Exploring The World of Doula Care with Jodi Congdon: Episode 217

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Jody Congdon

Meet our Guest: Jodi Congdon

My name is Jodi Congdon. I’m the founder and owner of Hip to Heart.

Giving birth was a life changing experience for me and was ultimately what made me decide to get involved in pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding as a career.  I feel compelled to educate women on the options and choices they have for their births to try and make each and every experience the very best it can be. I know how important the postpartum time is and my priority is to support new moms to the fullest capacity.

You could say that I am obsessed with all things birth, moms and babies! I love to learn and strive for expertise in my field. I am a trained Labor Doula and Childbirth Educator as well as a certified Lactation Educator and Postpartum Doula. I am also a member of the CAPPA Faculty as the Postpartum Doula and Lactation Educator Trainer for New England. I recently took a New Parent Educator and an Advanced Multiples Training. In addition to that, I am also a Certified Health and Wellness Coach specializing in prenatal and postpartum women.

Breastfeeding has been a huge part of my life for the past few years and one of the greatest gifts that I have given my three daughters. It is one of my favorite classes to teach and I’m always trying to find new and innovative ways to educate expecting families about its benefits. I recently started One Out Now, a campaign to normalize breastfeeding in public.

I reside in Foxboro with my husband, three lovely daughters (the last two were amazing homebirths!), two cats and a dog.


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DR. DANIELLE: Awesome. Okay, so I found you on Instagram and we were talking before we started recording and I was like, did I find you this way? That way? I don't know. But however I found you.

Look anywhere around you, look at the people that come into our offices, look at the people that you see online, look at yourself and your own family, and look at how our lives today are not supporting health.

-Dr. Danielle Eaton

DR. DANIELLE: Okay, Jodi, thanks so much for hanging out with me today. We're going to get started with two quick questions, they're kind of rapid fire. You could share as much, or as little as you want to about these. First, what is your go-to health habit, the thing that you must do to take care of yourself or else?


JODI: So I have my first one I think is have an iced coffee in the morning. I think that's more like my mental get ready for the day and sort of like the social piece too. I feel like maybe not in the winter, but like more in the summer, I usually either walk the kids or walk the dog, get a coffee and see people you know, and I feel like that's just such a good start to my day. But like the actual physical health piece, and this is mental health too, but just taking a nice long walk with my dog with no kids, nobody else, not a friend to chat with, I try not to really look at my phone either, I try to just think about like the morning sort of process, anything that's gone on and make some plans for the afternoon, but just enjoy being outside. And I know how much my dog loves being out too, so I know she enjoys it, but I love the physical piece of that and the mental clarity piece too. So iced coffee and walk with the dog.

DR. DANIELLE: I don't drink coffee, but I do really find a lot of stress relief in walking my dog - he's a pandemic puppy. We got him in March of 2020. He's actually in the office with me right now, making noises. And he's some days the one waking me up, like nudging me to get out of bed and go take him for a walk. Okay, next question for you is what do you like the least about running a business?

JODI: So I think for that, what I don't love about running a business - but there's so many perks too to this - is just having to be a available especially in the business I'm in, we do birth and postpartum care and babies are born around the clock and clients have questions and doulas have questions. And my family knows too that I have to be available for my job, but the trade off is I'm home with my kids all the time, and I don't have to use daycare or aftercare or rush home at six o'clock and get dinner and sort of not be with them. So I think they understand, but mom guilt is real, real, real. And I feel guilty about it all the time. So I remember when I worked a corporate job and my days were long, my weeks were long, but when I got home for the most part, I could shut it off and I didn't have to pick it back up again until the morning. But now I have to be available and I don't love it because it is disruptive sometimes especially if we're out doing something planned and I really, really want to be present, but sometimes with birth and breastfeeding and those things are so time sensitive that I do have to take a minute and say, you know what, give me five. I just have to work this out with a client or a doula or anyone. But some stuff can wait, some stuff can wait and I can not text back, but for the most part I have to be available and it just comes with it.

DR. DANIELLE: One of the things that I aim to do with this podcast is to help women who are in health and wellness professions have a bigger vision for their business. And I think that you're a great example of that. So I would love to talk with you more about where you started in your journey as a doula and how did you create the vision for an agency? And anyone can go look at your website and see your team who had quite a lot of people who are working in your agency. Share with us what led you into the work that you're doing now.

JODI: Sure. So my oldest daughter is 14 and I was in corporate event planning when she was born and my mother passed away when I was young and I just didn't have a support system, my friends were still single or in a relationship, but no one had kids and they were still going out and doing their thing and I had a newborn at home. So in the time that I was home part of it was dreading going back to work and knowing that I was going to be gone long days again, and she would be in daycare. But the other part of it was there something nagging, like something was so lacking in the postpartum support piece that I felt like they said bye bye, good luck, have a wonderful parenting journey when you leave the hospital. And I actually ended up having my second and third daughters at home for a variety of reasons stemming from just the lack of care and lack of support during my first birth. But I just knew there was something more and I always wanted to be a nurse. I always wanted to do something with mom and baby. And I quickly realized the clinical piece was not for me, but I did love the social and emotional piece. And I just started doing some research and Googling and I found postpartum doula care, and I said that just sounds like something that would really be for me. And I happened to get laid off shortly after maternity leave from my corporate job, and it was like a moment of devastation, and then just a lifetime of like what a blessing to be let go at a time where I sort of had this like tiny vision of where I wanted or what I wanted my life to look like with a young baby. So I flew down to North Carolina, took a training, came back, hit up some doulas in the area if you have any extra clients. And I was like so busy and busy at that time was in between drop off and pickup for school. I was a single parent for a long time and just didn't have a support system. So I worked in the in-betweens and then I sort of branched out from just the postpartum care, I took on some birth clients, I started teaching some classes and just grew my business like that. But I realized very, very quickly that there's only so many hours in the day and that really limits the potential for income. So I started doing some stuff digitally that you could do once, you know, sell to many people, or I started doing stuff online where you can have one class, but you don't have to have classroom space that only fits ten people because you could have as many people as you wanted. And I ended up working for a few years and becoming a postpartum doula trainer. So I added that income. I was always the person who wanted the commission based job, I never wanted to just have a salary because I knew what I put into something was what I was going to get out of it. So I was never afraid to work really hard - actually work really smart to just make that revenue come in. So I started doing training and I was able to meet a lot of new doulas and I was doing it at that time we weren't doing virtual and it was all in person, so I was doing it mostly in New England, but I think in 2015, maybe 2014 just a variety of life stuff happened. I got engaged, my father was diagnosed with cancer, I rushed planning a wedding, got married in March, he died in May, I got pregnant that minute, a year later had another daughter - so somewhere in that time I said, I never - not I never - but in the near future I will not be doing any private care. What can I do to continue making an impact on the community? Continue having revenue come in and, and just take a minute to figure out where I want my business to go. And it was just obvious to the agency piece, I'm training these doulas, I can hand pick the shining stars out of every training and build my team that way. And one of my biggest sort of marketing pieces is I've trained everyone on my team. I've personally trained them in both postpartum care and lactation. And through that and just through working with them I've gotten to know their personalities and their strengths and their weaknesses, and we're not just placing people based on location and availability. We're doing it more on perfect fit and personality match. And for someone who is either pregnant or just had a new baby, and it's just a very vulnerable time, they want to know that someone has their best interest at heart and is really trying to find the perfect person or as perfect as it's going to get. So the agency sort of came about during that time and it's five years old now when we have almost thirty doulas, we started off with two plus me and just kept growing. I think I put it out there to the universe and all of a sudden there was an influx of clients and an influx of doulas, and it sort of just grew. In that time I realized I do love the perinatal community. I love doula care. I love managing doulas. I still have a lot of client interaction, but I also love teaching other doulas to create the business that they want for themselves and for their families and a lot of doulas and especially because I'm training them, and I do a lot of post training mentorship. They think that they're going to go out and they're going to do doula work and that's going to be it. They don't really realize that there's so much more that you can bring to the table to grow your business, to branch out, to make a bigger impact on the community, but not put in so much more time and not spend so much more money trying to build. I think that's a big deterrent for people. I think they're afraid that if they take the next step, they're already crazy busy. I mean, it is a good time to be a doula, but they're already so busy that are they going to be able to, to spend more time away from their family, dedicate more time to working and they're already not feeling like they don't have enough time for self care, for family care, for other priorities or passion projects. So that's sort of, my focus now is to help people just create a stable, sustainable business that has just tons of potential to scale into something amazing.



DR. DANIELLE: Yes, absolutely. Was there ever a time that you felt like you needed permission to be able to train other doulas or to start and grow an agency? Do you know what I mean? Listening to your story right now, it sounds like it was just obvious, like you just knew this was what you're going to do. And yet I talked to a lot of people, myself included, who have felt like I'm not qualified to do that.

JODI: Yeah. There's always times where I'm like, am I even qualified to be training other doulas? Am I that good at what I do? But then I quickly realize there's a reason why I'm doing this. And there's a reason why the organization I trained for chose me to do this and keeps me doing it. And all the feedback I get from my students also just keeps me in a place where any thoughts of imposter syndrome are quickly pushed to the side. But as far as the business piece, I think just looking at my own story, I started doing what everyone else is doing, trading this many hours of the day for this much money and feeling burnt out fast and feeling bad that I wasn't spending enough time with my daughter or other things. And as a birth doula you're on call. You could miss someone's 99th birthday, you could miss a recital; you just never know. So I think for me it just felt like a really perfect fit to take my journey and sort of my story of my whys and hows and wheres and create something to help other people do the same thing. And I've created some digital courses and some programs like series that help people start their business or scale their business or transition it into an agency because that's what I needed. And that's it took me five years to sort of figure it out. I think I'm in a pretty good spot now, but it was a lot of trial and error and a lot of hard work and a lot of doing things wrong before I figured out the correct way. And so I packaged it all together and put it in like a pretty package and done for you. This is how you get from where you are to where you want to be. And I love the mentorship piece. I love all of it. I love hearing stories of this is what I want, and then when they get there I've been with them the whole way and hearing the story that I never thought I could get here, but with Jodi's mentorship or with her support I was able to sort of see it happen. It's a lot of the feedback in a lot of the relationships that I sort of cultivate and continue that pull me back when I think that maybe I shouldn't be doing this or maybe I'm not good enough to do it.



DR. DANIELLE: At the time that we're recording this, we're almost two years into the pandemic, and I think those of us that work in holistic, natural, alternative health and wellness realms, we know that the work of doulas has changed a bit over the last almost two years. Let's talk a little bit more about that. For people that might be interested in becoming a doula in the future, what might they need to know is different now than what they could have expected a couple of years ago, and what things that you think are going to continue to change over the next few years ahead of us?

JODI: Well, I think at least for my business, we were fairly busy pre-pandemic and the need for doula care or the desire for doula care has just grown exponentially. We did virtual care for a minute for postpartum doulas, it was a little bit longer for the birth doulas, but people quickly realized that they're not willing to sacrifice very much to not have the postpartum care that they want. And a lot of our second time moms realized that they experienced postpartum depression or anxiety the first time around, and were not willing to not have in-person, hands-on care. So our team was extremely careful in taking all of the proper precautions as best they could. We had some doulas doing COVID tests like before they left the house just to make sure, we were only having one doula work with one family at a time, which was challenging because we try not to say no to anyone. We have clients who want seventy hours a week, which is wonderful. We have clients who want eight hours a week. So if you only have the opportunity to work with one family at a time, we had a hard time filling those eight hour families, but we did it, and we're past that now. But the need for doula care has grown a ton, I think a lot to do with postpartum mental health. There was a lot of isolation during the pandemic during pregnancies. We had some of our clients expecting to have a birth doula and then the hospital said no. So just lots of unsure time to expect thinking you're going to have one thing, and then a minute later they say, no, we're not allowing that. So we really tried to pick up all that slack postpartum. And like I said, we're probably ten times as busy now as we were pre-pandemic. But I think we have a lot of partners working from home. So that's almost harder than when you are having someone work outside the house and you don't see them, so you don't even know they're there. And when they're like ten feet from you, you almost expect them to support you somehow, but you forget that they're at work. So having more daytime doula care to help support - the birth parent was definitely something that we saw a lot more nine to five support. A lot more practitioners are recommending doulas seeing that their patients need some help, either prenatally or postpartum. And we were getting OBs and midwives talking about doula care before the pandemic, but not like they are now. They're doing so many more referrals and just educating their patients about what kind of care that's available when you get home. And the other thing is just spending two years not going on vacation and not just spending what you normally would be spending, allocating that money to a birth doula, a postpartum doula. So I think those three things were the main players and what's happening now is people, their contracts are over and they don't want it to end. So they're saying I know my doula is moving on to someone else, but do you have someone else, could we sort of be on a waitlist for any nights you have available, if you have someone ending a client waiting for their next client, is there somewhere in between? So we have a long wait list now of just families who we've been caring for a while, who will take any availability to just continue their care. It was not like that pre-pandemic, your contract was over and you moved on. But now people are having a hard time letting go.


DR. DANIELLE: What would you want someone to know who was considering starting a career as a doula, like maybe a nurse who's leaving a hospital, for example, I've talked to lots of nurses who are leaving, they don't know what they're going to do next. And sometimes they're pretty afraid, but they know that they're making the right decision and working as a doula is one of the things that I always say like, well, here's a long list of all the things you could do, doula is on the list. What would you want them to know about getting started in this work?

JODI: We have lots of nurses who have left hospital settings for one reason or another. And a lot of it just has to do with the politics and all the rules and regulations. They just feel like they can't care for their patients the way they want to. And a lot of them are labor and delivery or postpartum. Transitioning to the doula piece of it - now you're working for the same patients or the same people you would've seen in the hospital, but you're working for them privately. You can care for them any way you want. You can educate them, teach them anything you want. You don't have to abide by protocol. It's a natural transition for most nurses. And I would just say that it is so rewarding. It really is such an incredible career, whether you're coming from a nursing background or not; you could use your nursing background to your advantage. We have some medically fragile babies that need nursing care, but having that extra doula education so now you are aware of maternal mental health so you're not just focusing on the baby - you're focusing on the birth parent, you're on the family, you're focusing on the home and you can really give them that entire package of care. And that's so highly sought after because you just don't get that a lot of times - when it's medical, it's medical and that's it. But with doula care or newborn care specialists, a lot of them also take postpartum doula trainings and they do really have that well rounded approach to postpartum care.


DR. DANIELLE: Okay. So as someone starting their career it seems pretty, I guess the word would be obvious to me, the biggest challenge in the beginning is getting clients and filling your schedule, being able to who really, if you want it to be a business that is your full-time income to be able to grow to that point. And I think that sometimes when people hear from someone like you, who has an agency, you've got a big team of doulas who are taking care of a lot of people, they're like, well, how do you have so many clients. and I'm just struggling and to get enough to make a living? What kinds of things would you want that person to know and or do so that they can get to the point where they're not just trying to make ends meet, but they're really thriving on their career.

JODI: Well, I think out of the gate, working for an agency just being able to have some solid income coming in while you work on your business, while you make your own connections in the community. And one of the things that I cannot stress enough and I teach to all my trainees and anyone who I come in contact with talking about building a business is that networking is probably the single best way to fill your schedule, get your name out there, create a reputation for yourself instead of trying to find one or two or three pregnant people or pregnant couples. Figure out what practitioners in your local area, see the same clientele. That's your ideal clientele. We try to connect with chiropractors who specialize in babies and bellies. We talk a lot to prenatal yoga studios, home birth midwives. They have a captive audience of our ideal clients. So we can tap into their audience, they can tap into ours. What's wonderful now is you can hop on Instagram and do a little live interview. You can talk about collaborating. If you think about something that every pregnant person or brand new family is concerned about - let's say it's having a gassy baby or having a baby that is colicky - what do they want to hear about? They may want to hear a chiropractor talk about the body work piece. We could have a lactation specialist talk about gut health and then your postpartum doula talking about how you can soothe and all that stuff at home, so how you can put all that into practice. So the three of us together getting on social media, or even doing a live Q and A in someone's office, we're tapping into three separate audiences, but they're all the same audience, right? They're all interested in the same thing. It's a topic that everyone's afraid of and everyone wants to know more about. So you have tons of people now interested in your practice and their practices, and you're in front of eyes and ears that normally wouldn't know you exist, but need your services. So I do a ton of work on helping people network and get their circle of professionals that they're going to be collaborating with, working with, and at the end of the day, it's just giving our clients the most comprehensive care because they might need a chiropractor, they may want prenatal yoga, they may be interested in midwifery pediatricians, pediatric dentists. Anyone who sees our clientele it's nice to have that really sort of tight knit circle of referrals. And it's not only helpful for our clients, but also to fill our schedules.

DR. DANIELLE: Yeah, absolutely. I think that building relationships to grow your practice is one of the most -I would say it's in the top three, in my opinion - important ways for us to grow because most of us, especially when we're starting out, we don't want to be out there giving out deals and offering coupons and advertisements and paper. There's a lot of old ways of doing things that people still try to do. And I'm like, don't waste your time with that. There's also the social media advertising too, and I think you don't have to see those things that other people are doing, and think that you have to do them too. And just remember that there's a reason that you started a career in a helping profession in some part, because you enjoy people and you want to help people and people also want to help you. So build those relationships and nurture those relationships and it takes time, but they bring you the best clients.

JODI: Right? The people that we network with, generally, let's say a chiropractor or prenatal yoga, they are pregnant or postpartum, you know they have an active interest in their health and wellbeing. And they're educated enough to seek out those practitioners that are going to be helpful for them. That's our ideal clientele - someone who wants to go that extra step to make sure that they are feeling well physically, mentally, emotionally, and really doing everything they can to get ready for the end of their pregnancy, their labor and delivery, and preparation for postpartum.

DR. DANIELLE: Awesome. Jodi, thank you so much for chatting with me today and just sharing more for people that are maybe in the earlier phases of their career, or even just thinking about getting started in some kind of health and wellness profession and feeling like they don't know what to do and they just need help and guidance. So if someone would like to learn more about you about your work, where is the best place for them to go?

JODI: My website is HipToHeart.com. There's so much information on there on all aspects of doula care starting a business, growing your business, or just Jodi@hiptoheart.com. You can email me, we can hop on zoom, start a conversation, and sort of see what is most beneficial.

DR. DANIELLE: Awesome. Thank you again so much.

JODI: My pleasure.

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