, you couldn’t have your doula with you and you couldn’t have Taylor with you. 

Malisa:

Yeah. In Triage, it was like, Oh, we’re hooking you up to the IV bubble.

Rebecca:

And were you on. You went into labor on your own? Like you weren’t induced?

Malisa:

Yeah, my water broke in the middle of the night. And I, and I got, I think good advice from my, my doula was my first call. And she was like, I had no other signs of labor except for my water breaking. And she was like, you know what, take it slow. Don’t call your OB just yet. Like you’re gonna be on a time frame the moment you call them. So she just encouraged us to like, take a shower, get your bag ready, like take it slow before we got to the hospital, which I appreciate.

Rebecca:

And were you having contractions when you got to the hospital?

Malisa:

Yeah, it’s so weird. They started monitoring me, and they were like, oh, you’re having really big contractions right now. And I couldn’t feel any of them. That was another factor that was just very jarring, where I was like, hey I don’t know what’s happening. They’re telling me that I should be in pain and I’m not. That became like a big factor in my second birth, too. I was in labor for 29 hours, I think, before my son was born. And he was born healthy, I was healthy. Things went pretty well, but the postpartum recovery, like going to recovery in the hospital, was like a whole other set of problems where they were very understaffed. We had to wear masks the whole time, which that’s another thing. While I was pushing, I was struggling to breathe, honestly, and the nurse was just like, she just yanked my mask off. You need to breathe. We’re just having this baby.

Rebecca:

And you’d probably already tested negative for COVID.

Malisa:

Well, at that point, yeah, we were still doing the 12-hour test. So we had to stay masked. All the nurses were in full PPE. They were allowed to remove one layer or something when our tests came back negative, but we still had to wear a mask the whole time. So when we got to recovery, we were just alone in the room and we weren’t allowed to leave the room. So we ran out of water and Taylor was pressing the call button, trying to get a nurse to come, and we couldn’t get anyone to come. And he wasn’t allowed to go ask for anything. 

Rebecca:

Walk around. Yeah.

Malisa:

Yeah. We were so alone. And you have this newborn baby. And as a new parent, you’re just like, no clue what’s going on. I remember someone coming in and chastising me because I hadn’t fed him recently enough. And I have been asking for someone to come in and help me because he’s not latching and I don’t know what to do. We were just so, we were so alone and in the moment, it just felt like kind of an annoyance. And then as we came home from the hospital and started to like get into the swing of things, it was like, oh my gosh, we like really experienced a lot of kind of little T trauma there. It was like nothing major. It was just a lot of these little… little things that were like that was just the bumpiest entry into parenthood that we could have had in that moment.

Rebecca:

And I remember you reaching out to tell me the end result of your birth. And I was just relieved that you had an uncomplicated vaginal birth. Because the way they were treating you, it seemed like they were trying to get you on this road to a C-Section. And you were kind of, in a way, how it ended up was about as good as we could have hoped for in that scenario.

Malisa:

Yeah, exactly. I think I was very lucky that, yeah, everything was uncomplicated, but that kind of made it even more bittersweet that it’s like, oh, if I had just been left alone, I probably would have, you know, been able to give birth without any of those interventions and would have been a lot smoother going.

Rebecca:

Yeah, and that was your hope, right? Was an unmedicated birth.

Malisa:

Yeah, yeah. But I got just pumped with Pitocin and till it was just unmanageable.

Rebecca:

What were your thoughts? How did you process all this afterwards?

Malisa:

I think I felt a lot of, I grieved it quite a bit as I had this picture of what I thought birth would be like. And of course it never quite goes how you think it’s going to, but. It just felt like there was so much out of my control and that really, it kind of set off this, this anxiety in me that lasted for a long time. Probably a year after I gave birth, I finally like talked to someone about postpartum anxiety and they were like, oh yeah, that’s like, that you’ve been, the stuff you’ve been dealing with is not normal. And I really look back to my birth experience as what kind of triggered that just that feeling of losing control and just kind of having everyone else take over in what was going on there.

Rebecca:

It was like they were like over managing your body during the process. And then as soon as the baby came out, they’re like, we’re done with you.

Malisa:

They were gone. Yeah, no lactation help. By the time we were released, I was released from the hospital, it was like, yeah, we wanna get home now. Like, and I never thought that, you know, there’s like the joke of like how, like they’re just handing you a baby and letting you go home with it, you know? And like, I always thought that would be me. Like, let’s stay at the hospital as long as we can to get as much help as we can. And we were like, no, we wanna, we need to get out of here. We need to be home in our own setting where we’re more comfortable. It was just the whole, the whole thing was just very uncomfortable.

Rebecca:

So what happened next, like, and what inspired you to take different steps the next time you got?

Malisa:

Yeah, I think I was really lucky that after my first son was born, we found an incredible community of other parents in our neighborhood. COVID was very much still going on here, and so we didn’t leave our neighborhood very much. We would go to our local park all the time, and we ended up meeting, you know, like a really good group of parents who all had babies around the same time and we all had the similar experience of not having family close by, of not, you know, several people have the same experience where they couldn’t have their doula with them, all that sort of stuff. There’s like this kind of bonding element when you’re all going through something like that, that I think parents in the spring of 2020 we’ll always have this thing together, right? So one of my good friends who gave birth in April of 2020, she had been with a midwife who’s in our neighborhood. And after I met her, she was like, my midwife changed my life. Like there was something that happened with the birth, with everything, with my prenatal support, everything she was like, it just changed my life, changed my life. And so I always was like, okay, I’m ready to like take the leap and switch to a midwife if I ever get pregnant again. So when I got pregnant with my second, she was my first call. I was like, I have to get in to see this woman. She sounds amazing. I was not intending to have a home birth. She at the time was delivering in the hospital too. But my first appointment with her, I kind of, I told her that like I want the, I want midwifery care. I know enough about it to know that like, that’s more what I need. But I said, I still want to give birth in the hospital because, like I have medical professionals in my family who like don’t feel very good about home birth. And so that influenced me a lot of to be like, I just like want to be the safest or whatever. She gave me the choice. She was like, I’m switching to a home birth practice, but I’m going to let you have the choice. If you still want to give birth in the hospital, go for it. I told her my whole birth story with my first, right? And she was very honest with me. And she was like, it was, I was going to be giving birth at the same hospital. And she said, a lot of the things that they put in place during COVID to make things easier, I guess, for the hospital staff or the nurses. She was like, they haven’t lifted those things. So like, they’re still understaffed. You know, there was just a lot, she was just like, the things that you experienced are probably gonna happen again. It wasn’t just because of COVID.

Rebecca:

It’s like there was some regression that happened during COVID in some hospitals where they went back to their comfort zone of more restrictions and more interventions and they haven’t shifted from that.

Malisa:

Yeah, a regression is a great word for it, I think. So, after meeting her, I was like, I completely trust this woman with my life. So I was like, let’s do it. Let’s have a home birth. I was a great candidate for it because you know, my first birth had been so uncomplicated. So the way that that whole pregnancy went was just like night and day from the first time. Like every visit I had with her was an hour long. And we talked about not just what was physically going on with me, but what was emotionally going on with me. She would have you sit in her waiting room and journal every visit that you got. And for someone with a toddler at home, that was like a little vacation. Like it was like an oasis being in her office and feeling like she really cared about every aspect of my life and how it was all going. I just felt so, so held by her that it was just, yeah, it was so different from the first experience that I was actually really excited to give birth. And I had spent a lot of time reading like Ina Mae’s Guide to Childbirth, like reading a lot of positive birth stories. I listened to your podcast. I think you or someone else had sent me a list of like all the podcasts where you talk to couples who had home births, like just to get a lot of positive experiences in my ears and that really I think set me up for success to just be like really in the right mindset to have this redemptive kind of experience. The main thing that was like very redemptive about it was I was saying with my first birth, I went to the hospital and like couldn’t feel the contractions and they were telling me like, you should be in pain right now. You should be in pain right now. I completely like felt like I couldn’t trust myself or my body because what they were saying and what I was experiencing didn’t line up. And that’s something that I talked to my midwife about a lot because I was really nervous. I was like, what if I don’t know that I’m in labor? Because I sort of didn’t last time.

Rebecca:

I’m some weird person that doesn’t feel a contraction.

Malisa:

Yeah, and she was very gentle with me, but I could tell she had this kind of little sparkle in her eye. Like, you’re gonna know. I really think you’re gonna know. Like, you’re not gonna just like give birth without having any pain or contractions. And of course she was right. I went into labor the same way my water broke. I was actually on my way to a prenatal massage when my water broke on the sidewalk. So I called her like, should I go to this massage? And she was like, yeah, if you, you know, you’re not feeling contractions quite yet, go to your massage. So it was like the most gentle way to start labor. Have this massage, come home, have dinner, and then labor started to pick up. And my doula was able to come. And then my midwife came a couple hours later and it was just the most like, I don’t wanna say textbook, but it happened like in a very just predictable timeline where like, I could feel the contractions, like of course, they increased and I was in the shower, went through transition like very obviously to just be like led by my midwife who wasn’t. She wasn’t really suggesting anything. She was letting me take the lead. I remember the only thing she suggested was like, she could tell that I was really close and I was like insisting that I wanted to be on the floor. And she was like, why don’t we get like a little more comfortable? Cause I think things are about to happen, you know? It was just so beautiful. And the way that I was taken care of in the moment and in the couple of hours afterward was like, so eye-opening because I felt so thankful but also so sad that most people don’t experience that type of care. So I guess in a very roundabout way to answer the question, like, this is how I found myself wanting to do this kind of work as a postpartum doula. Because I know that so many women have the first experience that I had and so few people actually feel taken care of and held and supported in any sort of capacity that they need. So seeing that gap in care was, like, really inspiring to me. If I can support even, like, a handful of birthing people in that way and make them feel supported, then I will have, like, just done everything I set out to do.

Rebecca:

Yeah, it’s beautiful. And if you watch this podcast on YouTube, you will see like Malisa’s face really changed. You just lit up when you were talking about your second birth experience and how that support made a difference. It wasn’t anything technological. It was just how people treated you and cared for you. And how did Taylor feel then? I know he can’t be here, he’s watching your kids right now. How did he feel about the shift? Like, was he open, excited about a home birth? Did he feel confident and comfortable in that setting?

Malisa:

Yeah, I think like in part to you as well. I think because he had this kind of background years ago of learning about this sort of stuff. He was always so confident in it and he was able to come to some of my prenatal appointments with my midwife and he kind of jokes about how like, I know it wasn’t about me, but I felt like she was taking care of me too. Like she was really making me feel good about it and making, you know, she just did a great job of making sure that he felt like he had the tools he needed to support me, laboring at home. He’s like a home birth evangelist now. It’s kind of like, I’m like, stop annoying people. They don’t want to hear from a white man about how they should give birth. They don’t want to hear that.

Rebecca:

It’s endearing to me to hear this story because you all have to understand you’re listening. I was Taylor’s piano teacher when he was a little boy. So he used to sit next to me on the bench when he was so tiny. And now to hear he’s supporting his family and being an amazing partner at a home birth. It’s just like this weird full circle kind of moment.

Malisa:

Yeah, yeah.

Rebecca:

How did you then take that next step from, you know, you’re recovering from the second birth and how was your postpartum different this time around?

Malisa:

Yeah, so many reasons it was different. We, when you’re a second time parent, you kind of know what to expect. So that’s a huge factor of just knowing where we had gaps in support the first time. We were lucky to have made that group of friends in our neighborhood and that was huge to have support of other parents. When my first son was born, we didn’t really have any friends that had kids yet. And it’s so hard to expect support from other people that don’t have kids because they don’t know, like they just don’t really know how to help you, and our families were far away. So second time around, we were able to like, make sure our families could come visit. We had those friends nearby. Like I tell this story about one of my friends who was so supportive and it’s the smallest little thing, but a couple of days after I gave birth, she had been over here a few times, like taking our older son to the playground, just to get him out of the house and stuff like that. But she came over one day and just walked into my house and started loading my dishwasher, cleaning up the kitchen. Like didn’t even really say anything to us. She just kind of walked in and did it. And like, that was such a small act, but I cite that as like one of the things that just like changed my life in that moment was being like, oh my gosh, this is what parents need postpartum is for someone to just come in and not ask them what to do, not like make it more complicated, but just come in, look around, see what needs to be done and do it. That’s the kind of support people want and need, but don’t know how to ask for all the time.

Rebecca:

So when did you decide to train to become a Postpartum Doula?

Malisa:

It was in the winter before my youngest turned one. So it was a little bit after we kind of got out of the haze of newborn days. I had been a nanny before I had kids and I don’t know, I was trying to think about what do I want to do like to go back to work as my kids get bigger and what can allow me some flexibility with time, like to work part time and still spend time with the kids. And I was really interested in like being a birth Doula, but it just kind of didn’t line up with our lifestyle at the moment. Being on call and my husband’s job is like, Taylor’s job is very, the schedule is crazy. So it just wouldn’t really work out. And so I actually had a friend who gave birth a little bit after me the second time. And she was like, oh, yeah, I hired a Postpartum Doula. She would just come in and like help me get food on the table for her older kid, help with bedtime. She was like, yeah, I would just like, have her come like when her husband was working late, she would just have her come in and help out. And I was like, wait, that’s like what I love to do for friends. Like, I, that’s what I love to do already. I didn’t even know that was a job. So that’s kind of what sparked it. And then I, you know, I talked to my doula, like asking what what kind of avenues I could go through to start doing this. And she was so supportive. She was like, you know, you would be great. Like you, you’re a mom. So you already know what people want and what they need. That was just really encouraging. So I ended up training through Birth Advocacy Doula Trainings, which I really didn’t know much about, but they had like a specific postpartum Doula training, and they are like woman and queer owned. And so it was like a crash course for me as a cisgender woman, like to learn about gender in birth and like all these different things. It was really, really eye-opening and helpful. So I trained with them, and then I heard about this training called Nourished that was done by a woman here in Brooklyn, named Alicia Allison. She is a Postpartum Chef, and she’s been doing it for like 10 years. And so she started training other people, like also seeing a gap in like she had all these clients that just wanted to be just wanted to be fed like food that was going to support them in those weeks postpartum. And so she held her like her very first training this winter that’s specifically for postpartum chefs. So that was really inspiring. And I just kind of took that and I was like this, I love cooking for people. This is, this is how I want to support people is by like specifically cooking for them.

Rebecca:

That’s amazing. And those of you who don’t know Malisa, but you’re learning to know her through this podcast, you have a very like calming presence. Like even your voice is soothing and you have such an amazing background all the years of working as a nanny, both in Kentucky and New York City that it just, I love seeing how your skills transfer to birth work. You can take that same like, calm demeanor that you developed and you know, you’ve kind of seen everything as a nanny and now you just take that into supporting families postpartum and your love of cooking and caring for people through food. It’s just, it just seems like the perfect combination for you. I’m so thrilled that you’ve entered this career and I know you’re newer to it, but tell us a little bit more about the training. I know you said your trainer for Postpartum Chef was Alicia Allison through cloverandtimothy.com. Can you just talk a little bit, because we haven’t had a Postpartum Chef on the podcast before, what that training is like and what kind of services you do. How is it different having somebody who’s specifically trained in cooking for people postpartum? 

Malisa:

Yeah, so a lot of the training and everything is rooted in like Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. So a lot of we learned a lot about, you know, a lot of cultures around the world have this history and knowledge about what the postpartum body needs to be nourished and to heal. And, you know, especially in America, we don’t, you know, you ask some person like, oh, what would you make for? someone postpartum and it’s like most of the time when you have like meal trains, people are making like pasta bakes and enchiladas, like things that feed a lot of people like batch cooking sort of stuff, which is now people need to eat and it’s great when, when friends and family want to help. But we just learned a lot about like traditionally what kinds of foods are healing, like these grounding, warming, like hydrating sorts of foods. A lot of times comes out to be like, like mushy foods at first. Like I was joking with a family the other day about like how, you know, I’m, I cook for, the birthing person. But like their family of course can eat the food too, but like just as a warning, like at the beginning, it’s gonna be a lot of like congee and oats and like mushy, mushy, easy to digest warming kind of spices. So yeah, the way that I kind of go about it is, I usually work with a family for about six weeks postpartum and I go to their house once a week and I, in the couple of days leading up to it, will prepare a menu for them, which will usually be like a main dish or two, a couple of sides, some teas or broth, things like that. And I just go to their house for like six hours, like whole day and just cook and just spend hours and hours in their kitchen. I think some people do like cooking at their home and delivering it to clients, but I found that people sometimes just like want someone to talk to and also like smelling good foods. Like it’s very nourishing to their soul too, to have someone just come in and cook homemade food. And especially in New York, I find that a lot of people are just doing like takeout because we don’t really do meal trains here very well. Like people don’t, don’t cook food and bring it to people. I don’t know, that’s just kind of the culture here. So yeah, to have someone make you homemade food is very much not the norm here. And I think a little bit of a luxury, but my hope is, and a lot of my colleagues doing this work around Brooklyn, especially like our hope is that it will just become the norm that people will, will hire people like us to come cook for them and that people won’t be, yeah, eating takeout and kind of like the bare bones. Like I remember when my first son was born, there was one day when he was like three or four days old where like Taylor and I managed to like make peanut butter and jelly and sit down at the table and eat it. And I was like, we’re doing it. We’re like, we’re making a meal. And that was like my like my bar for nourishing myself postpartum. It was a very low bar.

Rebecca:

And how did you then, since so many of us are disconnected from our cultures and our traditions of creating those warming meals postpartum, which is kind of a worldwide, every culture has something of its own. And we’ve kind of erased a lot of that in the United States. So how did you get in touch with the things that for you in particular feel like healing foods?

Malisa:

Yeah, I really, really love the book, The First Forty Days, which I know a lot of people who listen to this podcast probably know. That book is like a crash course in like what people all over the world do and how there are these themes that run through. Like you could take a culture in Asia, culture, you know, somewhere else. And there are a lot of themes of like things that are warming and comforting, that are thread throughout. And so I think when you start learning about those things, it becomes like a little bit intuitive where it’s like, oh yeah, it makes sense that you’re not eating like you know, cheesy, crunchy, whatever. You’re eating like warm soup with lentils or, you know, lots of vegetables, whatever. Yeah, I think that’s a huge part of it. And I also make sure to ask people here, especially because New York City is such a melting pot. I always make sure to ask people if there’s any tradition in their heritage that is important to them. Most people, I think, are kind of disconnected from that. So even if they are from a different culture, like just our generation, I think, is disconnected from that, even if their parents and grandparents have strong, cultures, but I hope, I haven’t had this happen yet, but I hope that someone, a client will maybe like use that opportunity to kind of research things in their own culture and try to bring some of those things back into their family.

Rebecca:

So I just pulled up your website, which is plantedpostpartum.com and you have menus. So could you like tell us some of those meals?

Malisa:

Okay, so here are some meals that I really love to make for clients. I made Thai-style sweet potato and carrot soup with lentils and citrus. A new mother’s dahl with warming spices, coconut and zucchini, creamy root vegetable soup, mother’s grain bowls with different things based on the season, savory congee with warming spices, really good homemade chicken noodle soup with spaghetti squash, classic beef stew. One of my favorites is a turmeric chickpea stew with kale, mashed sweet potato with garlic and coconut, traditional rice pudding with sauteed bananas, roasted beets with ginger butter and chives. I do a lot of frittatas with different variations based on what people like. I do a lot of homemade electrolyte drink with coconut milk and fresh citrus, ginger carrot muffins, roasted apple-sauce, chocolate orange and olive oil mousse. So we like to get some sweets in there, too. And as people go further along in postpartum, we can you know, if people are craving something, like that’s part of it too, is like you wanna nourish someone’s body, but also nourish their soul. So if somebody’s craving mac and cheese, and it’s like, you know, they’re six weeks postpartum, it’s like, yeah, let’s get some mac and cheese in there. Good too.

Rebecca:

I love it, Malisa. So, you know, we’ve talked a lot about food, but what are some of your other favorite ways for to help parents prepare for postpartum so that they’re like well-equipped to handle that period?

Malisa:

What I tell clients when they’re still pregnant is to be very specific with how you want people to help you. A lot of times we spend so much time preparing for birth that we forget to prepare for those weeks postpartum. Or rather you think so much about what the baby’s gonna need that you don’t really think about yourself and your own body. So I mentioned before that people, like friends that don’t have kids, don’t always know how to help you. And so being really specific with them, with what you need is, is like a good place to start. And I think just writing down a list of how people can help you with like walking your dog or helping with laundry, helping with an older sibling, getting them out of the house to do something. People want to help and they don’t really know how, and I think most people are happy to be given direction for that. Like my friend who came in and emptied the dishwasher. It’s like, you have a friend that loves to help like that, put them in charge of coming over every other day to just like do a clean of your kitchen or whatever seems to be like the messy place. The other thing that I think is really important that changed my life and I think helped a lot with my postpartum recovery the second time around was my doula really encouraged me to have like a radical amount of rest. You know, you’re told to rest up, to heal, but most people, most women are resting like the minimum amount and so it’s surprising when you don’t heal very quickly. I was told by my doula that a good rule is to, in the first week after you give birth, to only get out of bed for five minutes at a time. Like get up to go to the bathroom, get up to get a glass of water. The next week you get up for 10 minutes at a time. The next week get up for 15 minutes at a time. I like rules. I like someone to like tell me what to do. And so having that framework gave me permission to be like, I am in bed and I’m doing it with a purpose and doing it to rest up so that I can heal better and faster and that kind of like radical rest was very healing to my body and my soul. And so I always tell people that I am giving you permission to stay in bed for weeks at a time. That is what we should do to let our bodies rest.

Rebecca:

Yeah, permission or I sometimes we frame it in the EBB childbirth class as like a prescription. And I got that from my midwife who with my second and third birth, she literally like looked my husband in the eye and said, Rebecca is not allowed to do any household tasks for the next six weeks. Like no cooking, no emptying the dishwasher, no this, no laundry. And it was really helpful to have like someone in kind of who we saw as a position of authority to kind of lay down the law. Don’t make her do any of that and found that really helpful. And it is radical because I think most people feel like they have to get up and doing stuff as soon as possible.

Malisa:

Yeah. It’s hard to rest too. It’s hard to like make yourself do it. So having someone else, yeah, like prescribe that to you is really helpful.

Rebecca:

And then going back to food again, like you can prepare for postpartum while you’re still pregnant with food. So for people who can’t have a chef or they have no family who will cook for them, like do you have any suggestions for meals that are easy to freeze in advance?

Malisa:

Yeah, I was like the queen of doing this for myself. And so I have like, really good understanding. My favorite thing to do to make sure you have some like high quality nourishing meals later is to go for like grain bowls. So you can batch cook like buckwheat, quinoa, brown rice, all these sorts of things, freeze them, and then do the same with vegetables. You know, you could do like squash, you can roast sweet potato roast butternut squash or whatever you like with spices and, you know, lots of like garlic and good stuff and freeze all those things separately. And then you have different options. You can kind of mix and match and make these like grain bowls and then whatever fresh stuff you have on hand, you can sprinkle on top, make like a tahini sauce or put some feta cheese or something to give it a little more texture and flavor.

Rebecca:

Wait, so how do you put this together then? Say you have like frozen brown rice and frozen veggies, are they like in baggies or containers?

Malisa:

Yeah, I would do like, I’d say what I usually do is either do like individual portion sizes in baggies or if that is like too much waste, which it sometimes can be, just a big bag that you’re thawing out for the week or something. And then the same with the veggies.

Rebecca:

Do you like, pull it out and put it in the fridge and then that’s you make grain bowls for the week from that?

Malisa:

Yeah, and then just warm it up as needed. That’s like the most comforting food. That’s me, that’s what I would want, is something that has different flavors, different textures. I’m a big like, soup and stew girl too, but that can get, that can get a little boring after a while.

Rebecca:

So Malisa? Can you tell our listeners how they can follow and support your work?

Malisa:

Sure, so my website is plantedpostpartum.com. That’s where I have all my menus and everything posted there. So if you need, like inspiration for yourself for cooking postpartum. And then on Instagram, I’m also @plantedpostpartum. Yeah, so if everyone follows along there, I’m new to this, I’m just kind of starting out. But my hope is that in the future I can bring this work to people who can’t afford it. At this point, it’s like this sort of work is a luxury for a lot of people to be able to afford. And so my hope is that I can find this community, find this network where I can try to find the support to do this for people who can’t necessarily afford it, which is to me like those are the people that need this the most usually.

Rebecca:

Yeah. And I hope here at EBB that we can bring on more people to talk about food and more chefs. I know in Episode 278 where we are talking with Mama Hakima Payne, founder of Uzazi Village and they have a chef on their staff now in their prenatal center, which is just amazing. So you can go to that episode to learn more. And when, as soon as I learned that, I was like, okay, this is a whole new world we need to start talking more about. So I’m so excited you came on the podcast and shared your story and talked about the importance of food and postpartum wellness. So thank you so much, Malisa, for joining us today.

Malisa:

Thank you so much for having me. It was fun.

Rebecca:

This podcast episode was brought to you by the book, Babies are Not Pizzas: They’re Born, Not Delivered. Babies Are Not Pizzas is a memoir that tells the story of how I navigated a broken healthcare system and uncovered how I could still receive evidence-based care. In this book, you’ll learn about the history of childbirth in midwifery, the evidence on a variety of birth topics, and how we can prevent preventable trauma in childbirth. Babies are Not Pizzas is available on Amazon as a Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover, and Audible Book. Get your copy today and make sure to email me after you read it to let me know your thoughts.

Listening to this podcast is an Australian College of Midwives CPD Recognised Activity.

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