Ruth Gordon-Martin is a Postpartum Doula and founder of natural and organic postpartum care products CODDLE. She is on a mission to promote the importance of self-care for mothers post-delivery. We chatted with this mama of two about the importance of not only preparing for the birth of a baby, but also preparing for the birth of a mother.
Transitioning from doula to product developer is a big leap - how did you decide to launch your line of postpartum products?
As I visited and talked to moms I found that most were clueless about their recovery and weren't aware of the products and tools that can help speed up their healing. Most of the women I spoke with during my doula visits transitioned from hospital to home and waited out their recovery until the pain subsided. For me, I had my aunt, mom and MIL waiting for me when I got home. They introduced me to remedies and recovery techniques that they used that are a part of our Jamaican postpartum tradition. My MIL constantly made sure I was drinking lots of broth, and as soon as I was able to take a bath (I had a c section) my aunt made a homemade sitz bath with healing herbs.
From calendula flower to marshmallow root, CODDLE’s organic formulations are both soothing and healing for new moms. How did you discover the medicinal properties of some of these more esoteric ingredients?
It started with my grandmother – all the credit goes to her. When I was growing up in Jamaica, my sisters and I came down with the measles. If you know anything about the measles, you know it leaves you itchy. To help us recover, my grandmother prepared soothing baths for my sisters and I using tamarind leaves boiled in water. After days of multiple steams and soaks, we were no longer itching and were healed. It was this specific experience, along with many others that led me to discover the power of plants and herbs.
I also spoke openly with my mom and aunts about postpartum. We talked about traditional herbal remedies and their benefits, which ultimately led me to doing a lot of research on how to apply this today's line of products.
There is so much information about prenatal care, but very little information about postpartum recovery? Why do you think this is?
The entire industry is built around baby and newborn life. So, it’s natural for moms to gravitate toward and be totally overwhelmed with everything baby. Plus, pregnancy brings on so many body and hormonal changes - you’re more inclined to totally be absorbed with all these shifts. Another reason is the consumerism of the baby industry – it's a $1 billion dollar and it's focused on baby gear and the needs of the child. The only time you hear about mom is as it relates to the child, i.e. breastfeeding, because obviously your breasts only exist to feed the baby. Postpartum is an afterthought – it’s something that’s not seen. It’s in the shadows, so no one knows what’s happening or what to expect. And the celebrities add to that culture.
What are 3 pieces of postpartum advice you would give to an expecting or new mom?
1. Prepare for postpartum – read a few books, follow a few accounts like CODDLE and others focused on postpartum. She should mentally prepare and educate herself with books that give you a perspective on what postpartum life is like.
2. Prepare to breastfeed – most moms think about and want to breastfeed. It’s a natural thing but it doesn’t come naturally. Take a breastfeeding class, attend a La Leche meet-up. And in the age of social media – follow a few accounts to hear stories of moms. Talk with your mom, aunt, mother-in-law – what was their breastfeeding experience like? This sets the tone for your breastfeeding experience and expectation.
3. Get help - recruit people ahead of time. Society has led us to believe we can do it all on our own and that’s absolutely false. It can be a close female friend, a doula if they can afford one, your mom, mother-in-law, aunt or a cousin. The first preference would be someone who has been through it before and knows what it entails. Help should not only just be there to ‘help’ but should be able to provide practical knowledge that’s not in any book. Gentle education, validation and reassurance that you’re doing it right, there’s no wrong way and that. like everything else, you will eventually get it.
Pivoting to work/life balance - what are your go-to strategies for managing your business, your family while also finding some time for yourself?
COVID has basically thrown the work/life balance out the window. Pre-COVID I tried to do as much as possible while my kids were in school and the rest after they are in bed. I try as much as possible to stick to a 8pm bedtime. The rest of the night is dedicated to CODDLE and time with my husband. Also, we try to go away for mini breaks as much as possible to unwind. The rest of the time is dinner with friends. After pregnancy I now have to manage sciatica pain, so a big plus is more massages – twice per month.
On any given day - what can we find in your ToteSavvy?
In my ToteSavvy you can find most things from my make-up bag. There’s no need to have more than one bag so you’ll definitely find my make-up powder, lipstick if I’m wearing one that day and wipes. As a mom, you always need wipes and now with COVID even more so along with lots of hand sanitizer. I have a toddler who is obsessed with cars so you’ll find a few of those in there as well, along with my water bottle.