Season 01: Episode 05: Devon Clement Transcript
Updated: Jun 1, 2021
Queer Diagnosis Podcast
Season 01: Episode 05: Devon Clement
[Theme music plays]
Zarya: Welcome back to another episode of Queer Diagnosis. I’m Zarya and my pronouns are she/hers.
Srihita: I’m Srihita and my pronouns are also she/her/hers. Our guest today is Devon, the founder and CEO of Happy Family after. Hi Devon, could you please introduce yourself with your preferred pronouns.
Devon: Hi, my name is Devon. While my name is gender neutral, my pronouns are also she/hers. I’m very excited to be here.
Zarya: Very excited to have you. So, how do you identify with the LGBTQ+ community?
Devon: I am a bisexual, cisgendered female. I am also a single woman who is almost 40. I know that’s not necessarily LGBT, but it is perceived as strange and unusual. I work with a lost of queer members of the community as clients and have many friends in the community. Living in New York City, I have many interactions with the queer community.
Zarya: You’re actually our first guest that is not a medical student which is a nice change of pace. I will say that we are both nervous since you’re such a remarkable individual.
Devon: You’re talking to medical students? I’m not sure I measure up.
Zarya: You definitely do. Also, I know that you support new parents with coaching and sleep training. I am thinking about going into OB GYN, but I’m not sure to what extent they relate, at least outside the hospital setting. For context, can you explain what Happy Family After is?
Devon: It’s interesting that you’re not sure how they relate because that is part of the issue that I would love to talk about. We help new parents after they have their baby and sometimes before with preparation. Pretty much from the day they get home, from the hospital, birth center, or after a home birth, we’re there to help them get used to what life is like with a newborn. Their life has been completely turned upside down and people aren’t always prepared for that. Unfortunately, once the baby is born, the OB is out of the picture until the six-week checkup, or two weeks if it was a C-section. You’re then handed over to the pediatrician who is focused on the baby. You don’t really have much of a relationship with the pediatrician. The new parents, especially the birthing parents, are left with little support. There’s currently a lot of advocacy hoping to change that. However, much of it is focused on the birthing so there’s a divide between pregnant person and person with a baby. In reality, it is much more of a continuum. I would love to see that gap bridged and that’s a lot of what we do. We’re not just there to take care of the baby. We’re also there to support the parents, sometimes with physical recovery from the birth, but not from a medical standpoint.
One thing I love to do is set up a little station for all the bags of stuff they get. They have diapers, lotions, and ointments. The birthing parents will have pads, and witch hazel, hemorrhoid cream, and peri bottles. They have no manual on how to use it or how it’s going to help them. Their body has been through what is most likely the most physically challenging and traumatic thing it’s ever been through. I set up the little station and go through what they should do. For example, when you change your pad, you should have a fresh trash can. You should use the peri bottle when you urinate to keep from stinging. They might have hemorrhoids. Many people don’t know how common it is to have hemorrhoids after delivery. Nobody really prepares them for all that. I really like to support their own healing and self-care. I want to make sure they’re eating and staying hydrated and on top of their meds. It’s great if they have a supportive partner and family members but they might not be knowledgeable about what is required after having a baby. Moreover, they have to care for the baby, a new person that you’ve never met who has all these needs. I actually prefer the term bodyfeeding to breastfeeding since much more than just the chest area is involved. If you’ve had a C-section, the baby is kicking your scar. Your nipples are cracked because of bodyfeeding. There is just so much that gets left behind with new parents.
Srihita: I’m thinking of celebrity interviews that I’ve watched, which is still coming from someone in a privileged position, but they always say that there was so much they didn’t know. What do you attribute that to? Why is it not an experience that we talk about?
Devon: There’s different reasons. From the medical standpoint, specifically from the OB’s perspective, once the baby is out, their job is considered done. There’s no continuity of care for the parents in this country, which has to do with the industrialization of healthcare and health insurance. I know that in Australia and the UK, you have someone in a midwife role helping with your delivery and checking up on you. I think they have nurses that check up on you for days after the delivery. I’m not sure of the exact structure, but I know they have much more support. A lot of it also has to do with feminism. Birth and pregnancy have traditionally been women-centric, and we do not love to center women and take good care of them. After birth, we just focus on the baby. So that’s an aspect as well.
On the flipside, this is becoming more talked about, no one wanted to talk about how much they struggled. You’re fed this line that instincts will kick in and that you will just know what to do. You’re told that you will automatically bond with your baby. That doesn’t always happen. Then, people struggle in silence because they don’t know that others are having the same experience. My clients often ask if what they are feeling is ‘normal’. It’s imperative that they know that someone has had the same experience as them. There’s so much stigma around it. Parents will be accused of being bad parents of bad moms. Female presenting birth parents are subject to so much judgement, criticism, and guilt. They’re so afraid to admit if they’re struggling. I’ve worked with parents where it’s two dads and they use a surrogate. They get so much support because they’re not expected to have it be instinctual. Ali Wong, the comedian, has a joke about how it takes so little to be considered an amazing dad and so little to be considered a shitty mom. That heteronormative dichotomy can be really damaging. For parents in non-cishet situations, it can be even harder. If they’re struggling, it gives others an opportunity to say “Well, maybe you’re not cut out for this.” Fear of criticism and stigma makes it hard for people to speak up.
The third point is pure evolution. Even though the newborn period is really difficult, you do forget about it. I’ve heard it’s the same for the pain of giving birth. When I work with parents who are having their second child, they often don’t remember it being that difficult the first time. I have friends who have young kids or toddlers and will say it’s not that bad. But they just don’t remember. That’s a part of it as well.
Zarya: I know there's a calculator called GPA, which is the abbreviation for gravida, para, abortus which is the number of pregnancies, the number of births carried to full term, and the number of abortions respectively. I remember learning about it in my EMT class and then asking my Pakistani mom about what her GPA is to get some practice with calculating it. She kinda brushed it off, and my dad ended up going through the numbers with me. In South Asian culture especially, I've noticed there's a kind of shame associated with talking about your body and then the challenges associated with pregnancy. It's very much kept under wraps. I didn't even know nipples could crack.
Devon: Having it be a traditionally women’s health issue, it’s just not something people want to talk about or teach about. A lot of my colleagues have actually done education at the high school level in sex ed about birth, pregnancy, and taking care of a newborn. I’m not sure why it’s not in more curriculums. It should be. The majority of people will probably become parents at some point.
Zarya: We’re actually taking a gender studies course and we talked about the sex ed curriculum in high schools. I think, for me, we only talked about the use of condoms. Maybe post-pregnancy should be a part of that curriculum. So, what inspired you to start Happy Family After?
Devon: When I first started the company, about 10 years ago, it was called Mother’s Best Friend because, at that time, we were primarily working with moms as birthing parents. Culturally, over the last 10 years, so much has changed. So, I changed the name to Happy Family After to be more inclusive of all types of families. Anyway, I got interested in this work when I was maybe 10 or 11. I started babysitting; my neighbor has twin babies. I would go over there and just hold them and love them. Their mom asked if I was interested in babysitting. I said yes and that was the start of my babysitting empire. I babysat all throughout my teens. In college, I would nanny during the summers. Sometimes, after the parents got home, I’d end up staying and talking to them for a while. I was 13 years old and I had good friends who were in their 30s. My mom would say I was more there for the parents than the babies. I didn’t get it at first, but as I got older, I realized how isolating it can be to be a parent, especially without a good support system. If you have a partner who’s at work all day, you’re alone with these kids who are not interesting to talk to most of the time. So, it’s nice to have someone to interact with. Even when you have friends with kids, everyone wants to talk about their own kids. I’m the one person who wants to talk about them and their children. I started to realize how important that level of support was.
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do so I became a teacher because I love working with kids. But, I didn’t like working with the school system and I missed interacting with families directly. So, I quit teaching. While I was figuring out what to do, I was nannying. I then discovered that there’s a whole subset of childcare dealing with newborns and new parents. I took training as a postpartum doula. I realized it was what I’d always wanted to do. I was doing it on my own but I got really busy and popular so I started bringing on people to work with me. Now, we work with clients in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia. We are expanding to some other cities. Newborn care and supporting new parents is so important. You don’t want someone who will just babysit for a while. You want someone who will really be there for you as well.
Zarya: Would you consider a postpartum doula to be a subsection of healthcare?
Devon: I would say we are healthcare adjacent. Nothing we do as doulas is medical treatment or diagnosis of any kind. However, we are working with people who are actively involved in healthcare, in a medical setting. Whether that’s post pregnancy or during pregnancy, the periphery of support along with medical practitioners provides a continuity of care which is important. While the doctor can diagnose or give a prescription, you also need someone who is there for you as a person. I hate to use the word holistic because it sounds so hippie, but it means all-encompassing. I feel like what doulas do is part of that holistic care.
Zarya: I like how you described it as being adjacent to healthcare. Even when you were talking about hemorrhoid cream, my brain automatically went to the medical side of it, concerning how to correctly apply et cetera. To be honest, the more you talk about it, the more I feel like maybe I want to try it out. But, it’s not something that people can try out for fun right?
Zarya: Oh, no. I meant getting involved as a doula. Is that something you can only do with certification?
Devon: There’s definitely different training and workshops that go into it. But, a lot of it comes from experience. The people I work with come from many different backgrounds with different educations. There’s an element of je ne sais quoi where you are just really good at providing support. A lot of people who have worked for me have been nannies or in childcare. Sometimes, they just love babies and want to be around them. Sometimes, they’re just good friends. That’s why the business was originally called Mom’s Best Friend. It’s maybe cliché, but it does take a village, and we’re part of that village. Anyway, it’s pretty easy to enter the field. But, you’re either good at it or not.
Zarya: I think Srihita would be great in that position because she always babies me. One thing I am interested in is how being bisexual influences how you interact with parents.
Devon: I’ve been very fortunate to be in New York where it’s very normal for there to be same-sex parents or transgender parents. We’ve seen all different kinds of families. It’s easy for me to accept and support that without batting an eyelash. It’s funny. I would say that my clients have helped me more than my orientation helping with interacting with clients. For instance, one of my favorite couples, I actually worked with their babies. Their twins just turned 10, so I worked with them 10 years ago. They’re two women and are just so compatible and happy and amazing. I always had a sense of being bisexual, but I never pictured myself of being in a relationship with or married to a woman. Seeing them made me realize that I could do that. It made me realize we have to be totally open-minded and embrace whatever people are going through. I also think we will start seeing more internalized gender dysphoria coming about. At a time where your body becomes front and center at doctor’s appointments, or when you’re giving birth and there’s 50 people looking at your vagina and your boobs are hanging out, there’s a need for support. Being a part of the queer community has helped me better understand the issues their facing and what they’re feeling.
Srihita: Could you talk about an experience where you thought about disclosing your identity to a client and didn’t know how they would react?
Devon: I don’t talk much about my personal life with my clients unless they are very curious and want to live vicariously through me. They’re at home with a baby remembering the days they could go to brunch. I’ll talk to them about my dating life sometimes. I have to admit I don’t date women often or have long-term relationships with them so it’s not something that comes out in talking with clients. But, when I’m talking about my future partner of the person I’m dating, I’ll just use gender-neutral pronouns. I won’t say that I’m looking for a husband and boyfriend, mostly because I’m not. I’m comfortable talking about. It just doesn’t come up a lot. I do know that if anyone had an issue with it, I’m perfectly happy with them taking their business somewhere else. I want to be inclusive and accepting of all types of families.
Zarya: We’re actually learning about the dominant family ideology where there are two cishet parents and two kids. Have you been part of any spaces where you were part of a family that was untraditional in that sense?
Devon: This is a topic I would love to talk about. I say all the time that people are not happy with you unless you are married with two kids who are a boy and a girl. Secondly, you are ideally married to someone of the opposite gender and same race but that isn’t as important as being married with two kids. If you have fewer than two, they want to know when you are going to have more. The only time it is acceptable to have more than two is if the first two are the same sex and you are trying for the different sex. The general commentary is that having a boy and a girl is the ‘perfect little family’. I have one sister, it’s just the two of us and I love her. I think I would rather have her than a brother. My mom wanted two girls. So the dominant family idea definitely comes up in working with clients. However, it comes up more in my personal life. People are horrified that I am not married. Every time I see extended-family relatives, they don’t want to hear about my business or travels or podcasts I have been interviewed on. They just want to know who I am dating and if it’s serious. An aunt, who I adore, asked me if there was anyone special. I responded that it was me so that shut her up. People who are having kids are dealing with a lot of that. They’ll be concerned that they’re having another kid of the sex. Why can’t they just be happy that the child is healthy? Or, they’ll be concerned that they’re having too many children. This brings up an interesting point. The first question I ask when someone tells me they are pregnant, unless I know that they were trying and are excited, is how they’re feeling. You never know. Sometimes if people have been married for a few years and then get pregnant, people assume that they were trying. Someone might be pregnant with their second and it's assumed that it was great timing and they must be happy. But you don’t know that. People could have had miscarriages and be excited yet nervous after all that heartbreak. People can be feeling anything under the sun. If you are open minded and supportive of whatever they are going through, you will be a rare person in their life.
Zarya: This came up in a previous episode but I was a medical scribe at a hospital where they automatically ran pregnancy tests whether or not the patients asked. I feel that it’s problematic and it shouldn’t just be protocol. This patient came in for a sore throat so it was not related. Anyway, we learned that the patient was pregnant. They had noted on their form that they weren’t pregnant. I go into the patient room with the doctor and the doctor asks whether they were expecting to be pregnant. She responds that she wasn’t. She was in shock, but I remember seeing everything starting to click and her breaking down when the doctor told her that she was pregnant. I don’t think any of us were expecting that or though that far ahead. But she had already had four kids and didn’t really know where she stood with her husband. Being 18 at the time, and having really no exposure to pregnant people, it was a humbling but devastating experience. So, I appreciate that that is the first question you ask. Also, I know you are having a baby with your two best friends. How do you feel about that?
Devon: I am so excited. Having my own kids is something I thought I’ve always wanted. I thought I was going to get married to my college sweetheart and raise a family and it just didn’t happen. After I started doing this work, I started to realize how much of a responsibility it is and how challenging it is. As I’ve gotten older, I have moved away from the idea that I would have my own kids. I’m still open to it. I froze my eggs two years ago because that’s all the rage for women in their 30s. It was my insurance policy if I end up getting married when I’m 42 and want to have a family. I know you can do it alone. I have clients who have done it alone. However, I have no interest in doing it alone. I’m really happy with my life with my cats who you might be able to see. Anyway, my two good friends are men and they got married. They were talking about having kids and I asked whether they were considering adoption or surrogacy. They were hoping to have biological children with egg donation and surrogacy but were weighing the costs. They didn’t know where it would come from. I immediately offered my eggs. They were like, “What?” I thought it was incredible; we could have a baby together. I could be a part of this child’s life, that I am genetically related to but I don’t have to be the parent. I get to be the aunt, which, to me, is the best thing in the world. I’m dying for my sister to have a baby. People always ask if I want to have kids and I’m just waiting for her to have kids. I’m not going to carry the baby, we’re going to use a surrogate. It’s going to be their kid, 100%. But, as I said, they are my close friends so I will be part of their life. Just being able to give this gift to them is pretty cool. There’s a million hoops we have to jump through, so that’s what we’re doing now.
Zarya: I love that. That sounds so cool.
Srihita: You touched on this when we were talking about the post-pregnancy experience, but what are certain blind spots that you've seen in the industry that haven’t been talked about?
Devon: I think a huge one, that is starting to come more to the forefront, is perinatal mental health. We hear about postpartum depression, but we don’t hear that it can manifest as anxiety or OCD. A lot of birthing parents don’t even realize that they have it or are unwilling to admit what they might be feeling, even if it’s not a pathological issue. You could just be experiencing normal hormonal and emotional changes. You might not feel super bonded your baby immediately or you might not love your baby immediately. Those are normal things. People are so scared to talk about them and it gets worse and worse. I have friends who finally discuss things with their doctor two years down the line and it turns out they had postpartum depression the entire time. They might’ve had a more positive experience if they had been able to receive adequate treatment. They do screenings but it’s pretty obvious what you’re supposed to answer. Also, with grandparents and aunts and uncles, there can be a lot of “Oh, it’s fine” and “You just had a baby, you’re just tired.” It’s not encouraged to seek support. It’s such a shame. I want people to go into pregnancy and birth just assuming that they’re going to have mental health issues as a result and be prepared to treat them. I want it to be the norm. It’s so common and I would much rather overtreat and give too much support rather than too little, which is what they get now. That is a huge blind spot.
Like I was saying at the beginning of the interview, you leave the hospital with your baby 24 hours after delivery. If you had a vaginal delivery, you don’t see your doctor for six weeks. Even then, it’s really brief. There’s no continued support or check-ins or relationship building. It shouldn’t just suddenly become all about the baby. While we’re talking about this gap in care, one of the reasons is capitalism. You can sell people tons of strollers and baby gear and nursery decorations and cribs and baby outfits, none of which the baby will probably wear. You can sell pregnancy books and birthing balls and maternity photoshoots. There’s nothing to sell people when it comes to their well-being, at least nothing sexy. Hemorrhoid cream isn’t really fancy. I was just on the phone this morning with a dad who has been with his baby for three days and is losing his mind. He had bought all the crap, his words, and was sill not prepared. Then, parents just often end up getting shamed and feeling bad.
Zarya: Noting the lack of continuity, I didn’t know it was six weeks after giving birth that you have one check-up. Even with leaving the hospital 24 hours after giving birth, is someone even in the physical condition to be able to do that? I can’t even leave my room after having cramps or being on my period. I don’t understand how someone could give birth and be good to go in 24 hours.
Devon: I do think that if you have a C-section, you usually leave after two to three days, which is still not enough for a major surgery. Also, if it is a C-section, the check up is after two weeks. But even then, they only really check your incision and then send you on your way.
Srihita: I’m just reflecting on my mom’s experience and the generational aspect of it. My grandparents live in India and the only two times they visited were when my and my brother were born. I was only four when my younger brother was born, so I only have stories. But it was a pretty severe experience. She got seizures and temporarily lost her memory. She still says that she feels guilty because she couldn’t take care of my brother while recovering. She couldn’t take care of him though; she was bedridden. Even though my grandparents were there, it was so focused on my little brother. Who was taking care of my mom? Was anyone making sure that she was okay? The stigma around mental health compounds the struggle.
Devon: Exactly. I also think it reflects changes in health care and health insurance. For my mom, she was in the hospital for a week with each birth. She says it was like a hotel. They bring you food and they take care of the baby. It’s great. Now, it’s not like that. They still send you home when there’s heavy bleeding. They don’t give you instructions on what to look for in terms of warning sights. People can end up in pretty bad situations after they get home because they don’t realize what’s normal and what’s not.
Zarya: So, what are some ways that healthcare providers, and others in the birthing industry and parenting spaces, can address that lack of continuity and lack of emphasis on women, with respect to capitalism?
Devon: I think it’s important for people who are interacting with pregnant people to put a lot more emphasis on preparing for taking care of a newborn. People will take a six-week birthing class that goes over 30 minutes of baby care. They don’t talk about the emotions you are going through or the lack of sleep. I wanted to talk about that when we were discussing mental health. We do not get enough sleep. My personal crusade, through my business and everything I do in life, is to let people get more sleep. Even when we don’t have a baby, we don’t get enough sleep. It leads to so many bad outcomes with mental and physical health. That’s why we offer overnight care and sleep training once the baby is older. We get the baby to sleep so you can sleep because it has such a huge impact on your health. Anyway, helping people prepare for birth is a big deal. You should absolutely be educated and have support. But that preparation has a start and end point. Then, you have this baby for the rest of your life. So, get prepared for the first few weeks of parenthood. If you know someone who has a new baby or is having a baby, be there for them and be open minded, like how I ask how someone is feeling after finding out they are pregnant. Be ready for the answer and don’t judge what they say. Be somebody that they can say anything to and just listen. My mom was saying this. People will have their second baby and they miss their three-year-old. They’re the kid that you know and love and this new baby is a stranger. Maybe they’re having those feelings. Maybe they’re super happy and everything is wonderful. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen. Just don’t assume and don’t judge how someone is feeling.
Also, the only baby gifts you should ever give anyone are gift cards and food. Feed them. Don’t buy them toys. Don’t buy them outfits. Buy them outfits if you want but also give them gift cards because diapers are expensive and that is what you need the most of. Also, new parents need to be fed. Don’t send flowers, it’s very sweet. Don’t do it. The flowers will get ratty in two days. They are not refreshing the water in the jars. I’m doing that. If they have a postpartum doula, then send them flowers. If not, just send them food; send them lasagna. It’s not just about preparing for birth, it’s also preparing for parenting. So for people in the medical profession, as OB GYN or pediatricians, should be aware that your job is not over. Your relationship is not over once the baby is out. The parent’s job is actually just beginning. Having that continuity and having support in place, whether it’s from a family member or partner, for after the baby comes is absolutely life changing.
Zarya: I think with what you were saying about lasagna and gift cards, that applies for me too. I don’t want birthday gifts. I think that when you’re getting somebody a gift, it should be money. I’m sorry if you don’t agree with me. Anyway, I think this is really important information. When I was in high school, there were a few people who were pregnant and they didn’t have access to this. There’s also a generational aspect. We’re not prepared for this. I’m 20, my mom had a child when she was 19. She might’ve not had access to this information but she had generations of family living with her in Pakistan, so she didn’t necessarily need it. But having a child in America can be so isolating. You don’t have that same support system so I’m glad there are individuals like yourself who are helping parents.
Devon: Actually, that was something my mom said to me. She didn’t really get it when I first started doing this work. Then, one day she just said to me “You do what grandma did for me.” We lived in the same town as my grandmother, so my grandmother was over every single day. My mom had tons of support and not everybody has that. A lot of my clients are older, and their parents are elderly, or they’ve passed, or they’re just not living in the same area. It is very isolating so having support is tremendous.
Zarya: You have so much experience in this field. It’s incredible that you were basically there when you were 13 and you found a way to materialize it. So as somebody who’s 20, Srihita’s also 20, what would you say to you 20-year-old self, if you could go back in time?
Devon: It’s so interesting that you ask that question. It’s hilarious. If you asked me in college what I wanted to do, I never would have said this in a million years. If you asked me when I was 12, this is absolutely what I would have said. I get emotional talking about it because I just love my job and my life so much and I’m so happy. I think that going back to what you cared about and what you loved when you were younger – I’m getting so emotional – but that’s your truth. Oh my god, I’m so embarrassed.
Zarya: No, please, I’m going to get emotional.
Devon: I was reading Marie Kondo, the organizing book. She was talking about how she would organize the classroom for her teachers when she was six. She always loved organizing and now she helps people organize. I thought that I wanted to get married and have babies and be a stay-at-home mom. I wanted to be around babies. I didn’t want the constraints of a 9-to-5 job. I wanted to be financially successful enough to be comfortable and have the things I wanted to have and live a nice life. I thought the way that I was going to do that was marrying someone who was a lawyer or doctor and, as I said, pop out some kids and live in the suburbs being a mom. What I realized, this was pretty recent, is that all I’ve ever wanted was to have a flexible schedule, be around babies all the time, and make a good living. That’s exactly what I have. If you can’t figure out what job is going to give you what you want, invent your own. Postpartum doulas definitely existed before I got into it, but it has grown tremendously as a field since I started, which I take 100% personal credit for. No, I have grown it tremendously in the area and I want other people to have these opportunities. So, what I would say to someone who is 20 is, don’t think about what list of options you have. Think about what you really love and what you really want out of a career. Go back to your roots and go back to what you used to love. Figure out how you can make that a reality for yourself and how to make it your job because I spent a lot of time stumbling around with no idea of what I wanted to do.
Zarya: Would you mind clarifying, at what age did you start Happy Family After?
Devon: I started babysitting when I was 13, so doing childcare is something that has carried through. I never thought of nannying as a career. I didn’t want to work at a daycare center. Now I know that being a nanny is actually a great career. There’s plenty of nannies making six figures and living the good life, traveling with their clients. I have a lot of friends who do it. Had I known that that was an option, I might’ve done it. Then, I became a teacher and quit when I was 26. I got back into nannying while I found myself and figured out what I wanted to do. I was also doing a lot of traveling so it was easy to pick up work babysitting. I became a postpartum doula. I took my training in 2008, so I was 27. I really became an entrepreneur, like a CEO person, when I was 30. Also, don’t expect that you’re going to know what you want to be when you grow up when you’re 20. It’s okay if you don’t. A friend of mine recently said to me, she was trying to figure some stuff out, “Oh, I’m not like you, I couldn’t start my own business.” But I said, “Listen, you’re 28, I would have said the same exact thing at 28.” I didn’t even know I could have a business until I was 30 or 31. Now I love it. I love marketing and sales and business systems. I don’t love bookkeeping, so I hired some to do that. But I didn’t go to business school. I’m playing catch up on the business side of things. I fell in love with it because I had to do it. Don’t worry if you don’t know exactly what you want, but if I look back at the timeline of my life, 12-year-old me knew what was up.
Srihita: I was just saying to my mom a few days ago that I feel the older I get, the younger I get. I’ve been going to therapy, and I’ve realized that’s what I’m trying to get back to. Every time I accomplish something, I view it in the lens of a 17-year-old me. That’s who I have to go back to in order to contextualize my life. They were pure and independent of everything else coming in. So, it’s really cool to think there’s a 12-year-old Devon who’s really excited about how things turned out.
Devon: I say all the time that people are scared to turn 30 because you think your life is over. It’s not; it’s really just the beginning. I’m turning 40 this summer and I’m so stoked for life to get even better.
Zarya: That’s really reassuring because I’ve always been very timeline oriented. I don’t know what will happen after 29. Do you feel things for the first time anymore? Are there new experiences to be had after 29? So, it’s really reassuring to hear you speak. It’s also a stressful time with finals so thank you so much for taking the time. This means a lot.
Devon: I’m so happy to. All I have to say is don’t worry about what happens after 29 because you’re not going to know until you get there. You are going to be a completely different person than you are now. The thing that inspired me to start my business was a business conference for women that I randomly ended up at and it was on my 30th birthday. If you had asked me a week prior what I thought I would be doing two weeks later, it would have been completely different. You can plan and prepare but don’t try to see too far ahead because you have no idea. Just enjoy the journey.
Zarya: Thanks again to Devon for joining us. So, the perspective of a doula is not one I’ve really had exposure to before. My main exposure to babies has been pediatric patients, who are really cute by the way, and birthing scenes in medical shows, but that’s not a shadow experience I can count on my resume. Medical shows are sometimes accurate and sometimes not but I can talk about that for hours. So, we’re taking this reproductive justice class and I’ve been developing an interest in OB GYN because it’s really cool. I also think that I can be a provider that women would find helpful. So, I’ve been doing research on the OB GYN specialty. I was surprised to hear that there was really no continuity of care for the birthing parent when Devon mentioned it. When I’ve been googling the specialty, continuity of care is not something that is discussed inside our outside of the OB GYN specialty. So, I think that postpartum doulas are a really cool subset of the specialty, even though it’s not exactly in the medical fields. It’s strange that, in society, babies have regularly scheduled appointments for vaccines and check-ins, but little of that for MaPa. As a reminder, MaPa is a gender-neutral term for the parent. It’s really disappointing that the healthcare system doesn’t focus on birthing parents because it might not, as Devon mentioned, bring in revenue. I didn’t really think of that before. I just thought it was neglect for women which Devon also touched upon. The reason that the burden falls on women to take care of themselves is, first of all, we stigmatize asking for help. We talked about this in a previous episode with Sarah. We also limit the options for resources as well. So, even if you want to get help, it’s hard to seek that out.
For myself, I first learned what a doula was when I was working as a medical scribe. My favorite physician, it was really cute because it was their first baby and they’re all-around a great family. I remember his wife had a live-in doula after giving birth. I didn’t really know what a doula was but I figured that, because their mother-in-law was staying with them, they wouldn’t need a doula, which was pretty ignorant. I didn’t really know what it takes emotionally, mentally, or physically to have a baby. I thought one family member would be enough to help you for, say, the first month. As a South Asian woman myself, there's such an emphasis on keeping it in the family. You don't really ask anybody else for help. You're expected to all by yourself. Even if you do ask for help, it's so difficult to get it. So what do you think?
Srihita: I think the point that you made about South Asian women specifically, is something I saw my mom experience. I shared the story during the podcast but she had a really difficult post-brith experience with my brother. Even though I was young, thinking about the experience, there was no one looking after her. Something I have clearer memories of is the guilt that she felt which I always thought was unreasonable. Obviously, it was out of her control. So, I definitely think we have to do a better job of normalizing care for the birthing parent. It seems like an obvious thing but, as Devon mentioned, there’s often hesitancy or neglect in including women in the healthcare process. Their bodies are being talked about but they’re not present in the room when they are being talked about, which is ridiculous.
Pivoting away from that, one main takeaway I had is when we asked them what she would tell her 20-year-old self. She said that her 20-year-old self would have been surprised but her 12-year-old self would have been so excited because it was exactly what she would have wanted. For me, the older I get, I’m much more interested in what younger versions of me would want. That was a more pure, uninhibited version of myself. Even with starting a business, she didn’t know that was something she could do until she was 30. So the way I think of it is, the older you get and you learn new skills, they’re ultimately servicing younger versions of you. I thought that was really sweet.
Zarya: I really enjoyed that too. I keep going back to the Marie Kondo example. I’m obsessed with organization, not in a way that I impose on others, though my family might say otherwise. Anyway, that validated my experiences. Some people comment on my organization and my professor called me a Type-A person. I thought that was really funny, but hearing this made me realize it’s okay to hold on to those things. It makes me feel more confident in myself. We’re going to wrap up here so thank you so much for joining us. We’ll catch you on the flipside.
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This transcript has been edited for clarity. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future.