Monday, January 25, 2010

Ms. Green-Clean Interviews NYC Holistic Doula & RN, Andrea Crossman

One of the things I love about my job is that I get to meet many exceptionally talented and interesting people with fascinating careers. I'm also grateful that I never have to convince clients of my eco-friendly methods or that the products I'm using to clean their homes are as effective as their more noxious relatives. By the time someone becomes a Ms. Green-Clean client they're already cognizant of the benefits of living a healthier lifestyle. In fact, I often learn green and healthy tips from them.

Andrea Crossman, a Ms. Green-Clean client, is one of those people I've learned a lot from. She is the founder of Holistic Doula NYC, is a holistic RN, doula, and childbirth educator. She works with women to support three important milestones: preparation for pregnancy, pregnancy, and birth. Andrea hosts a group called Holistic Mamas NYC and writes the HDNYC blog where she shares holistic pregnancy and birth tips. She is also the co-founder of Lovemore (, a love-infused green business with a line of message tees, hoodies, onesies, vegan belts, bags, and water bottles.

I had the opportunity recently to interview her:

For people who don't know, what is a labor doula?

A labor doula provides continuous emotional, physical, and informational support to a laboring mother. My labor doula support typically begins at the woman's home where--for women who choose a hospital birth--she labors until deciding it's time to transfer to the hospital. I stay with her all the way through labor and until she and her new little one have their first breastfeeding experience. What this means is that from the moment I arrive at the laboring woman's side, I stay there; my time in attendance at a birth typically begins sooner than the midwife or obstetrician, and lasts longer.

During that time, my job is to remind my clients that their bodies instinctively know how to give birth, to reassure them that what they are experiencing is normal, and to suggest options as needed that may help them cope better, like new positions or other techniques to work through each contraction. I also offer active comfort by way of healing modalities like massage, breathing techniques, Reiki, aromatherapy, and others specially tailored to each mother's preferences.

How is the role of a doula different than that of a midwife or labor and delivery nurse?

A midwife is a licensed medical professional who is an expert in normal pregnancy and birth, whereas obstetricians are medical doctors and trained surgeons who are expert in high-risk pregnancy and birth. Women in the US typically choose either a midwife or an obstetrician as their maternity care provider. During labor and delivery, the midwife or obstetrician is responsible for the health and safety of the mother and child.

In the US, labor and delivery nurses are the licensed health care providers who deliver the majority of the health care a woman receives during a typical hospital birth. The nurse is responsible for ongoing assessment of the mother and baby, and for executing the plan of care ordered by the midwife or obstetrician. The scope of responsibility of the labor and delivery nurse--taking care of multiple patients, leaving the room to procure various medications, starting IVs, charting, setting up an operating room for cesarean deliveries, and so much more--does not enable them to provide continuous labor support.

How did you come to be a Doula?

My work on behalf of women's health and wellness began in the early 90's, first as a sexual health educator, then as a women's advocate, and eventually as an educator focused on various women's health topics. About 7 years ago I decided that becoming a nurse would give me the ability to work more meaningfully with women, so I moved to New York City, earned my BS in nursing from Columbia University, and have been immersed in women's health, pregnancy, and birth in one way or another ever since.

Given my commitment to providing healthcare that is holistic and integrative, I decided to do graduate work at NYU in its Holistic/Adult Nurse Practitioner program--the first program of its kind. While in graduate school, I began working as a labor and deliver (L&D) nurse at one of the busiest L&D units in NYC and am thankful for the experience. It provided me with a ton of insight and experience that I am able to share with my clients and students in my childbirth education classes.

I founded Holistic Doula NYC last year as a way to offer holistic RN and doula services to women who want support and resources related to holistic pregnancy and empowered birth. Holistic Doula NYC is definitely a niche business--most doulas aren't nurses, and most labor and delivery nurses aren't doulas--but it has been a great combination for my clients and me. I feel uniquely qualified to support women for three important milestones in their lives: when they are preparing their bodies for pregnancy, during their pregnancies, and through their labors and births. And I love using my experience in a way that I know meets the needs of women and their families.

Why do you think Ms. Green-Clean clients might be interested in doulas in general and your practice in particular?

First of all, everyone having a baby should consider working with a doula. The impact of continuous labor support has been studied, and the results have led some to say that if doulas were a drug, it would be unethical not to give one to every woman in labor. Many cities even have low-fee doula programs to make having a doula more accessible. Here are just a few of the benefits that have been found when women have continuous labor support:
  • cesarean rate decreased by 50%
  • length of labor decreased by 25%
  • requests for epidurals decreased by 60%
  • use of pitocin decreased by 40%
These benefits are huge in terms of postpartum recover, initial bonding time between mother and baby, women's overall satisfaction with their birth experience, and health care costs.

Since. Ms. Green-Clean's client's are people who care about their helath, their little ones, and mama earth, the support of a labor doula seems like a natural fit. I think Ms. Green-Clean clients may particularly be drawn to my practice because of its emphasis on holistic health, and also because like you, I incorporate aromatherapy into my work!

In addition to the labor doula services I offer, I also offer my services as a Holistic RN, providing health counseling for both pregnancy preparation and pregnancy. I'm seeing more and more women interested in getting support before they get pregnant, and I would guess that a lot of Ms.Green-Clean's clients are similarly proactive about their health. If ever there was a time to be in tip top shape, pregnancy is it, and without a doubt, a good prenatal health decreases the risk of pregnancy and birth complications and can benefit the long-term health of babies and mothers. For instance, we have learned that Vitamin D levels affect babies in utero, so I suggest everyone get her Vitamin D levels optimized and I can help explain how to go about that. For women who are trying to get pregnant, there are foods, supplements,a nd activities that can support fertility that we can discuss. It's wonderful for women to go into a pregnancy already feeling healthy, balanced, and supported. I also believe that this sense of preparation helps overall stress, which we know benefits every element of health.

How far will you travel for your clients?

For clients who want support prior to or during pregnancy, geography isn't really a concern. I love to meet all of my clients in person, but absent that we ca use video chats and phone calls when needed.

For birth doula clients, it is important that I can get to them within an hour and a half of when they call me on the big day. I live in the Carroll Gardens neighborhood of Brooklyn, so most of my clients live in Manhattan or Brooklyn, but if we can figure out a way to make the transportation work, I will happily go just about anywhere in the NYC area. I am also available to make special arrangements with mamas living in other states who are interested in my services. This can be a good option for someone who splits her time between NYC and LA for instance. Basically, if someone feels strongly that they would like my holistic pregnancy and birth support, I am happy to explore the options.

What's your favorite thing about being a doula?

My favorite thing about being a doula--and a nurse also--is that I know that the work matters. I am there to support women and families as they dig deep within themselves to find their innate strength and wisdom. Within this work is the stuff of life. Love, commitment, and courage are all tangible moment-by-moment, second-by-second. For me, that is what it means to be alive, and I am grateful for every sacred connection I have been lucky enough to make though my work as a doula and a nurse.

At a birth recently attended, my client was holding her new baby and had that incredible glow of women who have just given birth and I asked her, "Are you proud of yourself?" She got an almost mischievous grin on her face, her eyes opened wide, and she said, "oh yeah." Being with a woman moments after birth, and seeing in her whole being that she has been empowered and emboldened by her experience, is the true reward in this work.

Is there anything else you would like to leave us with?

Let me leave you with one of my favorite quotes that speaks to the transformative potential of birth, "the moment a child is born, the mother is also born. She never existed before. The woman existed, but the mother, never. A mother is something absolutely new." -Osho

That's beautiful, Andrea. Thank you.

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