Coronavirus is making expectant parents anxious. This doula wants to help
For parents-to-be, Mother’s Day in the age of the coronavirus might feel like an onerous reminder of the unexpected challenges ahead. That’s why doula Carson Meyer wants to make one thing clear: Her profession exists to educate parents and help alleviate their anxiety.
“That baby is going to arrive no matter what the state of the world is,” said Meyer, 26. “It’s such a vulnerable and tender time. There should be more hands on deck for those mothers and for the children because they’re being born into a time of trauma. … We’re here to support women in any way we can.”
Thanks to her social-media prowess, Meyer, daughter of NBCUniversal Vice Chairman Ron Meyer, has emerged during this turbulent time as a virtual source of information within the birthing community.
In addition to helping pregnant women, Meyer said she hopes to teach her 38,000 Instagram followers, who include Jennifer Aniston and Courteney Cox, more about the role of a doula. She said there are plenty of misunderstandings, and she clarified that, unlike midwives, doulas are non-medical. Before delivery, Meyer prepares people for postpartum life, and during delivery, she acts as a cheerleader and medical advocate.
In an effort to flatten the coronavirus curve, visitors, including doulas, aren’t currently permitted within the labor and delivery units at many hospitals in Los Angeles. (According to a representative, the current policy at Cedars-Sinai is that one support person — typically the other parent — is allowed to be present through the entire stay but must remain with the patient at all times. Both are also given a temperature check and a mask.)
Meyer said she’s exploring new ways to make expectant parents feel more comfortable given the circumstances. For starters, she suggests that doulas Skype into the delivery room. “That’s helpful to provide birth affirmations and help talk things through,” she said. She also emphasized the importance of preparing clients by teaching their partners techniques that doulas ordinarily would use during delivery.
Dr. Suzanne Gilberg-Lenz, a board certified OB-GYN, partner at the Women’s Care of Beverly Hills Medical Group and attending staffer at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, acknowledged the importance of having a strong support system during a pregnancy. “A lot of my doula friends have been really upping their game in terms of training the partner,” she said. “It’s going to force partners to be present, and maybe that’s a good thing.”
Before Gov. Gavin Newsom implemented California’s stay-at-home order in March, Meyer left her Topanga Canyon cabin for the first time in a week to help a client who had gone into labor. “We labored together until she was ready to get an epidural,” she said, explaining she then sent the couple off to the hospital without accompanying them. “I know that it was hard for her — and it was hard for me — to leave each other, but ultimately, she had a beautiful birth. … She had a safe and healthy delivery and got to be with her baby.”
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Gilberg-Lenz emphasized that patients at Cedars-Sinai are in good hands. “We’re one of the biggest medical centers in the region and we’re definitely feeling the pinch,” she said, “but labor and delivery has stepped up, and these nurses and the residents and the doctors are working hard. It’s safe there.”
But not all expectant parents feel placated. Meyer said many of her clients have debated changing their birth plan. “There’s this home birth frenzy,” she said, acknowledging that home birth isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. “It’s not that easy.” She said for some people “turning to home birth could be a great option, but it also comes with its own set of flaws.”
Meyer explained that home-birth care, which makes up only 1% of the births in the United States, is for low-risk birthing candidates who are “willing and want to endure labor and the sensations of it.” It involves forgoing an epidural and hiring a midwife.
“It is a solution for some,” she said, “but there are financial elements. There’s health elements. There’s so much that goes into that decision. It’s not a go-to. … We know that so many women need to be in a hospital. They’re high risk. Maybe they need to have a planned Caesarian. Or it could be just that they feel safe there.”
When confusion surrounding hospital policies first began in March, Meyer hosted a series of Instagram Live interviews with other doulas, midwives and women who’ve had home births to educate expectant parents about their options. One of Meyer’s guests, model-turned-entrepreneur Cindy Crawford discussed giving birth to her children, son Presley Gerber and daughter Kaia Gerber, through home births in 1999 and 2001, respectively.
“I would never push anyone or talk anyone into doing home birth,” Crawford told Meyer during their March 30 conversation. “I think it’s just nice to know that it is an option that’s available. Anyone who is even at all curious, I would encourage to do their own research.”
Meyer has been working with clients to discuss what’s best for them. She also has expanded her business to offer virtual private childbirth education classes and online consultations. Although Meyer has participated in home and water births, she said that, previously, 90% of her clients have opted for hospital deliveries.
She said the biggest misconception people have about doulas is that they’re needed only for people who want to achieve an unmedicated birth. “Even with an epidural, there’s still so much to learn,” Meyer said, sharing that her approach has always been: “It’s not my birth. How can I help support someone through what’s right for them?”
Meyer’s former client Alix Tepple, an executive for WarnerMedia who recently relocated to Beverly Hills, was introduced to the doula while pregnant with her second child.
“She was fabulous,” Tepple said of working with Meyer to deliver her now 8-month-old daughter Lena at a hospital. “I was getting up every two minutes with contractions, and [Carson] was jumping on my back and getting me out of pain. … She was trying to show my husband how to do everything, probably because she’s 5’1" and 95 pounds soaking wet and so little. And jumping on top of a very pregnant woman’s back is not easy, and I love my husband dearly, but any time he would touch me, I was like, ‘Just bring me, Carson. Where’s Carson?’ She was fantastic and super calming.”
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The two have since remained loosely in touch. “She’s a wonderful human and a wonderful presence,” Tepple said. “I miss her. My husband [does] too. It’s a funny thing that someone can come into your life and be such a huge part of it and then gracefully exit in the same way and you know they’re doing it for other people. She’s lovely. I love her.”
Tepple conceded that the role of a doula has shifted for the moment, but said working with one is invaluable. “The need for a doula is on steroids,” she said. “You need an advocate. … I couldn’t imagine it right now. … But advocates come in many different forms, whether it’s your relationship with your spouse, your significant other … your relationship with your doula. Everybody experiences it differently, but you need something or someone, and I don’t think that changes with COVID.”
Given Meyer’s family background, the entertainment business might have seemed an obvious career path. Although she dabbled with acting, she discovered her passion for childbirth shortly after watching the 2008 documentary “The Business of Being Born” for a college course at New York University.
“I had this insane reaction,” said Meyer, who recalls immediately calling her older sisters, jewelry designer Jennifer Meyer and Roe caviar founder Sarah Meyer, to discuss their labor experiences. “I could not stop crying. I was like, ‘This is so beautiful.’ … They were like, ‘I don’t think everyone reacts that way to the Ricki Lake[-produced] documentary.’ I realized in that moment, ‘I have an unusual reaction to this work.’”
After graduating college with a concentration in child development, art therapy and alternative medicine, Meyer, who grew up in Malibu, trained to become a doula. Since then she has helped deliver more than 50 babies in three years. Despite her experience, she said that prior to recent COVID-19 circumstances, her presence in the delivery room occasionally surprised people.
“I’ve walked in with my clients to the hospital and they’re like, ‘Is this your daughter?’” the petite blond said with a laugh during a conversation at her Topanga Canyon home. “Not having kids [myself] was something, at first, that I kind of felt like, ‘Can I do this work not knowing what my clients are truly going through?’” she said. “But I always say to my clients, ‘Look, even if I had a hundred kids, no two births are the same, ever, and I’m not here to project any of my experience.’ I’m a mirror for them. I want to reflect what they need.” Meyer smiled. “Also, none of the male OBs out there have done it.”
Meyer is also founder of C & the Moon, an environmentally conscious skincare line, which was inspired by her own sensitive skin. It quickly became a hit, with Mandy Moore, Kim Kardashian West and January Jones praising the brand’s signature homemade brown-sugar body scrub on social media.
The Malibu-made product, which is made from brown sugar, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, jojoba seed and castor oil, is available for $20 (for 2 ounces), $38 (4 ounces) and $64 (for 12 ounces) on candthemoon.com. C & the Moon also recently released a sugar-cookie-scented candle ($56).
Meyer was introduced to clean beauty by her mother, Kelly Chapman Meyer, who works with the environmental nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council. Because of her upbringing, Carson Meyer said she considered her carbon footprint when launching C & the Moon in 2018.
“It stresses me out to think of how much crap we have on the shelves and in the ocean,” she said. This led to the brand’s reusable glass jars, which can be repurposed with succulent plants as featured on the skincare label’s Instagram account, @candthemoon. “Look, I’m far from perfect,” she said, “but I try.”
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On Earth Day last month, Meyer announced that C & the Moon would donate a portion of its annual proceeds to the NRDC as part of an ongoing initiative.
Meyer has more products in the pipeline but said she isn’t in any rush to launch them, especially because of the coronavirus and its effect on the economy and small businesses. “It’s literally just me,” she said, adding that she doesn’t have any employees. “I want the brand to feel intimate and personal. I’m customer service. So if you email me about the product, I’m going to respond. I know that one day, to grow, I have to be comfortable letting that go, but it does feel like my baby, you know?”
She also looks forward to eventually joining her clients once again in the hospital. For now, she’s focused on finding the positive in this otherwise dark time. “There’s so much inherent hope in birth,” she said. “It’s symbolic of our future and a new beginning and that life goes on.”
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