Mom Squad with Rhondda Smiley (Doula and Yoga Instructor)
Meeting Rhondda blew my mind! I peppered her with question after question, because she’s just so knowledgeable about birth and catered her practice to truly helping mom in all aspects of her pregnancy. From prenatal yoga to supporting breastfeeding after birth, this woman does it all! Grab yourself a cup of tea and dig in – there are so many great pearls in this interview!
When can a woman begin prenatal yoga?
Whenever she feels like it. During the first trimester, she may choose to be conservative in her practice, watch her energy levels, and avoid twists, inversions, or jumps. Listen to what your body has to tell you. Yoga during pregnancy is a wonderful path to cultivate your own deep inner knowing of what’s right for you, your body, your baby and your pregnancy.
Does every yoga class have the same sequence, or do you modify it based on the yogis?
I don’t teach a set sequence. I like to change things up from class to class.
We do usually begin with some attention to the breath and a short mindfulness practice, to release tension and arrive to our practice. Then there’s a few minutes to check in with each other. Each person has an opportunity to share any news from the pregnancy or how they are feeling, whether they are working with any particular issues in their body and so on. Then I can tailor our practice to accommodate those individual needs.
Every class includes poses to bring the pelvis into healthy balance, movements that flow with the breath, standing postures that build the strength to power you through labour, and of course a yummy svasana or restorative pose to end on a relaxing note.
Is there one universal yoga pose that is beneficial for each trimester?
While there is never one-size-fits-all, a wide kneed child’s pose can be helpful to many during all stages of pregnancy. It helps to keep the pelvis open and relieves low back tension. It allows for a deep breath that moves through the belly, back and pelvic floor. It may encourage baby to move into an optimal position for labour. If it feels too crowded to bring your forehead down to the ground, you can support your upper body by resting on your forearms, a firm cushion or birth ball.
Why is a doula a great support to have during a birth?
There are soooo many reasons! But here are three that are key.
A hallmark of doula care is continuous support. As your doula I’m with you from early labour, through active labour and delivery, straight through until an hour or two after the birth, with no shift changes or extended breaks. I’m usually the only person on your care team who’s with you for the whole journey once labour starts, and that continuity can be just the reassurance you need.
My number one job is to do all that I can to ensure that the birthing person feels safe, nurtured and heard. The rest of your care team – your doctors and nurses or midwives – have the physical health and safety of you and your baby as their primary role. Good clinical caregivers may also provide emotional support – but it’s not their first priority. When they are called to attend to your clinical needs, I will always be there to support your very real emotional needs. How you feel during your birth experience matters. The mind-body connection means that when you feel safe and at ease, you unleash a physiological response that allows your body to labour efficiently.
And then there’s this. A doula and a birth partner – whether it’s a spouse, parent or friend – make a match made in heaven. Your partner knows you, and I know birth! Partners – I’ll share with you my best tried and true comfort measures to keep her at ease, making you look like a rock star in her eyes! I could never replace you, and in fact do all I can to encourage connection between you. I also know you may be feeling overwhelmed and support you with information, experience, and breaks!
So many of my clients – and especially their partners – tell me after their birth, “I knew it would be great to have you there, but I had no idea how much you would offer me”.
What is a postpartum doula, and what does she do?
Think about a postpartum doula like having your BFF over – but one who knows ALL about babies! As a postpartum doula, I share experience, hands-on help, information and encouragement with parents of new babies. When I arrive to a postpartum visit, I look and listen to find out what is most needed in the household so that everyone can feel as nourished as possible in body, mind and spirit. I follow your lead and support your choices for what works best for your family without judgement.
What does that look like? An old hand who can tell you about normal newborn behaviour and development. Experienced support as you learn the ropes with breastfeeding. Warm arms to soothe your baby while you take a nap or shower. A friendly reminder to keep yourself fed and hydrated while bringing you a drink and nutritious snack. An extra pair of hands while you balance the needs of your new baby and your toddler. A companion who accompanies you to the pediatrician or midwife’s office, or runs a neighbourhood errand for you. An insider who knows all the best local resources. A compassionate ear who will help you process the tremendous changes you and your family are moving through.
Most expectant parents are so focused on the birth that they haven’t given much thought to how they are going to manage once baby is here. Parents who don’t have the support of near-by friends and family can benefit from booking a postpartum doula before the birth, as will any family that is feeling overwhelmed once baby has arrived. As a postpartum doula, I don’t take over the care of your baby. Rather, I share tools and impart confidence as you learn how to satisfy the unique needs of your baby.
Some doulas – yours truly included – even provide overnight support. This can be a lifesaver if you’ve got twins, your partner is away or sick, or just to help you get caught up on some much needed sleep!
What’s the first thing you do every morning to start your day off right?
Before I get out of bed, when I’m still lying there and thinking about what the day may hold, I try to consider how what I’m going to do may be of service to others. It’s so easy to wake up, map out the day, and think, “what do I have to look forward to today, what am I going to get out of it?” Instead I try to start the day by breaking that self-centred impulse and begin with the most positive motivation I can fire up.
What’s your favourite self-care practice?
Breathing. No, really!
The moments when I pause to take even just a few rounds of full, conscious breath make SUCH a difference. Even just ONE good breath can totally change how I’m feeling in my body, my feelings, my energy level, my state of mind, and how I am in my present situation.
Making time to spend a little longer exploring my breath is like a trip to the spa for my mind and body – delicious! And it’s always available! You don’t need to go anywhere, change your clothes, buy anything, get a partner, be in any particular position… It’s always available to us – right here, right now.
What is your favourite yoga pose?
I’d like to think that I’m like the mother of many children who is when asked, “which one is your favourite?”, replies “which ever one I’m with right now”. But I do really love to spend time in child’s pose.
How can moms connect with you?
Because I believe that the best way to get to know someone is face-to-face, I offer a complimentary in-person consultation for moms who’d like to find out more about how doula care can add value to their birth experience. I take the time to listen to what’s important to them, answer any questions about doula care and see if we’re a good fit, because in the end Mom’s comfort level is the first priority. Moms can connect with me at www.smileybirthservices.com to book a session.